15. Blitzkrieg: “Political campaigns sometimes seem small, even silly,” the newly re-elected president said in his late-night victory speech in Chicago after Tuesday night had morphed into Wednesday morning. Obama blamed unnamed “cynics” for this unhappy state of affairs, but he might more properly look in the mirror — or at his own longtime Chicago-based political operatives.
Beginning last summer, Obama and his surrogates embarked on an ambitious plan to erode Romney’s image and reputation with a series of relentless personal attacks. This asymmetrical warfare — Romney criticized Obama’s record while Obama savaged Romney’s character — cost Democrats more than $100 million in eight battleground states. But it worked.
One negative TV spot portrayed Romney as a heartless corporate raider responsible for killing a steelworkers’ wife while running Bain Capital. When questioned about these claims, an Obama spokeswoman said she didn’t know the former steelworker at all. Actually, the same Obama press aide had put him on a campaign conference call with reporters where he pitched the same story — one that turned out to be false in most of its particulars.
This kind of thing continued apace, whether it was the president’s aides attacking Romney over his tax returns; the family dog’s accommodations on a long-ago family vacation (the roof of the station wagon); attacking Ann Romney as a woman who does not work; also attacking her, a breast cancer survivor who also has MS, for having an Olympics-ready dressage horse; and in the waning days of the campaign surreptitiously trying to slime the Mormon faith.
To a measurable degree, this strategy succeeded in its goal, which was to make Romney an unacceptable alternative to a president who hadn’t been successful.