President Obama’s problems heading into the November election are less rooted in the ongoing economic struggles in the country than in a widespread sense of unmet expectations among those who backed him in 2008, according to a recent focus group conducted by Democratic pollster Peter Hart in Colorado.

Colorado Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez is unable to catch a double by New York Yankees batter Mark Teixeira in the third inning of their MLB interleague baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, June 25, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

“People are disappointed in economic conditions and the amount of debt the President has racked up, but he hasn’t lost these voters because of these problems. They sense that this is all a show. There is no roadmap, no program, and no conviction of where the President wants to lead the country. Participants say that Obama reminds them of their hometown baseball team, the Colorado Rockies (lots of promise but not a pennant).”

Participants in the group, which consisted of 12 people (10 of whom voted for Obama in 2008, but only four of whom are committed to him in 2012), also compared the president to former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (“he says all the right things, but when it comes down to it, he can’t perform,” writes Hart) and TV infomercial salesman Billy Mays (“‘too showy,’ putting on ‘a snazzy sales routine’”.)

“President Obama’s challenge is not in the current conditions, but rather, in contending with voters’ disappointment in their unmet high expectations,” writes Hart.

Yes, this is just one focus group in one swing state. And like any single event in a campaign— whether that be a poll, a television ad or something else — there is a tendency in the political world to overreact and blow it out of proportion.

But, Obama and his team would do well to heed the warning offered by Hart, who has been involved in Democratic strategy circles — at the highest levels — for decades. While some of what Hart found in the Colorado focus group is tough to hear for Obama loyalists, there are also avenues to success that reveal themselves in the memo.

The most obvious is that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is largely unknown (Hart describes him as the “remainder candidate”) and regarded as something short of warm and fuzzy.

Writes Hart:

“They perceive his personality as stiff and formal, and as nobody with whom they can identify. Few would opt to go to a ballgame with him over Obama — and those who WOULD go with Romney are looking for free food and drink.”

There’s also some evidence that the Obama case against Romney’s time at Bain Capital has yet to be fully litigated (or even close to it) in voters’ minds. Of the 12 participants in the focus group, nine — yes, NINE — knew nothing about the back and forth over Bain in the campaign to date.

For all of Romney’s lack of definition, however, the focus group makes clear that the election will ultimately come down to Obama, says Hart.

What Obama has to do is prove there is substance behind the sizzle that many voters — including many in this focus group — fell in love with in 2008. If he is perceived as putting on a good show but with no measurable results or any specific plan going forward, Obama likely loses.

“The President has not drawn a roadmap, nor has he provided any real perspective of where we are currently,” concludes Hart, adding later in the memo: “Voters are really trying to figure out whether President Obama deserves a second term and where he will take us.”

Ayotte, Portman and Ryan join Romney: A trio of GOP vice presidential contenders will join Romney on his upcoming bus tour: New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

The five-day trip will bring Romney from New Hampshire all the way to Wisconsin, traveling through a section of the country that will be vital to his campaign.

Portman is considered a favorite for the No. 2 slot, while Ryan and Ayotte are part of the second tier of potential running mates.


The Republican National Committe hits Obama’s big economic address in a new web video.

Maine Senate frontrunner Angus King (I) is asking for his opponents to forgo any super PAC spending on their behalf.

Citizens United has endorsed former congressman Dave Weldon in the Florida GOP Senate primary, despite Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) suggesting he’s already won.

Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) Senate campaign apologizes for a false allegation made against primary opponent Wil Cardon.

Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) owes more than $300,000 in legal fees as he fights a campaign finance investigation.

This member of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program has some interesting views.


Geithner proposed Hillary Clinton for Treasury secretary; White House scuttled idea” — Ned Martel, Washington Post

Congress reveals lawmakers’ personal mortgages for first time” — Paul Kane, Washington Post

Obama, Romney give dueling speeches in Ohio; economy is focus of both” — Amy Gardner, Washington Post

President Obama Is Calling His Opponent ‘Mr. Romney’ Now” — Dan Amira, New York Magazine

In Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, a launching pad but no big base” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post

Dean Heller: Tea partier or independent populist?” — Manu Raju, Politico