Last week in Tampa, the Republicans made significant progress toward their main objectives: revealing more of the personal side of Mitt Romney, and clearly communicating their pitch to voters in this election.
This week in Charlotte, it’s the Democrats’ turn. What will President Obama and his party try to accomplish? Will they continue to play defense against the GOP or try to seize the initiative?
Going into today’s opening events, it would appear it’s the former, with Democrats trying to neutralize the Republican message. Here’s part of today’s curtain-raiser from the Wall Street Journal:
The Democratic Party’s goals for the three-day gathering include widening its advantages among female and Hispanic voters while limiting Mr. Obama’s losses among white, working-class ones. At the same time, its overarching ambition is to rebut Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, who used last week’s Republican National Convention to try to pry away the president’s 2008 voters by casting him as a nice guy who isn’t up to the challenge. …
A senior Obama campaign official said the president may offer one or two new policy proposals in his speech Thursday, when he accepts the nomination for re-election, but that he would spend more time arguing that his existing ideas on health care, education and deficit-reduction amount to “a clear, concrete and achievable plan” for a second term.
The New York Times sounds a similar note, observing that the thrill of 2008 is gone and that Democrats’ “unity at this point is defined less by faith in Mr. Obama or a robust vision for what the party should stand for than by the prospect that Republicans could control the White House and Congress next year and enact a conservative agenda that would unravel much of what Democrats have stood for since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.”
So it’s defense, defense, defense.
In football, they say defense wins championships. Will that work in this year’s election?
I have my doubts. For one, pitching themselves and Obama as a suitable status quo against a radical Republican Party led by Romney and Paul Ryan would seem to hinge on the word “suitable.” And voters have their own doubts about that: In a new poll for The Hill, voters said the nation is worse, not better, off than four years ago by a 54-32 margin, and that Obama does not deserve re-election by a 54-40 count.
Even the Obama camp is having a hard time answering the “better off” question, made famous in 1980 when Ronald Reagan posed that question to voters after four years of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley answered in the negative on “Face the Nation” Sunday — though he did gamely try to blame the Republicans — before backtracking on Monday.
Obama himself said yesterday he deserved a grade of “incomplete” for his handling of the economy, the same grade he gave himself last October and in August 2010. Will voters be as forgiving?
After the GOP spent a week being mostly upbeat in Tampa, I think it will be a problem for Obama if he and the Democrats can’t come up with a positive message in Charlotte.
– By Kyle Wingfield