Appearing on Friday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory advised the Obama campaign on how defeat Mitt Romney: "What the President's got to do is say, 'Hey, don't forget about George W. Bush. Things got really, really bad under him.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Co-host Matt Lauer was skeptical: "I hear him saying that all the time....do you think that strategy works, the blame Bush strategy, or do people want you to take ownership of this economy at this stage?" Gregory was undeterred: "...they've got to prevail in providing context. Saying, 'Look, it's not about blaming the previous president, it's that the hill was so high to climb. And we're making some progress but the hole is still so deep.'"
Moments later, Lauer wondered if Romney had done enough to lay out an economic vision. Gregory asserted: "I think it's something he's still working on, and no, I don't think he has....And what he's got to distinguish himself in this area, is from national Republicans. President Obama wants to make Mitt Romney a continuation of all the problems on Capitol Hill."
So in summary, Obama can just blame Bush, while Romney better have specifics and distance himself from the GOP.
Here is a full transcript of the June 15 exchange:
MATT LAUER: David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.
DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Matt.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama vs. Romney; Who is Making the Better Case on the Economy?]
LAUER: We get these two speeches in Ohio, it's really like a presidential debate with candidates in separate rooms. They're talking about the number one issue, the economy. If we assume that the people on the Left and people on the Right have made up their minds. If you look at these people who are on the fence and this subject is so important to them, how do these competing messages play?
GREGORY: Well, I think they were important. Because what they underline is that you've got two distinct visions for how to create jobs, as Chuck alluded to, how to get the economy really to recover, and how to deal with this looming fiscal cliff that the country faces, that the government faces.
LAUER: You say these two distinct visions. So what are the most glaring differences between their economic philosophies?
GREGORY: I think it all comes down to taxes. This is going to be a monumental fight over whether to raise taxes, whether the government raises taxes. Mitt Romney says, "No, don't do it," he wants to continue tax cuts, particularly for wealthy Americans. The President says, "No, the way we get our fiscal house in order is by raising taxes on upper earners in America." That'll be the big fight.
LAUER: And how does Barack Obama go out there on the campaign trail and say, "I can do in the next four years what I have failed to accomplish in the last three and a half"?
GREGORY: I mean if it comes down to that, Matt, it's a bad day for him. Mitt Romney is running the campaign he wants to run, which is just a referendum. "You're not happy about the economy, this guy's been there for four years, vote him out of office. You need an alternative." What the President's got to do is say, "Hey, don't forget about George W. Bush. Things got really, really bad under him."
LAUER: And I hear that. And I hear him saying that all the time. And the question is, three and a half years into an administration do you think that strategy works, the blame Bush strategy, or do people want you to take ownership of this economy at this stage?
GREGORY: They want you to take ownership. I think the argument is that there's enough – they've got to prevail in providing context. Saying, "Look, it's not about blaming the previous president, it's that the hill was so high to climb. And we're making some progress but the hole is still so deep. And this guy isn't giving you any better ideas about how to get out of it. And I, President Obama, have a vision."
LAUER: Alright, let's turn to the guy you called "this guy," alright? Mitt Romney's going to go to Wisconsin, the governor there, Scott Walker, just survived the recall. He is calling on Mitt Romney to tell people in his state and across the country why he should be elected, not why Barack Obama should not be elected. Has Mitt Romney accomplished that?
GREGORY: I think it's something he's still working on, and no, I don't think he has. I think he's in the process of trying to be distinct. And what he's got to distinguish himself in this area, is from national Republicans. President Obama wants to make Mitt Romney a continuation of all the problems on Capitol Hill. Mitt Romney has to stand up and say, "I've got a distinct vision." How do you create jobs? I think that's the big question for any challenger right now, who's saying that the President has failed.
LAUER: Coming up on Sunday, Meet the Press, who are you going to be talking to?
GREGORY: David Plouffe, the President's advisor running the campaign, and Senator John McCain as well.
LAUER: Alright, Happy Father's Day.
GREGORY: Thank you. To you, too.
LAUER: Thanks, David.
GREGORY: Thanks, Matt.
LAUER: Good to see you.