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May 09, 2012

Liberal Conventional Wisdom Starting to Twig On To AoSHQ Conventional Wisdom-- Obama Is an Underdog

When Harold MacMillan was asked what he most feared might derail his government, he famously, possibly apocryphally, said "Events, dear boy, events."

Although campaigns and candidate quality (personality, charisma, authority) do matter, events -- actual facts -- matter a great deal more.

Obama has bad facts, bad events. The only truly good event was capping bin Ladin, but bin Ladin had been isolated and cut off from Al Qaeda's actual governing leadership for years and years, thanks to Bush's manhunt for him. A good thing, true, but bin Ladin was in semi-retirement, watching porn all day in his squalid, dirty compound.

And on the other side of the ledger, the bad facts? Just about everything else.

Via the Captain, a liberal starts imagining the unimaginable.

The three most recent national polls—Democracy Corps (D), Gallup/USA Today, and the Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll—underscore how tough a reelection campaign Obama faces and why it’s fair to call him an underdog at this point. He’s stuck at 47 percent against Mitt Romney in all three surveys, with the small slice of undecided voters tilting against the president. His job approval ranges from 45 percent (Democracy Corps) to 48 percent (Battleground). Those numbers are hardly devastating, but given today’s polarized electorate, they’re not encouraging either.

Obama’s scores on the economy are worsening, even as voters still have mixed feelings on who’s to blame. In the Battleground survey, nearly as many voters now blame Obama for the state of the economy (39 percent) as those who don’t think it’s his fault (40 percent). In both the Battleground and Democracy Corps polls, 33 percent said the country is on the right track, with 59 percent saying it’s on the wrong track—numbers awfully similar to the state of play right before the 2010 Republican landslide. These are several leading indicators that suggest the trajectory could well get worse for the president as the election nears.

And speaking of events -- there are, of course, a lot of unknowns lurking out there, ready to become known at any moment; and one strains one's imagination trying to think of unknowns which could suddenly spring up which help Barack Obama.

Whereas one has little difficulty thinking of Sudden Events which would damage him further -- France and Greece, for example, imploding, while following policies which seem an awful lot closer to Obama's program than to Mitt Romney's.

And why even go abroad searching for monsters? What if California or Illinois melts down? What if they default, and/or their bonds stop selling?

The economy seems unlikely to improve dramatically -- indeed, it seems softening, worsening, deteriorating. It seems far more likely that, if the economy were to suddenly move from a slowly-degrading flatline, it would deteriorate precipitously, rather than suddenly improve markedly.

A sudden 6% jump in GDP would help Obama... but that seems less likely than a -2% double dip of the recession. Neither are very likely at the moment, but the former seems fanciful while the latter seems like a genuine possibility.

Even to the extent that election campaigns matter -- Is Obama's campaign a strong one?

The [$25 million ad campaign talking up an improving economy and job growth] is itself is in search of a cohesive message. The first part underscores how severe the recession was, as a preemptive defense for why the economy hasn’t turned around faster. The second half argues that America is “coming back,” thanks to job growth over the past year. It’s that part that will prove to be a tough sell. Indeed, it was top Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg who advised the campaign in February that this is the type of message -- saying things are getting better when voters don’t agree -- that polls miserably “and produces disastrous results.”

But Obama’s campaign officials can’t utilize the time-tested “are you better than you were four years ago” message because it doesn’t ring true, so they have to argue things are getting a little better and the administration needs more time. It shows how limited the Obama playbook is this time around—mobilize the base, lambaste the opposition, and hope enough independents will hold their nose and vote for you.

Obama's ads must, due to facts, remain a muddle -- it's bad, but it's getting better, not quite as bad as it could be. We must do better, because we cannot be satisfied with the horrible economy as it is, but who knows, it could be worse.

And Romney's ads? Romney's ads will show no such nuance -- they will paint the economy as the worst economy since the Great Depression. A message which has the benefits of being arresting, dramatic, easily conveyed, lacking in complication and nuance, and true.

Look at this, just one of many:

By the way, Romney's had harder-hitting ads than that in this past year. And the Republican Governors' Association cranks out the best, horror-movie-trailer ads I've ever seen, and they can be expected to put out some doozies this year.

Remember the "Remember November" ads?

They'll be turned to 11 this year. (And I suggest Romney borrow some of the cinematic techniques the RGA is employing.)

What's Obama's response to that going to be? That Romney is wallowing in unpatriotic negativism?

Yeah, that claim, that an opponent is being "unpatriotic" and "betting against America" when he points out "negative" economic realities just doesn't sell. I've seen people try that for years.

What it really sounds like is "Please stop saying that, it is absolutely catastrophic for my campaign fortunes."

Back over at the Hot Air link, James Carville warns liberals that they have to get out of the liberal cocoon and "WTFU," or Wake The F*** Up.

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posted by Ace at 04:16 PM

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