"The fact of the matter is that if the president continues to make this charge—this outrageous charge that his campaign had that Mitt Romney is guilty of felonious activity, could have committed a felony—that's a big mistake."
That's a great line, in particular because it was Karl Rove on Fox Sunday News, complaining that the president had said Mitt Romney is "guilty of felonious activity."
The president didn't say that, and Rove equivocated when he added "this outrageous charge that his campaign had."
In fact, it was the Obama campaign's deputy manager Stephanie Cutter who said it, on a conference call last week discussing a Boston Globe report that Romney was listed as Bain Capital's CEO after 1999—the year Romney said he "retired" from Bain.
"Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which was a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people..." Cutter said.
The who said what when argument is of little consequence. Cutter started a discussion that lasted through the weekend TV talk shows, the same weekend that the Obama campaign released a devestating ad in which Romney's painful rendition of "America the Beautiful" is the voiceover for a montage of abandoned industrial plants and headlines describing Bain Capital shipping American jobs overseas.
Obama's staff—Cutter, David Axelrod et al.—is defining the campaign narrative. A narrative they began to shape in mid-May, which might have seemed early in the campaign for a negative ad. The Steelworkers v. Romney ad was a powerful prelude to the current ad defining Romney as a vulture capitalist, buying American companies, laying off workers, and hiding profits in offshore banks in the Caymans, Bermuda, and Switzerland.
In attacking Romney, the Obama campaign has lifted a page from Karl Rove's playbook. Identify your opponent's strength and turn it into a liability.
It is precisely what Rove did to in 2004 to Senator John Kerry, whose military service in Vietnam (which Rove and Bush avoided) was used in the "Swiftboat" campaign that accused Kerry of lying about his role on a Navy swiftboat in the Mekong Delta.
Bain Capital is Mitt Romney's swiftboat. The critical distinction between the Swiftboat attacks, for which Rove raised the first $2 million in Texas, and the Bain attacks, is that the latter are based on the facts.
It's swiftboating with the truth. Not a bad concept.