President Obama talked to Ohioans on Friday about Republican opposition to Bill Clinton's economic agenda in the early 1990s. When Obama noted that "a Senate candidate by the name of Mitt Romney" was among those who said Clinton was wrong, the audience started to boo. The president's response seems to have made the right very excited.
For those who can't watch clips online, the president said, "No, don't boo; vote. Vote. Voting is the best revenge."
Almost immediately, Republican blogs erupted with condemnations of the off-hand remark, and yesterday, Mitt Romney and his aides got excited about it, too.
The Republican candidate, for example, delivered three speeches yesterday, and complained about Obama's "revenge" comment at each event. Paul Ryan also pretended to be outraged over this. By mid-day, his campaign had put together a video suggesting Obama is somehow unpatriotic -- Romney believes people should vote out of "love of country," unlike the incumbent.
The entire line of attack seems rather sad -- it's more forced than sincere -- but the larger takeaway is that the Romney campaign has spent months chasing after every shiny object that catches their eye.
This campaign is going to be about "the private sector is doing fine"! Wait, scratch that, it's going to be about "you didn't build that"! Oh, actually, on second thought, it's going to be about the "redistribution" quote from 1998! Hold on, now it's going to be about "you can't change Washington from the inside"! On second thought, it's going to be about "not optimal"! No, wait, it's going to be about characterizing developments in the Middle East as "bumps in the road"!
This is precisely why I've compared Team Romney to small children playing soccer, running wildly to wherever they see a bouncing ball, whether it's strategically wise or not. There's certainly nothing wrong with a campaign taking advantage of new opportunities, but haphazardly shifting from one out-of-context sound bite to another is evidence of an unfocused candidate in search of an effective message.