Here is a fundamental strategy of Republican “Rovian” election politics: The best way to defeat a formidable candidate is not to go after his weaknesses, but rather to go after his biggest strength and turn it into a weakness that the candidate (1) now has to spend time defending and redefining and (2) can no longer use to their advantage. As the nation’s premier Republican political consultant, Karl Rove has routinely employed the technique of attacking an opponent’s strength and making it a weakness. John McCain’swas that of a war hero who for years was held as a prisoner of war. In the 2000 GOP primary, George W. Bush benefited when Bush backers in South Carolina questioned whether McCain’s years as a POW might have affected him mentally.
Democrat John Kerry was targeted by the Swift Boat Veterans, who questioned his service in Vietnam. There were also examples of the tactic in the last presidential race. For example, Barack Obama is considered to be a good speaker. Critics, most ironically Sarah Palin, sought to undercut that, saying that he uses a teleprompter because that somehow helped him with his delivery and eloquence. Now you have Mitt Romney and other Republicans accusing the president of politicizing the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death. Governor Romney said it was “very disappointing for the president to try to make this a political item,” and insists that he would have made the same decision to go after Bin Laden. Senator John McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent, joined in on the criticism, telling Fox News:“You know the thing about heroes? They don’t brag.” Former New York Governor George Pataki also weighed in, saying he was “appalled” by the Obama campaign's use of the raid.
This attack on Obama isn’t just an attempt at turning an opponent’s strength into a weakness; it is a way of deflecting Romney’s own weakness on foreign policy and leadership by insisting that the president shouldn’t use his biggest single foreign policy success for political purposes. What the Republicans are quickly learning is that, by making this complaint about the president discussing his administration’s role in finally tracking down and killing Osama Bin Laden as part of his campaign message, they only draw more attention to Obama’s biggest foreign policy success. One hundred times more people will hear about the Republican complaints than will see the Obama campaign video.
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