President Obama's abysmal jobs record is the elephant in a room of donkeys at the Democratic National Convention. The goal in Charlotte, N.C., seems to be to avoid any mention of the bad economy, hoping no one will notice. The result is convention speeches that put the spotlight on social issues that appeal only to the Democrats' far-left base. It's a risky strategy.
Tuesday's featured speakers cared more about President Obama ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" than beginning new job opportunities. First lady Michelle Obama explained that her husband, "believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care. He wants everyone in this country, everyone, to have the same opportunity no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love."
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told the cheering delegates, "We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman's decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy, and everybody's decision about whom to marry."
Democratic leaders insist social issues came second. "The biggest issue in people's minds is the economy, and I thought that was the focus last night," Terry McAuliffe, a big fundraiser for Mr. Obama and the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told The Washington Times in Charlotte. "We're laying out a whole framework for why you should vote for President Obama and what you get if you vote for Mitt Romney. It's not only the economic issues. It's the social issues. It's the whole panoply of issues."
Former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton told us the speeches by Mrs. Obama, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland centered on the economy.
"Social issues got some mention last night, but it was probably so noticeable because the Republican convention tried to steer away from the more divisive things that they stand for -- on abortion issues, on women's health," said Mr. Burton, who now runs the super PAC Priorities USA. "Those issues are important to a lot of Democrats and to a lot of Americans who don't consider themselves partisan. But everyone here agrees that this election will largely be decided on economic issues."
The GOP super PAC American Crossroads is seizing the opportunity to fill in the void with a $6.6 million television ad buy highlighting the Obama administration's failed economic record. The spot will run in eight targeted states including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
"President Obama says he'll move us forward, but where's he taken us so far?" an announcer intones over videos of a working-class black man, a young woman at her desk and a family outside a home. "America's worst economic recovery ever. Twenty-three million of us without full-time work. Family income down. Forty percent living paycheck to paycheck."
According to a recent Gallup poll, Mr. Romney is ahead of Mr. Obama by 11 points with independent voters. The more extreme the Democrats present themselves at their convention, the bigger that gap will likely grow.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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