This is one of those headlines I never thought I’d see in the New York Times:
Well, OK, they weren’t actually talking about us. The second part of the post title is true, however. The Times does question the effectiveness of President Obama’s attempt to salvage November’s election for the Democrats: “Obama Message in Flux as Election Day Nears.”
As we and many others have done, the Times reviews the shifting targets of Obama’s rage as the President has sought to gain traction–John Boehner, Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, and so on. The paper quotes James Carville and Stanley Greenberg for the proposition, based on current polling data, that Obama’s current message is, shall we say, not optimal:
Mr. Carville and Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg went further in their criticism in a polling memo over the weekend, writing that Mr. Obama is too focused on the wrong underlying argument. They say he could help win over undecided voters with a promise to change Washington on behalf of the middle class and to oppose Republicans who support tax breaks for big companies that export jobs.
Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenberg argued that those messages would work better than the president’s current argument. In their survey, they asked voters about Mr. Obama’s message that Republicans are going “back to Bush and the old policies for Wall Street that cost us 8 million jobs.” They said that message was “painfully weaker” than the other ones they tested in surveys.
“Compared to the other messages, it falls very short,” they concluded in the memo, saying it does little with “winnable voters” across the country. “That message framework cannot extend the Democratic vote.”
Which is another way of saying that the voters don’t want to hear any more about President Bush. The Democrats’ real problem, it seems to me, is that it is late in the day for them to start listening to the American people. If they had cared what voters think, they wouldn’t have passed the stimulus bill or the government medicine bill, wouldn’t have run up trillions in debt, wouldn’t have adjourned with tax increases looming for every tax-paying American. Nothing the Democrats can say or do now is likely to change the underlying dynamics of the election.
Still, that doesn’t mean that Obama’s flailing for a theme is entirely wasted effort. The best the Democrats can do is to try to change the subject, and to some degree they have succeeded in that. Every minute a voter spends thinking about Karl Rove or the Chamber of Commerce is a minute he isn’t thinking about taxes, spending or the economy.