For President Obama’s campaign, the best offense is a good defense.
On Saturday, the incumbent's team launched an ad that takes on the question once flubbed on TV by three allies in one day: the question of whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago. It's running in seven battleground states.
The spot uses news reports, studies and graphs to show progress on jobs since "the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression." It also says opponent Mitt Romney would, among other things, raise middle-class taxes (Romney says he won't) and roll back new regulations on "the banks that cratered the economy."
The Saturday ad came a day after the campaign unveiled another new ad that directly rebuts a Romney spot released only a day earlier. The 30-second TV ad, airing in the nine battleground states, mocks the Republican’s suggestion that he would “get tough on China” after a private career marked by sending jobs overseas. (Notably, it doesn’t mention his own record on China.)
Obama’s response seems to violate an old political maxim: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Rather than opening up a new attack on the GOP presidential nominee, Obama is using valuable time and ad dollars to defend himself.
But time and time again in this race, his campaign has responded directly to Romney attacks. His first ad of the presidential campaign, in fact, was a rebuttal to an outside group attack on government loans to the failed solar company Solyndra.
Other instances in which the Obama campaign responded:
- The campaign in April aired an ad on domestic oil production in response to a spot from the American Energy Alliance.
- In June, the campaign played defense on China, criticizing a Romney ad in which he said he would “stand up to China.” Although not word-for-word, the ad is essentially the same spot the Obama campaign revealed on Friday.
- And in August, the Democrats’ team responded directly to the Romney campaign's suggestion that Obama had “gutted” welfare reform.
Responding to a rival’s ads isn’t unusual for a campaign, but the Obama campaign’s pattern in this race is unusually aggressive. And it seems to indicate a concern, on issues such as welfare reform or ethics, that the attacks could fester if left unchecked.
Campaigns always prefer to play offense. Defense, nevertheless, is still critical.