Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2015

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election 2012:

Line of Attack: Is it fair to label Obama ‘out of touch’ on jobs recovery?

Editor’s note: Today the Sun launches a feature that will run each week until the Nov. 6 election. In Line of Attack, we will parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous. We hope you enjoy.

Attack: President Barack Obama is so out of touch with Americans suffering in the economic recession that he thinks the “private sector is doing fine.” He said so.

Method of delivery: How do you know you’ve got a good line of attack? Everybody’s using it. Indeed within days of Obama uttering the now infamous line at a press briefing, Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign had television ads up slamming Obama for it. The line has made it into nearly every Republican’s talking points. And even the outside groups have taken up the mantel. In the days following the Romney campaign’s television ads, the super PAC Restore Our Future had its own version up, and then Americans for Prosperity, a national nonprofit joined suit.

That means voters in Nevada and other swing states are getting a triple dose of the same message: Never mind the foreclosures, the unemployment and the malaise, Obama thinks the economy is fine.

Strategy: This one is pretty apparent on its face. Romney’s entire campaign strategy is based on the premise that he is the better candidate to rescue the economy from the lingering recession. Obama’s slip of the tongue gave Romney two platforms from which to make that argument. First, it can be used to portray Obama as out of touch, and, second, that he thinks the public sector needs the attention.

“He’s making the case for greater spending,” one Republican operative said.

Fairness meter: As with most lines of attack, there is context here. Obama’s point was that the private sector is stabilizing, while the public sector continues to be a drag on the economy and thus needs federal resources. Later the same day he made the comment, he called a news conference to dial back, stating emphatically that he believes the private sector is not doing fine. Still, Obama said it. And the attack ads don’t even have to pull it out of context. That means this line of attack is legit.

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