Saturday, June 02, 2012

Race for the White House

As summer arrives, Governor Romney has now technically clinched the magic number of delegates to become the GOP "Rominee" and Republican optimism about this election cycle and beating Barack Obama appears to be at an all-time high.

These are happy political times for an ardent Republican (and longtime Romney loyalist) such as myself, but I would have to advise all of my fellow partisans on the right to not get too excited just yet. There are many days to go and this is going to be a difficult campaign filled with ups and downs. While I think it is accurate to say that trends have moved in the direction of a Romney win, I would still be very surprised if this does not turn out to be anything other than an extremely close election. On that Tuesday in November, I think we will not get a call on who the President will be until late in the night, if by then at all.

The main point I am trying to convey is that for months, Democrats and Obama supporters have taken it for granted that "The One" would be reelected over the eventual winner of a "weak" Republican field and have demonstrated significant political overconfidence. Some still are in denial that Obama is in for a very difficult ride in this general election, while others have looked at the current polls and news headlines and have begun to adjust their expectations and emotions accordingly. Republicans should be just as cautious. Just as winning the Presidency was never a "lost cause" as many in the media and across the political spectrum had said about the GOP in this cycle, this is certainly not a time for us to get overconfident and fail to work hard as well.

This past Tuesday did see Romney go over the top with his win in Texas, but even in the midst of that story, it was perceived that he had taken on political damage with a news cycle dominated by stories about his relationship with celebrity businessman Donald Trump, whom Romney appeared at a Las Vegas fundraiser with. In recent days, Trump has gone back to his formerly abandoned nonsensical and factually illogical "birther" rantings about the birthplace of Obama. (Whether or not Obama knew or cared or might have welcomed the fact that before he was a national political figure, his official literary biography for years stated that he was born in Kenya is another story.)

Simply put, Trump is a bit of a buffoon on this matter, and as I have stated before, for many reasons, I am not entirely comfortable with my candidate, Mitt Romney appearing to be too buddy-buddy with him, but I do not see this as any sort of campaign crisis for him. If the left wants to have a debate about the political associations of the two parties' nominees, I think that is an argument Republicans would be willing to have every day for the rest of this campaign.

For his part, Romney has stated that he has no doubt that Obama was born in Hawai'i and is constitutionally eligible to be President and that the entire matter is a non-issue. That is good enough for me. Understandably perhaps, many on the left are quite interested in keeping this story in the forefront and have exuded pressure on Romney to publicly slam Trump or agree to not have anything to do with him. The Romney campaign has refused to give in to the pressure to do so, which I believe says a good deal about their steadfastness and this development has heartened many on the right who for months were lukewarm at best about the prospects of a Romney nomination.

The Obama campaign is still actively engaged in attempting to negatively define Romney for persuadable voters. Last week, I talked about how the attacks on Bain Capital may have backfired, further exemplified by Bill Clinton going on CNN this past week and defending Romney's qualifications to be President and saying that he had a "sterling" business record.

With that line of attack not having worked as hoped, the White House is also trying to go after Romney's record as Governor of Massachusetts, saying that he did not fulfill promises that he had campaigned on. Late this week, Obama's top campaign guru, David Axelrod traveled to Boston for a photo-op where he proceeded to attack Romney for the television cameras. What he might not have been counting on was a counter demonstration of Republican supporters (perhaps organized by the locally headquartered national campaign of Romney) to show up and chant things such as "where are the jobs?" which drowned out Axelrod and appeared to significantly rattle him.

While that news event did not get the desired coverage by the Democrats, Romney on the same day paid a surprise visit to the shuttered California headquarters of the failed energy company Solyndra for his own photo op and press conference about the Obama Administration's role in the controversial venture. All across the internet, conservatives marveled at this turn of events and were quite complimentary about the nimbleness and forcefulness of Team Romney.

Yesterday was probably the worst day for the Obama Administration since November 2010. For the past several months, Democrat partisans have looked to the first Friday of the month to point to unemployment numbers that were slightly falling as a sign that the economy was starting to come  back on Obama's watch. It was anticipated that the numbers that would come out yesterday would not be that good but they were even worse than anticipated. The unemployment rate has now gone back to 8.2 percent and many on the right will point out the fact that those who have been discouraged enough to drop out of the labor force are not being counted. It has been calculated that if the labor force was the same as it was when Obama took office, the actual unemployment rate is about 11 percent.

These troubling economic facts are not good for America, and I do not relish them as a Republican. While I am a proud partisan, I do not want to see families or individuals hurting. We can and should point out the facts though as they relate to Obama's record and the need for change as part of the campaign. With several more months to go before November, economic indicators may improve, worsen, or stay the same, but if what came out yesterday is the beginning of a trend, Obama's hopes for a second term are in serious jeopardy, as Romney will be able to use his business background and economic turn-around message to the extent that the Obama campaign will be hard pressed to counter.

Before yesterday's jobs reports, national and state polls showed what continued to be a national dead heat between the two men, but yesterday's numbers are such where it is now conventional wisdom that Romney could move into a recognizable lead by this time next week. I still think the polls will show a close race, but how the presumptive GOP nominee capitalizes on the news will be worth watching.

On the same day that the Labor Department released the disappointing economic news, Obama attended eight fundraisers in what many think is an example of political tone-deafness. While Obama is certainly going to be well funded, it has been noted recently that Romney and especially GOP SuperPACs are also doing extremely well and there could be more campaign funding parity than anticipated. It cannot be exaggerated just how much of an edge Obama had over John McCain in money four years ago and how it is not shaping up to be that case today.

All eight of Obama's Friday fundraisers were said to have been "within shouting distance" of Wisconsin. Yet, the incumbent President did not step foot in the state and has not made any overt effort to support the Democrats attempt to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker, just days before the voting. While many Democrats nationally feel let down by the lack of involvement of their party's leader, the White House seems to know which way that race is going and do not want to be associated with the outcome.

What happens this coming Tuesday in Wisconsin is believed by many to have a significant political impact on the Presidential race, both in that state and across the country. I will have some more to say about all that tomorrow.