With the next election 11 months away, President Obama has begun sharpening his populist message and drawing a sharp contrast between his vision for America and the Republican alternative.
Obama’s speech last week in Osawatomie, Kansas, provided an example of how he plans to attack his Republican opposition.
“There is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. ‘The market will take care of everything,’ they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty … That theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work.”
President Obama realizes that it will not be sufficient to simply portray his Republican challenger as hawking a discredited economic theory while he highlights economic inequality. In an interview that aired Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” Steve Kroft asked: “Why do you think you deserve to be re-elected? What have you accomplished?”
Without hesitating, Obama replied, “Not only saving the country from a Great Depression. Not only saving the auto industry. But putting in place a system in which we’re going to start lowering health care costs and you’re never going to go bankrupt because you get sick or somebody in your family gets sick. Making sure that we have reformed the financial system, so we never again have taxpayer-funded bailouts and the system is more stable and secure. Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t tell. Decimating al Qaeda, including Bin Laden being taken off the field. But when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do. And we’re going to keep at it.”
It would be a serious mistake to think that Obama can match his 2008 numbers in the upcoming election. Don’t forget that his 53 percent of the popular vote was the largest share a presidential candidate had attained in 20 years.
In his “60 Minutes” interview, President Obama acknowledged the economy could be a stumbling block to his re-election. “We’ve gone through an incredibly difficult time in this country,” he said. “And I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now. They shouldn’t be satisfied. We’ve got a lot more work to do in order to get this country and the economy moving in ways that benefit everybody, as opposed to just a few.”
The electoral contest between Obama and the eventual Republican nominee begins almost even, with the president holding 186 votes in his core states and the GOP controlling 191. As always, the outcome will be largely determined by what happens in the 12 battleground states.
Changing demographics could work to Obama’s advantage.
“The six Midwest/Rust Belt states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) are all marked by slow growth and by a relatively small and slow-growing percentage of voters from communities of color,” according to the Center for American Progress report on electoral votes titled, “The Path to 270: Demographics versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election.”
It continued, “These states are projected to average around 15 percent minority voters in 2012, ranging from a low of 10 percent in Iowa to a high of 21 percent in Pennsylvania. But this relatively small base of minority voters is supplemented for Democrats by fairly strong support among these states’ growing white college-graduate populations, who gave Obama an average 5-point advantage in 2008.”
The three Southwest swing states — Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico — have experienced a significant increase in voters of color, primarily Latinos. Their projected non-White electorate is expected to average 36 percent, ranging from 21 percent of the electorate in Colorado to 52 percent in New Mexico.
In the three New South swing states — Virginia, North Carolina and Florida — there is both good news and bad news for the president. The good news is that voters of color are expected to comprise 31 percent of the electorate. The bad news is that unlike the Southwest, White college graduates in the South favor Republicans over Democrats.
As Obama strategists carefully craft his re-election, it is obvious that the plan includes resisting efforts to depict him as a weak president.
When asked in a news conference about Republican charges that his foreign policy is one of appeasement, President Obama replied: “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who were taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or, whoever’s left out there. Ask them about that.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.