In an earlier blog post, I said this election was over. I described why. It was not because all of the gaffes Mitt Romney has made (a lot were in the forefront of national consciousness back then) but it was his epic failure to construct a basic appeal and his choice to go negative. But all of that has since changed.
Contrary to what Barack Obama has asserted, Obama’s historically terrible performance at the first debate changed the fundamentals of this race. And Mitt Romney has finally taken the tack he had needed to take, giving President Obama no space to campaign in besides trying to tear down Mitt Romney down.
At the convention, the Republicans were the bitter, negative ones and the Democrats were the people that believed in America. It was terrible positioning by the Republicans that cost them dearly at the time. But Barack Obama has allowed Mitt Romney to be the positive guy campaigning about his plan to be bipartisan and bring about change while casting Obama as the negative, bitter guy whose only hope is to attack Romney.
The Obama Campaign is in a bad spot here and they have only themselves to blame. In the last three weeks, Romney’s campaign has outperformed Obama’s campaign by a massive margin. They have better television ads, they have a better message, and they have been more effective on pounding at Obama’s weaknesses than Obama has been at communicating his message of “Romnesia.” The Obama campaign has been all over the place. Its ads are not cohesive, and not positive enough.
Obama’s campaign failures stem from its failure to capitalize on Mitt Romney’s greatest weakness: that he will say anything to get elected. They have barely brought up the etch-a-sketch comment. They have chosen to take an approach with their television attack ads that is overly hyperbolic, arguing that Mitt Romney is going to do all of these extreme things he said he was going to do in the primary instead of doing the things he says he is going to do in the general election. The problem is that’s a hard argument to make because many people think Mitt Romney is pretty moderate. And the Obama camp did not need to make that great leap to effectively capitalize on Mitt Romney’s flip-flops. It doesn’t need to use fear about what Mitt Romney is going to do once he is elected, all the Obama camp needs to do is make the argument that Mitt Romney isn’t honest, is overly political, and says different things to different people. All it needs to do is drive that point home not try to trick people into believing that Mitt Romney is going to somehow sign a law that bans abortions (which is a completely ridiculous concept because it’s unconstitutional at the moment!). Finally, I think he’s found out how to go after Romney with this new ad:
In the next week, Mr. Obama has to figure out a way to get control of the news cycle again. There is way more favorable coverage for Mitt Romney right now that Obama – yes, even on MSNBC. He needs to deal with that. He then absolutely has to get back to a positive campaign message. He needs to take advantage of his incumbency advantage by stressing in television ads constancy of leadership, foreign policy, and certainty. He needs to stress that he has fought hard for the middle class and will continue to do so. And his attack ads need to be laser focused on Mitt Romney trying to reinvent his auto bailout position, Mitt Romney’s transparency problem (tax returns, taxing plan, ect.), and Mitt Romney’s problem with being all over the place.
The good news is that I still think the race is over. For Mitt Romney, it is too little, too late. Too many people had made up their mind already before Mitt Romney started getting smart. As long as Barack Obama finishes somewhat strong, stays somewhat positive, and does not make any major gaffes, he should win a close election.