New Obama campaign ad — nice retort to Romney and his “better off” question.
There are 50-something days until the election. The debates are still ahead of us. All sorts of things, from the global economy to the Middle East, could blow up and change everything between now and then. The popular vote nationwide is pretty close.
Nevertheless — it’s lookin’ good, people.
The folks at Princeton Election Consortium are saying that there are very few undecided or even persuadable voters left, and in order to win, Romney would have to win just about all of them while hoping a big chunk of Obama voters get lost on the way to the polling place.
The New York Times reports that voters now trust Obama more than Romney to grow the economy. Further,
With their conventions behind them and the general election campaign fully engaged, the Democratic Party is viewed more favorably than the Republican Party. The poll also found that more likely voters give an edge to Mr. Obama on foreign policy, Medicare and addressing the challenges of the middle class. The only major issue on which Mr. Romney held an advantage was handling the federal budget deficit.
John Heilemann writes of this week’s tragedy in Libya,
Moments like this are not uncommon in presidential elections, and when they come, they tend to matter. For unlike the posturing and platitudes that constitute the bulk of what occurs on the campaign trail, big external events provide voters with something authentic and valuable: a real-time test of the temperament, character, and instincts of the men who would be commander-in-chief. And when it comes to the past week, the divergence between the resulting report cards could hardly be more stark.
Anyone doubting the potential significance of that disparity need only think back to precisely four years ago, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a worldwide financial panic. In the ten days that followed, Obama put on a master class in self-possession and unflappability under pressure; his rival, John McCain, did the opposite. When the smoke cleared, the slight lead McCain had held in the national polls was gone and Obama had seized the lead. Though another month remained in the campaign, the race was effectively over.
For Romney, the first blaring sign that his reaction to the assault on the consulate in Benghazi had badly missed the mark was the application of the phrase â€œLehman Âmomentâ€ to his press availability on the morning of September 12. Here was ÂAmerica under attack, with four dead on foreign soil. And here was Romney, defiantly refusing to adopt a tone of sobriety, solemnity, or seriousness, instead attempting to score cheap political points, doubling down on his criticism from the night before that the Obama administration had been â€œdisgracefulâ€ for â€œsympathiz[ing]â€ with the attackersâ€”criticism willfully ignoring the chronology of events, the source of the statement he was pillorying, the substance of the statement, and the circumstances under which it was made.
Now, Republicans have gotten away with this, and worse, in the past. But there are many indicators that the press is so disgusted with Romney they’re refusing to portray his performance through the usual soft-focus lens they reserve for GOP candidates.
This bipartisan condemnation would have been bad enough in itself, but its negative effects were amplified because it fed into a broader narrative emerging in the media across the ideological spectrum: that Romney is losing, knows he is losing, and is starting to panic. This story line is, of course, rooted in reality, given that every available data point since the conventions suggests that Obama is indeed, for the first time, opening up a lead outside the margin of Âerror nationally and in the battleground states. So the press corps is now on the lookout for signs of desperation in Romney and is finding them aplentyâ€”most vividly in his reaction to Libya, but even before that, in his post-convention appearance on Meet the Press, where he embraced some elements of Obamacare (only to have his campaign walk back his comments later the same day).
The peril to Romneyâ€™s candidacy of being seen through the lens of desperation canâ€™t be overstated. The paramount strategic objective of any campaign is to maintain control of the candidateâ€™s public imageâ€”and if the media filter begins to view his every move through a dark or unflattering prism, things can quickly spin out of control, to a point where nothing he says or does is taken at face value. â€œRomney is in a very bad place,â€ says another senior Republican strategist. â€œHeâ€™s got the Republican intelligentsia second-guessing him, publicly and privately. The party base has never trusted him and thinks that everything bad it ever thought about him is being borne out now. And heâ€™s got the media believing that he canâ€™t win. Heâ€™s right on the edge of a self-Âfulfilling downward spiral.â€
And, frankly, he’s got only himself to blame. He’ll blame others, of course.
Indeed, per Ben Jacobs, Fred Barnes has already published a kind of pre-postmortem of Romney’s failed campaign. Barnes blames media bias first and foremost, of course, but toward the end he comes around to admitting that Romney has failed to make the election into a referendum on Obama and instead must present himself as the better choice, and Mittens doesn’t seem to know how to do that.
One other factor that Barnes doesn’t mention is the Republican agenda itself. The fact is, the Republican agenda is the same one George W. Bush went by as his governing philosophy. Tax cuts? Check. Deregulation? Check. Seriously, can you think of a single policy in which Mittens differs significantly from Dubya? I can’t.
Worse, this past week Mittens seemed determine to reprise Dubya’s “lone cowboy” role as the swaggerer in chief, yapping about “resolve in our might.” Apparently Mitt thinks all we have to do is wave our almighty military at the world and it will bend to our will.
I have believed all along that once most Americas focused on the election and got a good look at Mitt, they’d decide to stick with President Obama. Seems that’s how things are playing out at the moment.
Update: See Jonathan Chait.