Projecting Mendacity

The theory that the animating spirit of the Romney campaign is the Rovian tactic of projecting one’s weaknesses onto the opponent just got a big boost, as Team Mitt put out an ad and a press release accusing the president of lying about the GOP candidate’s involvement in outsourcing while at Bain Capital, and of executing policies that encouraged outsourcing of jobs.

There’s not actually much dispute that Bain was in fact an “outsourcing pioneer;” but the key issue is whether Romney can be held responsible for Bain deviltry that occurred after he “left” in 1999 to run the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. I put “left” in quotes because today’s news also includes a report from the Boston Globe on an SEC filing that shows Romney remained as CEO and sole stockholder in Bain until 2002, a little detail that Mitt has failed to mention publicly so far.

Aside from confirming that the Bain/outsourcing attacks on Romney have been having an impact (as Obama campaign sources have been claiming lately), the new gambit from his campaign is probably also designed to (a) chip into Obama’s continuing advantage in personal favorability, while (b) reinforcing among GOP “base” voters the meme that the whole Obama enterprise is a vast Potemkin Village disguising his radicalism and unsavory association with America-haters and Christ-haters.

If you read through all the back-and-forth between the two campaigns, which heavily features quotes from various WaPo stories, the saga also demonstrates that while few people read newspapers these days, they do provide great fodder for campaign ads.

It will be interesting to see if the massively fact-challenged Republican presidential candidate keeps up the Liar! Liar! attack line. It’s not as though he comes to this particular argument with clean hands.

UPDATE: The Rovian hypothesis–indeed, the hypothesis that Romney is performing a Rovian response to a Rovian tactic by Team Obama–was also confirmed by someone who really ought to know, as quoted in this Zeleny/Parker piece from the New York Times:

Conservatives have lit up talk radio programs across the country, worrying whether Mr. Romney’s business record has been “Swift Boated,” referring to attacks waged against Senator John Kerry’s military record in 2004.

The Romney campaign headquarters in Boston has been inundated with advice and criticism from donors and supporters who worry that Mr. Romney has lost an opportunity to introduce himself on his own terms.

“Team Obama is doing just what we did in 2004, which is to define the opposition furiously and early,” said Mark McKinnon, a strategist who worked on George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. “Most voters don’t have a deep sense of Romney other than he’s not Obama. And in this cycle, that may be enough, but it’s a very risky approach.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.