Share & Connect
Last week President Obama officially launched his re-election campaign. The announcement and speech were covered by all news outlets, but with a tongue in cheek tone to the coverage. This is because it was generally acknowledged that President Obama began his reelection campaign weeks ago and was beefing up the Democratic camp in response to Mitt Romney’s candidacy and the Republican Party. What republicans find even more obvious is the strategy that President Obama plans to use to win re-election.
In many ways, I believe President Obama is lucky. His personal approval ratings are still high because people like him. Even most republicans do not dislike President Obama personally. This is a great boon to his campaign, because his policies have otherwise been deflating since he took office.
Not since the Presidency of Jimmy Carter has a President had so many failures on the domestic front. Unemployment has stayed above 8% in the last four years. The government spent nearly a trillion dollars to jump start the economy, and it had little to no effect. The country has 500,000 fewer jobs than when Obama took the office. He spent his entire first two years pursuing an unpopular health care bill, and is poised to see it shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
He has triumphed green energy as the job sector of the future, but now has Solyndra as the symbol of green energy failures. He campaigned on cutting the deficit, but has run over 1 trillion dollar in deficits in each of the years he’s been in office. It took 43 Presidents and over 200 years to rack up a national debt of 10 trillion dollars, but President Obama has managed to add 6 trillion to it in just three years. For many, this amounts to a very weak record to run for re-election on.
Therefore, his campaign looks to be latching on to another strategy. In the last few weeks, President Obama has intensively been out speaking with very different demographics. The strategy seems to be based upon stitching together different groups with under a united democratic agenda, either through promises of the future or warnings of what a republican government would stand for. One of the topics is the “War on Women,” spun out of republican opposition to free birth control to women.
The President has promised to make sure all women have access to the pill, even if it means having taxpayers money cover the expense. Another topic is the youth vote, as Obama spoke at college after college about lowering the interest rates of student loans, promising to fight for loan forgiveness.
He has been continuously reminding his younger voters about how everyone should pay their fair share and fight for “shared prosperity.” This week he rounded out his strategy with a public affirmation of his personal support for gay marriage in a ploy to court the gay vote and gay donors. In a few weeks, we should be seeing him appeal to the all important Latino vote. With a stitch here, and a stitch there, he hopes to sew together all these disparate groups for him and in opposition to the republicans.
I believe it is a decent, if not desperate strategy but also one fraught with danger. Very few Presidents or presidential candidates have won with messages of opposition versus values. The Obama mantra of “Hope and Change” was a message of value, while an attempt at framing republicans as ‘social Darwinists’ is not.
In this area Romney has an advantage: A fresh slate to prove himself the man for a better economy, a better fiscal policy, and for the opportunity of all citizens to become successful. He can, if he chooses, be a conservative version of what Obama was in 2008. He could speak to issues that are of vital importance to all the different groups the president is courting at the moment. Thus far he has not done that, choosing instead to point out the miserable record of the President.
That tactic will not get him far. I believe Romney will have to campaign on what he will work to make America into, not on what people need to be afraid about. That tactic would have worked on Carter, but will not on Obama because of his personal likeability
More than anything the President’s personal approval ratings are boosting his political appeal. As the campaign rolls on, however, I expect he will need to hope for a misstep from Romney or for some surprise good economic news. Going from group to group, and speaking specifically to that group about only the things they want is a transparent tactic.
If he panders too much to separate groups, he will get run over in the all important election ads, and independents will flock to Romney. It may be the best he can do, but he will have to disguise it better as the campaign goes on. One thing he cannot afford is to be seen as just another politician.