Is Team Romney Becoming Unhinged?

It’s beginning to look like John Sununu’s Day of Rage yesterday wasn’t an outlier for the Romney campaign but a sign of things to come. Here’s McKay Coppins’ report on where Team Romney seems to be going:

[F]acing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.

“I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate,” the adviser said. “The bottom line is there’ll be counterattacks.”

The reference to Obama’s past drug use seems to suggest that former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu wasn’t going off-script after all when he dinged the president for spending “his early years in Hawaii smoking something” during a Tuesday morning Fox News appearance.

So it’s the Obama campaign’s “ruthless” and “unfair” attacks that are triggering all this hysteria? Did Team Romney really think their candidate could run around the country citing the brilliant job-creating success of Bain Capital as his primary credential for becoming president and not get challenged about it? And did they not expect demands that the richest man ever to win a presidential nomination release his tax returns? I mean, the attacks they are dealing with now are blindingly obvious. Any Romney opponent who didn’t make them would be guilty of extreme political malfeasance. So what gives?

Coppins suggests there’s one thing in particular sticking in their craws:

Romney’s aides remain particularly livid about Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter’s suggestion last week that Romney committed a crime by filing apparently conflicting documents to the FEC and SEC.

“[Obama’s] policies have been such utter failures, the only thing he can do is to try to destroy a decent man and his wife,” the adviser said. “So he gets some hack political adviser from Chicago who has nothing to point to in her own life, and tells her to call him a felon… When did our politics get to that point? I mean, it’s Nixonian.”

Try to destroy a decent man and his wife? Nothing to point to in her own life? This is such an over-the-top reaction to a banal comment by Cutter (who didn’t call Romney a “felon,” but simply observed that if he did misstate his role at Bain in a SEC filing, that’s potentially a felony) that you have to believe it’s coming from the candidate himself. Apparently, the mere suggestion he might have possibly committed a crime has sent him and his staff into a real spiral.

Don’t you bet Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich wish they had known about this particular soft spot! Mention the criminal code and watch Mitt melt down!

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.