Howard Fineman makes a point I’ve been wondering about, too — why isn’t the Obama team doing a better job in selling the idea that the economy is improving?
The Obama campaign, and the Obama presidency, haven’t done a consistent or convincing job of touting whatever good news there is — and there are increasing amounts of it — about the economy. Yes, the unemployment rate remains high; yes, the “right direction/wrong track” poll numbers remain negative (though not as negative as they once were); yes, millions of Americans remain underwater on their mortgages while big banks horde cash and pile up huge profits.
But there is another side to the story, and the Obama campaign hasn’t sold it well, beyond talking, justifiably, about the success of the auto bailout. Consumer confidence is at its highest point in five years. The stock market has come back from the late Bush-era crash. Home starts and hiring are up. Venture capital groups are lending money again. If you don’t talk about the good stuff, no one else will.
Andrew Sullivan is similarly perplexed.
The Obama campaign does seem to be trying to turn this around. It is running a new ad in swing states that quotes workers claiming the economy is on track to recovery. This comes after another spot released over the weekend in which Morgan Freeman says that “assembly lines are humming again.” The Obama camp also had a two minute ad not long ago in which he declared that “as a nation we are moving forward.”
My sense is the Obama team thinks public perceptions of the economy are baked in and that there are risks involved in telling people what to think of it in a heavy handed way. Perhaps there’s something to this. But Romney and his allies are absolutely bludgeoning the swing states with ads painting a dire picture of the Obama economy. Some of them are explicitly distorting the jobs numbers in particularly brutal fashion. You’d think we’d hear a bit more from Obama and his allies pushing back on this stuff — perhaps by citing all the statistics showing that we are on the mend again.
Rising numbers of people are telling pollsters they think the country is on track to recovery. Today’s Post poll showed that 52 percent think Obama deserves credit for bringing the unemployment rate down below eight percent. The ground is fertile for ads pointing out that the unemployment rate, after peaking at a horrific 10 percent at the depths of the crisis, is now lower than when Obama took office.
It’s a delicate case, to be sure. It can’t be made in a way that makes Obama seem like the candidate of continuing the status quo; it has to be coupled with the promise of a major, substantive policy effort in Obama’s second term to solve deep and long running problems undermining the economic security of the middle class. And it needs to be coupled with the argument that changing course now, to an approach that has already failed us, risks imperiling the progress we're making. But it does seem like a case that needs to be made. Perhaps the Obama team is preparing a more concerted case on the economy for the final stretch of the race.