Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 16, 2012
In a previous post, I offered my thoughts on the outlines of President Obama’s re-election strategy — energizing minorities and others comprising Obama’s liberal base; appealing to college-educated white women; and vaporizing Mitt Romney. Assuming that’s correct, what should be the elements of an effective counter-strategy? I’d argue there are three.
The first is to win The Battle of the Narrative.
Barack Obama’s political fate is similar to that of Robert Frost’s hired man, who had “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
In Obama’s case, he has no record he can defend and no governing vision he can offer. All he has to rely on are diversions and divisions. The president wants to make this campaign about anything except his record on the economy. Team Obama will therefore try to get the Romney campaign to follow them down a half-dozen different rabbit holes each week. We’ve already seen this with the so-called “war on women,” Sandra Fluke v. Rush Limbaugh, the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the Buffett Rule, Bain Capital, Occupy Wall Street, attacks on oil speculators, and more.
It will require considerable discipline by Romney to ignore the dust that Obama is throwing in the air and return attention to the economy. Sometimes that won’t be easy; events (like the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden) intervene. And the president still has unparalleled ability to direct the conversation of the nation. But Romney has on his side the sentiments of the public, which by overwhelming margins believes the economy, jobs and the budget deficit are the most important issues facing the country. He has the advantage of being able to talk about what the public wants to hear.