Barack Obama won’t officially kick off his reelection until this weekend—with dual rallies in Ohio and Virginia—but that hasn’t stopped his campaign from beginning its negative attack on Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Yesterday, the campaign questioned Romney’s ability to make critical military decisions, and today, it goes after his ability to make smart economic decisions, with an ad that will air in Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia:
The point—which harkens back to Rick Perry’s attack on Romney for “vulture capitalism”—is that Romney’s brand of capitalism empowers corporations at the expense of ordinary people, and that Romney himself is so detached from average lives that he doesn’t realize it. The implicit contrast is that Obama will stand up for the economic interests of ordinary people. As Greg Sargent points out, this is “designed to sow doubts among swing voters about whether a President Romney would truly have the economic security of middle class Americans at heart.”
Where the Romney campaign can (correctly) hit back is in the Obama administration’s willingness to tolerate years-long unemployment, and it’s reticence when it comes to the Federal Reserve. Obama has shied away from both pressing greater action, and appointing people to the Federal Reserve board who would pursue aggressive, anti-joblessness measures. Of course, this isn’t to say that a President Romney would have done any better; there’s no evidence to say that the former Massachusetts governor would be less cautious, or less captive to overconcern with inflation.
Therein lies the advantage of running against an incumbent with a sluggish economy. Even if things are measurably better from four years ago, they’re still not good, and the only thing you have to do is point that out. Whether or not your plan would actually help is a different question entirely. On the other side, to succeed in his reelection bid, Obama will have to emphasize the extent to which his economic stewardship has been good (or more accurately, sufficient), and the degree to which Romney’s plans would make things worse.