There is probably no political goal more central to the GOP’s chances of winning the presidency than persuading the American people to forget just how deep and severe an economic crisis Obama inherited upon taking office.
Mitt Romney has been busily trying to bring about mass public amnesia on this point ever since the good news about the economy foiled his initial strategy and message. And today Karl Rove, in a column attacking Obama’s campaign documentary, launches one of the most ambitious efforts yet to rewrite the history of the past five years:
Mr. Obama has spent three years wallowing in blame. His culprits have ranged from his predecessor, to tsunamis and earthquakes, to ATMs, to Fox News, to yours truly. If you Google “Obama, Blame, Bush” and “Obama, Inherited,” you’ll get tens of millions of hits.
As for inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression: Perhaps Mr. Obama has forgotten the Carter presidency, which featured double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates, and high unemployment.
Rove is probably not the best messenger for this argument, given his central role in the presidency that presided over, yes, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. But the fact that he’s straining so hard to make this case is telling.
Minimizing the magnitude of the mess that was dumped in Obama’s lap is absolutely central to the GOP’s whole case against Obama’s economic record. Before long virtually every major Republican and conservative voice will be full-throatedly chanting in unison from the same sheet music.
* How Romney used to respond to high gas prices: An important scoop from Alec MacGillis, who discovers that Romney (who is now bashing Obama over high gas prices) responded to them when he was Governor of Massachusetts just as Obama has been:
Befitting his profile as a moderate Republican who cared about the environment, Governor Romney responded to price spikes by describing them as the natural result of global market pressures and by calling for increases in fuel efficiency — the same approach that he now derides Obama for taking as president.
Key Romney quote from 2006: “I don’t think that now is the time, and I’m not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline. I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.”
No end to it. Will this get any attention amid a relentless media focus on high gas prices? Probably not, thanks to flip-flop fatigue.
* White House pushes back hard on gas prices: Amy Gardner and Scott Wilson have a nice overview of the White House’s newly-aggressive campaign to turn gas prices from a negative into a positive, which continues today with the second stop on his energy tour.
The key question: Whether Obama can punch through public anxiety about gas prices and the economy and broaden the conversation to one about our energy future.
Relatedly: Glenn Kessler pans one of Obama’s central talking points on gas prices as misleading.
* Public supports Keystone project: With Obama set to approve the southern half of the pipeline, a new Gallup poll finds that a solid majority favors moving forward with the project, underscoring the challenge Obama faces in broadening the conversation.
* Romney tries to clean up Etch-A-Sketch mess: This quote from Romney could loom large: “I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I will be running as a conservative Republican nominee.”
There is now video of Romney claiming he will be running in the general election as a conservative. One hopes that this will figure into the equation when his inevitable pivot begins, and that pundits will not grant him the presumption of moderation the second he becomes the nominee.
* The strategy behind selling the Ryan plan: Jake Sherman talks to Republicans about their strategy for rolling out the Paul Ryan plan, and ferrets out these telling details:
On the day before the budget rollout, top Republicans gathered in Speaker John Boehner’s smoky Capitol conference room with National Republican Congressional Committee officials and went over key phrases. Call the Medicare reform “bipartisan,” they were told. Frame it as helping to “fix Medicare and keep it from going bankrupt.” Be sure to point out that Americans 55 or older would not be affected. And say it gives seniors the choice of “staying in the current Medicare system or using the new one.”
Using this phrasing, 46 percent in an internal GOP poll — conducted in January — would support the Republican argument that Medicare is going bankrupt, Republicans were giving them a choice and the GOP is trying to preserve the program. The Democratic argument that Republicans were ending Medicare registered at 37 percent.
Of course, the plan is not “bipartisan” in any meaningful sense (though both sides play this game), it does still tamper with Medicare’s basic mission, and it was widely panned in the press.
* But will GOP campaign on Ryan plan? Perhaps the above is compromised a bit by this telling nugget in today’s New York Times wrap-up of the jousting over Ryancare:
Asked whether the National Republican Congressional Committee would campaign on the Ryan budget, its spokesman, Paul Lindsay, said it was focused on attacking Democrats for $500 billion of Medicare cuts in the 2010 health care law.
This is about blurring the lines as to who would transform Medicare’s fundamental mission, and who would defend it. Keep an eye on how GOP incumbents and candidates handle the Ryan budget.
* Will Ryan plan pass the House? It passed the budget committee by one vote, with two conservative Repubicans defecting because it doesn’t cut spending enough, leading to speculation that Republicans could see more conservative opposition endangering its full passage.
GOP leaders are confident it will pass, and Dems are vowing that no one on their side will back it.
* Next stop, single payer? Ezra Klein on how Ryan-mania could paradoxically lead us to a single-payer system.
* Obama hits Romney over health care: The President mocks Romney for “pretending like he came up with something different” on health reform. While there’s no question Obama still faces an uphill battle in turning public opinion around on his signature domestic accomplishment, this kind of pushback is why some conservatives fear Romney is exactly the wrong person to prosecute the case against it.
* Will Dems fight GOP on student loans? Over 80,000 students have signed a petition organized by Credo Action calling on Senate Dems to aggresively fight the GOP over a 2007 law that’s set to expire this summer, doubling federalized student student loan rates.
The issue — which activists say is about securing an education for working class kids and by extension the country’s economic future — seems like a good one for Dems worried about lackluster enthusiasm among the youth vote, a core constituency.
* And more (gulp! uh oh) good news on the economy: Jobless claims drop again, to their lowest level since 2008, and Steve Benen has it in chart form.