The president's reelection team seeks to box in the Republican nominee on the right before he can pivot to the center.
If the first phase of the presidential election was about Mitt Romney trying to convince conservatives he was really one of them, it looks like the second phase will be about the Obama campaign trying to convince everyone else Romney really meant it.
Witness this video, released by the Obama team Wednesday. It's a two-minute highlight reel of some Romney statements they believe will scare off independent and moderate voters: his support for the Blunt Amendment on contraceptive coverage; "corporations are people, my friend;" "I like being able to fire people;" and especially, "I was a severely Republican governor."
Remember Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom's unfortunate Etch A Sketch comment? There was an undeniable truth to it. Every Republican candidate tacks to the right during the primary, and every Democratic tacks to the left, then moves back to the center for the general election. Obama wants to box Romney in before he's able to reclaim his centrist record as governor of Massachusetts. Unlike a Rick Santorum or a Herman Cain, Romney can make a plausible sell to moderates and hurt Obama's chances. So Chicago is seeking to crystallize an impression of Romney as a radical conservative early on in the campaign (National Journal's Michael Hirsh has more on this.) If it fails, it will show the virtues of being an Etch A Sketch candidate were underrated.