POLITICS

Obama's focus on Big Bird, binders and bayonets may backfire, experts say

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Photo - President Barack Obama (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama (AP Photo)
Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012

In the face of a sluggish economy, high unemployment numbers and his opponent's rising poll numbers, President Obama has ditched the "hope and change" mantra of the 2008 campaign in favor of a strategy that focuses on Big Bird, binders and bayonets.

Throw in a dose of "Romnesia," a controversial ad about virginity and a website home page that displays Mitt Romney in a cartoon dunce cap, and you have key elements of the Obama campaign's strategy to undercut the growing momentum for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who now leads Obama in many national polls.

But many top political strategists say the strategy is backfiring.

"I think so far the attitude that Obama and his campaign has conveyed in the last couple of weeks has generally rubbed people the wrong way," said pollster Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group.

"Four years ago, the tone of the Obama campaign in the general election was pitch-perfect," Faucheux added. "I don't think it has been in this campaign, and I think we are seeing it in the polls."

Obama began talking about "Romnesia" at a rally in Fairfax County last week in an effort to criticize Romney for his shifting politics. The Obama campaign pushed these tactics even further on Friday by featuring on the Obama 2012 website an illustration of Romney wearing a dunce cap.

And Obama outraged many with a campaign ad featuring actress Lena Dunham, of the popular HBO series "Girls." In the ad, entitled "Lena Dunham: Your First Time," Dunham said voting for Obama was akin to losing her virginity.

"You want to do it with a great guy," she said in the ad. "Someone who really cares about and understands women."

RedState blogger Erick Erickson said the ad is proof that Obama has "given up on men who have daughters. He's given up on moms."

Obama's criticism of Romney began after the first presidential debate, when Romney pledged to end federal funding of PBS, which produces the popular children's show "Sesame Street."

"Thank goodness someone is finally cracking down on Big Bird," Obama quipped at campaign stops.

Democrats then seized on Romney's reference during the second debate to "binders" of female candidates for jobs in his Massachusetts administration.

And in the final presidential debate last week, Obama delivered a zinger after Romney criticized him for reducing the number of U.S. Navy ships.

"We also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama said.

Viewers agreed that Obama scored more points during the final debate, but Republicans claimed Romney, who refrained from similar kinds of attacks, appeared more presidential.

Polling shows the GOP may be right.

A Public Policy Polling snap survey showed that whileindependents gave Obama the win, more viewers became more likely to vote for Romney than for Obama.

"Obama needs to be focusing on bigger issues and a bigger future; that is how he won in 2008" said Republican strategist Hogan Gidley. "Most middle Americans want bigger-picture stuff. They want to talk about the trillion-dollar debt and massive unemployment, and he's out there needling Romney about Big Bird."

But Democrats argue that Obama's strategy will make voters less trusting of Romney. The "binders" attacks, for example, will hurt his support among the all-important suburban-female vote, they said.

"This push by Obama is really designed to undermine the idea that Romney can be a plausible alternative for president,"said Democratic strategist Chris LeHane.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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