Nothing that will occur inside the Democratic National Convention is as important as what is and will be occurring outside. And I don’t mean any stray protesters.
Today we learned that U.S. manufacturing plunged to July 2009 levels and construction suffered its biggest drop in a year. Coupled with several weeks of increased first-time jobless claims, we can expect a poor jobs report on Friday.
So does President Obama and his party spend the week telling us things are better? Surely they would set themselves up for a bashing — unless the job numbers surprise us.
Does he say the economy would have been worse without him? Well, the Bush and Reagan recoveries were much stronger than whatever is we are experiencing. (Calling it a recovery flies in the face of voters’ deeply held conviction that we are still in a recession).
No wonder the Romney-Ryan ticket has jumped all over the president’s comment that he should get an “incomplete” on the economy. You imagine the ad men must be firing up those spots in which Obama says that failure to turn around the economy would make his presidency a “one-term proposition”:
The president, I guess, could continue to blame his predecessor. But the utility of “Blame Bush” is also diminishing, not to mention it’s a dicey proposition more than three years into your own term. Voters think George W. Bush may have been partially responsible for the economic collapse, but they now hold Obama accountable for what he has done (or not).The more he complains about how bad things were the less he seems able to handle the cards he was dealt. Moreover, Mitt Romney is now there to say that, while Obama may be overwhelmed by events (who would argue with that?), he is not and can clean up the mess from two administrations.
In some ways the Democratic convention is worse for Obama than the Republican gathering was. That’s because his biggest problem has always been the Obama economy, which the 2008 Obama said would be much better. You almost wonder if the Obama team wished there were no convention, which is simply a magnet for thousands of reporters to ask pesky questions and compare him to his 2008 version. Obviously, the Obama team was caught unprepared to answer the “what grade do you give yourself?” query. On the first day of the convention, it made the story all about his economic record, precisely what he wants to avoid.
Romney’s challenge at his convention was explaining who he is, something entirely within his control in a professionally run convention. The narrative was: I am not an ogre and I have a plan to fix things. Obama doesn’t need to reintroduce himself. And he’s refused to present an agenda that is more than a few Keynesian crumbs (hire teachers, more stimulus money for roads) and raising taxes (which isn’t stimulative at all). That leaves an awful lot of time to fill.
So what do the Dems do for three days? Not tout the economy. Not make the event about its extreme position on abortion. Well, there is always the killing of Osama bin Laden. And there is the class-warfare card. And there is trying to make Romney out to be a radical, which works a lot less well after the voters have learned more about him. Did I mention killing Osama bin Laden?