The Washington Post

Dem convention will focus on Bush’s legacy — but not on Bush the man

The Obama campaign just held a conference call with reporters to discuss the GOP convention and contrast it with plans for their own gathering next week. The most notable tidbit: David Axelrod’s suggestion that Bush’s policies and legacy — but not Bush himself — will be key to the Obama campaign’s effort to draw a sharp contrast between where Romney and Obama would take the economy.

Axelrod joked that Bush the man would get about as much of a mention at the DNC as he did at the RNC — which is to say, almost none at all — but said Bush economics would be very much on the agenda.

“We are going to take issue with the policies that were in place in the last decade, because this is where they want to go back to,” Axelrod said. ”These are the policies that they want to embrace once again.”

I’ve noted here before that Dems need to do a better job in articulating what an Obama second term would look like, and contrast that effectively with what a Romney first term would look like, if they are going to make this a “choice.” A recent CBS poll found that only 35 percent of voters think Obama has a clear plan for the economy.

But Dems think Romney erred badly at his convention by focusing too hard on softening his image (which appeared to be a success) without drawing a clearer picture of his plans for the economy. They think that’s created an opening to draw a much more specific road map of their own.

“We try and look at this through the eyes of people who are still considering their choices,” Axelrod said. “They tuned in hoping to hear some practical solutions to the challenges we face.” Instead, Axelrod said, they heard “buzz words for the base.”

“Much of the convention was very much about the base of the Republican Party talking to itself,” Axelrod said. He mocked Romney’s message as “trust me — if you elect me, the economy will boom.”

A very clear picture of Obama’s second term would be advisable, but it’s unclear how much policy specificity Dems will offer. But you can expect Dems to seize heavily on the GOP ticket’s claim that they will make the “tough choices” Obama has failed to make. As Kevin Drum writes today, the true implications of Paul Ryan’s budget and vision are grim and draconian, with extremely deep cuts to Medicaid, child’s care and a host of other programs that the poor and middle class rely on — even as it cuts taxes deeply on the rich.Focus groups have shown that when voters are informed of the priorities underlying the GOP plans, they don’t believe what they’re hearing.

But Obama has a fairly high profile chance to spell all this out — his convention speech. He’ll likely pivot off Ryan’s “tough choices” message to lampoon the idea of what Republicans really mean by tough choices. And couple that with the argument that for all of Romney’s claims to job creation prowess, his plans wouldn’t do anything for the short term crisis and would revive an approach that got us in trouble in the first place.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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