With the campaign on, here are four things Obama & Co. need to accomplish over the next month — the first of the general election — culled from conversations with party strategists.
1. Create a fierce urgency of fundraising. Now.
Obama’s brain trust — alarmed by the poor performance of the pro-Obama super PAC — have been raising the alarm about the awe-inspiring firepower on the GOP side.
Never mind Romney’s pet super PAC, which kneecapped both Santorum and Newt Gingrich with such savage efficiency. Take a look at Crossroads GPS, one of the Karl Rove-linked GOP ATMs that hope to raise up to $300 million combined and is kicking off with a $1.7 million ad buy bashing Obama in battleground states. Both deeply concern Obama message man David Axelrod, a fabled worrier.
The hope within Obama’s inner circle is that the presence of Romney as a threat to the president will awaken the party’s wealthy — and Chicago has taken every opportunity to remind the faithful of their opponent’s financial prowess.
2. Smash Romney’s Etch A Sketch.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom infamously declared that his boss would reset after the primary, erasing his far-right positions like a kid shaking an Etch A Sketch.
In military terms, Chicago is trying to deny Romney “the turn” — the moment in an aerial dogfight when an opponent makes a mad dash off course in hopes of getting out of the firing line — to get on offense.
(...) Expect a period of especially intense negativity: Chicago doesn’t want to be “Rove-d” — and there are plenty of staffers who worked on the John Kerry 2004 effort and are acutely aware of the perils of allowing a candidate to be attacked on his or her strengths. Consequently, the Obama campaign is prepping an intense rapid response operation to remind voters of Romney’s previous positions on abortion, health care, the auto bailout, immigration reform, workplace equality, et al.
3. Transform Obama from Superman to Everyman.
It’s not enough just to deny Romney his right to redefinition: The White House and Obama’s campaign — bridged by the wan, brisk personage of senior adviser David Plouffe — must engage in their bit of rebranding.
(...) Four years ago, his biography focused on his transformation from a regular guy with an extraordinary life story into an inspirational avatar of hope and change. The process this time seems to be moving in reverse, with Obama shrinking back to regular-guy size, all the better to portray Mitt Romney as a feckless Richie Rich, brimming with spare Caddies, luxury car elevators and pink slips for Bain employees.
4. Make it a referendum on Romney, not the economy.
This is the big task, of course, for the entire campaign. But it’s especially critical to sell at the start.
Even with some signs showing an improving economy, few Americans feel positive about the future — and the past week’s stock market swoon, anemic jobs report and Spanish sovereign debt flare-up proved, yet again, that we’re not out of the woods. Obama does well on likability but tanks on his handling of the economy in recent polls.
Who would want to run on that?
Like George W. Bush in 2004, Obama hopes to define his opponent as a weak and vacillating man unfit to lead in a dangerous time.