Ed Driscoll

Coming Next Year: Give 'em Hell, Barry

In the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost predicts, “watch the Obama team pursue two strategies next year:”

(1) Try to recreate the bandwagon effect. It won’t be nearly as effective in 2012 as in 2008 simply because he’s no longer an ambiguous phenomenon. Now, he’s the president who has a real – and extremely disappointing – record. Still, look for his team to generate, once again, the impression that he’s riding the crest of some unprecedented wave of popular support. That’s the point of the billion-dollar campaign fund, the gratuitous (and utterly absurd) suggestions that Texas is somehow in play, and the general idea that he’s virtually invincible next year. Also, when the campaign gets going, expect plenty of super-large rallies that will play on people’s inability to appreciate the scale of American elections (30,000 people at a rally is a drop in the bucket in a country where 130 million vote) to reinforce the notion that he can’t lose.

Run the Truman 1948 playbook. Harry Truman is today remembered as a straight shooter who told it like it was. That’s true in many respects, but he was also one of the most partisan presidents in the postwar era, and his 1948 campaign was one of the most demagogic. Check out, for instance, Truman’s 1948 nomination acceptance address. The reason Truman ran that campaign was because he was pinched from multiple sides – from the left and the right in his own party, from the Republicans, and from the economy, which ground to a virtual halt by election day. In response, Truman ran hard against the Republicans, arguing that they were set to destroy the New Deal. Expect Obama to run a similar ‘Give ‘em hell!’ strategy, making particular use of Paul Ryan’s budget to demagogue the Republican position. There’s really no reason to pick somebody like Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the DNC, other than to drive home the ‘GOP wants to murder granny’ argument.

Truman’s campaign became consistently nastier as he went more and more negative, leading to the moment when he dubbed his Republican challenger a Nazi. This New York Times headline from the last week of the 1948 election gives you the gist of it:

PRESIDENT LIKENS DEWEY TO HITLER AS FASCISTS’ TOOL; Says When Bigots, Profiteers Get Control of Country They Select ‘Front Man’ to Rule DICTATORSHIP STRESSED Truman Tells Chicago Audience a Republican Victory Will Threaten U.S. Liberty TRUMAN SAYS GOP PERILS U.S. LIBERTY

If the run-up in the weeks preceding the election are close, except a similarly nasty level of demagoguery and maybe even worse from the Obama campaign.

Will it work? It worked in ’48, didn’t it?

Related: Michael Walsh on “The divide for 2012,” Bryon York on Obama summing up his first two years in office: “Obama: Mistakes? Can’t think of any.”

It’s deja Bush all over again!