It’s becoming clearer and clearer that one of the primary challenges facing Obama’s reelection campaign is figuring out a way to turn the focus on to Mitt Romney. The GOP challenger seems to be enjoying a presumption of economic competence from swing voters that suggests one of two possibilities.
Either voters are already very open to the premise of Romney’s candidacy, i.e., that his corporate experience can be applied to turning around a whole country, or frustration with the current pace of the recovery is so severe that voters are willing to entertain any alternative without focusing too closely on the details.
Today’s new Post polling drives home the depth of Obama’s challenge on this front. It finds that Obama and Romney are roughly tied when it comes to positive views of their economic plans — while more view Obama’s negatively.
The poll shows that 43 percent of voters view Obama’s economic plans favorably, versus 40 percent who say the same about Romney’s. Meanwhile, negative views of Obama’s plans are slightly more solidified; 51 percent view Obama’s plans unfavorably versus 46 percent who view Romney’s unfavorably.
The same dynamic is present among independents. The two men are roughly tied, with 38 percent viewing Obama’s plans favorably and 35 percent saying the same about Romney’s. But far more view Obama’s plans unfavorably (54) than say the same about Romney’s (47).
The question is whether these numbers reflect anything more than a referendum on the current state of the economy. But here’s the bad news for Obama: Even if these numbers don't represent voter impressions of the two men’s actual plans, swing voters may very well cast their vote as a referendum on the status quo, as opposed to making a choice between two sets of policies, values, and visions for the future, as the Obama team hopes they will.
* Obama to deliver speech pleading for patience: The above is key to understanding why Obama, in his big economic speech this week, will argue that he needs more time to undo the damage left behind by his predecessor, and amplify the case that Romney would bring back the very policies that led to the crisis.
Worth asking: Will expert opinion on the question of whose policies would actually do more to fix the crisis even be part of the media conversation about Obama’s speech?
* Romney campaign to amplify message that Obama’s “out of touch”: An important read from Michael Barbaro gets inside the Romney campaign’s developing strategy to paint Obama as detached from the struggles ordinary Americans are going through and blind to the impact his policies are having on the economy.
This is all about neutralizing the Obama campaign’s attack on Romney as an out of touch rich fop by turning the out-of-touch charge back on Obama. The question, though, is whether this will really resonate as a character attack with voter perceptions of the president. While Obama’s economic plans are not polling well, most polling shows that more Americans think Obama, and not Romney, understands the problems of people like them.
* Another day, another Romney falsehood: Central to the “out of touch Obama” charge is a new claim: That Obama said in a Monday interview that he doesn’t understand that Obamacare is hurting small businesses. ABC News does a nice job debunking Romney’s new line, which Romney will continue to repeat anyway.
* Skittish Dems already in a panic? Karen Tumulty reports that anonymous Democrats are wringing their hands about the Obama campaign’s difficulties of late, and insist Obama’s inner circle is insular and not open to new ideas. Note David Plouffe’s response:
By November, “it’s going to be about: Who do I trust more in [his] approach to the debt? Who do I trust more to create middle-class jobs? Who do I trust more to create an energy future? Who do I trust more as it relates to Afghanistan? That’s what’s going to decide the election, not the contretemps of the moment. We’re very cognizant of that.”
One of the things that made the 2008 campaign so successful is that Obama advisers didn’t let themselves be thrown off their larger strategy by this kind of second-guessing. Indeed, at a similar point during that campaign, Plouffe famously referred to worried Dems as “bed-wetters.”
* Dem victory in special election was all about Medicare: The Dem victory in the special election yesterday for Gabrielle Gifford’s seat is being seen as a sign that casting GOP opponents as anti-Medicare and anti-Social Security could have success this fall. Though districts vary widely, virtually every GOP incumbent has voted for Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it.
* Jamie Dimon to the Hill today: With J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon set to testify today on Capitol Hill about the $2 billion loss, progressives are using the occasion to try to build support for Elizabeth Warren’s call for a new Glass-Stegall Act, which has become central to her contrast with Scott Brown when it comes to Wall Street regulation.
* Bonus Obama reelect reality-check of the day: Josh Kraushaar looks at recent polling that seems to show Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania within reach for Romney, thanks to Obama’s losses among blue collar whites. While this is certainly something the Obama team is worried about, it seems likely that any close polling in these swing states reflects the fact that the race is close in national polling.
* And could it all come down to northern Virginia? Real Clear Politics’ Scott Conroy on how demographic shifts in a slice of Virginia, where minorities, federal workers and other transparents with no cultural connection to the Old South, could help decide the presidential election. Obama’s slim lead in Virginia is important, because holding it could be pivotal to getting to 270 despite expected losses in the Rust Belt.