Economic Weakness

Obama’s ‘Vampire’ Economic Attack Ad Against Romney Won’t Work

Obama’s taking a page from the Bush playbook, but his strategy will likely backfire, says Mark McKinnon.

Obama for America; Romney for President, Inc.

Contrary to conventional military and game theory, the most effective offense is sometimes a direct attack against your political opponent’s greatest strength—not his weaknesses—to place him immediately on the defensive.

This is a strategy Team Obama has borrowed directly from the 2004 Republican playbook. John Kerry’s military experience could have been perceived as a strength in the 2004 election, but it became a weakness when exposed to questioning.

Hoping to make Mitt Romney’s business leadership a liability in voters’ minds, the Obama campaign has launched a “Vampire” video and website documenting job losses in 2001 at a Kansas City steel mill owned by Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney led until 1999.

After similar volleys fired by rivals in the Republican primary, Team Romney would have been fools not to be prepared for this line of attack. They were prepared. And their response is raw, real, and brutally effective.

Romney’s new video tells the story of “A Few of the 23 Million” Americans struggling to get by today without a job. It’s a powerful, emotional gut check—a check, if not a checkmate. All that separates us from these three folks is just a few paychecks, viewers sense.

The video reflects what the polls are showing.

An overwhelming 71 percent of adults rate the economy as poor, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll. Four in 10 say they are worse off than they were a year ago. And, more worrisome for President Obama, 46 percent believe the economy will improve in the next four years under Obama, while 55 percent say it will be better under a Romney administration.

In assuming Romney’s business success is the bane of his campaign, Team Obama is misreading the playbook from 2004. Questioning Kerry’s perceived strength was an effective tactic only because that same strength was already demonstrated and “owned” by the incumbent, President George W. Bush.

Today is different. The economy is not Obama’s strength; it is his weakest point. Attacks on Romney here will likely backfire.

With just three of 23 million voices, the Romney video perfectly captures the anxiety of a nation:

“It’s hard to know where to put your trust...Everyone believed. Everyone had hope...It’s all talk...You can say whatever you want...It’s not about saying what everyone wants to hear, it’s about doing it.”

Hope and change has not been kind to millions of Americans. Nor is it being kind to Obama who now trails Romney in some polls. His may be one more job lost in this Obamalaise.