With no candidate retaining status of the lead “anti-Romney” candidate, it is President Obama’s reelection campaign seeking to stifle any momentum building for the former Massachusetts governor, focusing Wednesday on what it sees as a pattern of “flip-flops.”
The extent to which Mitt Romney has begun to consolidate support among the GOP establishment was seen Tuesday as he announced the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Up until now, the preferred tactic of Team Obama has been to damn Romney with faint praise, repeatedly citing his efforts as governor on health reform as a model for the plan Obama ultimately championed.
But on a conference call with reporters, top Obama strategist David Axelrod signaled a more direct approach, arguing that Romney’s stated concern for the middle class is not credible.
He singled out a moment from the Bloomberg/Washington Post debate in which Romney indicated he would not support an extension of the payroll tax holiday, as Obama has called for in his American Jobs Act.
“If you give a temporary change to the payroll tax and you say, we’re going to extend this for a year or two, employers don’t hire people for a year or two,” Romney said.
“Just two months ago,” Axelrod contended, Romney “was equally vehement” in support of an extension.
“He switched positions on something that is so fundamental to strengthening our economy in a very difficult time,” Axelrod said. “That certainly isn’t consistent with a guy who presents himself these days as a champion of the middle class. Although consistency hasn’t been a hallmark of his career.”
Axelrod, who returned to Chicago to work on the president’s reelection effort after nearly two years as a top White House adviser, said the campaign didn’t necessarily view Romney as the GOP favorite at this point, even as it focused on his campaign and none of the other GOP contenders.
“One of his problems has been that he hasn’t inspired a whole lot of confidence and enthusiasm among Republicans because across the political spectrum people have the same question: if you are willing to change positions on fundamental issues of principle, how can we know what you would do as president?” Axelrod said.
Now, Axelrod was asked, why would this critique of Romney succeed when the attempts of Republicans to make a similar case have not? He argued that the case has not exactly been made effectively.
“I know that Governor Perry has made some halting efforts to do that in these debates, but he hasn’t exactly gotten the gun out of the holster,” he said.