The Magazine

Why Obama Is Still Ahead

The economy alone won’t win the election for Romney.

Sep 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 02 • By FRED BARNES
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• The Obama campaign. It gets credit for turning the presidential race, partly anyway, into a choice between two candidates rather than a referendum on Obama’s record. This has been the president’s goal since his reelection drive went full-throttle in early 2011. By trashing Romney as a greedy, uncompassionate plutocrat, the strategy is to persuade voters he’s an unacceptable alternative as president.

• The Romney campaign. It hasn’t adjusted to the campaign as a choice. “That’s the problem,” says pollster Frank Luntz, who has conducted dozens of focus groups this year. “When your opponent has $1 billion to spend, it’s [no longer] a referendum. It’s a choice.” Swing voters and independents don’t believe Obama deserves reelection, Luntz says, but Romney “hasn’t made the case for himself.” There’s “no ‘not Obama’ lever. They’ll have to pull the Romney lever. At this point, they aren’t willing to do that. He hasn’t given them a reason why.” Were the election solely about Obama’s record, he wouldn’t need to.

Barack Obama isn’t Jimmy Carter. The economy won’t drag him down as it did Carter in 1980. In last week’s Fox News poll, Obama and Romney were tied on who voters “trust to do a better job on improving the economy and creating jobs.” The message to Romney here is so clear that even his campaign staff should be able to understand it.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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