By Robert Schlesinger |
President Obama's "Bain strategy" is dead on arrival. Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital is fair game because it's a central part of his campaign narrative. But the president's off-message surrogates scrambled this offensive before it could leave the editing room.
Obama's team would be much better off coming up with a game-changing, innovative marketing program that rockets his slim lead north by a large margin. It probably thought that what worked for Ted Kennedy in 1994 would work again in 2012. But this isn't 1994. Kennedy's "Bain strategy" saved his Senate run from a bruising loss to upstart Romney because Romney was still in the midst of his private equity career. Not to mention, private equity was considered one of the drivers of the early 1990s recession.
The public is concerned with job growth, but attributes high unemployment to the financial crisis, broken government, and the president's weak economic stewardship. Not to mention, the latest polls show that Bain has landed with a thud. Sixty percent of the public sees business experience as a major advantage, and 53 percent haven't even heard of the firm. Unless the president launches a strong and sustained attack on Romney's business career, the GOP candidate has plenty of time to offer voters a more positive account of his experience.
But therein lies the rub. For the president to succeed, he needs to make sure that his message is cohesive and that his surrogates rally around him—an essential component to maximizing the effects of the echo chamber. Newark, N.J. Mayor Corey Booker, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Ed Rendell, and Harold Ford Jr., have already knocked this missile off target. Their criticism has raised doubts about ads, put the story on the top of the news agenda, and given Republicans a solid defense against them.
The other problem is that the president's campaign made only a $250,000 ad buy in a couple of swing states. GOP super PACs are spending millions to bombard voters with claims that Obama is a business-unfriendly leader who wants to inundate "job creators" with excessive regulation. Unless the president can come up with a new and more brilliant strategy, he's going to continue to squeak by with a hair-width's lead, with an indifferent electorate hesitant to give him a second term.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research