At the New Hampshire GOP primaries this year I saw a sign that said “It takes a Carter to get a Reagan.”
I was reminded of the Carter / Obama comparison Sunday when I heard a replay of Michele Bachmann’s speech to conservative college students at the 2012 Eagle Forum. She described working on the Carter campaign when she was in college. Yes, Michele Bachmann was a Carter Democrat (she liked his family values). But soon after his election she realized how badly his policies were affecting America and had a personal “renaissance,” became a Reagan Republican and obviously has not looked back. The entire five minute clip below is worth watching. Ms. Bachmann discusses the forecast $17 trillion in unfunded commitments under Obamacare, how shocked she was when she heard the Obamacare Supreme Court decision and the need to begin working immediately to help elect Mitt Romney and win the “triple crown” of the presidency, the House and the Senate.
Those who can remember Carter’s presidency remember a 20% prime interest rate, “stagflation,” rising gas prices and lack of foreign policy leadership. Past has indeed been prologue.
I’m struck by the similarity to our current situation. So was our own David Parker in his own article here on Mitt Romney Central a couple weeks ago.
But Ms. Bachmann also reminds us in the video that an economy can turn around very quickly under the right leadership. In 1980 it was Ronald Reagan. In 2012, it’s Mitt Romney.
Many college Democrats who worked for President Obama in the last election may find it hard to return to the message of “hope and change” as they are faced with the realities of President Obama’s policies. While we have very low interest rates due to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to jump start the economy, we still have the slowest economic recovery since the depression, slowing job growth (with only 80,000 jobs added in June), a lack of leadership in foreign policy and rising gas prices. Governor Romney has said this election is about the next generation, and it is. Recent college graduates are now out looking for a job in the Obama economy, having done what everyone has told them they should: work hard, get an education, get ahead. But they’re finding fewer opportunities under President Obama, not more.
And no, this is no longer President Bush’s economy. With Obama trying to take credit for the job growth to date, he must also take “credit” for a 2/3 drop in the rate of growth in the job numbers from last quarter (see Investors.com, 225,000 jobs added in Q2, down from 677,000 added in Q1). It’s now officially Obama’s economy.
In 1980, Reagan was also criticized by the left for being too extreme, and by the GOP for failing to unite the party and quell the third-party candidacy of John Anderson. Mitt Romney similarly has had to endure attacks on his character from the left and a longer-than-expected GOP primary. But of course Ronald Reagan famously asked the question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” and emerged with a landslide victory. Mitt Romney can legitimately ask the same question today.
Time will tell if the results will be the same on November 6, 2021 as they were November 4, 1980. But in “Mitt Romney’s Moment,” Pittsburgh Tribune Review contributor Salena Zito suggests Obama is, in fact, losing his support among the former faithful. She attended the rally at which Mitt reacted to President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments, and found at least two Democrats converted to Mitt:
Bill Brasco of nearby Jeanette isn’t just a Democrat. He is an elected Democrat, serving as the local school board president for more than 42 years, the second-longest-serving board president in state history.
“Been a Democrat since I turned 21 and proud of it,” he said, adding that he will not vote for Obama in November.
“I just do not like the direction this country is going under the president,” he explained.
Brasco, 75, was one of many Democrats giving Romney more than a dozen standing ovations at the Westmoreland County rally.
“I could not have been more impressed,” he said. “I particularly liked when he talked about his five-point plan to get the economy roaring.”
Brasco, who spent most of his working career in sales, listed Romney’s points as if he himself had authored them: “Energy, trade, balanced budget, better education through training and skills, and economic freedom. … No, he was impressive, that was an amazing event.”
Note that what impressed Mr. Brasco was Governor Romney’s concrete plan for economic success. Governor Romney has been criticized for not being specific, but when Mr. Brasco heard Governor Romney speak, it was the specificity that impressed him.
What’s more, Ms. Zito remarks that the Obama campaign character attacks on Governor Romney are falling flat.
…weeks of Obama’s attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital and demands for the release of Romney’s taxes have not dissuaded the GOP base or soured swing Democrats or independents against Romney.
The effect, remarkably, has been the reverse.
The attacks on Romney as a businessman are ridiculous, said Mark Lisovich, who lives here. The 51-year-old father of five – including a wounded Navy combat corpsman – is another Democrat who voted for Obama but now supports Romney.
“Without private-equity firms like Bain, I wouldn’t have a job,” he said of the small business he works for that received start-up money from investors. “And what will the tax thing prove? That Romney is rich?”
Lisovich was optimistic that things would improve when he voted for Obama in 2008; now he knows better, he said. “Romney has the right vision for the country, and he understands that businesses small and large are what make America great.”
In discussing Obama’s loss of support, Michael Medved noted the following in USA Today this week:
…several of Obama’s hope-and-change boosters have deserted his cause and in some cases enlisted with the opposition. Artur Davis, three-term Alabama congressman and Congressional Black Caucus member, delivered a seconding speech for Obama in 2008, but he now backs Romney and has changed his registration to Republican. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a former governor, says he can’t commit to supporting Obama this time, and the state’s incumbent governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, expressed similar sentiments. Colin Powell, who proudly joined the Obama’s first historic campaign for the White House, insists he remains uncommitted in 2012.
There are further indicators Obama is at a loss as to what he can say to convince voters to give him a second term, much as President Carter had no response to Reagan’s “are you better off?” He appears to be pouring money into polling and message-testing, which of course means there’s no obvious reason he can cite why he should be re-elected. You don’t spend $15 million finding a message if you already have one.
With an inability to deliver hope and change, the President is having to spend money to create a new “raison d’etre.” David Hill of The Hill explains why this 3X-4X of usual poll spending is “obscene”:
Some of you may be saying that spending $15 million is no big deal given that this is a presidential election. You are mistaken. This is an obscene, over-the-top amount of money. Obama faces only about 12 to 15 electorates that are worthy of sampling separately. There is the national electorate, and then there are the individual electorates of swing states, and then there are special targets like his partisan base of Democrats and swing voters like independents. Even if he polled each of these sub-samples every week since the first of the year, he couldn’t come close to accounting for the amount that’s supposedly been spent.
Just by normal ratios or rules of thumb for campaign spending, the research outlays are out of whack. For presidential campaigns, polling should fall into a range of 3 to 4 percent of the total budget. In this case, the percentage is much higher. It is being reported that the Obama campaign has spent $100 million thus far on campaign ads. If they have, in fact, spent $15 million researching those ads, they are genuinely out of control over at the Democratic “research institute” where all this political science is percolating.
It’s interesting to try and follow the money, but it’s also disturbing. Why must Obama spend so much money to find his way? Voters are likely to be turned off to realize that even a teleprompter is not enough for this president. He also needs a phalanx of pollsters to tell him what to say.
Even William Galston of the New Republic recognized this week that the attacks on Romney’s Bain experience are not having the “Swift Boat” impact the Democratic faithful were hoping for. He argues what really happened in 2004 was not that John Kerry got “swift boated,” but that President Bush convinced the American people he was worthy of re-election, something at which President Obama has not yet succeeded:
The real story of … 2004 isn’t that attacks disqualified Kerry as a potential president—they didn’t—but rather that in the two months from Labor Day until the election, the incumbent persuaded just enough people that his record warranted reelection.
Obama now faces a similar task. In the fourteenth quarter of his presidency, which ended July 19, his job approval averaged 46.8 percent … the fact remains that no incumbent has ever been reelected with a job approval below 50 percent. … The people have noticed the difference between 225 thousand new jobs per month and 75 thousand, and they’ve drawn the obvious inference: Only 24 percent of Americans think the economy is improving, down from 33 percent in April.
So the president has some work to do, and he can’t get the job done simply by attacking his adversary. Indeed, as I’ve argued in previous articles, the evidence that the all-out assault on Romney record at Bain Capital is making a difference remains thin at best. Since July 1, while Obama’s survey average has declined from 47.5 to 46.0 percent, Romney’s has actually edged up slightly, from 44.1 to 44.7 percent.
The President’s approval rating needs some serious help for him to win re-election, argued Dan Clifton, as quoted in Examiner.com earlier this month.
Mr. Clifton said:
Today’s employment report provides another headwind for President Obama’s reelection. Employment growth is not strong enough to boost real incomes. As a result, sentiment remains very tepid. It is this sentiment that translates directly into how voters view their elected officials. We have found a fairly strong inverse correlation between the President’s approval rating and the unemployment rate. No President has won reelection with an approval rating below 50%.
Following the trend line, unemployment would have to fall to below 7.6% for President Obama to get to a 50% approval rating by election day. That seems unlikely.
Is Obama the next Jimmy Carter? The reality is that polling is too close to predict, and at this point in the last few elections, the ultimate winner was trailing the polls. In other words, there’s a long way to go. While the trend and the historical comparison is encouraging for Mitt, whether the U.S. electorate makes President Obama the next Jimmy Carter very likely depends on how much excitement Mitt can generate and how deeply his supporters dig in over the next 100 days to help. Things are obviously different than in 1980, but I’m hopeful the American people will come to their senses as they did then and say no to continuing “Forward” with 2012’s version of the inevitable “malaise” caused by the policies of the left.