I hope the Obama campaign pays very close attention to this finding from the new CBS poll, which has Obama and Romney statistically tied at 46-45:
Fewer than half of voters think either candidate has a clear plan for creating jobs, but more think Romney has a plan (43 percent) than say that about Obama (35 percent).
Barely more than a third say Obama has a clear plan for creating jobs. It’s true that Obama has a very large advantage when it comes to voter perceptions of which candidate understands people’s problems. For Obama those numbers are 54-42. For Romney they are 41-50. But the poll finds that 32 percent are undecided about whether they view Romney favorably. There’s plenty of room for him to fill in a positive picture of himself at the convention and in the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads that Romney’s team of Mad Men are cooking up. The question still remains whether Romney has enough material left to tell a convincingly positive story about himself. But it does seem likely that he’ll improve his image in the next few weeks.
What’s more, it’s likely Romney will retain a built-in advantage on the economy. Romney doesn’t have an actual plan for the short term crisis, in the sense that he’s not proposing anything he wouldn’t be proposing if the economy were soaring. But public disillusionment with the recovery could lower swing voters’ pickiness about the true nature of the alternative Romney is offering. If Obama is going to fight Romney to a draw on the economy, and win in other areas, it’s not enough to try to discredit Romney’s ideas by exposing the fraudulent claim that his corporate past was about job creation or by driving home that Romney would revive an approach — deregulation and tax cuts for the rich — that didn’t produce shared prosperity last time around.
What’s needed is a clearer contrast between what an Obama second term would look like and what a Romney first term would look like — and a vivid picture of the direct impact each would have on the lives of regular people. Obama, of course, has proposed more investments in infrastructure, education, and protecting public sector jobs in the form of the American Jobs Act. But voters either don’t know enough about it or don’t know why they should believe Obama will be able to pass jobs legislation next year.
In fairness, the Obama campaign is well aware of the need for a specific forward-looking contrast. You can see the beginnings of an effort to establish one in the new ad featuring Bill Clinton, which compared Obama’s and Romney’s long term approaches to the economy. And the Obama camp is working hard to draw a sharp contrast in other areas, such as women’s health, immigration, entitlements, and taxes. But if CBS is to be believed, on jobs — the central issue in this campaign — there’s still a long way to go. We keep hearing that Dems want this to be a “choice” election. So make the“choice” as clear as possible.
* Obama allies hit Romney’s record in Massachusetts: With the GOP convention gearing up today, the Obama-allied Priorities USA Action is up with a well made ad in five swing states that features a small business owner and self-described independent from Massachusetts claiming she won’t vote for Mitt Romney again.
She discusses the state’s 47th-in-the-nation job growth, and claims she’d been “duped” by Romney, discovering he only “cares about big business” and “tax cuts for wealthy people” but not for her “hard working employees.” The idea is to get people to ask themselves what Romney is actually offering to middle class voters. Given the weeks of attacks on Obama for allegedly disdaining small business people, why haven’t we seen more like this?
* Dems again hit Romney’s Bain years: The DNC is out with a new Web video that reprises the attacks on Bain Capital for layoffs that devastated communities and investments in companies that moved jobs overseas. It quotes a layoff victim saying: “We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.”
Dems will amplify these themes all week to counterprogram the extended paeans to Romney’s job creating prowess that will be featured at the convention as voters tune in to learn about Romney for the first time. Dems are going on the attack during the GOP gathering, a break with protocol.
* Don’t expect much of a convention bounce: Ron Brownstein on why you shouldn’t expect much movement on either side this year, thanks to the drastically shrunken pool of undecided voters. What to watch: whether the polls register any movement on whether voters think Romney cares about people like them; also, keep an eye on the poll questions about whether he would represent the interests of the middle class. That’s where Romney really needs to move the needle.
* Romney used to favor regulation and government investment: Binyamin Applebaum has a deep, deep dive into Romney’s gubernatorial years and his previous support for regulation and government investment in the economy, both of which he has now turned upon. As the story details, Romney had to jettison his sensible views about government partnering with the private sector in order to become the GOP’s standard bearer.
One Massachusetts official: “He’s altogether a different person now.”
* Romney’s Nixonian campaign: A great read from Mike Tomasky on the common ground between Romney’s false welfare attacks and Nixon’s politics of resentment:
Nixon led, and Romney is now leading, a vengeance campaign against an Other America, an America their supporters despise. Romney’s is a campaign that seeks to win, that can only win, by dividing the country into an “us” and a “them.” I confess that I’ve been genuinely shocked by the baldness of Romney’s lies about welfare and Medicare and about the way he’s racialized this campaign. I guess that’s precisely because, whatever he seemed, he did not seem sinister like Nixon. And he may not be. But he is clearly a man who will do and say anything to be president.
Romney has decided he can’t win only by turning this election into a referendum on Obama’s economic performance.
* Getting the facts straight on Medicare: Glenn Kessler has a quick and useful guide to the basics. No, Obama did not gut Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
* What does Romney believe on abortion? Jed Lewison makes a good point: Romney’s claim that abortion has been “settled” in the courts really should be inviting more scrutiny from all sides, and not just the anti-abortion warriors, as to what he really believes.
Relatedly, Steve Benen asks the right question: “Mr. Romney, do you realize that if you’re elected, you get to nominate new justices on the Supreme Court, or do you hope voters are unaware of this?”
* And Romney’s plan to close the gender gap: Yes, the Romney campaign really intends to do this in part by reviving the controversy over Hilary Rosen’s comments.