With all of that in mind, President Obama is still in relatively good shape thanks in part to the Republican presidential candidates. An election that Republicans hope will be a referendum on President Obama’s economic policies and leadership is slowly turning into a debate about fairness and equality. The attacks by Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on Gov. Romney’s business practices at Bain capital was a political blessing for President Obama who will much rather make the election a choice between who’s on the side of the middle-class and who isn’t. This is a fight he can win. Mitt Romney’s awkward $10,000 bet in a debate, and his 15% tax problem fits into President Obama's fairness narrative. In addition, Newt Gingrich’s work with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac which Gov. Romney described as “influence peddling” also plays into the hands of a president that wants to frame the election around fairness and equality. In his State of the Union, he previewed what will be some of his arguments in the campaign.
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Friday, January 27, 2012
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Remember last August when everyone was enamored by Gov. Rick Perry and believed he was the perfect alternative to Gov. Mitt Romney? That’s because he was. His presidential announcement speech in August was quite impressive. He introduced himself to the country in a warm and compelling way: “I am the product of a place called Paint Creek. Doesn’t have a zip code. It’s too small to be called a town…” He talked about the roots of his values: “What I learned growing up on the farm was a way of life that was centered on hard work, and on faith and on thrift. Those values have stuck with me my whole life.” Then he revealed his rationale for running: “It’s time to get America working again.”
Gov. Perry was born into a working-class family. He’s the son of tenant farmers from Paint Creek, Texas, worked on the family farm, devoted himself to the Boys Scouts, served his country in the Air Force, and was the first member of his family to attend college. His story is that of humble beginnings, hard work, perseverance, public service and the American Dream. He has a simple message: government stifles economic growth because it is too big, too intrusive and I will bring it under control by cutting spending, lowering taxes and eliminating burdensome regulations just like I did in Texas. Under his governorship, Texas’ economy grew twice the rate of the national average and gained more than one million net new jobs.
With his personal biography, jobs record in Texas, and conservative bona fides, you would think he’s the right candidate to challenge Gov. Romney. But he finished fifth in the Iowa Caucuses. So what happened? Well, the debates happened. The Rick Perry that came across in his announcement speech as a firm, competent, and decisive leader with a compelling personal story has been unable to find his footing in debates. From not being able to clearly articulate an attack against Gov. Romney to not remembering the third federal government agency he wants to eliminate, he has been unable to present a clear narrative. As soon as he began to look incompetent on the debate stage, voters began to think he didn’t belong on stage. But beyond the gaffes in debates, Gov. Perry hasn’t been able to draw a clear contrast between himself and his opponents. He has ceded the jobs message to Gov. Romney even though he has a stellar record of job creation in Texas. When you listen to Gov. Romney speak, if you wait long enough, you’re bound to hear the words: “private sector experience” “jobs” “economy.” From day one, he has been positioning himself as the private sector job creator that will fix the economy. He has talked about it so much for so long that voters have internalized it. That’s message discipline. That’s what Gov. Perry has lacked throughout the campaign.
Moreover, he has a personal story that he hasn’t talked about nearly enough. With his life story, he can persuade voters that he understands the plight of working families struggling to make ends meet in the current economic climate and believes in the resilience of America to bounce back to economic prosperity under his leadership. Now I know he’s still in the race, and plans to compete in South Carolina. But his moment has passed. He had his chance and he blew it.