Plouffe: “This is going to be a very close race, but I’d rather be us than them”

Long and interesting New York Magazine piece about the campaign strategy.

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They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”

 

The Obama effort at disqualifying Romney will go beyond painting him as excessively conservative, however. It will aim to cast him as an avatar of revanchism. “He’s the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that’s the basic construct,” says a top Obama strategist. “If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This fucking guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’ ”

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But Plouffe, recalling George W. Bush’s effective double-barreled attack on John Kerry as both a flip-­flopping phony and a liberal extremist, maintains that the two threads will be merged into a single yarn: “When Romney tries to Etch-a-Sketch, we’re not just gonna say, ‘Oh, there goes old Mitt Romney again! Who knows where he stands?’ We’re gonna say, ‘He is once again showing he’ll say anything—he has no core.’ But we’re also gonna say, ‘We know where he stands; he’s way off to the right on abortion, contraception, immigration, and gay rights,’ and hold him to those positions.”

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Then there is the exposure part, which entails subjecting the Romney record to withering scrutiny. The assault on his time at Bain has already begun, but soon Chicago will train its fire on his tenure in the Massachusetts statehouse. “He made similar promises in 2002 about what he was going to do for Massachusetts based on his experience in the private sector,” says Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. “ ‘I’ve got all this great experience creating jobs and turning around companies! I’m gonna turn around Massachusetts!’ Well, there’s a reason why he never talks about his Massachusetts record. Because economically, it didn’t work.”

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What’s clear is that an Obama victory could have profound political implications for the future of the Democratic Party. When 44 arrived in office, some forecast that he might usher in a New New Deal. (Nope.) But if he gains reelection by consolidating his party’s position with the electorate’s ascendant demographic forces, Obama may succeed in creating a viable post–New Deal coalition on which Democrats can build for years to come. “Ronald Reagan turned a whole bunch of people who are now seniors into Republicans,” says Messina. “What is happening now is that young people, women, and Latinos are becoming Democrats. That’s the coalition Obama brought; demographics brought it, too. And for the next 30 years, it is going to be a real challenge for Republicans.”

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