Opinion Brief

Is Obama's reelection campaign already stumbling?

Politico says Obama's vaunted political operation has committed some uncharacteristic blunders, giving the early advantage to Romney

"Nothing inspires Democrats like the Barack Obama swagger — the supreme self-confidence on stage, the self-certainty in private," say Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at Politico. "So nothing inspires more angst than when the same Obama stumbles, as he has leaving the gate in 2012." Politico's critique follows Team Obama's controversial attacks on Bain Capital, the private equity fund formerly headed by Mitt Romney. After notable Obama allies objected to the attacks, the campaign was quick to point out that it wasn't damning the private equity industry in general, but the damage was arguably done. Is Obama's campaign really stumbling?

Yes. And it's not only because of Bain: It's not just Bain, "the central issue of the campaign so far," that's earned Obama blowback from his own party, say Allen and VaneHei. His divisive positions on women's health rights, student loans, and Medicare have also transformed him from a uniter to a "baldly political" figure. Meanwhile, Romney is beating Obama in the fundraising game (if you count super PACs), and Vice President Biden is becoming a drag on the ticket; by compelling his boss to come out in support of gay marriage, Biden made Obama seem "crass and wobbly." The "unmistakable reality for Democrats" is that Obama has hurt himself since he officially launched his reelection campaign earlier this month, while Romney has improved his chances. "Obama stumbles out of the gate"

No. The attacks on Bain are a smart move: "I suspect that these Bain attacks are working," and "what we may be seeing here is the exact opposite of a stumble," says Joe Klein at Time. The larger point from the Bain attacks is that "private equity capitalism was all about short-term profits — maximizing shareholder value — rather than long-term growth," which isn't "the sort of model you'd want to apply to the entire American economy." Obama has steered "the conversation toward the most important topic this year: What sort of economy do we want to have and how do we get there?" "Obama stumbles? Why the president's right to talk about Bain"

There's nothing remarkable about Obama's troubles: Presidential candidates always get blowback from their own party, says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. After all, "political parties aren't monolithic entities." As for Romney's fundraising advantage, it would be unusual if he wasn't ahead, given Obama's regulation of the financial industry and his proposals to increase taxes on the wealthy. Romney's progress since the primary has nothing to do with "his tactical victories in the horse race" — he's close to Obama in the polls because "he is a major party nominee in a closely divided country." "Dear Washington, nothing has changed about the election"

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