In politics, you never want to let your opponent see you sweat. But the Obama campaign’s decision to go up with an early, expensive $25 million ad buy in nine swing states is a clear sign that the campaign, despite its spin, recognizes that this will be a close, tough race against Mitt Romney.
The buy was no rinky-dink purchase--it cost nearly one-quarter of Obama’s war chest, which was $104 million at the beginning of April. Going up with such a significant buy this early is the equivalent of abandoning the running game in football when your team is down by a couple of touchdowns--even with a top-notch quarterback.
The primary ad, a 60-second spot called “Go,” lacks a cohesive message. The first part underscores how severe the recession was, a preemptive defense for why the economy hasn’t turned around faster. The second half argues that America is “coming back,” thanks to a growing number of jobs over the past year—and that may be a very tough sell. Indeed, top Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg advised the campaign in February that this type of message--saying things are getting better when voters don’t agree--polls terribly “and produces disastrous results.”
But the campaign can’t utilize the time-tested “Are you better than you were four years ago?” message because the answer may be negative, so it has to argue that things are getting a little better and that the administration needs more time.
It underscores how limited Obama’s playbook is this time around: Mobilize the base, lambaste the opposition, and hope enough independents will hold their nose and vote for you. If the campaign is already confident of victory, as Time’s Mark Halperin reported on Monday, they’re putting on some awfully good game faces.
—Josh Kraushaar, Hotline executive editor
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Undaunted Tactics: The Strategy of Silence for Obama and Romney NEW!
[National Journal, 5/8/12] Romney stayed silent when a supporter said Obama should be tried for treason. Obama stayed silent when members of his administration openly supported gay marriage. National Journal's Major Garrett writes that while this may not be politically courageous, it makes sense in terms of political tactics.
Democratic Donors' 2012 Campaign Strategy Is Heavy On Ground, Light On Air NEW!
[Huffington Post, 5/8/12] Billionaire George Soros is giving $2 million to groups that do grassroots organization and opposition research, indicating a shift in the tendencies of Democratic donors to focusing more on the on-the-ground organizing and less on peppering the airwaves with ads.
RNC Staffer: Romney 'Still Deciding' Immigration Position
[National Journal, 5/8/12] A press briefing meant to promote the Republican National Committee’s efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters went awry when the committee’s director of Hispanic outreach said that Romney had not yet established an immigration policy. “My understanding [is] that he is still deciding what his position on immigration is,” said Bettina Inclan, the RNC’s director of Hispanic outreach.
Obama and Romney Campaigns Target Hispanic Voters NEW!
[Associated Press, 5/8/12] The Obama campaign is running Spanish-language television ads in states with large Hispanic populations, while Romney is working to hammer out a clearer position on immigration.
The Problem With Romney’s Diverse Vice Presidential Short List
[National Journal, 5/8/12] The GOP has top talent poised to compete on the national stage, but most of the hot prospects are newcomers to the political scene. If there’s one thing the GOP doesn’t want, it’s Sarah Palin redux with another untested novice.
What Rick Santorum's Lukewarm Endorsement of Mitt Romney Means
[Christian Science Monitor, 5/8/12] Some experts see in Santorum’s watery e-mail endorsement a man who isn’t fully on board with Romney just yet; others say he might be angling for a prime-time speaking slot at the convention in August.
Is Obama More Popular Than He Should Be, Revisited NEW!
[New York Times, 5/8/12] An extension of the recent analysis of approval trends throughout history shows that yes, Obama is still more popular than one would expect, but more specifically, that popularity is due to support from Democrats and Independents, rather than Republicans.
Europe’s Elections Offer Economic, Political Risks for Obama
[Washington Post, 5/7/12] The shrill anti-incumbent message that has emerged from a pair of European elections--in France and Greece--carries a threat to the U.S. economic recovery and a political warning for Obama, whose reelection prospects may hinge on the economy.
Libertarian Gary Johnson: Spoiler Alert!
[Washington Examiner, 5/7/12] Gary Johnson’s presence on all 50 state ballots this election season could offer voters what a more libertarian GOP candidate once called “a choice, not an echo.” The Examiner’s Gene Healy weighs in on Johnson’s candidacy.
Soros Makes 2012 Splash With Big Donations
[Wall Street Journal, 5/7/12] Billionaire investor George Soros plans to donate $1 million to super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, an outside group supporting Obama and fellow Democrats. Soros will also donate $1 million to America Votes, an organization run by Democrats that helps to coordinate grassroots activities.
Romney: 'I'll Take a Lot of Credit' for Auto-Industry Recovery
[Huffington Post, 5/8/12] Romney told a local TV station in Cleveland on Monday that despite his call for the auto industry to go bankrupt in 2008, he’ll now “take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back."
Paul’s Delegate Scramble NEW!
[National Review, 5/8/12] Paul and his supporters are exploiting RNC rules to amass delegates far past what his popular vote tallies would indicate in a number of states. He's aiming to win a plurality of delegates from five states, reports National Review's Katrina Trinko, to put Paul on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention.
The County That Picks Presidents
[National Journal, 5/7/12] Since 1960, Florida’s Hillsborough County has called every single presidential election except for one--and there’s no reason to think that voters there won’t do it again.
Rob Portman: No More Mr. Nice Guy
[ABC, 5/7/12] As the “vanilla” Rob Portman has climbed to the top of the list of potential running mates for Romney, the political world is now seeing a different side of him: the attack dog. The normally soft-spoken Portman has issued a series of blistering--for him anyway--attacks on Obama this week.
Will Toxic GOP Governors Infect Romney?
[National Journal, 5/7/12] Polling conducted by one influential Democratic group found that 11 percent more Florida voters said they had “very major doubts” about Romney when he was linked to the state’s unpopular governor, Rick Scott.
Beyond Boston: The Romney Team Reaches Out
[National Review, 5/8/12] The hiring of former RNC chair Ed Gillespie is seen as a big positive for the Romney team, and Grover Norquist seems mildly happy with the volunteer recruitment. And the hiring of a slew of new aides are meant to signal a strong desire to energize “the full Republican spectrum,” as Robert Costa reports.
Romney's Answer to Off-Message Right Wing: Silence
[BuzzFeed, 5/7/12] At a campaign event in Ohio, a woman asking a question said that the president should be tried for treason—a claim that was not addressed by Romney when answering the question. Democrats went on the attack, saying he should have refuted it. But Republicans threw White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer’s 2011 words right back: Politicians shouldn’t have to serve as “speech police.”
Big Labor Falls in Line With Obama Reelection Campaign
[Politico, 5/7/12] Big labor’s love for Obama was never threatened, it seems, especially after the Teamsters came out on Monday to endorse the president. In a year where Democrats are going after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and “right to work” legislation is brought up across the country, labor unions are throwing their support behind Obama.
Romney: Obama Is a 'Big Government' Democrat NEW!
[National Journal, 5/8/12] At a campaign stop tonight in Michigan, Romney accused Obama of returning to past policies that ushered in an era of "big government," offering himself as a contrast to such a failed focus.