Democrats seized on Romney's diss like a Dalmatian on a chew toy. In the Pittsburgh area they staged a "cookie taste test" in a market square, an event circulated by the party's national committee. Anita Pace, a sales associate at the insulted bakery, said the local team wanted to buy cookies with the Obama logo, but upon learning that the request would take a week, settled for five dozen assorted treats for $27.
The Democratic National Committee tried to keep the story on the dessert debacle by circulating a story written on a liberal blog headlined, "Patrons Wonder If Mitt Romney Prefers His Cookies With Diamonds After He Snubs Local Bakery."
"This is just something that clearly has escalated beyond anyone's imagination," said John Walsh, the owner of the shop, Bethel Bakery. "Who would have ever thought that a tray of cookies would get this kind of response?"
Also getting an unusual amount of attention these days is Ted Nugent, a supporter of Gibson guitars and Mitt Romney, who told right-wingers at an NRA gathering recently that if Obama is reelected, he'll "either be dead or in jail." He also said the Obama administration is "wiping its ass with the Constitution" — a comment that the DNC determined stood alone as an issue .
Brad Woodhouse, the DNC's chief flack, immediately began a crusade against Nugent, trying to make the loose-cannon rocker as closely tied to Romney as Ann Romney is. In an email to reporters that was cheekily addressed to Fehrnstrom, the Romney adviser, Woodhouse wrote, "Hey Eric, what do you and your boss have to say about your surrogate making these comments?"
He followed that with four more emails — like "Romney and his Campaign Bragged About This Endorsement" and "DNC Chair Calls on Romney to Condemn Nugent."
That's not to say that the Romney campaign hasn't tried to make an Obama supporter more important than the candidate himself. The Boston operation has demonized the vulgar HBO comedian Bill Maher for using Nugent-like language about Romney's wife, saying she "has never gotten her a-- out of the house to work."
Firing off on Twitter, Fehrnstrom said that by not condemning Maher, Obama adviser David Axelrod "is signaling to supporters it's OK to keep up the attacks on Ann Romney."
So this is what the shadow 2012 campaign tastes like so far — tough dog meat, sarcastic cookies and barely relevant surrogates.
"They're like in an arms race," Rosen said. "I don't see how either team can unilaterally say, 'We're not going to do this anymore.' "
He added, "In equilibrium, it seems to be a wash."