Obama strategists borrowing a page from ... the Bush playbook?

Circumstances have changed drastically since 2004. America’s economic woes stand to dominate the 2012 dialogue no matter what — probably to Mr. Obama’s detriment.

Yet in important electoral battlegrounds, Mr. Obama’s strategists intend to use abortion, gay rights, the environment and successes in the fight against Al Qaeda to counter economic attacks and drive a wedge between Republicans and swing voters…

In Colorado, the incumbent Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, survived the 2010 Republican wave after he “shifted a chunk of the conversation off the economic and onto social issues,” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic strategist in Denver. Mr. Obama’s strategists view that victory as an object lesson.

It didn’t work in the 2009 race for governor of Virginia. Democrats tried to cast the Republican nominee, Bob McDonnell, as an extremist on social issues; Mr. McDonnell, now governor, focused relentlessly on the economy.

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