In New York City, ten weeks away from Election Day, no one can imagine an outcome that does not involve a second inaugural address by President Obama in January. The idea of a possible Romney-Ryan victory causes discomfort, so people put it out of their minds.
Nevertheless, this week here in Tampa, at the Republican National Convention, Candidate Romney has an excellent chance to take the lead in the presidential race. And the Democratic Party could easily see the White House slip out of its grasp.
Why is President Obama so vulnerable? Let us examine a few reasons.
The economy. Without question Obama’s most vulnerable area. How many Americans can answer yes to the all-important question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” 10%? 20%? It may not be the president’s fault, but as in the time of Harry Truman, voters know that the buck stops there.
Healthcare. Has Obama actually managed to deliver universal health coverage? There may be many grateful voters with pre-existing conditions, but the reality is that healthcare costs continue to rise for most Americans and their employers. Will this issue be the vote winner that the president needs it to be?
Money. In the new financing environment, the Romney campaign essentially has the resources of America’s billionaires at its disposal. In 2008, Obama had a huge cash advantage.
Disillusionment. It is hard to remember the euphoria that powered the Obama campaign in 2008. The O stickers, the HOPE posters, the religious belief in Obama’s powers. All that is gone now. Obama may yet fire up his base again, but if he doesn’t, his get out the vote efforts in November will be seriously underpowered. This will be trouble because…
Obama has no head start. It’s possible to remember the last election as a landslide, but in actual fact Obama defeated McCain by only six points. After the Palin selection, the Republicans had even drawn even with Obama. Only the collapse of Lehman and McCain’s ill-conceived suspension of his campaign gave Senator Obama the margin of victory. A swing of three percent is enough to erase Obama’s lead.
The Democratic Party is in a strategically weak position. There is no state that the Republicans won in 2008 that they are worried about losing this time around. Congressional reapportionment has spotted the Republicans six more electoral votes, Indiana has been given up for lost, and the gains in Virginia and North Carolina will be expensive to maintain. A strong Obama campaign would be threatening Romney in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona. Instead, we may yet see states like Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Michigan come into play. Retreats can easily turn into routs.
The convention in Tampa gives Romney the opportunity to clarify his strategy for the rest of the campaign. It will be interesting to see what path he chooses. Will he continue to avoid overcommitting himself on policy and bet on Obama’s unpopularity to give him the presidency? Will we see Romney swallow the Tea Party line and accuse the president of destroying the country? Or might we even see that rare occurrence, a hopeful and optimistic Republican campaign?
Romney’s position in 2012 can be compared Reagan’s in 1980 or Clinton’s in 1992. He is definitely stronger than Mondale in ’84 or Dole in ’96. Will he seize the opportunity, or will he be the third consecutive presidential nominee from Massachusetts to misplay a potentially winning hand?