By Amie Parnes - 06/05/12 12:22 AM EDT
Mitt Romney’s campaign is capitalizing on May’s dismal jobs report by portraying President Obama as out of touch on the economy and focused more on his own job than finding work for America’s unemployed.
Romney and Republicans underlined their message on Monday by seizing on an Obama campaign video featuring Anna Wintour, the well-heeled editor of Vogue and inspiration for “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“The biggest challenge that the president has is trying to talk in very glowing terms about an economy that many people feel is going in the wrong direction already,” the Republican said.
Romney’s message, which his campaign has doubled down upon since Friday, is that Obama took his eyes off the economy to move to healthcare for much of his term instead of focusing on job creation and the economy. That argument could emerge again later this month if the Supreme Court rules the healthcare law unconstitutional.
The Romney campaign sees the Wintour video as a donor wears Prada corollary — Obama is more concerned with fundraising while hobnobbing with celebrities to win reelection than he is about growing the economy.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) sharpened the attack Monday by releasing its own video of Wintour, an Obama campaign bundler.
“Obama’s focused on keeping his job,” the RNC video says. “But what about yours?”
It came as the president is set to attend a string of fundraisers alongside bold-face names. (On Monday, as the president traveled to New York, rock icon Jon Bon Jovi stepped off Air Force One, ahead of his performance at one fundraiser.)
Friday’s report showing the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May highlighted fears among Democrats that Obama could lose reelection because of the economy. The Romney campaign is looking to capture that sentiment and sell it to the public.
“There’s a rising level of pessimism about what the future holds for the economy, and it creates this canyon between President Obama and the American voters,” the Romney adviser said. “We’re looking to remind voters of that.”
Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod on Monday scoffed at the Romney campaign’s latest attack, particularly the point about celebrities.
“It’s kind of humorous that they would take that tack,” Axelrod told reporters on a conference call. “Just last week you had the big Donald Trump fundraiser — they’re promoting dinner with The Donald. [Romney] does stuff with Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, so they don’t have a lot of standing on this issue.”
A short time later, after a reporter asked if Obama sees his reelection prospects as weaker, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama is “focused far less on his job than the jobs of the American people.”
RNC officials say the recent attacks on an out-of-touch Obama became magnified with the latest jobs report.
“There couldn’t be a better demonstration of this president’s misplaced priorities than a glitzy fundraising video release on the same day that marked more unemployed Americans,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “It’s more than obvious that this president just doesn’t get it. Millions are out of work, struggling to make ends meet, and all this president cares about is raising money with the rich and famous to protect his own job.
“The president of ‘Hope and Change’ is now the president who is out of touch with the American people and out to lunch on job creation,” he added. “The president hasn’t lived up to his promise on jobs, and no amount of Vogue fundraisers will fix it, because Americans deserve better.”
Martin Sweet, an assistant visiting professor of political science at Northwestern University, said Romney is deploying an argument used by challengers against incumbents.
“It can be effective, because you see this person jetting around the world, appearing beside high-profile figures,” Sweet said. “It’s sort of par for the course.”
But Sweet said it has to be “married with the president’s policies” in order for the strategy to work. “It’s hard to paint Obama with that particular brush,” he added. “His policies are much more populist.”
Since the gloomy jobs report on Friday, Team Obama has tried to ease the fears of a growing number of Democrats who seem uneasy with the direction of the campaign and Romney quickly narrowing Obama’s lead in some polls.
In a video released Monday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina urged voters to ignore the “ups and downs” of the race.
“We knew this was going to be a tough race,” Messina says in the video. “Here’s one more thing you can tell your friends when they ask you about the latest polls: We’re actually ahead of where we were at this point last time around.”
But with Obama set to appear alongside the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Mariah Carey and Marc Anthony — and as he prepares to head to Tinseltown later this week, where he’ll appear before a crowd of Hollywood A-listers — Republicans say they’ll be ready.
“We’ll be very busy,” said the Republican advising the Romney campaign.