Opinion: Columnists

The negative campaign is Obama's only weapon

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"You didn't build that" has become the defining line of campaign 2012, and it appears to have generated panic among the leaders of Team Obama.

Imagine the meetings in Obama/[?] Chicago campaign headquarters as the brain trust considers not only the accelerating momentum of Romney/Ryan, but also the emptying cupboard marked "Politics of Personal Destruction."

What does the exquisitely tuned mind of David Axelrod have left? Allegations of strip mining leading to deforestation? Charges of gun-running? Complicity in the making of "The Expendables 2"?

Townhall.com's Guy Benson spent last week cataloging the various wild charges that the president's underlings have thrown at Mitt Romney and the numerous and bipartisan denunciations of the various slimings. That list, published today, will no doubt have to remain an open project as Chicago really has nothing else on which to run and plenty to run from.

More than a few Democrats down the ticket who are in increasing peril of another 2010 have to be asking themselves: Do Axelrod et al. really know what they are doing?

If you are a Democratic senator, that is a very good question. Yes, the president won a famous victory in 2008, but that was against an underfinanced and not particularly deft John McCain and Sarah Palin, amid a financial panic and with eight years of war as the context.

Obama's first "big win" was against Alan Keyes, who had stepped into a GOP vacancy in the 2004 Senate race in Illinois. There is also the president's primary loss to Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000. Not much of a record when examined closely. Democrats who need the top of the ticket at least to keep the race close this November must be wondering whether Obama's win in 2008 was, like his walk-in-the-park in 2004, more of a victory-by-forfeit than a testament to Axelrod's genius or the president's charisma.

That charisma is certainly diminished if not gone, and the president's alarming propensity to go off message when he is off prompter has led to his ducking of the White House press corps even as Mitt Romney's competence with and confidence before the cameras is increasing and Rep. Paul Ryan's natural gifts are on display.

And Joe Biden? Democrats have a good claim for "equal time" whenever the veep appears.

Ryan's connection with the youngest demographic has also got to be unsettling to the president's pollsters. Before long, Team Romney will be setting up town hall meetings with young voters, focused on the generation-looting fiscal bender that has been under way for the past four years.

Tampa Bay is going to hammer home the president's record and Mitt Romney's as well, with the former being a survey of smoking ruins and the latter being a display of Romney's past success in rebuilding from such wreckage.

Charlotte -- well, who knows what Charlotte will be, after the president and every surrogate notes the president's decision to give the green light to the mission to kill Osama bin Laden? "General Motors," some pundits reply, indifferent to the $25 billion dead-weight loss that bailout caused. "A better plan," the president repeatedly promised in the worst of all the Olympics ads. No, the glass isn't half full. There isn't really a glass at all.

Time has run out for the president. Look at the "right track" versus "wrong direction" numbers in the polling for the past two years. This is the mood of the country, and Obama did indeed build that.

Next Monday's column will arrive as the gavel comes down on the GOP convention, which for millions of Americans will signal the beginning of the end of an era of epic incompetence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But as the days run down on the Obama presidency, expect every last absurd, offensive and despicable attack to be mounted. There just isn't anything else left, and desperation is never gracious.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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