When a presidential race turns as bland as this one has, a little garlic isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I wonder if the feeling’s mutual or if Mitt, the consummate manager, is all business in getting this project done.

“One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at times even fun for Obama: he began campaign preparations feeling neutral about Romney, but like the former governor’s GOP opponents in 2008 and 2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the main. That scorn stoked Obama’s competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn’t feel motivated to crush the opposition. Obama, a person close to him told me, didn’t even feel this strongly about conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he disliked the most. At least Cantor stood for something, he’d say.”

“When he talked about Romney, aides picked up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate. ‘There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,’ said a longtime Obama adviser. ‘That doesn’t hold true for Romney. He was no goddamned war hero.'”

Romney’s opponents do tend to get personal with him in unusual ways, as this vivid Time story from 2008 on the “I hate Romney” club among Republican candidates illustrates. Gingrich and Santorum were openly irritated with him during this year’s primaries too, but that could be dismissed as sour grapes over how effective his negative ads were. Four years ago, by contrast, Romney was never a real frontrunner and yet McCain and Fred Thompson were openly laughing at him during one debate. I don’t quite understand what the problem is. Maybe they resent his gigantic fundraising (and, in 2008, his self-financing) and his opportunism in flip-flopping, but those are tools of the trade. If Romney’s a different kind of pol, it’s a difference in degree, not in kind. And yet, his opponents react strongly to him. Very odd.

But that’s assuming you believe the story about Obama’s disdain. Putting it out there that he dislikes Romney personally helps him politically, I think, because it gives his base an extra reason to get motivated and it makes Obama’s own opportunistic nastiness seem less cynical and calculated. (It’s from the heart!) On the other hand, while digging through our archives to see how Obama and Romney interacted four years ago (which they didn’t do much), I stumbled upon this instant classic from October 2007 about the “new tone” The One was showing even at the height of Hopenchange:

“Can you describe the differences between yourself and Osama Bin Laden?” a voter asked Senator Obama, D-Ill., on Wednesday during a town hall in Dover, New Hampshire.

Laughing of the voter’s question, Obama replied, “Well, you know, Mitt Romney’s been very confused about this,” referencing a recent gaffe committed by Mitt Romney in which the former Massachusetts governor and potential Republican rival repeatedly used Obama’s name instead of Osama Bin Laden’s name during a discussion of terrorism at an event Tuesday in South Carolina…

But then Obama, who intially seemed to shrug off Romney’s comments, continued, “And I think when Romney starts saying this stuff — sometimes it might be honest mistakes, sometimes no. You don’t know.”

“But I have no doubt that there will be some of that, trying to make me into this foreign, you know, odd, clearly black person. And to scare people,” Obama concluded.

Prominent Democrats had made the Osama/Obama mistake too, most notably Teddy Kennedy, so it says a lot that O was willing to casually drop a megaton bomb like that on Romney without knowing more about him. At best, he thought ill enough of Romney at the time to wonder aloud about how innocent his mistake really was, which means the story about his newfound disdain for Mitt is bogus. At worst, he didn’t really doubt that it was an innocent mistake but couldn’t resist pushing a racism charge anyway because he knew it’d be a powerful shield for him down the line during the general election if he made it that far. Bad either way, but not surprising.

Update: A jokey dig, but the thought of “stealing” from the poor to give to the rich is the subtext:

Unveiling a new zinger against his opponent, President Obama tonight said Mitt Romney’s tax plan amounts to “Robin Hood in reverse” because it would take money from the poor to help the rich.

“It’s Romney Hood,” the president said to uproarious laughter and applause from about 500 supporters who paid $500 each to attend a fundraiser in Stamford, Conn.