Thursday, August 23, 2012

Greg Sargent: "The Obama campaign’s theory of the presidential race" (with video)

Greg Sargent with video (00:33):
What we’re seeing here, I believe, is the beginning of the Obama campaign’s pivot to a more concerted effort to draw a contrast between what an Obama second term would look like and what a Romney presidency would look like. And yet, paradoxically, Clinton needs to reach into the distant past to draw this contrast.
In the spot, Clinton focuses on the future and on the past before Obama was president. The contrast it draws is between Clinton and Obama’s approach on the one hand and Bush’s and Romney’s approach on the other. As Steve Kornacki notes, the ad plays the Bush card without saying his name. The ad also draws this contrast without discussing what has happened under Obama. Clinton carefully says Obama has “a plan” and that we “need to keep going with his plan.” This stops just short of saying the recovery is underway, but it hints that we’re moving foward and promises recovery in the future, just as happened under Clinton.
In other words, the ad rebuts one key part of Romney’s argument (Obama doesn’t have the answer; I do) by reframing this as a choice between the Clinton and Bush approach. But it doesn’t directly take on the other part of Romney’s argument (you have already shown your approach has failed).
This is rooted, I believe, in a reading of the electorate by the Obama campaign that has gone underappreciated. The Obama camp makes a distinction between whether voters think Obama has failed, and whether they are merely disappointed that he hasn’t lived up to expectations, but find that understandable given the situation he inherited. This is a crucial difference that is central to understanding this race, one that turned up in my conversations with undecided voters in Colorado.
The Obama camp believes that the latter description is a more accurate reading of the electorate’s verdict. This allows them to make the case in the ad above — that Romney doesn’t have the answer. The gamble is that even if things are bad, Obama’s approach has not been discredited; voters won’t see this election as a decision to end a presidency that has failed; they will take a long view of the situation and see the election as a choice between two parties with differing views on a range of issues, between two overall visions of the future, and ultimately, between two men. Given the tattered shape of the GOP brand, voter willingness to blame Bush more than Obama for the current state of things, and Romney’s negatives, the Obama camp believes this framing will play in their favor. MORE...

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