For President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is an obvious throwback to another era — a stiff Father Knows Best type who straps the dog to the station wagon and marries his high-school sweetheart.

But Romney is pursuing his own strategy to puncture Obama’s next-generation cool and paint the president as a retread, comparing him to Jimmy Carter and his fuzzy-headed liberal thinking. To the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, Carter is not just a former president, he’s a potent metaphor and political weapon.

“When you mention Jimmy Carter, that lightens up certain regions of the mind and brings to mind ineptness and incompetence,” said Peter Wehrer, who worked in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations. “That’s going to be one of the things that Romney is going to try and tie to Obama.”

Romney has mentioned Carter periodically on the campaign trail — twice this month, he has made unflattering references to the 39th president. When asked on the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden if he would have green-lighted the mission, Romney told reporters on a New Hampshire ropeline that “even Jimmy Carter would have given that order” to kill bin Laden.


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