Obama to Pull a George W. Bush, Go Negative on ‘Weird’ Mitt Romney [Update]

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"Me, weird?"
"Me, weird?" Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A report in Politico today allows President Obama's team of aides and advisers an extensive dress rehearsal of their reelection strategy — assuming Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination — of painting the former Massachusetts governor as "inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama's advisers in about a dozen interviews, 'weird.'" Speaking both on the record and anonymously, Obama's team uses an article ostensibly about what their plan will be to actually begin enacting that exact plan: "a ferocious personal assault," modeled on President George W. Bush's dismantling of John Kerry in 2004. It's a two-pronged attack — both personal and professional — and it all stings already.

"They can try anything they want — but this race is going to be about the economy," said a Romney strategist in half of his side's lone retort in the article. (Update: Romney's camp responds in a statement below.)

But try they will: Romney, according to Obama's side, has an "innate phoniness" and a "weirdness factor" that results in awkward and off-putting public appearances. "When he makes jokes about being unemployed, or a waitress pinching him on the butt, it does snap your head back and you say, 'what's he talking about?'" said Obama chief strategist David Axelrod. ("Weird," at least on this go-around, has nothing to do, at least explicitly, with Romney's religion.)

There's also Romney's past as the CEO of Bain Capital, which Axelrod describes as "very much the profile of what we've seen in the last decade on Wall Street. He was about making money." And, assuming Romney moves farther to the right to claim the GOP nomination, that all makes way for the charges of fickleness: "If you were to write the history of his political career it would be called 'Extreme Makeover,'" said Axelrod, with Politico citing both "skinny jeans" and "abortion" as examples of Romney's changes over the years.

All told, that leaves us with a "principled" incumbent in tough times and "another stiff, wealthy patrician politician from Massachusetts with attacks on his alleged 'flip-flopping,'" just like 2004. Everyone remembers how that turned out.

Update: The Romney team is not happy, but shot back at the president instead of the publication. Via Politico:

“It is disgraceful that President Obama’s campaign has launched his re-election with the stated goal to ‘kill’ his opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks. President Obama will say and do desperate things to hold onto power because he knows he has failed. Neither despicable threats, nor President Obama’s billion dollar negative campaign, will put Americans back to work, save their homes, or restore their hopes. On November 6, 2012, this will change.”

Obama plan: Destroy Romney [Politico]