The last time an incumbent president faced re-election, George W. Bush exploited social and national security issues to offset his economic vulnerabilities.
Over the next year, President Obama will try the same thing.
Circumstances have changed drastically since 2004. America’s economic woes stand to dominate the 2012 dialogue no matter what — probably to Mr. Obama’s detriment.
Yet in important electoral battlegrounds, Mr. Obama’s strategists intend to use abortion, gay rights, the environment and successes in the fight against Al Qaeda to counter economic attacks and drive a wedge between Republicans and swing voters.
The Democratic shift from defense to offense on those issues stems from evolving public attitudes, intensifying Republican conservatism and the raid that killed
Osama bin Laden on Mr. Obama’s orders. The perilous state of the American economy undercuts the president’s assertions that he prevented something worse.
The result: over the weekend, Mr. Obama accused his Republican challengers of displaying a “kind of smallness” by not denouncing a debate audience that booed a gay soldier. He used the incident to question their readiness to become commander in chief.
Days earlier at a California fund-raiser, Mr. Obama cast his re-election bid as an appeal to “people of like mind, people who believe in a big and generous and a tolerant and ambitious and fact-based America.”