This is a nice bit of political jiu-jutsu from the Republican National Committee, capitalizing prominently on Bill Clinton talking about how Mitt Romney is right, and Obama hasn’t “fixed America” yet. Plenty of other Obama surrogates saying similar things are stirred into the mix.
The Obama team has always faced an uphill battle convincing Americans that his disastrous first term was really the set-up for a second-term Golden Age, now that Obama finally managed to fill the hole dug by his predecessor. Right off the bat, that’s not what Americans want to hear during a presidential election. They elect presidents for four years, not eight; second terms are awarded for the continuation of a performance they liked, not another chance at bat.
And they really don’t like endless excuse-making, particularly when Obama’s competitor has done such an effective job of pointing out how specific Obama policies created the current malaise, not lingering damage from the almighty George Bush, destroyer of worlds. One reason Obama’s strategy has failed is that he and his surrogates never get around to explaining exactly what Bush did that was so horrible. There are plenty of criticisms to be leveled at him, but they all come from the Right. When Obama tries to complain that Bush spent too much money, sentient Americans laugh at him.
But the other problem for Obama is that his campaign has occasionally veered into trying to convince Americans that things are actually going great under his stewardship. Michelle Obama was pushing wild talk about a “booming economy” just the other day. They haven’t been consistent about portraying themselves as gritty underdogs doing the best they could against those irresistible “headwinds.” When they see that isn’t working, they panic, and try to convince us we’re really not so bad off after all.
Bill Clinton is one of the people who tried that, during the Democrat convention. But now he’s assuring us that of course America’s not “fixed.” The insincerity of Team Obama’s shifting messages is one of the reasons they’re not working. And voters with even the most cursory knowledge of the media landscape know that President Romney would get thrown off the national stage by the press, if he made even the most tentative effort to claim that he’s doing the best he can to clean up after Obama, as excuses for a bad economy in 2014 or 2016. It really will be good to have a President who is not inclined to offer such excuses, and knows full well that he wouldn’t be allowed to anyway, because Republicans are held accountable in ways that Democrats are not.