While “what will government do?” was very much an open question in 2012, greater policy certainty means there will be more room to run on “I’ll be a better manager” in 2016. That will be especially true if the news continues to be dominated by stories of managerial and technical failure in the government.
Healthcare.gov was plagued by “glitches.” The Secret Service let a man with an arrest record and a gun get in an elevator with the president, and a man with a knife get near the Obamas’ private residence. The Department of Veteran Affairs failed to provide timely medical care to sick veterans, then falsified records to hide that fact. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was overwhelmed by a surge of child migrants. The administration has faced criticism on coordinating response to Ebola in West Africa.
Even the big scandal obsessions of the conservative fever swamps — the Benghazi attack, the I.R.S. scandals and Fast & Furious — are, after you strip away the conspiracy theories, fundamentally stories about managerial failure. And while foreign policy debates obviously have huge ideological components, there’s a lot of room for dissatisfaction with this administration’s execution on its strategies in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Whether the increase in gaffes is real or just perceived, there have been a lot of news stories that might lead voters to say, “Gee, this looks like the sort of problem Mitt Romney might have handled better.”