Obama 2.0: Will the Tough Act Last?

In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on the fuzzy, uplifting platform of hope and change. Four years later, his campaign, for the most part, has ditched the rainbow and unicorn rhetoric. Today, the president fearlessly serves up searing GOP criticism. His campaign operatives are poised to attack at the sign of any Republican gaffe.
 
And “…the new ruthlessness is actually a sign of maturity," writes Schwartz Fellow Noam Scheiber in The New Republic today.  
 
Scheiber argues that President Obama’s timid-to-tough campaign trajectory is nearly identical to former President Bill Clinton’s. And it could be just what he needs to win.
 
“What Obama and his team have accepted is that, while there’s a lot to be said for changing politics and elevating the discourse, your most important job as president is to defend your priorities. And the way to do that is to win.”
 
There’s only one, small problem: Not everyone on Obama’s team is wholeheartedly on-board with that attitude shift.  
 
“Within Team Obama, the change is not without anxiety. Mention the comparison to Clinton, and those involved in the Obama reelection effort will instinctively flinch. As one longtime Democratic operative sympathetic to the new approach puts it: ‘They have their own legacies to protect, I get that, too. I don’t think [David Axelrod] ever wants to see his name in the same sentence as [Clinton guru] Dick Morris.’”
 
With undercurrents of concern on Team Obama, is this new muscular strategy sustainable? It’s easy to attack your opponent when he’s busy attacking the other guy. But how will the Obama campaign’s hardball approach evolve as Romney’s campaign begins to concentrate exclusively on attacking the president?

Photo credit: Obama photo via Shutterstock