Dems Struggle With 4-Years-Ago Question

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 2 2012 3:55 PM

Democrats Struggle With “Are Americans Better Off” Question

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White House senior adviserDavid Plouffe had a hard time answering whether Americans are better off now than they were four years ago

Photo by William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

It’s a cliché of presidential campaigns: “Are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?” Yet Democrats proved Sunday they’d rather not answer one of the most typical questions uttered by campaign reporters. Asked directly, David Plouffe, a top adviser for President Obama, refused to provide a yes or no answer to the question, reports the Washington Post. (Video embedded below.)

Campaign strategist David Axelrod also declined to give a straight answer to the question, while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was blunt: “No, but that’s not the question of this election,” reports the National Journal.

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Republicans have made the question one of the centerpieces of Romney’s campaign and immediately seized on the answers to say Democrats had made their point for them. Democrats meanwhile preferred to call out Romney’s campaign for lying. The Republican’s campaign is “built on a tripod of lies,” Plouffe told ABC. “I don't think we've ever seen a presidential campaign, ever, that's built on a foundation of lies.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos repeatedly asked Plouffe the are-Americans-better-off question as the Obama senior adviser kept reverting to his talking points. "You still can't say yes," Stephanopoulos told Plouffe. "We've clearly improved, George," Plouffe replied. "We've made a lot of progress from the depths of the recession ... We've got to continue to recover,” reports Politico.

Instead of answering the question, several Democrats preferred to go on the offense in the Sunday talk shows, hitting Romney’s campaign for unashamedly lying to the electorate. Stephanie Cutter, for example, told CBS that the GOP convention “was a week of personal attacks, empty platitudes, and the one thing you were left with is they really think lying is a virtue."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.