According to some strategists, Republicans are in a political pickle. President Obama’s likability ratings are ahead of Mitt Romney’s by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Through focus groups, polls and surveys, Republicans are developing a strategy that cautiously avoids attacking Obama personally and instead focuses on attacking Obama’s incompetence and leadership failures. But is that the right strategy?
Republicans at every level seem to be embracing the “fact,” typically devoid of historical examples, that personally attacking Obama will backfire, driving independents and moderates back into the warm-cool embrace of President Awesome. William McGurn develops this line of thinking:
Now, the president’s likability doesn’t mean Mr. Romney shouldn’t go on the offensive. It does mean he ought to attack hardest where Mr. Obama is at his weakest: his failed policies. For all the carping about Mr. Romney, this part he gets. We can see it reflected in both his embrace of the opportunity-oriented Republicanism of Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan — and his repeated refrain that Mr. Obama is simply “in over his head.”
“Focus group” and “survey” data in the area of likability is forever changing and very unreliable. For example, Mitt Romney’s favorable ratings went from bad to good and back to bad and then back to good. American politics is replete with examples where a protracted campaign battle was waged and the forever “likable” candidate was dragged down to Earth faster than a falling star.
Democrats are experts at employing this strategy — it’s how they destroyed George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Sure, Bush and Palin did themselves no favors. But do not kid yourselves: the campaigns against them were engineered from the moment they walked onto the national political stage.
Republicans can bring the campaign war to American’s television sets, which have generally avoided in-depth investigations into Solyndra and Fast & Furious. Republicans can shed light on Obama’s distortions, cover-ups and questionable associations. It will be like shooting fish in a barrel, fish that ironically received a $500 million guaranteed loan from the Department of Energy.
When going after Obama’s character, one needs only to focus on what has already been demonstrated: that he lacks it. Republicans need to burst the ignorance bubble perpetuated by Obama’s media royal guards. It’s already beginning to burst and Republicans have the ability to speed that process along. The concept is saturation and the rule is repetition over spaced intervals for greatest retention.
It is no longer 2008 and Obama no longer possesses the magical messianic power to part the political seas. Republicans would be wise to ignore pundit advice, except mine of course, and begin a campaign against the faux-wunderkind.
Thomas Grier is a third-year law student at The Ohio State University. A graduate of Arizona State University, Grier writes on constitutional law, politics and pro-growth policy.