Mitt Romney is now structuring his entire campaign around accusing President Obama of not having a second term agenda.
"We used [Wednesday] to remind voters that if President Obama had a record to run on he would do so, but he doesn't so he can't," said [Romney senior adviser Kevin] Madden, adding, "Voters have a choice between Governor Romney, who has a plan to fix the economy and address concerns like gas prices, and President Obama, who hasn't even presented voters a second term agenda. We want to continue to drive that fact with swing voters."Jon Stewart echoed that talking point in his Obama interview last night -- and Obama mostly said that he'll stay the course, and he should be reelected to prevent Romney from getting into office and changing course in a wingnutty way. The answer played well with the Stewart audience, and it's good enough for me given the extreme nature of the GOP at this moment in history -- but is it enough to get Obama across the finish line when Romney is goading him to provide second term specifics?
Here's the full exchange:
STEWART: Would you say-- do you feel like you have a stronger affirmative case for a second Barack Obama presidency or a stronger negative case for a Mitt Romney presidency? What is-- in your mind, what is the stronger case to be made? Or do you prefer a melange? But what is-- because I'm curious, what do you think? Do you feel like you've-- do you feel you've made the strong enough affirmative case or a stronger negative case?When pundits talk about the Mitt Romney campaign, the conventional narrative is "Romney thought just saying he wasn't Barack Obama would win him the election, but then he changed his message, and now he's doing much better." (Romney isn't actually describing an agenda in much detail, except drill/deregulate/cut taxes = profit!!!, but he says he is, and he says "five-point plan" so often you'd think he really has a detailed plan and Obama doesn't.) If Barack Obama's principal message is "I'm not Mitt Romney," is he making what everyone thinks was Romney's former mistake? Or will this work for Obama because he can make a Romney future sound scarier than Romney can make an Obama future sound, because we know Obama, and because Romney really is much more extreme? Can Obama still convince us that Romney is much more extreme? Or does he need more than this?
OBAMA: I think I've got a strong case on both ends. Look, four years ago I said I'd end the war in Iraq. We did. Said I'd pass health care reforms, make sure people don't go bankrupt when they're sick. We have. Said we'd refocus our attentions on Al Qaeda. We have. Made sure that we saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse. We've done that. So we've got a very strong story to tell, whether it's on social issues, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, or economic issues that matter for middle-class families.
I do think that part of the president's job is not only moving forward on things that will work, but also preventing things that won't work. So I think you want a president in the Oval Office who's going to say, "No, we're not going to amend our Constitution for the first time to restrict rights for gay and lesbian couples. We're not going to pass a budget where all the work that we've done to make college more affordable for young people gets wiped aside so that suddenly lenders and banks are getting extra tens of billions of dollars. We're not going to roll back health care so that millions of people are thrown off the rolls."
But when you think about it, it is two sides of the same coin. The question is, what kind of vision do you have for this country? We need to make sure that we're developing oil and gas but we're also developing solar and wind. So we're leapfrogging current technology and making sure that technology twenty or thirty years from now is developed here in the United States. That's what creates jobs.
And the most important thing is, when you think about the economy, I'm absolutely convinced, when you look at the historical record, that when middle-class families do well, when there are ladders of opportunity for poor families to get into the middle class, the entire economy does well. And when a few folks are doing very well at the top and everybody else is getting squeezed, the entire economy grows slower. And that is the central issue in this election that we've got to make sure we address.