At a New York fundraiser last night, President Obama contrasted his 2008 opponent with his 2012 one, BuzzFeed reports:

President Barack Obama told an audience in New York tonight that Mitt Romney is worse than his 2008 opponent Sen. John McCain.

“We have a very clear contrast this time. John McCain believed in climate change and believed in immigration reform,” Obama told an audience of about 200 donors who paid at least $5000 for a ticket to the event. “What we have this time out is a candidate who said he would rubber stamp a Republican Congress that wants us to go backward, not forward.”

This is how Obama’s going to rein in his base. The gay marriage endorsement will help increase enthusiasm significantly. But to get his base out at the polls, Obama also needs to give them a big reason to vote for him – avoiding four years of a right-wing, Tea Party-controlled government, or whatever, is a pretty good reason, in their minds.

It’s always amusing when Obama talks about how moderate and reasonable Sen. McCain is; nothing at all like these scary, new, extreme conservatives today. It’s a play off of that old “the-only-good-conservative-is-a-dead-conservative” trope. McCain’s far from dead, but now that he’s no longer a political threat, Obama can speak honestly about McCain’s history as a moderate and an aisle-crosser.

Back in 2008, of course, McCain was blasted by Democratic groups for the same things Romney is being attacked for now – being an extreme right-winger. From a Democratic National Committee press release in Feb. 2008:

Throughout this campaign season, McCain has been working overtime trying to remake himself into a candidate the right wing of the Republican Party can accept in 2008. Along the way, he has cast aside his principles by flip-flopping on signature issues like campaign finance and immigration reform, and embracing the very same “agents of intolerance” and shady campaign tactics he once denounced.

Campaign McCain’s “extreme makeover” may help him pander to the right wing, but the rest of America has figured out that a vote for John McCain is a vote for a third Bush term. Whether he is pining for a 100-year war in Iraq, calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, supporting efforts to make the same Bush tax cuts he once opposed permanent, supporting President Bush’s veto of health care for 10 million children, or applauding the president’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence, John McCain has promised four more years of the same failed Bush policies that have undermined our economy and made America less secure.

Characterizing Romney as an extreme conservative is almost as ridiculous as calling McCain one. And it’s another example of why, at least from a campaign perspective, it doesn’t matter how moderate the Republican candidate is. He will always be portrayed as a radical, out-of-mainstream figure.

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