President Obama is facing a formidable foe in Mitt Romney, with polls showing an improvement in Romney’s standing since he clinched the Republican nomination when he decisively beat his opposition last Tuesday in Texas.
During the grueling period of Republican primaries Obama was able to cruise along on a 6-point lead in the polls; but now with more conservative voters able to unify behind Romney, Obama’s lead has taken a dive down to an almost imperceptible 1.6 point lead, according to the most recent Real Clear Politics average of national polls.
Even more crucial is that this slide in the president’s popularity is seen most clearly in the most contentious states, with no clear leader ever pulling head in the polls- in these states who’s in the lead won’t be decided until Election Day.
And when you are living on the edge, everything you do matters. Many observers feel that Obama’s hard-hitting, critical and negative ads attacking Romney may be doing him more harm than good, a position they say, Obama can’t afford to take.
These analysts say that because Obama branded himself as a “new-breed” politician, any practices which hark back to “politics as usual” will cause a backlash among voters who expect from Obama something different.
Host of Face the Nation Bob Schieffer began his program last Sunday by confronting Robert Gibbs, former Obama press secretary, with this very issue. expressed the feelings of many when he said:
“One of the refreshing changes when the president was elected — he talked about hope and change,” Schieffer said.
“Whatever happened to hope and change? Now, it seems he’s coming right out of the box with these old-fashioned negative ads.”
Gibbs’ answer wasn’t new- it is what Obama’s team has been saying for months: it is simply not fair to hold Obama to a different set of standards than Romney. They contend that in the face of the relentless attacks coming from Romney, Obama has the right to fight back. But it is clear that Obama is subject to a double standard and he is being forced to find the right balance between staying positive and effectively criticizing Romney when necessary.
“C’mon. Let’s get real,” said top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod when asked if he thought Obama’s negative campaign strategy was harming his own campaign. “Romney’s been beating us up in a very direct and personal way for a year. This is a guy who’s offering himself to the country as a kind of economic savior, as a wizard. It behooves us to pull the curtain back, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Axelrod said it is simply not true that Obama ran a strictly up-beat campaign back in 2008 during his first race for president. All you have to do is to check with Hillary Clinton and John McCain if this is true. In 2008, just like today, the Obama campaign pointed out the outstanding differences between Obama and the opposition. The main difference today, Axelrod states, is that today the commentators and voters are holding Obama to a higher, double-standard.