Will attacking Romney as a severe conservative backfire on Obama?

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

The president's re-election team tries to pigeonhole Mitt as the right-winger he claimed to be during the primaries — at the risk of firing up the GOP base

For months, President Obama and his advisers have attacked Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper who'll say anything to get elected. But now, Team Obama is trying to recast Romney as an inflexible right-winger, calling attention to the presumptive GOP nominee's description of himself as a "severe conservative" — and the right-wing positions he took on everything from tax cuts to immigration during the primaries. Top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, argue that Romney embraced Tea Party conservatism to win the primaries, and that reminding voters of that fact will prevent Mitt from reclaiming the center and wooing the moderate independent who will tip the general election. Will that strategy work?

This is a smart shift for Obama: Casting Romney as a "Goldwater-esque extremist" instead of a craven panderer is "clearly the way to go," says Noam Scheiber at The New Republic. "The right-wing views Romney has adopted will turn off women, independents, and Latinos, all of them key voting blocs." Calling Romney on this "draws more attention to the general election makeover he's trying to pull off," which will taint him for moderates and conservatives alike.
"Team Obama's devious bank shot"

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Obama is actually doing Romney a favor: Obama wants to "demonize" conservatives to "shift attention from the unpopularity (and failure) of his ideas," says David Limbaugh at News Busters. But such a strategy will backfire. Mainstream conservatism just isn't scarily "radical or extreme." In fact, Romney should embrace his inner conservative "enthusiastically and conspicuously" to contrast his vision with the liberal "Obama's disastrous record." That will energize the GOP base and ensure a strong turnout that could propel Mitt to victory.
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Either way, this could give voters a clear choice: There's a "certain irony" to Team Obama flip-flopping on its past insistence that Romney is a flip-flopper, says Alexander Burns at Politico. Regardless, this new approach, if it takes, will "create a sharper bigger-picture contrast" in November. Instead of running against Romney on character and congressional Republicans on ideology, Democrats will "be going after the whole GOP ticket for being extremely conservative."
"Obama shifts on 'core' attack"

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