The Obama campaign is out with a new Spanish-language ad in Florida, Ohio and Virgina that is noteworthy because it hints at the template the campaign will use as it defends his economic performance in the home stretch of the campaign. Here’s a translation of the script:
Let’s talk facts. When President Obama took office our economy was on the verge of disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs every month.
The policies of the last Republican President were disastrous. Obama stopped the crisis and we are recovering.
And now Romney and Ryan ask us to return to the policies that CAUSED the crisis. Back to the future? No way. Forward...with Obama!
This ad is tailored to a targeted constituency, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Obama campaign begins pressing this version of the argument more widely than it has. The Obama camp has at times been reluctant to declare outright that “we are recovering”; some Dems worry this risks alienating swing voters who are not yet feeling the recovery.
But there are signs that voters may be growing more open to this argument, in the wake of Bill Clinton’s convention speech, which spelled it out very effectively. As MSNBC’s First Read crew notes this morning, the new NBC/WSJ polls in Florida, Ohio and Virginia show a jump in the number who think we’re on the right track, to over 40 percent.
The NBC team attributes this to Clinton’s argument: “No president — not me or any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving, and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.” Clinton, of course, will continue to play a key role in trying to make swing voters feel better about the direction of the economy.
What’s more, the Romney campaign remains wedded to a strategy premised on the idea that these voters can be persuaded that Obama flatly failed on the economy. The word "failed” is now ubiquitous in ads from the Romney campaign and from the Rove-founded Crossroads GPS. The Romney team’s driving assumption remains that once voters come to their senses about the depth of Obama’s failure, they will opt for the alternative without being too picky about the specifics he is offering.
But that may prove to be a shaky assumption. Signs are mounting that voters are taking a more nuanced and longer view of the situation. Four of the most recent national polls have found that Romney no longer retains any advantage on who is more trusted to handle the economy and jobs, which suggests he is no longer being granted the presumption of economic superiority on the basis of his business background and promise of an alternative to the status quo. Yesterday’s Fox News poll found that only 36 percent of voters give Obama a “D” or an “F” on the economy, while far more are taking a mixed or more positive view. And likely voters feel by 50-43 that if Obama is elected, it will mean “the country’s improving and I look forward to another 4 years.” Voters are still not concluding in the numbers Romney needs that Obama was an abject failure.
Meanwhile, voters appear willing to factor the situation Obama inherited into their thinking. The new CNN poll finds a plurality, 42 percent, say that they are worse off than four years ago, while 37 percent say they are better off and 19 percent say the same. But it also finds that only 38 percent blame Obama and Dems for the country’s current economic problems, versus 54 percent who blame Bush and Republicans. Fifty three percent of independents, and 62 percent of moderates , blame Bush and the GOP. And get this: The CNN poll finds that 57 percent think conditions will be somewhat good in a year, and 11 percent say they will be very good. Only 27 percent say conditions will be somewhat or very poor.
So perhaps Romney’ backwards-looking framing — are you better off now than you were four years ago — may prove to be a miscalculation. Expect the Obama camp to draw a forward-looking contrast in the home stretch by making the case that the country is, indeed, on track to recovery.
UPDATE: The Obama campaign is now airing a new minute-long ad in the seven key swing states that amplifies this case in a big way.