Obama advisers have long believed they have a better understanding than the Romney camp does of who the true undecided voters are, what motivates them, and how they view Obama, his presidency, and the economy. They think even voters who don’t feel their lot has improved — and who continue to tell pollsters they disapprove of Obama’s economic performance — are prepared to accept the argument that a foundation has been built for a recovery that will bear fruit in Obama’s second term, and that a return to Bush economics would upend the country’s progress, as slow and painful as it has been.
Many pundits initially thought this was a politically impossible case to make. But if things continue on their current track, it will defy the laws of political gravity.
The argument was perhaps best made in Bill Clinton’s convention speech, and now the Obama campaign has released a two-minute direct-to-camera spot in seven swing states that has the feel of a closing argument, declaring that “it’s time for a new economic patriotism”:
The political context for the ad is simple: Despite the Romney camp’s initial calculation otherwise, more and more voters are not blaming Obama for the sluggishness of the recovery, and unexpectedly, more Americans now believe we’re on track to recovery. In one of the most important poll findings yet, yesterday’s NYT/CBS polls found that solid majorities in Ohio and Florida believe the economy is recovering or will recover if Obama’s policies are given more time.
In the ad, Obama recaps for viewers that the economy was in free fall, and we were mired in Iraq, when he took office — a reminder of the magnitude of the mess he inherited. He stresses that we’re now “moving forward,” but notes there’s still a lot more to do — a nod to the political reality that many swing voters don’t feel the recovery yet.
Many have argued, rightly, that Obama needs to spell out more clearly what his second term will look like, and this ad tries to do that, contrasting it in point-by-point terms with a Romney first term. On one side: More investments in creating manufacturing jobs, clean energy, and education — and paying down the deficit with higher taxes on the rich and savings from ending the war in Afghanistan, a bid for independents. On the other: More tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of Wall Street, and a return to Bush economics. Notably, the ad directly takes on the idea that “trickle down” economics will lead to broadly shared prosperity, playing on bad memories of the Bush years.
The new ad is a response to Romney’s own direct-to-camera spot — a shift in Romney’s strategy from a backwards-looking to a forward-looking one — arguing that we can’t afford another four years. Obama’s appeal to voters to compare their plan is an effort to frame the debates in advance on more favorable “choice” terms. The ad reflects the Obama camp’s belief that more voters are now concluding we’re on track to recovery, and that it’s now safe to say so. If the Obama team’s calculation is right, it is in the process of winning the framing wars, successfully recasting the election as one about the future.
* Obama team has organizational advantage in Ohio: Erin McPike’s reporting neatly captures the edge on the ground the Obama team has built over Romney’s. Tellingly, Obama is urging Ohioans, on the stump and in ads, to vote early — while Obama is winning — even as Romney is still honing his message at his own events.
Key footnote: “Romney bemoaned the government; Obama told how it helps people.” The federal auto-bailout, of course, has helped reinvigorate parts of the auto industry in Ohio.
* Why Obama is winning in Ohio: The chart of the day comes from Jared Bernstein, who neatly illustrates that unemployment is not only lower than the national average, but has fallen farther, from an initial high that was higher than the national jobless rate.
As noted here yesterday, one potential explanation for the shifting polls is that stuff may be happening in the economy that is not being picked up by national indicators the political world pays attention to — such as possible momentum in the job market in key states.
* Obama allies slam Romney freeloading 47 percent comments: AFSCME and the Obama-allied Priorities USA Action are airing a new radio ad that plays audio of Romney disdaining the freeloading 47 percent before reminding voters that his tax plan would provide a huge windfall to millionaires like himself. Dems believe the comments are even more devastating when used to illustrate the priorities that are driving a candidate who would give huge tax cuts to the rich that would have to be paid for by the middle class.
* Dem donors finally wake up: It took a while, but the major Dem donors finally seem to be pumping real money into Democratic-aligned super PACs, though they won’t keep pace with the hundreds of millions of dollars the pro-GOP forces are unleashing. The crush of spending may have a negligible impact on the presidential race, but super PAC money will play a big role in the battle for Congress; big infusions of outside cash often have a more palpable impact on down-ticket races.
* Could Romney allies abandon him in home stretch? Despite the GOP’s overall cash advantage, Obama has an edge in money he directly controls, and enjoys lower ad rates under federal law. Meanwhile, much of the GOP’s resources are held by Super PACs, which means:
Romney and his allies may have fewer resources than it appears, since much of what they do from here will be more expensive. The lack of direct control by Romney also raises the possibility, however remote, that his allies could abandon him if his chances continue to fade, as happened to Robert J. Dole in October 1996, when the party shifted its efforts to congressional races.
* Ruling coming in Pennsylvania voter ID case: A Federal judge could rule as early as today on whether to block the states’s stringent voter ID law, which Dems fear could disenfranchise large number of voters. The law, if it stands, is unlikely to impact the election, since Obama leads Romney by over eight points in the Real Clear Politics average of Pennsylvania polls.
* Dem enthusiasm powering Obama’s gains: Mark Blumenthal does a deep dive into the recent polling showing Obama’s lead expanding in key states, and concludes that rising Dem enthusiasm is responsible for much of what’s happening. This suggests the Dem convention was a big success, and bodes well for turnout on election day.
* Blame game is already underway: Good piece by Reid Wilson documenting that the groundwork is already being laid to blame a Romney loss on his failure to articulate a conservative enough vision. Note in particular this tidbit:
The reinvention of the Republican Party that has been underway since the end of Bush’s term is far from complete. Romney’s loss would make the violence of the internal struggle all the more dramatic; it would steal influence from those arguing for a middle path, and hand influence to the conservative factions already on the ascent.
As the old cliche has it, “conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.”
* And the quote of the day: Romney tells ABC News:
“Frankly at this early stage, polls go up, polls go down.”
As Taegan Goddard notes, Romney is “apparently not aware the election is 41 days away.”