With the economy foremost in voters' minds and the jobs report last week showing lagging growth, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney appears to be convincing voters that he has a plan to change things.
On Fox News Sunday this weekend, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that "President Obama has had three disappointing months, but he's holding his own. If I were in the Romney campaign, that would worry me."
Kristol pointed to a Fox News poll in late June that showed voters very focused on the economy but unconvinced that either candidate knew how to fix it.
When asked whether Obama had a clear plan for fixing the economy, 51 percent said "no" and only 43 percent agreed — weak numbers for an incumbent president. But Romney's numbers were worse. Fifty-five percent said that Romney lacked a clear plan for the economy, while 27 percent said he had one.
Last week's discouraging jobs report had the Obama campaign dodging, according to Dan Balz at the Washington Post. "Obama barely mentioned the latest jobs report in his first appearance after it was released. 'It’s still tough out there,' he said. But June’s hiring numbers, like those for May, were another reminder that there is still no bigger issue in the campaign than the economy and that its weight threatens to defeat the president four months from now," Balz wrote.
Even liberal stalwart Robert Reich is now questioning the longstanding Obama White House tactic of deflecting criticism by blaming Bush. "It's his economy now, and most voters don't care what he inherited," Reich wrote in the Huffington Post.
Calling for bolder stimulus and more spending, Reich wrote that Obama has not yet shown that "he understands the depth and breadth of this crisis, and is prepared to do large and bold things to turn the economy around in his second term if and when he does have the votes in Congress. So far, his proposals are policy miniatures relative to the size of the problem."
And yet, Kristol said on Sunday, Obama continues to cling to a narrow lead while the Romney campaign fails to exploit the weakness. "They seem to be playing prevent defense. And as a friend of mine said if they're playing prevent — prevent defense doesn't work that well even in the fourth quarter when you're ahead by seven, 14 points, if you're playing it in the second quarter and it's in a tie game it just seems awfully risky. They're very risk-averse, but being risk-averse can be risky," Kristol said.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at [email protected].