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October 2, 2014

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democratic national convention:

Obama wants four more years, but what will he do with them?

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Steve Marcus

President Barack Obama speaks during a rally at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012.

DNC 2012

Washington state delegate Chris Porter from Seattle reacts during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Barack Obama will ask the country tonight to give him four more years as president. It will also be his opportunity to tell the country just exactly what he wants to do with them.

Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan is “Forward,” but neither he nor his Republican adversary, Mitt Romney, have laid out detailed plans for what is to come.

Rather, the campaigns have spent the bulk of their energy and time arguing over whether Obama’s first-term policies — such as health care, the stimulus and the auto bailout — were a success or a failure.

Each has accused the other of being ideologically wrong on the economy, but neither has ticked off the particulars behind their promises to come up with new policies to fix the country between now and 2016.

Romney and Obama accuse each other of being vague on the future. Last week, Romney was roundly criticized by Democrats for sharing almost no details of his plan to create 12 million new jobs through exploiting energy resources, championing small businesses, and balancing the budget.

“The biggest thing coming out of the Republican convention was they really failed to tell people or leave anyone with a strong impression about what they would do for four years,” senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said. “You couldn’t have watched that convention and thought, ‘Here are the ideas to move the country forward.’ We will not let that happen here in Charlotte.”

But beyond broad-stroke policy statements, the Obama campaign so far hasn’t given many details about how Obama would do it either.

“We don’t know what ‘Forward’ means. Does ‘Forward’ mean four more years of the same?” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. “The problem is, convention speeches aren’t about policies. (Obama) is going to lay out a general plan just like Romney did, and at the end of the day, many people are going to be unsatisfied.”

Indeed, neither Obama nor his surrogates have been very detailed about plans for a second Obama term, even when specifically asked why the president wants another four years to lead the country.

“President Obama on Thursday night will have an honest conversation with the American people — an honest conversation about where we’ve been,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “There’s going to be specifics, but equally important, he’s going to lay out the choice of the two very different visions for the direction that America could go.”

Even in interviews previewing Obama’s speech, his advisers seem preoccupied most with reminding Americans of the state of the country when Obama became president.

“Our challenge is to have a candid conversation about what this president inherited, what we’ve done despite serious Republican obstruction and the vision that the president has for building this economy out through the values of the middle class,” said Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

Gibbs echoed the same message.

“We inherited a huge mess, so the first part of this has been getting out of the hole we’re in,” he said. “What we have to do is rebuild the economy and give people a sense of moving forward, and that’s what I really think the next part of this will be about.”

Gibbs listed a few general areas around which the president would focus his message, stressing the importance of research and innovation, education and energy independence, but he would go no further.

“There will be some stuff in there that’s new,” Gibbs said. “But you might not be surprised that I’m not going to get ahead of the leader of the free world.”

Many outside of the president’s campaign aren’t convinced that details are actually going to be forthcoming.

“The reality is there isn’t a big appetite for big, tall pieces of legislation right now. Talking about small-ball stuff is designed to get specific demographic groups on board with your campaign,” said David Damore, a political scientist at UNLV. “That’s the reality of this being a nuts and bolts game of counting people in particular geographic areas as opposed to laying out broad themes of where the country should go.”

Obama is in the politically tricky position of being a president seeking a second term during a downturn in the economy.

Historically, that’s not a great place for a sitting president to be. Except for Ronald Reagan, no president seeking re-election during a time when the unemployment rate was 7 percent or higher has successfully won a second term.

And Reagan had rampant job growth to recommend him: In 1984, the U.S. economy was growing at a rate of about 3 or 4 percent; today, it’s 0.7 percent.

“They know if this is just a straight referendum on Obama and the recession he’ll probably lose it,” Madonna said.

Thus, Obama’s campaign benefits from making the debate more about Romney and the Republican economic plans he’s embraced, including his running mate Paul Ryan’s controversial budget. Likewise, Romney has calculated he benefits most from making the campaign about Obama.

“What they’re doing is rerunning the Bush 2004 campaign: Get your groups behind you with your niche policies, don’t promise anything will land, and create enough uncertainty about the opponent so that when voters go into the polls, they just think they can’t trust the other person,” Damore said. “Or in Romney’s case, why would we go back to these policies?”

That Romney has promised to roll back many of Obama’s economic policies has only pushed Obama to defend his record instead of laying out a new vision. Thus, his supporters argue, his unfinished ideas are his second-term agenda.

“He’s talked about investing in education and clean energy, innovation, manufacturing,” Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal said. “I think what you’ll hear (tonight) is a roadmap for how he’s going to achieve the objectives he’s laid out.”

“Just because the president proposed it and we haven’t gotten it done doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing,” Gibbs said. “It just means we’ve been dealing with an intransigent Congress for the last two years that didn’t let us move forward on some of the really good ideas we had on rebuilding the economy.”

Both campaigns find themselves in danger if they go any further. Polls are so split and issues are so divisive that if either side starts talking about too many specifics, they run the risk of opening themselves up to further attacks.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Republicans this week for “speak(ing) in such generalities that we know are the result of them thinking that if they get too specific, that actually might be harmful to their future politically.”

And that could be exactly the Democrats’ problem, as well.

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  1. Ironic, former president Bill Clinton makes the case for the Obama administration! Either way, many undecided voters should clearly know why we should retain President Obama as president in November. The substance of the argument delivered last night by Bill Clinton....The TRUTH!

    Bill Clinton took each lie, the distortions, and misleading statements by the Republican candidates and educated viewers with facts and conclusions of what a republican administration would be...a disaster!

    Bill Clinton attacked the Republican message with the Truth. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said it best, the Democrats need a backbone! Well, Bill Clinton was the backbone last night. What a speech....No, no, that was not a speech that was a "talk" with the American people.

  2. Bill Clinton just laid the groundwork for a Dem. sweep in the House, Senate, and down ticket for all Dem's. Repub Pundits are tweeting this A.M. (as of now)that Clinton just gave Obama The election.
    future, it's evident you didn't listen to Bubba. Replay his speech and pay attention this time.
    As for the rest of the right they just don't get it. I want more than what the right has to offer for my Grandkids. And the Dem's will provide the proper tools for this to happen!!!!

  3. More insane spending for illegals and foreign interests. More indigent Americans.

  4. He will save this country $4 trillion in debt by keeping the US out of an eight year war and wasted nation building expense with Iran. That alone is worth the vote.

    $4 trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan and they want us out ASAP. Nothing more has to be said on that score.

  5. It was fun to see Clinton last night. Forgot how good of a speaker he is...and exicting. Much of what he said rang true for most Americans. And who knows better than a former President on what it takes to sit in the Oval Office....like him or not. He is still America's most popular president.

    Too bad the RNC didn't have George W speak at their convention. But George W isn't a dufus like most think. It was said he didn't want to be in the political pubic eye but I think it was more of him not being enthralled by who the GOP picked as their candidate, knowing full well there are others out there much more suited for the job and could actually win. Instead for their convention, the RNC chose a famous 82 year old actor to carry on a conversation with a chair. They would have been better off getting Terry Fator - this way the chair could have answered back.

  6. <<The only recourse they will have is to put up a guy in 2016 who supports woman's rights, is willing and able to deal with the health insurance crisis and isn't looking for a trickle down approach to solving the economic problems>>

    Tom:

    Rubio, Christie and Ryan were already auditioning for the job in their speeches last week. Either the GOP is preparing for a Romney loss, or prepping for a one-term presidency if he wins. So they are putting their eggs in the basket already to "introduce" those who could possibly be in the running in 2016.

  7. @ TomD1228...

    "As I've stated many times, there is a LOT of anger and hostility on the Republican side and frankly it's a little disturbing. The name calling is beyond childish."

    We're all guilty of being petulant & overstating our own personal views at times; but answer this...
    When was the last time ANY of the far-right followers here @ the Sun said something nice or positive...about ANYTHING???

    NEVER.
    Hate & anger is the M.O. of the TeaPublican.

  8. Bill Clinton did all of us a favor and moved the agenda out of fringe issues and set the challenge for Obama - "Your re-election squarely rest on the economy". Listen to me now - it is arithmetic.

    Since 1975 only three Presidents have had to face a decline in the twelve month average workforce and in all cases the low point occurred during their second year in office; Reagan in 1982, Bush in 2002 and Obama in 2010.

    Ronald Reagan through his polices and leadership succeeded in growing the workforce over when he took office by in his first four years by 5.7%. At the completion of his second term the economy added another 10.1% growth for a combined 15.8%.

    Bush Jr. through his policies and lack luster leadership even succeeded in growing the workforce over when he took office by in his first four years by 1.7%. At the completion of his second term the economy added another 4.5% growth for
    a combined 6.2%.

    Obama through his policies and by allowing the Congress to provide the leadership, has succeeded in posting a decline in the workforce of -2.7%.

    Comparing Reagan and Clinton; Clinton who did not experience a decline at anytime in his presidency continued the expansion started by Reagan and sustained by Bush Sr.. Clinton's two year growth was 15.5%. Combining Reagan(15.8%) Bush Sr.(3.1%) Clinton(15.5%)the economy overall added 34.5% to the average workforce. Even someone as bad as Bush Jr added 6.1%.

    Clinton's real message to Obama was to change your policies and leadership style now. If he doesn't the message is loud and clear - four more years of disaster.

    "We Just Gotta Let Him Go"

  9. What will he do with 4 more years?

    Take our nuclear weapon count to less than 300 while the rest of the world stockpiles them.

    Spend another 7 or 8 trillion dollars from our paychecks to re-pave roads that do not need re-paving, re-build bridges that do not need re-building...in short, spend wastefully like it's the 1940's again. All in the name of 'creating jobs'. Hmmm, last time I checked, private industry creates jobs, NOT government...at least that is the way it should be.

    Increase taxes for the middle class while providing more handouts to those not willing to fend for themselves. It's much easier to watch TV and collect a check than it is to work, you know.

    Mandate that every American must purchase flood insurance, boat insurance, hurricane insurance, tornado insurance, hail insurance, rain insurance and sunshine insurance, regardless of who you are, where you live, or how much money you make.

    Hire 16,000-20,000 federal employees with guaranteed pensions and forever health insurance to regulate & enforce healthcare 'reform'.

    Ok, I'm growing tired of listing all of his desired accomplishments if granted 4 more years...I think you get the picture.

  10. Oh Bob635, I wish you were better informed.