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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:42 AM ET, 09/03/2012

The Morning Plum: Obama’s delicate balancing act at Dem convention

The Democratic National Convention kicks off this week. How aggressively should Obama and Dems make the case that the economy is improving on the president’s watch?

On the one hand, many Dems think Obama needs to avoid going too far in extolling the recovery. It could anger swing voters who aren’t experiencing the recovery and could make Obama look overly eager to fluff his record in the face of still-widespread economic suffering, which remains a full-blown crisis.

On the other hand, Obama needs to argue persuasively that the economy is improving, for two reasons. First, to rebut Mitt Romney’s claim that his presidency has been a failure. I don’t think it’s clear yet that swing voters have concluded this. But they are about to be bombarded with hundreds of millions of dollars of ads that could prove persuasive. So Obama needs a convincing reply.

Second, the claim that the economy is recovering is absolutely central to Obama’s core forward-looking case against Romney: If we change course now, and go back to an approach that got us in trouble in the first place, it will imperil the progress we’ve made and continue to make. Obviously, this case is tougher to make if you’re not willing to say things are getting better. Obama and Dems have a strong argument to make about the future; people have bad memories of Bush economics and even some Republicans don’t think Romney has spelled out clearly how his approach will differ. The challenge: laying the foundation for that case.

The need to get the balance right is already bedeviling Obama advisers. Yesterday on the Sunday shows, Obama advisers and surrogates danced around the question of whether people are better off now than they were four years ago. Today on the morning shows, they unified behind the message that, Yes, absolutely, things are better. As Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley put it: “We are clearly better off as a country, because we are now creating jobs rather than losing jobs.”

So how should Dems handle this at the convention? Michael Shear reports that “Democrats will argue that progress has been made, and that Republicans would turn back the clock.” And Dan Balz reports that Obama will seek to “persuade voters that everything he did has helped set the foundation for a true recovery.”

Michael Grunwald, whose book “The New New Deal” is an absolute must-read, makes a strong case that Obama has a simple answer Yes, the economy is recovering. When Obama took office, the economy was shrinking and bleeding jobs; now it is growing and creating them. But Grunwald explains why this is a delicate argument: “we’ve only improved from really bad to disappointingly mediocre.”

How Obama and Dems handle this is one key thing I’ll be watching for at the convention.

* Obama will subtly counter “you didn’t build that” attack: Amy Gardner reports that the Obama campaign’s internal polling has persuaded them that the “you didn’t build that” attacks are not working, and that the Obama team will counter it at the convention only indirectly, by reminding listeners of his oft-stated faith in the private sector.

* How aggressively will Clinton counter Romney welfare lie? E.J. Dionne notes that Obama’s team knows they have to counter Romney’s false welfare attacks, which they will do by wrapping their rebuttal into an argument about the Romney campaign’s blithe indifference to the truth. And that guy who signed the welfare reform bill is speaking. How frontally will he take this on?

* New Obama ad hits Romney on taxes: The Obama campaign is up with a new ad in seven swing states that hits Romney's tax plan for raising taxes on middle class families while giving “millionaires like himself” a $250,000 tax cut. The ad links the tax argument to the Obama campaign slogan — “forward” — with this closer: “Romney hits the middle class hard, and gives millionaires an even bigger break. Is that the way forward for America?”

The contrast is not stated, but the idea is that Romney would return us to a brand of economics that we’ve seen before — Bush economics — which will be a main focus of Dem efforts to contrast the two men’s approaches to the economy at the Dem convention this week.

* Here comes the mega ad blitz: Amazing stuff from Dan Eggen on what we’re about to see in the swing states:

Federal candidates and their supporters are gearing up to unleash up to $3 billion worth of advertising and other expenditures over the next nine weeks, drowning battleground areas in political ads...
In the presidential contest alone, President Obama, Republican nominee Mitt Romney and their allies are poised to spend well over $1 billion from now to November, much of it focused on the handful of swing states that are likely to decide the election,

I continue to wonder whether the unprecedented volume of ads will create a diminishing returns effect that, in the end, will devalue the impact all this money is having.

* No convention bounce for Romney: Taegan Goddard summarizes:

The Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll shows President Obama regained a narrow lead over Mitt Romney despite the attention of the Republican National Convention, 44% to 43%...the Gallup tracking poll shows no bounce whatsoever.

I don’t expect much of a bounce for Obama, either, given how locked in the electorate seems to be, but Romney arguably needed a big one more than Obama does.

* Romney’s convention speech got lukewarm reactions: Gallup also finds that Romney’s speech was a wash, with roughly equal numbers saying they are more or less likely to vote for him as a result, and only 38 percent saying it was excellent or good — the lowest since Bob Dole.

* Dem platform language on guns is way too timid: It’s perhaps not surprising, given that Obama and Dems refuse to outline a meaningful policy response to a problem that continues to kill American citizens, but the Dem platform language on guns again shows how they continue to blow it on this issue.

* And what precedent will a Romney victory set? Paul Krugman ties Ryan’s exaggerations about his marathon run to his fraudulent fiscal policies, and concludes that the Romney/Ryan campaign’s dishonesty may be unprecedented:

So what is this election about? To be sure, it’s about different visions of society — about Medicare versus Vouchercare, about preserving the safety net versus destroying it. But it’s also a test of how far politicians can bend the truth. This is surely the first time one of our major parties has run a campaign so completely fraudulent, making claims so at odds with the reality of its policy proposals. But if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, it won’t be the last.

Also don’t miss Jay Rosen; he thinks some in the press are beginning to awaken to the implications of all this, and calls it “the revolt of the savvy.”

What else?

By  |  08:42 AM ET, 09/03/2012

 
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