While the Dow was hemmoraging money yesterday, Obama was raking it in.  He has raised for his reelection campaign and the DNC in the past week, including two events last night:

The first of the two events was held at the palatial Northwest D.C. home of Don Peebles, a real estate developer and native Washingtonian. Before a group of approximately 140 guests, Obama said the ongoing debt-ceiling crisis will be a core issue in his 2012 campaign, and it represents “as fundamental a debate as 2008.”

“I’m not going to be able to mobilize the country around some of the tough, necessary choices that need to be made unless we’ve got the kind of grassroots support at every level that you guys so vividly displayed” in 2008, he told the crowd, who paid $15,000 per family.

Obama clearly believes that his political future lays in the hands of the Masters of the Universe (and he may be right).  And what they want are more draconian cuts.  He intends to place his foot even more firmly down on the austerity gas pedal, and he is calling on his $15,000 “grassroots” support to mobilize around it.

If you’ve found the 2008 campaign messaging of “hope,” “bipartisanship” and “tolerance” pitched at average voters to be in short supply in recent weeks, get ready for a bit more:

Obama plan: Destroy Romney

[Obama] aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.

In a move that will make some Democrats shudder, Obama’s high command has even studied President George W. Bush’s 2004 takedown of Sen. John F. Kerry, a senior campaign adviser told POLITICO, for clues on how a president with middling approval ratings can defeat a challenger.

The attack on Romney will be two pronged:

Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird”….The second aspect of the campaign to define Romney is his record as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that was responsible for both creating and eliminating jobs. Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the Great Recession — a sort of political Gordon Gekko.

Attacking Romney for  his history at Bain Capital is totally warranted.  Bravo.  He made his money looting companies and slashing jobs.   He should absolutely be forced to wear that.

But the second part is much more dubious: “There’s a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” says one aide.

Weird?  What does weird mean?  Well, they say, “like the tale of Romney having strapped his dog to the roof of his car.”

That is weird.  And as Alex Parene says, “weirder still is that Romney thought that was a fun, cute story, instead of horrifying.”  I’m not sure where the guy who calls the owner of the Eagles to congratulate him on hiring Michael Vick has any high ground here, but it’s fair game.

Romney’s religion, however, is not:

None of the Obama advisers interviewed made any suggestion that Romney’s personal qualities would be connected to his minority Mormon faith, but the step from casting Romney as a bit off to raising questions about religion may not be a large step for some of the incumbent’s supporters.

Come on.  These guys ran the entire 2008 campaign fighting dog whistle racism.  They know how this works. Stop with the innocent virgin bit.   You can’t run around the world preaching “religious tolerance” and defending the “inalienable rights” of people to freely practice religion, and then turn around and help people connect the dots between freaky Mitt Romney and freaky Mormonism.

But going negative may be the only path available to Obama right now.  He can’t hope to activate true grassroots support and deliver what Wall Street oligarchs want at the same time.  So he is appealing to  the people who stand to benefit — wealthy donors — and asking for their support to impose austerity measures on the country.

It’s also a tell about how Obama’s campaign team views the political landscape between now and the election. They would not be going negative if his campaign gurus thought there was any possibility of turning around the Independents who have tracked with Republicans on the debt ceiling debate, and according to Gallup, now have a 34% approval rating of the President (down from 43% in early July).  It’s an indication that they think their only hope is to suppress independent voter turnout with a “slash and burn” campaign.

University of Akron’s Rick Farmer on the impact of negative ads:

[N]egative advertising suppressed voter turnout, particularly for Independent voters. They speculated that campaigns tend to go negative only if the Independent vote is leaning toward the opponent. In doing so, they insure that the swing voters stay home, leaving the election up to base voters.

But this is a dangerous game to play.  Negative campaigning doesn’t tend to work as well for Democrats as it does for Republicans:

They also found that negative ads have a greater impact on Democrats than on Republicans. According to them, base Republicans will vote no matter what (and will vote only for a Republican), but Democrats can be influenced to either stay home and not vote at all or to switch sides and vote for a Republican. This, combined with the effect negativity has on Independents, led them to conclude that Republicans benefit more from going negative than Democrats.

They will undoubtedly use surrogates in order to deflect responsibility for going negative.  That was certainly the case with the Swift Boat ads that Obama aides have been studying:

Often a campaign will use outside organizations, such as lobby groups, to launch attacks. These can be claimed to be coming from a neutral source and if the allegations turn out not to be true the attacking candidate will not be damaged if the links cannot be proven. Negative campaigning can be conducted by proxy. For instance, highly partisan ads were placed in the 2004 U.S. presidential election by allegedly independent bodies like MoveOn.org and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Get ready for the Veal Pen to earn their keep.  They will continue to all but ignore the austerity measures being imposed on the country, and instead tell their base that Mitt Romney is is an uncool Mormon with bad fashion sense.  Of course eliminating liberal criticism of Obama is a “high priority” of the 2012 campaign plan, so they hope the Veal Pen will be the only game in town.

The Politico article ends on a moment of irony of biblical-proportions:

“There’s a question of public character,” said Axelrod. “Are you principled, consistent — are you who you say you are? Can you be counted on?

Seriously, David Axelrod?  You ride to the White House on a campaign to rise above intolerance, negativity and partisanship, and without a moment of self-reflection, announce a campaign based on … intolerance, negativity and partisanship?  Rather than fix the economy by having the political courage to do what you said needed to be done when you were stoking people’s hope in 2008, you now plan to impose the austerity measures they overwhelmingly oppose and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to tell people your “weird” opponent in his “skinny jeans”  is not “principled and consistent”?   You want to fan the same bigotry and cultural biases the President promised to rise above, hoping win reelection by virtue of suppressing turnout?

And your message is that the other guy is not principled or consistent?

In Madison Avenue terms, this would be called poor brand messaging.   Psychologists would probably be a bit less charitable.  But in plain English, it’s just incoherent.

Update: New Gallup just out — they’re panicking: