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Democrats Take Notice of Obama Campaign's Recent Struggles

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Quiet rumblings among Democrats concerned with the reelection of Barack Obama began when his campaign started attacks against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's work in the private sector. Disapproving comments were made by Steve Rattner, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and culminated with the remarks by Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Meet the Press. After the Booker comments and backtrack became a public ordeal, fretting Democrats had been keeping their concerns close to the chest. Following a strong few weeks by the Romney campaign and several setbacks for the president, high profile figures in the president's party are once again making noise.

James Carville, Democratic consultant and former top campaign advisor for President Bill Clinton, appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday where he said he is "worried" that President Obama's economic message has been ineffective if not a detriment for the president among voters.

“I’m worried that when the White House or the campaign talks about the progress that’s being made, people take that as a signal that they think that things are fine" said Carville. "And people don’t feel that or believe that.”

Rather than constantly remind voters of the economic situation he inherited, Carville believes that the president should give a more substantive and optimistic idea of what he plans to accomplish if granted a second term.

"They want to be reassured he understands the depth of the problem and that he has a plan to deal with the deterioration of the middle-class."

POLITICO notes that Carville's remarks on GMA echo the sentiments he expressed in a research document also authored by pollsters Stan Greenberg and Erica Seifert, concluding that the Democratic Party's current frame for the 2012 race is not effective:

We will face an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.

It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance – and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction.  They are wrong, and that will fail.  The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the President talk about the future.  They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand.  They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way – not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery.

The growing concern about the president's ability to present a clear and attractive economic message comes as much media coverage over the last few days has focused on Obama's remarks at a press event last friday where he said "the private sector is doing fine."

The Washington Post covered the campaign's rough patch and worry among fellow Democrats in a piece Monday. The post reports that while Senior Campaign Advisor David Pluoffe says the election will not be about "contretemps of the moment" like bad economic news, press gaffes by the president and a strengthening Republican challenger, several veteran Democrats are not so sure.

“The bad thing is, there is no new thinking in that circle,” said one longtime operative in Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

Eight other prominent Democratic strategists interviewed shared that view, describing Obama’s team as resistant to advice and assistance from those who are not part of its core. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity as well.

Much contempt from the dissenters who spoke with the post goes to the president's campaign harking too much on the situation he stepped into, pointing voters in the direction of a first term that has not exactly been anything to brag about on economic terms. The media has begun to ponder what, and more supporters are nudging the president to present, a policy message for term two.

President Obama is set to deliver a major campaign speech Thursday in Cleveland where he may accomplish this, as campaign officials tell the post he will frame the election as a choice between two economic visions. One that protects the middle class, another that takes the country back to the failed policies of the past.

 

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