Obama and the Burden of Incumbency

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Friday's jobs numbers and Bill Clinton's comment about Romney's "sterling" work in private equity don't cause me to revise my opinion that Obama is losing. Next up, the Wisconsin recall and the Supreme Court ruling on the health-care reform.

Michael Hirsh reckons the jobs setback will cause Obama to go more negative. Maybe so: That would appear to be the logic guiding the campaign. Now that the 2008 unite-not-divide branding is destroyed, you could argue he might just as well let rip. As EJ Dionne advises, "Give 'em hell, Barry."

There is also an advantage in Obama directly taking on Romney's background in private equity at Bain Capital. By raising these questions himself, Obama signaled that he would not let criticisms from such Democrats as Newark Mayor Cory Booker force him to back down from a challenge he knows he needs to lodge against Romney's claims as a "job creator." By the end of last week, Booker had eased off while the Bain issue was still alive, to the point that even Rush Limbaugh was forced to acknowledge that private equity was about profit-making, not job creation.

See, it's working. Booker recanted, Obama stands vindicated. Then Rush Limbaugh admits that capitalism is about profits--which he'd denied for years. So just keep it up, only more so. But one thing about going more negative does puzzle me. How would you do that? How much more negative could Obama be?

Politico's Glenn Thrush is worth reading on Obama's "negative-feedback loop".

[Former Obama press secretary Robert] Gibbs, echoing arguments made by Obama's team for months, said it isn't fair to create a double standard by letting Romney attack Obama with abandon -- and super PAC cash -- while penalizing Obama for fighting back.

True. Cowards in the ranks are telling the president to fight with one hand tied behind his back. They don't realize that incumbency is a disadvantage, because it creates an expectation that the president will be, you know, presidential. Unfair!

It won't be long at this rate before the White House is casting the president as the underdog. 

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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