Published October 29, 2012
Four years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama decried what he described as "the politics of insult."
"You don't deserve a bunch of name-calling," he told a Virginia crowd in the summer of 2008. "You don't deserve a bunch of mudslinging."
But lately, there have been more than a few insults flying on the 2012 campaign trail. Whether it's with cute turns of phrase like "Romnesia" or more serious invective, the president's campaign has gotten increasingly aggressive over the last few weeks in its denunciation of Mitt Romney.
The tone likely reflects the polls, which have been tightening ever since the Republican nominee's opening debate performance. Whatever the reason, it's evident that the "politics of insult" have not faded.
The following were overheard on the 2012 campaign trail:
The president took a rip at Romney after a recent interview with Rolling Stone. In the article, published over the weekend, writer and historian Douglas Brinkley said that editor Eric Bates told the president that when he asked his six-year-old daughter if she wanted to say anything to Obama, she said: "Tell him: You can do it."
According to the piece, Obama then said: "Kids have good instincts. ... They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullsh--ter, I can tell.'"
Obama later explained in an interview with a Denver reporter that the comment came during a "casual conversation" after the formal interview ended. The president appeared to defend the sentiment, though, saying people know that he means what he says.
"The basic point I've been talking about in this campaign -- people know what I mean," he said.
First came "Big Bird," then "binders full of women." But another favorite quip of late on the Obama campaign trail has been "Romnesia." It's the campaign-invented term for the condition that makes the Republican nominee allegedly forget or ignore his past positions. And the delivery of that punch-line has become increasingly involved.
"In the closing moments of the election, Governor Romney is hoping you, too, will come down with a severe case of Romnesia," Obama told a Cleveland crowd last Thursday. "So I'm here to tell you, Cleveland, if you start feeling a temperature, if you're eyes are getting a little blurry and your hearing is getting a little muffled, if you're feeling a little weak, you need to know that whatever the symptoms are, don't worry, Obamacare covers preexisting conditions. We can fix you up."
At an Aug. 6 campaign stop, the president added a new zinger to his repertoire. He said Romney's tax policies were like "Robin Hood in reverse." He had a name for it - "Romney Hood."
Romney, though, returned the insult. In an interview with Fox News, Romney said that if he were to coin a term "it would be 'Obamaloney.'"
In a July conference call responding to a Boston Globe piece that questioned when Romney actually left his old private equity company, Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter raised some serious claims against the GOP nominee.
She said he was either "misrepresenting" his position at Bain Capital in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, "which is a felony," or he was misrepresenting his position to the American people.
While the Romney called the comment over the line -- with Republicans saying Cutter had effectively called the Republican nominee a potential felon -- Cutter said that wasn't what she was going for. Her advice for Republicans was to quit "whining."
Tied to a woman's death?
An August ad from Priorities USA, the biggest Obama-supporting super PAC, made waves when it featured a former GST Steel employee talking about how his wife died of cancer after he lost his job and benefits -- when Bain Capitol closed down the factory.
"I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone, and furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned," Joe Soptic said in the ad.
The suggestion that the Republican nominee was tied to Soptic's wife's death drew outrage from Republicans. But Priorities USA co-founder Bill Burton defended the ad, and said it wasn't trying to blame Romney for her death.
Another, prior, ad about the demise of GST Steel featured Joe Soptic again, and other ex-employees, bashing Romney and Bain Capital for making money off their plant and then allegedly leaving it behind.
They compared Bain -- and by extension, Romney -- to a mythical monster.
"It was like a vampire, it came in and sucked the life out of us," former steelworker Jack Cobb said in the video.
Charges of being dishonest were hardly uncommon this year, during the Republican primary and later in the presidential race.
After the first presidential debate, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said on CNN that Romney put out "lie after lie after lie" to look good. The Democratic National Committee's Brad Woodhouse was quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying people "have pointed out what a liar Mitt Romney is."
Obama adviser David Axelrod, in a conference call after the first debate, used the more Dickensian term, "artful dodger," to describe the challenging candidate.
While Romney's campaign complains that Obama has made the race about small things, the Obama campaign for its part has similar gripes against team Romney.
Over the weekend, after the Romney campaign mocked Vice President Biden for mistakenly referring to former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as "Tom Kaine," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith retorted, "Once again, Mitt Romney's campaign is showing their focus on the big things -- like one letter in Tim Kaine's name."