The mission to define, and destroy, Mitt Romney

The bombardment is intended to associate Romney with the Wall Street banksters who drove the economy into the ground. “You can see in the numbers for his character traits that there’s been some damage to him,” claims a senior Obama official. “On the top-line question — on, you know, who would do better on the economy—he’s had some real damage done to him. He used to beat us on that in double digits. And now, you know, in the latest poll, we lead.” According to The Hill, a poll by the Purple Strategies firm found that recent revelations about Romney’s finances made four out of every ten voters think of the ex-governor less favorably than they had before.

While the latest Gallup polls show, at least nationally, a neck-and-neck race that has barely shifted in months, the lesson that the Obama team has taken is that their strategy is working. And so they’re going to stick to it. “This is going to sound self-serving, but what surprises me the most is that we haven’t had to rip up the playbook yet,” says an Obama advisor who worked on the 2008 campaign as well. “Part of it is we’re the incumbent, we’ve done this before. Part of it is that we figured we were going to be up against Romney, and we were, and we knew we’d be focusing on his business record.”

Obama’s rhetoric about rejecting “say-anything, do-anything divise politics” are at odds with a strategy that relies on calling his opponent a crook, but this kind of thing is nothing new for campaign honcho Axelrod. “Axelrod’s strategy is always to run unopposed, literally if possible,” says a Democratic insider in Chicago. “He wants to take the opponent out—there’s a long tradition in Illinois of trying to force your opponent off the ballot—and if that doesn’t work, literally, then do whatever needs to be done to destroy him figuratively.”