WASHINGTON – President Obama's campaign needs to recapture its voice. It is floundering, really, after two months of the little miracles that Republican Mitt Romney needed to tighten up a race that once looked like a Democratic slam-dunk.
To the president, glorious early April now looks like swirling dust in the rear-view mirror. When it began, he led in most of the swing states, thanks to a solid double-digit lead with independent women.
Suddenly the president and his rickety "Republican war on women" became collateral damage courtesy of friendly fire. "Which women?" became the question after a Democratic policy wonk with strong White House ties, Hilary Rosen, charged Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life."
Then a liberal blogger and MSNBC personality, Michelle Goldberg, compared Ann Romney, who raised five sons while battling chronic disease, to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
The Secret Service put the rigors of feminism to the ultimate test when an advance team for Obama's visit to Colombia became embroiled in a dispute involving payment that female prostitutes thought they earned from a partying agent at a luxury hotel in Cartagena.
Next came Vice President Biden's wade into the swamp of gay marriage when he declared – upstaging a surprised president – that he had "no problem" with it. Days later, voters in a swing state, North Carolina, passed a ban on it.
With its "war on women" campaign sputtering, the White House started swinging at Romney's role as head of a venture investment firm, Bain Capital. This was supposed to tie in to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the supposed plundering of America by its wealthiest one percent.
But Romney's performance at Bain has been defended by a brace of Democratic stars, including former President Clinton, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
The White House says it will continue the attack on Bain, which shows how desperate it is for an issue. The broadsides have left the president open to attacks that he is a Marxist who harbors deep antipathy toward capitalism and American enterprise except when he needs campaign money.
Bill Clinton undercut another Obama issue when he declared the Bush tax cuts should not be terminated, as the president wants. Clinton later said he's sorry for saying it.
But Lawrence Summers, Obama's one-time chief economics aide, said the tax cuts should stay.
Last week's victory by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over a recall attempt was seem as a resounding defeat for organized labor and Obama's street troops. Not exactly. Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, was not as adamantly pro-labor as a woman he defeated in the Democratic recall primary, Kathleen Falk. Barrett was also buried in a deluge of GOP money from out of state. Republicans had a four-to-one financial advantage.
Wisconsin does offer Romney a model of how he can win: Maintain discipline, stress the muddiness of Obama's message and record, and drown the campaign in cash.
Polls now show Obama can lose. But as history shows, he can regain his momentum as quickly as it was lost.
As a postscript to the war on women, the website Legistorm shows that men hold the best-paid jobs in the congressional offices of Democratic Reps. Brian Higgins of Buffalo; Louise Slaughter of Fairport and Kathy Hochul of Amherst.
This is true of the personal Senate staff of Chuck Schumer. However, a Schumer spokesman said women hold the highest-paying posts when Schumer's rules and policy committees are included in the mix. In the personal office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Legistorm shows women are the best paid.
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