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Ron Radosh

As it becomes clear that Mitt Romney might actually win the election, desperate Democrats are beginning to develop a new spin about why Obama might lose. That they are doing this two weeks before the election gives us a glimpse of just how scared they are. 

First, the New York Times’ top political reporter, Matt Bai, suggests that if Obama loses, blame could be put on none other than his most important campaign asset, Bill Clinton. Bai writes:

But there is one crucial way in which the 42nd president may not have served the 44th quite as well. In these final weeks before the election, Mr. Clinton’s expert advice about how to beat Mitt Romney is starting to look suspect.

At first, Bai says, the Obama campaign tried to depict Romney as “inauthentic and inconstant, a soulless climber who would say anything to get the job.” But after the public got to see what Romney was really like in the debates, that effort ground to a halt.  Instead, Clinton argued they had to portray Romney as an extremist conservative. That, after all, is what Clinton did when he ran, portraying himself as a centrist in between far left elements in his own party and right-wing Republicans opposed to him. 

Barack Obama, of course, is no Bill Clinton, and yet the campaign adopted Clinton’s advice, working hard to paint Romney as Bush-Cheney redux. Clinton, as Bai writes, was a “centrist deal maker,” while Obama is correctly not seen in this light by the American public. Bai adds that since the debates, Romney “has made a brazen and frantic dash to the center, and Mr. Obama has often seemed off-balance, as if stunned that Mr. Romney thinks he can get away with such an obvious change of course so late in the race. Which, apparently, he can.”

Romney thus cannot be painted as “a far-right ideologue,” no matter how many times Obama ads try to do just that. To put it bluntly, the tactic is not working, as the increasing numbers shifting to Romney in the polls continue to prove. Obama and his team will continue to make efforts to try to convince swing voters and independents of just that, and so far, it isn’t working.

So, Bai says, if Romney wins, Democrats will put the blame on Bill Clinton for having the campaign change its tactics as Clinton told them to do. Obama, he concludes, “now has only a couple weeks to convince a lot of independents in states like Ohio and Virginia that Mr. Romney really is some raging conservative, rather than the more malleable, somewhat awkward fellow he is impersonating on TV.”

What is significant is that Bai is writing this now — rather than after the election. When can you remember a pro-Democratic analyst writing an explanation for what they fear is a Romney victory when the campaign is still going on?

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