President Obama’s top campaign strategists today doubled down on Democrats’ personal, pre-primary attack on Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney as a man without character.
“When it comes to his public character, he doesn’t have a core,” David Axelrod told “Meet the Press.” “It has nothing to do with his personal life. I honor his personal life, I respect his personal life, but this is about how you behave in the public arena.”
Former White House press secretary turned campaign adviser Robert Gibbs called Romney a “political gymnast of the highest order.”
“He will say virtually anything to get elected to any office,” Gibbs said on “Face the Nation.”
“The one thing that is certain in this Republican primary, if you don’t like where Mitt Romney is today, just wait until tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a little bit like the weather. ”
Both men, who helped orchestrate a similar line of attack against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, rebuffed the suggestion that the negative and personal campaign is improper.
“He seems to think that every day is a new day, that he can simply change all of his positions depending on who his audience is or what the political circumstances. And that is not what you want in the president of the United States,” Axelrod said. “So is that an issue? Yes, that’s an issue.”
Romney defended himself against the “no core” charge in an interview with ABC News last month, insisting his record as a businessman and governor “demonstrates what I believe.”
“I understand that politics is politics,” he said at the time. “People look for some edge they can get. But — but people know how I’ve lived my life and what I believe on the major issues of the day. And frankly, I’m in this race, because of the failure of President Obama to turn around this economy. ”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus today, appearing after Axelrod, picked up on that theme, saying that if character is a 2012 campaign issue then Obama won’t pass the test.
“He made some promises in regard to the debt, which he didn’t fulfill. He made some big promises in regard to the deficit. He said he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term and what did he do? He passed, or he put forward, the biggest structural deficit in the history of America,” Priebus said.
“What I think is going to be the bigger problem for this president, people in this country don’t think that this president is real anymore. He’s not genuine anymore,” he added.
As for news overnight that Newt Gingrich has surged to the front of the GOP pack in Iowa and made a huge leap forward in New Hampshire, Team Obama signaled they still aren’t ready to expand their offensive to include the former House speaker.
“I think Newt Gingrich is … somebody who has been a party favorite of the Republican Party going back to the mid-’90s,” said Gibbs, who called the Gingrich candidacy and rise to the top “very much for real.”
“He’s obviously a man with expansive thoughts and ideas that he expresses widely, and we’ll see how that plays,” Axelrod said, declining to go further.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul called the near-exclusive focus on the former Massachusetts governor an indication of how formidable a challenger Obama thinks he will be.
“President Obama has presided over an unprecedented 34 straight months of 8 percent or higher unemployment, so it’s no wonder his campaign is desperate to distract from his failed economic record,” Saul said in an email. “It is clear the White House does not want to face Mitt Romney and be forced to defend three years of high unemployment and runaway spending. Rather than focusing on job creation and helping the middle class, President Obama and his campaign are focused on attacking Mitt Romney.”