For the Fourth of July, the Obama campaign released a new Web video, highlighting a recent Vanity Fair look at Mitt Romney’s tax shelters and offshore accounts. It’s brutal:
The key line: “I’ve never heard of a president having an overseas bank account.” This is a Web video, so it has limited circulation, but these interviews—and others, I’m sure—will certainly make it into swing-state and other general-election advertising. Moreover, they will play well with the Obama campaign’s attempt to hinder Mitt Romney by defining him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.
The key thing to remember about this strategy is that it isn’t necessarily aimed at short-term movement in the polls. Instead, the goal is to shape the impressions of undecided voters so that when they make a decision in the fall, their mental map is dominated by a particular, and unflattering, image of Romney. This process is especially important for white undecided voters, who—if Romney can assemble them into a coalition—will give him the presidency. Already, Romney is within striking distance of his necessary white support: In the latest CNN poll of registered voters, the Republican nominee wins 57 percent of white voters, compared with 39 percent for Barack Obama. At 60 percent, Romney is well positioned for victory.
The more doubts that Obama can sow about Romney, the less likely it is that Romney will overcome the public’s status-quo bias and bring undecided voters to support him. Between offshoring and the Bain Capital attacks, the Obama campaign has all the ammunition it needs to damage Romney’s standing with key parts of the electorate. More important, it seems to be working. The Romney campaign needs to offer a substantive response to these attacks if it wants to avoid serious difficulty with consolidating white voters, undecideds in particular.