Romney’s delivery on this still needs a little work, but I think he might be on to something with this line of attack. The Obama team would probably love it if Romney called either the President or his policies “socialist”, because it would play into their narrative that Romney somehow represents the radical fringe of the Republican Party. But by (accurately) pointing out just how far left Obama is compared to Clinton, Romney can accomplish much the same thing without ever using the “s” word, which he fears, rightly or wrongly, would be a turnoff to more independent-minded voters. Voters, for example, that may have supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, and who carried some bitterness into the general election even though most of them probably voted for Obama anyway. But some of them may be having second thoughts, and Romney’s pitch here seems to be directed squarely at them.
Could Romney’s pandering to the legacy of “new Democrats” in the 90’s further depress enthusiasm for his campaign on the right? I suppose, but given the disastrous trajectory of government spending and deficits the past 3 years, I think more conservatives have at least a grudging appreciation for Clinton’s record on fiscal responsibility. Even if Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution of 1994, not to mention a rapidly growing economy, were mostly responsible for this. If this is the beginning of a concerted effort on Romney’s part to define Obama and his policies as outside the mainstream, even among Democrats, then I think he’s off to a decent start.
By the way, with Clinton backing Obama’s re-election effort, expect him to personally attempt to defuse this line of attack sooner rather than later. But I’m not sure how convincingly he’ll be able to defend Obama’s record on spending; after all, Obama pretty much ignored the deficit reduction plan championed by Clinton’s long-time budget adviser, Erskine Bowles. But then again if anyone can polish this turd, I’m sure Clinton will find a way.