Saturday, July 28, 2012

Race for the White House

As expected, nothing major happened in the Presidential race this past week, but the conventional media wisdom still appeared to say that Mitt Romney had a bad week filled with "gaffes." Nonetheless, Romney has ended the week in a strong position in national polls than he began, so go figure. If he is continuing to gain or even stay even with Barack Obama at this point in the campaign, despite the media anxious to dance on his campaign grave, than there must be some true fundamental strength present in the campaign of the person running to replace the incumbent President.

Indeed, I think most people this past week were focusing on the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado massacre, or the brouhaha surrounding the Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant empire in which liberal politicians in Boston and Chicago succeeded in making themselves look like petty, freedom hating morons.

One day after delivering a scathing speech criticizing Obama's foreign policy at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Mitt Romney embarked on an overseas trip, starting in London, the home of the Olympic Games. While Romney has said he is going to be very careful in criticizing the Administration's foreign policy while overseas, he did give a series of interviews which received play back home in the States.

In one of those interviews, Romney was asked about the Olympics, and in answering, he did so less as a curry favoring politician, but as an experienced former head of the Olympic Games himself, when he mentioned that there were some concerns in London involving security that he said were "disconcerting." While he clearly stated he believed that the Games would be successful, the famed British tabloids quickly attempted to stir up a controversy that managed to offend some Britons. Needless to say, the media back in the U.S., such as MSNBC jumped on to all of this declaring that Romney had committed a "gaffe."

While it is probably true that Romney should have avoided delving too deep into his background as an Olympic security expert while there as a Presidential candidate, causing a news cycle worth of stories, I really do not think that persuadable American voters are going to care that he spoke his mind or that he might have offended some British people (who really should not have taken any offense to begin with) during their period of nationalistic pride. If anything, I think the voters at home will respect Romney for recognizing legitimate concerns and having had the background to speak on the issue. It all goes into the narrative of how Romney is a "fix it" expert, who is able to anticipate problems and has experience getting down to the details and turning enterprises around. If the Mayor of London was offended for not having his rear end kissed, so what?

Before continuing his trip to places like Israel and Poland, the Romneys attended the lavish Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics last night and received about the best visual that could be expected of the week as NBC showed the Governor and Mrs. Romney proudly standing and cheering while watching the American athletes parade into the stadium. Michelle Obama was also shown moments earlier, but it was still a great "Presidential looking" visual that millions of Americans got to see, and NBC's Bob Costas even remarked that Romney had a stellar record with the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.

Americans of the non-political junkie variety will now remain more focused on following the Olympics than the Presidential campaign for the next couple of weeks, but since we talk about politics here, perhaps we can take a quick look at things, as we reach a momental number on the Election countdown calender.

For much of the week, the daily Gallup tracking poll has shown a tie between Romney and Obama nationally. That is pretty much in line with the John Kerry vs. George W. Bush numbers at this very point in the 2004 cycle. In the Rasmussen Daily Tracking poll, Romney also gained ground over the past week, and now has been shown leading Obama over the past couple of days by 4-5 points. In fact, the Rasmussen numbers now show Romney at just about 50% when "leaners" are taken ito account. At this point in the 2008 cycle, they showed virtually an identical lead for Obama over John McCain.

Democrats will remark that it is only the Electoral College that counts, and of course, they are right, but the current small leads that Obama has been shown in polling to have in key battleground states may not be long lived. While it is certainly possible that like we saw in 2000, one candidate could win the popular vote while losing the election, if either of the candidate winds up getting any more than one percent of a national advantage, they are almost certain to also win the Electoral College. It has been remarked before that state polling is often a "lagging indicator" of national trends and momentum. In that regard, Romney's consistency at the minimum and inching ahead at the maximum should be of concern to Obama supporters.

First, it should be pointed out that either candidate could virtually go on cruise control for the rest of the campaign and still win 45% of the vote. We are that divided in our politics as a country, but current polling is indicating that Democrat enthusiasm from 2008 is way down and Republican interest in the election is way up from that time.  Internals of these polls show additional concern for Obama among those who are currently undecided or consider themselves "soft" supporters of one of the candidates. Obama's job approval numbers are pretty low among the about 10 percent of likely voters who are truly up in the air at this point, and conventional wisdom would indicate they are more likely to vote against an incumbent, provided a compelling case can be made. That was certainly what happened in 1980 and 1992 as challengers moved ahead (for good) of endangered incumbents only after the conventions and/or debates. 2004 saw a bit of an opposite effect as many late deciders opted to stay with the incumbent, but George W. Bush's approval numbers and concerns about the direction of the country were in a better position to begin with than what Obama now has.

In order to win, it is absolutely true that Mitt Romney will need to run a very strong campaign and close the deal when it matters. That will involve improving his "likability" among some voters, while Obama and the Democrats will throw everything they can at him to prevent that from happening. Nonetheless, a well orchestrated Republican National Convention and strong debate performances will put him in a very strong position to win the election. While virtually everyone has their mind made up whether they like the incumbent Obama or not at this time (along with the fact that it is virtually impossible for the economy to signficantly improve before November), Romney still has a lot of time and opportunities to make a further impression on persudable voters (for good or bad) who have yet to firmly make up their mind about him as a person and as a potential President. That is why people will learn a lot more about Romney than Obama as an alternative during the upcoming convention season and later the debates.

Tomorrow marks 100 Days until we (probably) know whether or not the deal was closed.