The Obama campaign is set to release seven radio ads that escalate its attacks on Paul Ryan, his Medicare plan, and the fiscal priorities that are at the heart of his vision.
According to the campaign, the message in each ad will be tailored to individual swing states, pointing out how each one would fare under the Romney/Ryan vision. A few samples:
* The ad in Florida will emphasize Ryan’s plan to quasi-voucherize Medicare.
* The ad in Iowa will emphasize cuts in Ryan’s budget to clean energy investments, which are meant to remind voters of the GOP stance on wind energy, an important issue in the state.
* The ad in Virginia will emphasize the Ryan budget’s cuts to infrastructure investments.
* The ads in Ohio and New Hampshire emphasize the Ryan budget’s cuts to Pell grants, making it harder for kids in those states to go to college.
And so on; all of the ads, meanwhile, will also stress that the Ryan plan would result in deep tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.
What we’re seeing here is part two of a strategy that began with the Obama campaign’s relentless attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain years — on the Bain layoffs and outsourcing — on his tax returns, and on his offshore accounts. As I and others have detailed, the game plan here was always to establish an image of Romney that would make it easier for voters to accept the idea that Romney’s governing priorities really would result in an upward redistribution of wealth — that he really would cut taxes on the rich while cutting back on services poor and middle class Americans rely upon.
Focus groups had initially found that swing voters had a difficult time believeing this could really be true. There are some signs that voters are beginning to accept this general framing of Romney’s priorities; polls show consistently that voters think Romney’s policies would favor the interests of the wealthy over the middle class. Hower, it remains unclear how much this will matter; those same polls also show Romney at parity with Obama on the economy, which could prove the dominant factor.
Obama and his advisers hopes the addition of Ryan to the ticket will make it easier for them to make this overall case about the GOP ticket’s true priorities. Ryan’s preoccupation with transforming Medicare drags the debate away from the economy on to the turf of entitlements, and his previous history of trying to prioritize Social Security — and the truly draconian cuts to social programs in his fiscal blueprint — make it easier to argue that his main goal is an ideological one, i.e., shrinking government.
The Romney campaign is betting that Ryan will be a plus to the ticket, when voters decide that the two men are truly serious about getting the country’s fiscal problems under control. But if the Obama campaign can successfully dramatize in specific enough terms whose interests the Ryan/Romney agenda will really protect in the process of tackling those fiscal problems, and what it will actually mean to non-wealthy people in concrete terms — and that Obama is the one who can really be trusted to defend middle class interests when fiscal crunch time comes — perhaps Ryan can be turned into a liability.