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Obama's Challenge Beyond the Debates-- and the Election

Take a short break from debate hysteria and horse race analysis and give a read to a couple of posts by TDS Founding Editor Ruy Teixeira, as he discusses why President Obama should begin focusing on growth as a unifying theme that can solidify his electoral coalition into an enduring force that can enact and implement policy.

At ABC News/Univision, Teixeira explains why Obama's lead with Latino voters appears even stronger than in 2008, and why the president will need to focus increasingly on growth as a central goal. First on why Obama has such a solid edge with Latinos :

...Immigration, after all, while hugely important to Hispanic voters, is not the only issue that concerns them by any means. Jobs and the economy are also of the highest importance, hardly surprising given the state of today's economy. Indeed, in the LD tracking poll, 54 percent thought jobs and the economy was the most important issue facing the Latino community, compared to 39 percent who thought it was immigration reform and the DREAM act.

It is this strong concern with the economy that helps explain how Obama could have such an unusually large lead. On question after question on the economy, Obama is favored by very wide margins among Hispanic voters. In the LD poll, voters chose Obama over Romney by 72-20 as the one they have confidence in to improve economic conditions. Similarly, in the Telemundo poll, 58 percent believe Obama is better prepared to create jobs and improve the economy over the next four years, while just 22 percent think Romney is better prepared. And by 76 to nine percent, Latinos see Obama as best able to look out for the middle class.

Latino voters also believe conditions have started to improve on Obama's watch. In the same poll, by 60 percent to 32 percent they believe the economy is recovering and by 50 percent to 9 percent they think the economy will get better, not worse, over the next twelve months.

However, warns Teixeira, "If Obama is reelected, he will still have to deliver the robust economic growth these voters need to realize their economic aspirations. This may be difficult." Teixeira cites the low, 1.6 percent, growth rate since 2000 as a daunting challenge Obama must tackle after the election if eh wants to hold Latino support for the Democrats.

After all, explains Teixeira:

Obama may not be offering a specific plan for growth but Romney's approach strikes many Latino voters as a retread of the policies that tanked the economy to begin with...Given this dynamic, the Obama campaign is likely right that it would lose more than it would gain by specifying a growth plan. But that doesn't make growth any less necessary--a reality that Obama will have to confront if he is reelected. If he does not figure out a way to ignite growth and keep it going, his Hispanic support will probably erode significantly.
Thus, concludes Teixeira, "A second Obama administration would therefore be well advised to make economic growth its number one priority from the moment of his inauguration." Teixeira echoes some of this argument more broadly in his New Republic post, "The Obama Coalition is Still Alive--But For How Long?" and adds:
What is holding this coalition together? The crucial factor isn't anything that Obama has done over the past four years--though he does have some major accomplishments to his name--but rather how appalling the other side is from the perspective of the Obama coalition. From Romney's clueless rich guy persona to his embrace of hardline GOP positions on immigration, gay marriage and abortion to his adoption of Ayn Randian rhetoric that demonizes 47 percent of the population to budgetary policies that would eviscerate social spending and voucherize Medicare while cutting taxes for the wealthy, there is something in the Romney campaign to offend nearly everyone in the Obama coalition...It is likely, though not certain, that this view of Romney and the GOP will hold long enough to get Obama re-elected despite Romney's bold attempts at re-invention.

After the election, however, Teixeira sees economic growth as the remedy and the problem, noting "Assuming Obama does get re-elected, he will have to confront this problem. The good news for him is that there is a simple answer: economic growth and plenty of it. The bad news is that Obama doesn't yet seem inclined to focus on achieving it."

Teixeira credits Obama with some solid initiatives and actions to spur growth, including the stimulus a a "down payment." But again, Teixeira acknowledges, "It's politically difficult to put forward such specifics in a campaign context" and "the Obama campaign is probably right that it would lose more than it would gain by specifying a growth plan."

Teixeira advises the President to resist the siren calls of deficit panic and modest stimulus and embrace instead a bolder vision for economic growth in his second term -- "to make growth its number one priority from the moment of his second inauguration." Above all, concludes Teixeira, a central commitment to vigorous growth is the key to building a lasting pro-Democratic coalition for the future.