The PJ Tatler

Carville Memo: Life is Such a Struggle that Obama Shouldn't Even Talk About It

Late Monday, James Carville’s Democracy Corps released a strategic memo that lays out a stark reality for President Obama and the Democrats: Shift the campaign narrative away from the economy, or die. Titled “Shift the Economic Narrative,” the memo encapsulates focus group work done by Democracy Corps to assess what voters are thinking. The memo says “[Voters] know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle — and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand. They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way — not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery.”

The above flatly repudiates President Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” statement made during Friday’s press conference. It also points out that if the president’s economic plans are not seen as serious, they will go nowhere.

The memo goes on to note some of Mitt Romney’s vulnerabilities, before delivering this hammer blow: “But we underscore the sentiment [the voters] expressed in the postcards to the President they wrote at the end of the exercise: overwhelmingly, these voters want to know that he understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.”

So far, the president has offered another round of stimulus, and more “investment” in “green jobs.” The Democracy Corps memo quotes several voters who are struggling even to keep their minimum wage jobs. It also quotes families whose college educated-children cannot find work, and have had to move back home with their parents. They represent, according to the memo, the “new normal.” One non-college-educated woman in Columbus, OH describes her “new normal”: “We recycle, we do cans, we do metal. On trash [day] when people set their garbage out, we go trash picking. I know it sounds nasty but dumpster diving, whatever.”

The Democracy Corps paints a bleak, Dickensian view of the “new normal” to drive home the point that life across the country has become a struggle of survival for millions of proud, law-abiding Americans who were once middle class. Health care costs remain a problem, too: “At work, salaries were frozen a few years ago. Everybody took a ten percent cut. There were layoffs. Health care is going up. My take-home pay is…less than it was five years ago,” writes a college-educated man in Pennsylvania. The memo also notes that gas prices and the prices of groceries have continued to rise higher and higher, straining family budgets. Any optimism the pollsters found was tied to the possibility that the economy must now be a rock bottom, so it cannot get much worse.

After detailing the many struggles taking place every day across America, the memo notes that Obama retains a slim lead because voters see him as “the devil you know” or the “lesser of two evils.” But if he is seen as out of touch, that advantage evaporates.

The memo pushes the president to talk up government programs that lend assistance to middle class Americans, and to talk about the future, not about the present or the past. The memo concludes with a call to laud government spending, and a suggestion to destroy Mitt Romney: “This economy has made many voters feel disconnected from and at odds with the government in Washington. Messages that connect on a pocketbook level and commit to the programs voters rely on most have the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”

President Obama must have gotten an advance look at the Democracy Corps memo: Today he is signaling a shift away from talking about today’s “new normal” economy, to talking about the future, according to the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama will use a campaign policy speech Thursday to contrast his preferred approach for the country’s economic future with ideas proposed by his likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, people familiar with the speech said.

Mr. Obama’s address in Cleveland, described by his aides as a “framing” speech, isn’t expected to include any major new proposals. While some of his political advisers had pushed for that, his economic team made clear they don’t see many fresh options…

Outside the Obama administration, three solutions spring to mind: Abolish ObamaCare, unleash domestic energy exploration and exploitation, and roll back the EPA’s regulatory drive against energy producers.