The Washington Post

Presidential campaigns operate on two levels: tactical and strategic

Ed's morning post contains an assumption with which I disagree. Ed says Obama's team believed they would have a relatively easy spring and summer, continuing to enjoy a comfortable lead over Romney. That may be true of some supporters but not the ones making decisions.

The key Obama strategists have long known that that there is no precedent for an incumbent president winning reelection with an economy like this one. In a sense, any decent Republican candidate — and what is interesting is how few actually made the race — should have been viewed as formidable, if not the favorite.

Once it was clear that Romney had the nomination, an outcome that members of the Obama team expected and game-planned, they hoped that their super PAC would have the resources to reinforce Romney's self-inflicted negatives from the primaries.

They did not, and they must have known that the consequences would result in Romney's rising in the polls, which is what has happened.

The problem facing the Obama campaign might be imagined as a scene in which the strategists input the economic data of the Obama's presidency and then feed in different scenarios on how their candidate might win against that fixed reality. The data goes into a giant super-computer with every possible demographic and geographic combination that adds up to victory. But under each game plan designed to overcome the political odds created by the economic crisis, the computer spits out the same two words, “you lose.”

So resource-constrained and with a deep political problem, the  Obama campaign has done a good job in the tactical war of the campaign. Presidential campaigns operate on two levels. One is the tactical, which is a daily war between your agenda, your opponent's and the media’s. The other is the strategic, which is the campaign's overall message and plan that equates to victory. It is here that Obama is struggling. Right now, the president's campaign is winning most daily skirmishes, but it still hasn't figured out how to win the real prize.


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