Team Obama: You need a "bear in the woods" to win. Pull up the 1984 Ronald Reagan campaign advertisement on YouTube where the Reagan campaign compares a "bear in the woods" to communism. The message in the ad is clear -- in danger, Ronald Reagan would protect us and Walter Mondale would not.
If the Democrats want to win in November, they need to fear Mitt Romney. And making them do so is no easy task. He is not Pat Robertson nor is he Barry Goldwater. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson told us, "The stakes are too high to stay home." In Johnson's Daisy Ad, a young girl is picking and counting the petals off a daisy in a flower field. When she reaches petal nine, the countdown reverses into a countdown leading to the explosion of an H-bomb. The meaning: electing Goldwater would be too risky for the safety of this nation.
In 2004, George Bush's campaign used tactics similar to what Ronald Reagan's campaign did with the "bear in the woods" ad to strike fear into the electorate by showing wolves circling - representing terrorism and terrorists. The message: John Kerry could not possibly keep us safe from terrorists but George Bush could.
In 2008, Barack Obama ran on change. To some "change" was, and still remains, a campaign slogan. To others, this word has a very tangible meaning. Now Obama is running on the slogan of "forward." If Obama represents "forward," then Romney represents the opposite. The Obama team wants us to believe that by electing Mitt Romney, we will be moving the country backward.
A series of events consisting of the rise of smart diplomacy versus global alienation, the President's support for gay marriage and the recent approval of healthcare represent moving forward to many. A President who would change course in foreign policy, gay marriage and healthcare would therefore represent the opposite.
Yet simply the possibility of reversing course may not be enough to invoke fear among the electorate. A campaign scare tactic showing the H-bomb exploding has more of an impact that one invoked to show the possible results from reversing "progress" on several issues.
When Reagan ran in 1984, the economy was improving from the Carter years. The Reagan team claimed in another ad that it was "morning again in America." Recent job reports and Republican attacks make it difficult for the Obama campaign to run a positive campaign based on the economy during Barack Obama's tenure. A troubled economic performance is one of the reasons we are seeing Obama attack ads on Romney from the start.
The Romney campaign in return has been attacking Obama on the economy. Romney will scare us that if we continue with Obama, the economy will only stay the same -- or possibly even become worse. This sounds scary.
Thus, if the Obama campaign wants to win in November, it must strike fear in the electorate about what would happen if Mitt Romney were elected. This election cannot just be about "the economy, stupid," or Mitt Romney really will have an advantage. The election must also be about the consequences of negating the progress that we have made as a nation over the last four years. Is this a liberal plan? Probably. Is this a subjective plan? Sure. Could it result in a win? I think so.
Bill Clinton once said, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." The Obama campaign needs to show us that President Obama believes this -- and most of all, the campaign needs to make us believe it too.
Some may think that Obama already had his chance -- and this may be. After all, Barack Obama cannot win the election by a simple mandate to win like he did in 2008. But he can win the election because the American people cannot afford to have the other guy elected.