Saturday, June 09, 2012

Race for the White House

Summer may have just begun, but the month of June likely has many Democrats feel like they are already living through the "Dog Days." (Insert your own Obama or Romney joke here).

Amid a growing controversy involving alleged White House leaking of classified national security information and waiting on pins and needles for a Supreme Court decision which could all but wipe out Obama's signature legislative accomplishment, Democrats and supporters of Barack Obama have spent another week looking at polls showing a very tight race nationally and in swing states, as well as news of how the Republican candidate and his party outraised them over the past month.

The biggest story of the week though was of course what happened in Wisconsin, where Republican Scott Walker became the first Governor in American history to defeat a recall effort, winning by a solid margin, which stood in stark contrast to the early evening exit polls which had predicted a 50/50 race. Those same exit polls, which were about seven points off on the Gubernatorial result also showed Obama well ahead of Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, but many in the journalistic community acted in a lazy matter by not realizing that those figures would also likely inflated in favor of Democrats as well. The bottom line is that in a state that has not voted Republican for President in nearly 30 years, things look like they could be very tight, and what happened to the public employee unions in the state, as well as recent Republican victories over Democrats on the ground there, mean that the Electoral College map might have been greatly expanded in favor of Republicans.

Leading up to Wisconsin, Romney had last campaigned publicly on behalf of Walker back in March, but as mentioned last week, Obama was even more conspicuous by his absence, especially after recent fundraisers had him so close to the Badger Border. Staying on the sidelines may keep some of the taint of defeat off of the incumbent President, but it will remain to be seen if hard feelings linger among those on the left, and especially in labor unions, who recognize that Obama left them and their candidate high and dry. One might even suggest that in certain Cheesehead circles, Obama and his Chicago political braintrust are now being looked at as "FIBs."

Also making headlines and feature stories this week was talk of the relationship between Obama and Bill Clinton, his most recent Democrat predecessor. The 42nd President has been making all sorts of news lately for praising some aspects of Mitt Romney's biography, as well as seeming to publicly contrast the economy when he was in the Oval Office to the current situation. There was also an incident in which he called on Democrats to extend tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, before claiming that he was confused and made a mistake when his own party complained. On the surface, the never publicity-shy Clinton is saying all the right things in regards to supporting Obama's reelection but many believe that hard feelings between the two men have not gone away since the 2008 campaign and some wonder what is really going on and if Clinton might not want to see Obama lose deep down. If that is the case, we may never know, so the speculation will have to suffice. Politically speaking though, Bill Clinton has effectively stepped all over Obama's message the past couple of weeks in a harmful way to their party.

As this difficult week for Obama was coming to an end, he took the podium Friday for a White House press conference, in which he committed a gaffe that might haunt him for the rest of the campaign. Basically, the incumbent President said that the private sector was "doing fine." While he would quickly backtrack from those comments later in the day, they were captured on tape, and the Romney campaign and Republican National Committee were quick to pounce, putting them on the internet and causing a major firestorm. For his part, Romney, in attacking Obama for the remarks, made comments about public employees in a politically inartful way himself, and while Democrats may try to shift the focus, that "gaffe" probably pales in comparison to what Obama slipped up in saying and only Romney disagreeing and criticizing about the private sector will have emerged as the main story of the news cycle.

Defenders of Obama will quibble over what he really meant to say and why it should not be viewed as "that bad" but those excuses tend to not translate well on evening news soundbites or internet headlines. Four years ago, Republican nominee John McCain made a remark that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" before immediately adding how people were suffering. Despite that nuance, Democrats and the 2008 Obama campaign were relentless in hammering McCain for the political slip-up and talking about how clueless to reality he was. Now, the tables have turned, and Obama is rightfully being hammered for what he said and if the Romney campaign and Republicans across the country like myself have everything to do with it, people will be talking about "doing fine" for the next 150 days and it will be the "gift that keeps on giving."

Meanwhile, some important political action of Campaign 2012 is currently taking place behind closed doors and out of the spotlight as numerous ambitious Republican politicians are either providing or have not been asked to provide detailed documents for "vetting" to the Romney campaign's Vice Presidential search team, headed up by his former Chief of Staff Beth Myers.

Many believe that Ohio Senator Rob Portman might have a solid path to the nod and that the unveiling might ultimately turn out to be one of the most non-dramatic events in history, whenever it occurs. I can think of a bunch of additional GOP names that would make great running-mates for the Mittster and excellent Vice Presidents of the United States, but Portman would certainly be among them.


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