By Brent Budowsky - 10/11/12 05:44 PM EDT
President Obama should seize the mantle of optimism about America and pull all negative ads for at least four or five days. He should saturate the airwaves with positive ads about the economic progress that has been made during the first term of his presidency, and explain his plans to expand the American economic comeback if voters grant him a second term.
The latest fall in jobless claims this week to a four-year low of 339,000 reinforces the employment gains shown in the last monthly report, in which the jobless rate fell to a multi-year low of 7.8 percent. It is important that the latest decline in the jobless rate occurred at a time when the labor force was increasing, not decreasing, which adds to reasons for optimism.
In economic terms, the times are still hard for many, but the corner has been turned and major economic progress has begun. In political terms the voters are unhappy with the gridlock in Washington and the tone of mutual mudslinging that exists between both parties.
Politicians today do not speak to voters, about voters. They speak to each other, attacking each other. It is amazing but true that virtually all players in Washington continue the very behavior that has eroded people’s faith in government and the credibility of politicians.
At this moment there is no candidate for president that is running a campaign that is positive about the future and optimistic about America. This is the mantle the president should seize, speaking to voters, speaking about the aspirations of voters, and speaking about his plans that will improve the lives of voters.
Obama should speak about the great American comeback that is now under way, and campaign on the notion that voters should stick with the leaders who caused the comeback and not return to those who caused the crash.
The truth is, never in my memory has a sitting president campaigned for reelection in a way that is so dominated and defined almost entirely by his negative ads as has Obama. I have praised some of those ads, criticized others, but the larger point is that the president has a powerful and compelling narrative he can offer about the American comeback, alongside the highly popular and credible former president who was known as the “Comeback Kid.”
In the American comeback that is now under way, the jobless rate and jobless claims are falling to multi-year low.
In this American comeback, Made in America auto sales are skyrocketing and American auto jobs are surging.
In this American comeback the Dow Jones Industrial Average is within reach of an all-time high, and more important, the value of 401(k) retirement plans has dramatically risen, and in many cases doubled since the time the president took office.
In the American comeback, consumer confidence has risen substantially, and compared to lows at the time the president took office, optimism in general has risen substantially despite a political and media discourse with as much positivism as a visit to the dentist for root canal work.
In this American comeback, the value of homes has begun to rise again, increasing the net worth of many voters, while the sales of homes have begun to climb again, increasing the prospects for the comeback to continue and expand.
In the American comeback, bank lending has begun to rise again, which augurs well for continued growth for small business and the jobs small-business generates.
If one views the American economy objectively — the continuum in the years before Obama was inaugurated, the curve downward towards the crash, and in the years after Obama was inaugurated — the curve was upward towards the economic comeback that is now in progress.
What I would propose the president should do, in his campaign ads and in the coming debates, is recognize the hardships that still exist but credit the comeback that has clearly begun, and explain his plans to build on the current comeback to the full Morning in America that is now within reach.
The history of modern presidents and presidential politics is clear. The candidates and presidents who most succeed are those who stand for optimism about America. This accounts for the popularity of Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, who was the ultimate “Comeback Kid” in modern presidential politics.
Mr. President, for a few days, why not try it this way? Throw the negative ads out for a moment. Tell the nation in your ads, and in your debates, that the great American comeback has begun. The great American future is bright. The great American optimism is returning. The great American can-do spirit will define your second term, expand the American comeback that began in your first term, and bring this comeback to all Americans in a nation in which we are all in this together, which is the defining purpose of the Obama presidency.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.