Squirrel! Pundits question Obama's distraction campaign

Published: Monday, May 14 2012 1:51 p.m. MDT

In this May 8, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies dinner in Washington. Obama’s campaign is trying an "all of the above" strategy against Mitt Romney. It is criticizing the Republican’s character, wealth and policy positions in attacks that may become more focused as the fall election nears.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

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For months now, the conservative blogosphere has been calling out the White House for a campaign of distraction, squirrel chasing and the pursuit of shiny objects, as the White House seeks to talk about anything besides jobs.

Now New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has joined in, pointing out that Obama is wasting opportunities to drive Romney off the economic square by challenging his philosophy.

You can win news cycle after news cycle, Douthat argues, but still lose the war by not focusing on what voters are actually thinking.

"Obama is currently running for re-election as an opponent of sexism, homophobia and social reaction in all its forms. This is a decent strategy for winning news cycles, which the administration clearly did last week — playing the media brilliantly and watching as Romney was thrown on the defensive yet again," Douthat wrote.

"But Obama has won news cycle after news cycle this spring, and yet the president and his unloved, out-of-step-with-the-times challenger are almost dead even in the polls. That’s a sign that something isn’t working — and that this White House, not for the first time, has mistaken a clever strategy for a winning one."

Of course, more conservative bloggers agree.

"Could it be that the Obama campaign’s attempt to divert the race from economic news to social and cultural issues is actually hurting him with voters?" asked Alana Goldman at Commentary. "The Obama campaign has spent the past few weeks talking about everything from Romney’s dog to Osama bin Laden to gay marriage, while Romney has remained fairly focused on the economy. Maybe voters view distractions as a lack of seriousness on Obama’s part."

And at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin noted that Obama's polling on the economy is woeful: "Unless Obama can change that perception (by justifying his performance), enjoys an unexpected burst of economic good news (the reverse seems to be the case) or convince Americans that other issues are more important (very unlikely), that view is going to become more entrenched as time passes. In essence, Obama is trying to run out the clock when he is behind."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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