It’s a question I raise in today’s piece about the ways the 2012 vintage Obama campaign is a bit harder-edged than the 2008 version, but which I didn’t have the space to resolve. The concern, as I say, is that running a traditional war room operation could dent Obama’s reputation for being above conventional politics. Should Team Obama worry about that?

I don’t think so. As one longtime Democratic strategist explained to me, whether or not you buy the idea that being a “different kind of politician” helped Obama in 2008, by this point in a presidency public impressions of the Oval Office occupant are pretty much set. And even if there’s some room to change them at the margins, Obama has a 21-point advantage over Romney in the likeability department. So there’s a bit of capital to play with. 

Bottom line: The advantages of hardball at this point far outweigh the disadvantages.

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