Obama team zeroes in on Romney

Obama team zeroes in on Romney

President Obama’s campaign team demonstrated Wednesday who it thinks will be the Republican presidential nominee — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

David Axelrod, who’s in charge of keeping Obama in the White House, held a 25-minute conference call with reporters for the express purpose of targeting Romney.


It’s the first time the Obama team has held a call to specifically target a Republican presidential candidate, and it underscores the growing sense of inevitability that Romney will be the party’s nominee.

Among Axelrod’s charges against the former governor: that he’s a flip-flopper who cannot be trusted by voters.

“We’re having this call because Gov. Romney has been so brazen, frankly, in his switches of position,” Axelrod said.

Romney’s campaign shot back, accusing Obama of trying to distract voters from their most important issue — the economy.

“What we’re getting from this administration in response to the tanking economy are deflections and diversions from what really matters, which is President Obama’s failure to create jobs. President Obama has turned America into an economic disaster zone. The only question is whether we can make it to the election of 2012 before Obama takes us all the way back to 1929,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams in a statement.

Romney has returned to the top of the polls in the race for the GOP nomination and is coming off a strong debate performance Tuesday in New Hampshire. He showed confidence and comfort in dealing with his rivals, giving one of his best debate performances thus far.

He also picked up a major endorsement Tuesday from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Axelrod’s effort is part of a coordinated effort by Democrats to attack Romney. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) earlier on Wednesday during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” said Romney is “so wishy-washy on the issues that it’s like trying to nail down Jell-O getting him to commit to any one position.”

“I can understand why Republican voters don’t seem to be able to settle on him, because when you take all sides of an issue it doesn’t inspire much confidence,” she said.

Earlier this week the DNC launched a website hitting Romney as a flip-flopper at www.whichmitt.com.

Axelrod insisted that he is not “assuming” that Romney will be the Republican nominee, and had strong words for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been considered another front-runner for the GOP nomination but who has fallen in the polls.

Axelrod noted that Perry has hit Romney with similar criticisms, but added that Perry “hasn’t exactly gotten his gun out of the holster.”

However, Obama’s message guru and longtime adviser demonstrated what the president’s strategy will be if he does ultimately face off against Romney, attempting to paint the former governor as untrustworthy.

“How can we trust who you would be?” Axelrod said at one point.

Those charges echo concerns conservatives have about Romney, who has changed his position in the past on gay rights and abortion rights. He also, as governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a healthcare bill that contained an individual mandate, similar to Obama’s nationwide healthcare law that is despised by conservatives.

Axelrod said Romney is not inspiring Republican primary voters because of his changes in position, noting that when he ran for governor, Romney was “a pro-choice moderate who supported civil unions.”

Now, Axelrod said, Romney is “hard after that Tea Party vote and has thrown all of his positions over.”

A Gallup poll from earlier this week showed that Romney has a 72 percent approval rating from Republican and GOP-leaning voters. Meanwhile, Gallup found Obama’s September approval rating was 41 percent. Polls show that in a head-to-head match-up, Romney and Obama are virtually tied.

The remarks from Obama’s campaign guru could be fuel for Romney’s GOP rivals, dragging out the Republican nomination process, which would benefit Obama.

Romney fell under tough scrutiny during Tuesday’s debate, which focused on economic issues. But he handled it with little difficulty. During a period when the candidates asked each other questions, the first four were directed at Romney, hitting him on his healthcare plan and the complexity and details of his economic plan. He answered them with ease.

Axelrod zeroed in on Romney’s debate remarks, in which he described an extension of the payroll tax cut, which is included in Obama’s jobs bill, as a “little Band-Aid.”

He said that the tax cut extension is an “essential ingredient to prevent a double-dip recession,” and accused Romney of an “appalling” reversal of position on the matter.

—Alicia M. Cohn contributed.

This story was originally posted at 1:36 p.m. and last updated at 8:40 p.m.