COMMENTARY | The latest attack by Republicans contends that Barack Obama is too "inexperienced" to be president. It's the same failed line from 2008, which is likely to be less effective this year, and call attention to the challenger's own lack of political experience. The GOP needs to go after Obama's record.
On Wednesday, ABC News' story "Republicans attack Obama on debt, repeat 'no experience accusation'" reports on the Romney camp's media offensive.
The previous day, Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal made the same experience argument charges against the sitting president in the article "Jindal on Obama: He 'Never Ran a Lemonade Stand,'" by Jonathan Miller with National Journal.
Jindal said, "President Obama hasn't run anything before he was elected president of the United States," on Fox News's America's Newsroom. "Never ran a state, never a business, never ran a lemonade stand."
When referring to Romney, Jindal said, "In contrast, Mitt Romney has been a successful governor, a successful businessman, he's got the executive experience."
Sadly, such attacks have been tried before. Democratic Party strategist Garry South documents how Hillary Clinton tried to beat Obama with the experience argument, most notably with her "3 a.m. call" ad. But what it did was backfire on her, as her own political resume was only four years older than Obama's, not significantly greater. Furthermore, her attempts to stretch that experience into the First Lady years only brought up those uncomfortable Health Care Task Force years.
Republican operatives like Karl Rove and conservative columnist Cal Thomas also tried to bash Obama with the inexperience argument, but such arguments really didn't get much traction in an anti-incumbent year. Nothing suggests 2012 is any more "pro-incumbent."
Arizona Senator John McCain, too, tried the experience argument in 2008. Not only could he point to a difference in age, but in political experience (he had been in politics since the 1980s). Such a line of argument was somewhat effective, allowing the underfunded GOP nominee to close with Obama. But McCain undermined his own best argument when he managed to find a candidate less experienced that Obama in Sarah Palin, who was only good for half a month of excitement. She proved to lack both political experience and issue experience. CNN exit polls showed voters found her to be the least experienced of all four presidential and vice-presidential candidates (with Obama finishing third).
Romney's arguments will similarly bounce back upon him, as voters realize he only has a scant four years of political experience himself (exactly what Obama had). The former Massachusetts Governor claims business experience, but argues that Democrats are unfair to attack his Bain Capital leadership. More obviously, Obama has four more years of presidential experience than Romney. Imagine Walter Mondale telling Ronald Reagan that he has more experience than the Gipper.
Instead of focusing on an issue (experience) that didn't work then and will only expose the GOP's nominee own flaws, the Romney campaign needs to focus on the Obama record and all of its shortcomings, if they want a chance of knocking him off.