Ever since former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney clinched the 2012 Republican presidential nomination last May, President Obama and his surrogates have waged a divisive and dishonest re-election campaign in order to distract voters from his failed record. To that end, they have spent millions of dollars on negative campaign advertisements suggesting the presumptive Republican nominee is, among other things, a “vulture capitalist," a “felon” a “pioneer in outsourcing,” and -- most recently -- a coldhearted technocrat responsible for the death of a steelworker’s terminally ill wife. These outrageous charges have been discredited by independent fact-checkers, of course, but at least one spot continues to air in swing states. In any case, perhaps it’s not surprising that some conservatives worry these factually dubious attack ads could impede Governor Romney’s campaign momentum.
And while these concerns are decidedly real and should not be taken lightly, I nevertheless believe Barack Obama faces four significant challenges in the days ahead:
(1): This election is going to come down to jobs and the economy. As much as Team Obama (and our sycophantic national media) want to obsess about Mitt Romney’s tax returns, Paul Ryan’s “draconian” cuts to Medicare, or Congressman Akin’s callous comments -- the simple fact is that the national unemployment rate is still an incredible 8.3 percent. And further, it has been above 8 percent for 42 straight months. This is what Americans care about. No incumbent president since World War II, according to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, has won re-election with the unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent. This precedent would be deeply troubling to Team Obama in any event -- but it is particularly noteworthy now since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office (CBO) released a study on Thursday reporting that the unemployment rate will exceed eight percent for the rest of this year. Even worse, the CBO added, if lawmakers in Washington don’t strike a bipartisan debt deal in time -- that is, before the country plummets off the so-called “fiscal cliff” -- the economy will slide into another recession in 2013. The stakes -- as they say -- have never been higher. The question, then, is who is the best candidate to lead America during these difficult times? One alternative is a president whose latest (unanimously defeated) budget proposal literally never balanced and theoretically added more than $11 trillion to the federal debt over ten years. The other is a successful former Republican Governor from a Blue State who balanced his state’s budget four years in a row without raising taxes.
(2): Governor Romney’s fundraising numbers are striking:
Mitt Romney’s cash advantage over President Obama grew to more than $60 million last month, according to reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.
The joint fund-raising committee for Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, claimed cash on hand totaling $185.9 million at the end of July, compared to $123.7 million for Obama’s joint committee.
The candidates’ joint fund-raising committees include their own campaigns, their parties’ national committees and other affiliated committees.
This is a remarkable achievement. Why? Incredibly, last March the president enjoyed a ten-to-one cash on hand advantage over his Republican challenger. Since that time, however, Team Obama profligately funneled millions of dollars into negative advertisements which, according to numerous surveys, have demonstrably failed to make a meaningful impact. (The latest Fox News survey shows Mitt Romney now leading by one percentage point). It’s also worth mentioning that stringent federal election laws prevent Mitt Romney from spending general election contributions until after the Republican National Convention. In other words, expect to see an ad blitz over the next several months, especially in crucial swing states, explicitly reminding voters that the president raided $700 billion from Medicare to pay for an expensive and unpopular new entitlement, loosened work requirements for welfare recipients, and signed into law an $825 billion “stimulus” package that failed on its own terms.
(3): Republicans are much more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in November, according to at least one national survey. As Guy reported last month, voter enthusiasm among Republicans outpaces that of Democrats for the first time since 2004.
As the graph shows, Democratic enthusiasm has dropped precipitously -- 22 percentage points in four years -- while at the same time Republican enthusiasm has risen 16 full percentage points. The math speaks for itself. (Who would have thought, by the way, that The One would watch helplessly as his base abandoned him en masse less than four years after his historic rise to prominence?) Now, of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats will cross party lines and endorse his opponent. I doubt that many will. But it does suggest, however, that a plurality of Democrats -- many of whom are disenchanted with the president’s economic policies -- will elect to stay home on Election Day. Put simply, Republicans can expect a higher voter turnout in 2012 than in any other recent presidential election; and Democrats are panicking for good reason.
(4): This campaign will be about ideas -- not personalities -- as long as Republicans don’t lose control of the narrative. This is precisely why I believe Mitt Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate in the first place. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. For example, Medicare’s own actuaries estimate the program will be insolvent within twelve years. And yet, President Obama and his cabinet -- after nearly four years in office -- have failed to do anything whatsoever to avoid that outcome. Sure, one can argue that the Paul Ryan plan “ends Medicare as we know it” -- but so does doing nothing. Failing to act now -- while there’s still time -- will only trigger real “draconian” spending cuts later.
We need leaders who aren’t afraid to tackle the tough issues. And while Romney/Ryan has made great strides in laying out a clear vision for the country, I am absolutely convinced the current occupant of the White House has not.
There’s nothing novel about the individual points above. But taken collectively -- that is to say, if voters recognize the president’s economic policies have prolonged the recession, and if Mitt Romney out-raises Barack Obama financially, and if a plurality of Democrats stay home on Election Day, and finally, if the candidates discuss real issues on the campaign trail -- I think Governor Romney will triumph in November. On the other hand, to borrow a phrase from Alexander Hamilton -- one of the principal authors of The FederalistPapers -- “this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected.”
No one disputes President Obama’s charisma, personal charm and rhetorical skill. And some Democrats will vote for him no matter how much his policies have negatively impacted their lives. In the end, however, the question that the American people must ask themselves -- as Ronald Reagan once encouraged citizens to ask -- is this: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
We the People, of course, have a choice to make on Election Day. One that I believe will determine the trajectory and fate of this nation.
Let us hope we choose wisely.