Obama's Two-Edged Attack on Romney

| Fri Oct. 14, 2011 11:28 AM EDT

Andrew Sullivan links to some anti-Mormon nutbaggery over at WorldNetDaily:

"While he attempts to portray Mormonism as just another Christian religion, Mitt Romney counts on his skills to shift our attention away from what he truly believes," says Tricia Erickson, author of "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America." "If the American people knew what he truly believed, they would surely not place him in the highest office in the land."

Et cetera. I was listening to Chris Matthews the other day, and he was wondering if the Obama team could successfully tar Mitt Romney as both a flip-flopper and a fire-breathing conservative. I think they probably can. They'll never admit this (and I might be wrong about it), but the flip-flopper message seems most likely to be aimed at evangelicals who are leery of putting a Mormon in the White House and are looking for an excuse — any excuse — to stay home. The flip-flopping charge won't be enough to get them to vote for Obama, but it might be enough to get them to bag the whole thing and just skip the election entirely. Plus it has the virtue of being true.

The fire-breathing conservative charge, conversely, is aimed directly at moderates and independents. They're going to vote for somebody, and if Obama can successfully link Romney to the excesses of the Tea Party before he's free to move to the center for the general election, he'll win some votes there. Obviously Obama wants to make it as hard as possible for Romney to execute his shift to the center when the primaries are over — something that I think he's still in pretty good shape to do — and getting in their licks early is one way to do that.

So: two messages for two different audiences. Can they pull it off? I don't see why not. They don't really conflict all that much, after all. To the extent that this kind of positioning stuff works at all, I don't see why this can't work pretty well.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.