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Wednesday I spent 12 hours driving home from a family vacation. Rather than listen to my XM stations of choice, PATRIOT or POTUS, I decided to spend a few hours listening to LEFT. If a person had landed on Earth from another planet and only heard the rhetoric from that one radio station, she would have concluded: a) Mr. Obama is the best president of all time, b) Gov. Romney is a buffoon, c) Gov. Romney wants to buy the election [fact: Obama has far out raised Romney to date and has spent far more than Romney], d) Mr. Obama is starting to leave Romney in the dust, and e) America is enjoying amazing economic health — to name just the big ones. Fantasies and self-deceit all.
Let’s get back to reality, shall we? Karl Rove has a very simple way of setting us straight. His column this week titled, “The Obama Ad Blitz Isn’t Working” is very good.
Ya gotta love how Mr. Rove starts off his column. These four little words will be the death of the Obama campaign!
‘If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Despite President Obama’s effort to walk back these remarks, the damage they’ve caused to him remains. And that’s because what he said in Roanoke, Va., on July 13 came across as a true expression of his worldview.
“You didn’t build that” is not Mr. Obama’s only recent problematic statement. In a June 8 news conference, he said “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.” And in Oakland, Calif., on July 24, he told donors that on the economy, “We tried our plan and it worked!” These comments make voters wince.
Every candidate stumbles verbally, but in 2008 Mr. Obama did so less frequently than most. He was disciplined, on message, and gave his opponent few openings. So what is different this time?
One factor may be overscheduling. Mr. Obama has attended an extraordinary 195 fundraisers in the 16 months since he filed for re-election on April 4, 2011 (according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller). Many people don’t fully appreciate how much of a drain it is on a candidate—involving travel, a speech or two, private meetings with particularly energetic (or obnoxious) money bundlers, and always plenty of advice. Most fundraisers also include a long photo line where the candidate grips and grins for dozens, sometimes hundreds, of photographs.
. . . it is astonishing how much time Mr. Obama has spent scrabbling for cash.
That’s not all. You need to add to the fundraising calendar an early and very active campaign schedule as well. Remember last August’s three-day bus trip through the Midwest? And then there are the demands of Mr. Obama’s day job.
In short, the president may be nearly exhausted. If he is, the normal inner discipline that protects a candidate from saying too much, being too blunt, or sharing too openly may be weakening.
Despite the scramble for money, Mr. Obama’s campaign fundraising take is behind its 2008 pace, and its overhead is enormous (according to monthly FEC filings by his campaign and the Democratic National Committee). His cash advantage over Mr. Romney was probably gone as of July 31, in large measure because (according to public records at TV stations) Team Obama has spent at least $131 million on television the last three months.
These ads have not moved him up in the polls. The race is tied in the July 30 Gallup poll at 46%. Neither have the ads strengthened public approval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, which is stuck at 44% in the July 22 NBC/WSJ poll, nor have they erased Mr. Romney’s seven-point lead in that poll regarding who has “good ideas for how to improve the economy.”
Roughly $111 million of Mr. Obama’s ad blitz was paid for by his campaign; outside groups chipped in just over $20 million. The Romney campaign spent only $42 million over the same period in response, with $107.4 million more in ads attacking Mr. Obama’s policies or boosting Mr. Romney coming from outside groups (with Crossroads GPS, a group I helped found, providing over half).
Mr. Obama’s strategists know they won in 2008 in large part by outspending their opponents in the primaries and general election. They’ve tried that with Mr. Romney the last three months, and so far it isn’t working. Still, just this week, according to public records, Team Obama has bought an additional $32 million in ads in nine battleground states for August.
Unanswered television ads do move poll numbers, as was the case in 2008. But these Obama ads won’t go unanswered.
The response by the Romney campaign and Romney supporters will be amplified by the reality of a painfully weak economy, growing debt and unpopular ObamaCare. More fundraisers will not solve that problem, but they will create opportunities for a weary candidate to make more revealing and damaging statements.
Mr. President: Wait until Governor Romney begins to get serious with truthletting using only your words from the dozens of commitments you made to all Americans regarding the economy and jobs. Watch the needle then.
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