Guy Benson

You know what our "depression"-ravaged economy needs right about now?  An serious injection of retooled presidential rhetoric, that's what.  President Downgrade to the rescue:
 

President Barack Obama will use a campaign policy speech Thursday to contrast his preferred approach for the country's economic future with ideas proposed by his likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, people familiar with the speech said. Mr. Obama's address in Cleveland, described by his aides as a "framing" speech, isn't expected to include any major new proposals. While some of his political advisers had pushed for that, his economic team made clear they don't see many fresh options, particularly when Congress hasn't passed the bulk of a jobs bill that the president unveiled nine months ago...


Oh, joy.  Another Obama speech packed with warmed-over, previously-rejected, unaffordable ideas -- but at least he'll present them using tweaked (and undoubtedly focus-grouped) language.  I wonder how Thursday's big address will differ from his Kansas screed from last December, or his dishonest diatribe about the Republican budget earlier this spring.  Why, pray tell, does Team Obama feel compelled to adjust its economic "framing"?  Because his own strategists and pollsters are seriously concerned about the inefficacy of his current approach.  Politico reports:
 

President Barack Obama and his party may face an “impossible headwind in November” unless it shifts to a more forward-looking economic message aimed squarely at the middle class, three Democratic strategists warn in a memo out this week. Pollsters Stan Greenberg and Erica Seifert, of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and Democratic strategist James Carville write in a research document for Democracy Corps that their party’s current frame for the 2012 race is not effective. Based on focus groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the strategists argue that voters are simply not convinced that the economy is on the move and it’s a mistake to try and tell them otherwise. “These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction. They are living in a new economy – and there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country. They actually have a very realistic view of the long road back and the struggles of the middle class — and the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward,” they write. “While we hear some optimism, this is framed mostly by the sense that this has to be rock bottom.”


If this appraisal sounds familiar, it might be because Greenberg delivered a nearly identical warning to Democrats five months ago.  Maybe now that Obama is facing a dogfight in numerous battleground states, he'll start to listen.  The new memo goes on to urge the Obama campaign to discuss pretty much anything but the state of the US economy:
 

The co-authors of the report, Carville, Stan Greenberg and Erica Seifert, claim that the Obama campaign must “move to a new narrative” in order to be successful in November. The authors use the first person plural “we” throughout the report to describe Democratic efforts. The current campaign is focused on success in the economic recovery, but Carville’s group says the strategy is “wrong” and “will fail.” The only reason Obama is keeping up in the campaign is because voters perceive Romney as “out of touch with ordinary people.”  While most of the voters in the focus groups were forceful in their complaints about Romney’s lack of connection with the working class, they seemed to agree that he would do a better job than Obama on the economy.


Pardon the silliness of my question, but isn't "distract from the economy" the strategy Obama has already been employing for months?  Also, their deep misgivings about Romney notwithstanding, swing-state voters told the Democrat strategists they view the Republican as better equipped to manage economic matters than the incumbent. That's going to be problematic for The One, especially if "senior Obama advisers" are correct in their assessment that our economy isn't headed for blue skies any time soon:
 

For the White House, it was just the latest entry in the when-it-rains-it-pours ledger. This has been one of the worst stretches of the Obama presidency. In Washington, there is a creeping sense that the bottom has fallen out and that there may be no second term. Privately, senior Obama advisers say they are no longer expecting much economic improvement before the election.


Unemployment north of 8 percent, despite an $825 Billion "stimulus," for 40 consecutive months...and counting.  And now Team Obama is whispering to reporters that they don't expect "much economic improvement" prior to November.  This is why the President of the United States is reduced to sniping at Republicans for their supposedly extremist and simplistic worldview, and tweeting about how useful firefighters are -- as if Republicans oppose firefighters.  (Democrats are trying to make hey out of Romney's recent poorly-worded comment that the federal government shouldn't bail out states so they can hire additional government workers, which Jonah Goldberg contextualizes here).  Speaking of Romney, here he is teeing off on Obama's tone-deafness, using Obamacare as a battering ram:
 


Romney could also have mentioned this survey of American small business owners, a plurality of which cited government regulations and mandates (of which Obamacare is chock full) as the biggest impediment to hiring that they face.  Another bracket explicitly picked Obamacare itself as the top obstacle to job growth. As others have written, pointing out that Obama and Democrats had two solid years of massive majorities to fix the ailing economy, yet they spent their political capital on an unpopular and unaffordable health care overhaul, is a powerful attack.  It highlights today's dreary economic reality, while scolding Obama for prioritizing a side project that the American public happens to despise.  Keep it up.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography