Opinion: Mitt Romney Runs Against Chicago … Four Years Too Late

Four years ago, John McCain tried to beat Barack Obama by portraying him as a creation of Chicago machine politics.

“Barack Obama, born of the corrupt Chicago political machine,” McCain’s ad ran. “His economic adviser, William Daley -- lobbyist, mayor’s brother. His money man, Tony Rezko -- client, patron convicted felon. His political godfather, Emil Jones -- under ethical cloud. His governor, Rod Blagojevich -- a legacy of state and federal investigations. With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead.”

The fact that Obama’s political career began in Chicago’s anti-machine movements -- Saul Alinsky-style community organizing, the Harold Washington campaign, the Hyde Park independents -- was too fine a point for a national campaign. McCain thought the voters would believe Obama+Chicago=Corrupt.

Attacking Obama’s hometown didn’t work in 2008, obviously, but Mitt Romney’s campaign is trying it again in 2012. Romney tried releasing a Web ad featuring Obama’s performance of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, followed by suggestions that the Obama Administration is handing out contracts to political donors -- Chicago style. (Romney was forced to take the ad down after a complaint from BMG, which owns the copyright on “Let’s Stay Together.” The ad was also a clumsy attempt to answer an Obama ad with Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful” -- but that song is in the public domain.)

According to The Hill:

And on a conference call with reporters, Romney aides said they would begin collecting examples of Obama’s “Chicago-style politics” into a central place — presumably either an online or television ad campaign — to show voters the “pattern” of contracts being awarded to donors.

“There are countless examples of this over the past three and a half years, whether it’s the Department of Energy or the stimulus bill, or the Department of Health and Human services and the ObamaCare bill, and over the course of the next few days we're going to be highlighting some of these examples of how the Obama economy works,” said Romney adviser Ed Gillespie.

“The fact is there is a sense of Chicago-style politics that’s brought in Washington, D.C. and people are fed up with that,” said Gillespie. “They don’t want to see an economy where who you know is more important than what you know.”

The voters made up their minds on Obama’s Chicago connections four years ago. This time around, he’s going to be judged on his performance in office. Attacks on Chicago-style politics are just as stale as insinuating Obama is a radical because of his association with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. During the 2008 debates, McCain got in a good one on Obama when he said, “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” If Mitt Romney wanted to run against Chicago, he should have run four years ago. 

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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