I strongly suspect that one of the Barack Obama campaign’s key strategic goals is to fight Mitt Romney to a draw on who can fix the economic crisis; the Obama team would love a win, but a draw may have to do. The battle can then be won on other turf – who can be trusted to protect middle-class interests while reforming entitlements and taxes, for example.
Two events Thursday spoke directly to this dynamic. First, the Obama campaign released a very harsh ad arguing that Romney would raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans to pay for a tax cut on millionaires like himself. Second, Romney released a new middle-class economic plan.
The latter contains ideas we’ve heard before from Romney: more access to domestic energy resources; repealing Obamacare; cutting taxes and capping spending.
So why release this plan now? It’s interesting to consider that it comes in the wake of a CBS News/New York Times poll that found a majority of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and a plurality of those in Florida, don’t think Romney understands their needs. Majorities believe the opposite about Obama.
Yet the candidates are roughly tied on the question of who would do a better job on the economy. If the Obama camp can persuade swing voters that Romney isn’t the answer to their problems, perhaps it can neutralize Romney’s natural advantage on the issue as the alternative to an incumbent in a bad economy.
This is what the assault on Romney’s Bain years, his tax returns and his offshore accounts is all about: creating a framework within which voters can be more easily convinced that Romney’s policies would benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class.
Obama’s new ad hits this point hard, pointing out Romney’s low tax rate on the $20 million he earned in 2010. “Romney’s middle-class tax increase: He pays less; you pay more,” it concludes.
Obama’s best chance of hanging on amid a bad economy is convincing voters that, as disillusioned as they may be, Romney – even if he does have an aura of economic know-how – can’t be trusted to look out for their interests while fixing it.Greg Sargent blogs on domestic politics for The Washington Post: washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line.