A surprising Gallup poll hit the streets Monday, showing that President Obama is losing his “gender gap” advantage over Mitt Romney. Women, according to the poll, are powering Romney’s rise in the swing states.
As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee has pulled within one point of the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-49%, and leads by 8 points among men.
Keeping that in mind, on Monday night Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted responsibility for the lack of security at the US consulate in Benghazi. Clinton accepted the responsibility from outside the country, and after the evening newscasts had already aired, on the eve of the second and crucial presidential debate. The second and third points in that virtually guarantee that Clinton’s move will become a debate issue tonight.
The expectation has built for more than two weeks that Obama would bring up Romney’s “47%” remark, despite the fact that it doesn’t poll nearly as strongly as the left had hoped it would. Additionally the “47%” punch has been telegraphed since the previous debate. VP Biden even brought it up in the vice presidential debate, to no great effect. It’s far from the knock-out punch that Obama’s supporters seem to believe. Romney surely has an answer for it ready to go.
The “47%” remark is not even driving headlines today. Clinton’s move has already sparked a letter from three Republican senators, and this morning a reporter asked Obama directly whether Clinton is to blame. Obama ignored the question. But he cannot ignore it if one of tonight’s townhall questioners brings it up. Or if Romney works it into the debate. This afternoon, the Romney campaign signaled to CNN that he will be ready to discuss Clinton’s acceptance of blame.
The question is, what can Obama do with it? He can’t stay silent, or he looks like he is hiding behind a female subordinate at a time when he is losing the women’s vote. The image left from that would be that Clinton is more presidential than the president. What sort of situation has Clinton stuck him with? Or was her move part of a larger campaign strategy designed to give Obama an opportunity to do something dramatic?
It’s possible as some are speculating that Clinton’s move gives Obama the chance to play hero and take responsibility on behalf of Clinton. But that opens up at least two problems. One, Vice President Biden said during last week’s debate that the White House did not know about the security requests that came from the field in Libya. That put the focus for security on Clinton’s State Department, culminating in her move Monday night to accept responsibility. Obama’s acceptance of responsibility only after his vice president and secretary of state have come into conflict comes too much after the fact. We’re a month past the attack now and weeks past the administration’s attempt to blame it on a movie. Why did it take so long for Obama to finally admit that the buck stops with the president?
Two, once Obama accepts responsibility for the security issues, several questions open up. Who authorized the two-week campaign to blame the attack on a YouTube video? Who made the decision to have US Ambassador Susan Rice lead the charge, and who wrote up her talking points? Who signed off on spending taxpayer money to run ads in Pakistan blaming the attack on a movie? What does the attack say about the Obama campaign narrative that al Qaeda is “crippled?” Why did it take Clinton’s move to get Obama to accept any responsibility for a deadly attack on US soil that took place on his watch? If any of those questions come up, and they will after the debate if not during it, Obama’s hero status won’t last long.
It looks at this point as if Hillary Clinton did not consult with the Obama campaign prior to accepting blame Monday night. She surprised them. Clinton has already stated that she will not serve as secretary of state in a second Obama term, but she surely has an eye on 2016. Accepting blame now blunts the issue for that future run, but puts the focus back on Obama and the administration’s attempt to blame YouTube just in time for the debate. So what does Obama do with Clinton’s move?
Honestly, I don’t know how Obama deals with Hillary Clinton’s move tonight. He can’t leave it alone and he can’t be completely honest about it. Every move he makes has the potential to land him in check. He will have to spin, the only question is, in what direction?