ABC News’s Terry Moran got it right when he tweeted, “Obama’s campaign seems small-bore, predominantly negative, and downright weird (Lena Dunham)--a candidate off-stride in the closing days.” I would add that apparently ripping off Vladimir Putin’s ad campaign was the least of President Obama’s problems today.
The third-quarter gross domestic numbers were released, showing a measly growth rate of 2 percent. The Associated Press noted, “Since the recovery from the Great Recession began in 2009 the U.S. economy has grown at the slowest rate of any recovery in the Post-WWII period.” Not surprisingly, the Romney camp pounced, putting out a statement pointing out that this was less than half the growth rate predicted by the Obama team (4.3 percent). “Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay,” Mitt Romney declared. He is right in that regard, and multiple economic gurus made the point that with this growth rate we’ll be looking at sky-high unemployment for the foreseeable future.
The timing could not have been better for the Romney camp as its candidate prepared to deliver an economic speech in Iowa. His central argument was, according to released excerpts: “We have had four presidential and vice-presidential debates. And there is nothing in what the President proposed or defended that has any prospect of meeting the challenges of the times. Raising taxes will not grow jobs or ignite the economy — in fact, his tax plan has been calculated to destroy 700,000 jobs. A new stimulus, three years after the recession officially ended, may spare government, but it will not stimulate the private sector any better than did the stimulus of four years ago. And cutting one trillion dollars from the military will kill jobs and devastate our national defense. This is not the time to double down on the trickle-down government policies that have failed us; it is time for new, bold changes that measure up to the moment, that can bring America’s families the certainty that the future will be better than the past.”
Then on the national security front, which once upon a time was thought to be President Obama’s strong suit, more Libya news broke. We learned that “an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later was denied by U.S. officials — who also told the CIA operators twice to ‘stand down’ rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.” The president’s refusal to fully explain what happened there has left a vacuum that nearly every day is filled with troubling news. Was there some good reason for the order? Did the president make the call? Could we have saved our people? Obama should be answering these and other questions, but he won’t. The void in leadership and competence is now an open wound.
It is not clear whether the raft of bad news will change voters’ minds, but it can well accelerate the dramatic shift in the electorate since 2008. In what may be the most frightening news for the Obama camp, Gallup reported today that in contrast to 2008, when the electorate was split 54 (Democrats and those who lean Democratic) to 42 percent (Republicans and those who lean Republican), it looks like Republicans and Republican leaners will outnumber Democrats 49 percent to 46 percent. If that’s the case, take every state and national poll and add a whole bunch to Romney’s column. Suddenly, all the critics of public polling that showed a 7-to-9-point advantage in the electorate for Democrats look pretty smart.
In sum, you have one camp where the message, the electorate and the news are all downers. On the other side, you have a positive message, new ad buys in the blue state of Minnesota and the potential for a huge turnout. Two campaigns, traveling in very different directions.
In Iowa, Romney made the case that the president is short on accomplishments (“President Obama did not repair our economy, he did not save Medicare and Social Security, he did not tame the spending and borrowing, he did not reach across the aisle to bring us together. Nor did he stand up to China’s trade practices, or deliver on his promise to re-make our relations with the Muslim world, where anti-American extremism is on the rise”) and small in vision (“Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke to the scale of the times. Today, he shrinks from it, trying instead to distract our attention from the biggest issues to the smallest--from characters on Sesame Street and silly word games to misdirected personal attacks he knows are false.”) He contrasts that with the optimistic, bold vision he holds for the future:
We will create 12 million new jobs in just four years, raise take-home pay, and get the American economy growing at four percent a year—more than double this year’s rate. After all the false promises of recovery and all the waiting, we will finally see help for America’s middle class.
Paul and I won’t stop there. When we take office, we will take responsibility to solve the big problems that everyone agrees can’t wait any longer.
We will save and secure Medicare and Social Security, both for current and near retirees, and for the generation to come. We will restore the $716 billion President Obama has taken from Medicare to pay for his vaunted Obamacare.
We will reform healthcare to tame the growth in its cost, to provide for those with pre-existing conditions, and to assure that every American has access to healthcare. We will replace government choice with consumer choice, bringing the dynamics of the marketplace to a sector of our lives that has long been dominated by government.
These things among others we can only do if we work tirelessly to bridge the divide between the political parties. We will meet with Democrat and Republican leadership regularly, we will look for common ground and shared principles, and we will put the interests of the American people above the interests of the politicians.
He couldn’t have found a more timely day on which to deliver that argument. We’ll see if Obama has anything more than insults and accusations in the next 10 days. If not, Romney will win the presidency.