Leading into this week's Democratic National Convention, the question everyone's either asking or answering is, "Are we better off than we were four years ago?" Republicans are using it as an attack, and the Democrats are on their heels trying to answer.
The question dominated the conversation on the roundtables of the Sunday talk shows. Obama aides and Democratic representatives were all asked the same thing. They all gave some varying answer of, "Yes, of course, but no, but sort of." David Axelrod said we're in a "better position." Stephanie Cutter went for the justifying non-denial. "In terms of the question of whether people are better off today than they were four years ago, I just want to remind you what was happening four years ago at this time," she said, before reminding us of all the bad things Bush did. David Plouffe was called out by George Stephanopolous on This Week for avoiding saying, "Yes, we're better off." All it took was for one guy, in this case it was Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, to say no. That's all it took, and now there's blood in the water.
What O'Malley actually said was, "Without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recessions, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars, charged for the first time to credit cards — the national credit card." So he essentially said the same thing as Cutter, but all it takes for the headline is "Without a doubt, we are not as well off." No one cares about your context.
On Monday morning, it was all anyone was talking about. Stephanie Cutter went on the Today Show to say "Yes, absolutely," we are better off on Monday morning. O'Malley went on CNN and said, "We are clearly better off as a country because we're creating jobs rather than losing them." Joe Biden, speaking at an event in Detroit, said something similar, joined the chorus. "America is better off today than they left us when they left," Biden said. "You wanna know whether we're better off," Biden asked. "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
Republicans are latching onto the Democrats' stumbles, too. Reince Priebus attacked the Democrat's answers to the question Monday morning:
"The problem with [their answers] is the facts don't bear it out and that's why people like David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs couldn't answer the questions yesterday on the Sunday morning shows because the facts are fewer people are employed today. The debt is more out of control than it ever was in the history of this country. The president didn't cut the deficit in half like he promised."
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom says the Republicans are going to keep attacking the point :
"They made a political calculation that they have to say that things are better today than they were four years ago," Fehrnstrom said. But in doing so, they "risk alienating the majority of people in this country that know from their own experience that things are not better."
CNN reports Paul Ryan's going to campaign on it during his stops in North Carolina on Monday, and the Republicans are going to use it all week to try and undermine the Democrats during their big party. On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are making efforts to keep the party message as tight and concise and consistant as possible in Charlotte. This isn't going anywhere. Expect it to dominate the convention speechs over the rest of the week.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.