Newsweek writer Andrew Romano takes a tour of Barack Obama’s reelection headquarters in Chicago and reports:

When I asked Obama’s top lieutenants about his image problem—how he manages to get caricatured as both a crypto-Marxist radical and an unprincipled, professorial pushover, all at the same time—they responded, almost reflexively, with the usual excuses: we inherited a terrible economy, and, anyway, we really have passed a lot of legislation. But while that analysis is basically accurate, as Beltway scorekeeping goes, it’s hardly the kind of rallying cry required to remobilize millennials and independents, key constituencies among whom Obama’s support has plummeted more than a dozen percentage points since 2008. And so Chicago is crafting a new, more combative message. “I speak as one who has responsibilities in this regard, so I take a good deal of the blame,” David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist, confessed. “We took a guy who speaks about vision and values in as compelling a way as anyone of this generation, and we made him into a narrator of the day-to-day decision making of government.”

So, in other words, Axelrod is realizing that the problem with Obama is that eventually he had to govern, which requires “day-to-day decision making” and which also requires the decision maker to explain why he’s making certain decisions to the people who elected him. I guess he now wants Obama not to have to explain his decisions to the general public, since that’s been weakening the president’s political position and instead Axelrod wants to utilize “a guy who speaks about vision and values in as compelling a way as anyone of this generation.”

What this practically means, according to Romano, is that Obama and his team will now run a campaign that will say, well, these last few years might not have been great, but the next few will be even worse if a Republican is elected over Obama. Romano reports:

The plan for 2012, according to Axelrod, is to tout the president’s achievements while also recognizing that “people are less interested in a tote sheet of what has been accomplished” than in “how we, and alternatively how the other side, would approach the larger economic challenges” facing the middle class. Translation: voters should expect (1) more talk about the future than the painful recent past, and (2) a merciless populist assault on the Republican nominee’s alleged belief in “trickle-down social Darwinism”—an “every man for himself” ideology designed, according to Axelrod, to ensure that “whoever starts with the advantages will likely multiply them, while everybody else pedals faster and faster just to keep up.” Think No We Shouldn’t (elect a Republican) instead of Yes We Can. “You’re looking at a lot more competitive situation, and that’s what we’re preparing for,” Axelrod admits. “It’s going to be a very vigorous debate.”

But Obama fans need not worry! The campaign is hurriedly developing a brand new iPhone app. And harvesting data from donors and potential donors so that they can better explain why the Republicans are bad and Obama is good.

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