The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Obama Campaign Views Romney as ‘Almost a Joke’


Over at BuzzFeed, Ben Smith. Michael Hastings and Zeke Miller get the grand tour of the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago, and report:

To say that the campaign doesn’t fear Romney is an understatement — he’s viewed as almost a joke. (The campaign named their sixth floor elevators for cars to mock Romney’s planned over-the-top addition to his La Jolla, CA home.)

Of course.

Such is life for political partisans; because we so strongly disagree with the candidates of the other side, we have a hard time believing anyone else could find them appealing.

When partisans do express fear or a belief that the opposition can win, it generally is because they see the candidate as appealing to them, not that they actually believe the candidate appeals to the electorate as a whole. (Most of those passionate about politics have a hard time believing that an American electorate of more than 130 million people might collectively prefer different candidates than they do.) Think about those few GOP presidential candidates who have generated ripples of praise or interest from Democrats. On those rare occasions, Democrats tend to like the aspects of the Republican candidates that are least conservative and least aligned with the rest of the GOP. In 2008, many Democrats thought Huckabee could be the toughest competitor – largely because his populist streak; Huckabee’s attack on the Club for Growth as a “Club for Greed” aligned with what they already thought about fiscal conservatives. Some Democrats like Ron Paul’s antiwar/isolationist views and opposition to the war on drugs. Some Democrats liked Jon Huntsman this cycle because he seemed the least aligned with the conservative base of the party.

If you’re working for the Obama campaign, chances are that the president represents, if not your ideal political leader, then political leader on the national scene right now who you deem closest to the ideal. With that as your ideal or near-ideal leader, undoubtedly you would find Romney laughably unappealing. Obama wants a bigger, more active government that taxes and spends more; Romney wants a smaller, less expansive government that taxes and spends less. Obama sees “Obamacare” as his masterpiece; Romney has pledged to repeal it. Obama habitually demonizes the private sector (Wall Street, banks, oil companies, big businesses, ATMs, the wealthy) as the source of most of America’s problems; Romney comes from it, thrived in it, and believes it will thrive again if government gets out of the way.

A lot of the Right underestimated Obama’s appeal in 2008; he was so far from what we wanted in a president that many of us couldn’t believe that 69 million Americans might prefer him to John McCain. Perhaps our initial instincts were right, and the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street meltdown, the rapidly-worsening economic collapse and the sight of the country’s wealthiest bankers coming to Washington to beg for taxpayer money scrambled voters’ usual notions of who they wanted in the Oval Office. We can succumb to our own Pauline Kael effect. But one would figure that most Obama campaign staffers spend most of their waking hours marinating in an environment where the assumption that Mitt Romney is an unelectable joke candidate goes unchallenged.

Put another way, how many wise, experienced, wary and cautionary voices do you suspect exist in this crowd of campaign staffers?

So Romney’s a joke, hmm? Noted. Of course, this time he represents change. And the “right direction/wrong track” numbers continue to be abysmal.

And all of those poll numbers showing Obama comfortably ahead in a head-to-head matchup lately are of registered voters. The two pollsters who filtered for likely voters, Rasmussen and Bloomberg, show Obama ahead by 2 percentage points and tied, respectively.

Of course, one then wonders about the assessment from Obama campaign manager Jim Messina back on March 13: “All you really need to know: According to a new poll, if the general election were held today, we would lose to Mitt Romney.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney


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