My new piece, right over here, is about how the Romney campaign (less so Romney himself) has figured out how and when to embrace the sort of anti-Obama hits that conservatives are crying out for. One reason they demand these attacks is that they believe, universally, that John McCain's campaign kept "kid gloves" laced on and never hit Obama on the biographical details that would have brought him down.
A key moment in that story (which is true, in some ways) was former McCain spox Michael Goldfarb's pre-election interview with CNN. Goldfarb repeatedly insisted that Obama had anti-Semites in his circle of friends, but wouldn't name names -- because the McCain campaign was on notice not to talk about Jeremiah Wright.
Michael Goldfarb applauds the Romney campaign’s punch-back abilities—but only up to a point. “They've been attacked on the dog thing to an insane level,” he says. “They get an opportunity, and they hit back. But both this and the Rosen thing were totally reactive. This was a response to the Seamus story, that was a response to the ‘war on women.’ You don't see them going after character and bio, which were the things McCain was accused of going soft on.”
After the piece ran, Goldfarb emailed me to add to the point. "I never believed those kind of attacks would have changed the outcome," he wrote, "and I don't think Romney should engage in them for the entirely different reason that now there's a record to run against, a terrible record. In 2008, there wasn't much besides the bio to attack." (He put this another way in my interview. "The guy hadn't done anything! Were we going to attack him for being a crappy community organizer?")
Phil Klein carries the ball here.