Is Obama running the right campaign?

posted at 2:31 pm on April 11, 2012 by Karl

Rick Santorum’s departure from the race not only virtually assures Mitt Romney of the GOP presidential nomination, but also provides a milestone from which to assess the state of Pres. Obama’s campaign. Lately, Obama has been running as the “grim warrior” and the class warrior, in apparent recogintion of the difficulty of running on his record or the economy. Although he certainly wishes this was not the case, it does not mean that Obama is campaigning irrationally.

Regular readers of mine know I am a fan of the fundamentals and stress the dominance of the economy in most election years. Political scientist Lynn Varveck, who has studied the exceptions to the general rule, explains the usefulness of models of modern presidential elections:

If you were running for president, would you want to know what political science forecasting models predict about your party’s fortunes? As Stanley Greenberg said, presidential candidates and their consultants ignore this work at their peril. If you are predicted to win, talk about the economy and own it. If you are predicted to lose — find something else onto which the election can be reset. An issue on which you are closer to most voters and your opponent is constrained by an unpopular position. The latter is very hard and because of that, it is rare, which is why sometimes when we evaluate forecasts based on the economy it looks like campaigns don’t matter much — but this is just because most candidates who are predicted to win understand they have to talk about the economic growth, and when they do that, they win! Only Gerald Ford in 1976 lost after implementing this strategy.

Thus, if Obama thinks the economy will not significantly improve in the next six months, it makes sense for him to look for other issues. To quote Mad Men‘s Don Draper, “If you don’t like what’s being said about you, change the conversation.” But is Obama changing the subject to his advantage?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be “yes.” Low taxes for the wealthy and “cuts” to Medicare never poll pretty well. Thus, it is tempting to conclude that Mitt Romney’s defense of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget steps into Obama’s trap.

However, the latest Third Way poll of independents and “swing independents” in this year’s battleground states suggests otherwise. [Note: Some of the states included here seem safely Democratic this year, but the list is quite similar to those reportedly targeted by both Obama and Romney, so I do not fault the poll on this score.] Who the poll calls “swing independents” is important because the broad category of independents include so-called leaners who are actually very reliable voters for their favored party. Thus, it is good news for Obama that at the moment, while he is virtually tied with Romney among these swing state independents in general, Obama leads Romney 35%-29% (44%-38% with leaners in this subgroup) among true independents. Nevertheless, the Third Way analysis of the poll notes Obama won 57% of true independents in 2008. Obama could do this well again, but it should concern his campaign that after four years of his administration, true independents in key states give him only 44% at best, even before a unified GOP goes on the offensive. Third Way also notes these swing independents generally value economic opportunity over economic fairness. RCP’s Alexis Simendinger summarizes:

“Swing Independents are searching for leaders who will articulate a positive vision for the future — one where the American economy is back on top and the next generation can achieve the American Dream. While the fairness framework does not feed this need, an economic opportunity message answers these deep concerns about the future.”

***

While progressives have urged Obama to dump his 2011 rhetorical emphasis on curbing debt and deficits in favor of a more combative re-election bid, those issues remain important to the undecided fence-sitters he will need to win a second term. These voters care about the size of government and debts and blame Congress more than Wall Street and special interests for gridlock and policy myopia.

If the Third Way’s survey is a guide, [Senate Minority Whip Jon] Kyl’s emphasis may be well placed. Fully 93 percent of swing independents said they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about the national debt.

In short, Obama is trying to change the subject, but to one which seems not particularly likely to move the most persuadable voters back into his camp.

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Oh look!!!!….a shiney object…

PatriotRider on April 11, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Let’s see, is he on the ticket?

He is?

No.

It’s a loser.

NoDonkey on April 11, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Obama isn’t running anything. His marxist puppetmasters / handlers are running there standard ‘revolutionary’ guidebook. Foment divisions, deliberately collapse the status quo, cause food and energy disruptions to increase public anger, then aim that anger at those you wish to supplant. 100yr-old techniques, which have generally worked over and over, and led to millions of people butchered.
Obama’s along for the wagyu and to screw whitey.

rayra on April 11, 2012 at 2:36 PM

their

rayra on April 11, 2012 at 2:37 PM

No wonder Obama’s campaign is still vainly searching for a “theme”.

whatcat on April 11, 2012 at 2:38 PM

He got his house with mob assistance.
Do they ever let go?
the Chicago way is to steal this thing blind.
That is his only real strategy.

bbz123 on April 11, 2012 at 2:38 PM

“Swing Independents are searching for leaders who will articulate a positive vision for the future — one where the American economy is back on top and the next generation can achieve the American Dream. While the fairness framework does not feed this need, an economic opportunity message answers these deep concerns about the future.”

Sounds like they are looking for Paul Ryan.

magicbeans on April 11, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Since all things are no longer equal, I think the election in November is going to be 100% about the American people. The political class isn’t wrong about the patterns of the past. It’s wrong about whether they apply today.

I don’t think they do. A growing number of Americans is convinced that too much has changed. More and more people have concluded that they can’t waste their votes on the old shibboleths of political culture anymore. This time, it’s different. The old media are best served by pretending it’s not, but they are out of touch. We should not let their depiction of events rule the narrative in our minds.

J.E. Dyer on April 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM

In the past, the blame game worked for Obama. Chances are good he’ll stick to that strategy. Distract, distort and disgruntle. Bush, race, banks, Wall Street, the cast system, capitalistic unfairness and discrimination. Distract, distort and disgruntle. Rinse and Repeat.

Slainte on April 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Better than the race baiting and mendacious campaign typified by the right.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Here is Obamuh’s campaign, in a nutshell:

I promise to give you bails of hay, for every field.

And, the cattle will go, “moo.”

OhEssYouCowboys on April 11, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Zero has lost his marbles. Today he’s out ranting that Reagan was a socialist, and he looks tired, drawn and very thin. There are rumors he’s ill.

One one hand he says the “buffet rule” is not a socialist dream then he talks about fairness.

Does anyone else see that he is incoherent?

dogsoldier on April 11, 2012 at 2:43 PM

I hope Obama keeps running the campaign he’s running. Let’s face it, when these supposedly aggrieved women pull into the gas station, to fill up their SUV, their husbands out of work, and the price of gasoline and food are sky rocketing, everyone knows they’re upset because Warren Buffett is paying a 15% capital gains rate and their $9.00 birth control pills aren’t free. If Obama and the Democrats really believe this is a winner, let them have at it.

bflat879 on April 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM

The RNC would do well to hammer Barry on his “record”, the state of the economy vs past recessions, and gasoline prices.

GarandFan on April 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Loser…

PatriotRider on April 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Warren Buffett is paying a 15% capital gains rate and their $9.00 birth control pills aren’t free. If Obama and the Democrats really believe this is a winner, let them have at it.

bflat879 on April 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Except that Warren Buffet hasn’t paid the taxes he already owes. he owes a billion dollars.

dogsoldier on April 11, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Campaign process: Pick a target, isolate and destroy it. Any means to an end (regardless how evil) It is the philosphy of all despots in history.

Don L on April 11, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Watch 0bama run to the right of liberal Mittens. It won’t be much of a stretch for him to do so.

DannoJyd on April 11, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Look, if the Elephant Man were running for reelection, he would make an issue of how ugly his opponent is. And this is the kind of campaign Bammy is trying to run. Point the finger at Romney so that people forget that Merrick is the one pointing the finger.

But no matter how many bags he puts over his head, Obama and his hideous record cannot be ignored. This election is about the current, wretched President.

Good luck hiding the Elephant Man in the room, Lefty Losers.

EMD on April 11, 2012 at 2:48 PM

2008 wasn’t really about McCain or Palin. It was about Bush and Obama.

People projected onto Obama their hopes and he muddied the waters with moderate (and sometimes even center-right) rhetoric.

Now, in 2012, Obama doesn’t want this one to be about Obama. He has a failed record. He can’t really fall back on blaming Bush either.

So, he will try to Alinsky-ize things this time.

Thing is, we are ready.

Romney’s job will be to simply keep discussing Obama’s failed policies.

Our job is to not let Obama change the subject.

RightWay79 on April 11, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Better than the race baiting and mendacious campaign typified by the right Dems.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

FIFY. I think this is what you meant. And it is so incoherant a statement that it is most assuredly what you meant.

NOMOBO on April 11, 2012 at 2:52 PM

0bama is already the most articulate spokesman AGAINST the individual mandate. Sketchy still supports it.

See the video here.

DannoJyd on April 11, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Distract, distort and disgruntle. Rinse and Repeat.

Slainte on April 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Distract- Sandra Fluke/ War on Christians

Distort- Trayvon Martin/ Race agitators

Disgruntle- Hey, look at what those rich people pay in taxes./ Wealth redistribution

I think the 3D formula works this far out from the election but I also think that if the GOP stays on message Obama can’t hide behind slutty law students forever. If Obama starts talking about contraception, the GOP message should be “It’s nice you’re concerned about womens’ reproduction but what about the number of women out of work thanks to your failed policies?”

In short, this needs to be an election where the GOP is constantly in Obama’s face about the areas that matter most to Americans and (despite the massive news coverage) that doesn’t include Sandra Fluke’s sex life or Trayvon Martin’s death. It is DEE. Deficit reduction, the economy, and employment.

Happy Nomad on April 11, 2012 at 2:53 PM

So far, yes, I would say his attacks have worked. Not a good sign, but there are still many months to go.

McDuck on April 11, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Better than the race baiting and mendacious campaign typified by the right.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

OtheyboughtmeamendaciousThesaurussincemypostingstypifiedmentalillness!

KOOLAID2 on April 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Loser…

PatriotRider on April 11, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Name calling, how sophomoric, congratulations.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Zero appears to be just throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks. He’s thrashing but he’s also not making a lot of sense. Neither are his spokespeople who came out with the whole “true but false” thing yesterday.

“it’s not about the math” and things like this that leave everyone scratching their heads saying. “Huh? did he actually say that nonsense?”

dogsoldier on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

no achievments no theme.

He was leaked that HC is unconstitutional so they are scrambling for a theme. “Uh don’t vote for that guy , he is a mormon” type theme

Conservative4ev on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Well, considering that obama has nearly achieved the first major goal of his re-election bid, making sure that Romney is the GOP nominee, it might be hard to argue that there is anything wrong with his campaign thus far.

“Nominee” Romney is a gift to obama.

Pork-Chop on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

In short, this needs to be an election where the GOP is constantly in Obama’s face about the areas that matter most to Americans and (despite the massive news coverage) that doesn’t include Sandra Fluke’s sex life or Trayvon Martin’s death. It is DEE. Deficit reduction, the economy, and employment.

Happy Nomad on April 11, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Yes, yes! Let’s hope the GOP keeps hammering DEE home in the general.

Slainte on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Obama will run ads showing MITT kicking dogs,taking candy from babies, pushing granny over the cliff,smoking 1000 dollar cigars while laying of people,etc.

gerrym51 on April 11, 2012 at 2:58 PM

2008 wasn’t really about McCain or Palin. It was about Bush and Obama.

People projected onto Obama their hopes and he muddied the waters with moderate (and sometimes even center-right) rhetoric.

Now, in 2012, Obama doesn’t want this one to be about Obama. He has a failed record. He can’t really fall back on blaming Bush either.

Sure he can. GW Bush was an Establishment Republican in his last term and things went in to the sewer. Mitt Romney is just like George W Bush come November every voter will thing GW when they see Mitt on the Ballot. They will be convinced Obama is the better choice.

With Mitt Obama knows he has already won reelection.

Steveangell on April 11, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Better than the race baiting and mendacious campaign typified by the right.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:41 PM

…OtheyboughtmeamendaciousThesaurussincemypostingstypifiedmentalillness!

KOOLAID2 on April 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Dude, why do you harass me so with this your unusually truncated and concatenated amalgamation of idiosyncratically derived sentences from thread to thread? Do I know you or is this personal?

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:59 PM

The problem with the independent vote is that Obama is no longer a blank slate upon which everyone draws his own dreams. He has a record, he is a fully known quantity. Incumbent Presidents polling under 50% don’t get reelected as a rule. The undecided vote tends to break the other way.

Adjoran on April 11, 2012 at 3:00 PM

It isn’t only the economy. It’s Fast and Furious in pursuit of gun control, it’s the promise to the Russians to “be more flexible”, it’s the bold-faced attempts to take credit for more oil when the whole world can see Obama is trying to strangle the traditional energy sector in favor of wind, sun, and fairy dust. It’s Mrs. Obama’s luxurious spending habits, and Barack Obama’s nonstop golf games and vacations, while the rest of the country struggles. It’s the ham-handed opining on racial matters from a supposedly post-racial president. It’s 20 years of Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Church, and the birth of a political career in William Ayres’ living room. It’s the ass-kissing sycophancy of what was once the freest press in the world, and the idiotic attempt to build a cult of personality around a man who has demonstrated more than once that he’s not particularly bright, or articulate, and who is certainly ignorant of things Americans should expect their president to know.

It’s all of those things. We cannot afford another four years of the worst president ever.

RebeccaH on April 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Sure he can.

Steveangell on April 11, 2012 at 2:58 PM

LOL Bush isn’t the president. All Romney has to do is talk about Zero’s failures and gaffes. This should be a hoot.

dogsoldier on April 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Well, considering that obama has nearly achieved the first major goal of his re-election bid, making sure that Romney is the GOP nominee, it might be hard to argue that there is anything wrong with his campaign thus far.

“Nominee” Romney is a gift to obama.

Pork-Chop on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I’ll see your “Nominee” Romney, and raise you a SCOTUS ruling against Obamacare, and a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee indictment of AG Eric Holder.

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan says it all folks.

Are You In?

answer: What? Foreclosure? yep

alt answer: What? Bankruptcy? yep.

alt answer: What? Big trouble? yep.

DrW on April 11, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Zero has lost his marbles. Today he’s out ranting that Reagan was a socialist, and he looks tired, drawn and very thin. There are rumors he’s ill.

G a w k e r, an out and proud progressive gossip site, reported a year or two ago that the NYT was ready to run a story that 0bama was deeply depressed and increasingly withdrawn. So far as I know, nothing ever came of it. Myself, I think 0bama’s narcissim runs too deep for him to just give up like that.

However, Barry does look very drained in some of these photos. Maybe reality is starting to set in as he realizes pretty speeches devoid of substance and affirmative action-based promotions won’t turn back the waters and heal the planet after all.

MidniteRambler on April 11, 2012 at 3:04 PM

0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:59 PM

I think its because of your user id

lol

gerrym51 on April 11, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Zero has lost his marbles. Today he’s out ranting that Reagan was a socialist, and he looks tired, drawn and very thin. There are rumors he’s ill.

Hillary’s revenge

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2012 at 3:06 PM

It is the GOP’s election to lose. If they go the way McCain did against 0bama then we lose. If we go aggressively on all the failures of the last four years we win in a landslide.

jukin3 on April 11, 2012 at 3:07 PM

With Mitt Obama knows he has already won reelection.

Steveangell on April 11, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Anyone who thinks he “knows” in April the outcome of a November election is a moron. In April 2010 every Dem within spitting distance of a microphone was laughing at the very idea that they would lose the House in November — and what happened then? Or are you abilities only in seeing the future & not the past?

There is no denying an incumbent always has the advantage, and granted the haka the Obama camp and the MSM is trying to sell is how “in the bag” the GE is for Obama (which you seem to have bought hook, line & sinker). But why, exactly, then is “I’ve got this in the bag” Obama running around like a chicken with his head cut off, flailing for even a slogan that works? That belies the whole “got it in the bag” meme and anyone who has an ounce of common sense & can see through the Obama-approved MSM talking points knows that. The truth — the thing Obama doesn’t want us to know — is that the only way he can win is by dividing, dividing, dividing — class warfare, gender warfare, race warfare — and hope enough of the fragments splinter off in his favor so he can hold on to those less than 3% wins in swing states that he got in 2008 on promising to “unite” the red & blue states. That’s a hard sell, especially as it is a 180 from how he sold himself last time, and sure, it can most certainly work, but it isn’t the cakewalk “in the bag” contest that Obama & his ilk are trying to pretend it is.

Dark Star on April 11, 2012 at 3:31 PM

It is the GOP’s election to lose. If they go the way McCain did against 0bama then we lose. If we go aggressively on all the failures of the last four years we win in a landslide.

jukin3 on April 11, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Not quite the same thing as 2008, which was the Dems to lose. After 8 years of Bush fatigue the Dems could have run a cardboard cut out & it would have won (and let’s face it, the cardboard cut out did win — and he still had to spend almost a billion dollars to do it). The election isn’t going to be so easy for Obama now that he has a record to run of for the first time in his life.

Dark Star on April 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM

It is the GOP’s election to lose. If they go the way McCain did against 0bama then we lose. If we go aggressively on all the failures of the last four years we win in a landslide.

jukin3 on April 11, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Mitt Romney is not John McCain. Mitt Romney is not spending 6 years of his life in seedy Holiday Inns just to roll over for Obama. Romney is determined to be elected president.

McCain was content to be NOMINATED for president.

Yes, this election will be about Obama 2008 vs Obama 2012. And Obama is going to lose.

Alexrod will try the distraction routine over and over, but ultimately the real world of people’s lives will catch up with this stupid game.

matthew8787 on April 11, 2012 at 3:38 PM

In response to :
0bamaderangementsyndrom on April 11, 2012 at 2:59 PM

You appear to be serious when referring to the “race baiting and mendacious campaign by the right.”
In as much as your side owns the likes of the Rev.’s Wright, Sharpton and Jackson, plus his excellency Obama, I don’t know of anyone on the right that can hold a candle to those habitual race baiters!

tomshup on April 11, 2012 at 4:01 PM

I hope not.

profitsbeard on April 11, 2012 at 4:07 PM

The American people screwed up by electing Obama. 40 years of the MSM and Hollywood convincing them that the only political extremists are Right wingers, and the likes of Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers are just misguided idealists whose hearts are in the right place.

If the American people realize what a mistake they made, then Obama will win Hawaii, Vermont, D.C, maybe Illinois, and possibly Massachusetts, and that’s it. If someone were able to look into a crystal ball and tell me that Obama will win more than those states, then I’d concede that I have no idea how this election will pan out.

ardenenoch on April 11, 2012 at 4:07 PM

In the past, the blame game worked for Obama. Chances are good he’ll stick to that strategy. Distract, distort and disgruntle. Bush, race, banks, Wall Street, the cast system, capitalistic unfairness and discrimination. Distract, distort and disgruntle. Rinse and Repeat.

Slainte on April 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM

I’ll see your distract, distort, and disgruntle and raise you a demonize, deceive, and demagogue.

Fafhrd on April 11, 2012 at 4:30 PM

If the American people realize what a mistake they made, then Obama will win Hawaii, Vermont, D.C, maybe Illinois, and possibly Massachusetts, and that’s it. If someone were able to look into a crystal ball and tell me that Obama will win more than those states, then I’d concede that I have no idea how this election will pan out.

admit they made a mistake?
hopefully the few that have a sour taste in their mouths will be enough to turn the tide

if the media wasn’t so complicit
Holder would be gone and Obama would be on the verge of resigning

audiotom on April 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM

I have the prefect winning campaign strategy for Obama- down to a slogan that would probably get Barack a second term – but will never reveal it because I have opposed this incompetent buffoon since he first threw his propeller beanie in the ring in 2007.

He can go back to smoking Kools next November once he’s a private citizen schmuck again.

profitsbeard on April 11, 2012 at 5:58 PM

RebeccaH on April 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Well stated!!!

Marco on April 11, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Is he running the right campaign?
Possibly not, but if there is no credible opposition does it matter?

YiZhangZhe on April 12, 2012 at 12:06 PM

I’ll see your “Nominee” Romney, and raise you a SCOTUS ruling against Obamacare, and a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee indictment of AG Eric Holder.

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2012 at 3:03 PM

God I hope you’re right. But I think you’re wrong.

runawayyyy on April 12, 2012 at 3:37 PM