The Romney camp has suffered some severe body blows lately, some of it self-inflicted (e.g., Romney's decision no matter what to never ever ever release his tax returns, which will dog him until he eventually does release them).
So what happens now?
Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney's finances and business record, the Republican's campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston's pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a "liar" — very little will be off-limits, from the president's youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.
"I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate," the adviser said. "The bottom line is there'll be counterattacks."
The reference to Obama's past drug use seems to suggest that former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu wasn't going off-script after all when he dinged the president for spending "his early years in Hawaii smoking something" during a Tuesday morning Fox News appearance.
Returning fire with personal attacks on Obama offers both emotional satisfaction to Romney and many Republicans, and an answer of sorts to relentless Democratic attacks on Romney's time as an executive. It has so far failed, however, to quiet the growing, bipartisan chorus of voices demanding Romney release more of his personal tax returns. Obama campaign officials privately admit that the Republican has, at times, been effective in beating down attacks on his business record — but they've yet to see a way out on the tax issue.
Perhaps as a solution to that problem, Romney surrogates will place increased emphasis in coming days on the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, hoping to drag the story back into the headlines, and highlight questions about the the Obama campaign's transparency, the Romney adviser said.
I'm not sure how much this will work. After all, Obama has been president for four years. You can't run against him as if people are just learning about him. People have an impression of Obama — for better or for worse. If they care about Obama's (one-time) cocaine use, then pointing it out isn't going to make them care MORE. If people cared about "Fast and Furious", they would already care. In other words, the traction has already been worn. At best, the negative attacks on Obama personally will just preach to the choir that won't be voting for Obama anyway.
The Romney campaign is being run poorly. Most Americans agree:
“After a week in which Mitt Romney has struggled to counter questions about his tax records and his tenure at Bain Capital, just 38 percent of Americans in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll express a favorable opinion of the way he’s running his presidential campaign, while 49 percent respond unfavorably — an 11-point negative margin,” notes ABC News pollster Gary Langer. “Obama, for his part, gets an even split in assessments of his campaign efforts, 46-45 percent, favorable-unfavorable, in this poll.”