Four years ago, it made sense that Republicans would target Barack Obama as an inexperienced presidential candidate. He'd only held elected office for 12 years, and he was running against a GOP nominee who'd been in Congress for a quarter-century, so it stood to reason that Obama's critics would characterize the youthful candidate as unprepared for national office.
In 2012, however, this line of attack is pretty incoherent, but as Benjy Sarlin reported, Republicans are giving it a try anyway.
The RNC ... launched an effort to brand Obama as unprepared for office on Thursday. In another throwback to the 2008 election, they used an old clip of Vice President Joe Biden, then a primary rival to Obama, questioning whether he was ready for the White House, and juxtaposed it with a video montage of lousy economic reports. Timing it to coincide with Biden's speech touting the president's record on foreign policy, the RNC paired it with an accompanying Twitter campaign using the hashtag "#StillNotReady." [...]Warn voters that a freshman senator is dangerously inexperienced is one thing. Running against an incumbent president with a few military campaigns to his name and Osama bin Laden in the ocean, is another. After all, there's no one running more experienced at being president than the president himself.
Quite right. President Obama, like him or not, has been leading the nation during a time of crisis, cleaning up a series of disasters left by his Republican predecessor, and serving as the Commander in Chief during a time of war. "Inexperienced" isn't an adjective that comes to mind.
But we can go a step further with this and ask a related question: do Mitt Romney's backers really want to talk about the candidates and their experience in public service?
I posted this chart earlier in the week because it highlights a largely-overlooked historical detail: Romney is the least experienced major-party presidential nominee since Republican Wendell Wilkie lost to FDR in 1940. If Romney wins, he'll be the least experienced president since Woodrow Wilson, who won exactly 100 years ago, despite only having been governor of New Jersey for two years before his national campaign.
Some Maddow Blog readers argued that years in the military shouldn't count. I disagree, but here's that same chart, excluding candidates' tenure in active-duty service:
By this metric, Romney is still the least experienced major-party presidential nominee in 60 years.
So why in the world would Republicans decide to make candidate experience a key point of debate in 2012?