The Obama campaign is fast running out of bullets.
The double-whammy of Bill Clinton’s remarks last night — about Mitt Romney’s “sterling business career” — and the abysmal job-creation numbers that came out this morning has got to force some soul-searching from the West Wing to Hyde Park.
The Obama campaign will look simply foolish trying to continue peddling its attacks on Romney’s years at Bain Capital after what Clinton said on CNN last night:
In case you didn’t/can’t watch, here’s the gist:
So I don’t think that we ought to get in the position where we say this is bad work, this is good work. I think, however, the real issue ought to be what has Governor Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president? What has President Obama done and what does he propose to do? How do these things stack up against each other, that’s the most relevant thing. There’s no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and, you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.
Clinton went on to say he believes the Obama record and proposals would be better for America than Romney’s would be, and it would be a far bigger story if he had said otherwise. But if Obama believes that, too, why isn’t he running on his record? In large part, I have to believe, because the record is not good. And that doesn’t help his pitch when his proposals are basically for more of the same.
In any case, the damage was done before Clinton made those qualifying remarks, because his defense of Romney’s qualifications are a direct contradiction of the distinction Obama tried to make recently: that running a private-equity firm doesn’t match up well with the job description for the presidency.
With the Democratic Party’s elder statesman now joining those other Democrats who have expressed misgivings about the Obama campaign’s anti-Bain attacks, the attacks are all but neutralized. More and more, Obama looks out of step with his own party on this issue.
And his record on the economy gets harder to defend with each report showing the economy has no momentum. Jobs growth of 69,000 in May represents about half of what’s needed simply to keep up with population growth. The rest of the report is a mixed bag at best: The labor force participation rate nudged upward, which is good news, but unfortunately so did the number of people working part-time who would prefer to work full-time.
Earlier this week, economic growth in the first quarter was revised downward to 1.9 percent from the initial estimate of 2.2 percent. The bad economic news and worries from Europe during the past week pushed the Dow this morning into the red for the year. The S&P 500 is still ahead for 2012, but it’s down almost 10 percent in the past two months. So, retirement accounts are taking a beating right now, and that won’t give people confidence.
As long as this drumbeat of bad economic news keeps up, there will be regular interruptions in the Obama campaign’s preferred narrative of distraction issues: the “war on women,” etc.
Ironically, the best argument for Obama right now is that the president never deserves as much credit or blame for the economy as he gets. And that’s true. The problem is that you can’t very well make that argument on behalf of a president who has spent three-plus years trying to gain more control of the economy through higher spending and more regulation.
It seems to me this leaves the president with one choice: Presenting a raft of new ideas for the future. The problem with that tactic is his demonstrated lack of ideas that are anything more than recycled efforts from Democratic presidents past, Europe, or both: “stimulus” spending financed through borrowing or higher taxes on “the rich,” greater government control of health care, cap and trade, and so on.
The longer this pattern persists, the more likely it is to show up in the polls. Already, we’re seeing Obama’s number steadily declining, even as he remains a couple of points above Romney on average. As the incumbent, Obama doesn’t want to see his numbers consistently in the 45-47 percent range, even this far out. He’s the more-known quantity, and it suggests people don’t like what they know.
– By Kyle Wingfield