Patterico's Pontifications


Is Obama running the right campaign?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 8:59 am

[Posted by Karl]

Rick Santorum’s departure from the race not only virtually assures Mitt Romney of the GOP presidential nomination, but also provides a milestone from which to assess the state of Pres. Obama’s campaign.  Lately, Obama has been running as the “grim warrior” and the class warrior, in apparent recogintion of the difficulty of running on his record or the economy.  Although he certainly wishes this was not the case, it does not mean that Obama is campaigning irrationally.

Regular readers of mine know I am a fan of the fundamentals and stress the dominance of the economy in most election years.  Political scientist Lynn Varveck, who has studied the exceptions to the general rule, explains the usefulness of models of modern presidential elections:

If you were running for president, would you want to know what political science forecasting models predict about your party’s fortunes? As Stanley Greenberg said, presidential candidates and their consultants ignore this work at their peril. If you are predicted to win, talk about the economy and own it. If you are predicted to lose — find something else onto which the election can be reset. An issue on which you are closer to most voters and your opponent is constrained by an unpopular position. The latter is very hard and because of that, it is rare, which is why sometimes when we evaluate forecasts based on the economy it looks like campaigns don’t matter much — but this is just because most candidates who are predicted to win understand they have to talk about the economic growth, and when they do that, they win! Only Gerald Ford in 1976 lost after implementing this strategy.

Thus, if Obama thinks the economy will not significantly improve in the next six months, it makes sense for him to look for other issues.  To quote Mad Men‘s Don Draper, “If you don’t like what’s being said about you, change the conversation.”  But is Obama changing the subject to his advantage?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be “yes.”  Low taxes for the wealthy and “cuts” to Medicare never poll pretty well.  Thus, it is tempting to conclude that Mitt Romney’s defense of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget steps into Obama’s trap.

However, the latest Third Way poll of independents and “swing independents” in this year’s battleground states suggests otherwise.  [Note: Some of the states included here seem safely Democratic this year, but the list is quite similar to those reportedly targeted by both Obama and Romney, so I do not fault the poll on this score.]  Who the poll calls “swing independents” is important because the broad category of independents include so-called leaners who are actually very reliable voters for their favored party.  Thus, it is good news for Obama that at the moment, while he is virtually tied with Romney among these swing state independents in general, Obama leads Romney 35%-29% (44%-38% with leaners in this subgroup) among true independents.  Nevertheless, the Third Way analysis of the poll notes Obama won 57% of true independents in 2008.  Obama could do this well again, but it should concern his campaign that after four years of his administration, true independents in key states give him only 44% at best, even before a unified GOP goes on the offensive.  Third Way also notes these swing independents generally value economic opportunity over economic fairness.  RCP’s Alexis Simendinger summarizes:

“Swing Independents are searching for leaders who will articulate a positive vision for the future — one where the American economy is back on top and the next generation can achieve the American Dream. While the fairness framework does not feed this need, an economic opportunity message answers these deep concerns about the future.”


While progressives have urged Obama to dump his 2011 rhetorical emphasis on curbing debt and deficits in favor of a more combative re-election bid, those issues remain important to the undecided fence-sitters he will need to win a second term. These voters care about the size of government and debts and blame Congress more than Wall Street and special interests for gridlock and policy myopia.

If the Third Way’s survey is a guide, [Senate Minority Whip Jon] Kyl’s emphasis may be well placed. Fully 93 percent of swing independents said they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about the national debt.

In short, Obama is trying to change the subject, but to one which seems not particularly likely to move the most persuadable voters back into his camp.


61 Responses to “Is Obama running the right campaign?”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (f07e38)

  2. Can’t really offer much insight into ‘swing voters’ thinking but they make up no more than 1/4 of Indies and I do know one articulate representative.

    My impression is they hate both parties but the GOP more because of its perceived paucity of courage. Romney’s weakness as a candidate is discouraging to this particular “change” lusting switcher.

    I don’t think anyone cares what Dog says, its a race to the bottom.

    gary gulrud (1de2db)

  3. I don’t identify as a “conservative” or a “right-winger,” and certainly not as an actual “Republican”. What I am is, anti-stupid: which functionally equates to being consistently anti-leftist, and frequently anti-“conservative” (whatever that actually even means).

    What I’ve seen over the years is such farces as “Whip Inflation Now!” (as if it were in my power), “It’s Morning In America” (well if you say so), “A thousand points of light” (note to speechwriter: you can only see the stars when it’s totally dark), “It’s the economy, stupid” (No, actually. It isn’t.) “Glurble burble flurgle” (at least GWB spoke what was in his excuse for a mind) and “Hope and Change” (welcome to Hell, Messrs Axelrod, Ayers, and Fairey. We’ve been expecting you.)

    I’d appreciate a chance, maybe just once in my sorry life, to vote for a candidate who thought and acted and spoke to me as a serious-minded adult who has the good of the country in mind, not my pocketbook or my pet obsessions, which of course everybody has. Not gonna happen though. I reckon Paul Ryan, and Thad McCotter on his good days, are at least sober and almost close. But the rest of these zanies?

    We’d be better off with a baked potato in the white house.

    d. in c. (ac417f)

  4. I watched a video the other day of a blind vet tossing a first pitch to the plate, just a bit outside, but respectable for a sighted politician.

    Dog needs to do more of his awesome Walter Mitty appearances, like his brick session from high school 3 pt. territory at Easter.

    gary gulrud (1de2db)

  5. Apropos of the old line about lawyers (when you have the facts, argue…), because the economy isn’t going so good, Obama doesn’t have much to work with other than banging the table. Obama is thus logically trying to make these voters dislike and fear Romney more than they dislike and fear Obama getting another term.

    One way to do that is to portray Romney as not sharing values in common with these swing voters. Arguing that ‘Romney wants tax cuts for rich people and I don’t’ is an attempt to put himself on their side and portray Romney as outside the mainstream. I’m not saying it will work, but apropos of Dylan, when you’ve got nothing…

    And the response for Romney is to include words to the effect of ‘because this will help create jobs and lower gas prices’ every time he talks about what he wants to do. And every time he takes issue with Obama, he needs to say that Obama’s proposals won’t help create a single job (if the Buffett Rule won’t help create jobs then it ain’t something we should be doing). As the economy and gas prices are two of the top issues for almost everybody, this puts Romney on their side.

    P.S. I’ll check back in a bit to see how long it took JD to pipe in with the usual and expected shot.

    steve (369bc6)

  6. The better question is whether Obama is running a better campaign than Romney.

    Saw Romney today doing his best to keep the bogus “war on women” issue alive. What the …?

    Romney can’t hope to appeal to women who are married to the government (food stamps, free contraception, day care, etc.), and this accounts for much of the female approval gap. Jobs data would be relevant if they wanted to work. Give it up!

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  7. Io my mind, this is a libertarian election. More so than any in my memory. Ford almost won in 1976 and might have without the gaffe about Poland. Reagan was considered to old and too conservative and the polls were very close until the debate. Carter looked mean and so does Obama. The latter is sarcastic and dismissive of opponents, maybe because every election has been handed to him. The Senate election in Illinois was a farce and the 2008 election was determined by the financial collapse. I even though McCain would win after he chose Palin but no Republican could win that year, The irony is that the Democrats were almost wholly responsible for the crisis. The Republican contribution was too low interest rates but I don’t consider anyone from Goldman Sachs a Republican.

    Santorum stirred the base of evangelicals but would have lost to Obama in a landslide, just like Goldwater, Like Goldwater, he is a terrible candidate. He can’t keep his mouth shit when he should. If I were Romney and wanted to use him (I wouldn’t), I’d send him to campaign in the Bible Belt.

    [note: released from moderation (due to Freudian slip maybe? heh) –Stashiu]

    Mike K (326cba)

  8. Ear Leader is a SCOAMF.

    Mittens is a RINO.

    neither one belongs anywhere near the White House, but, since i live in the People’s Republic of California, i wll not be forced to choose.

    this state will vote overwhelmingly to put JEFH back in office, so i will not have to find the motivation to hold my nose and vote in November.

    i’ll go to the polls, vote the down ticket items anyway, but i think i’ll punch my card for Roseanne Barr, just to try and help push the Green’s over 5%, so they can collect federal funds in future elections, and therefore better split the moonbat vote.

    thanks for nothing, RNC. you labored mightily and deliberately brought forth a mouse.

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  9. Willard has tabbed Ed Gillespie to do the VP shortlist.

    From what I sees on Drudge, Obie could use a change in his admin–a foodtaster he trusts.

    Guess Reggie Love is a tough act.

    gary gulrud (d88477)


    .. as some wrote earlier … Dems/media pushes the most liberal, soft, cocktail Republican in comparison to Hitler/Pinochet/Franco. They convince some Republicans this is the only way to win the swing vote.


    Once the primary is over, they call that same candidate a lunatic right winger. No moderate could ever vote for such a vile lunatic. And Ivy League Republicans go right along with the scam.

    Not sure anyone has learned the middle lurches whichever direction the extreme most pushes. Left or right. Yet the right cedes every time and lets the left define “moderate” as essentially a liberal.

    Bill (af584e)

  11. #6 Funny and accurate. The Moochers will never vote Republican no matter the demographic profile.

    Bill (af584e)

  12. Obama, according to his campaign people who have talked to the media, is running his campaign using the 2004 election (not 2008) as a template.

    In 2004 John Kerry won 252 Electoral votes (one in Minnesota was miscast so he actually wound up with 251) to 286 for George Bush (The swap of Iowa (7) and New Mexico (5) for New Hampshire (4) gained George Bush 8 Electoral votes over 2000, and Bush also gained 7 Electoral votes through reapportionment.

    After the 2010 Census the Republicans gained an Electoral votes (using the 2004 split) so if the states were carried today, the split would be 246 to 292.

    With this template Obama needs to make up 24 Electoral votes.

    Florida is 27, and the combination of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico is 20. Ohio is down to 18. Iowa (carried by Gore but not Kerry) is now 6.

    He is also shooting for North Carolina, even though he barely carried it last time, because there is strong demographic trend in his favor, with many people from the Northeast moving in, and they scheduled the convention there too for that reason. There’s also Virginia (13) which he carried by a better margin than North Carolina, but usually goes Republican.

    Romney thinks he may be strong in the Mountain West because of the Mormons, where he may be hoping for higher turnout. Obama thinks he has an advantage because of Hispanics – and even thinks he maybe could carry Arizona!! He’d have to wage a whole campaign on the immigration issue and win the argument convincingly for that to happen. Or maybe a third party, accusing Romney of being soft on the issue, could help him on that.

    Of the states Kerry carried, Obama seems most concerned about Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10) And New Hampshire (4)

    Sammy Finkelman (cd2969)

  13. * After the 2010 Census the Republican Party gained an additional 6 Electoral votes over 2004 leaving the template 292-246.

    Sammy Finkelman (cd2969)

  14. 0bama’s incompetence on economic issues is the true “war on women”… or, in fact, war on all Americans of working-age. What can be said in defense of someone as clueless as one who says of free markets, “We tried it… it’s not like we did not try”…

    Romney and all Republican candidates need to hammer home what specific actions they will take to improve economic conditions here at home, why the actions they will take will foster job-creation and why they will lower the cost of fuel.

    0bama is incompetent, out of his element, in-over-his-head and has a record to run from, not run on.

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  15. this honkey, this pig
    this cracker will vote Zer0
    out send him packing

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  16. Given the way the economy is going, I doubt that anything is safely Democrat this year. The thinking going into 2012 was that if Obama can right the economy, he’d be re-elected, and if he couldn’t then not.

    Now, it’s about how to get re-elected with a crappy economy. Social issues, of course. With his foil Santorum out of the race (and gagged, one would hope), this plan will fail as the conversation changes.

    If Romney can keep things focused on the economy, avoid being demonized, and perhaps expose the malfeasance of Obama’s underlings (e.g. the Tea Party-IRS scandal blows up), Obama is going to be cratering all summer.

    This isn’t Reagan climbing in the polls in 1984, it’s Cater declining in 1980. And Carter was up by 20 points at this point in 1980.

    I’m still thinking landslide.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  17. I don’t see how the 2004 campaign template plays out,

    narciso (dfa41c)

  18. c’mon barack 0bama… look at these charts and then tell us all about “fair share”:

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  19. A short poll:

    Voing against Obama is:

    a) not something I’ll do. I’m down with the Prez.
    b) a big maybe. I might leave it blank or vote 3rd party. Not a dime of difference between him and Romney.
    c) likely but not absolutely certain.
    d) a moral duty, and I’d vote for nearly anyone else with a chance to win.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  20. 17. Indeed. From the folks that gave us WTF.

    I wonder if Scratch’s Butt Buddy isn’t goofing naming the Rethuglican candidate. Romney only had 89% name recognition going into the debates.

    No one under the age of 55 watches TV. Why not leave every one in the dark? Who’s the white dude?

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  21. “Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control …”

    “Business is not a taxpayer, it is a tax collector. It is political demagoguery or economic illiteracy to try and tell us otherwise…”

    “A punitive tax system must be replaced by one that restores incentive for the worker and for industry”

    “I am totally unwilling to see this country fail in its obligation to itself and to the other free peoples of the world”

    “The crisis we face is not the result of any failure of the American spirit; it is a failure of our leaders …”

    “We are supposed to meekly accept their failures as the most which humanly can be done.”

    “They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been… that the America of the coming years will be a place where it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true.”

    “I don’t believe that. And, I don’t believe you do either.”

    “I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself.”

    All words from Ronald Reagan in 1979 and they ring just as true in 2012!!!

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  22. This sounds like when they said the candidate they feared was John Huntsman, they were laughing all the way home with that one,

    narciso (dfa41c)

  23. Kevin… I’ve run across several young folks who were Obama voters in 2008 and who will – to this day – will not say an unkind word about him (other than he is “in way over his head”), but who have, nonetheless, decided that they will vote for his opponent. They have figured it out for themselves… as I suspect, many will have to do.

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  24. Hey “honkey haiku” at #15, were you around in 1962 to talk about the possibility of large scale riots before the decade was out? I was sort of around, but too young to think on that level. I probably would not have believed it had I been old enough.

    Rarely have I been known to go into conspiracy territory, and I am not going to now, but some things seem too stupid and dangerous to make sense.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  25. War on Women????

    “Obama White House Pays Women Less Than Men, Records Show…”

    btw… hope others weren’t left with their mouths watering, too, but I’d read that site as “” at first glance…

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  26. well, MD… I was around during the 60’s (I grew up behind the “Orange Curtain” in Anaheim, Ca.) and I do remember the adults talking about the need for guns to protect homes should the riots spread beyond L.A. Seems like so long ago…

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  27. #25: Oh, but never fear Colonel. Romney has come out in favor of Obama’s Fair Pay Act, in response to prodding from the media. Can you see the women coming over to Romney’s side one-by-one in response to such naked pandering?

    Even McCain opposed that. Good Lord. Can someone turn the car around before we reach the edge of the cliff?

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  28. narciso (17),

    The “2004 template” may be understood in two ways.

    First, the way in which it was mentioned above is that team Obama already assumes it will not have the sort of victories it had in 2008 and that the “base map” will look like the close election of 2004. Obama strategy then figures out which states it needs to win from that map.

    Second, it may refer to the theory that Bush won in 2004 by painting Kerry as a rich, effete, untrustworthy flip-flopper. In addition, the theory is that Rove exploited wedge issues like gay marriage. Obama would try to do the same to Romney, including trying to exploit social issues in states like CO and NV. However, the economy was more helpful to Bush in 2004 than many care to admit.

    Karl (754cb3)

  29. “Can you see the women coming over to Romney’s side one-by-one in response to such naked pandering?”

    foxbat – Maybe Romney should demagogue banning porn like Santorum? That was some good entertainment.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  30. “Can you see the women coming over to Romney’s side one-by-one in response to such naked pandering?”

    foxbat – Maybe Romney could fess up to banging an aide or two like Gingrich? Would that help?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  31. daleyrocks, changing the subject always helps.

    Keep on driving straight ahead ….

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  32. Zimmerman in custody; charged with second-degree murder.

    Icy (962b81)

  33. “I’m a firm believer that whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that you’re a patriot, you care about this country, you love this country… and so I’m not somebody who, when we’re in a political contest, suggests somehow that one side or the other has a monopoly on love of country.

    – Barack Obama, at a fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

    Except when he is.

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  34. hey, foxbat… from that freebeacon link:

    “Female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues, records show.

    According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).”

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  35. get back, honky haiku
    better get back to da woods
    well I miss those days
    and my redneck ways
    ha ha ha ha
    hope and change didn’t do me no good

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  36. Mitt Romney’s defense of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget was a delightful and very much unlooked-for surprise. Yay for you Mr. Governor Romney I remember thinking.

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  37. Whereas Trump’s blather on same, was painfully ignorant.

    narciso (dfa41c)

  38. foxbat – Maybe Romney should demagogue banning porn like Santorum? That was some good entertainment.

    Complete BS.

    JD (bf9ca8)

  39. #34: Hey Colonel. So what?????????

    Obama’s a hypocrite. I get it. OK… next?

    Does tone deafness extend to Romney supporters as well?

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  40. war on womens… whoops! can’t run on his record… so, that’s out…
    what’s next, foxbat?

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  41. We have a candidate we can support… or not. gird yer loins, or grab yer girdles, boys… the fight is on.

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  42. it’s all “I, Me, Mine”
    American Narcissus
    gee, ain’t he pretty?

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  43. #41: Next? Colonel, how about addressing the point rather than pegging anyone having a problem with Romney’s campaign strategy as being somehow pro-Obama.

    I guess you’re on board with the panderfest since you won’t address the point directly. Good luck with that.

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  44. what is your point, foxbat? That Romney isn’t your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th choice?

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  45. or is it that you’re a political strategist by profession and you find fault with the strategy?

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  46. “daleyrocks, changing the subject always helps.”

    foxbat – I’m not changing any subjects. You suddenly reappeared making snarky comments about Romney and his chances for election. Clearly you must have had a better alternative in mind.

    Please share.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  47. Colonel, I made it clear in 44 that I have a problem with the strategy.

    Again, you’re evading. Forget it.

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  48. okay… foxbat is having an issue with the Romney campaign’s strategy.

    Any other news with such earth-shattering significance?

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  49. daleyrocks, though my state hasn’t voted yet the primary is over. It’s Romney versus Obama. There are no other candidates.

    Apparently, some are content with a primary win for their guy. How about focusing on what will win in November and, sorry to break it to you, pandering is not a winning strategy. If you disagree, I’d love to hear about it.

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  50. Your opinion and $2 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, foxbat!

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  51. share your “winning strategy” with the fine folks at Patterico’s, foxbat.

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  52. Gee Colonel, I was responding to YOUR question after all.


    foxbat (8b08e2)

  53. Colonel, I’ll give you a few more postings to make up your mind.

    foxbat (8b08e2)

  54. What is your argument to deal with the skyrocketing
    price of fuel (one promise kept) and food, through
    QE 2 and other measures, the chronic unemployment
    and underemployment, which isn’t getting any better.

    narciso (dfa41c)

  55. “you can do it, foxbat!”

    – Béla Károlyi

    Colonel Haiku (59db3e)

  56. A nice piece about why Obama hates Paul Ryan at The American Spectator today, along with its implications for the campaign.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  57. “sorry to break it to you, pandering is not a winning strategy. If you disagree, I’d love to hear about it.”

    foxbat – You are not breaking any news to me and I do not disagree. That’s why I think Obama’s pandermania and fear strategy is a problem, since he can’t talk about his record.

    Not sure why you keep changing the subject.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  58. History shows us this should be a landslide. Good-bye obama. And your brand is ruined.

    sickofrinos (44de53)

  59. 57. “abusively dishonest”, in spades.

    Choosing Ryan for VP would be about as good as Willard could be expected to do. Solid, loyal party guy, good speaker, and very popular with conservatives.

    Would not outshine the candidate with the cameras or in soundbites.

    Portman? Does nothing outside OH. Would initially be a meh.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  60. I guess you’d say what can make me feel this way?

    Rob Portman!

    He’s not unlike sunshine on a cloudy day, this Rob Portman.

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.4729 secs.