Hold the Pessimism
Topic: Decline of the West
OK, since last I opined, Mitt Romney has locked up the Republican Party presidential nomination—barring the political equivalent of a comet strike. So what are his chances against President Obama?
Glooming away in a corner are the usual conservative pessimists who say that having failed to choose a true-blue conservative candidate, the GOP is doomed to defeat in November. I just don’t buy that. The claim that ideological purity is the key to presidential electability is, in a word, humbug. The upcoming election will be a referendum on the incumbent. Voters will be eyeballing Barack Obama, evaluating his performance, and asking themselves if they want four more years of false hope and chump change. The opposition needs merely to present a plausible alternative.
The 2012 election will be about the state of the US economy, which even the New York Times admits is in pretty shaky condition. The President has manifestly failed to deliver on his high-flown promises. His great achievement—Obamacare—is about as popular as a Big Mac at PETA headquarters. Unemployment remains high. Job growth remains anemic. The price of gas is painfully high The threat of new taxes and regulations has the business community on edge.
Obama gave himself three years to fix things—a statement that’s going to come back to haunt him as the campaign heats up. He has little to boast about, so of course he’s going to go negative. Mitt Romney can expect to be hit by every dirty trick and scurrilous accusation in the Democratic Party playbook. Mitt the Mormon? Zany cultist and possible secret polygamist! Mitt the family man? Lazy stay-at-home wife! Mitt the businessman? Out-of-touch rich guy and greedy one-percenter! Mitt the candidate? In the hip pocket of the bloated Wall Street plutocrats!
Aside from attacking Romney directly, the Dems will seek to whip up class, racial and resentments by harping on such strings as the Buffet Rule, the Martin/Zimmerman case, birth control, etc. In short, we can expect from Obama & Co. a campaign of sustained negativity and unrelieved nastiness.
But it won’t work.
Of course Mitt Romney could step all over it and throw away his chances—say, by erratic behavior of the kind that turned off voters to John McCain in 2008. Or he could succumb to the temptation to hit back at the Obama smear machine. That would be a mistake. However, if he runs a broadly positive campaign that concentrates on the failures of President Obama’s policies and presents an alternative vision for America, his chances of beating the incumbent are good.
Yes, I know: the thought of that makes some conservatives writhe. It’s so satisfying to hit back at the little man behind the big desk in the Oval Office—who is one of the nastiest and most unpleasant men to have occupied that space. Newt Gingrich owed his moment in the spotlight to his combativeness. But in the long run people don’t like that kind of thing from a presidential candidate. And they like it even less from a president, which is why I say that the Obama strategy won’t work.
Obviously some bare-knuckle politics will have to be practiced against a serpent like Barack Obama. For the most part, though, that sort of thing can be left to outside actors: the super PACs & etc. Should they overreach, the Romney campaign can disavow their actions. And given the tactics likely to be employed by the Democrats, Romney can always deploy the tu quoqe defense.
So spare me the doom and gloom. Let’s see how the campaign shapes up over the next couple of months. If Mitt Romney turns out to be a dud candidate, there’ll be plenty of time for hand-wringing at the end of June.
Posted by tmg110
at 9:54 AM EDT