In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:
OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].
That’s because using the word “marvelous” is totally weird, unless you’re Obama or one of his speechwriters. Maybe Romney picked up the term from “Mad Men,” because he’s so old-fashioned he thinks it’s the evening news (that last nonsensical insult was David Axelrod’s contribution to the “Romney is uncool and out-of-touch” debate this morning).
It sounds like the Obama campaign is finally rolling out that personal-attack strategy they floated last summer to define Romney as “weird” and “awkward.” As Politico reported last August:
The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”
“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”
A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.
“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” the adviser said, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”
It won’t be a stretch to define Romney as strange, especially with the media and Hollywood willing to play along. The worst thing Romney can do is to go on the defense or try to refute these attacks. No matter what he does, he’s not going to seem cool, so he shouldn’t even bother to try that. But he will be able to draw a contrast between his own campaign and Obama’s if he declines to get into the mud, and keeps the focus on substance, not personality. And if Zooey Deschanel’s and Michael Cera’s careers prove anything, sometimes the public likes awkward.