On Thursday, he put it this way: "What's holding us back from meeting our challenges -- it's not a lack of ideas, it's not a lack of solutions. What's holding us back is we've got a stalemate in Washington between these two visions of where the country needs to go. And this election is all about breaking that stalemate." Just not in the direction you wish...
On Friday morning in Poland, Ohio, just two hours after the latest jobs report showed another month of tepid growth: "We've got two fundamentally different ideas about where we should take the country. We're trying to put Congress to work. And this election is about how we break that stalemate. And the good news is it's in your power to break this stalemate." Careful, Champ, that cuts both ways!
The message he offered after his breakthrough victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses -- "You came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents," he said that night, "to stand up and say that we are one nation. We are one people . . . You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that's been all about division, and instead make it about addition; to build a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states." "And remember, you people: I won! So we're doing it my way! Get used to it!"
The country would meet its challenges only one way -- together. Contrast that with the way he talked about the election as the sun was setting Thursday night in a park in Parma, Ohio. "There are two fundamentally different visions about how we move the country forward," he said. "And the great thing about our democracy is you get to be the tiebreaker."
Both Obama and Romney genuinely believe the other's vision is deeply flawed, even dangerous for the country. On one side, it is seen as the threat of big government, shackles on the economy and an end to freedom. Romney and the trunks are going to shackle the economy and end freedom? Somebody's got it backwards
On the other side, it is seen as shredding the middle class in order to reward the rich. Swing voters in the middle are being asked to pick one side or the other, not to aspire to become part of the kind of united coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents that Obama talked about in 2008.
The president may believe that by asking voters to break the tie -- by delivering him a second term -- Americans would be voting for an end to stalemated politics in Washington -- sending a message to Republicans that they should finally start to bargain with him rather than opposing him. Wasn't there an election in 2010? How did that turn out, Champ?
So as he spoke across Ohio's northern tier, there were faint echoes of 2008. "I'm not a Democrat first," he told the audience in Maumee. "I'm an American first." Romney is an American first too. Just ask him.
"I believe we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. And I believe what's stopping us is not our capacity to meet our challenges. What's stopping us is our politics. And that's something you have the power to solve." I - for one - will do my part
But at its core, Obama's message has shifted. The urgency in his appeal is grounded in his delusional conviction that this is an election about ideas and policies and political philosophies, that the country faces a crucial moment and a clear choice. The country is in a far different place than it was when he first ran for office, and he is in a far different battle. And he has decided how he will fight it between now and November.
One of the things I find most annoying about Champ -- and the list is long-- is his presumption that he's the only president in history who has had to work against serious opposition. The problem is not that the opposition exists (in fact the existence of opposition is at the core of our democratic process); the problem is that Champ has such a lofty assessment of his own role in the scheme of things that he regards attempting to forge a compromise as beneath him. Why must the Emperor be constrained by lowly Republican congressmen who were mostly elected from fly-over districts?
Compare and contrast: in WW2 Eisenhower (whom Champ no doubt considers a real dumb-ass) had to work with a cluster of such humble, self-effacing, and unopinionated individuals as Montgomery, Churchill, Patton, and DeGaulle. But Ike found a way and won complete victory on the Western Front. Champ can't even strike a deal with John Boehner, and there's no reason to believe that his hypothetical second term will be any different. Hence, his resort to "extra-Constitutional" measures such as the Dream Act-lite.