It looks like one of the more talked-about political stories of the day is this Politico piece on the Obama campaign’s expectation that Mitt Romney will win the GOP nomination — and what the president’s team intends to do about it.

Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.

Politico‘s “slashing” spin on the still-unseen strategy seems a little excessive — running as an upstart challenger in 2008 is necessarily going to be different than running as an incumbent in 2012 — but the basic framework sounds about right.

When voters are frustrated and discouraged, it stands to reason the incumbent is going to present the electorate with a stark choice. On the one hand, voters will be urged to see President Obama as a principled, honest leader, who’s made tough decisions during trying times, and led crises that weren’t of his making. On the other, voters will hear that Mitt Romney is a weird, unlikable, and unprincipled flip-flopper with no core values, who isn’t comfortable in his own skin, who can’t be trusted, who lacks authenticity, and who got rich by laying off thousands of American workers.

This message offensive, apparently, will begin before the Republican nomination fight wraps up.

There was one sentence in the article, however, that seems to be generating the bulk of the attention this morning.

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

This seems to have caused quite a stir, but it strikes me as a little silly. For one thing, a “prominent strategist” could be anyone; it’s not like the quote came from Axelrod. For another, I’m pretty confident the quote is not to be taken literally, and the Obama campaign has no interest in committing acts of violence against the former governor.

But also, before the “kill” quote gets anyone too terribly riled up, I have a question: do we really need another day of pearl-clutching over an unsourced quote in a Politico article?

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.