You can tell that the pro-Romney ads criticizing President Obama’s liberal new approach to “workfare” are scoring points. For one thing, they continue to run, even though the MSM has proclaimed them false or misleading. For another, Team Obama, through surrogate Gov. Martin O’Malley, is claiming that this line of attack is “racially coded.” That has long been the standard response when a Republican punch lands.
Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, confirms that the “workfare” punch has indeed landed. Law told the Wall Street Journal that recent focus groups show the issue is “definitely resonating now with swing voters, including those who were Obama voters in 2008.”
Apart from the intrinsic unpopularity of policies that retreat from work requirements for able-bodied welfare recipients, Law sees the issue as a window into Obama’s leftism. Law has found that swing voters are “resistant” to the idea that Obama is radical or ideological. But he believes that the administration’s relaxation of work requirements in federal welfare rules could change that perception.
Cries of “racism” by Democrats might also help change it. To the extent that the “workfare” ads resonate, it is because people don’t like handouts, not because they don’t like handouts to minority group members. To claim otherwise is to behave like a leftist. That, presumably, is why Team Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki has said she doesn’t interpret these ads in racial terms. That interpretative task has been assigned instead to Gov. O’Malley, who resides nominally outside the campaign.
I would have thought that the more effective response to this line of Republican attack would be to insist that the charge against Obama is false. But this has been the Democrats’ response so far, and apparently it has not been sufficient.
As for the merits of the claim that Obama is undermining the work requirements of welfare reform, I addressed them here.