THE BLOG

Time for the President to Switch to South Paw

09/27/2012 05:01 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2012

As a native Philadelphian, there was something in the "wudder" there which makes me still relate everything in the world to the Rocky saga. And, so, as I look at the polling landscape in the presidential race, I can't help but think it's time for President Obama's campaign to switch to South Paw.

In Rocky II, Rocky Balboa takes a rematch with champion, Apollo Creed. One problem. Rocky's lost vision in one eye, meaning if he fights his usual left-handed, or South Paw, style, Creed will beat his brains in. So, Rocky's trainer and manager, Mickey, devises a plan. Teach Rocky to fight right handed, and have him fight right handed. And, if he can hang on, just when Apollo adjusts to fighting a right-handed Rocky -- BAM! -- switch back to South Paw and totally confuse Apollo, to win the fight.

When President Obama's team looked at the reelection campaign, initially, things were tight. They decided, quite correctly, that they couldn't run their 2008 race, which broadened the electoral map. Instead, 2012 was going to have to be a race where they concentrated on holding on to some swing states, if they had any chance. To this point, they've run a masterful campaign doing just that.

Just like the Apollo-Rocky II Superfight, the president's team has slogged it out and not just clawed back into the fight, but now has Romney on the ropes. But Romney is still standing, and there's a bunch of time left before the final bell. Romney's team is now trying to go punch for punch in those swing states -- Ohio, Florida, Virginia -- and every single thing they have planned from here until election day is based on trading punches in those states.

Now is the time to make the switch.

Somewhat below the radar, some new states are getting pretty close according to some recent polling, though still lean Romney. Arizona (Romney +3), Georgia (Romney +5), South Carolina (Romney +6). This, all without advertising in the states by the presidential campaigns, or any real campaigning by the candidates. Putting just a little bit of money in these states, by the Obama campaign, will move the needle in the state polling, for the simple reason that they'll be unchallenged.

It's the switch back to South Paw -- the expand-the-map campaign from 2008. And it will leave the Romney campaign completely flummoxed.

Politics is probably the one field that's most like chess -- you think up a move, think of what your opponent may do, and have your possible response moves to that all at the ready. Thinking along those lines, if the Obama campaign puts money into ads in these states, and things really start to move towards a toss-up, Romney has one of two responses:

  1. Put money into those states, to ensure that he can hold on to these "must win" base states
  2. Do nothing, and pray that the president can't win there

Should the Romney campaign choose Option 1, and try to defend against the South Paw strategy, it means they have to pull resources from the swing states they are focusing on -- Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and to a lesser extent, Nevada and Colorado. That opens up whole new openings for the president in those states, as all recent reports say that he has more money on hand than Mitt Romney. The president can put those states away, right now, without spending any additional money there than they planned, as Romney is forced to pull resources out.

If the Romney campaign picks Option 2, then, again, the president by virtue of having more money, can make a serious play for Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona. Put a little more into ads. Have Bill Clinton make a pit stop in South Carolina and Georgia, on his way to Florida. Send Michelle Obama out to Phoenix. Without any challenge from Romney, the president can absolutely turn them blue.

One not-to-be-ignored side benefit of this would be that this could help Democrats in down ballot races. For instance, Richard Carmona is deadlocked with conservative Jeff Flake for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. If the president can move Arizona voters towards his column, it helps propel Carmona, and likely sends him to the Senate. The president will need that, if he wins a second term.

This is about to as close as a no-win scenario for the Romney campaign as there will ever be. But it's up to the president's team to take full advantage.

Of course, the president's campaign may say, "We have our plan, it's working, and we're sticking to it." Heck, even Rocky, before he headed out for the final round, responded to Mickey's plea to go South Paw by saying, "No tricks. I ain't switchin'." But when he came out for that round, and saw Apollo was too close to hanging on, he did make the switch, when Mickey violently hit the mat and yelled, "Now!" (Spoiler Alert: Rocky wins.)

Now is the time for the president to do the same thing, and put Mitt Romney away.