As the GOP primaries heat up, and the 2012 election quickly approaches, the Obama reelection campaign has reportedly decided to focus all of its attention on the economy. Perhaps three years of being hammered by Republicans for poor job growth and high unemployment prompted this supposed change of focus.
“We’re seeing continuing high levels of unemployment. We see home values declining; foreclosures remain at record levels,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, concluding that Obama “has failed in the job he was elected to do.” And Romney’s not the only high-profile GOP candidate to attack President Obama on the economy. All of them have.
Therefore, because the Obama administration would like to see a repeat of the 2008 election, don’t expect to see feel-good messages like “Hope and Change.” Get ready for the dawn of “Fair Shot.”
As Christi Parsons and David Lauter of McClatchy-Tribune News Service point out, the Obama administration, up until this point, has relied mostly on the “It Could Be Worse” tactic while defending its economic initiatives. However, for all the obvious reason, strategists in the Obama camp don’t think this message will go far with the average American. They decided they needed something more proactive and endearing to voters.
So, what’s the new campaign theme? Parsons and Lautner report:
…increasingly, Obama and his aides have switched to a longer view, trying to focus attention on what they portray as the president’s defense of the middle class…The theme of giving the middle class a “fair shot” potentially works against whoever survives the demolition derby among the Republican hopefuls…The “fair shot” theme also provides a more positive message than previous Obama formulations, which some analysts saw as harder-edged attacks on the wealthy [Editor's note: admittedly, “fair shot” has a nicer ring to it than “punish our enemies"].
It’s about “defending the middle class” and giving them a “fair shot.”
“This isn’t just about recovering from this recession,” said a senior adviser to Obama, “This is about saving the middle class from a decline that’s been going on for three decades.”
The president’s “Teddy Roosevelt” speech at Osawatomie, KS., earlier this year marked the beginning of his “Defenders of the Middle Class” campaign strategy. You can expect to hear a lot more of this type of rhetoric, especially during his upcoming State of the Union address.
“It’s a much stronger position than where he was before,” said Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg. Talking about the “state of the middle class” connects with voters in a way that discussing the “state of the recovery” doesn’t, he said.
Not surprisingly, some analysts have labeled this new strategy as “class warfare” and have accused the president of continuing to “duck the nation’s problem of creating jobs.” But despite these criticisms, “Defenders of the Middle Class” is the theme the campaign has settled on and they’re going to stick to it.
“Obama set the stage for the new approach this fall as he told friends that he felt a need to deliver a speech that would look at the nation’s economic troubles from a ‘higher altitude,’” reports Parsons and Lautner.
Democratic strategists believe that there are two benefits to this new campaign theme. First, they believe there is a large audience (Occupy Wherever) that will take an instant liking to the message. Second, they believe ”Republicans have played into their argument by first backing tax cuts for the wealthy and then balking at a payroll tax cut aimed at the middle class,” writes Parsons and Lautner.
“The social Darwinism, the trickle-down economics – these are just not working for this country,” said David Axelrod. “The president’s vision was a very distinct vision from what the Republicans are offering.”
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