IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

What losing one's composure looks like

Yesterday, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R), one of Mitt Romney's top surrogates, threw quite a tantrum, appearing in multiple interviews to condemn President Obama as a corrupt, anti-American foreigner who hates capitalism, rich people, and "American values."

McKay Coppins talked to a Romney campaign adviser who suggested we should expect to hear more along these lines.

"[Romney] has said Obama's a nice fellow, he's just in over his head," the adviser said. "But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he's really disappointed. He believes it's time to vet the president. He really hasn't been vetted; McCain didn't do it." [...]

"I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate," the adviser said. "The bottom line is there'll be counterattacks."

In candor, I generally ignore reports like these. When reporting on a campaign, I care far more about what the candidates and their staffs actually do, not what they say they're poised to do. This report, in particular, might well be little more than an effort from Team Romney to satiate the right's unease with the trajectory of the race.

But the remarks Romney's unnamed advisor made to Coppins are harder to dismiss because we're already seeing evidence of this strategy being implemented. Remember, when Sununu was slipping deeper into his deranged anti-Obama breakdown, he specifically talked about drug use: Obama, Sununu said, "has no idea how the American system functions," in part because "he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something."

What's more, as Igor Volsky noted, various Romney surrogates spent yesterday effectively accusing the president of being a foreigner.

This, for those keeping score at home, is what it looks like when a campaign loses its composure.

What's more, it's doing so on the strangest of pretenses. Romney believes the Obama campaign "impugned his integrity," so it's time to talk about youthful drug use? That's an oddly thin-skinned approach to politics at the national level.

For that matter, I'm not sure if Team Romney really wants youthful missteps to be back on the table. I seem to recall a certain haircut incident, for example.

I'm also not sure what makes Romney and his aides think attacks that flopped in 2008 will be any more effective in 2012.

It would appear that Team Romney, 110 days before the election, still believes their target audience is Fox News viewers, Limbaugh listeners, and folks who hang out at They're the ones who want to hear about cocaine, who believe Obama wasn't "vetted," and who see value in fighting the last war all over again.

But they're also a tiny sliver of the population, who bear little resemblance to the American mainstream.