When President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention, and seeks to buttress his tenuous poll advantage, he’ll need to answer the key questions that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan posed at their own party bash.
Ryan, addressing the swing voters who backed Obama in 2008, asked: “Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”
And Romney, addressing the same voters, asked: “If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
That’s the essence of Obama’s challenge. He has to persuade a disappointed electorate – or, more specifically, 50.1 percent of it – that he deserves another chance. He has to buck the sour national mood and persuade enough people that the next four years will be different. He needs to offer specifics on what would be different. He needs to rekindle at least a spark of the old excitement and translate it into a reasonably robust turnout.
It won’t be an easy job.
Given the jobless rate and the restive army of underemployed, it’s a small miracle that he is politically buoyant at all. For that he can probably thank the Republicans.
According to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, Romney has the lowest favorable rating of any nominee since the survey was launched in the early 1980s. Plus, Romney’s running mate hails from the deeply unpopular Republican House. Plus, the viewing audience for the Republican convention was smaller than the audience for the 2008 GOP event, according to the Nielsen folks – and, among viewers ages 18 to 49, Ryan’s speech was reportedly eclipsed in the ratings by a cable reality show called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
In his speech at the Democratic convention, you can bet that Obama will address the issue of the next four years – not just by sketching out his own plans, but by painting a dire scenario of what Romney-Ryan would do to America in the next four years.
For instance, one never would have known from watching the GOP convention that Romney and Ryan want to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program that would force future seniors to pay more money out of pocket; or that the party platform is so extreme in its opposition to abortion that it would compel pregnant rape victims to give birth to their rapists’ children (Romney doesn’t agree with that plank; Ryan most certainly does); or that 62 percent of the envisioned spending cuts in Ryan’s House budget plan would hit the programs that serve the most vulnerable Americans.
But aside from going negative, Obama’s overriding task is to present himself in the affirmative. According to the latest CBS News poll, a mere 35 percent of voters believe that he has a clear plan for creating jobs. That statistic strikes at the heart of his vulnerability.
Banging the alarm bell about the GOP may not be enough to ensure a second term. How would he make things better the second time around? Romney and Ryan posed important questions last week, and the burden is on the incumbent to provide the answers.