US Senate candidate Barack Obama, 2004:
"Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us. The spin masters, the negative ad peddlers, who embrace the politics of anything goes."
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, 2008:
"Do we want to have the same old attack politics we've become accustomed to? The same slash-and-burn politics? We're not going to go around doing negative ads. We're going to keep it positive, we're going to talk about the issues."
President Barack Obama, 2011:
"I'm the President of the United State, and I want to make sure I am not engaging in scare tactics."
President, candidate Barack Obama, 2012:
Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early-stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.
The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job, and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent. “Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.
Step One of the "kill": Petty, middle school name-calling.
The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”
“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.” A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters. “There’s a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” the adviser said, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”
Step Two of the "kill": Unrelenting class warfare.