The Chicago way: How Obama uses dirty attacks on opponents while staying clean

“It’s a lot like his foreign policy — leading from behind, but with a high body count,” said Republican who held a top position in the 2008 presidential race. “Rarely is Obama himself the tip of the spear in an attack. He’s much more likely to let liberal allies and the media initiate the attack and keep it alive.”…

And while George Washington may be the last successful American politician to win the White House without going sharply negative, few have managed to to attack with the stealth Obama has displayed, leaving in his wake bitter rivals who felt their complaints of foul play were falling on deaf ears as Obama moved forward not just as victor, but as avatar of a new politics of hope.

“David Axelrod has always been skillful at creeping into your room in the middle of the night and slicing out your heart, somehow without leaving behind a single fingerprint or drop of blood that ties him or his candidate to the crime,” said Obama biographer David Mendell of Obama’s top political aide…

Clinton’s circle is now, of course, on board with Obama, but her former campaign aides retain some sore feelings, and a sense of familiarity about the stirrings of what one Obama ally described to POLITICO in August as the “Kill Romney” campaign.

“They achieved the rare distinction of running a negative campaign without being called to account for it,” said a former top Clinton aide. “Will they be able to pull that off again? A lot less likely.”