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Friday, July 20, 2012

How Will the Obama-Romney Brawl Play Out?

Courtesy of Dan Pearce, myfantastic.escape.com

I thought the gloves would come off around September between President Barack Obama and the Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.  With so much at stake riding on the outcome of this election, the pugilism from both campaigns began in earnest in late spring. 
For his part, Romney has done nothing but attack Obama since the GOP primary season.  In fact, all his Republican competitors did.  That’s what you do when you try to unseat an incumbent.  It’s perfectly reasonable to do so and backed by the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case, the Romney camp will have all the money in the world to inundate the air waves with negative ads.

Team Obama is not pussy-footing around either.  They are well aware that the unemployment numbers have been stubborn, and although the Republican-controlled Congress failed to act on a jobs bill, the sluggish recovery and high unemployment will be laid upon Obama’s doorstep that would ordinarily spell disaster for an incumbent.  Remember, it’s the economy stupid!
Realizing that axiom, the Obama folks have aimed their sights on Romney to make this a choice between not only the direction of the country but also who is better suited to run it.  Fortunately for Team Obama, he has a weak opponent that few feel excited about and whose baggage from Bain Capital, his record as governor of Massachusetts, and his head-scratching refusal to release more than one year’s tax returns provides a terrific target to exploit.

Most national polls reveal a virtual dead heat.  There has been very little variation in the national surveys and little movement is expected until the conventions and ultimately the presidential debates.  It seems that most people have already solidified their choices; those who haven’t probably are not focused on the election yet and many of those may not vote at all.
The country is so divided by red and blue that national campaigns don’t exist anymore. Since the Electoral College decides presidential contests, the election will be won not by national totals but by a handful of venues that are termed “battleground” states.  They include such prizes as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

You will see the candidates spend more time and advertising dollars in those states and perhaps a few others than anywhere else.  They are the targets, and that’s where this contest will be decided.
Obama can count on his consistent likeability among voters, including the coveted “independent” segment of the electorate.  Those who have paid attention can see the remnants of gridlock and divided government, and depending if either he or Congress will be blamed for this inertia that alone could decide the outcome.

With surprisingly so few partisans showing the love for Romney, it has been clear from the outset that the election will be defined as Obama vs. the anti-Obama.  Romney’s negatives are too high at this stage to explain why there is a dead heat.  His support is more about getting Obama out of office than getting Romney into it.
Obama is on shaky ground now.  The economy could falter, setting off higher unemployment and stall the fragile recovery.  It can even trigger another recession.  The drought that is gripping much of the nation most likely will have an impact on the economy including gas prices, but when?  Though he obviously should not be blamed for this natural phenomenon, a faulty economy is his to own.

Moreover, economic destabilization in European countries can affect ours—another factor beyond anyone’s control.
Then there are international tensions that could pop up between now and November which could affect voters’ preferences.  Usually the population rallies around a president during an international crisis.  But those rules may not be in play anymore.

Romney is banking on the Obama haters to propel his candidacy, and there are lots of them.  The hatred towards the president began during the 2008 campaign and continued in earnest the night of his inauguration and it hasn’t subsided.  Even the major victory in the war on terrorism—the killing of Osama bin Laden, once considered public enemy number one—failed to generate praise from the opposition.

Then there is “Obamacare”—the defining piece of legislation that galvanized the Republican base and the Tea Party.  Unfortunately for Romney, this law was patterned after his own Massachusetts version rendering him ineffective in his criticism of it.
Romney is also saddled by his experience at Bain, which is relevant since his business experience is used as the rationale for unseating the president.  His refusal so far to release prior tax returns will likely turn off swing voters as he will be perceived as hiding something.  People don’t like that.

For the country in general, this is a pivotal election.  For LGBT folks in particular, there is also much at stake.  Obama was successful on most of the large initiatives: he ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ordered hospitals receiving federal funds to allow visitation by members of same-sex couples, signed a comprehensive hate crimes bill into law, publicly supported marriage equality, and appointed more LGBT individuals to key positions than any previous president.  And the Justice Department ceased defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in several court challenges.
Romney threatened to reverse those victories.  With a potential control of both chambers going to Republicans, that could be accomplished more easily.  Keep that in mind.

The remainder of the campaign will be a big-time brawl, so brace yourself for the ugliness that will ensue.  The outcome, like an evenly matched prize fight, may not be clear until the final bell.  We just can’t have judges deciding it—again.

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