Obama's campaign last week dialed its request for tax records back to five years, which Romney summarily ignored. But Reid's tenacity and audacity (a different kind than Obama wrote about) kept the issue alive and forced it into a Romney question-and-answer session. That's where Romney said he's paid no less than a 13 percent effective federal tax rate over the past 10 years.
Additionally, Obama's team knows it's been taking flak for months from Romney's allies in the super PAC community and makes no apologies for hitting back with a vengeance at Romney, whom many Obama senior advisers believe weeps crocodile tears over campaign rhetoric while leaving the toughest attacks to super PAC allies. While it's true Obama has spent more head-to-head than Romney ($85.3 million to $50.3 million, largely because Romney can only spend general election donations after the convention), the pro-Romney and pro-GOP super PACS have tilted overall spending in Romney's favor ($168.5 million for Romney to $102.7 million for Obama, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group).
"Campaign to campaign [spending] doesn't mean s***," Axelrod said. "What matters is gross spending. I said a long time ago that they've contracted their hits out to contract hit men."
Obama's campaign also believes its intense swing-state focus on abortion and contraception issues has been given new and possibly crippling heft with Rep. Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape" as he seeks to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri. The Romney campaign swiftly distanced itself from Akin, but Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, cosponsored legislation with Akin that unsuccessfully sought to redefine "forcible rape" in the federal code. Tough commercials on this are in the works, as are radio ads in swing states battering Romney and Ryan for domestic spending cuts in Ryan's GOP budget blueprints.
Obama's team trafficked in sweetness and light in 2008, or so it seemed. That was the opportunistic play. It contrasted helpfully with the allegedly dark political arts of the Clintons and President Bush's unpopular performance as a warrior president presiding over an economic meltdown. Optimism is fool's gold now and no longer the opportunist's path. Disqualification is the coin of the realm. And Obama's team is buying.