The summer season is behind us, the Olympics are over, the Republicans and Mitt Romney had their say in Tampa, and now it is President Obama and the Democrats' turn. With Labor Day marking the start of the campaigns' sprint to Election Day, the Democratic convention getting underway today in Charlotte, and more voters beginning to tune in to politics, the president is blessed with some good timing. He will need it.
The president is in a fragile position. There is no hint at a realistic renewal of his pledge of hope and change and the energy this promise created in 2008. After the debacle of the 2010 midterm elections, Obama and the Democrats did nothing to move to the right in policy or tone. The results of that failure speak for themselves. The president and his team can't say Americans are better off than they were four years ago and they won't admit to any mistakes.
At best, the president's campaign is about hope without any change; and at worst, his campaign is only about the politics of defamation. Nothing is off limits in trying to disqualify Mitt Romney as a person and as a president. If the president was honest in 2008 and if he is honest with himself today, he must hate the candidate he has become.
From reading the polls over the weekend, it is clear that the president is no better than even with Mitt Romney. It is good news for the president and his team that he is currently polling better than his low 40s job approval number. However, it means a portion of his support is coming from voters who think he has done a bad job but plan on voting for him anyway. The Romney campaign's mission will be to reconcile that logic. Hundreds of millions of dollars are poised to fuel the messages and operations of the campaigns that, to paraphrase Carter Eskew, are designed to capture 50 percent of the market share on one day in early November against one alternative. Tactically, the Obama campaign will work to keep the race close and win with a superior voter turnout organization.
Former RNC chairman Rich Bond said the formula for good turnout is to "organize, organize, organize and get hot at the end." The "get hot at the end" part will be a challenge for Obama. Many of his supporters from 2008 are demoralized, and the president's emotional appeal has withered. His turnout will not be fueled by legitimate enthusiasm but by the synthetic brute force of union machines and a 3-to-1 advantage over Romney in paid field staff. If the president keeps the race close, that could be enough to win Ohio and a couple of other states that Romney needs.
The president doesn't need a convention the way Romney did. In fact, the Democrats would probably like to avoid any scrutiny of the status quo or the direction of the country.
Watch David Plouffe on ABC with George Stephanopoulos and “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace and his guest David Axelrod. Neither could dare to say that America is better off than we were four years ago. Their clumsy handling of Sunday's talk shows has let this question take center stage. This is exactly what they don't want. They thought all the talk today would be about Bill Clinton, a Democratic president more popular than Obama.
There is no case to make for more of the same. And as Einstein almost once said, "The definition of insanity is reelecting Obama and expecting different results."