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Mitt's team making Chicago politics a four-letter word

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The Mitt Romney team's latest is to win voters by accusing President Barack Obama of practicing "Chicago-style" politics.

Is this the best they've got?

This is the newest variation of a narrative that Republicans have been building for the past few months. Some of them spit out Chicago as if it's a four-letter word. And if they say it enough, then no one will vote for Obama in November!

See how it works?

Now that's a strategy.

I've heard New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hurl the Chicago pol "insult" a few times before Republican audiences. Last May, Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins described Obama as a "cold, calculating Chicago political operator."

The Romney team this week is vaulting to the next level of trying to portray Obama as a ward hack. What got this chapter started was attacks on Romney over his tenure at Bain Capital; the firm's policies -- especially when it comes to outsourcing -- and layoffs, and exactly when Romney stopped running the company.

On "Fox and Friends" on Monday, Romney said, "The president had only one thing going and that is constant attacks on me. They're dishonest, they're misdirected and I think the American people recognize that kind of politics is something of the past. It may work in Chicago, but it's not going to work across America."

Romney strategist Ed Gillespie amplified that in a Monday conference call with reporters, mentioning Chicago-style politics at least three times.

There is "a sense," Gillespie said, that "Chicago-style politics" have been brought into Washington, D.C.

This week, the Romney team is going to throw more of a spotlight on Solyndra, charging Chicago-style cronyism led the Obama administration to give loans to the failed solar power company financed in part by Obama donors. This comes as the Obama team is demanding even more loudly that Romney release more than one year of his tax returns. He said he would do two.

Gillespie said Obama's "supporters and friends" have been getting benefits from "political decisions" where the "underlying approach" is "essentially Chicago-style politics and Chicago-style economics."

The irony to those who pay attention to real Chicago politics -- where too often pols go to jail or get in trouble for self-serving deals or ghost payrollers -- is that Obama vaulted from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate to the White House without coming up through the Chicago system of pinstripe patronage or ward politics.

"I think people understand Chicago-style politics," Romney spokesman Gail Gitcho told me. "Paying off your friends and that's what President Obama has done and that's what we are highlighting."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who on Sunday told Romney to "stop whining" over Obama attacks on Bain, had a cool put-down Monday over this tactic:

"When their ideas of today's middle class are rooted in the J.R. Ewing family in the remake of 'Dallas,' it's no surprise their idea of Chicago politics comes from watching 'Boss,' " a reference to the cable show about a fictional Chicago mayor. "They need a reality check on both fronts."

GOP consultant Hogan Gidley -- he advised former GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum -- wonders how far the Chicago-style spear can be thrown effectively. After all, alienating the people of Illinois isn't the point. Winning the White House is. Said Gidley: "People are not mad at Chicago. They are mad at Washington."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 17, 2012 2:15 PM.

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