How the Obama Campaign Sees the State of the Race — Must Read

Mark Halperin gets the inside scoop on the current thinking from the Obama campaign on how the Presidential race is shaping up. There is so much packed into his post, read and study the entire thing. Previously Halperin offered what I called the Six Deadly Sins of the Obama Campaign. We see many of those sins remaining but plenty more insights to be mindful of:

The Obamans still have their share of concerns about the overall environment and the various elements that could yet go wrong. And, yes, there is polling, such as Monday’s Washington Post/ABC News survey and a few state polls that show the race tight or tightening and the President below the key fifty-percent marker. Nevertheless, the current reasons for the Obama campaign confidence are the same as they were in early spring—appropriate in a race that has been marked by astonishing overall stability beneath the daily roiling chaos.

  • Members of team Obama still believe the electoral college favors them

This may simply be arrogance, naivete or false bravado.  For the Obama camp to believe this they must be counting states in their favor which are far more competitive than they believe.  Few Battleground state polls say Obama has moved the needle meaningfully in his favor with the exception of Pennsylvania.  And that was a state Romney had no intention of competing in until a chorus of critics pleaded for him to enter the sometimes competitive but never flipping blue state. In the other Battleground States only Michigan (+2), New Hampshire (+3.5) and Nevada (+4.2) is Obama leading by more than 1% based on the current Real Clear Politics averages.

  • They see little or no prospect that the opposition can make significant gains with Hispanics, single women, or young voters

This belief is predicated on the notion these voters will show up on election day when historically 2 of those groups don’t vote.  How many polls do they need to see saying the exact same thing: Much of Obama’s 2008 coalition has lost their enthusiasm for Obama. Obama may have a chance to change the narrative with Hispanics enough to recreate some of the 2008 magic but young voters are both breaking closer to Romney than they did for McCain and far more likely to return to historic trends in their electorate representations.  I doubt highly Obama can move the needle with this group.

  • They think Medicare and tax cuts for the wealthy are untrumpable trump cards

Myopic. Democrats have demagogued Republicans for years with these trump cards but the ground is shifting out from under their feet on the Medicare issue. Poll after poll shows a) Seniors are growing more Republican, and b) Romney-Ryan is winning the Medicare argument in this election.

  • They view Romney as a weak candidate, whose resume and background leave him vulnerable to populist attack

The Obama campaign undermines themselves in this same post later when they grudgingly give Romney credit for being better than they thought. Here is what I wrote previously on this deadly sin: The Art of War, Respectful Preparation: ‘He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.’ That is, never underestimate your opponent. There is a well known story about how in December of 1991 George HW Bush was heard laughingly talking about the chances America would elect some backwoods Governor from a poor state like Arkansas.  I think we know how that one ended.

  • They think their candidate’s skills and likeability are far too powerful to derail

Two comments from my earlier write up argue against this position quite well:

  1. Napoleon, supreme egoist that he was, ignored the significance of the omens until he and his host were completely and irrevocably committed to an undertaking that was doomed. Never did the gods punish hubris more severely.
    –M. de Fezensac, The Russian Campaign, 1812
  2. Amazingly I googled “messianic complex” with no names and on the first page of hits were websites talking about Obama.  Right-wing nut websites?  No. Mother Jones and Crooks and Liars, two very established Left-wing websites complaining of Obama faithful in the 2008 primary. So this phenomenon is nothing new. But this is being applied to a politician who has NEVER been in a challenging election.  The closest thing to a legitimate contender was his first run for Congress against Bobby Rush … where he lost! For anyone who wants to cite his primary victory over Hillary Clinton, there are a few videos you should check out. Elections are a lot harder without a sycophantic media as the Obama campaign is currently finding out.
How the Obama team sees themselves losing is also very telling:
  • Israel-Iran war wrecking the economy
  • high gas prices giving the GOP a meaningful populist argument
  • stock market crash and/or EU collapse
Each one of these is beyond the Obama Administrations control between now and election day.  So the only way they see  Obama losing is not from voters rejecting him or his message (does he have one this time?) but from things no politician can control at this juncture.  He’s at 46-48% in every national and Battleground state poll, his job approval is almost always under water and yet the campaign thinks only uncontrollable exogenous factors can bring them down. Obama’s politics and policies are never wrong, because he can never lose in their eyes … until he loses.
Now that is their self-assessment. Regarding the Romney campaign, many of the same short-comings come to light.  First the concessions:
Romney, Team Obama concedes, has shown himself to be a better candidate than expected:
  • He has displaced Barack Obama as the most prolific fundraiser in the nation’s history
  • He has, with a few exceptions, exhibited discipline and precision in the months since he secured the nomination
  • He showed genuine boldness and purpose with his veep pick (even while giving the Obamans ammunition in the process)
  • He has improved his performance on the stump

The first point is undeniable. The second and fourth are also proven out and hard to challenge.  The third concession is noteworthy in that the Obama campaign seems to respect the seriousness Ryan brings to the ticket.  They have seen Ryan stand up to Obama before and he proved himself a worthy opponent.  At the same time they have opposition research and focused group every possible VP and Ryan has polled well.

But where they see Romney failing plays into the above cited naivete and arrogance of the Obama campaign:

  • Team Obama is certain that, barring a national collapse, Michigan and Pennsylvania are locked up for the incumbent
Except for Pennsylvania, every other Battleground state has serious problems for Obama including Michigan with a current Real Clear Politics average of Obama +2. And Michigan of 2012 is not the Michigan of 2008 with a population exodus due to the bad economy and a complete political upheaval in the state house and state legislature. Counting that state as a lock is premature to say the very least.
  • The Obamans see Romney as fatally flawed in Ohio, with his venture capital background, opposition to the auto rescue, and overseas financial holdings.
This is incredible considering Obama is equally flawed with his only 1st term accomplishment being Obamacare which was rejected by 68% of Ohio voters in a pro-Union special election in November 2011. At the same time industrial Ohio relies on mining and energy innovation like fracking the Utica shale which Obama opposes. Romney is by no means the ideal candidate for Ohio, but the Obama campaign needs to take the log out of their own eye before commenting on the speck in Romney’s eye.
  • Even North Carolina, which some handicappers have moved safely to Romney’s column, remains in play, the re-elect believes, because of its strong grassroots organization, which the Democrats expect to grow further during their Charlotte convention.
This is definitely false bravado.  Week after week we analyze the ad spending in North Carolina and the Obama campaign has meaningfully reduced their footprint over the last 2 months. If not for aggressive pro-Romney spending in the state (to put it to bed) no North Carolina market would ever show up in the top 10.  When was the last time President Obama stumped in North Carolina? Maybe December of last year?  He spent three full days in Iowa with 6 electoral votes at stake yet he can’t find time to visit North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes? This is why I title that weekly post “Put your money where your mouth is.” Team Obama can say they will be competitive and even carry North Carolina but following Obama’s speech at the coming convention I’ll bet any amount of money that is the last time the Tar Heel State sees him before election day.
Credit to Halperin for a closing line that is a dagger to any clear-eyed analyst:
I’ve known many of my sources, on both sides, for years. Their dueling hypotheses these past three months have not wavered: The Romney folks have made a solid a case of why they will win, but the Obama people don’t seem to believe they can lose.
One of the most important lesson in any competition is the second you believe you “can’t lose,” get ready … because lose is exactly what you will do.  Romney continues to make his case to the American people while the Obama team rests on a belief in their own bluster — a fatal flaw if there ever was one.

One Trackback

  1. […] campaign officials. I have no problem with them believing in their candidate but they genuinely do not believe they can lose (which is a fatal flaw for anyone in a dogged election battle). Polling in the race remains air […]

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