Democratic pollsters and analysts Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert in a memo based on focus groups of independents, “weak” Democrats and “weak” Republicans deliver the bad news to the president: No one buys what you are selling. “It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance — and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction. They are wrong, and that will fail.” Coincidentally, the RNC is having a field day mocking President Obama for claiming that “we have made significant progress.”
The memo is amusing in places. Take this observation on focus group participants: “The discussion always begins with discussion of their experience with job losses for themselves and their families — and how that has left them struggling to pay for groceries. Most have jobs now, but speak about their lower wages and benefits. Because wages are down, there has been a dramatic rise in discussion of very basic pocketbook issues. And this does not seem like some passing phase.” Shorter: The economy is not doing fine.
Plainly the Obama strategists have got a problem with disappointed Obama 2008 voters: “These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction. They are living in a new economy — and there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country. They actually have a very realistic view of the long road back and the struggles of the middle class — and the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward. More than half of these independent swing voters supported Obama, so they want to be hopeful.”
Then comes the hammer blow. The Dems in effect push-polled their own focus group (“We gave respondents a fact sheet about Mitt Romney”), but even though they peppered participants with anti-Romney “facts,” Obama still comes out behind. “Despite Romney’s clear weaknesses, when asked whether Romney or Obama would do a better job on the economy, more chose Romney. That is some measure of the challenge we face, since many have heard the president’s economic message.”
The advice they give is for Obama to talk about the “future.” This is what they came up with:
By far, the strongest message was one focused on the future of the middle class — with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face. Most voters identified with the line that “the middle class has taken it on the chin for years.” The message turns mid-way to what we will do, beginning with raising taxes on those earning over $200,000 to make the economy work better for the middle class. It taps into their frustrations that began building before the recession even hit and recognizes that this election needs to be about the“future of the middle class.”
So raising taxes on affluent voters (whom the pollsters say are already defecting from Obama) is a recipe for recovery? No wonder there is panic in the Democratic ranks. The message sounds as if it came out of ”Class warfare for Dummies.” Moreover, it’s economic nonsense. Where is the plan to get the economy going?
Ah, there is the real rub. Obama doesn’t have a plan for jump-starting economic growth. His “big idea” is throw out some more billions to coax local and state governments into hiring more public employees.
The big takeaway from this that Romney’s central argument — Obama hasn’t helped the economy — is accepted as true by key swing voters. Liberal convince themselves of many things (Obama is a success, government isn’t spending enough, etc.), but in the real world most Americans don’t agree. The Democrats are trying to win a race by avoiding talk of the incumbent’s record and the fact that he has no real second-term agenda. Good luck with that.