Obama’s campaign needs a turnaround artist

| August 24 2012
Hannah Thoreson

President Obama’s campaign has been stumbling in the polls.  The gap is closing between Mr. Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, in almost every swing state.

Which raises the question:  Mitt Romney is running for President as a successful former CEO, who was in the business of turning failed enterprises around.  He is someone who watches the numbers, and makes a change when things are going in the wrong direction.  He’s done that for dozens of businesses in his private sector career, and it appears that he’s successfully done that now running for President too.

In contrast, President Obama doesn’t seem to have this valuable skill.  He infamously stated that if unemployment didn’t drop below 8% as a result of stimulus, that he could be a one-term President.  There were numerous opportunities for President Obama to change gears and adopt a fiscal policy that would help to turn the economy around.  Instead, he and his assistants would continually say that things were recovering, even though the hard numbers — jobs, income, production, sales, consumer confidence — have never borne that out.  The economy was the worst it has been since Jimmy Carter in spring of 2009, yet Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke claimed that he could see “green shoots” in the economy.  Now, Obama insists that the private sector is “doing fine”, even though conditions have changed little from when he first took office.  The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. is 8.3%, and in many cities and states it is much higher than that.

Obama’s time in office has functioned similarly from a political standpoint.  Despite receiving numerous signals that pursuing a health care reform agenda during a time of economic crisis would prove to be a disastrous move, he went ahead with it anyway.  Even though Scott Brown had already won the Massachusetts Senate seat before the bill was passed, signalling that even blue state America was unhappy with the reforms being proposed, opposition to the health care reform law wasn’t taken seriously until after the 2010 midterm elections.  Should it really have taken the loss of 64 seats in the House and 6 members of the Senate to realize that voters wanted to improve the economy, not reform health care?  Probably not.  Again, there are some quantitative signals here — polls, surveys, cost estimates — that the Administration chose to ignore.

The same pattern appears to be on track to repeat itself again with Obama’s Presidential campaign.  In reality, his campaign is in deep trouble, potentially facing losses in states like Michigan or Pennsylvania where a Democrat ordinarily wouldn’t.  But, they have again ignored measures of dissatisfaction in the performance of the economy or in Obama as President.  Instead of working to find out what must be done to improve the state of the economy, the President has spent the last two years of his term focused on distractions like raising taxes on top income earners or introducing fantasy budgets that earn zero votes in the Senate.

What Obama’s campaign really needs right now is a turnaround artist who can read a little bit into these signs and calibrate his decisions accordingly.  But there’s only one of those on the ticket, and it’s Mitt Romney, who seems intent on finishing him off sooner rather than later.

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