2012 & 2004; Barack Obama & George W. Bush; Base Democrats & Base Republicans

Just like last week, these are my personal reflections about the 2012 Democratic convention. My education is Mathematics, my training is Global Macro and my passion is Cinema. Success in all three comes from a sense of pattern recognition, the eye to see things differently. I have yet to achieve any success in any of the three. But then, I don’t need to get to a destination to enjoy the journey.

Last week’s Democratic convention was a success. But it didn’t move me like the Republican convention did. The Republican convention reminded me of the 1992 Democratic convention, a convention of New Republicans. A new direction is always more exciting; it is more adventurous; it is an attempt to reach out to those outside your base.

The Democratic convention reminded me of the 2004 Republican convention, a pure exercise in appealing to their base. The appeal was what the Obama campaign has been run on – the core belief that Government exists to deliver benefits to your base, that pragmatism inherent to business is morally defunct and the goal of society is to make the successful share their winnings with the unsuccessful. The Obama speech was at times a clarion call for a noble mission and at times a siren for class jihad.

There was no attempt to broaden the message, no attempt to reach out to the independents or moderate Republicans. Obama-Biden didn’t care. They simply wanted to solidify their base. So they fudged facts and blithely invented new ones. They tried to scare their base into believing the worst about the Romney-Ryan ticket.

That was the strategy of George W. Bush and his architect Karl Rove in 2004. The 2004 campaign made no attempt to woo independents. They simply relied on exciting the base and on their ground game. They created issues in critical states that drove their base to the polls. That is how they won Ohio.

Last week’s focus on the GM bailout was a copy of that 2004 approach. The symbolism of the GM bailout is far more important than actual facts. The message is simple. We kept your jobs. Romney would have shut GM down. Vice President Biden’s attack was very well crafted. Rather than calling Romney evil,  Biden called him a bean-counter. Any one who has lived in the midwest, any one who has friends in the auto industry knows what GM’s bean-counters did to GM in the mid 1980s. They remain a reviled species in the midwest. Biden effectively put that bean-counter stamp on Romney.

The 2004 Republican campaign was run on the message to the Republican base that George W. Bush was their guy and that he will govern for them. The 2012 Democratic campaign is being run on the message to the Democratic base that Barack Obama is their man and that he will govern for them.

So the election will come down to demographics and the ground game. One argument is that Obama simply needs to win the states John Kerry won in 2004. Thanks to the new demographics, that will give Obama 270+ electoral votes. The other argument is that while the Kerry states have gained, the actual increase in population has been in the Republican counties in those states. So by wining the Republican counties Romney can win some of the Kerry states.

Notice we didn’t talk about Clinton’s speech. It was a great speech, purely Clintonian in its appeal to the mind as well as the heart. But Obama tore down that approach. He was anti-Clinton as he could be. He rejected Clinton’s attempt to bring the Democratic party back to the center. The center is not Obama-Axelrod-Cutter territory. We saw again that while Obama uses Clinton, he really looks down on Bill Clinton. Barack Obama views Clinton’s pragmatism the way Michelle Obama views a career in business, an inherently lower calling for a lower quality person.

They say that Barack Obama wanted to be a Democratic Ronald Reagan. But he is really a Democratic mirror image of the Republican George W. Bush. At least, that is how the 2012 Democratic campaign is being run.

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