The Mute Button

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 26 2012 5:26 PM

The Mute Button

Hugh Hewitt takes a break from the poll sample sleuthing beat to take stock of the campaign. If you people haven't noticed, a gaffe-prone Barack Obama is falling apart, and Mitt Romney is surging past him.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Romney's shift to a direct attack on the president's most obvious vulnerability -- Obama simply cannot lead and does not know how to lead -- comes just as the campaign heads into the home stretch and after the Chicago Gang has thrown much of what it has left at Romney.  The "Mute Button" ad released by Team Romney yesterday is particularly effective at underlining Obama's non-existent executive ability and the lack of respect in which he is held by his own party.
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The ad in question:

I do see the consistency of message. Romney wants swing voters, who still like Obama's nice family and dog and what have you, to think of him as a guy who tried hard but couldn't hack it. That's why we're starting to see ads featuring sad Obama voters admitting that they screwed up. This continues the theme: Obama's just not competent.

But does it make sense? First, we've got images of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, whom voters don't like (no offense), and we are told that Obama couldn't make them listen to him. Why separate Obama from the rest of the party? The anecdote itself, about the stimulus bill, refers to something that Obama signed into law. Why mention this story if it resulted in a win?

If I've paid attention to the stimulus debate, and all that followed, I guess I'm disappointed in Obama for not bringing the Democrats to heel and getting a more effective bill. But do note Alec MacGillis's point -- low-information voters are the audience for this ad. Do they think the problem with the stimulus was that Obama didn't work hard enough on it? If they think Congress fumbled, do they take that out on Obama? Do they view Obama as a broker that Pelosi should have listened to?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.