But to crawl out of the statistical weeds, let’s examine the state of the partisan dialogue. Former President Bill Clinton made a huge blunder when he accepted the Republican challenge and flatly — and loudly — asserted that we are, in fact, better off than we were four years ago. Polls show that only about 33 percent of voters agree, while close to half do not see the world that way.
Finally, both parties seemed happily to embrace the same formulation of the difference between them. Both agreed that the Republican Party is based on a philosophy of individual responsibility. Obama articulated it as, “You’re on your own.” Republicans put it differently: “We’ll get government off your back.” Democrats said theirs was a party that would lend you a hand.
Gallup measured these two options, and voters chose “leave me alone” over “lend me a hand” by 54-35.
Over the long haul, these are the questions that will dominate voting intentions. The function of the conventions is to formulate and articulate each party’s view of the world. The fact that they were so similar and that each was willing to trust its fate to the question of, “Are you better off?” means that the Romney message will have a very strong advantage. The decision of the Democrats to embrace this choice and not to move to the center will make it impossible for them either to re-elect their president or to command a majority in the new Senate.