With the GOP National Convention over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are sure to hit the campaign trail with new vigor. The Convention was a rousing success and Romney and Ryan introduced their vision for America along with their humble backgrounds. But there is something else to the vigor they will hit the campaign trail with. Even before the Convention began polls began to show the race narrowing. Romney was making gains among voters in terms of image and likability compared to Obama. This can be summed up in one word. Ideology.
Despite the Romney’s laser like focus on the economy they have been unable to break through in the polls. Worse, outside events have derailed their campaign’s focus and forced them to talk about other issues that are less favorable to the GOP. Rape, gay marriage or abortion anybody? Even as polls showed Romney leading among who voters trusted to better handle the economy he failed to best the President. In the latest stages of the campaign a new strategy seems to have been adopted by the Romney campaign. One of targeting Obama’s ideology.
Polls indicate that a majority, or at least solid plurality, of voters do not blame Obama for the bad economy. They are pessimistic about the future and believe the country is on the wrong track but that is not translating into votes for Romney. This pessimism runs deep among swing voters but they are not in Romney’s camp. Making an economic argument is not driving these voters to Romney. But if new polls are any indication his strategy of attacking Obama’s ideology and tying it to the state of the economy is.
Take RCP’s compilation of polls. When the month of August started the President lead Mitt Romney 47.4%-44.4%. As of August 31st the President leads Mitt Romney by a narrow 46.4%-45.9% margin. The latest survey before the Convention, an ABC News/WashPo survey found Romney ahead of the President 47%-46%. He led on the economy but more important the President’s likability and favorability numbers had dropped sharply.
Many American swing voters (true swing voters here) wanted the President to succeed. They remain invested in his success because they remain invested in the country’s success. But his failure to live up to his promises or alleviate the nation’s economic crisis has made these voters pessimistic. Many of these voters still like Obama but unlike partisans they are not grounded in a firm political ideology. They vote on the candidate and not just issues. Romney’s new tactic of attacking the President’s ideology gives these voters a way out of not voting to reelect him. By blaming Obama’s ideology for his failures it gives voters an out not to blame the President but simply the ideology he follows.
Romney’s attacks have been pointed and stark. He has pointed to Obama’s “You did not build that comment.” He has attacked the Stimulus as the President believing government is the driver of the economy. On Healthcare he has used Obamacare to make it seem as if the President believes in only top down government. This message has been helped by the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket.
Ryan is the definition of a happy warrior. He is young, smart and charismatic and the perfect attack dog. He never seems angry or malicious in his attacks but they hit home nonetheless. His penchant for numbers and figures is becoming known to the American people and his proposals to overhaul Medicare and the Budget make him the perfect surrogate for Romney to hit Obama on cutting Medicare. His attacks on Obama for the debt have seemed to prove particularly effective.
With the primary officially over Romney his campaign can now transition to the general election. That means the hundreds of millions Romney has collected since June can now be put to use explaining how Obama’s far left ideology has shaped his policies. No longer will the campaign have to do it piecemeal and in all small bits. Perhaps the Romney campaign’s new strategy has worked so well is because the Obama campaign seemed unprepared for it. Their woeful response after Obama’s “You did not build it” comments allowed the Romney campaign to create a new narrative of the President. Mainly what ideology he seems to adhere to.
Anemic job numbers are likely to remain until the end of this year. In other words they will be around in November. The Romney campaign seems to have finally caught on that the US public is not happy with the President but they also have lower expectations for economic improvement than they might have in times past. Tying Obama’s ideology to his bad decisions in office and the debt every American citizen is now responsible for allows voters to see Obama’s economic failures in a new light. Not one casting sole blame on the President but one that casts blame on a failed ideology.
If this message continues to resonate into November the President is in deep trouble.