Commentary Magazine


Team Obama’s Third-Rate Performance

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is out with an ad that immediately jumps on President Obama’s statement earlier today that “the private sector is doing fine.” The president’s assertion raises the question–just what planet is Obama living on? And the RNC ad is a good one. But what this episode reveals are two things of more lasting significance.

The first is that at almost every level, the Republican Party in 2012 is sharper and better than the Republican Party in 2008. Campaigns develop a rhythm and pace of their own – and so far, the Romney campaign and the RNC are easily outdueling the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). We saw evidence of this earlier this week, when the GOP’s get-out-the-vote effort in Wisconsin far exceeded what the Democratic Party was able to do.

The other thing this clip highlights is that President Obama is a much different, and inferior, candidate to what he was four years ago.

Some of that has to do with the fact that in 2008, Obama was able to run against an incumbent party that was out of favor, while today he’s forced to defend a record of almost unmitigated failure. But apart from that, the Obama campaign in general – at this point at least – is out of sorts. It’s far less sharp, more off stride, and less skilled and in touch with the mood of the public now than in 2008.

One should assume the Obama campaign will correct itself at some point and turn into a formidable force. But that is not a given by any means. Sometimes a campaign, like a professional athlete, simply loses its edge – and when it does, a tight race can break wide open.

The Romney campaign would be wise to anticipate that the president and his team will raise their game. But in their private thoughts, late at night and away from reporters, the top tier of the Romney campaign must be somewhat mystified, and unexpectedly delighted, that Obama and Company are, for now, executing with the level of precision you’d expect from a campaign running for local sheriff.

At this stage, the state of the economy — which will have a huge impact on the election — is increasingly beyond Obama’s control. But even those things Obama can control — namely, his performance and the performance of his team — show signs of being third-rate. This cannot be reassuring to the president or his party. Unless Obama gets his act together relatively soon, and relatively quickly, he might want to prepare to attend the unveiling of his White House portrait at an event hosted by Mitt Romney three years from now.