Reelection bids often play out as a referendum on the incumbent's first term. Romney is trying to make that the case. But Obama wants the focus to be on competing economic visions for the future.
President Obama will give a big speech on the economy Thursday during a campaign stop in Ohio. He’s given lots of big speeches on the economy in the past, though. What’s he trying to accomplish with this one in particular?
“Oh come on,” I hear you saying, “that’s what elections are, right? They’re a choice between alternatives. We’re not North Korea.”
Well yes, strictly speaking. But presidential reelection campaigns often come across more as a referendum on the performance of the incumbent then as a choice between two visions of the future. Listen to Mitt Romney speak over a period of time, and you’ll hear him framing the election in pretty much that manner. He’s saying in essence that Obama has had his chance, and look how that turned out. Why not try somebody else?
The classic example of this approach was Ronald Reagan in 1980, when he hammered an incumbent Jimmy Carter by asking Americans if they felt they were “better off than they were four years ago” when Carter took office. Romney does the same thing, although he generally uses more words.