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The GOP Problem: 'It's Halftime in America'

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This year's Super Bowl program contained a commercial "It's Halftime in America", featuring Clint Eastwood. Initially this seemed to be a public service pep talk for the nation, then a promo for Detroit, and it turned out to be a Chrysler ad. The commercial outraged Republicans. It's an indication of their core problems in the 2012 presidential contest.

In the ad Eastwood observed that it was halftime in the football game and "It's halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback. And we're all scared, because this isn't a game." He acknowledged Detroit had been through a lot. "I've seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn't understand each other. It seems like we've lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that's what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can't find a way, then we'll make one. All that matters now is what's ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And, how do we win?"

Republicans reacted as if they had been sucker punched. Karl Rove went on Fox News decried the ad and accused Obama of "Chicago-style politics." (By the way, Clint Eastwood is an Independent who supported McCain in 2008.)

"It's Halftime in America" contained three themes that promoted Obama's message. The first was the game is not over, America's best days are not over. Eastwood said, "The people of Detroit... almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again... Detroit's showing us it can be done."

In his State of the Union address, President Obama used a similar frame, "Think about the America within our reach... An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded. We can do this. I know we can, because we've done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known."

The second theme was that progress has been made. In Eastwood's case he said, "Motor City is fighting again." The government bailouts of the auto industry saved 1.4 million jobs and the big three companies are again making a profit.

In his State of the Union remarks, Obama made the same point:

In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect. Those are the facts. But so are these: In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.

After the speech, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 243,000 jobs had been added in January.

The third theme was the American people have to work together. Eastwood observed, "...after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that's what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can't find a way, then we'll make one."

In his State of the Union remarks, Obama echoed this:

No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team... And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Republicans are angry about the "It's Halftime in America" ad because it flies in the face of their negative themes: Obama has failed; America has gone in the toilet; and the only way to dig ourselves out of this hole is to place our faith in corporate America. Republicans will have an uphill battle selling this to voters.

Whether or not they have seen the Eastwood ad, Americans don't believe the Republican message. They don't believe that Obama has failed; they feel he has done as much as he could to clean up the mess Bush left him, considering Republican obstruction. Further, Americans don't believe that the U.S. economy is in the toilet. They identify with the people of Detroit who fought back. We believe it's halftime for America and our best days lie ahead.

Finally, voters don't believe that the solution to our problems is to do what Republican suggest: place our faith in the 1 percent. Americans agree with Obama: "As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful."

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