Patterico's Pontifications


Obama’s Two Playbooks

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:53 am

[Posted by Karl]

Pres. Obama does not have an election strategy; he has two.  That is a matter of necessity, as the GOP decides whether to run Romney or NotRomney against him.

If the Republicans nominate NotRomney, he will pull the 2010 playbook off the shelf, as can be inferred from Ronald Brownstein:

[D]uring a public panel that I moderated here sponsored by Project New West, a Democratic research organization, leading party strategists expressed unruffled, almost blithe, optimism about Obama’s ability to hold the three Mountain states he carried in 2008. Partly that was because they expect more young people and minorities to vote in 2012 than did in 2010. But it was primarily because they think Obama will benefit from the contrast with the eventual Republican nominee. The Democratic hope is that those twin dynamics will allow Obama to reassemble the coalition of minorities and suburban whites that reelected Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year in Colorado.

Brownstein sees this strategy playing out as jobs vs. the environment, but cultural wedge issues are also in the mix, as Jay Cost explains after using Nevada 2010 as an example of the “frontlash” approach:

Any time you hear the Democrats squawking about how the Republicans are “anti-science,” that’s the frontlash in action. The goal is to tag the GOP as a bunch of flat earth throwbacks who are too extreme for the independent swing voters to support.

Will it work? Well, that depends. On the Republicans.

Democrats (and Republicans, for that matter) always try running some version of frontlash every year, throwing out charges about how the opponent is too extreme on this item or that. In an evenly divided electorate, such as the national one, it only works when the candidate under attack is weak. Is he given to foolish or outlandish statements? Does he needlessly antagonize certain classes of voters? Does he appear to lose his cool? These are the sorts of questions that, if answered in the affirmative, facilitate the frontlash. And in certain conditions – such as Nevada last year – it is sufficient for electoral victory.

This is sober advice for Republican primary voters as they begin to evaluate the potential GOP nominees. Yes, it is critically important that the choice of the party reflects and respects the views of most Republicans. But it is of equal importance that he or she does not commit unforced errors that facilitate Obama’s frontlash campaign.

Jay’s basic subtext is correct, but he may be overselling the viability of this strategy.   (more…)

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