Obama’s Problem: Week Revealed His Weaknesses
Earlier in the week I wrote this column that contrasts 2008 and with 2012. ABC’s World News notes how this week revealed Obama’s 2012 weaknesses and contrasts with 2008. The key question will be: will this be a turning point for Obama’s re-election campaign or the kind of rough patch that he faced in his nomination battle with Hillary Clinton where he seemed on the descent but suddenly soared due to a)her mistakes and b)his campaign learning from its weaknesses?
First went the mood. Next, the muscle failed. Finally, to close out a horrific week for President Obama’s reelection bid, went the message.
The first week of June began with a monthly jobs report that solidified a sense of an anemic economic recovery. Then a Democratic loss in Wisconsin, coupled with staggering Romney campaign fundraising figures, revealed the strength of political organization on the right.
The week was punctuated by the most prominent voice in the party short of the president himself undercutting key Obama campaign messaging. To round out the rough patch, the president tried to turn the story lines around, but wound up delivering the kind of line that’s tailor-made for his opponents to make famous.
“The private sector is doing fine,” President Obama said Friday, at a press conference organized because it most certainly isn’t, at least in the minds of most Americans.
The president clarified himself within hours, saying that “it’s absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine.” Top Obama advisers surely want the episode to go away quickly, and are eager to point out that a bad June is better than a bad October.
“I suspect much of this will be of little consequence,” David Axelrod said today on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
That’s call spin. Clearly, Obama’s comment was not helpful to his message or image — a fact undersscored by Alexrod trying to avoid answering whether the private sector is fine or not three times. It clearly is of consequence now and Team Romney will be playing the sound bite up until election day — and Romney will most definitely use the quote during the debates. ABC again:
But this was about more than losing a few news cycles, or inspiring a few Web videos.
Taken together, the beginning of June 2012 may be remembered as a time period that shook the pillars of the Obama reelection effort. If nothing else, it’s shown the 2012 landscape to be so different from 2008 as to make assumptions based on four years ago seem worthless.
The Democratic base, while still solidly behind Obama, has shown signs of atrophy, as the failed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker displays. Former President Bill Clinton’s comments on Romney’s business record and how to handle expiring tax cuts, meanwhile, show fraying of party unity in a way Democrats find all too familiar.
On the other side, the Republican Party and its high-powered allies have clearly improved in terms of organization and focus since 2008 and even 2010. The Walker victory was a psychological boost, and it gave deep-pocketed GOP allies a chance to flex their still-flush wallets.
Plus, the speed and breadth with which Republicans pounced on Obama’s “doing fine” comments show a marked improvement on the communications front.
Financially, operationally, and strategically, Obama’s Chicago team is clearly facing a formidable match in Romney’s team in Boston.
So the question again becomes: is this what they choose to battle or do they also choose to be geared up to run a slicker, more efficient campaign than they’ve shown so far?
One big constant from 2008, to the dismay of Democrats, is the uncertainty of the economy. It’s that fact, more than dry runs for campaign organizations or winning ultimately meaningless June news cycles, that could make the past week truly memorable.
If the economy is still bad Obama would need — more than ever — a qualify campaign operation, message, and communications skills to win.
That seemed to be in doubt this week.
UPDATE: Here’s a roundup on whether Obama gave the GOP a huge gift.