By Teresa Welsh |
"This is what the campaign is going to be about," President Obama asserted on Monday. Is he serious? Obama's campaign is about arguing that Mitt Romney is not fit for the presidency because he's a heartless businessman? Or more simply, "The other guy's worse; vote for me."
By unequivocally supporting the hard-hitting attacks on Romney, Obama's lost the moral high ground and his long-acknowledged strategic advantage. He's tossed aside not only his 2008 campaign mantle of "Hope" and "Change," but also his recently announced theme "Forward." No longer an inspiring and transformative leader, he's now a politician. He's an incumbent running from his record, not on his record.
That's why some well-regarded Democrats, like Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, are not pleased with either the harshly negative tone of the attacks on Romney's experience at Bain Capital or the lingering perception they leave that their party is "antibusiness." These Democrats know that in a center-right country, it's political suicide to be branded the party of "tax and spend liberals" who believe that government is the solution and not the problem (paraphrasing Reagan's famous comment). These Democrats don't want to go back to being the party of Walter Mondale in 1984. They don't want to give up the gains they made in becoming the party of fiscal responsibility under President Bill Clinton's leadership. Of course, there's also the practical side: to seriously compete with Republicans, Democrats must keep raising money from those who've achieved enormous financial success on Wall Street.
Before Obama's campaign unleashed these attacks, he could legitimately claim that while there is much more work to do, He should get credit for "fighting the good fight." He could argue that while he's been slowed down by Republicans and their special interests, he's not been stopped. He could explain that he staunched the recessionary bleeding with the stimulus package, delivered on national healthcare reform, and beat back the Tea Party-spiked House Republicans on the budget. He could offer a positive agenda and tell Romney, "Stop looking back, we're going forward." Instead, his campaign has now opened the door for Romney to question not only Obama's past performance as president, but also what Obama's qualifications for the presidency were when he won the White House four years ago (a first term senator, a community organizer, a lecturer at a law school?).
Although Obama and his strategist David Axelrod are merely following the campaign script executed successfully by George W. Bush and his strategist Karl Rove in 2004, they've failed to realize that Bush had lost his "uniter, not a divider" image when he approved the military invasion that initiated the Iraq War in 2003. Bush had nowhere to go but to his conservative base for support by 2004. Then again, maybe this is a sign from his campaign that they know Obama lost his "postpartisanship" reputation during the healthcare debate in 2010, and that he, too, has no where to turn except to his progressive base to try to eke out a win. Whatever the motivation, this is no way to run a reelection campaign.
About Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research