Obama’s bumpy week may turn into a bumpy campaign
I remember years ago, when the telecom industry imploded, stock prices plummeted and companies went under, telling my wife, who worked in the industry, “these guys (management) have no idea what to do. They managed the rise of the company fairly well, but are totally unprepared for the decline of the industry. It’s like they don’t believe it is happening and refuse to deal with the reality.”
That’s not uncommon in many areas of life. Easy going when everything is headed up, but seemingly clueless when faced with adversity. Politics is no different.
Is it time for Democrats to panic?
That’s what a growing number of party loyalists are wondering, amid a rough couple of weeks in which President Obama and his political operation have been buffeted by bad economic news, their own gaffes and signs that the presumed Republican nominee is gaining strength.
Obama’s team insists that it is unfazed by the recent bumps in the political road.
But it’s not just “recent bumps” to those who’ve been paying attention. It is just the latest series of bumps, and like heading into bad weather while flying, it’s only going to get bumpier. And trust me this president is heading into bad weather.
Fact: the president has a lousy record and there are millions of Americans hurting that hold him responsible (right or not, that’s how the political game works).
This sort of problem is not one the president’s campaign suffered in 2008. It was all unicorns, Greek columns and feel good vagary. In reality it was a much easier campaign in comparison to what he faces now. Jim Geraghty recently likened it to a “perfect storm” that hit at precisely the right time for Obama politically:
In 2008, Obama had a series of big gusts at his back. Yes, glowing media coverage was one, but he probably wouldn’t have done as well if he had brought the same resume and style to the 2004 political environment or the 2000 one. His ascension to the White House required eight years of the opposition party’s rule, an unpopular war, a series of scandals involving the opposition, and finally the Lehman collapse and the resulting economic meltdown. Almost a perfect storm.
Now he’s on the other side of that sort of a storm. But, as with the telecom managers who watched their companies decline and go under, he and his team seem to think they can continue to do what they’ve always done and really don’t need to listen to anyone else:
But some Democratic veterans are wondering whether the reelection campaign, run by the same tight-knit group that led it four years ago, is equipped for what lies ahead.
“The bad thing is, there is no new thinking in that circle,” said one longtime operative in Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
Eight other prominent Democratic strategists interviewed shared that view, describing Obama’s team as resistant to advice and assistance from those who are not part of its core. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity as well.
Reading that, one is led to believe that the managers of the campaign pretty much believe that all they have to do is gin up a repeat of the 2008 campaign and they’ll sail into victory port with a few tattered sails but essentially intact.
If that’s truly what they believe, it is a very bad miscalculation.
One, he’s the one with the record this time – and it isn’t a good one. That’s reality. It is his opponent who will have the luxury of pointing to it and talking about what he will “inherit”, not Obama. And what he will inherit is going to be spun as worse than what Obama inherited. I’d be surprised if the old “ask yourself, are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” question doesn’t make a comeback.
Two, it is obvious Obama’s support is eroding among all groups. Story after story are appearing showing even his base is at risk (not necessarily that they’ll vote for Romney, but instead may simply stay home). We’re hearing the term “Reagan Democrats” again for the first time in years. And, of course, as Peggy Noonan recently demonstrated via her column, even the RINOs for Obama are deserting him. There’s also dissention in the ranks as more and more Democrats go “off message” or criticize him or his policies.
So now is not a time for arrogance or resistance to advice or assistance from others. But that seems to be what is happening. And this sort of “close the gates and man the walls” siege mentality isn’t unusual in high politics (given the egos involved). But that it leads to is stuff like this, another version of the same tired blame game they’ve been pushing for 4 years:
"I love it when these guys talk about debt and deficits," Obama told supporters in Baltimore. "I inherited a trillion dollar deficit."
"We signed two trillion dollars in spending cuts into law," Obama said. "Spending under my administration has grown more slowly than under any president in 60 years."
Obama said that the country’s budget deficits and big debt were the result of the George W. Bush’s two tax cuts, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"They baked all this stuff into the cake with those tax cuts… and the war," Obama said.
"It’s like somebody goes to a restaurant, orders a big steak dinner, a martini and all that stuff, then just as you’re sitting down they leave and accuse you of running up the tab," Obama said.
Even with the mixed metaphors it’s clearly the same old stuff. The other guy did it. It’s the other guy’s fault. Somehow they’ve not yet figured out that excuse making isn’t a very powerful campaign message and does not resonate with the electorate. It was tolerated for about a year after he took office. But his campaign doesn’t seem to understand that what he’s claiming now is old news now. America doesn’t hire a president to blame the other guy for 4 years as things go from bad to worse.
And note too that he’s again trying to push the totally discredited notion that he has spent less than any other president in 60 years. How far does he think running that BS line is going to get him?
So … did Obama have a bumpy week? You bet. But given his campaign thus far, he’s in for a lot more bumps. Here’s what he doesn’t want to have to do but must if he’s to have any chance at all. He doesn’t want to do it primarily because it is an almost impossible job:
However difficult the task, the president may have little choice but to try to make voters feel better about the economy. Successful presidents have run for reelection on the strength of their records, as well as on the hope they offered for the future.
And that, in a nutshell, is Obama’s problem – he has no “strength of record” to carry him. All he can do is appeal for more time and to do that, and as Karen Tumulty points out, he has to “make voters feel better about the economy”.
Good luck with that. Given forecasts, it appears the economy is not going to cooperate. And while American’s are basically an optimistic people, his attempting to make them feel better about the economy with U6 unemployment over 14% and labor force participation at a 30 year low may end up being a bridge too far for his campaign.