Sunday, September 02, 2012

Is Obama conceding the election while thinking he's winning it?

Major Garrett reports in The Confidence Game National Journal 09/01/2012 that Obama political strategist David Axelrod is oozing confidence about the President's re-election, to the point that assurances coming from him that they realize they could lose sound ritualistic:

There is no end of fight in the Obama campaign. Pugilism has displaced post-partisanship. The president’s aides fastidiously remind every reporter who asks about the brass-knuckle campaign conducted so far that it spent $25 million on “positive” ads in May. Losing track of their own talking points, senior advisers then offer a surgical assessment of the political vivisection they performed on Romney on issues ranging from unreleased tax returns and Bain Capital to outsourcing and a Swiss bank account, wielding TV ads and attack lines in June, July, and August.

“They didn’t give people anything to grab on to, and they allowed us to define him before he could define himself,” Axelrod says of Romney. “And now they are playing catch-up. And now they are running bio ads. The summer is when candidates and races get defined. That’s why we made a strategic decision that it was better to muscle up in the summer. I can’t think of a presidential race determined by paid media after Labor Day.”
From a Democratic point of view, this is really dismaying. The economy sucks. Unemployment is high. We're still stuck in a depression. Obama has spent the better part of four years framing economic issues in largely Republican terms, i.e., The Deficit is going to jump out from a dark alley and kill us all any second now.

These are not the optimal conditions for a sitting President to be running for re-election.

And with the eurozone constantly skating on the brink, there could very well be a Lehman-size shock to the American economy in the next two months. The Lehman fiasco came in October 2008.

And this is the first post-Citizen's United Presidential elections will corporations and Republican billionaires dumping staggering amount of money into unseating Obama.

Garrett's column is mostly stenography for Axelrod. But the following is striking, and scary for anyone who believes Romney's election would be worse than an Obama second term. Apparently the Obama camp thinks that McCain lost in 2008 not so much because of the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression or the financial panic after the Lehman Brothers collapse but because the McCain-Palin campaign was ... too partisan!

As for [Paul] Ryan, every single top Obama adviser sees a comparison to Sarah Palin. Not in terms of depth of knowledge, political experience, policy innovation, or powers of persuasion—they rate Ryan ahead of Palin in all these categories. The pivotal similarity they talk about is that Ryan, like Palin, reverses the rival campaign’s own narrative. Sen. John McCain ran against Obama based on leadership, heroism, Senate experience, defense credentials, and sacrifice for one’s nation. Palin undercut the leadership and experience arguments and injected partisan passion. Her selection didn’t sink McCain’s campaign (the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing financial meltdown did that), but Palin diverted the campaign from its own path. [my emphasis]
A bad economy, a smug and apparently wildly overconfident Obama campaign, an avalanche of Citizen's United money on the Republican side and Obama's strange obsession with postpartisanship - that sounds awfully like "President Romney" to me. Lordy, Garrett reports that even Rahm Emanuel "frequently warns ... that the campaign must ward against its tendency toward all-knowing arrogance." When Rahm Emanuel is warning you you're too arrogant, it might be worth a moment or two of self-reflection.

Now, this part of the Obama campaign's spin on Ryan makes sense: "Other top advisers [than Axelrod] see the Ryan pick as spotlighting the future of Medicare, Medicaid, and federal spending on education, student loans, environmental protection, farm programs, and food safety. All would face spending cuts under the Ryan budget."

But this only happens if the Obama campaign manages to exploit the potential Democratic advantage on those issues. What is the top man on the Democratic ticket saying? That he wants a Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! He phrases it in Beltway Village terms, but it's painfully clear what he means in this interview: Michael Sherer, What He Knows Now: Obama on Popularity, Partisanship and Getting Things Done in Washington Swampland 08/30/2012. It's the most discouraging thing I've seen during this election cycle.

Check out the commentary related to that inteview from:

Digby, "I’m not going to slash Medicaid to the point where disabled kids or seniors who are in nursing homes are basically uncared for." Hullabaloo 08/30/2012

David Dayen, Obama, The Not-So-Great Debate, Austerity and the Election FDL News 08/30/2012 and Corey Robin's Incredible Breakdown of Democrats as the Party of Austerity FDL News 08/31/2012

And the Corey Robin article from David Dayen's post title: Corey Robin, We’re Going To Tax Their Ass Off! 08/30/2012

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