Jennifer Rubin thinks so. And she makes a pretty good case for it.
The Obama team knew months ago that the economy would not sufficiently improve before Election Day to justify his reelection. Its polling showed simply blaming President George W. Bush wouldn't be sufficient. The president and his political hacks concluded that it was too late and too risky to adopt a whole new second-term agenda. (It would risk offending either the base or centrists and reveal his first-term agenda to have been entirely inadequate.) So what to do?
Extend the Republican primary by running ads hitting Romney and encouraging Democrats to vote against Romney in Michigan and elsewhere. Then, before Romney could fully get his bearings, unload a barrage of negative attacks, scare mongering and thinly disguised oppo attacks through the mainstream media, taking advantage of many political reporters' relative ignorance about the private equity field and their inclination to accept whole-hog President Obama's version of "facts."
The extent of that effort is only now becoming clear. The Associated Press reports: "President Barack Obama's campaign has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in selected battleground states so far, unleashing a sustained early barrage designed to create lasting, negative impressions of Republican Mitt Romney before he and his allies ramp up for the fall." Think of it like the Confederacy's artillery barrage on the third day of Gettysburg before Pickett's charge - you have to in essence disable the other side before the charge begins or its curtains.
Virtually all of the ads were viciously negative, and judging from the number of Pinocchios they've racked up, continually and materially false.
But it didn't work. Romney and Obama are still deadlocked. (The AP quoted Republican operative Carl Forti: "I don't think . . . [Obama's] got a choice. He has to try to change the dynamic now, but the polling indicates it's not working. He doesn't appear to be making any headway in the polls.")
Obama has spent $100 million on ads with precious little to show for it. And the fact that his fundraising is beginning to lag far behind Romney's means that when people start paying close attention to the race -- after the conventions -- Romney and his Super Pac allies will be flush while Obama will be scrambling.
At the moment, whatever points are being scored by Obama are coming at a cost -- financial and political. False attacks are likely to turn off indies while the enormous ad buys in states like Ohio and Florida may yet prove to be a waste.
If they aren't beginning to panic, perhaps they should be.