Friday’s dismal jobs report and some unexpected words from Bill Clinton delivered a bracing reminder to President Obama and his advisers that the election remains primarily a referendum on his record and that their path to victory may lie less in trying to discredit Republican Mitt Romney and more in winning a battle of ideas with their Republican rival.
(...) The Labor Department’s monthly report could not have come at a worse moment for the president, given the relatively weak jobs growth of the two previous months. History suggests that voters’ perceptions of the economy, and therefore the performance of the incumbent, begin to lock in several months before an election.
By that measure, Obama has little time to show progress. The economy appears to have fallen into another spring slump, after signs in the winter that suggested the recovery was genuinely taking hold. And the president may have only limited ability to affect the biggest looming danger to the U.S. economy, which is the situation in Europe. It is no wonder that analysts say the president’s prospects for reelection are no better than 50-50.
The president’s campaign has appeared wedded to a strategy of trying to discredit Romney. That began with attacks on his role at Bain Capital, the private equity firm where he made his fortune. Obama’s advisers believe it will have the desired effect on voters, but so far there is very little evidence that attacks on Bain are changing minds. Current polls continue to be extremely close.The New York Times:
The weak employment report on Friday held the potential to reshape the presidential campaign, members of both parties said, lifting Mitt Romney’s efforts to make the race all about President Obama’s handling of the economy and making it harder for Democrats to break through in their efforts to define Mr. Romney on their terms.
(...) Democrats are clearly worried. Senate and House Democratic strategists say many of their candidates in tough races cannot win if the president loses, and they said Mr. Obama’s message had drifted too often away from the economy toward issues intended to appeal to narrow groups, like the Violence Against Women Act, student loan subsidies and gay marriage.
Democrats said that Mr. Obama needed to refocus on job creation and amplify the message that much of his jobs program had been thwarted by Republicans.