There’s no arguing that the Romney campaign’s formula for winning the GOP nomination—attack and destroy, attack and destroy—worked. But it also meant that their man left little or no positive impression with voters. The “pro-Romney” ads were overwhelmingly anti-Gingrich or anti-Santorum. In Florida alone, his campaign and super PAC spent a head-spinning $15.4 million on ads; exactly one of them was positive. Combine the negativity with Romney’s rich-and-poor gaffes and terminal social awkwardness, and you end up with one of the most startling poll numbers heading into the general election: Sixty percent of Americans find President Obama likeable, but only 31 percent say the same of his Republican opponent.
You can debate how much likeability should matter to voters; today the Prospect’s Paul Waldman reminded us that Democrats weren’t so crazy about the whole “who would you rather have a beer with?” question in 2000 and 2004. But the Obama campaign knows that it does matter—a lot—and is doing everything possible to reinforce Romney's lack of likeability before he conjures up a way to seem more appealingly human. A powerful new two-minute ad about a steel plant shuttered by Bain Capital tells a story that should stick a lot longer in voters’ minds than Romney's prep-school bullying. “They made as much money off it as they could and they closed it down, they filed for bankruptcy, without any concern for the families or the communities,” says Joe Soptic. “It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.” And guess who killed Joe’s old friend?
With almost six months till Election Day, it might seem a bit early to be deploying the inevitable "Bain bombs." But the Obama campaign wants to cement those overwhelmingly negative impressions of the Republican standard-bearer. The end result, though, could be that Romney’s campaign feels compelled to wage all-out war on Obama’s friendlier image, far beyond what the McCain campaign attempted in 2008. That would make a sure-to-be-ugly campaign even harder to stomach.
So They Say
"Call me cynical, but I didn’t think his views on marriage could get any gayer."
—Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, weighing in on Obama's announcement that he supports same-sex marriage
Daily Meme: To Wedge or Not to Wedge?
- In case you were unconscious all last week, Obama endorsed same-sex marriage.
- It was kind of a big deal. Even Fox News' Shep Smith thought so.
- Rush Limbaugh disagreed.
- A Republican pollster sent out a super-secret memo on how Republicans can get on the right side of history (and voters) on same-sex marriage.
- Gawker pointed out another option: "Or just keep being dinosaurs. Up to you."
- John Boehner says he wants no part of it: "I'm going to stay focused on jobs, thanks. The president can talk about it all he wants."
- Other House Republicans are spoiling for a same-sex marriage fight, though, pushing for banning the use of military chapels for gay weddings.
- Romney would also like to get back to the economy, especially given the whole Cranbrook Bully thing.
- In sum: Republicans haven't figured out how to deal with the issue, and last week's developments definitely caught them off guard.
What We're Writing
- Abby Rapoport: Will Scott Walker’s “divide and conquer” comments get Wisconsin Democrats fired up anew?
- Jamelle Bouie: The Obama campaign is working to turn Romney’s strength—his business experience and “competence”—into a negative.
What We're Reading
- Ron Paul will stop campaigning—but keep fighting for delegates.
- Marin Cogan has the seven stages of Ron Paul supporter grief.
- Tom Junod, former bully, weighs in on Mitt Romney's prep school past.
- Ben Adler: Can Romney catch up with Obama online?
- Timothy Murphy profiles Michele Bachmann's mentor, who believes in dragons, and the co-existence of people and stegosaruses.
- Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA has purchased ad time in six swing states for next week.
- In other super PAC news, theres a new one in the Crossroads family going afteryouth voters.
- Buddy Roemer might be the Americans Elect nominee—but he says he won’t be a spoiler.
Poll of the Day
Democrats were hoping that if Indiana Republicans ousted Senator Richard Lugar in favor of Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock—which they did last week—Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly would have a fighting chance to capture the seat. A poll released today—conducted, it’s important to note, by a Democratic polling group—foundthey may have been right, as it shows Mourdock and Donnelly in a 40-40 dead heat.