Obama’s Money Worries: The Republican SuperPac

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David Axelrod was feeling upbeat. Over an oatmeal breakfast late last
month with an old friend at one of his favorite Chicago haunts, the talk
was mostly about family and Axelrod’s beloved Bulls. The conversation
turned to the campaign. He said he liked the way “the argument was being
framed” against Mitt Romney, recalls Chris Sautter, a longtime
Democratic strategist, who worked on campaigns with Axelrod in the late
’80s and ’90s. A few days before, The Washington Post had
published an explosive story about how, under Romney’s stewardship, Bain
Capital had invested in companies that shipped American jobs overseas.
It was just what the Obama team needed as it sought to transform
Romney’s image from a can-do businessman who would turn around the
economy into Gordon Gekko, a rapacious capitalist more interested in
profits than creating jobs. Armed with stinging soundbites and a raft of
ad copy aimed at painting Romney as an avatar of the 1 percent, the
president’s top political strategist left straight from breakfast to hop
a flight to Iowa, where he would join Vice President Joe Biden on the
trail.

But by nightfall, a little anxiety had crept in. Axelrod had wandered
down to the bar of the Waterloo Ramada Inn to have a drink with one of
Biden’s top political strategists, Mike Donilon. Peering over Donilon’s
shoulder at a large TV set, he watched an ominous cascade of attack
ads—the vast majority of them aimed at his boss. The torrent—largely
funded by super PACs, the newly minted vehicles for unlimited
independent spending born of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United
ruling—seemed out of season. “Holy smokes! Is this June or mid-October?”
Axelrod asked Donilon, astonished by the onslaught this early in the
cycle. “The volume of ads was unreal,” Axelrod later said in an
interview with Newsweek, “and it’s only going to get worse.”

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