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Thrush and Budoff Brown break down the rationale for the day-long spate of attacks on Mitt Romney by the President Obama re-elect:

Obama and his Chicago campaign brain trust seem to have come to their conclusion about Romney at the exact moment many Republicans realized he might really go all the way: At the end of Tuesday night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire, when Rick Perry and the rest of the field seemed to disappear into the enervating fog of inevitability that now surrounds the former Massachusetts governor.

They were also motivated, top Democrats told POLITICO, by anger at the GOP field for not hitting Romney sufficiently hard on his well-documented position shifts on abortion rights, civil unions and health care reform.

“The other Republicans have sucked so bad we didn’t have any choice” but begin to target Romney months before the Iowa caucuses, said a top Obama ally, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

(snip)

It isn’t that Obama’s people are so sold on Romney’s weakness that they are trying to elevate Romney to the status of winner — they aren’t. Or that they think no one else can win — they don’t. In fact, if they needed any proof Romney’s nomination is no done deal, it came in the form of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll - taken before the debate and released Wednesday night - that showed Herman Cain leading the perceived frontrunner by a 27-to-23 percent margin.

It’s just that the Obama campaign, stocked with 2008 veterans, thinks Obama’s standing in the polls is too low to allow Romney free reign to trash Obama without direct push back. Moreover, they are thrilled to jump back in the middle of a campaign and eager to go on the attack after years on defense in the besieged West Wing.

But most importantly, targeting Romney gives Obama what he’s lacked since dispatching John McCain 23 months ago: A living, breathing, deeply flawed Republican foil who liberates the president from running only on the the hope-and-change expectations of 2008, now frayed after three difficult years.

The last point is an important one, since Obama needs a clear rival to fire up his own voting and fundraising base with a sense of urgency.

At the same time, there's also a chance that by dinging the weak frontrunner, the campaign will end up with an opponent it thinks it would rather face - like Rick Perry.

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