GOP Chief: America Not Better Off Under Obama

Reince Priebus leads Republican counterprogramming at Democratic convention.

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Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus makes an opening statement during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Conservative leaders hammered at President Obama Monday for failing to alleviate the "misery" of Middle America as the Republican National Committee began an elaborate counter-programming operation on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

The GOP theme is the same one Republican challenger Ronald Reagan used successfully in defeating Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

[Photos: Protesters Get Vocal at Republican National Convention.]

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told me on Monday morning that Obama has a very weak record to run on, with unemployment at 8.3 per cent and many Americans suffering from economic "misery." As a result, Obama is resorting to "dividing the country" by pitting Americans against each other such as the rich versus the poor, Priebus said. And 0bama is basing his re-election bid not on the "hope and change" message of 2008 but on "tearing down" the GOP, its presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Priebus added.

"The Barack Obama pixie dust is gone," the GOP chairman said.

[Photos: Romney Accepts Nomination]

The RNC has set up temporary offices in a NASCAR building not far from the Democratic convention center in hopes of countering the Democratic message with Republican counter-programming. More than 50 RNC staffers are at the site, which contains TV studios, news conference facilities, and squads of young people doing research and sending out a stream of emails to reporters and Republican loyalists.

Priebus acknowledged that the presidential race is essentially tied nationally but he argued that Romney will win in the end by emphasizing the Reagan "are you better off" message from 32 years ago.

  •  See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.
  • Photos: Charlotte Prepares for the DNC.
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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook or Twitter.