The Washington Post

In 2012, will it be the economy vs. the safety net?

Two new ad campaigns provide a hint of what the 2012 campaign may look like. The first, a $20 million, nationwide television campaign, was launched yesterday by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. The ads reiterate the argument that President Obama’s policies have prevented a robust economic recovery. Obama’s numbers on the economy already are poor. The Crossroads ads are meant to keep them there.

The other campaign is from Majority PAC, a Democratic group, and consists of a much smaller radio buy in Missouri. The spot is what you'd expect: “If [Republicans] win,” says the female announcer, “Missouri can say goodbye to Medicare.” It’s the typical demagoguery on entitlements that’s been coming from Democrats since Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released his budget plan this year.

Right now, convincing the country that Republicans want to take away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is the only issue Democrats have. I'd say establishment Washington is convinced that “You Decide 2012” will come down to whether the economy trumps concerns over the future of Medicare. If the economy remains as poor as it is, or if it becomes worse, Obama will be much more vulnerable than people think. But, in the unlikely event of an improving economy, fears of a unified Republican government may help Obama remain in power.
Unless of course establishment Washington is wrong, and 2012 won't be about “economy vs. entitlements” at all. Remember: In the summer of 2007, we were all convinced that the Iraq war would be the most important issue in election 2008. You know how that turned out.


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