Published June 14, 2012
Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville released a report Monday, in which they argued that contrary to the consensus among “elites,” it would be a losing strategy for President Obama to base his reelection campaign “on his economic performance.”
The report was based on the findings from a series of open-ended focus groups conducted by Carville and among white non-college-educated voters in Columbus, Ohio and college-educated suburban voters in suburban Philadelphia.
What they found was that two key voting groups -- non-college educated voters, and college-educated suburban voters – “are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction.”
These working and middle class voters -- who are struggling just to make ends meet -- reject claims put forth by the president and his administration that the economy is improving outright, and could very well reject the president on the ballot this November.
Recent polling confirms that voters have a highly pessimistic outlook on the state of the economy and the state of the nation, and that when it comes to jobs and the economy, voters view Governor Romney as the lesser of two evils.
A majority of independent voters (54%) say they see the president's economic plan negatively, according to a new ABC News/ Washington Post poll released Wednesday.
And in the latest Reuters/Ipsos survey, only 32% of voters said that things are headed in the right direction, while 63% say that things are off on the wrong track. When asked who is stronger on jobs on the economy, Governor Romney leads the president (46%-43%).
That being said, the findings from Wednesday’s ABC News/Washington Post poll show that the independent swing voters who are likely the key to November's presidential race are distrustful of both President Obama and Mitt Romney's economic plans.
Greenberg and Carville are correct in their general assessment that “there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country...and the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.”
As the campaign moves forward, it will become even more important address the concerns of key swing voter groups. Put simply, neither side can continue to ignore these swing voters, as it will be difficult, if not impossible, to win the presidential election without their support.
Carville and Greenberg conclude that the strongest message is one “with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” I would argue that a winning campaign narrative cannot dwell on the past, and that a new, compelling, and forward-looking economic message will resonate most with key voter groups.
If the president hopes to improve his standing and build support with key voting groups, he will need a pro-growth fiscally responsible agenda emphasizing job creation at its core.
The bottom line: rather than looking backwards, the president must talk about the future – making a case for what his reelection holds in benefit for working people.
It is clear what swing voters are looking for, and it is clear that neither side is addressing the concerns of voters. To be sure, some of these voters are more conservative and more oriented towards free market solutions, while others are willing to accept government involvement in our economic recovery through stimulus spending.
But they all share a common desire for economic growth, job creation, and a path to fiscal stability.
If President Obama hopes to win over these voters before Election Day, he must present a specific fiscally prudent plan to balance the budget, reduce the deficit, grow the economy and create jobs. It is essential that he put forth a compelling argument that he can create jobs and grow the economy for the middle class, otherwise, his chances for reelection will continue to diminish.