Republican voters may not have decided yet who their presidential nominee will be but President Obama's re-election campaign is making an educated guess that it will be the once and present GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney.
Now that Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to have flamed out as a threat to Romney and with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, closing the door to a run, Romney looms as the Republican standing between Obama and a second term.
So David Axelrod, a former top aide in Obama's White House who is now managing the president's political strategy from the Chicago campaign headquarters, was on the phone with journalists Wednesday accusing Romney of, what else? cynically shifting his positions on issues for political advantage.
Here's a lengthy Axelrod excerpt:
At the end of the debate, you heard Governor Romney essentially oppose the extension of the Payroll Tax Cut that the President is fighting for and Congress as part of the American Jobs Act...
... But the thing that was most stunning, I shouldn't stay stunning, the thing that was most appalling, because it's not stunning given his history, but the most appalling thing about it was that just two months ago, Gov. Romney was equally vehement in support of extending this payroll tax cut. So he switched positions on something that is so fundamental to strengthening our economy in a very difficult time.
... It certainly isn't consistent with a guy who presents himself these days as a champion of the middle class although consistency has not been a hallmark of his career.
Else where,the the debate, you heard Governor Romney take his position on China Currency. Again, he's very very vehement. But what was surprising about that, is that in his book a little more than a year ago, he attacked the President for taking action against the Chinese to defend American tire companies and in that passage, he said that this amounts to protectionism, it was decidedly bad for the nation and our workers. He said protectionism stifles productivity. I mean it's really kind of an amazing 180 on the part of Gov. Romney only made less amazing by his career long history of making such leaps.
On health care, he continued to assert that his program, which was in fact a model for much of what we did in our health care program, was simply for the state of Massachusetts and every state had to develop its own program, but in 2007 he told Newsweek that the Massachusetts plan would be a model for the nation. So once again, all over the lot on these issues.
And you get after a while I mean if this were just one instance, you would say maybe it was a momentary lapse, maybe he's succumbed to the politics of the moment, but it is a pattern, time and time and time again, and you heard it again last night.
And it's consistent with a guy who ran for the governorship of Massachusetts, for the Senate of Massachusetts as a pro-choice moderate who supported civil unions, and supported environmental protections and so on to the guy you see today who is hard after the Tea Party vote and has thrown his positions over. So again I think that it was important to review some of these things because as debates come and go they get scored and they get put into the context of the horse race.
But since everyone on that stage is competing to be President of the United States and the question of trust is important, and particularly for the middle class, at a time when people are struggling, and it happened for some time, they want to know that where the President was yesterday is where he'll be today is where he will tomorrow and that the commitments that he makes are ones that they can count on and it's hardly the case when you're all over the lot as Governor Romney was last night and has been through this campaign and has been in fact through his career. And with that, I am happy to take any questions.
One obvious question was whether the fact that Axelrod had launched into this lengthy excoriation of Romney meant that the Obama campaign had decided the former Massachusetts governor would be the nominee.
Axelrod allowed as it was up to Republicans to make that choice. But Obama's political strategist clearly was doing everything he could to make that choice as painful for Republicans as possible:
Across the political spectrum, people have the same question. If you are willing to change positions on fundamental issues or principles, how can we know what you would do as president? How can we trust who you would be? I think that's the problem he has in his own party. That's the problem if he does become the nominee.
Romney's campaign responded to Axelrod via a tweet from Eric Ferhnstrom, a senior advisor:
"Mitt Romney believes this election is about saving America but @davidaxelrod thinks it's about saving Barack Obama's job."