John Ellis says Obama’s message should be less about attacking Mitt Romney’s qualifications and background and more about what Romney would do to gut popular social programs and what a Romney presidency would mean to ordinary Americans:

Everyone knows that pensions (Social Security) and health care (Medicare, Medicaid, child health programs) are going to bankrupt the nation unless they are “right-sized” to revenue and existing debt. Whoever is elected president in 2012 will have to “right-size” these programs over the course of the next four years.

The framed choice for the white voters who will decide this election is this: Who do you think will better protect the interests of working-class and middle-class families when the inevitable cuts are packaged? Who do you want negotiating for you when it comes down to who gets hurt and who doesn’t? Do you really want Mitt Romney and a bunch of right-wing congressmen making these decisions?

Andrew Sullivan agrees:

Obama should say to voters what Clinton did: we all know we’re going to have to sacrifice. Would you rather I was in the mix defending your economic security — or do you want to leave it all to Romney and Ryan? Do you really think we can tackle this debt without any contribution from the super-rich? If you do, vote Romney-Ryan.

As it happens, the Dem firm Democracy Corps released some new focus-grouping that supports this general suggestion. It found that voters are not receptive to arguments that the economy improving, but non-college whites in particular are particularly receptive to a message about taxes and entitlements, and “clearly fear that Mitt Romney and the Republicans will cut things that matter to them because they not willing to cut taxes for the rich.”

By the way, there’s a frame already in place to start amplifying this message more effectively. It’s a frame Romney himself uses regularly. His ads frequently ask: “What would a Mitt Romney presidency look like?” and talk about what he’ll do on “day one” of his presidency. The Obama campaign might consider pivoting off of these very phrases to paint a vivid picture of its own of what a Romney presidency would really look like — cutting taxes deeply on the rich, restarting policies that could make the crisis worse, taking away Obamacare protections the pubic supports, quasi-voucherizing Medicare — and contrast it sharply with what you should expect from Obama’s second term. As many others have already pointed out, the latter has not been spelled out clearly enough.