Saturday, August 18, 2012

Race for the White House

80 Days Until Election Day

There is no way that I could possibly say everything I could say about the week in Presidential politics in this format, so I will just try to hit a few important topics.

One week ago at this time, everyone was curious to see what the reaction and impact of the addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket would be. After a week, I think it is fair to say that just about every Republican is now pretty enthusiastic about the choice and more than satisfied with what has transpired in the past week. Most media political analysts would concede that the Republicans were able to execute a successful rollout as well.

I do not think it was reasonable to expect much movement in the horse race numbers one way or another, just based on the Ryan pick, although some predicted that Mitt Romney's standings would either go way up or way down in the short term, just because of Ryan. Instead, it appears as if the race is largely the same as it was a week ago, and likely frozen until at least the conventions begin in a little more than a week. Nationally, the race was basically tied before and it is tied now. In the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, which had been more friendly towards Romney than many other polls, Barack Obama is ahead today by a statistically insignificant two point margin, indicating a bit of a comeback for Obama and the potential that any Ryan "bounce" has now disappeared, while for the past few days the Gallup daily tracking poll, which had been less favorable to Romney than Rasmussen, has shown Romney leading the race nationally by two points, indicating that he has strengthened his position since picking Ryan. Of course, what matters most are the results of the battleground states, and most of the state polling from the past week has been more than comforting to Republicans.

While Paul Ryan may have been the biggest political story of the weekend, with the anticipation he would define the week, either positively or negatively for his party, the biggest political newsmaker of this past week actually turned out to be his Democrat counterpart, Vice President Joe Biden, who I think it is fair to say had one of the worst weeks in American political history.

In campaign stops Biden made gaffes big and small, the small ones being what state he was in, Paul Ryan's job title, and even what century it was. That might all just be "Joe being Joe." What garnered the most headlines though was what Biden said in Virginia this past week, to an audience composed of many African-Americans. In attacking Republicans over issues related to Wall Street regulation, Biden used the term "unchained" and then quickly adopting what sounded like a fake southern accent, told the crowd that Republicans wanted to "put y'all back in chains."

One may perhaps never know if Biden was really inferring to a black audience that Republicans wanted to bring back slavery, but given the absolute low road that Democrats have been traveling on in this campaign, it's not really much of a stretch. The White House and the Obama/Biden campaign were given several opportunities this week to apologize or walk back the comments, and that was really not done. That sort of attitude received a strong rebuke from Doug Wilder, the former Democrat Governor of Virginia, and the nation's first African-American Governor since Reconstruction, who expressed anger at what Biden said and how it was excused, and reportedly somehow showed up at a Romney fundraiser by the end of the week.

This week for Biden and all the negative headlines it garnered for the person at the top of his ticket led to the predictable calls and predictions that the Vice President would soon be dropped from the ticket. A highly disputed story was reported claiming that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recently been offered the Vice Presidential nomination for 2012 but had turned it down. Former GOP New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani publicly questioned Biden's sanity and fitness for high office. I have serious doubts about that and I basically think that anybody who is seriously contemplating the possibility that Biden might be dumped this late in the game is wasting their time. I just do not see that as remotely realistic,but I do very much believe that had any Republican Vice President said what Biden said this week with an allusion to slavery, there would not have only been demands they be dumped from the ticket, but serious calls from major national figures for them to resign from office or face impeachment.

So, in a week where Democrats were expecting Paul Ryan to be a controversial drag on his ticket, if anybody roiled people in a bad way, it was Joe Biden. Sure, Democrats are pointing out that Mitt Romney has distanced himself in a way from the Ryan Budget, which was introduced and voted on in Congress, by saying that he had his own slightly different plan. This has been considered a "flip flop", but of course, the top of the ticket always sets the policy. Nobody questioned the fact that even though Biden was picked by Obama in 2008 for reasons related to his foreign policy experience, that he was about to adopt in any way Biden's stated plan to divide Iraq into three counties.

Trying to keep the issue of Romney's tax returns alive, the Obama campaign also tried to propose a deal attempting to get the Republican to release some more documents, but the Romney campaign did not takethe bait and instead indicated that they intended to focus on the economy and substantive issues,which they believe is not what the White House wants.

Partisans such as myself will claim that Republicans "won" this past week, because of the way Democrats have behaved. It does seem (as it did after the Sarah Palin pick four years ago) that their party has been caught off guards and are finding it hard to accept the news of increased GOP momentum and enthusiasm in the daily news cycles. So, we had the deplorable remarks made by Biden this week, and Obama himself twice making veiled illusions to Seamus Romney once being on the roof of Romney's car, etc. etc.

As  I have stated before, it seems clear to me that Democrats have accepted the only way they can win another four years for Obama, based on his unpopular record in office, is to totally demonize Mitt Romney as a person before the American public. With that in mind, I was quite heartened to see that Romney and his campaign realize what they are up against. Based on everything we have seen from the other side over the past month, it was perhaps Biden playing the slavery card that really inspired Romney to start publicly calling out Obama and telling him to take his campaign of "hate and division back to Chicago" and stating that he has behaved in a way in the course of a campaign that has hurt the dignity of his office. I not only think Romney and the Republicans are totally right to point that out, I think that strategy of shaming the opposition is going to wind up being smart politics that will bear fruit later on in the game.

Of course, the Ryan pick itself signified that Romney very much wants this campaign to be about substance and big issues. The matter of entitlement reform, specifically related to Medicare, and all that has been associated along those lines with Ryan, was seen a week ago by Democrats as something that would help them and hurt Republicans. Many think the tables may have turned though over the past several days as Republicans have put Obama on the defensive over Medicare, such as the fact that the Administration cut millions of dollars from the program for current seniors, in order to pay for the unpopular Obamacare. Many people just were not aware of the fact, and Obama and his party have seen to be put back on their heels over explaining that while also attacking Ryan for "making cuts."

Time will tell how the Medicare issue will ultimately play out as we get closer to Election Day, but after one week, the immediate fight has likely not gone the way the Democrats expected in the field of public opinion