Give ‘Em Hell, Mitt!

Mitt Romney’s first television ad stirred considerable controversy, even though it ran briefly and only in New Hampshire. The ad included Barack Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The quote, from 2008, is legitimate, but Obama was quoting the McCain campaign. So Democrats went ballistic.

But a Romney aide told Byron York that there was method to the Romney campaign’s apparently misleading ad:

Romney aides know some Republicans fear that if Romney is the GOP presidential nominee, he might run a cautious, measured campaign against Obama like John McCain’s losing effort of 2008. They know Republicans want to see a fearless, all-out campaign against the president. In that sense, the first ad was an effort to show Republicans that Romney will be as tough as he needs to be. …

one Romney adviser calls it “incredibly telling” that Democratic criticism focused almost entirely on the use of the soundbite, and not on the substance of the ad itself, which was high unemployment. “This is how these guys operate,” the aide says of Team Obama. “This is how they shamelessly reduced Bill Clinton to sputtering that he wasn’t a racist. This is how they attacked Hillary for not having a core, for saying anything to get elected — the same Hillary who hosted Senator Obama’s largest fundraiser.”

“We get that and get how to get under their skin,” the aide continued. That fact that not just Obama campaign aides in Chicago but White House spokesman Carney joined in the pushback was, to Team Romney, a sign the Obama team was “rattled.”

“We get it,” said the aide. “We will tie them in knots.” …

[I]t appears the ad was directed at Republicans as much as Obama, with the Romney campaign wanting to send a signal that it would not run a go-along, get-along campaign against Obama, as some Republicans believe McCain did. If that was Romney’s intention, he certainly made his point.

It is also true that attacks by the press tend to make Republicans like their politicians better. So far, the press has largely ignored Romney while going after Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain et al. If Romney gets the nomination, the inevitable attacks may go a long way toward endearing Romney to that portion of the party’s base that doesn’t view him as sufficiently conservative, or sufficiently aggressive.