Chris Graham: Obama ad reinforcing GOP message?
Watching TV last night, I finally saw the ad that the Barack Obama campaign has been running to counter the “you didn’t build that” furor in the conservative echosphere.
“Those ads taking my words about the small business out of context – they’re flat-out wrong,” the president said, looking dead-eye into the camera, in the spot, which, if you ask me, is bound to do more harm than good.
Why do I say that? I refer to the old dictum of Southern politics as a guide.
If you’re explainin’, you’re losin’.
So here President Obama is, explaining that the Republican attacks on his comments at a Roanoke campaign event earlier this month misrepresent what he actually said. A look at the fuller context of the Obama remarks backs him up on that point, but does it really matter?
It’s early in the campaign cycle for this to be the case, but we’re pretty much at late-October levels in terms of the hyperpartisanship that we see in the electorate.
And what happens in a hyperpartisan electorate? We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, believe what we want to believe, because we’ve already made up our minds as to how we’re voting.
The polling that we see out right now gives us an indication of that. Less than 10 percent of the electorate is still up for grabs, and the battle lines already formed are starting to resemble very much what we saw in 2008.
The Obama attacks on Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s record on jobs and his extensive personal wealth have already taken a toll. But did you notice how the Romney campaign responded to the attacks? Basically by not responding, with the goal of hoping the Obama campaign, like George Foreman in his 1974 Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight title fight against Muhammad Ali, would punch itself out.
There is a risk in playing the Ali-inspired rope-a-dope. Think John Kerry in 2004, whose early aloofness to the Swift Boat attacks helped redefine that election narrative and perhaps snapped defeat from the jaws of victory.
I happen to think there’s at least as much risk in attacking the attack head-on. What the Obama ads on the “you didn’t build that” storyline will do is reinforce for those Republicans and independents who have decided to pull the lever for Romney that what they’re planning to do is the right thing to do. The ads will also, of course, reinforce for Democrats and independents planning to vote for Obama to themselves stay the course.
And what do they do for the small sliver of undecideds still left in the electorate? They remind them that Republicans said that what Obama really meant was that he doesn’t give a damn about what small-business owners have to do to get their businesses up and running.
In effect, in my view, these ads do as much to hurt the Obama cause as they do to help it.
Because like they’ve always said down South, in politics, if you’re explainin’, you’re losin’.