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Bill Burton Keeps Focus On Mitt Romney Through Cain, Christie, And Palin Distractions

In recent weeks, the fireworks show that is the Republican Party’s never-ending string of exploding frontrunners has intensified, culminating this week in the cooling embers of Rick Perry‘s candidacy, the ascent of Herman Cain, and surrender flares from Chris Christie and Sarah Palin. Through it all, though, former Obama spokesman Bill Burton has focused his PAC’s attention, like a Terminator crawling through a trash compactor, on Mitt Romney, relentlessly clawing at the candidate’s vulnerability with the base.

Romney’s weakness with the conservative base has been a running theme for Burton’s Priorities USA Action PAC, best exemplified in a recent memo with the subject line “Hey Mitt — They’re Just Not That Into You”:

The list of Republican elected officials who’ve been dragged into considering the Presidential race this year isn’t short: Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and now Chris Christie. They’ve all been courted not because of who they are but because of who they aren’t: Mitt Romney.

After spending over $100 million and five years running for President, Romney hasn’t been able to overcome the fact that Republican voters just aren’t that into him.

Herman Cain’s recent rocket ride to the top of Republican primary polls might seem to be an indication of the political outsider’s unique appeal, but when I asked Burton about it, he said it was all about Romney. “Herman Cain’s rise,” he said, “is a lot more about how badly Republicans who don’t want Mitt Romney than how much they’re clamoring for Herman Cain.”

Earlier today, when I asked him what he thought of Sarah Palin’s announcement that she won’t be running for president in 2012, he replied, “The GOP is running out of people who aren’t Mitt Romney to pick for their nomination.”

Are you sensing a pattern here?

Now, the fact that a former Obama aide isn’t a big Romney fan isn’t exactly news, nor is Romney’s anemic support among conservative true believers. But with Republicans serving up rich targets all over the place, Burton’s focus on Romney is noteworthy. It’s tempting to think that the purpose is to weaken Romney as a primary candidate, but I think Burton, and probably the White House, have known for a long time that Romney will be the nominee. He’s the only GOP contender who polls ahead of the President head-to-head.

The President’s current push for the American Jobs Act is beginning to yield encouraging results with the public, who, according to a new poll, trust him over Republicans (by a wide margin) to create jobs. The audience for this sustained offensive on Romney is the mainstream press, a priming of the pump for the general election.

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