Schieffer Says Obama’s Reelection Was About Economy, Not Social Issues

CBS’s Bob Schieffer has come to the president’s defense again. Conveniently forgetting about the media's obsession with the “war on women,” and how the media tag-teamed with the president's reelection campaign on social issues, Schieffer insisted that Barack Obama based his successful reelection campaign on the economy.

Schieffer, who moderated the final presidential debate in 2012, appeared  on the January 28 edition of The Kalb Report alongside fellow debate moderators Martha Raddatz of ABC and Jim Lehrer of PBS for a discussion of the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates. After the discussion, the panelists fielded questions from the audience, and one audience member asked Schieffer:


“Earlier this evening, you said that all presidential elections come down to the economy. The argument can be made that President Obama centered his candidacy more on social issues. My question is what impact do you think that plays today with the fiscal environment that the United States is facing? Would we have been served better if the discussions during these debates centered more on the economy?”
 

Schieffer, however, refused to accept the questioner’s premise. This election did come down to the economy, he insisted, claiming that Obama “seemed to be talking about jobs and getting people back to work.” Moreover, he said he didn’t hear Obama talk much about social issues during the campaign.


It’s true that Obama talked a little about the economy during his 2012 run. But it wasn’t a huge concern of his, as evidenced by his declaration that “the private sector is doing just fine.” His main campaign device was the phony “war on women,” which put access to contraception and equal pay for women (both social issues) at the forefront of his reelection bid. Many believed the “war on women” was meant to distract voters from the poor state of the economy, which has been recovering from the Great Recession at a snail’s pace. Apparently, Schieffer has forgotten about all this.


 

But wait, there's more. Schieffer contradicted himself, speculating that, from the Obama campaign’s perspective, the election was more about voter turnout than substantive policy issues:


"In some ways, this was not so much an election about issues as it was about identifying their voters and getting their voters to the polls and recognizing that the demographics in this country were changing dramatically. And they figured that out and figured out how to get their people to the polls and the Republicans didn’t do as well on that."

 

Interesting. So if the economy was the driving force, why did the president's reelection effort center on turning out the base vote rather than uniting a majority of Americans around the narrative that he was an effective steward of the economy.



Reading between the lines, the key for Democrats was recognizing the growth in minority populations (particularly Hispanics), and then making sure those minorities came to the polls and voted for Obama. One way they accomplished this was by fighting tooth-and-nail against common sense proposals for voter ID laws in several states. This whole get-out-the-vote effort looks suspiciously like a social issue, as many social issues (such as gay rights and women’s rights) are based on identity politics.

Below is a transcript of the exchange:

JOE ZIMMERING: Hi, I'm Joe Zimmering [?], I'm a young professional here in D.C.
My question is for Mr. Schieffer. Earlier this evening, you said that all presidential
elections come down to the economy. The argument can be made that President Obama
centered his candidacy more on social issues. My question is what impact do you think
that plays today with the fiscal environment that the United States is facing? Would we
have been served better if the discussions during these debates centered more on the
economy?

BOB SCHIEFFER: I do think in the end this one did come down to the economy. I
think the President may be basing his second term on social issues. I mean, if you take his
inauguration speech as sort of a guidepost to where he wants to go from here, but I didn’t
hear him talk a lot about during the campaign. He seemed to be talking about jobs and
getting people back to work. And I think the economy began to get better. But I didn’t
see him spending a lot of time talking about gay rights during the election. I didn’t hear
him talk very much about gun control. I think it was mentioned once in one of the
debates. I think they thought that his people thought that they had to get-- I mean, what
they concentrated on-- in some ways, this was not so much an election about issues as it
was about identifying their voters and getting their voters to the polls and recognizing
that the demographics in this country were changing dramatically. And they figured that
out and figured out how to get their people to the polls and the Republicans didn’t do as
well on that. But I still think the core of the President’s message was the economy.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.