If The Election Were Held Tomorrow

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

If the election were held tomorrow…there would be a lot of political consultants and government officials who should be fired for cause.

I spent Tuesday evening with Atlanta’s Red Clay Democrats on a panel discussing the 2012 elections and what potential outcomes we could expect nationally and in Georgia in its aftermath.  It was a panel discussion that included House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Emory University’s Dr. Alan Abromwitz and the University of Georgia’s Dr. Charles Bullock.  The first question, asked by the AJC’s Aaron Sheinin, cut to the chase: Who will win the Presidential election?

The two professors, both among the best in their field, gave excellent rationales based on current polling and past election trends that President Obama is likely to be re-elected.  Representative Abrams agreed, though was quite fair and diplomatic about the challenges that lie ahead for the President’s campaign in order for him to close the deal.

Getting the luxury of going last, I made the most direct prediction.  Since I usually spend my time on Georgia Politics, I confidently predicted Mitt Romney would win Georgia.

The truth of the matter is, however, that Romney is currently playing catch up.  In an election cycle where the economic news favors a challenger and where the favorability ratings are negative against the incumbent, the math of the electoral college still favors President Obama.  Yet despite the fact that early voting is underway in some places already and begins here next week, there’s still quite a bit of the campaign left.  For Romney, a change must start with the debates.

Romney essentially won the Republican primaries through attrition.  He was the last man standing after almost every other candidate got a time at front runner for the GOP.  Romney won not because he presented a bold vision or a detailed plan, but because one by one, the other candidates were found to be unacceptable.

In this general election, Romney and the Republicans have generally made a decent case as to why the President shouldn’t be re-elected.  What needs to be communicated clearly, concisely and effectively is why Romney would be better for the country.  In short, Romney must make the case for Romney.

When Ronald Reagan was elected during the recession of 1980, he offered a compelling vision of why America still had its best days ahead.  He offered the original version of Hope and Change that the country has shown as recently as 2008 it still has an appetite for.

The 2012 election has not been about hope from either side.  Neither candidate has inspired the country.  Rather than inspire the country to unite as one, each side has essentially played a divisive war of attrition.  As the professors pointed out Tuesday evening, the numbers do not favor Republicans in this type of contest.

In his keynote speech to the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had perhaps the best line of advice for Romney as he now enters the final month of the campaign.  “Leaders don’t follow polls. Leaders change polls.”

Mitt Romney is currently losing in the polls.  Though all expect the race to tighten, the status quo of the campaign does not play into Romney’s strengths.

Romney seeks to lead the nation.  To do so, he’s going to have to change the polls.

Between Wednesday night and October 22nd there will be three Presidential debates and one debate between Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan.  They will enjoy a national stage to make their case.

Time is running out, and Romney is running behind.  Yet the opportunity remains there.

If Mitt Romney is to be the next President, he must spend the next three weeks painting a compelling portrait of why he will be better, not just present the shortfalls of President Obama.


  1. wicker says:

    “If Mitt Romney is to be the next President, he must spend the next three weeks painting a compelling portrait of why he will be better, not just present the shortfalls of President Obama.”

    A big part of that will be convincing voters that he will not continue the economic and foreign policy of George W. Bush. That sentiment is unpopular in these parts, but Romney is not running for president of Georgia. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin and the other battleground states (and in many of those Obama has a bigger lead than in the national polls) Bush is more unpopular than Obama. Romney will need a “Sister Souljah moment” where he distances himself from/denounces things that happened under Bush’s watch (the economic collapse, the scandals in the financial industry, a pair of quagmire wars one of which was definitely not necessary and neither may have been) while still retaining the base. The convention was his best opportunity to do so, but he punted. Now, the debates along with a major ad campaign is his last shot. He has 34 days left. Actually, he has less than that, as studies show that the last batch of voters make up their minds the weekend before election day.

    Romney has to show his agenda, true, but it has to be a different agenda from the last guy that caused the GOP to lose the White House and Congress, and come with an admission that the last guy’s agenda was what got us into this mess in the first place. Only then will he be able to make the case that Obama hasn’t made things better (or has made things worse) and that his program for fixing Bush’s mess is better than Obama’s.

    Again, I know that this is unpopular in these parts, but Romney isn’t running for president of the Erick Erickson/Sean Hannity/Neal Boortz/Herman Cain talk show fan club.

  2. Three Jack says:

    You mention Chris Christie in your column. While on the Meet the Press Sunday, he repeatedly said, ‘he (Romney) believes every American wants to be part of a shared sacrifice’. This is one of the many reasons Mitt is failing despite facing an incumbent with such a pitiful record. The GOP stands for individual prosperity, not shared sacrifice. — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM0GC5DbjRw

    It will be interesting to see if Mitt can change the momentum at tonight’s debate. But if his surrogates are going out to preach ‘shared sacrifice’ instead of a positive, pro-growth agenda, this election is already over.

  3. saltycracker says:

    The Republicans need to be standing for equal opportunities, regulation in lieu of ownership, flat and fair taxation, clear enforcement and a competitive marketplace.

    TV programs like Survivor are a reflection of politics – the conniving or abstract keep a few heavies around until they take power and can eliminate the smart, fair & wise. In only the rarest of situations does a visionary make it by vote.

    The campaigns need to shift more to what the candidate stands for, not what a rat the other is.
    Romney needs to clearly sell his case in a not so complex manner. Shared sacrifice means if you work in the private world, get a W-2 or a 1099 or save and stay on the financial radar you need to take one for the greater good.

  4. Scott65 says:

    The real elephant in the room (no pun intended) is that Romney has run one of the worst campaigns I think I’ve ever seen. The people he has working for him should never be hired to run another campaign…ever. From the tax returns, to the stupid premature Libya remark, to the awful interviews (devil is in the details the angel is the policy) which only highlight his lack of specifics…he has been managed poorly…and this is what you get. Trust me, he (Romney) will not only be defeated…if he doesn’t do something drastic (and I’m not sure its in him)…this is going to be a landslide defeat

    • John Konop says:

      The real problem is Romney is a pragmatic smart businessman. And that does not fly with the GOP base, that wants hot spewing fire ie Norquist NO NEW TAXES, NEOCONS BLOW THE MIDDLE EAST UP ……………over rational policy ……. The reason he sound so out of it is I do not think he buys what he is saying. If Romney ran as Romney he would win.

      • Scott65 says:

        again…bad campaign. The people that he is trying to cater to are voting against Obama, and will do so even if he says the moon is made of cheese. He has those people (if my dog was running for president with an R after her name she would have them). That he has wasted all this time trying to cater to this crowd is just insane. Its bad judgement on his part or bad advise from his staff.

      • Three Jack says:

        “If Romney ran as Romney he would win.”

        You mean the Romney who was pro-choice, then pro-life? The Romney who gave us the basis for ObamaRobertsCare? The Romney who promises to punish prosperity with higher taxes, less benefits? That Romney? He can’t win as any form of Romney because none of his many personalities has ever been a fiscal conservative.

        • John Konop says:

          You cannot be a fiscal conservative and support the shoot first and police the Middle East foriegn policy. The problem is close to 70 percent of Americans have had it with the above policy.

    • David C says:

      The problem with the Romney campaign can be summed up to me in a famous Tony Blair quote on the difference between him and John Major: “I lead my party, he follows his.” Romney is the head of the Republican party in name only. The Republicans have a big infrastructure invested in the status quo in their party: The talk radio hosts, Norquist, the religious right, movement conservatives and the neocons. They all defend their fiefdoms hard and their bottom line isn’t really affected by being in the minority.

      In the process of winning the nomination, Romney twisted himself into a ball to hold all their votes, locking himself in on taxes, on the Ryan budget, on immigration and Planned Parenthood. And he doesn’t have the credibility or nerve to challenge them on anything–any hint that he’s “etch a sketching” to the middle gets a sharp rebuke from the professional right, like when he said a few weeks ago that he might no repeal all of Obamacare. It’s why he was late and mealy mouthed on calling on Akin to drop out.

      Even if Romney had the ability to lead the party, he doesn’t have any idea or overriding vision of where to take it. He’s a placeholder, like Mondale, Dukakis and Dole, just showing up and trying to gather the old interest groups again. Eisenhower in ’52 spoke of Modern Republicanism and positioned the GOP as centrist budget balancers as opposed to anti-New Dealers. Clinton in ’92 had a diagnosis for where Democrats had failed in the 70s and 80s and moved them to the center under the “New Democrat” label. Bush in 2000 credibly positioned the Republicans as ‘compassionate conservatives’ who weren’t just Gingrich-esque bomb throwers at the social safety net. They each had the support to see where their party had failed, change the brand and the ideas to detoxify them and then plot a new course towards electoral success.

      Republicans, despite their 2010 success, still have a toxic brand nationally from the Bush years. Romney so far doesn’t have a credible answer for what the party did wrong. (And no, spending too much is not an answer.) The party lost voters over Iraq, and economic stagnation even in the good times before an economic collapse that happened on their President’s watch. Yet the party still gives the same prescriptions of the Bush years: more jingoism in foreign policy, bigger defense spending, less regulation on Wall Street, and more tax cuts. It’s doubling down on what went wrong in the first place. And Romney doesn’t seem to have an idea of where they went wrong and a way to differentiate himself from his party’s past. Romney doesn’t have a clue where to lead the party, and he couldn’t do it if he wanted to. That’s why his campaign’s floundered.

  5. SallyForth says:

    Did anybody besides me read the AJC’s side-by-side comparison of the two candidates on the major issues? Instead of who last stuck a foot in their mouth, the paper covered things like national debt, the economy, energy & environment, foreign policy, health care, immigration, taxes, social security. It gave substantive info – a rarity in the current media feeding frenzy on Romney.

    This sentence from wicker’s post got my attention:

    A big part of that will be convincing voters that he will not continue the economic and foreign policy of George W. Bush.

    I generally agree with you on most things, wicker, but this one made me slap myself in the forehead. Obama has not only continued the economic and foreign policy of George W. Bush for the last 3 1/2 years, he doubled down on it in many areas! He pledged to cut the deficit (aka, unfunded annual expenditures that we have to borrow from China & Japan) in half by the end of his first term – instead he kept spending at Bush’s clip and increased it by $800 billion in one shot on his stimulus bill.

    He continued the implementation and funding of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts started by George W. Bush. Obama further cozied up to big business, bringing in Geithner straight from Wall Street and made him Secretary of the U.S. Treasury (talk about foxes in the hen house). Obama promptly parceled over $350 billion and handed it out to those banks and investment houses Obama deemed “too big to fail.” He carried out the S. Korea, Panama and Colombia free-trade pacts that Bush began.

    Re the environment, despite his temporary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf after the BP disaster and stopped the Keystone pipeline from Canada, Obama has presided over a major increase in all forms of fossil fuels’ production, far over what he inherited from Bush. He also spent heavily on alternative energy, poured money into the Solyndra scandal (which the media never mentions now).

    About those 2008 promises to immediately end “Bush’s wars,” Obama kept us in Iraq until Dec. 15, 2011, and is still pouring money into their government and US contractors in that country. He still has us in Afghanistan, pouring out billions more and costing American lives (see other P/P post on that). He supported factions in the so-called “Arab Spring” without any firm plan of how to proceed after the countries overthrew their undesirable leaders, and now all hell is breaking loose with anarchy across the Middle East and Northern Africa, including attacking our Embassies and murdering one of our Ambassadors. Killing Bin Laden made us feel good, but it was in reality just a blip on the radar and made him into a martyr for Muslim radicals.

    Obama has not proposed any plan at all for fixing Social Security’s problems. His only action was a 2011 proposal to reduce benefit increases, which Repubs did not pass (that loud sigh of relief you just heard was a collective exhale by all the old folks). On taxes, he got some temporary cuts for families and business that will expire soon. He talks about raising tax on the wealthy to ensure they pay 30% on income (which doesn’t sound like much to me), and wants to extend (say it with me) Bush tax cuts for people making under $200,000.

    The only real distinctions from Bush, Obama has this year granted amnesty to about 1.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., announced he favors gay marriage, and repealed don’t-ask-don’t-tell in the military.

    Overall, the only real difference we’ve had between Bush and Obama is the (R) and (D) after their names. Why should Romney convince people he won’t continue Bush policies? It seems to have worked just fine for Obama, people think he’s great.

  6. Harry says:

    It’s compelling to read why you Dems are so overconfident to think Romney will lose. However:

    1> Polls are oversampled Dem. The GOP base will turn out in great numbers to defeat BO.

    2> People now are compensating for media spin.

    3> All four debates are yet to happen.

    4> Undecideds break for the challenger.

    5> The only poll that counts is election day.

  7. Charlie says:

    Romney did exactly what he needed tonight. Obama gave a huge assist as well by barely showing up.

    To be clear, one debate isn’t going to get it done. Still uphill for Romney. But it could have almost ended tonight. Instead, perhaps the long awaited beginning.

  8. SallyForth says:

    I’m glad I watched it for myself, without the drinking games. What I saw was an arrogant Obama who talked over the narrator and his opponent (whom he never even looked at while talking) and who had no real specifics on why we should vote for him to have four more years. Pretty surprising – he has to do better next time.

    I also saw a nice-guy, very likeable Romney who was loaded with specifics and details on all areas, but always came back to his main focus – creating jobs for hurting Americans. It looks like game finally on for real, if only the media doesn’t rewrite what happened tonight. (I bet those attack ads from the Obama campaign will be airing double-time after this – pity residents of battleground states.)

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