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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why Obama's Strategy Is Backfiring... Reality

By Susan Duclos

"If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from."--- Barack Obama

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs told CNN's State of the Union, "I think the president will make sure people understand the choice, and certainly if Mitt Romney puts up his hands and says ‘I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut plan. I don’t want to cut taxes on the very wealthy,' absolutely I think the president will walk through for voters in that room that are going to be undecided exactly what the Romney campaign wants to do and why it’s bad for this country."

That will appeal to liberal Democrats and almost no one else.

That is the same strategy Barack Obama has used up until this point and it only worked until the first debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, when undecideds, Independents and those not affiliated with either major party, finally got to see Mitt Romney for themselves, not through the prism of Obama's campaign insisting "this is what Mitt is," or "this is what Mitt is going to do."

All Romney had to do in rebuttal was simply point out "This is what Obama has already done."

Gibbs has just made it clear that Barack Obama will not even attempt to run on his own record, because he cannot, so he will continue to try to paint his opponent as someone to run from.

What smacked Obama in the face in the first debate and has continued smacking him around since as polls showing a consistent Romney surge, is.... reality.

The Washington Free Beacon has an excellent piece out titled "The Reality Principle" with a sub header "Obama and Biden were winning—until they faced actual opponents,"

What they knew was largely limited to the messages of $217 million in negative advertising from Obama and his allies: Romney was rich, secretive, out of touch, paying little in taxes, hiding his tax returns, stashing money in the Cayman Islands, singing out of tune, shipping jobs overseas with little thought of the lives he affected, dismissing out of hand 47 percent of the country, in favor of raising middle-class taxes and health-care costs for seniors, and waging a “war on women” with Todd Akin to “turn back the clock” on women’s rights.

The stories told about Romney in the media were no more flattering. Casual consumers of the news would have learned that the former governor of Massachusetts once bullied a child at his prep school; had catered to the most extreme wing of his party in pursuit of the GOP nomination; had insulted the highly sensitive and excitable Brits on the eve of the London Olympics; was gaffe-prone; had jumped the gun in his response to the attacks in Benghazi and Cairo; was either micro-managing or had little control over his campaign; was changing strategy on the fly; and was such a hopeless loser that the election basically was over. Obama had it in the bag. How could he not? Romney was trash—wealthy, radical, belligerent refuse.

Imagine the surprise when Romney took the stage and revealed himself to be nothing like the cartoon that had been shown again and again to the American electorate. This unmediated Romney was approachable, warm, in command of facts and logic, fluent, direct, and appropriate to the office of the presidency. He claimed the mantle of bipartisanship and pledged to reform taxes and entitlements, reduce the deficit, and cut alternative energy handouts instead of education. He seemed eager to tackle the manifold problems of American democracy.

The same happened with Paul Ryan, the Obama campaign attempted to "define" Ryan, then debate watchers got to meet him for themselves:

Hold it, I’m confused. I watched all of the vice presidential debate last night, and someone did not show up. Vice President Joe Biden was there—how could one miss him, with all the grinning, grunting, interrupting, and sneering. But where was the Ayn Rand-worshiping, rape-redefining, fanatically exercising zealot who wants to throw grandmothers off of cliffs and whose budget plan is, according to the president, “thinly veiled Social Darwinism” that is “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility”? That Paul Ryan was nowhere to be found.

What America saw instead was a young and likable and knowledgeable conservative worried about the current trajectory of fiscal, monetary, foreign, and social policy. Where Biden harrumphed, Ryan calmly litigated President Obama’s failed record. Twice in eight days, the caricatures against which President Barack Obama and Biden are purporting to run have been exposed as grotesque exaggerations. The liberal attempt to frighten America with the illusory specter of an extremist Republican ticket dissolved on first contact with, well, the actual ticket. The reality principle asserted itself once again. We have an open race.

 A comment from a voter in a LA Times' article encapsulates the reality concept perfectly in a piece headlined "Romney surge in Ohio tests both campaigns' strategies:

Interviews with voters show that the campaign's aggressive efforts to portray Romney as a wealthy businessman out of touch with the lives of ordinary voters has succeeded in sowing doubts even in the minds of some Republican-leaning Ohioans.

But Romney's strategists argued all along that here, as elsewhere, voter unhappiness with the direction of the country would keep Obama vulnerable. All they needed, Romney advisors argued, was an event that would cause people to give Romney a second look.

For voters like Molly Johnson, the Oct. 3 debate provided that moment.

"The debate was huge for me," Johnson said as she and two friends, both Romney supporters, watched their young children play in the grass before the high school homecoming game in Blue Ash, a Republican-leaning suburb north of Cincinnati.

"Smaller government is a big thing for me," she said, "but I do have concerns about whether Romney is too much supporting big business" to keep rich people rich.

"I understood Romney," she said of the debate, and she now leans toward him, although she "wouldn't say 100%."
 Voters who have not decided yet who to vote for, got their second look. Not through Obama's eyes, not through liberal's eyes, not through conservative's eyes, but a look through their own eyes. The Romney debate bounce became a surge and Obama's free fall started.

That genie cannot be put back in the bottle but Gibbs maintains that the Obama strategy is to try to do exactly that.

Obama's Plan A was to demonize Romney, but once Romney managed to define himself in front of 70 million people, Obama needed to go to Plan B, the problem is Obama has no Plan B and he has painted himself into a corner.