What Democrats learned from 2004
Here’s the bad news: While the American economy is still doing better than the most of the industrialized world, it’s still a bummer. You know the private sector is doing quite well compared to the public sector. If the GOP hadn’t forced layoffs of more than 600,000 workers in the public sector, the unemployment rate would be close to 7%. If we’d added a million government jobs as we did during the Reagan era, we would be much better off than that.
However, we’re still in a jobs crisis. 6 out of 10 Americans know this is because of what happened during George W. Bush’s administration. Still, it could even get worse because of two people: Ben Bernacke and Angela Merkel. The Fed’s failure to act to improve unemployment and Merkel’s failure to say all EU debt is German debt (and vice versa) have taken the air out of any recovery that was starting to hum earlier this year. And, thanks to these two, things will likely get worse, even as the housing market shows a little life for the first time in years.
Here’s the good news: Mitt Romney’s core argument is that he knows the economy, thus he could do a better job running it. No one doubts Mitt is rich so he could easily convince temporarily embarrassed millionaires he can make them rich, too. People would be inclined to embrace this logic, though in Mitt’s one chance to create jobs as elected official his record was the fourth worst in the country.
Recognizing Mitt’s edge, the Obama campaign knew that they had an opportunity in early summer. They knew Mitt would be focused on raising money and consolidating his base. They didn’t know he’d continually make gaffes and draw even more attention to his weaknesses by refusing to give details on most anything. But they knew they had to define Mitt Romney to swing voters before he could do it himself.
So the Obama campaign and allies like Priorities USA readied an attack on what they call Romney Economics. By going after what Mitt had done in his business life at Bain Capital and in Massachusetts, they made a case that I love: Mitt Romney represents exactly what’s wrong with the American Economy.
Mitt doesn’t know how to create jobs; he knows how to rig the system so the rich always win no matter how many workers get hurt.
The campaign spent millions making this case in swing states—like Ohio and Pennsylvania—that have seen the damage out-sourcers and off-shorers like Bain have done in contrast to the manufacturing resurgence under President Obama. And it’s working.
The President is up in swing states and Bain Capital is nearly as unpopular as Solyndra, which the GOP has spent years trying to hype into a scandal. The difference is one is a hyped-up misstep and the other was supposed to be Mitt’s entire argument for becoming President.
In 2004, the GOP defined a war hero as a coward and John Kerry never really recovered.
In 2012, the Democrats are defining a filthy rich businessman as a man who got rich at the expense of American workers. Defining your opponent is a clever strategy that seems to work even better when your definition happens to be true.
[CC image by DonkeyHotey]