Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign theme was “change we can believe in” but after three years of leading the government which has only grown more partisan Obama has lost the change mantle to Mitt Romney.

The new NBC/WSJ poll found that more people now believe Romney would be better changing business as usual in Washington than Obama. The poll found 36% think Romney would do a better job of changing Washington while just 29% think Obama would do a better job.

The fact that the challenger is seen as better able to change Washington than the incumbent isn’t unusual, but it does highlight the problems the Obama team has choosing a message for this year. They simply can’t run on the same themes they did in 2008. They likely don’t even want to reference them because that only highlights the fact that Obama completely failed at what is arguably the core promise of his first campaign.

Politicians should know that if they are going to make something the foundational message to their campaign, the electorate is going to expect them to deliver on it. That is why it is inherently shortsighted to make the promise something like, creating bipartisanship or changing Washington, that can only be accomplished by having your political opponents actively help you deliver it. Your opponents naturally have every reason to not want to help you, especially if you are the one going to get almost all the credit. Ironically Obama, by running on his ability to change Washington, probably increased the incentives for the GOP to not work with him.