By Kira Zalan |
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney says the recent barrage of attack ads against his candidacy expose Barack Obama's White House as "an angry and desperate presidency."
Overconfident? Perhaps. Uncommonly negative for an incumbent at this stage of the campaign? Certainly. But "an angry and desperate presidency?" Not now. Not yet.
It's not hard to understand how Romney gets this idea. He expected and wanted a referendum on the president's handling of the economy. The president's campaign knew this wouldn't end well and has worked overtime to prevent it through relentless—if not necessarily fair or accurate—attacks on Romney.
Moreover, particularly before Rep. Paul Ryan came on the scene last weekend as Romney's vice presidential candidate, the Romney campaign had not shown it could shake off the mud. As a result, the race has slipped considerably further from the challenger's grasp in recent weeks.
Polling guru Nate Silver puts Romney's chances of winning at 29.9 percent on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012. He says Romney must win Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and at least one out of Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire to achieve 270 electoral votes. And Romney's not clearly ahead in any of those states. It is indicative of the state of affairs of the Romney campaign that it is treated as good news that he has climbed above the 40 percent threshold in support among young people and among women.
If Romney can't regain control of the narrative, he will endure more attacks, more mud, more attempts to slice and dice voter groups to the incumbent's advantage.
President Obama's is not an angry or desperate campaign but one confident its strategy is working. Ryan may change that. His uncommon grasp of policy will help the campaign respond more aggressively to Obama's attacks. Already, he has begun to blunt Obama's "Mediscare" tactics, pointing out the president also calls for taking more than $700 billion from the program to fund his Obamacare initiatives.
These attacks—sharper and more focused than we've come to expect from Romney's team—will force the Obama camp to explain how it financed the healthcare overhaul, which could open new fronts in the debate.
"Unhinged"—Obama's description of Romney after his "angry and desperate" remarks became public—seems too strong a term. But if anyone seems upset at the pace and trends of the campaign, it is—and should be—Romney.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Activist, and Political Analyst
Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor of Political Science