Obama and the Vision Thing

President Obama’s first challenge in tomorrow night’s town hall debate has been crystal clear ever since he allowed Mitt Romney to Etch A Sketch his way through their first encounter: Follow Joe Biden’s lead by calling out Romney on his inconsistencies and lies, while highlighting the radicalism of the Republicans’ real agenda. The Prospect’s Paul Waldman offers some sage advice: “He needs a single phrase that he will repeat every time he's refuting a Romney falsehood. It could be something slogan-y, like ‘That's another Romney Reinvention,’ or could be something simple, like ‘Once again, Governor Romney thinks he can fool you and get away with it.’ It almost doesn't matter what it is, so long as he repeats it every time.”

But there’s another, broader challenge for Obama—and it’s one that relates to the central flaw of the president’s entire campaign. While some voters understand what will be lost if Romney wins (Medicaid, Medicare, health-care reform, sane foreign policy, the list goes on), even Obama’s own supporters don’t have a clear sense of what would be gained by four more years. The campaign slogan is “Forward.” But to what and where, exactly? As a study released today by pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville shows, Americans are itching to hear something bold, something "changey" if not "hopey": “By more than a 2-to-1 margin (67 percent to 29 percent) voters say we need to make major changes to solve America’s problems—62 percent agree with that strongly.” 

There’s at least one big idea up Obama's sleeve that he could gainfully re-launch tomorrow night: The American Jobs Act, a mini-stimulus that according to Moody Analytics would create 1.9 million jobs and add two percent to the gross domestic product. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans last fall, which makes it a doubly appealing proposal for Obama to inject into the campaign. It’s a way to indicate that he does have some big stuff in mind, while simultaneously refreshing people's memories about the wages of Republican obstructionism. But whatever second-term plans he chooses to highlight, the bottom line is this: Obama can't regain the momentum in this campaign merely by exposing Romney's B.S.; he also has to bring his own ideas and core convictions back into the mix. 

So They Say

“I mean Romney, in the second [GOP primary] debate, said that it’s a ‘no brainer’ to build a fence across the border. … You’re talking about somebody right now without one molecule of brain based on his statement. Building a fence across the border would be wacky nuts! And here it is—that’s what he wants to do.”

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, interviewed at Salon 

Daily Meme: Happy Polls are Here Again

  • If you've been listening to any pundits the last few weeks, no matter their ideological stripes, you've heard a fair amount of poll-bashing, poll fear-mongering, or poll conspiracy theories. Even Nate Silver has been befuddled by the conflicting data, tweeting, "The. Polls. Have. Stopped. Making. Any. Sense."
  • But maybe we’ve just been asking the wrong questions! Some polls stray delightfully away from the dry and well-worn questions asked by the Gallups and Rasmussens, and offer a more entertaining and less frightening—if not always more illuminating—look at the 2012 race. For example, a survey done by 7-Eleven, based on coffee sales, has Obama leading with 60 percent of the vote.
  • Forty-nine percent of parents—obviously forgetting Romney's brilliant ideas of fun at the annual Romney Olympics—would rather have Obama as a babysitter.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Beltway insiders surveyed by New York magazine (a group of 37 Dems and 37 Republicans) think Obama is the best bet for keeping the world safe.
  • Fifty-four percent of respondents for an Esquire/Yahoo! News poll would rather go on a road trip with Obama, but 53 percent trust Romney more with tax advice.
  • The adult film industry is overwhelmingly pro-Obama, with only 13 percent being Romney fans.
  • In 2011, 26 percent of voters thought Obama would not be taken up to heaven if the Rapture were to occur, while 30 percent couldn't make up their minds what would befall our president in the end times.
  • For those watching the crucial canine demographic, 37 percent think Obama would be a better president for dogs.
  • Sixty-five percent think Obama would be more Bill Pullman-esque during an alien invasion.
  • For those who only answer to a higher level of polling analysis, you won't find much clarity this week. The race is in a dead heat for those not relying on 7-Eleven. 

What We're Writing

  • Paul Waldman offers five fool-proof tips for winning a town-hall debate.
  • Abby Rapoport questions the real aims of “voter integrity” group True the Vote.

What We're Reading

  • Steven Rattner argues that it’s Romney, not Ryan, who’s the real radical.
  • John Bohrer debunks the myth of George Romney—including his “walk-out” from the GOP Convention in 1964.
  • David Remnick shows Obama what FDR would have done.
  • Tommy Thompson’s son comes out as a birther, and gets scolded by his dad. But give him a break: He’s only 38.
  • Frank Bruni interviews Michele Bachmann’s lesbian half-sister.
  • Big Mo has done wonders for Romney's stump persona.
  • Bloomberg puts the spotlight on the "daisy chain" of nonprofits and shell companies funneling money into this election.

Poll of the Day

As we head into Round Two on Tuesday, a just-released USA Today/Gallup poll of 12 swing states reflects the gains Romney has made since the first debate—especially among women voters. While Obama still leads among women overall, the survey shows a tie in the battlegrounds, 48-48. Among men, Romney has the same edge in the swing states and the nation overall: 54-42.

For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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