1. The Democratic Myths● Bane/Bain Capital. Team Obama believes the Bain Capital attacks will work. They think it worked for Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts and for Newt in South Carolina, so it will work for them. Politico, however, notes that the evidence is “not conclusive” and they site a recent poll which shows that, by a 34% margin, voters think Romney’s business background will make him a better decision-maker.
But frankly, there’s stronger evidence. After Obama spent a summer blasting away with millions in negative ads about Bain, Romney’s poll numbers have continued to rise while Obama’s have fallen. That’s pretty conclusive. And logic tells us these attacks won’t work in any event. For one thing, they are too esoteric for voters to understand. For another, Americans have grown accustomed to private equity financing and it doesn’t anger them. And for another, the longer Obama spends trying to attack Romney for being a businessman, the more he reminds people of his own lack of business acumen and the failure of his Keynesian economic policies.
As for this attack working before, Romney lost South Carolina because it’s an evangelical state. He lost to Ted Kennedy because no Kennedy will ever lose in Massachusetts. Bain had nothing to do with either.
● Party Like It’s 2008. Team Obama is clinging to the idea they can excite their base to get turnout similar to 2008. Politico refutes this with a recent Gallup poll showing that Democrats are 39% less likely to say they are “more enthusiastic about voting than usual.” That is solid evidence, but consider all the other evidence. Look how Obama’s fundraising is way down, how low Obama’s approval ratings have been for so long, and how few Democrats turned out in 2010. That’s the real evidence of a lack of enthusiasm. And then consider this: Obama’s 2008 victory required more than his base. He needed two-thirds of independents and even cross-over Republicans. All the evidence tells us that those people have abandoned him and aren’t going back. Nor is Obama doing anything to attract them, as he’s spending all his time working on his base. The idea that the electorate will mirror 2008 is a pipe dream.
● It’s Bush’s Fault. Team Obama thinks the voters will forgive his near total failure because they will remember how bad things where when he took office and will cut him some slack. But as Politico notes, there is no polling which reflects this. Moreover, Obama’s handling of the economy is routinely seen as a negative and Romney easily blows him away in poll after poll on economic issues.
But there’s an even simpler factor Politico has missed: the public may grade him on a curve because of the problems he was handed, BUT they will ultimately grade him on his performance since taking office in light of those problems. In other words, the bad start Bush gave him only means that people don’t expect him to reach the same heights he otherwise would have reached, it does not excuse his failure to progress. And on that point, Obama has progressed poorly: taking unemployment from a temporary 6% to a permanent 9%, taking a $450 billion deficit and turning it into five years of trillion dollar deficits, rampant inflation, etc.
2. The Republican Myths● It’s the Economy Stupid. Team Romney is entirely focused on the economy (except when they aren’t (LINK)). Politico thinks this is a mistake because “voters expect their presidents to be multidimensional.” But here’s the problem. First, Romney has proven to be very multidimensional all summer, as he went issue by issue through everything outside the economy. Secondly, what makes them think Obama is any more popular on any other issue? Obamacare, Fast and Furious, standing in the way of school vouchers, environmental failures, his pathetic foreign policy, inflaming racial tensions, failing to respond to disasters, a failed energy policy, a failed industrial policy, cronyism, confusion on social issues, attacks on religion, etc. Where exactly is it that voters will think Obama has an advantage?
● Can Buy Me Love. Romney believes that massive spending by outside groups like American Crossroads will crush Obama. But Politico warns that voters are starting to tune out ads because of their sheer volume. In other words, money doesn’t matter. . . so much for Democratic claims to the contrary. I can’t argue with this. By and large, money isn’t all that relevant, except to the extent it allows a ground game in key states. BUT this race isn’t about money in any event, it’s about Obama’s failures.
● You Don’t Have To Like Me. Romney continues to be not-liked. Romney thinks this doesn’t matter. Politico counters that this means that (1) Romney has no room for error, (2) Romney will have no defense when Obama starts attacking his character, and (3) his unpopularity will cause voters to interpret Romney’s missteps in a negative light. The problem with Politico’s analysis is that it’s not being borne out by the reality. Romney’s “gaffes” and Obama’s personal attacks have failed to influence anyone. And the reason is that voters aren’t weighing Romney v. Obama, they are deciding whether or not Obama deserves a second term. Romney only matters to the extent he’s either acceptable or unacceptable. In other words, they view Romney as simply YES/NO and then they spend their timing thinking about Obama. So all this talk of Romney’s likeability is misplaced. Not to mention, as I pointed out yesterday (LINK), there’s reason to think the disconnect between Obama’s personal popularity and his failure on every other point should be troubling.
● It’s Inevitable. Finally, Team Romney thinks that given the state of the economy, no president can be reelected. Politico agrees that the three presidents who went up for reelection during bad economic times (Ford, Carter, Bush I) all lost, but they also faced other problems -- Watergate, the Iranian hostage crisis, and a third-party challenge from Ross Perot. So Politico concludes that while bad economic times probably do matter the most, elections are more complex than that.
I agree. BUT again, what exactly is Obama offering? Outside of the economy, his only two achievements are ObamaCare, which a clear majority of the public wants repealed, and financial regulation, which nobody cares about. And don’t forget, the public had a chance to render a verdict on all of his “achievements” in 2010 and they gave the Republicans an historic win in the House. The economy may not be the only issue, but Politico is kidding itself if it thinks that Obama fares better on any other issue.
ConclusionIt strikes me that Politico is nervous. Even before digging into these issues and seeing how limited their analysis was, it was already clear they think Team Obama is much more delusional than Team Romney. Indeed, the best they can do with Romney is argue that his reasons might not be correct, but with Obama, they’re pretty darn certain he’s wrong. What all of this tells me is that Romney is using an effective strategy with few holes, not to mention that he addresses the holes when they appear. But Obama is using a delusional strategy that just won’t work and relies on things happening which just won’t happen. Bad news for Obama.