Barack Obama's re-election team, campaign manager Jim Messina and David Axelrod, just finished a conference call where they gloated over Republican Mitt Romney's tough win in Iowa and decried the negative way he won -- albeit in a negative way.
It wasn't just a little negative. It was all negative, a prelude to a bareknuckle year of campaigning.
Their main themes: Romney relies on his "secret Air Force," a SuperPac, to do his dirty work when he "dog whistles" in code to tell it whom to attack and Romney is a flip-flopper who doesn't excite Republicans. Technically, campaigns can't coordinate with the PACS, but Axelrod said it's operating as "an adjunct" of the Romney campaign.
Despite the $4 million spent to "carpet bomb" Newt Gingrich, "Mitt Romney received fewer votes and a smaller share of the vote" than in '08, said Messina.
He said exit and entrance polls showed Romney lost among middle-class voters, lost independents by a 2:1 split to Ron Paul and garnered only 13 percent of the "crucial" youth vote.
"But he did win one category: Voters who harbored doubts about their candidate," Messina said. "The vaunted Republican enthusiasm gap was nowhere to be found last night... Self-identified republicans were not excited about this election. And fewer caucus voters showed up than in 08."
Said Axelrod: "He entered as a weak frontrunner. He leaves as a weak frontrunner." He said Romney lost among middle-class voters, despite the fact that he "robotically repeats the word middle class at every turn."
Axelrod said doubts about Romney are evident in his polling numbers.
"He's still the 25 percent man," Axelrod said.
Axelrod noted Romney's shifting positions on abortions and gay rights and said "that's why he's stuck at a quarter of the vote." He said Romney's mention this morning of Rick Santorum was a "dog whistle" to his SuperPac to attack the former Pennsylvania Senator.
"He called in the Air Froce in the way of his SuperPac to carpet bomb newt gingrich in what was undoubtedly the most brutal and negative campaign that Iowa has seen," Axelrod said.
Axelrod said the Romney SuperPac "is a concern."
"The prospect of hundreds of millions in negative ads is not a prospect that I relish," Axelrod said. Axelrod said the president will be positive and talking about pocket-book issues, but he acknowledged the campaign will run "contrast" ads.
Translation: They'll be negative.
And, since the economy is still in awful shape, Republicans suspect the president will run a far more negative campaign than he ran in 2008. Axelrod then described Romney as a "charlatan" whose ads "abuse the facts"
"Everybody knows Mitt's full of it. He doesn't believe what he's saying," Axelrod said