The 2008 McCain campaign did real if temporary damage to Barack Obama with this television ad, titled “Celeb,” depicting the then-senator as a vain, spotlight-seeking nullity:
The ad was largely the brainchild of McCain senior strategist Steve Schmidt. The Obama campaign was so frightened by its resonance that it opted to move his public appearances to more mundane indoor surroundings, as opposed to the massive outdoor rallies that had been a sign of Obama’s gathering momentum. Just as Hillary’s “3 a.m. Phone Call” meme called into question Obama’s youth and inexperience, McCain’s “Celeb” ad turned one of Obama’s strengths into a liability.
We’re seeing the Romney-affiliated Crossroads PAC try a similar tack:
The suggestion that lobbing Clintonian cruise missiles connotes foreign policy seriousness is absurd — as is the not-so-subtle conflation of “leadership” with uncritical support of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the juxtaposition of the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi with Obama’s appearance on The View, wherein the president reduces his role to that of “eye candy,” cleverly picks at the scab that is Obama’s all-to-cozy relationship with soft media.
More than the tick-tocky debate over timelines — who called it “terrorism,” and when — I suspect the Romney campaign has at least the sliver of an opening when it comes to highlighting Obama’s seeming habit of shirking the most unglamorous and tedious duties of the presidency: negotiating with congressional leaders, for instance, or meeting face-to-face with prickly world leaders.
After the Democratic convention, I wrote that Obama would be smart to press his advantage on foreign policy. But it’s apparent now that some significant portion of the public favors Obama’s foreign policy to the extent that it doesn’t have to hear about foreign policy. As world events rear their head, Obama’s numbers on terrorism take a hit. I’ve speculated that the leakage in Obama’s poll numbers before Romney’s 47 Percent video was released was due in part to the mess in North Africa. And with right-wing media hungrily trumping up the attack on the Benghazi consulate into a “-gate”-like proportions, Obama seems to be slipping slightly again.
It will be interesting to see if or how Obama can beat back this line of attack, or indeed whether will Romney will choose to follow through with it.