Can Barack Obama win a second term in November? Last week’s jobs report makes it more difficult for the President to win, but perhaps more importantly, more difficult to run on his own record, too. Last night, Brit Hume and Bill O’Reilly debated over campaign strategy for both Obama and Mitt Romney, with O’Reilly suggesting that Romney go full-tilt negative on Obama’s record. Hume disagreed, saying that Romney needs to remain positive in significant measure as a contrast to the Obama campaign — because the only strategy left for them now is to attack Romney constantly:
“My thought about that would be that Romney will undoubtedly run a lot of ads that add up to saying that, and he will say it a lot himself and so will his surrogates on the campaign trail,” Hume said. “I think Romney has — look, I think Obama’s record is such a burden to him that he has no real choice but to go negative and go negative hard, which to a great extent he has.”
The reason Romney shouldn’t go as negative, Hume said, was to set up a contrast between him and the negativity of Obama.
“I think Romney is in a different position because when people turn to the prospect of, ‘Well OK, what happens if we elect him’ — he needs to radiate something of a positive spirit … I would just say that people need to believe that if they turn to him, he can make things better. And if he seems morose and negative all the time, he’ll fail to convey that sunny spirit. He needs a bit of sunlight in his message and I think that’s important to him. In a way that’s the game and it’s too late for Obama. He can have all the sunlight in his message that he wants. The results kind of speak for themselves.”
Hume’s right, but that strategy will only work if the Obama campaign can figure out how to go negative without shooting themselves in the foot. As I write in my column at The Week today, Team Obama demonstrated a breathtaking level of incompetence last Friday in their clear lack of preparation for the May jobs report — and their decision to make Anna “Nuclear” Wintour a surrogate on the same day:
That very day, the Obama campaign released a new video spot featuring Vogue editor Anna Wintour promoting a new raffle for a spot at a future fundraising party cohosted by Wintour and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Wintour was widely rumored to be the inspiration for the sadistic boss in The Devil Wears Prada, written by former personal assistant Lauren Weisberger, and is sometimes called “Nuclear Wintour” for her, er, people skills. Even among fashion elites, Wintour is infamous for being an elitist.
At a moment when ordinary Americans worried about the impact of a declining economy on their lives, the Obama campaign made Wintour its national spokesperson. Could the raffle not have waited a few days in order to give Obama a chance to focus on a response to the jobs report everyone knew was coming? How could the Obama administration, with its access to economic data, not see the trainwreck that was coming in that June 1 report and fail to warn the campaign to change its plans for the video’s release? How, in fact, could the campaign have scheduled six fundraisers on the same day that the BLS released its jobs report at all? …
Right now, it looks as if the president’s re-election campaign is being run by Inspector Clouseau. If Team O believes that a winning campaign strategy will be to have the notorious “devil” of a boss act as their surrogate as job creation grinds to a halt, then Romney will only need to demonstrate calm competence over the next five months to win this national election.
Juan Williams had a lot of fun with this decision, as I wrote yesterday. This demonstration of incompetence should have Team O doing some housecleaning at the top, but it may be too late for that. And honestly, it may not matter in the long run. As my colleague at The Week Bob Shrum said on Sunday, Obama’s going to lose this election if it’s a referendum on his record. If the economic indicators continue to slide all summer, they won’t be able to avoid the referendum, not even with the most expert campaign strategists imaginable running the show. So far, though, Team O’s leadership has demonstrated that they are not among those ranks.