July 12, 2012
Barack Obama got one piece of good news this week. A new study showed Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney over Bain Capital had effectively moved voters away from the Republican nominee. “Mitt Romney’s business experience – the centerpiece of his case for the presidency – has proven to be much more of a liability than an asset in key swing states,” the survey summary reported. “Clear negative trends have emerged in recent polling conducted in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia,” it continued, basing their conclusions on two separate polls.
The bad news? The study was commissioned by Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super-PAC that was conducting the same strategy it was analyzing. The report stands as a lonely beacon in a sea of polling this week that confirms that Obama’s strategy of demonizing Romney and playing up divisions has failed to gain traction – even while Obama outspends Romney by a 3:1 margin.
Most major polls this week show Obama and Romney in a virtual tie – and all of them put Obama under 50 percent, a red flag for incumbents this far out from the election. The Washington Post/ABC News poll showed the race a dead heat at 47/47; the Wall Street Journal had it within the margin of error, with Obama only up three points over Romney at 47/44. Quinnipiac’s survey put Obama up by the same margin, but at 46/43. According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, there has been almost no change in the margin between the two since the general-election fight began in May, despite the massive spending by Obama and the continual attacks on Romney’s business background.
The problem for Obama in this static status quo is that it’s not going to remain static much longer. Until now, the Obama campaign has had the biggest megaphone by far, and has used it relentlessly to paint Romney as an avaricious corporate raider and One Percenter.
Fundraising numbers, however, show that Romney will shortly catch up to Obama’s cash on hand – and will almost certainly surpass him in spending.
The lack of traction at this stage had both Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post and Josh Kraushaar at National Journal warning Obama supporters that their candidate had better have a Plan B, because Plan A hadn’t moved the needle at all. Cillizza pointed to a Gallup swing-state poll that showed Obama only up 47/45 after saturating the airwaves in the same states as the Priorities US Action survey with class-warfare attacks on Romney, and called the $35 million win for Romney in June fundraising “a very scary proposition” for Democrats. Kraushaar wrote that time may have run out for Obama. “If they don’t score an early knockout,” he concluded, “it becomes harder to win over the late deciders as the election approaches.”
Very clearly, Obama isn’t scoring an early knockout on his politics of division. In fact, he’s not scoring much at all, and he may be doing more damage to himself and his party than to Romney. This week, Obama and his campaign tried to paint Romney as an “outsourcer,” a claim that ended up backfiring in a number of ways on Obama. First, they intended to attack him for offshoring, not outsourcing; anyone with even a small amount of private-sector experience knows that there is a large difference between the two. Confusing the two terms underscored Obama’s lack of familiarity with the private sector.
Even on offshoring, though, Obama handed Romney an effective counterattack. Republicans quickly collected examples of funding from Obama’s 2009 stimulus program that ended up funding jobs overseas, such as Fisker’s $529 million loan, which went to producing electric vehicles … in Finland. A promised Delaware plant has yet to open. Another electric-vehicle subsidy created 180 jobs in Michigan, which the subsidy recipient Dow Kokam gave to South Korean nationals. The Washington Post reported this week that an Energy Department study from April 2010 concluded that a significant amount of subsidies given to wind farms paid for foreign manufacturing:
“According to some critics, a galling example of the Obama administration fostering overseas work came as part the 2009 stimulus program. They point to millions of dollars meant to develop a domestic clean-energy industry that instead landed in the hands of foreign businesses. An April 2010 study by the Energy Department found that 60 percent of the 40 largest wind farms then financed by the stimulus relied on foreign manufacturers for their central components, including turbines.”
On top of that, the attack on offshoring ended up snagging Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader. Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller found that Pelosi had disclosed a profit of between $1 million and $5 million from an investment in Matthews International Capital Management LLC, which proclaims in its literature to have “A Singular Focus on Investing in Asia.” Its website, Lewis found, also has an essay dated last week – when the Obama campaign began to attack Romney for “outsourcing” – that urged investors to look to the Philippines for cheaper labor, as Pixar did when producing the film The Incredibles. Pelosi also had a smaller investment in Moduslink Global, one of the firms that Bain backed, and which Team Obama attacked as an “outsourcing pioneer.”
The clumsy and self-defeating attacks only draw attention once again to a stunning lack of competence in Obama’s campaign – and Obama’s lack of a positive agenda for re-election. With the economy sliding backwards and after three straight disappointing jobs reports, the president cannot point to any success in his stewardship of the US economy. Despite his legal victory last month on ObamaCare, his signature legislative achievement remains so unpopular that Obama and his surrogates want to change the subject whenever anyone asks about it.
All Obama can do is to attempt to exploit divisions by demonizing higher income earners and paint Romney as a vampire capitalist, and hope that Romney’s wealth will frighten voters enough to distract from Obama’s failures and lack of any new ideas. Even when Obama can outspend Romney, the polls show he can’t sell that strategy – and four more months of economic stagnation will only make his desperation more apparent.