sábado, 26 de mayo de 2012

¿Mala campaña o mala economía?

En el conservador The Washington Free Beacon creen que las dificultades de Obama en el último mes se deben a errores propios y a una campaña mal llevada:

We are rapidly approaching the moment at which Washington reevaluates the Obama campaign’s reputation for competence and expertise. Every week, one or several of Obama’s surrogates trip over their own words; every day, Jim Messina and David Plouffe and David Axelrod must scratch their heads in wonder at the mess they are creating. One gaffe is an isolated event. Two is an embarrassment. But three or more form a pattern, one that is damaging not only Obama’s precarious chances for reelection but also the fortunes of the Democratic Party.

The most recent trouble arrived last Sunday in the person of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who went fantastically off message when he said his fellow Democrats’ attacks on Mitt Romney’s background in private equity are “nauseating.” The Obama for America hazardous waste disposal team leapt into action, forcing Booker to record a hostage-video-like recantation of his comments by the end of the day. It was too late, though. Booker had tested the waters of intra-Democrat dissent and had found they were warm. Dianne Feinstein, Chris Coons, Steve Rattner, Ed Rendell, Artur Davis, Harold Ford Jr., Mark Warner, and Joe Manchin all followed him in.

What Obama intended as an attack on the business practices of Bain Capital transmogrified into a debate over the fairness of that attack. The press hates hypocrites, and it did not take much digging to report that Obama raised more from private equity in the 2008 cycle than any other candidate, and that the president’s negative ad buy went up on the very day he held a $35,800 per plate fundraised in New York City with the president of private equity firm Blackstone.

(...)  Obama may spend close to a billion dollars demonizing Bain, only to find that when the national exit poll comes out the night of November 6, “private equity” will not rank at the top of the public’s priorities. There is also a larger danger with shifting the focus of the campaign to such ancillary topics as whether private equity is good or bad: When you run a tactical campaign that targets the news cycle, you run the risk of having the attacks backfire. That is exactly what happened in the case of Booker, and what has happened in other cases as well.

(...) In February, the president’s Chicago team jettisoned the political identity Obama had been building for years. He had already turned off independents by outsourcing legislation to the left-liberals in Congress in 2009, ignoring the bright flashing neon DANGER sign that was Scott Brown’s victory in 2010, and waiting until the last minute to release an economic plan that had no chance of passing in 2011. But it was not until the New York Times reported that Obama had reversed his position on raising money for the Super PACs he had once called a “threat to our democracy” that the bloom truly came off the New Politics rose.

This purported reformer was a classic politician who broke promises and compromised ideals in a relentless quest for cash. Lacking a popular record of accomplishment, and having betrayed his reputation for youthful, sunny, bipartisan Hope and Change, Obama had no other choice but to run a negative campaign in which he tried to paint the alternative candidate as too frightening to govern. So here we are.

(...) The “war on women” message was conceived as a way to frighten all the single ladies into turning out for Obama in the fall. But that narrative quickly collapsed when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen appeared on CNN in April and proclaimed that Ann Romney had not worked “a day in her life,” a remarkably stupid attack on stay-at-home mothers that Obama Super PAC donor Bill Maher “explained” by saying, “What she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work.”

America was thus treated to the spectacle of the president, his wife, and the vice president all defending Ann Romney’s honor, and of the White House press secretary pretending that he did not know the well connected Democratic player who had stepped on the campaign’s message. Making matters worse, the Free Beacon revealed that both the White House and Senate Democrats pay female staffers less than male ones.

Joe Biden’s May 6 appearance on Meet the Press turned into a similar disaster when the vice president said he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage. That put Biden at odds with his boss, who at that time opposed “men marrying men, women marrying women.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan sided with Biden the next morning. Soon the media wanted to know whether Obama agreed with his subordinates. It was a treat to watch the condescending and preening White House press secretary being pummeled for 21 minutes with questions he could not answer because his bosses at the White House and at the campaign hadn’t the faintest clue of what to do.

Here, too, money was the foremost concern. Major fundraisers in the LGBT community were threatening to withhold cash if Obama did not endorse gay marriage. Jay Carney could not dodge press inquiries forever. ABC correspondent Robin Roberts was rushed from New York to D.C., where the president informed her that Sasha and Malia had helped him evolve into a supporter of same-sex marriage. The timing could not have been worse. The interview aired the day after North Carolina, which had been a swing state and where the Democrats will hold their convention in September, banned gay marriage and civil unions with 61 percent of the vote. Team Obama, however, managed to tell reporters—somehow while keeping a straight face—that they had been planning such a shift all along. The public doesn’t buy it.
Por contra, en el liberal The New Yorker creen que la culpa de los problemas de Obama está solo en la mala economía:

In attempting to rally the base and raise money, Obama has moved from one issue to another over the past few weeks. Surely, he needs to articulate a clearer vision of where he intends to take the country and how he intends to kick-start a slowing economy. But just because Joe Biden can’t keep quiet and Corey Booker and Steve Rattner object to attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital, it doesn’t mean that Obama’s campaign is imploding. Biden is Biden. Seizing an early opportunity to try and define the presumptive G.O.P. candidate as an out-of-touch rich guy makes strategic sense—even if it causes some dissension in the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party.

Much of what is happening in the media has nothing to do with the President’s I.Q., or with poor old Joe Biden, or with the missteps of David Axelrod, Jim Messina, and the rest of Obama’s campaign Rottweilers out in Chicago. It is about commentators catching up with the polling numbers and the economic data, which have been indicating for some time that this is going to be a very close race. Having largely written off Romney’s chances in the first few months of this year, the pundits now have to explain why he is suddenly leading Obama in some polls and running very close in others. One obvious, but not necessarily accurate, explanation is that Obama is screwing up.

I ran through some polling data last week. Several surveys published this week confirm it is a dangerous time to be running for reelection. According to TPM’s poll tracker, almost two thirds of Americans still believe the country is on the wrong track, and according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, more than four in five voters think the economy isn’t in good shape. Just sixteen per cent of respondents said they personally are better off than when Obama took office: thirty per cent say they are in worse shape.

In circumstances such as these, virtually any incumbent would be facing a tough reelection race, and Obama is no exception. For several months, though, the internecine warfare of the G.O.P. primary and a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, which raised hopes that the economic slump might finally be coming to an end, obscured the picture. It is the fading of these factors, rather than any major stumbles on Team Obama’s part, that explain why Mitt Romney is smiling these days.

The Politico story gives Romney credit for focussing on the economy and playing to his strengths, but that is nothing new. He has been trying to do that all along. A few months back, when the unemployment rate was falling and things appeared to be looking up, his message that Obama doesn’t know what he is doing didn’t resonate. Now it does—even though, as I pointed out yesterday, much of what he is saying is guff. Fifty-five per cent of respondents to the ABC News/WaPo poll said they disapprove of the President’s handling of the economy—a finding that is mirrored consistently in other surveys.

Attacking Romney’s record at Bain Capital will serve to reinforce doubts about his job-creation skills. But they won’t do much to change people’s opinions of the President’s competence as an economic manager. On this front, the critics of his campaign have a point. Rather than simply targeting Romney, the White House needs to be much more forceful in defending its economic record over the past few years, and in laying out proposals to create more jobs. A good place to start would be the American Jobs Act of 2011, large parts of which the Republicans in Congress refused to pass. Here’s a little example the President should be emphasizing in speeches and campaign ads: if the G.O.P. had enacted the whole of the package, tens of thousands of teachers who were laid off by cash-strapped states would still have their positions.

All sides agree that the election will come down to the economy. If Obama pushes a coherent message on jobs and prosperity, one that combines a critique of Romney and the G.O.P. with a positive vision for his second term, the odd slipup here or there won’t matter very much—not nearly as much as how the next few months of economic statistics come in. Most voters don’t read Politico, or TPM, or follow Twitter all day. They will judge Obama based upon their overall impression of his record, and on the basis of how much they trust him compared to his rival.

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