President Obama's campaign is looking "rattled" these days, and it's because of his "you didn't build that" comment regarding small businesses, argues conservative columnist Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal. Obama says it was taken out of context, but Mitt Romney and Republicans are getting traction off it and putting the president "on defense." Why? It's not solely because of the Obama-equals-big-government theme. Obama's words "raise the far more potent issue of national identity and feed the suspicion that Mr. Obama is actively hostile to American ideals and aspirations," writes Strassel. At Daily Intel, Jonathan Chait—who accuses Romney of "blatantly lying" about Obama's speech—gets a little more explicit: He sees racial undertones at play.
Obama has worked hard to present himself as "a soft-spoken, reasonable African-American with a Kansas accent," he writes, rather than as "a black politician ... demanding redistribution from white America." But the president delivered the "you didn't build that" line sounding angry and with a "black dialect." This feeds into Republicans' decades-old theme, he writes—that Democrats are all about "taking money from the hard-working white middle class and giving it to a lazy black underclass. Reactivating that frame is still the most mortal threat to the Democrats and to Obama." And that's why the Obama camp is rushing out "gentle" ads talking about hard work and middle-class values. Read Chait's column here, and Strassel's here.