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Weekend Messaging Memo: “More than a Number”

Sean Spicer - February 3, 2012

MEMO

FROM: Sean Spicer, RNC Communications Director

TO: Interested Parties

RE: Weekend Messaging Memo – More than a Number

Once a month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its jobs report and the unemployment rate. And once a month commentators play the numbers game: How low must it go for Obama to win a second term? 7.3 percent? 6.8 percent?

It’s a dangerous game. High unemployment has become the new normal so we’re tempted to think that slightly-less-high unemployment is good. We’re tempted to settle. It may get better, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It doesn’t mean the economy has recovered. The new normal isn’t really normal at all. 

The economy is much more than a single statistic, and the vast majority of numeric indicators tell us we are far, far from the growing economy we need to guarantee widespread prosperity. Barack Obama’s presidency must be judged on his record, and his record is the health of the economy.

In the Obama economy, most things are getting worse. Gas prices are high. Grocery prices are rising. Healthcare costs are rising. Poverty is up. Homelessness is up. The national debt is hurtling toward $16 trillion. This is the record of Barack Obama, and this is unsustainable.

Taken together, this paints a depressing picture. But it still doesn’t capture the full story—the human story. Americans don’t judge the economy on a handful of statistics. They judge it on their own realities and their personal struggles. Do they feel better off? Are things getting better?

The majority of Americans say no. Poll after poll shows 60 to 70 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Gallup released state-by-state polling this week on Obama’s approval ratings. In 47 states, his approval rating is down from a year ago, and he is only above 50 percent in 10 states (all reliable blue states). It’s clear Americans understand that things are not where they should be.

This week, a woman from Fort Worth, Jennifer Weddel, gave voice to that sense of frustration and in an online town hall voiced it directly to President Obama. Her husband, a semiconductor engineer, has faced chronic unemployment. When she asked the president why, he insisted that her husband really should be able to find work. It was “interesting,” said the president, that no one was hiring her husband.

As Chairman Priebus wrote on Wednesday, Obama “responded with the coolness of a detached professor, intrigued by a complex case study.”

Jennifer later assessed the exchange saying, “I just think I stumped him a little and he wanted me to hush about it.” In the president’s pursuit of reelection, he wants all of us to “hush” when we talk about his record. 

Republicans, as we head toward November, must communicate to voters our dedication to fighting for hard-working taxpayers and for the unemployed, like Jennifer’s husband, who are working so hard just to find work. Our message has to be about more than just lowering an unemployment number. It has to be about raising America’s spirit and reviving American opportunity. 

The election is a referendum on the president, and that in turn, is a referendum on the economy. So to win reelection, Barack Obama will attempt to convince Americans to settle for the new normal. But settling isn’t normal for Americans. 

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