Yesterday, the chattering class was having a field day over the most recent Democracy Corps memo, which advised that President Barack Obama needed to do more to ensure middle and working class Americans that he had a plan to brighten their future. (If middle and working class Americans are reading leaked trade documents, that might be harder to do.) It's not hard to see the wisdom in the strategy memo, whose authors -- James Carville, Stan Greenberg, and Erica Seifert -- urge the president to ignore the conventional wisdom of "elites" and focus on the fact that voters are sophisticated enough to understand the causes of their economic dislocation, and are looking for a sign that the president understands it as well.
However, it's even easier to stop reading the memo after you get to the phrase "impossible headwind" and decide that it's a call for all-out panic. What to do next? Well, if you want to "confirm" the panic, all you have to do is call a random assortment of "Democratic strategists," who as a general rule, are almost always panicking. Here's Karen Tumulty, today:
"The bad thing is, there is no new thinking in that circle," said one longtime operative in Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
Eight other prominent Democratic strategists interviewed shared that view, describing Obama's team as resistant to advice and assistance from those who are not part of its core. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity as well.
That's about as far as it goes. These "eight other prominent Democrats" never speak on their own, we just learn that they all apparently said, "Yeah, whatever that first guy said." And what the first guy said was basically that Obama desperately needs to listen to what the first guy has to say. Though the first guy never discloses the powerful, game-changing political advice he has to offer, maybe because he doesn't have any? It's tough to say. One of the great things about being an anonymous political strategist is that you never have to be responsible for a strategy.
Can I get someone to do some realkeeping, here? Someone who can point to some simple electoral fundamentals that make this 2012 race unique? Fortunately, Tumulty provides me with Mark McKinnon:
"Now all the stories are about the flawed Obama team and strategy, which is ridiculous," said Mark McKinnon, who was a top campaign strategist for George W. Bush. "They are not any more or less smart than they were four years ago. The dynamics are just different. This time, the wind is in their face instead of at their back."
See, that's the sort of thing I would have led with, because I'm interested in making politics less complicated for readers, as opposed to more confusing. The point I would make is that no matter what "messaging" the Obama team comes up with -- and it has many months to do an awesome or a terrible job -- the dire economy is the dire economy.
If we could take a trip together, through time and space, back to the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, I could introduce you to at least a dozen Democratic strategists who told me off the record that Obama was surely going to lose and his strategy was all wrong and that he needed to listen to their advice before it was too late. And I think you'd agree that writing the "anonymous Democratic strategists are panicking" story is a lot like writing the "darkness is likely to ensue as the sun sets in the west" story.
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