The 2012 presidential general election began in earnest earlier this week with President Obama riding relatively high in the polls over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Sudden reversals of fortune, however, have characterized the GOP primary and the Obama-Romney battle may be no different: By week's end, in fact, a new Fox News poll showed Romney leading Obama, 46 percent to 44 percent. The Week has already delineated what Romney needs to do to beat Obama. Here, five suggestions from the commentariat on what Obama must do to win a second term:
1. Win the money war
Team Obama raised $750 million in 2008, and is likely to meet or exceed that figure in 2012, says Nicholas Confessore at The New York Times, while Romney is aiming closer to $600 million. But the president's campaign is rightfully alarmed about "the awe-inspiring firepower" of the GOP's super PACs, says Glenn Thrush at Politico. Romney's pet super PAC helped him mow down opponents in the primaries, and "Crossroads GPS, one of the Karl Rove-linked GOP ATMs," is already "bashing Obama in battleground states" with a $1.7 million ad buy. Unless Dems start filling the coffers of the languishing pro-Obama Priorities USA Action super PAC, Obama might end up outgunned by the Right's big-spending outside groups.
2. Remind voters why they don't like today's GOP
Thanks to the bruising GOP primary, "Romney has suffered major damage to his favorability numbers and the Republican brand is as weak as ever," say Benjy Sarlin and Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. Obama's job is to keep it that way. The minute Romney starts to shake the proverbial Etch a Sketch and flip-flop towards the center, Team Obama needs to drop video evidence of Romney's conservative-appeasing "red meat rhetoric" on issues like immigration, social policy, and taxes. (Indeed, the Obama campaign has already deployed a video mashup of Romney's most unpopular conservative statements.)
3. Convince the middle class he's their champion
Obama must make it clear that he's "in the trenches with hardworking middle-class families" while Romney "stands with those in the millionaire boys club," says Peter Fenn at The Hill. It's not quite that easy, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. Obama has to convincingly link his fight against inequality and tax unfairness to promoting growth and broader wealth. His best weapon? Voters' memories of "the last time a GOP president promised that shrinking government and cutting taxes for the rich were the best routes" to prosperity.
4. Cast Romney as a feckless weakling
Making the election "a referendum on Romney, not the economy," is key to Obama's campaign, and "it's especially critical" to hammer Romney in the beginning, before voters decide exactly who Mitt is, says Politico's Thrush. Obama is personally popular, but his handling of the economy isn't. So "like George W. Bush in 2004, Obama hopes to define his opponent as a weak and vacillating man unfit to lead in a dangerous time."
5. Hit Romney where it hurts: His wealth
"Romney's low point in the Republican primary was probably when he was booed in a South Carolina debate for refusing to release his tax returns," say Sarlin and McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. In fact, any mention of his personal fortune clearly unnerves Romney, and most of his unforced errors have been about his wealth. So expect to hear lots about Romney's Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts, car elevators, and Bain pink slips.