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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sullivan: Obama Needs ‘Reasoned Centrist Approach’ to Win

Andrew Sullivan has some advice for the Obama campaign up at his perch at The Daily Beast:

Here’s how I’d summarize the argument I think works best for Obama:
“I inherited a financial and economic disaster and two wars that did not end in victory. I have prevented a second Great Depression, restored job growth, saved our auto industry, restored financial stability, ended one war and wound down another, but we need more. We need investments in infrastructure, reform of immigration, and continuation of my education reforms. And we need a sensible approach to debt elimination. My policy is to cut entitlements, cut defense and slash tax loopholes and deductions so we can get higher revenues from those who have done extremely well these past three decades. My opponent refuses to tax the extremely wealthy at the same rates as ordinary folk, and wants to cut the debt solely by cutting entitlements for the old and sick, while increasing defense spending and cutting taxes even further. We all know we are going to have to retrench. Would you rather do it with me guarding the core of the welfare state or with Romney-Ryan who want to end it with a solution that Newt Gingrich called ‘right wing social engineering'”?
I think you have to have this positive contrast to balance the brutal attacks on Romney in advertizing, or risk losing that critical ingredient that made Obama Obama: a sane reminder of the actual policy choices we face, and a reasoned centrist approach to solving them. Alas, after the heat of a brutal partisan pushback from the GOP from Day One, that positive vision is not so present this time around. It needs to be brought back.

Sullivan also has “three key” soundbite-sized questions he feels that the Obama campaign should pose to voters:

Would you rather cut the debt by slashing entitlements alone – or do you favor a balanced approach, with increased taxes on the wealthy, retrenchment of defense and reform of entitlements?
Would you rather a president who wants to launch a war against Iran or a president who will do all he can to avoid it?
Do you want repeal of a healthcare law that guarantees available private insurance even to those with pre-existing conditions? If you are under 26, and on your parents’ health insurance, do you want to lose it?

Keeping those questions front and center will help secure victory for Obama, Sullivan feels. Though progressive Dems will gag on some of Sullivan’s suggestions, it’s hard to argue with his concluding sentence, “Waiting for better economic numbers and pummeling Romney’s favorables is not, in my view, a superior strategy.”
Obama did OK in ’08 without Sullivan’s advice, and centrist candidates have not exactly been lighting the electorate on fire thus far in 2012. Yet there are undoubtedly centrist voters still out there in significant numbers, waiting for a clear statement of principles that resonates with them. In a close election, offering them a little encouragement with some of Suillivan’s points may not be such a bad idea.

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