Just over a week before the presidential election, Mitt Romney stood before an excited Ohio crowd and uttered these words:
“[My opponent’s] campaign said, ‘if we keep talking about the economy we’re going to lose.’ That’s why he’s spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book. Because that’s how you play the game in Washington. If you can’t beat your opponents ideas, you distort those ideas and maybe make some up. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone you should run away from. You make a big election about small things.
Ohio, we’re here to say not this time; not this year; not when so much is at stake. [My opponent] might be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about Americans who are losing their homes, and their jobs, and their life savings. I can take one more week of [his] attacks, but this country can’t take four more years of the same failed policy. It’s time to try something new.
The question in this election is not are you better off than you were four years ago. We all know the answer to that. The real question is: will this country be better off four years from now?
Whoops! That wasn’t Romney, and it wasn’t 2012. That was Senator Barack Obama a week before his historic election in 2008. See the full clip here.
The irony, of course, is that Obama’s words can now be turned on himself with comedic accuracy. Economic problems? Check (46 million living in poverty). No record to run on? Check (his major legislative achievement is unpopular with centrists). Distorting ideas and making it about small things? Double check. (Big Bird, War on Women, Romney’s “you’re on your own” philosophy).
This highlights both Obama’s general failure to make good on most of his promises—particularly the one about changing the status quo in Washington—and the extent to which his presidency has always been more about hype and rhetoric than substance. The “game” was easier to play as an outsider in 2008, and now Obama is following his own playbook line by line. That should tell us something about the way he sees his own reelection.