Here's some new research from Stan Greenberg and James Carville based on two focus groups they did, one in Columbus and the other in the Philly burbs. The former was with people with no college degrees, the latter with graduates. The groups were all independent voters, split 50/50 between Obama and Romney backers.
It's worth reading the memo for the participants' comments. Bottom line: People don't wanna hear from Obama that the economy is getting better. They don't feel it, and they're not buying it. They understand that this is a big hole we're in and that it's going to take time. What they want is a plan for how to get out of it. They are not, by and large, buying Mitt Romney's plan, and they don't like him much. But they don't respond when Obama tries to sell the getting better idea:
It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance – and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction. They are wrong, and that will fail. The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the President talk about the future. They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand. They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way – not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery.
We are losing these voters on the economy, but holding on because Romney is very vulnerable. They do not trust him because of who he is for and because he’s out of touch with ordinary people; he is vulnerable on the Ryan budget and its impact on people; he is vulnerable on the choices over taxes. But in the current context, it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.
But we underscore the sentiment they expressed in the postcards to the President they wrote at the end of the exercise: overwhelmingly, these voters want to know that he understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.
Okay, me again (sorry--I can never get the indent command to work): I think it's kinda hard for a president seeking reelection to duck saying something or other about the economy during his term. He's got to say something. The 27 straight months of private-sector job growth isn't a terrible line. It's specific and true.
But this research says that Obama should do that in one sentence and pivot quickly to the future, and spend about 150 sentences on the future, and give it to people straight. Romney is going to be telling them, hey, tax cuts and letting the free market rip will solve everything. But people know that tax cuts and letting the free market rip is what created the crisis in the first place.
By the way, they tested several attack strategies against Romney--doesn't care about the poor, gets too much money from corporate fat cats, supports Bush tax cuts, is too rich, etc. Biggest response: "He holds as much as $8 million in accounts in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes on it."