Saturday, August 25, 2012

Race for the White House

73 Days Until Election Day

The upcoming week has long been looked upon as an important one for the GOP. However, partisan Republican political junkies such as myself (especially as I am one who has  spent a scary amount of time over the years studying and watching post-WWII political conventions), have to be a little bummed tonight by the news, that just like four years ago, the first scheduled day of the Republican National Convention is basically cancelled due to hurricane concerns. While missing one night of festivities again, will likely have scant impact on the 2012 election itself, I really wanted to see a full convention with as many presentations and speakers as possible. The Democrats will only be having a three day convention as well.

While Tampa Bay itself is expected to avoid major damage from Hurricane Issac, there is now anticipation that it will be a bad storm for other parts of Florida, and elsewhere in the Southeast. Obviously, people's lives, and livelihoods have to take priority over a big political bash, and delegates and convention attendees will have travel concerns related to Issac as well. Florida's GOP Governor, despite being the host Governor of the convention, has to put his actual duties ahead of anything else. So, convention schedules will be readjusted and re-arranged, as they were four years ago, but  a few people are going to miss their chance to speak in primetime, or to speak at all. I just hope this storm passes with as little damage as possible and that the weather is not a main focus of the news as the week moves along. I was not am not expecting an out of the ordinary convention "bounce" for Mitt Romney, but this is one of the first really big events of the campaign for him to make an impression on the relatively small number of undecided voters. Personally speaking, I have been waiting for years to see him accept the nomination of the party for President and I want all this to go as smoothly as possible. I suppose it's up to a higher power at this point. Democrats rooting for a bad natural disaster should be careful though (for a few reasons.) They still have to deal with potential bad weather the next week in Charlotte.

I certainly expect that one way or another, the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ticket will have formally been nominated and will have accepted their nominations for President and Vice President by this time next week, At that time, I can go into detail about the major events of the convention, and give my opinion on how it all may have come across. I am expected, a well orchestrated and strong message that will emerge, as long as things eventually are able to get underway. Democrats were expected to actively show up in Tampa and try to deliver their counter message, but Joe Biden is wisely skipping his trip to Florida now, due to weather concerns. Had he shown up at the convention, Republicans might have invited him to the podium to speak. One never knows what Biden could say or the damage he could do!

Speaking of political damage though, the main story of the week was not specifically about the Presidential race, but about the U.S. Senate contest in Missouri. I could literally go on for hours discussing all of this, but as it is not germane to the White House contest, I will avoid that. Anybody who follows politics or watches the news though knows by now that Congressman Todd Akin, the GOP nominee, and favorite to win, a Democrat-held Senate seat from Missouri committed a really bad political gaffe on local television last Sunday by expressing his views that abortion should not be legal, even in the case of rape. In explaining those views, he used the term "legitimate rape", and said that he had been told by doctors that pregnancies as a result of rape are rare under those cases.

Let me first say that I am staunchly Pro-Life on the issue of abortion. However, unlike Akin, I would allow an exception for rape victims. His position is an unpopular one (despite the fact that at least half the country is opposed to the abortion on demand status quo that Roe vs. Wade has given us), but many conservatives, have it and believe they are intellectually and morally consistent. I cannot fault them or him on that, but clearly Akin should have been much better prepared to handle that question and certainly his use of words was downright dumb.

When I first heard about this last Sunday, I knew that it was going to definitely hurt Akin in the short-term, as it had hurt other political candidates who had said basically the same thing in the past. I realized though that it was only August and figured that it was unlikely to be the truly deciding factor in a race against an unpopular incumbent opponent. I definitely knew that the left, and the media, who basically consider abortion a sacrament, would jump all over it, try to harm Akin, and to tie other Republicans to him, as they would attempt to try to breathe new life to the whole party message of a GOP "War on Women."

I also expected any Republican who was asked about what Akin had said to express their disagreement with him, if they supported a rape exception, and to call on Akin to apologize and clarify his words. The candidate quickly did that. What I might not have seen coming though was the absolute thermonuclear way just about every Republican in the country came down on Akin. Politics can be a dirty business, where people will be quick to try to distance themselves from any damage they could, but Akin, even though he was certainly at fault for this situation, was thrown under the bus in world record time and with shock and awe force. The Romney campaign had issued a quick statement reaffirming that the candidate disagreed with Akin on the rape exception, but as the storm built in the media and online over the next several hours, the presumptive nominee eventually publicly called for Akin to resign his position on the ballot, and Paul Ryan called his colleague Akin personally, to try to get him to drop out, to no avail.

To be as brief as possible, I believe Akin made a major mistake of the head, but not of the heart. I am disappointed by the way that so many people were quick to not consider what it was he was exactly trying to say and either assumed the worse, or engaged in false outrage. In no way do I believe Akin said anything in anyway to support a theory that any kind of rape should be considered justified or that female had a responsibility or even the ability on their actions, to fight off a conception from occurring.

Akin has been involved in legislative action in Congress regarding the funding of abortion for rape victims, which had language that made distinctions between violent forcile rape and statutory rape, which while a bad thing, is not a violent act. He may also have been considering that (however rare it may be), sometimes women do falsely claim to be raped, sometimes as a justification for obtaining an abortion. I believe that by saying "legitimate", the Congressman was really trying to conjure up the word "forcible." So many Republicans took what he said in a distorted way (which is a tactic I associate with the left usually) and have made Akin to be some kind of pariah, whose very humanity they have called into question, and I just do not feel like that is something I could go along with.

If he were a Democrat and made an equivalent sort of gaffe, it would of course been fodder for our side to use against him as a candidate for the rest of the campaign, but there truly is a double standard that exists for Republicans. My party will just not stand by one of our own when they make a bad political mistake that we think can be used against us. In a fair political universe, the thought that Akin, a duly nominated and competitive candidate, should be forced to resign simply for inartfully stating a position of his that everyone already knew he had, would be unthinkable, but in the news cycle dominated world we live in, Republicans decided quickly that he absolutely must go. Twitter and the blogosphere absolutely contributed to the feeding frenzy, and I feel like a very rare Republican who thinks that all this was unnecessary and unfortunate, and could have been overcome had everyone in the GOP stayed on the same page, after just a couple bad news cycles.. I think this all sets a very bad precedent in a few ways, including that if someone wins a primary that people wish did not win the primary (and I almost certainly would not have voted for Akin in the GOP primary, largely because of his history of saying inflammatory things) that the will of the voters can be overturned so easily. I also think that by immediately acting so shamed and frightened by Akin's blunder, which people were more than free to express disagreement with, Republicans sent a signal to Democrats that we are afraid of them and the attack machine they can bring to bear against us. They will try to do this again to other Republicans, perhaps frequently, and I think it's pretty sad if any Pro-Life Republican is now going to be afraid to speak to their moral convictions.

Since this quickly became so much a part of the Presidential campaign by the way that Republicans responded to the attacks and feel into the Democrats' trap, my candidate Mitt Romney, really was left with no choice but to do what he had to do. I would say the same for some candidates running in Blue States, but I think Republicans took a bad situation and made it worse, now in the Missouri Senate race, and probably elsewhere, in the future. The only Republican in America who seems to be publicly standing with Akin is Mike Huckabee, and people are really pissed at Huckabee now over that too. Democrats of course want Akin to stay in the race, and both sides are accusing each other of doctoring polls (opposite to the way they are accused of doctoring other polls) in order to either influence Akin to stay in or drop out.

Unlike most others, I think that if Akin could have done better damage control, if he had some allies on his side, and he could have eventually changed the subject enough to get back on track, but with all the calls from Republicans demanding he leave the race, and with everyone pulling his funding  and talk about write in candidates and Independent candidates, now, the race probably is unwinnable. So much damage has been done and this all became such a distraction, that I do think Akin should do the right thing for the party, both in Missouri, and nationally, and step aside. I can see his point in thinking it is not fair, but that is the reality we are dealing with. Another Republican candidate can still win that seat, and advance the Pro-Life agenda, despite the horrible way this has been bungled by all involved. In the meantime, Akin, citing his religious convictions, is stubbornly insisting that he is not leaving the race, and that just has every other Republican basically fuming at him. Perhaps he will eventually drop out, but in the meantime, this being the major story of the week has dominated so much of what should have been the pre-GOP convention message. The media and the Obama campaign also went nuts for no good reason yesterday after Romney made what I believe was an off the cuff joke, referencing birth certificates. They should lighten up of course. Romney is no "birther" and never has been. If Obama can make birth certificate jokes and joke about Seamus Romney, this seems like it should be completely not a big deal. Besides, what are they afraid of regarding birthers anyway? False outrage all around, but my party perfected the act of being outraged this week.

So, as we are now hours away from some sort of opening to the convention season, we look at the landscape and realize that nationally, the race is still tied, according to all sorts of national polls. In the states, Obama appears to be somewhat ahead, but there are easily enough Margin of Error states, in those polls, to indicate that the election could go solidly either way, depending on how the states fall. Republicans are expected to have a money edge in the final days of the race and all indications are that the GOP base is far more fired up and ready to go this time than the Democrats are, a huge turnaround regarding both the intensity and the money from 2008.

After convention season ends, the race will probably look much as it does today in those regards, but there will still be the debates. All things considered, in what is a tied race, I think Romney is in better position by virtue of having more opportunities to win people over. The truly persuadable undecided voter segment this year is relatively small, and while I think they will decide extremely late in the game, indications in polling are that those voters have already decided they disapprove of Obama's job performance.

What happens in Tampa Bay this upcoming week will be an important first part of making the case to elect the alternative option.

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