Four Little Words
Why the Obama campaign is suddenly so worried.
"You didn't build that" is swelling to such heights that it has the president somewhere unprecedented: on defense. Mr. Obama has felt compelled—for the first time in this campaign—to cut an ad in which he directly responds to the criticisms of his now-infamous speech, complaining his opponents took his words "out of context."
The Obama campaign has elevated poll-testing and focus-grouping to near-clinical heights, and the results drive the president's every action: his policies, his campaign venues, his targeted demographics, his messaging. That Mr. Obama felt required—teeth-gritted—to address the "you didn't build that" meme means his vaunted focus groups are sounding alarms.
The obsession with tested messages is precisely why the president's rare moments of candor—on free enterprise, on those who "cling to their guns and religion," on the need to "spread the wealth around"—are so revealing. They are a look at the real man. It turns out Mr. Obama's dismissive words toward free enterprise closely mirror a speech that liberal Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren gave last August.
Ms. Warren's argument—that government is the real source of all business success—went viral and made a profound impression among the liberal elite, who have been pushing for its wider adoption. Mr. Obama chose to road-test it on the national stage, presumably thinking it would underline his argument for why the wealthy should pay more. It was a big political misstep, and now has the Obama team seriously worried.