Obama must face the possibility of defeat
Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 7:00 pm
By CARL GOLDEN
In every political campaign, there comes a time when the realization sets in that the prospect of defeat is no longer an abstract notion, but a distinct possibility.
For President Obama’s campaign, that moment has arrived. His comfortable lead in voter demographics as well as issues has evaporated.
The gender gap once lopsidedly in his favor is no longer unbridgeable.
Even more troubling for the President are numerous poll results showing that voters, by a slim margin, now feel Mitt Romney is better equipped than he is to deal with the nation’s economic distress. Confidence in the President has fallen from clear leads to margin of error levels.
Ever since the beat down he suffered at Romney’s hands in the president ial debate in Denver, the President has been trying to wrest the momentum back from his challenger.
While he came off the consensus winner in the two subsequent debates, he benefitted not at all. The die was cast in the Denver confrontation, now widely credited as the start of the Romney resurgence.
The President’s campaign is teetering on the ragged edge of panic and, like others who found themselves in the same situation, he’s latched onto ideas and gimmicks that would normally be dismissed by cooler, more reasonable heads.
The campaign wasted a week’s worth of time and money on the Big Bird issue, attempting to convince voters that Romney’s pledge to eliminate Federal funding for the Public Broadcasting System represented a grave threat to the American way of life. His time would have been better spent addressing the millions of parents worried if they can still afford the cable bill so their kids can continue to watch Big Bird.
When Big Bird took flight as an issue, the campaign struggled to come up with catch phrases to make a point, convinced that the President shouting the word “Romnesia” to describe the challenger’s switch in positions would capture the public’s imagination. It turned out to be embarrassingly silly and the staffer who hatched the idea should be assigned to overnight robo-call duty.
He addressed friendly crowd rallies by waving a 20-page booklet over his head, a document he said outlined the ideas and programs he intended to pursue in a second term. Why the campaign waited until three weeks before Election Day to share his vision with voters remains a mystery.
Amazingly, Obama has become the challenger rather than the incumbent, a situation neatly summed up by Romney in the final debate when he turned to the President and said: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”
Four years ago, “hope and change” was not an agenda, either, but it worked for Obama because the country had grown weary of the Bush presidency and was more tha n ready to embrace change even if they didn’t know what it was.
Approaching the end of the President’s first term, Americans in increasing numbers express their frustration that the change they voted for in 2008 hasn’t materialized. Although they sympathize with the challenges the President faced when he assumed office, their response to his plea for more time and patience has been lukewarm at best. His repeating that the nation’s problems didn’t develop overnight and won’t be solved overnight has become a tiresome refrain.
Romney endured months of public sniping from within his party warning him to avoid a single issue candidacy focused on the economy and holding the President accountable for failing to pull the country out of its economic ditch.
He rejected the advice and disregarded the criticism, understanding that, while a President must deal with an incredibly broad range of complex issues, the American people wanted a leader to calm their fears and ease their angst over what many perceived to be an increasingly bleak future.
By sticking to his theme of job creation and economic recovery, Romney gained ground steadily, even invoking Ronald Reagan’s 1980 “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” campaign mantra to draw a sharper contrast between he and Obama.
While the Romney campaign has been energized and encouraged by his resurgence, the odds ever so slightly continue to favor the President.
In the half dozen states in which the Electoral College votes will likely determine the outcome, Obama holds slender leads in a majority of them. Romney, on the other hand, while competitive in those states, must run the table to reach the 270 electoral votes to win. Not impossible, certainly, but a loss in one — Ohio, say — pretty much dooms his chances.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the Democrats. Many hoped for Presidential coattails to help regain seats in the House of Representatives and survive with their majority i n the Senate. It appears those hopes will go largely unfulfilled.
The abstract notion of a defeat wasn’t something the President or his party wanted to confront. To their dismay, they’ve discovered that it’s always lurking in campaigns and always will be.
© Copyright 2012 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.
Published in The Messenger 10.30.12