Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Devil is in the Details - what does Obama 2.0 look like?

On Monday the final debate in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election campaign will be held. Following that debate, we will enter the homestretch - a frantic two week period during which the candidates and their parties will do all they can to close the deal with the voter.

One thing I will be looking for as we head into that period is the degree to which either candidate looks to move beyond a "thematic campaign", and starts to be more specific as to what the voters could expect from either a first Romney or second Obama term. Of particular interest to me is the Obama campaign.


The Obama campaign has been criticized for not doing enough to define for the voter what they can expect if the President is elected to a second term. Instead the approach they have taken has been to: (a) attempt to cast doubts about what a Romney Presidency would mean; and (b) articulate a more high-level thematic description of a second term.

I see this as a weakness and a potential problem.

In 2008, Mr. Obama could adopt such an approach. After eight years of George W. Bush, many Americans were looking for something new and different. They were looking for hope and change; they were looking for an ideal within which they could see themselves and their aspirations.

The 2008 Obama campaign was ideally suited for the electorate to which it presented itself. This time around, things are different and more is expected.

To start, the President has a record in office that he needs to defend/promote. In this regard, I think his campaign is doing reasonably well. Building on the Clinton DNC narrative, the campaign has done a good job of defining the scope of the challenges they encountered and the impact of the measures taken in response.

What they haven't done as well is describe what the next four years would look like.

The Obama campaign has thus far not really defined what they would do in response to an historically high unemployment rate. They have not defined how they plan to address the deficit. We know what their goals are, but don't have as much visibility on the "how we get there" side of the equation.

This criticism can equally be directed at the Romney campaign, but there is a difference. After four years in office, President Obama should have a better sense as to the plans ahead. He should have more to offer. And in fairness, I suspect he does.

The problem is that they are not sharing it. They are playing it safe during the campaign because everyone knows that there are still difficult times ahead, with difficult choices to made. Romney is doing the same, but as the challenger he will get more of a free pass.

The thing is, people expect more of a President who promised so much. In 2008, Mr. Obama eloquently captured and articulated people's hopes. This time around, I think that while most voters appreciate the scope of the challenges he faced upon taking office, they nevertheless want to see more of a plan.

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