US President Barack Obama wants to tell the US a few things about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: He is rich and indifferent, bad for women and might wobble at a fateful moment as commander-in-chief.
Obama’s reelection campaign has unleashed a daily, negative, character-based slashing of the presumptive Republican presidential nomineee in November, ahead of the official start of the president’s campaign in the crucial battlegrounds of Virginia and Ohio today.
In the latest volley, Obama’s camp produced a memo accusing Romney of pursuing an “extreme” agenda toward women, seeking to lock in the Republican challenger’s liabilities with a key electoral demographic.
This followed an ad branding Romney’s attitude toward the middle class as “just what you would expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account.”
Obama weighed in during his victory lap marking the anniversary of the killing of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, questioning whether Romney would have made the call to launch the high-risk Navy SEAL raid.
An ad featuring former US -president Bill Clinton made a similar point.
Obama supporters point out that the president is not alone in going negative: the Romney campaign flexed a true mean streak in the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, hard-charging Romney campaign operatives and outside groups flush with corporate cash are readying their next anti-Obama barrage.
Obama’s tactics reflect a need to amplify Romney’s weaknesses to disqualify him as a potential president at a time when a stuttering economy is clouding his own prospects.
“Romney is coming off a bruising nomination battle that raised some doubts about his character and wants to reintroduce himself to the American people,” said John Geer, a negative campaigns expert at Vanderbilt University.
“The Obama campaign is not going to allow him to do that without continuing the choir of criticism. They want to raise some doubts about his character and make him look extreme on issues,” he added.
The incumbent president’s attacks also seek to frustrate any bid by Romney to trek to the political center, where US presidential elections are often won.
Obama’s assaults partly focus on Romney’s history as a millionaire venture capitalist who Democrats say sent US jobs offshore and fired people at ailing companies.
Romney says his corporate past makes him the ideal man to turn around the economy,
A Quinnipiac poll on Thursday underlined Obama’s challenge, putting the president just two points up, 44 percent to 42 percent, in the crucial state of Ohio.
Obama’s standing in swing states is underwritten by a wider appeal to women voters. He leads Romney among the group 44 percent to 42 percent in Florida, 50 to 37 in Ohio and 52 to 35 in Pennsylvania, the poll showed.
His campaign has also produced longer, inspirational films aimed at convincing supporters Obama delivered the change he promised.
Republicans are meeting Obama’s assault head on and have a new slogan “Hype and Blame” — a play on Obama’s 2008 “Hope and Change” theme, and accuse the president of slamming Romney to hide his own faults.
“Successful incumbents usually run on their record. Failed presidents run from their record,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.