Maybe Obama shouldn't be so confrontational

Recall that when a younger Obama waxed rhapsodic at the 2004 Democratic National Convention about overcoming red-state/blue-state divisions, he appealed to something more broadly American than rank partisanship. During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama ran, in Westen’s terms, as “a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue.” And while in office, he has cultivated this sense of being above the fray, unsullied by politics…

If, however, Obama takes a more aggressive tack in his reelection campaign, calling out the GOP and attacking the character of his eventual opponent — neither of which Obama focused on in 2008 — he will squander this otherwise very potent weapon and risk driving down his personal likability, along with the remainder of his poll numbers.

Personal attacks against hopefuls like Mitt Romney, as Smith and Jonathan Martin reported last month, run the risk of increasing voter sympathy with the attacked candidate — a backlash Obama can ill afford.