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Team Rove's Latest Trick?

Jon Chait read the following in yesterday's New York Times and concluded that Rove Inc. is worried: 

Mr. Law [the director of the super PAC Rove created] said, Crossroads research suggests that Mr. Obama’s campaign has started to gain traction among critical swing voters by arguing that Republicans, including Mr. Romney, favor an “economic plutocracy” in which middle-class voters can no longer count on financial security, even though they work hard and play by the rules.
“His argument is: ‘The reason you feel bad is not because I’ve been an inadequate president but because the rules of the game are stacked against you,’ ” Mr. Law said. Calling it a “dystopian vision,” he added, “that narrative has some gravitational pull.”

I'm not so sure I agree with Chait's take on this. When I read the same passage, my immediate diagnosis was "misdirection" not "anxiety." My guess is that Rove et al believe Obama's populist campaign will ultimately backfire--at least with the help of a few hundred million in ads making him out to be a wealth-expropriating socialist--and want to goad Obama further in that direction. After all, it would be hard to imagine a member of Team Rove ceding tactical ground by making a concession for no good reason. As Chait points out, operatives always worry that such concessions will trigger a "self-defeating cycle of doom."  

Now, I happen to think Obama's populist argument, whatever its liabilities in normal times (and I'm not convinced they're large even then), will work pretty well against a private-equity baron with a knack for tone-deaf pronouncements a few years after the worst financial crisis in 80 years. But that wouldn't be the first time I saw the world differently from Rove. 

Update: A data point in support of the misdirection hypothesis: Rove et al have launched a Facebook petition in response to Obama's latest Buffett-Rule push, calling on Obama and Warren Buffett to "put their money where their mouths are" and pay more in taxes voluntarily. According to Mike Allen, Crossroads is launching an ad campaign to amplify that message. Suffice it to say, these do not strike me as people overly concerned by Obama's populist rhetoric, or worried about a campaign that would be fought along those lines. 

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