Today is the day of the dueling mega-speeches on the presidential campaign trail. And reporters waiting around the venue of President Obama’s event were greeted by a Romney campaign bus circling the venue and volubly honking its horn, something you’d expect a rival wrestling team to do to disrupt the other team’s pep talk. On its face it seems somewhere between juvenile and just weird. But this is actually a core part of the Romney camp’s election strategy.
Remember, this isn’t the first time something like this happened. A few weeks ago the Romney camp sent staffers to disrupt a press conference that Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod held in Boston to trash Romney. And that came just after the Romney camp darkly hinted that the Obama team had been conspiring to disrupt or block the event it held in front of the shuttered doors of Solyndra.
It all sounds kind of weird and erratic. But it’s not. Or at least it’s not accidental.
The Romney camp has made a straightforward calculation that it can make up with appeals to the conservative id the ground it can’t ever make up convincing anyone that Romney is really a right-wing ideologue.
At one level this is simply another illustration of the “bitch slap” politics which rumbles beneath so much of presidential politics. And of course emotion always plays a big role in each side’s take on the political opposition. But the animus against President Obama isn’t just tied to his positions. There’s a deeply rooted sense on the right that Obama has been protected, coddled — that no one has really taken it to him in a down and dirty way. This is what’s behind the talk that he never got ‘vetted’ back in 2008. And if you remember back in the primary debates, there was a recurring theme of which contender was the guy who could really bring the full primal scream mojo to Obama at the debates. Not so much even which guy could beat Obama but which would have the cajones (and I use that term advisedly) to hit him with the full socialist-African-terrorist-lovin’-debt-meister smackdown that would somehow just leave a shattered Obama grasping blindly for his teleprompter.
The Romney folks know that pretty much nobody — not the Republican base or really anyone else — is going to be convinced that the candidate is a down-the-line conservative. But he can appeal to them by playing the bad ass card, getting in Obama’s grill, disrespecting him. Not in highly public ways and not the candidate himself — that could be damaging. But in slightly out of the way ways, the sort of stuff that really committed political types do see.
In other words, expect to see a lot more of this. And in purely practical terms, if it can be segregated from the stuff the broad middle of the electorate sees, it’s smart politics.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.