Let's Hear Less About Massachusetts, More About Bush

Earlier this week, I argued that the Obama campaign would soon bolster their attacks on Bain Capital with attacks on Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts. Well, this morning, ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports that the campaign will do just that, and open a new front in its war on the Republican nominee:

Team Obama will point to Romney’s rhetoric on job creation, size of government, education, deficits and taxes during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign and draw parallels with his presidential stump speeches of 2012. The goal is to illustrate that Romney has made the same promises before with unimpressive results, officials say. […]

“He sold the same hooey in MA ten years ago, and then turned in one of the worst performances of any gov in the USA. 47th in job creation,” senior Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted last week, hinting at the direction of the attacks to come.

Tapper calls this a “shifting of gears” away from the assault on Bain, but I think that’s mistaken. For now, the Obama team is preoccupied with painting Romney as an unacceptable choice for the White House. With the attacks on Bain Capital, the campaign is trying to frame Romney’s private sector experience as narrow and predatory, and with the coming attacks on his governorship, the campaign is trying to dislodge the view that Romney is competent.

If there’s a problem, it’s that Massachusetts under Romney wasn’t a horrible dystopia. Yes, job growth was slow and ordinary people were hit with new fees and higher costs, but they weren’t living in The Road Warrior either. I’m not sure how people visualize Massachusetts, but my hunch is that to most Americans, the state seems like a decent place to live. I will be interested to see how the Obama campaign characterizes Romney’s tenure as governor, since you could argue—especially with regards to health care form—that the state was better off after Romney left office.

If the Obama team is going to compare Romney to anyone, it makes the most sense to compare him to Bush. Americans still blame the former president for the economic crisis, and it’s absolutely true that Romney is running to restore the policies of the Bush administration, from deregulation and complete subservience to Wall Street, to tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans and the upwards redistribution of wealth.

It will be derided as the “politics of fear,” but Obama should do more to both emphasize the continuity between Romney and Bush, and illustrate the danger of Romney’s policies to ordinary people. Obama took this approach with his April speech to the American Society of News Editors, and he should repeat the performance as often as possible. Americans aren’t happy with the current situation, but they certainly don’t want a repeat of the Bush years.