In a post today, Ed bemoans Barack Obama’s campaign as hyper-negative and critical and wonders if the president isn’t punching himself out well before election day. My observations are this. Obama is doing to Mitt Romney — so far successfully — what George Bush did to John Kerry: play a weak hand well. Bush, suffering under a failing Iraq war plan and a shaky economy, defined John Kerry negatively over the course of the summer. The scripts are eerily similar between ’04 and ’12, right down to the message frames. Swing voters got introduced to Kerry as a flip-flopper and as a phony elitist; Romney is getting known as an elitist who favors the wealthy and lacks any empathy for average people. (For a great read on how Romney has lost the summer of his campaign, read Robert Shrum’s piece in the Daily Beast.)
It is instructive to remember that despite the success of the Bush campaign in the summer, John Kerry came close to beating George W. in November. And, more ominously for Obama, Bush's hand, while weak, was stronger than Obama’s. So the race is still on track to be even closer than 2004. In the meantime, Obama is doing what he must. Keeping a weak candidate on the ropes any way he can.