New York Magazine has a revealing and worthwhile look at the Obama campaign’s approach to this year’s election and GOP opponent Mitt Romney. Here is the crux of it:
Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago — running more negative ads than any campaign in history — what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” [senior White House adviser David] Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. …
Thus, to a very real degree, 2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear. For many Democrats, this is just fine and dandy, for they believe that in the Romney-Republican agenda there is plenty to be scared of. For others in the party in both politics and business, however, the new Obama posture is cause for concern. From the gay-marriage decision to the onslaught on Bain, they see the president and his team as coming across as too divisive, too conventional, and too nakedly political, putting at risk Obama’s greatest asset — his likability — with the voters in the middle of the electorate who will ultimately decide his fate.
Now, this portrait of the strategy — which carries the title “”Hope: The Sequel; For Obama & Co., this time around it’s all about fear” — is not revealing because it’s surprising. Americans routinely tell opinion pollsters they’re underwhelmed by President Obama’s record in the White House and unnerved about the country’ direction, so there’s only so much “Morning in America” the campaign can promote. Fear of the other guy represents most of what they have to sell.
It is revealing, however, to see how open Plouffe and other Democrats are about this strategy. And it is revealing to see how quickly they have to resort to falsehoods to explain it.
To begin, let’s take each of the examples Plouffe gives in his own words:
These are just the ones for which Plouffe was quoted. There is plenty of intrigue about the ones the magazine paraphrased. For instance, how’s that attack on “vulture capitalism” working out? (Not well.) How is Obama going to portray Romney as a failed governor, given that a) his advisers claim to have used Romneycare in Massachusetts as a blueprint for Obamacare, and b) his record as president on unemployment and economic growth makes for a poor comparison to Romney’s record on those issues as governor?
I have no doubt that fear will the watchword for the Obama 2012 campaign — and, to be fair, that Romney will engage in much the same kind of discussion about what a second-term Obama, facing no more need to win over voters, might do as president. But Obama’s supporters better hope this isn’t the best the campaign has to offer.
– By Kyle Wingfield