Print Edition: October 3, 2012
Previously on AMPOL: When we last left our heroes back on the dusty campaign trail in March, Romney had taken a firm lead in the Republican primaries and the Obama re-election juggernaut was just rumbling to a start. Now it’s just over a month until election day. We’ve seen controversies and blunders aplenty as America’s big two political parties gear up for the November 6 smackdown. Returning from a private 26-foot yacht somewhere off the coast of Argentina and a condemned Kentucky salt mine, Sean and Nick are back to talk American politics for the everyman. And the everycat.
Sean: With just a few of weeks ‘til the big day, and early voting underway, Willard Mitt Romney (yes, that is his first name) is struggling. Ever since Clint Eastwood took the stage in Tampa, giving what seemed to be an alcohol-fuelled interrogation to a non-existent Barrack Obama, the Romney campaign that never was began to tank. From secretly-filmed videos that ostracize 47 per cent of voters, to comically suggesting that planes would be safer if the windows opened (there was a fire on a plane his wife was on), Romney has not done himself any favours. So, is Mitt Romney finished?
Nick: Never say never. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the voting public (at least independent or swing voters) can be incredibly volatile in their opinions. Back in August, the race was almost neck and neck. But now Obama leads by six or more points in most national polls, a huge gap by U.S. election standards. Coming back from that is a tall order and evidence of the Romney-Ryan camp’s desperation is piling up quickly. Just last week, Paul Ryan used a question about the NFL’s referee strike to throw in another dig at Obama’s economic policies.
Let’s go to the tape, shall we?
Paul Ryan: “I half think these refs work part time for the Obama administration in the budget office. They see the national debt clock staring them in the face, they see the debt crisis, and they pretend it didn’t even happen.”
To continue with the excruciating football metaphor, Romney is way behind heading into the fourth quarter and his team needs a Hail Mary to salvage a catastrophic start. Obama’s best strategy right now is just to stay the course and watch as Romney continues to fumble his way to self-destruction.
Sean: I agree, Nick. But, I think that no matter what happens, this will be a close election; many Americans are pretty set in their ways and will vote Republican or Democrat come hell or high water. It will come down to those who are not so set in their ways. It will be the 10 or 15 per cent of independent voters that decide who will be the next quarterback leading America to future touchdowns and greatness.
That said, I think Obama still needs to do more in the way of winning back the idealistic, disenfranchised, college-aged voters that propelled him to a relatively easy victory in 2008. The President needs to get young people excited again. He needs to revive the rhetoric of hope and change – but, at the same time, not draw attention to unfulfilled promises, of which there are many. Let’s not kid ourselves, old white people (Romney’s wrinkly base of support) will vote no matter what. Young, idealistic people don’t vote, not unless they are excited. Obama needs them to be excited.
As for Mitt, I think that he is obviously struggling, but a strong performance in the upcoming debates could really do wonders for his campaign. Although Obama is obviously the better communicator, Romney could very well get a couple of sacks in (and the football metaphors continue). As the incumbent, Obama faces the challenge of giving an account for the current state of things, the economy, mainly. While he could simply blame it all on the Bush era, the President ultimately needs to take responsibility.
In the end, the big issue is the economy. A lot could hinge upon what the markets do this fall. Even more will depend on who the American people believe can restore the economy.
Nick: Do you really think Romney will perform well in the debates? If he’s proven anything over the course of this campaign, it’s that he’s able to place his foot firmly in mouth with deadly accuracy. Any time he goes off script or tries to improvise, you can almost hear his campaign managers bashing their heads against their clipboards.
Yet the debate topics are far from unpredictable. I’m sure both democrats and republicans alike have spent ample time prepping their candidates for not only the questions about health care and foreign policy that are sure to crop up, but how to respond to their opponent’s expected responses.
You’re right that young voters are a lot less engaged in this election. In a recent survey released by the PEW centre, only 63 per cent of registered voters under the age of 30 said they would vote in this year’s election, compared to the 72 per cent who voted in 2008. That said, Obama is currently leading Romney by a large margin in spite of this young voter drop off. If he can find a way to bring disaffected youth back on board, it will only strengthen his lead.
I guess all that’s left to do is brace ourselves for tonight’s [October 3] debate.
Sean: Will Romney come out swinging? Will Obama stay the course?
Nick: I’ll make the popcorn!
Next week: Nick and Sean rehash this week’s Presidential Debate with Romney and Obama squaring off in their first head-to-head contest. They also ponder why, amid all this apathy towards major party politics, third party candidates have been excluded from the national stage.