Regaining the Initiative

While the polls may be overstating any lead President Obama has, the reality is Mitt Romney needs a momentum boost.  Maybe that comes on the stump with a refined and energized message.  Maybe that doesn’t come until the October 3 debate.  But regardless Romney could use some momentum right now.  Dan Henninger gives Romney some great constructive advice (unlike the petulant whining critiques from other circles) on how to regain the initiative and drive home a winning message:

Stupid,” in the famous quotation from 1992’s Clinton vs. Bush campaign—”It’s the economy, stupid”—is whoever thinks a U.S. presidential election is about something else. All presidential elections are about the economy. Yes, there are other issues, but it’s also true that a whale has pilot fish. Still, most politicians would rather talk about anything but the economy, which they see in one of two ways—as a personal piggy bank or a mystery. Neither is discussable in public. This is the sixth presidential election since “stupid” was first identified, and nothing has changed.

Whose economy is it?

Barack Obama has reduced the whole economic record of his first term to one word: Bush. He’s talking about the next U.S. economy, in which, he says, some people will be making windmills. Or capturing the rays of the sun. His rebooted challenger, Mitt Romney, led an audience in Nevada last week through his plan to revive the economy. Mentioned first, and so presumably most important, he’d pursue “energy independence.” Second most important: Crack down on trade “cheaters.” That would be China, which is a long way from Vegas.

The debates

Next Wednesday night, these two will be hauled onto a stage in Denver for their first debate on “domestic issues,” a euphemism for the economy. Nothing—and that includes Jim Lehrer—can make these two talk about the economy as it’s understood by the average American voter. But the odds are Mitt Romney will talk about it and Barack Obama won’t. Mr. Obama will stay on message in Denver, redirecting his opponent and interrogator to the economy before he was president (or even in politics)—”challenges that have built up over decades”—and about the wind-driven economy that will exist after he’s re-elected. But not about the economy in between. If this were an episode of “Homeland,” Mitt Romney’s first question to his evasive competitor would be: “Mr. President, what are you hiding?”

Handed a raw deal

It’s true, as Mr. Obama argues, that the numbers of unemployed Americans began to rise abruptly after September 2008 when the financial crisis erupted, and that the president’s name then was George W. Bush. What Mr. Obama won’t say is that the financial crisis resulted from the implosion of a housing market transformed into a toxic landfill by Congress, regulators, Fannie, Freddie and mortgage packagers. The Bush presidency was a bystander.

Blistering critique of the reality

Also left unsaid by Mr. Obama but free for the telling by Mr. Romney is that as the U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.5% in June 2009 and a shocked public was looking for a response, the new president introduced the Affordable Care Act. Whatever else one may say about ObamaCare, it has nothing directly to do with U.S. employment. For the next nine months, as unemployment ran between 9.5% and 10%, Congress at Mr. Obama’s insistence worked on his health-care legislation. When Mr. Obama signed the bill into law in March 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.8%. If an opponent wanted to describe this in partisan terms, he might say that the president legislated an entitlement dream while the economy burned.

Henninger goes on to identify a great many things Romney could use to highlight the failures of President Obama but it all begins with a crisp sharp message forcefully stating in plain terms the contrast between having an actual vision for changing the future and misrepresenting a past that never was.


  1. ed
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    On a complete anecdotal basis, I just don’t see the Romney campaign as needing much of a “boost” or some change in it’s direction. If you consider the massive inaccuracy in the public polling combined with historic increases in GOP voter registration/enthusiasm and Romney’s war chest there is little doubt in my humble opinion Romney will win. Of course everyone wants a boost, but seems like the Romney campaign strategy is unfolding perfectly within the time constraints. By pure attrition Romney is wearing down the overrated Obama ground game matching it in the critical battleground states. I am in shock by the voter contact numbers the GOP has registered so far and we are still 5 weeks out of the election. It seems as if the fundamentals for winning are set in place. We just need remorseless consistency. Thanks to your site and some others I am now fully confident that the polling is seriously flawed and this may be a unintended advantage for the GOP as folks like me know not to be demoralized. Avoiding all hyperbole, given that enthusiasm for Obama is now significantly lower than 2008 and, I believe, the GOP’s is at historic highs (I read one statistic from an article in NR referring titled “A Surging GOP” [or titled something close to that] showing the GOP having a 4.3 percent enthusiasm advantage over Democrats constituting the widest gap ever) I think we just may have the makings of a significant GOP victory. Not the nail-biter most predict based on current polling.

    Regarding polls specifically, as you always state, the facts on the ground belie the conclusions in the public polls. There is simply no factual basis to justify Obama’s wide-lead in the polls. The poll supporters will simply restate the assumptions in the polls and then show the poll results as conclusive proof of those assumptions: circularity. Keith what we have here is a tight race with Romney prepared to peak at the right time. A strong performance in the debates by both GOP candidates and I think its a done deal. But to be in this position, required consistent yeoman “blocking and tackling” fundamental campaign work done by the Romney campaign.

    I do agree with the Romney campaign that now is the time to turn confrontational on Obama by respectfully but ever so firmly rejecting his failed foreign and domestic policies. Its time to peak. And do so with flair and humor, reinforcing Obama’s airy celebrity status and stark incompetence. Frankly, Romney should think of using the term “incompetence” directly: “Its not that we don’t think you are a good man, its just that we think you are an incompetent President….the country can no longer afford you…here’s why….”

    In sum. No need to swing for the fences here, no razzle dazzle Hail-Mary just solid debate performance and turnout the vote operation.

    • Posted September 27, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      The problem Ed is even accounting for the unbalanced polls Romney is likely down a point or two in key states like Ohio and Virginia. And while Undecideds historically break for the challenger Romney likely needs to do a better job to convince them to actually come out and vote. They almost certainly won’t break for the President but they could just sit out the election (a dream scenario for Obama). Also we can never underestimate our opponent. Team Obama is going to get every last vote possible and could surprise everyone on election day the way Bush surprised Kerry in Ohio in 2004. To win the Presidency you have to take it from the incumbent and Romney likely needs to do that a bit more forcefully. It’s not a Hail Mary or desperate move, but staking claim to getting hired by the American people will take a little more vigor than he has shown to date in my opinion.

      • ed
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        BTW Congratulations on your website….I was here early…

        This quick excerpt from VDH sets the appropriate tone…

        “There was only one presidential debate in 1980 between challenger Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. Just two days before the October 28 debate, Carter was eight points ahead in the Gallup poll. A week after the debate, he lost to Reagan by nearly ten percentage points.”

        You cant predict this collapse from the internals of a poll. And for a good reason, its non quantifiable. By every statistical measure Mitt Romney is in a much stronger position than was Reagan to Carter. Vigor you say? Building the best ground game in GOP history is vigor it just doesn’t show in the headlines. No this race is lining up as a classic sports type drama where at some point you have to step in the ring and prove your reputation. Romney has been through one of the toughest longest primary seasons in my memory. By my accounts he is a veteran. Standing next to Obama, Romney will look more presidential and reassuring. Obama strikes me as weak with a tendency to overcompensate. His strength has always come from never having a substantive record to defend. So he can talk about airy future utopias. Here he has to defend the weakest economic record in modern history. Remember, Obama has never had to debate in this situation in his entire political history. Obama has been shielded and coddled his entire political life. He has never even had to take tough questions from the press during this horrific presidency. And when he has to speak extemporaneously, he fumbles…bad. The debates will go well, but Romney must drop the gloves, like in any high-stakes event. No knock out blow needed just reinforce Obama’s incompetence over and over again. He must show the theatrics of vigor. The turn out the vote operation will take care of closing the deal.

        To me the 2008 election was anomalous not just for having the first serious black candidate, but for having the singularly worst GOP candidate.

      • UncleFred
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Keith there is no data to support this statement “The problem Ed is even accounting for the unbalanced polls Romney is likely down a point or two in key states like Ohio and Virginia.” Romney is narrowly ahead among independents and there is no reason to believe that Republican turnout will not at least match Democrat turnout. In fact it seems likely that Republican turnout will be higher in Ohio. It is just as likely that Romney is up a point or two in those states and the undecideds are not going to break for Obama.

  2. Posted September 27, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    From another perspective: whatever B.H.O.’s political inheritance, after four years of rhetoric he has made zero inroads towards a visible corrective; BUT he had made spectacularly visible destructive additions to the situation. He has chosen to attempt to dazzle us with his brilliance and that has failed him. Now he is trying to baffle us with his ‘bullhorn’. Many recognize that that has failed, too. BHO – with no disrespect meant towards our children’s steps toward independence – has been a “Me do! Me do!” presidential candidate and president who has made a terrible mess of things. Now it’s time to protect ourselves from the results of his much mis-stated ability. AND, protect him from further humiliation as a result of his inability to recognize his incapacity. Further, we need to recognize those who ‘put him up to this’ and have tried to protect him from himself at the expense of the American People and the USA.

    Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    Summit County absentee ballot requests

    Total: 92941
    Dem:43524 (47%)
    GOP:12857 (14%)

    Total: 39056
    Dem: 9581 (25%)
    Rep: 7525 (19%

  4. Mike DeVault
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink | Reply

    Where is Summit County?

    Posted September 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink | Reply


    • ed
      Posted September 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      excellent ….

  6. Suzanne
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Henninger is great, but I think Larry Kudlow is actually onto something here: Talk about “Take Home Pay” and Give Them the Numbers.

    “Romney’s 20 percent tax-reduction plan takes the top rate down from 35 to 28 percent. These are the big investors who help fund new businesses and job creation. And yes, as liberals always point out, their take-home pay will go up the most, by roughly $70,000 yearly.

    That’s because they pay the most in taxes, which they will continue to do because they are at the top tax bracket.

    But politically, Romney can speak directly to the middle class and show them how much their take-home pay will go up, too.

    For example, a $70,000 middle-class family whose tax bracket falls from 15 to 12 percent will see a roughly $2,100 increase in take-home pay.

    That’s not nothing. It’s a mortgage payment. It’s a savings account for a child’s tuition. It’s a few car payments. It’s furniture, a vacation, or a home remodel.

    A married couple earning $143,000 whose tax rate under Romney drops from 25 to 20 percent will keep roughly $7,100 more in take-home pay. That’s good money.

    Or to use Obama’s middle-class benchmark, a married couple earning $220,000 a year whose rate drops from 28 to 22 percent will save over $12,000. That’s a big number.”

    Explaining how this is a win win for everyone:

    They spend that money in the economy; it fuels business expansion, and hiring to respond to increasing demand. More jobs, more competitiveness for higher pay. Which creates more money, more demand and more jobs.

    Read more:

  7. Posted September 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i think this is dead on…Americans and the undecideds are waiting, hoping Romney tells them what he will do different. They don;t want to buy his book or read his website, that only worked for Obama. They want him to say “I AS PRESIDENT WILL DO XYZ to get the result oF 123” Just saying you will be better and do better only works for Obama.

    The race is not fair, the game is not fair. Romney is running against Obama and the entire media industry that frames the election. Obama can get away with for 5 years (year of campaigning and 4 as president) of hope and change and fluff and the media and voters eat it up. Romeny and Ryan have to be dead on specific in these 4 debates about EXACTLY what they will do, when they will do it and how it will work out for the American people.

    If Romney goes in trying to just say Obama has failed and I will do better….he will lose. Absent a challenger the voters will stay with the devil they know.

    EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING in history says Obama will and should lose. Only Carter has run with a similar record and he lost big. There is no factor that says Obama should win….but Romney will have to walk on that stage 3 times and forcibly take the keys to the white house from Obama. History says he should lose but Romney has to beat him. PERIOD.

  8. Edward
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    agreed….you are on point…Chev out the new Victor David Hanson piece up..Regan was doing terrible at this point.

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