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Axelrod: The Perception That We're Negative is...Romney's Fault

Good luck with this argument, Axe:


Scarborough's chuckle is perfect.  The Obama campaign has outspent Romney overall, besting the Republican by a 3-to-1 margin on battleground television ads thus far.  More than three-quarters of those ads have been negative, and many of those negative ads have been debunked as false by independent fact-checkers.  Now that Romney and his allies have hit back with ads correcting the record and pointing out the death of 'hope and change," Axelrod is blaming them for the public perception that Obama's gone mega negative.  Talk about a circular argument.  It's also an ironic one.  Think about it: When asked why his campaign is so negative, Axelrod blames the other side.  Argument confirmed.  There's a reason Obama's favorability has taken a hit in multiple recent polls -- and that reason is staring him in the mirror.  On the other side of the aisle, RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende argues that Republicans are missing an important opportunity to go positive and build up Mitt Romney:


While the Obama camp has been trying to give voters what they want, albeit from a negative perspective (and perhaps part of why Obama hasn’t moved the polls with his blitz is that those voters who are interested in Bain and Romney’s taxes are waiting to hear Romney’s side of the story), the Romney camp and his super PAC supporters have been banging their collective heads against a wall essentially trying to re-convince voters that the president is not doing a good job. Simply put, this won’t do it. It is a real question whether the Romney campaign gets this. Throughout the primary process, it focused relentlessly on tearing down its opponents. Thus far, it has done the same in the general election. Maybe Romney doesn’t have that much of a record of accomplishment as governor, outside of the radioactive health care law. Or maybe the campaign simply isn’t capable of telling a compelling, positive story about the nominee.

While I think it's important to continue hitting Obama on his failures, using his words and promises against him, and exploiting his slips ("you didn't build that," "it worked," etc), I agree that the GOP must also craft the case for Mitt Romney.  Unlike Trende, I don't think it should be too difficult.  He's had a "sterling" private sector career (according to Bill Clinton), during which he started and saved numerous businesses, creating tens of thousands of net jobs in the process.  He took over a scandal-plagued, red-ink-stained Olympic Games in 1999 and turned it around into an glowing national triump by early 2002.  And he governed a state for four years, delivering job growth (50th to 28th by his final year), quadruple balanced budgets and unemployment below five percent.  Democrats are on offense, trying to render Romney's time at Bain and on Beacon Hill toxic.  His record tells another story -- but he has to take that case to the public.  Trende writes that many voters are still evaluating Romney:


First, by a 90 percent to 8 percent margin, registered voters say that they already pretty much know what they need to know about President Obama. Second, by a 69 percent to 28 percent margin, these voters say that they already pretty much know what they need to know about Romney. In other words, three times as many voters are still evaluating the presumptive GOP nominee as are evaluating the president. Third, among independents -- who are almost certainly the lion’s share of those who have not yet formed a strong opinion of Romney -- 42 percent say they want to know more about his record as governor, 37 percent want to know more about his record as CEO of Bain Capital, and 35 percent want to know more about his tax returns. Just 21 percent of independents want to know more about his wealth, 19 percent want to know more about his family and upbringing, and 16 percent want to know more about his religious beliefs.

If independents are not getting this information from Romney, they're getting it through the distorted Democrat attack machine.  And if that trend continues -- to paraphrase David Axelrod -- that really would be Romney's own fault.

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