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On Thursday, Mitt Romney celebrated his "gotcha" moments during Wednesday's debate
 
Politico has an article out today making the case that between Mitt Romney's opposition research team's effectiveness at finding weaknesses in his opponents' record and Romney's own willingness to use that research to go for the jugular, he's become the "the gotcha candidate." It's not exactly the most flattering description, but it's certainly an apt one.

The thing that surprised me was that Romneyland didn't push back on Politico's characterization of Mitt Romney as an attack dog whose biggest strength is his ability to trip up his opponents. In fact, talking about how Romney handled Rick Santorum during Wednesday's debate, they bragged about it:

“To do last night effectively, you had to have done very careful research and then the candidate has to master the information and think through how and when to use it,” a campaign adviser said Thursday. “And the campaign has to remain disciplined around a message and a strategy.”
That sort of boasting reminds me of The New York Times article published the weekend before Florida's primary in which Romney aides gleefully described how their campaign and their candidate had systematically destroyed Newt Gingrich. The thing that they'd forgotten, however, is that while they were effective in tearing down Gingrich, they had failed to build up their own candidate. The result? One week later, Rick Santorum trounced Mitt Romney in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri.

If Romney ends up winning in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday, his campaign will certainly try to avoid the post-Florida narrative that he only won by destroying his opponents; that's why they scheduled today's speech on the economy at Ford Field, and that's why his campaign and Super PAC have made a big show about releasing positive ads. But as the campaign adviser acknowledged to Politico—and as anyone who watched Wednesday's debate could see with their plain eyes—Romney's entire game plan has been to destroy Rick Santorum. If Romney succeeds, the question will be whether Newt Gingrich has anything left in the tank. If Romney doesn't, he'll be running on fumes.

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