Democrats, throughout most of the past century, have completely blown it when it comes to framing issues. By this, I specifically mean their ability to create the narrative that they find most conducive to running their campaigns and ultimately winning. From Humphrey in 1968 to Dukakis in 1988 to Gore in 2000 and finally Kerry in 2004, Democrats have squandered historic opportunities to paint the picture they that they could have otherwise drawn.
Part of this stems from the fact that Republicans usually get there, so to speak, ‘firstest with the mostest.’ Meaning, as soon as the people start paying attention, they carpetbomb the airwaves with their message, set the terms of the debate, and then pummel away at the themes of their choosing until they reach a point of media saturation. Usually, by the time that Democrats have figured out what’s happened, it’s too late to stem the tide, and they end up struggling with a lackluster and lethargic message, having been beaten before the fight ever even really began.
But not this time. Team Obama took dead aim at Mitt Romney pretty much from the minute that the Republican side of the race started. As various candidates (Bachmann, Gingrich, Cain and Perry) all ebbed and flowed, the Obama campaign focused on Romney with laserlike precision and developed and unfolded the narrative that Mitt Romney was a rich guy who didn’t care about you, only his similarly wealthy buddies. And, for the first time in a very, very long time, Democrats successfully pulled it off.
Mitt Romney has been successfully defined on the terms the Democrats set forth, and he’s been struggling ever since. At this point in most presidential races, this is the point where Romney should be hitting a bit of a surge. This is when the non-incumbent, if he’s going to ever poll past the incumbent, does. But that’s not happening for Romney, and I doubt that it’s going to now, even with the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate.
The reason I doubt he’s going to see a statistically lasting uptick is the fact that Ryan, for all of his photogenic qualities, name recognition, policy proposals and campaigning abilities, fits in too well, really, with the prefabricated campaign message that the Democrats have crafted for Romney. Put simply, whatever they were saying about Romney holds true of Ryan, and, unlike Romney, Ryan has a paper trail a mile long stemming from his tenure in Congress.
Ryan doesn’t poll well now, and Romney isn’t going to really experience any discernible benefit from selecting this fresh faced young man from Wisconsin. Further, I’m of the opinion that the more that Americans find out about Ryan, the less that they’re going to like either him or his positions. This was, as vice presidential selections have been in the recent past, a Hail Mary pass. Team Obama’s about to intercept it, and run it about 85 days for a touchdown back to the White House.