By David A. Keene, President
This year’s presidential campaign won’t officially begin until after the national party conventions and the Labor Day weekend, but it has, in fact, been raging for some time now and seems to be getting uglier every day. Given the stakes and the nature of the challenge facing President Obama as he seeks a second term, this is understandable … if sad.
I spent many years as a campaign manager and consultant and know just what his political team has to have been telling the president since the beginning of the year. They’ve looked at the numbers and know most Americans are far from impressed with the president’s performance. He promised many things to many people back in 2008 and hasn’t delivered. Instead he has set about imposing an agenda he rarely talked about during that campaign while failing to deal with the problems of real concern even to those who elected him.
As a result, Obama’s advisors have to be telling him that he won’t be re-elected on his record or by blaming today’s problems on a previous president. Many of the independents who flocked to his optimistic, centrist-sounding campaign four years ago are increasingly convinced they made a mistake voting for him and probably won’t do so again. The young voters whose expectations he appealed to then are without jobs now and even those who aren’t prepared to vote against him are wondering if they should even bother to vote.
Obama will try to buy back the enthusiasm he’s lost with government programs targeted at voters whose support he believes might be recoverable and his managers will use all the power, money and technology available to an incumbent president seeking re-election. But they know that the only way he will win this fall is by convincing persuadable voters that as badly as he’s done, his opponent will be worse. That’s why the president and his friends are attacking his presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, personally on every front, questioning his judgment, his honesty and even his patriotism. At the end of the day, Team Obama is hoping that voters will be willing to vote for the devil they know rather than the opponent he is trying to define for them.
The problem is that it does not appear to be working. By pursuing the openly negative campaign strategy that he and his managers see as his only path to re-election, President Obama may well destroy his one strength. Poll after poll has shown that many of his fellow citizens have cut the president a great deal of slack because they consider him a ”likeable” enough fellow even though he may not be up to the challenges before him. “Likeable” fellows, however, don’t spend the bulk of their time demonizing those with whom they disagree and don’t approve “enemies lists” that include virtually everyone with the courage to support their opponents.
What the president and his advisors fail to grasp is that his policies threaten a way of life for many who will not be intimidated. If he actually believes that supporters of the Second Amendment are going to stay home or give him a pass when they know a second Obama term will include an assault on their gun rights, he is mistaken. As gun owners and NRA members, it is our job to make sure that everyone who shares our values appreciates what’s at stake this fall. We all need to be able to see through the fog of obfuscation and falsehood Team Obama is throwing up to distract us from the real importance of this year’s race.
If we succeed and they become even more desperate, the president and his team will continue the kind of campaign they have deemed essential to winning. If they do, Obama could wind up alienating not just those with whom he disagrees, but millions of Americans in the center who are fed up with his seemingly frantic and unfair assault on anyone who doesn’t share his own enthusiasm for the persona he’s developed over the years.
The president’s friends in the media continue to claim he will be almost impossible to defeat; and an incumbent president often has the edge. But the evidence shows that with a fair election and a lot of work on our side, Obama will be in real trouble.
The closest analogy to this fall’s election may be the 1980 election, when a failed Jimmy Carter faced a challenge from Ronald Reagan. The experts noted that Carter had a double digit lead over Reagan through the summer and into October. He ran a campaign like that being pursued today by President Obama, arguing that Reagan would only make things worse. When it was over, Carter’s mean spiritedness and incompetence contrasted with Reagan’s optimistic message and decency to turn that double digit deficit into a 49-state Reagan landslide.
Gov. Romney is in far better shape against President Obama this year than Reagan was against Carter back then.
If we do our job between now and November, Obama could face a similar fate. This is still an uphill battle, but the door is open. It’s up to all of us to make sure it remains open.
If we do, we—and the Second Amendment—will be preserved for another generation.