Four Pitfalls on the Path to an Obama Victory
With forty-six days remaining to the formal voting on 6 November 2012, it could be said with cautious optimism that victory is within the grasp of President Obama and the Democratic Party. There have been many encouraging signs from several national polls to polls in swing states. There are reasons to be confident and upbeat. Despite these positive factors, however, actual victory has not been truly achieved. The election remains to be held and there are a minimum of four credible pitfalls on the path to the sorely needed and genuinely deserved Obama and Democratic victory that now looks so tantalizingly possible. This election is still quite close and still could go either way, but Romney badly needs something to happen to change the trajectory of this race. If things remain as they are today, he loses.
Much credit is hereby given to Professor Robert Reich for his perceptive article – Four Reasons Why Romney Might Still Win.
The first pitfall in chronological order is the presidential debate on 3 October 2012. All the subsequent debates are extensions of this initial hazard. The first debate will focus on domestic policy and it will take place at the University of Denver. The moderator will be Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour. There are topical and tactical opportunities and possible pitfalls for the president during this face-to-face encounter with Mr. Romney. The need is to maximize the opportunities and minimize the hazards.
The debates are likely to be overrated, but it would be political malpractice of a high order not to perform more than due diligence in getting ready for and conducting these debates. Though debates arguably have changed campaign trajectories in 1976 and 1980, in the last seven presidential elections they didn’t materially affect the outcome of the races. Presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 3, 16, and 22. A vice presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 11. These four events are milestones along the way to Election Day and they must be appropriately addressed and dealt with effectively.
Romney will have the best coaching money can buy. He has no compunction about making statements of dubious veracity and will even insist on claims that have been repeatedly demonstrated to be false and fallacious. Romney will resort to code words and dog whistles and bears actual malice against the president. On-the-other-hand, the president can be ponderous in the debate setting and could underperform the much higher expectations for him while Romney has a truly low bar. Furthermore, Obama “has not been in a real-live debate for four years; Romney recently emerged from almost a year of them.”
According to Sunlen Miller | ABC OTUS News, Romney told Fox News in an interview from Dayton, Ohio. “I’ve, you know, I’ve never been in a presidential debate like this and it will be a new experience.” He said the American people will make “their assessment as to who’s the better speaker.” Nonetheless, Romney believes that Americans will be drawn to his plan for the nation. “People will make a choice,” Romney said. “I think I have, if you will, the facts on my side. I think the American people will be drawn more to the vision I have for the future of the country, but time will tell.” These statements have to aims. First to lower expectations prior to the debates and second to inject his preferred narrative into the ether for whatever propaganda benefit it may provide. This leads into the underlying factor with makes the debates more consequential than they might otherwise be.
A real problem is the media reporting of the debates which may or may not correlate with what actually transpires. The media has a vested interest in prolonging the story of a competitive election. On Monday, 9-24-2012, Chuck Todd said, Mitt Romney is “certainly in the wild card position.” He then said the first debate will determine if Romney “makes the playoffs.” This characterization of the debates as the equivalent of the NFL playoffs and therefore, of the election as a sporting event is a disservice in many ways, but it betrays the lurking danger in the media coverage bias. It is not that the media leans toward one side or the other though in some cases they do. The true danger of conventional media coverage is that it is more concerned with dramatizing and hyping a story line that it is with accurate reporting and cogent analysis. Given this bias and the significant self-interest in an engaging story line, the conventional media will have great incentives to skew coverage to keep the game afoot.
The first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, which will take place Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, is supposed to be about domestic policy. PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer, who will moderate, has released the following list of topics:
The Economy – I
The Economy – II
The Economy – III
The Role of Government
Unforeseen events between now and October 3rd could displace this list of topics as the financial meltdown did in a 2008 debate between Barack Obama and John McCain that had been set to cover foreign policy.
The Vice presidential debate will take place October 11, 2012, in Danville, KY on foreign and domestic topics and Martha Raddatz, Chief Foreign Correspondent of ABC News will moderate. The second and third presidential debates will take place on October 16 and October 22, 2012, respectively. The October 16 focus will be “undecided voters” and the October 22, 2012, debate will cover foreign policy.
The second pitfall is the October 5, 2012, job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In order to keep pace with population growth, 125,000 additional jobs are needed each month. The last jobs report showed only 96,000 jobs and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981. If similar reports come out in October and then again on November 2, 2012, “Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it is on the mend harder to defend.” Due to a variety of factors beyond the control of American political leaders, rising gasoline prices, slowing in the Chinese economy, the European recession and so on, the next two job reports are likely to be feeble at best.
The Romney campaign will do everything they can to blame the president for disappointing jobs reports or deny him credit if the reports are better than expected. This means the Obama campaign will need to have responses that put responsibility where it properly lies for difficulties and capitalizes on any positive elements in the report. In the first case, the Republican Congressional obstructionism needs to be convincingly described along with the harmfulness of the policies Romney and the Republicans are advocating to an ongoing improvement of the situation. In the second, case additional months of job growth even if it is smaller than desired, keeps the line going in the right direction. This real, though, slow progress must be effectively emphasized.
The third pitfall is the tsunami of slime that will be unleashed by the anti-Obama groups through spending a gigantic amount of money. This will come not just from “the Romney campaign and Romney’s super PACs, but other super PACS aligned with Romney, billionaires spending their own fortunes, and non-profit “social welfare” organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s “Crossroads,” and various Koch-brothers political fronts – all will dump hundreds of millions on TV and radio spots, much of it spreading lies and distortions.” It is considered likely that these groups will far outspend President Obama and his aligned groups. Estimates run as high as two-to-one. Given the lingering closeness of the race, a relative few voters in swing states could make a mammoth difference. Furthermore, some of this flood of money will be spent on get-out-the-vote efforts from phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to furnishing transportation to the polling places. These gobs of money could be critical and provide material support for the Romney campaign.
Just on advertisements alone, the current and expected levels seem unprecedented, “Kantar Media’s CMAG recently reported that this campaign is very developed with few undecided voters in swing states, pointing to levels of advertising in sample swing-state markets running anywhere from three to 12 times higher than in 2004 or 2008. Adding in the non-presidential campaign ads, CMAG found that as of early September there have been 1.3 million “ad occurrences for all political advertising on local spot TV,” compared with 832,291 at the same point in 2008. CMAG estimates that there will be about 43,000 ads run every day through the election.” http://cookpolitical.com/story/4805
The final pitfall is the well displayed willingness of the Republican Party to do whatever it can to win — it will disenfranchise certain voters either through restrictive voter identification laws, onerous voter registration rules, or minimizing voting hours and days. Every such action enacted or pending to date arise from Republican legislatures and governors and have been explicitly recognized as intended suppress likely Democratic voter turnout. Organizations such a True the Vote have committed to harassing and impeding likely Democratic voting through “what can only be termed ‘voter vigilantism’ intended to “monitor polling stations to prevent fraud” – which means intimidating minorities who have every right to vote. How successful these efforts may be is unknown but they are dangerous wildcards.
The “Romney’s dead,” claim is premature and seductively misleading. There is no place for complacency. Hard work lies ahead, over the next forty-five days. Furthermore, even a deserved and truly needed Obama victory leads only to harder, protracted work from Inauguration Day 2013 forward. As Obama said in 2008, and has been reminding us recently, we must stay involved and push the Republicans in Congress to do what the nation needs and govern responsibly and responsively rather than obstruct and sabotage the operation of the government.
Six events, four debates and two job reports, could prove consequential. As could the deluge of political spending by Romney aligned groups, legislative trickery and outright thuggish behavior by conservative activists and groups. Together this set of factors place four distinct pitfalls on the path to an Obama victory in November.
Candidate and campaign gaffes outside the debates could matter as well as external domestic or foreign events. “Anything involving an attack by Israel and/or the United States against Iranian nuclear facilities would certainly create a fluid and turbulent situation.” Major incidents elsewhere in the Middle East or around the globe—for example, North Korea—could be disruptive as well. Gaffes and crises, however, are not specifically foreseeable. Some or none may happen, but they are recognized when and if they do occur even though they cannot be forecast with any reliability.
Of the four pitfalls, the last two should be of general concern for all Americans regardless of political affiliation. The flood of spending and the Republican trickery and vigilantism threaten the integrity of the election process. These threats will persist no matter who wins the presidency. If Romney wins, the dangers will be intensified. It President Obama wins, some corrective action may be taken. Both in the immediate and the long term, an Obama victory is vital if the Republic bequeathed to us in 1787 is to survive in anything but name and form during the 21st century.
Tags: 2012 election, cirses, Debates, economy, Foreign Affairs, jobs, Larry Conley, Mitt Romney, money, romney, voting