The Obama campaign ... might eke out a victory, but it is at risk of losing control of the economic narrative. Its best hope is to stop nickel-and-diming Mitt Romney and laundry-listing forgettable initiatives and, instead, give independents reason to think that Obama has a clear, viable plan to bolster the economy.
This is Jonathan Rauch's argument and it might be persuasive if the objective of the Obama campaign were not to reelect its candidate—if, that is, he were not the incumbent. If the Obama team has a "clear, viable plan," then why, voters might be inclined to think, has it waited until now to take it on the road and sell it? Or, better yet, stick around Washington and put it to work.
The first element of Rauch's suggested "plan" is for the Obama team to endorse Simpson-Bowles. This may, or may not, be a wise thing to do. Either as politics or economics ... or both. But it is not something the president could not have done many months (or years!) ago. Voters might not be impressed by an argument that comes down to, And today we are announcing that we've changed our minds about that Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce spending and cut the deficit. We're now for it. The plan hasn't changed but our mind has.
Rauch's second recommendation is: "Short-term economic stimulus." As politics, it would be hard to sell this as a new, bold idea. Voters might be inclined to see it as an old, bold idea that was tried and did not work. As economics, this may be an unfair judgment but it may be a little late in the game to educate voters on the marvels of the multiplier.
And, finally, Mr. Rauch recommends: “A two-year debt-limit extension. Declare that another debt-limit fiasco is unacceptable and demand that the issue be taken off the table. Let Republicans explain why they want to hold a gun to the economy’s head.” Hard to see how this will send people flocking to the polls. Vote to reelect the president and extend the debt limit for two years—that’s a bit of a mouthful as a political slogan. So how about, Much more debt. Much more debt? It's sort of catchy and easy for crowds to chant. But would it move people?
One suspects that it is too late for the president to formulate a new plan to save the economy and that his team has already lost "control of the economic narrative." The June jobs numbers came in below expectations (80,000 vs. 90,000) so the task is now to eke out a victory by beating up on Mitt Romney.