As a rule, Republicans appreciate the value in defining the Democratic presidential nominee, and the GOP is usually pretty good at it. In 2000, Al Gore, they said, was an "exaggerator." This was not only effective, thanks to a quick embrace by the media, it was also part of a narrative -- when Gore takes credit for some of the successes of the '90s, don't believe him because he exaggerates.
In 2004, John Kerry, they said was a "flip-flopper." This, too, was relatively effective, and was once again parroted by the media. The narrative here was equally clear -- in the first post-9/11 election, in a time of war, we don't want someone who's inconsistent.
Four years later, the effort to define Barack Obama is proving to be more difficult for Republican attack dogs. The GOP keeps experimenting with new memes, but not only are they not sticking, some even contradict each other.
For months, Karl Rove & Co. has sought to characterize Obama as a dangerous outsider who we don't really know and can't trust. Everything about him, the argument goes, is "foreign." The various far-right smears -- about Obama's religion, his family, his name, his patriotism -- were all part of the same conservative frame.
More recently, Rove and his cohorts reversed course, and went with the opposite message: Obama isn't a dangerous outsider anymore, now he's an elite insider, hanging out "at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette."
This week, Rove used his Wall Street Journal platform to push yet another meme: Obama the narcissist.
Such arrogance - even self-centeredness - have featured often in the Obama campaign. [...]
The candidate's self-centeredness has been on display before.... Mr. McCain will be helped if he uses Mr. Obama's actions to paint his opponent as someone driven by an all-powerful instinct to look out only for himself.
Yes, we should reject Obama because the outsider/insider candidate is now concerned about his (cue scary music) ... self-interests.
If you're starting to get the impression that Obama's conservative detractors are just throwing every attack they can think of at a wall, hoping desperately that something will stick, we're on the same page.
The bad news for Republicans is that they're stuck with garbled message and an undefined opponent four months before Election Day. The worse news is, these memes are largely nonsensical and easy to disprove.
Keep searching, guys, you're bound to come up with something eventually.