I have a pretty good repertoire of colorful sayings, but couldn't make a connection here. But Joseph Cummins at Anythingforavote notes an important precedent, from the 1988 presidential race:
Bush's campaign manager Lee Atwater famously said, re Dukakis: "I'll strip the bark off that little bastard and make Willie Horton his running mate."Still, what exactly does the phrase mean? The Dictionary of American Regional English has the noun bark meaning 'scalp' and to bark meaning 'to scalp', as well as to kill a squirrel by shooting off the limb it's on. I fervently hope this has nothing to do with any of that — and if it does, Cunningham should be in a lot more trouble than he is.
Atwater's quote sounds to me like he's going to destroy Dukakis, which could continue the old meaning(s). The recent use sounds like it's about exposing what the speaker assumes to be the real Obama.
Any ideas on what's going on here?
Image from here.