Romney’s New Strategy: Frame Obama as Just Another Politician

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  July 13, 2012 at 9:24 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Mitt Romney campaigns Tuesday in Grand Junction, Colo. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Mitt Romney and his Republican allies have signaled a new strategy in an attempt to undermine something that was a strength for President Obama in 2008: Tell voters that the president is just like every other politician.

The GOP is trying to suggest that Mr. Obama has abandoned the “politics of hope” for an attack, attack, attack game plan and that he is campaigning on the same promises voters heard four years ago. Polls have long shown that the president is considered likeable and honest by most voters, and Romney has been trying to carve away at that strength in subtle ways over the last few months.

Those days are over.

Consider this new ad from Team Romney on Friday, and the push using Hillary Clinton we wrote about on Thursday. This new spot stars Mr. Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention, decrying Sen. John McCain’s approach to the election.

“Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas then you use stale tactics to scare voters,” he says. “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”

A graphic flashes on the screen of an August 2011 Politico story headlined “Obama plan: Destroy Romney” by Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. That story includes this line: “‘Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,’ said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.”

(We wrote about the headline in March and predicted the quote would surface again.)

Watch the ad here or below.

It’s no secret the president’s re-election team has been running a negative campaign, and as Susan Page wrote last week in USA Today in a story about how battleground state voters are affected by ads, it’s working.

Oone reason it’s working is the sheer volume of advertising. As the Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella writes, voters in the most targeted states are seeing ads hundreds of times, with back-to-back commercials and more than 1,000 ads airing per week. She offers the math, writing that the volume this early is “10 times the 151 ads that aired here the same time four years ago. And it surpasses the 1,251 spots at the height of that race in October 2008.”

On a recent Saturday during an Orioles’ game, and even after station officials limited the spots, viewers saw “six ads for Obama, one for Republican rival Mitt Romney and one for Democratic Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine — all shoehorned into six commercial breaks.”

More from the story:

The River City is enduring a presidential ad blitz like never before. A place long bypassed by presidential campaigns suddenly has one of the nation’s most heavily saturated local TV markets. More than 140 times on an average day, an ominous voice-over warns Richmond area voters that their president is killing the economy or that Romney helped ship American jobs overseas.

The Post story comes as the NewsHour launched a project aimed at illustrating exactly that point. Christina was recently in Richmond and took notes as attack ad after attack ad pounded the airwaves on the NBC affiliate, which was otherwise carrying storm coverage and Access Hollywood. It was nearly eight minutes of ads over a 30-minute period. The volume was astonishing, and there was a lone positive spot among the negative ads.

Reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew spliced the ads together in a piece you can watch here or below.

THE BAIN BROUHAHA

Look no further than the ongoing battle over Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital for an illustration of the new level of negativity in the campaign.

The back-and-forth ratcheted up a notch Thursday with Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades issuing a statement calling on Mr. Obama to “apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff” in making “a reckless and unsubstantiated charge” that Romney lied about when he left the venture capital firm.

The demand came after the Obama campaign organized a conference call to seize on a Boston Globe story that reported Romney had remained chief executive, chairman and sole stockholder of Bain through 2002, based on documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters on the call that Romney had “full control” of the company during those years and as a result was “directly responsible” for its practices over that period of time. “Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony. Or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,” Cutter said.

Rhoades took aim at Cutter’s remarks and said the reflected poorly on the president. “Campaigns are supposed to be hard fought, but statements like those made by Stephanie Cutter belittle the process and the candidate on whose behalf she works,” Rhoades said.

The timing of Romney’s departure has become a focal point in recent weeks as the Obama team has attacked Bain’s investments in companies that specialized in moving jobs overseas. The Romney campaign has rejected those charges, contending they relate to deals that took place after the presumptive GOP nominee left the firm in 1999 to take over the planning for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The non-partisan FactCheck.org looked at the revelations and found that they had not changed the organization’s orginal assessment that the Obama campaign had failed to back up its claims about Romney being responsible for the outsourcing of jobs.

Here is part of what the group’s director, Brooks Jackson, wrote Thursday:

But we see little new in any of these SEC filings, and a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor we spoke to sees no basis for the Obama campaign’s claim that Romney committed a felony.

None of the SEC filings show that Romney was anything but a passive, absentee owner during that time, as both Romney and Bain have long said.

That said, the Obama campaign clearly sees a political advantage with the Bain attacks and will continue to press Romney on the issue so long as polls show more and more voters holding a negative impression of the Republican’s experience as a corporate investor.

Be sure to tune in to the NewsHour on Friday evening as Ray Suarez looks at the politics and economics of the offshoring attacks.

DAILY DOWNLOAD

Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of Daily Download talked to Ray about Facebook’s impact on the campaign.

They presented some data from Voter Tide, which found the Supreme Court’s health care decision resulted in “a Facebook surge in likes for Mitt Romney, almost up to 40,000.”

Ashburn said that was “a significant likability factor, because he tweeted out information about health care and other people Facebook-posted it.”

Kurtz noted that the president also had a Facebook surge — in shares of his speech. The campaign “put some music to it and some nice graphics,” and it was shared 40,000 times.

Watch the segment here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Ahead of Mr. Obama’s campaign barnstorm Friday, politics production assistant Allie Morris reports on what Virginia voters interviewed for the NewsHour’s Listen To Me project are really talking about.

  • The president told CBS News the biggest mistake in his first term has been focusing on policymaking over storytelling. Romney responded with a statement that said, “Being president is not about telling stories. Being president is about leading, and President Obama has failed to lead.”

  • Politico’s Ginger Gibson reports that some Republicans are growing concerned about the toll the Bain attacks are taking on the Romney campaign.

  • The New York Times’ Peter Baker examines the race and writes that both campaigns are looking backward.

  • In her weekly blog post, Gwen Ifill looks back at the cheers and jeers presidential hopefuls in both parties have received at the NAACP convention over the years.

  • Politico takes a deep dive into Karl Rove’s fundraising world.

  • A fundraising email from Team Romney’s Rhoades offers donors a chance to hang out with the presumptive nominee and his eventual vice presidential pick. “This is your chance to meet America’s comeback team. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — don’t pass this one up,” he writes.

  • Matt Mackowiak pens a Daily Caller column on the veepstakes.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • The Rothenberg Political Report moves Nevada’s Senate contest into the pure “tossup” category. See that and other race rating changes here.

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blasted the U.S. Olympic Committee on Thursday for buying London 2012 opening ceremony uniforms that were manufactured in China. Reid’s recommendation: “I think they should take all of the uniforms put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”

  • NewsHour coordinating producer Linda J. Scott wrote that the news was all the buzz on Capitol Hill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said: “If awards were given out for breaking trade laws, China would win the gold medal. The U.S. Olympic Committee’s use of Chinese-made apparel is particularly egregious due to the ongoing and unfair competition that China poses to American manufacturers.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “they should know better,” and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the uniforms should be made in America.

  • In other congressional news, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced on the floor that he would schedule a vote the week of July 29 for a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts.

  • Politico’s Manu Raju and Josh Bresnahan report that Sen. Reid sent a letter to Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee telling them they must stand up to “rigid ideologues” in their party and agree to increases in tax revenue before he considers reversing defense cuts contained in the automatic sequester agreed to in a deal to raise the debt ceiling last year.

  • Justin Worland scoops for Roll Call that the Club for Growth is getting involved in the August Wisconsin Senate primary.

  • Retiring Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., also will vote against the president’s Bush tax cut proposal.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talked this week with Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post about casting her 5,000th consecutive vote Thursday, the third-longest streak for a senator in U.S. history.

  • Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign announced Thursday it had raised $1.7 million for the GOP lawmaker’s re-election bid during the second quarter of the year.

  • Check here to see if your Yahoo! email address was compromised.

Alex Bruns contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama campaigns across Virginia with stops in Virginia Beach at 12:55 p.m., Hampton at 4:25 p.m. and Roanoke at 7:25 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.

  • Vice President Joe Biden is in Wilmington, Del., with no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.