National Republicans who are putting together the battle plan to defeat Obama face a dilemma. How do they attack Obama’s presidency as a failure, given that voters understand just how catastrophic a situation he inherited, continue to like Obama personally, and see him as a historical figure they want to succeed?
The answer is simple: Republicans will make the argument that Obama fell short of expectations as he himself defined them.
Peter Wallsten has an important report from inside the Republican National Committee war room detailing the strategy the GOP is planning — using Obama’s own lofty words as a candidate and incoming president against him. The game plan is to remind Americans of the sense they had of Obama as a transformative figure in order to claim that he fell short of the promise his election seemed to embody:
Republican strategists said that striking the right tone in attacking Obama will be tricky, because many Americans, even if they disapprove of his job performance, still see the country’s first black president as a historic and admirable figure. Polls show that most people like him personally — making them more likely to discount traditional attack ads.
Still, party officials believe that many independent voters — more than eight in 10 of whom think the country is on the wrong track, according to a November Washington Post-ABC News poll — are ready to accept the premise that Obama didn’t work out. Officials said they settled on the plan to use the president’s own words after examining private and public polls showing that the approach resonated with swing voters nationally and in key battlegrounds...
Similar conclusions emerged from months of focus groups and polling conducted by American Crossroads, the pro-GOP group that along with its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, expects to have raised $240 million during the 2011-12 cycle. A recent ad by the group featured a mom lying awake at night recalling that she backed Obama because he “spoke so beautifully” and promised recovery but now worrying that his policies were costly and ineffective.
Of course, Obama had barely been sworn into office before the national Republican leadership mounted a concerted and determined effort to prevent any of Obama’s solutions to our severe national problems from passing, even as they openly declared they were doing so only to destroy him politically. Republicans have admitted on the record that deliberately denying Obama any bipartisan support for, well, anything at all was absolutely crucial to prevent voters from concluding that Obama had successfully forged ideological common ground over the way out of the myriad disasters Obama inherited from them.
While it’s true that disapproval of Obama on the economy is running high over government’s failure to fix the economy, the independents and moderates who will decide the presidential election agree with Obama’s overall fiscal vision — his jobs creation proposals and insistence on taxing the wealthy to pay for them. They also recognize that Republicans are more to blame than Dems for government’s failure to implement those proposals. But as Steve Kornacki recently noted, blaming Obama for failing to transcend politics as usual despite determined GOP opposition may be the best way to give indys and moderates a reason to vote against Obama even though they generally agree and sympathize with him. And so, after doing everything in their power to prevent Obama from successfully transcending partisanship and achieving transformative change — even if it meant repeatedly opposing solutions to profound national problems they once embraced — Republicans will now attack him for failing to transcend partisanship and achieve transformative change.