One of the most heartening aspects of the early stages of the presidential race has been the Romney campaign’s aggressiveness. Nothing discourages activists more than getting out front of a candidate who, it later turns out, isn’t willing to do what it takes to win. A number of Republicans of recent years could be said to fit that description, most recently John McCain. But not Mitt Romney.
We’ve seen it over and over: the Obama campaign will launch an attack, and in next to no time, the Romney team hits back–twice as hard, as President Obama and Glenn Reynolds both like to say. It happened with the smear of Ann Romney, it happened with the dog on the roof, it happened with the silly “war on women,” it happened with the administration’s clumsy attack on Bain Capital, and it happened again today with the Democrats’ attempt to denigrate Romney’s service as Governor of Massachusetts.
A campaign can resemble a boxing match. Obama thinks he sees an opening and takes a swing at Romney. But before he can do any damage, he realizes he has walked into a counterpunch. Bam! Romney rocks him, and Obama retreats in disarray. Romney has shown himself already to be a top-notch counterpuncher.
His campaign has shown itself to be tough in other ways, too. When reporters pressed Romney to repudiate Donald Trump because he has been a “birther,” Romney flatly refused. (Maybe Obama should be asked to repudiate his literary agent, who also, evidently, is a “birther.”) This is exactly the right course. When Obama apologizes for Bill Maher and urges his SuperPac to return Maher’s million dollars, then Romney can at least consider repudiating someone who supports him–if, that is, he can find anyone remotely as unsavory as Maher.
We saw another manifestation of the Romney campaign’s aggressiveness today when David Axelrod made what was supposed to be a surprise appearance in Boston to attack Romney’s record as governor. Word of the event leaked out, and Romney supporters were out in force, embarrassing and at times drowning out Axelrod. Byron York tells the story in an article titled “Combative Romney team hits Obama coast-to-coast.”
Then, when Democrats began speaking, a crowd of about 100 Romney workers, supporters, and volunteers showed up to chant, shout, and heckle the speakers every step of the way. The protesters shouted “Solyndra!” and “Where are the jobs?” and “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!” while Democrats gamely attacked Romney’s tenure as governor. … In the end, the Obama event was overshadowed by the loud, aggressive Romney forces.
Byron notes that the Romney campaign considered this payback for similar disruptions of Romney events that have been carried out by Obama supporters.
Of course, amid all of the punching and counterpunching it is vital for Romney to stay on message, and not be distracted away from the all-important issue of the economy. He has done a good job of that, too. Today he held a surprise press conference at Solyndra. What I liked about Romney’s comments at Solyndra is that he didn’t just focus on the financial loss to the taxpayers, or accept the implicit assumption that everything would have been fine if only the company hadn’t gone out of business. Rather, he talked about the differences between free enterprise and government cronyism:
“It’s also a symbol of a serious conflict of interest. An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family – to campaign contributors. This building, this half a billion dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team.”
“It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise,” said Romney. “Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”
“You look at this building behind us; this is not the kind of building that is built by private enterprise,” he said. “This is the kind of enterprise – the kind of building – that’s built with half a billion dollars of taxpayers money. It’s not just the Taj Mahal of corporate headquarters. you probably also heard that inside there are showers that have LCD displays that tell what the temperatures are of the shower water. and the robots inside actually provide Disney music tunes.”
Elsewhere, Romney said: “So his view is what I call ‘crony capitalism. Give money to your friends that contributed to your campaign. That’s crony capitalism.”
Romney’s aggressive approach is getting a lot of favorable notice. On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh praised Romney’s toughness:
I’m telling you this is not the McCain campaign. McCain had the left demanded that he distance himself from Trump, not only would have distanced himself he would have gone public and kicked Trump out of his campaign. And Romney did not do that. I gotta take a break. Romney did something else. There’s a Tweet here. Mitt Romney. Romney supporters drown out Axelrod press conference in Boston shouting “Five more months, five more months!” Axelrod showing up everywhere and he was in Boston and Romney voters showed up and shouted him down, “Five more months, five more months!” until we’re finished with you. …
That’s the way to run the campaign! So you got in Boston anti-Obama, anti-Axelrod protestors show up, “Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs? Five more months! Where are the jobs?”
Glenn Reynolds is impressed, too. He wrote today: “You know, I think I like the cut of this Romney fellow’s jib.”
Not your father’s Republicans, indeed. Romney and his team are ready to fight for a better America, and they are doing it every day. I hope you have joined them.
UPDATE: And then there’s this:
Told that conservatives were comparing Romney’s tactics to Breitbart’s, one aide responded: “Oh great, that’s what we were going for.”