Obama's First Ad of the Campaign Proves He's in Deep Trouble

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The president starts things off on the defensive, as a new poll shows his standing is worse than conventional wisdom holds.

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Here in South Carolina, all the attention is on the looming primary and on Romney's tax returns. But the most revelatory development over the last 24 hours is that President Obama's re-election campaign is up with its first ad, which strikes a surprisingly defensive tone - especially for a sitting president. The Obama team apparently thought Obama could be vulnerable on ethics -- usually perceived as a relative strong suit for him -- and is defending his record on that front.

Two thoughts:

  1. It shows that Obama is highly vulnerable on Solyndra, an example of government overreach that jibes ideally with Romney's general election narrative. It mutes attacks on Romney over his own record at Bain, since Obama spent taxpayer money at a failing company -- even when there were clear signs the company's business model was suspect. And it accentuates one of his greatest weaknesses -- that he favors a greater governmental role in the economy, which has been stagnant during his presidency. Romney, at least, can point out that many of the investments he made at Bain went to growing companies.
  2. Has there ever been a presidential campaign that's started out on the defensive with its first ad? I can't think of one. It comes as a new CBS/NYT poll shows the president with a dismal 31 percent favorability rating among independents (38 percent overall) -- fairly consistent with other national polling lately. A GOP poll, conducted by respected partisan strategists, paints an even bleaker picture, state-by-state. Obama trails Romney by 11 points in Nevada, seven points in Ohio, and five points in Florida. These are three states where the economy is really struggling, and the results show.

Obama is in deeper trouble than the conventional wisdom holds. This ad is proof of that.

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Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

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