‘The only people truly shocked by Obama’s victory, which was predicted by the polls and the various data models, was the Romney campaign…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) In and op-ed for Politico, former Obama strategist Dan Pfeiffer slapped down the Left’s latest “folk hero,” Sen. Mitt Romney, by reminding his Democratic audience how badly the former GOP nominee botched the 2012 election.
“Rather than obsess over 2016, Democrats should focus on 2012—the last year a challenger took on an incumbent,” Pfeiffer wrote.
“There are more parallels than you’d think: Barack Obama was a president hugely unpopular with the opposing party, but the economy on the upswing; the Republicans had a big field and took a while to coalesce around a consensus choice,” he said.
Pfeiffer’s comparison, of course, drew upon an array of popular Democratic tropes, such as the false equivalency between Obama’s stagnant economy and Trump’s booming bull-market—a talking point Democrats have signaled that they hope to pivot toward in the post-impeachment fallout.
It notably brushes under the rug the disparity in Obama’s fawning media coverage and Trump’s hostile media coverage, with Pfeiffer even absurdly suggesting that left-wing operative Nate Silver had condemned Obama’s chances on the cover of the New York Times Magazine with a tantalizingly titled love-letter to the Democratic incumbent, “Is Obama Toast?”
“It is early, and almost no matter what, the election will be a losable one for Republicans,” Silver qualified. “But Obama’s position is tenuous enough that it might not be a winnable one for him.”
Pfeiffer also dubiously claimed that voters were put off by “Romney’s far-right positions” when, in reality it was an enthusiasm gap among conservatives that likely undid him.
Despite the obvious spin, Pfeiffer’s analysis drew several conclusions that even Trump himself might be inclined to endorse, not the least of which was that Romney is a loser.
“[H]is campaign misread and misplayed the election in ways that the Democrats desperately need to pay attention to now,” Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer offered three primary words of advice for the current crop of Democrats who, like 2012 Republicans, are mired in an extended primary battle that has done little for their bigger-picture objectives.
Do not make this election solely about Donald Trump.
Like 2012 Republicans, many Democrats are currently terrified that the eventual candidate will be one much farther to the Left, ideologically, than the party’s base.
However, he said, the candidate still must be able to sell himself on his own merits and not simply hope to be the winner by default.
“This was a fundamental misunderstanding of the contours of a modern presidential campaign and a fatal strategic error,” Pfeiffer said.
“Romney left a vacuum of information that the Obama campaign, and other Democratic groups, were more than happy to fill” with their own narratives about the opposing candidate, he noted.
Find ways to frame this economy on your own terms.
Democrats have struggled with Trump’s economic success, alternately trying to re-frame his economy as a failure and to take credit for it themselves.
Pfeiffer noted that the same was true in 2012, where Obama deflected from the tangible economic failures of his first term by focusing instead on a more abstract message.
“Instead of an up-or-down vote based on the unemployment rate or weak growth, the Obama campaign turned a question of economic performance into one of economic fairness by focusing on how Romney’s policies favored the wealthy over the middle and working class,” Pfeiffer said.
In essence, whether the goal is to deflect from Republican’s policy successes or Democrats’ policy failures, the message is the same: You didn’t build that.
“Like Romney, Trump wants to make the race about macro-economic indicators, and so Democrats need to make it about people’s personal interaction with the economy,” Pfeiffer said.
- Get out of the liberal Twitter bubble.
Pfeiffer accused Romney of misreading the national Zeitgeist.
“The only people truly shocked by Obama’s victory, which was predicted by the polls and the various data models, was the Romney campaign,” he said. “They had been mainlining the anti-Obama propaganda from Fox News and others for years and therefore had lost touch with how voters saw Obama.”
In reality, Romney was more flummoxed by his opponent’s unscrupulous ability to spin his failures into Republican liabilities, giving voters who did not see the no particular reason to change course.
Although Romney destroyed the sitting president with facts on the debate stage, it boiled down to a cult of personality and charisma, which was a losing proposition for the milquetoast ex-Massachusetts governor.
Not surprisingly, Pfeiffer’s own actions speak volumes louder than his words. Ignoring his own advice, he uses every opportunity to snipe at Trump and to reinforce the conventional wisdom of the Left’s echo chamber by claiming Trump to be scandal-laden and unqualified.
But his observations hold true that Democrats must be in attack mode and not reactive mode. As Republicans found in 2012, the worst sort of candidate is one who concedes the low ground in order to take the high road.