News analysis: From confidence to confusion — Obama's 2012 campaign so far full of fumbles, gaffes and missteps

Published: Thursday, May 24 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Administration officials say the president's recent remarks on gay marriage were part of a pre-planned rollout, but Vice President Joe Biden jumped the timing by declaring that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage on NBC's Meet the Press. The president's statements came the Wednesday after Biden spoke, and one day after North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Whether or not Obama chose to support gay marriage because of his personal beliefs, 67 percent of people surveyed in a CBS News/New York Times poll said that Obama's "evolution" came "mostly for political reasons."

"Wouldn't it have been more courageous if Obama had evolved a bit before the North Carolina vote, not after?" S.E. Cupp wrote at the New York Daily News. "And wouldn't it have been more sincere and meaningful if his revelation weren't so obviously connected to his reelection and fund-raising efforts? Or if it weren't prompted by a gaffe from the gaffe-prone Vice President Biden, who had declared on 'Meet the Press' that he was 'absolutely comfortable' with gay marriage, thus forcing the president's hand?"

Bain Capital attacks

When the Obama campaign released a two-minute ad examining GST Steel, a steel company that went bankrupt eight years after being taken over by Bain Capital, the campaign inadvertently set off three separate reactions:

The Romney campaign instantly hit back with a video highlighting a 1994 Bain investment in a company called Steel Dynamics, which now employs more than 6,000 workers.

The claims in the GST Steel ad came under fire, as critics of the president's ad pointed out that the plant closed in 2001 while Romney left Bain in 1999 and that Obama campaign bundler Jonathan Lavine was the managing director at Bain when GST Steel closed. Kimberly Strassel at The Wall Street Journal argued that Bain's involvement kept GST Steel afloat longer than the company would have lasted without Bain.

Divisions among Democrats emerged after former Obama car czar Steve Rattner said the ad was "unfair," former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called the ad "disappointing," and New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker said the attacks were "nauseating." Booker, an Obama surrogate, later released a video walkback of his critical comments, leading some to dub it a "hostage video." After originally saying Booker made the video without talking to anyone from the campaign, a campaign spokesman later said the second video was made after Booker talked with a Democratic National Committee official.

Additionally, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. said he agreed with the core of Booker's original remarks and would not have backed off the comments if he were Booker, and former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis said the incident made the Obama camp look "ominously like a cult of personality that tolerates no dissent." Even Democrats who agree with the ad, like Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., have caused problems for the Obama camp. In defending the ad, Clyburn said he disagrees with "raping companies." The Obama campaign was later forced to counter Clyburn's rhetoric by saying it strongly disagreed with his choice of words.

The Republican National Committee has been busy capitalizing on the split by highlighting the incident with a series of videos, and a new CBS poll shows the attacks on Romney's business experience may not be working anyway.

Challenged by reporters

The Obama campaign hasn't been able to catch a break on television or in interviews recently, with various surrogates and representatives catching flak from a mix of reporters. Pundits have not been impressed with the campaign either, voicing their criticisms in a variety of op-ed pieces.

In March, Peter Wehner at Commentary Magazine opined that President Obama's senior advisor David Axelrod appeared dull, insipid and unprepared during an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News.

"If this interview reflects the precision and professionalism of Team Obama, then this election might be easier for the GOP to win than I had imagined," Wehner wrote.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite called Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt "woefully unprepared" during a May 21 interview with Anderson Cooper about the Bain attack and possible Obama hypocrisy.

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