Yesterday, Politico reported that the GOP had hit upon a new strategy to defeat Barack Obama in the upcoming 2012 presidential election: focus on the fact that he has been a disappointment. As Jonathan Allen, an Obama administration acolyte, writes:
Obama’s team was spinning the convention as a complete miss, arguing that Republicans didn’t lay a glove on their man. Yet what emerged from Tampa was a subtle, clever shift in GOP messaging, a much more dangerous strategy for Obama than the kitchen-sink attacks that preceded the gathering. Republicans posed — rhetorically — as Obama 2008 voters, lamenting his unfulfilled expectations as if they had been with him all along instead of trying to block him at every turn.
Allen can’t help shilling for Obama even as he spots the truth: the GOP recognizes that independent voters and 2008 Democratic voters aren’t stupid, and know that Obama has fallen short of expectations. The fact remains that Obama had control of Congress for the first two years of his presidency, remains in control of the Senate, and has rammed through vast swaths of his agenda. And the fact remains that unemployment is sky-high, inflation is a significant danger, and the average American family is far worse off under his “recovery” than they were when he took office.
This popularity of this messaging shift is obvious. The Hope and the Change, the Stephen K. Bannon-directed, Citizens United-produced documentary, drew some of the highest cable ratings of the year when it was featured on Fox News’ Hannity – and that film focuses on disillusioned Obama supporters. That film presented the tip of the spear for the conservative attack on Obama’s record. Americans For Prosperity has released an ad labeled “Hope and Change Has Failed,” and centering on disappointed Obama voters.
And the Republican National Convention based its entire primetime strategy on appealing to disillusioned independents and Democrats. Artur Davis, a former Democratic representative from Alabama and one of the nominating speakers for Obama at the 2008 convention, spoke for the Republicans this time, stating:
But in all seriousness, do you know why so many of us believed? We led with our hearts and our dreams that we could be more inclusive than America had ever been, and no candidate had ever spoken so beautifully.
But dreams meet daybreak: the jobless know what I mean, so do the families who wonder how this Administration could wreck a recovery for three years and counting.
So many of those high-flown words have faded.
And Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): “Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person … Our problem is that he’s a bad president.”
And VP candidate Paul Ryan: “Obamacare, as much as anything else, explains why a presidency that began with such anticipation now comes to such a disappointing close …. College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
And presidential candidate Mitt Romney: “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.”
Obama’s team can’t defend him from these assaults, because they are eminently true. He is a failed president. That’s why, this morning, Obama senior campaign advisor David Plouffe repeatedly refused to answer ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on whether Americans are “better off now than [they] were four years ago.” At least three times, Stephanopoulos asked the question. And at least three times, Plouffe punted. David Axelrod did the same thing.
If Obama loses his re-election bid, it won’t be because he’s an extremist, though he is. It won’t be because he has a history of associations that would make Noam Chomsky blush. It won’t be because of his imperial vision of the presidency. It will because he has been a miserable failure as president. And even independents and Democrats who pulled the lever for him in 2008 know it.