Obama’s Failures and Romney’s Strengths
With Rick Santorum suspending his campaign it is now, not that there really was a question, assured that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. The GOP and the Democrats both know it, and the general election campaigns are now fully underway.
Recent rhetoric and politicking has provided a glimpse of what can be expected from both sides over the next six months, but as many respectable pundits have opined, 2012 may well redefine general election strategy. In my opinion it’s a given that this year will not follow historical models and timetables, and the lead-up to Labor Day is critical, so what should we look for as the campaigns pick up steam?
Harkening back 30 years to a former 60 Minutes segment, here then is my “Point / Counterpoint” analysis of what the Romney campaign should be focused on in several critical areas over the next four months.
I’m making the reasonable assumption that the very conservative, evangelical and Tea Party blocs of the Republican Party will coalesce behind Mitt Romney. While these demographic groups may be less than excited that their man, whoever that was, didn’t get the nomination I have to believe the last thing any of them want is a second-term for Barack Obama. Of course, if I’m proven wrong then their shallowness will be the single largest contributory factor to what could most certainly be an even worse four-year stretch for the United States than Obama’s first term.
My analysis will be limited to those issues defined as the most important to voters by a recent Gallup poll and notably will not include religious or social issues as they are at the bottom of the list.
The Economy, Federal Spending and National Debt
Point: Obama will claim he inherited a disaster from Bush yet things are getting better, they’ve just taken longer than expected. He’ll tout a declining unemployment rate, lament about lack of support for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and say that another four-years of his Keynesian economic policies will bring the country back around. Overall the Democrats will play the “social inequality” card a lot as they try to paint a picture that the rich will get richer while the poor will get poorer under a Romney administration.
Counterpoint: Romney should rebuke the inheritance claim by explaining the financial collapse of 2008 and subsequent global effects into 2009 were not created by the actions of one man, or even one group and pointing out that Obama has had three plus years to make some progress and has failed. He should pivot to simple numbers to refute the spin from Obama about unemployment, as the bottom line is there are 1.1 million fewer jobs today than in January 2009; there has been a $4.8 trillion increase in the national debt due to the failed policies of increased deficit spending; and that the liberal promulgation of social inequality and the war on women is an attempt at misdirection so people will not realize that everybody is worse off than they were when Obama took office.
Unemployment and Job Creation
Point: Obama and his liberal economists will tout their stimulus packages have created or saved millions of jobs, and further espouse the economy is rebounding. They’ll point to the declining U3 rate cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as evidence of their accomplishments in reducing unemployment and make the case that more time is all that is needed for the full effects of their policies to be realized.
Counterpoint: Again Romney should eschew smoke-and-mirror percentages, that are misleading, and speak to simple and real numbers. The difference between January 2009 and January 2011 total non-farms employment is a reduction of 1.1 million jobs. He should point out that even given empirical evidence that the Administration’s stimulus plans and government spending programs were failing, Obama lacked the managerial acumen to adjust accordingly. This should be followed by an earnest explanation that Romney has the experience and discipline to dynamically manage a turn-around, and while sometimes painful in the short-term it is the overall long-term success of a well formulated and executed plan of recovery that matters most and benefits everybody.
Foreign Policy, National Security and Terrorism
Point: Obama will score some points here with the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, and will try to paint the incursion into Libya and ending the war in Iraq as successes. Beyond that it gets a little trickier but expect to hear he inherited many issues like the war in Afghanistan, Middle East discord and other areas where the picture can be painted he was backed into a corner and did the best with what he had to work with. Overall this is an area where Obama does have some credibility in certain areas but also some very clear weaknesses in others like his positions on Israel and Iran.
Counterpoint: Given foreign policy is normally not a wedge issue in the general election, and 2012 will be no different, Romney would do well to maintain his support for a strong national defense, a clear position against Iran pursuing any development of nuclear capabilities and an unambiguous posture on Israel. Beyond that he should contrast his belief in a global military supremacy that is unassailable against the President’s uncertain and apologetic nature when it comes to the military. Then Romney should pivot back to domestic issues because it’s what the voters care more about, and the biggest mistake Romney can make is letting the discussion move away from those issues.
Point: Without a doubt the President will push Obamacare as one of his biggest contributions to the well-being of all Americans, though this strategy would be weakened if SCOTUS strikes down the individual mandate or any other parts of the act. The Democrats will also work social inequality into their discussion of healthcare and again try to misdirect attention away from the core issues.
Counterpoint: This is an area where there is less contrast between the candidates from a politicking perspective, since Romneycare has become part of our national dialogue. However there are some differences that can be exploited and Romney would do well to use healthcare to define Obama’s socialist and government overreaching attitudes. Here again though, Romney should pivot back to economic policy, jobs and a higher quality of life for all Americans and not get dragged into a tit-for-tat exchange about Obamacare versus Romneycare.
Gas Prices and Energy Policies
Point: This may be Obama’s weakest issue of the top five and one where he is clearly vulnerable so don’t look for a lot of motivation by his campaign to tread here. Look for a lot of veiled statements with rhetoric that will placate the liberal base, even inspire them, but generally will not resonate well with moderate Democrats and Independents.
Counterpoint: Romney should hammer the current Administration for their abject failure to embrace energy projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and more domestic natural gas production. Obama’s pandering to environmentalists, then relenting somewhat and embracing a portion of KXL should be trotted out as a sign of a President who has no clear energy policy. Romney should press Obama on Solyndra and other failed alternative energy programs that did nothing to address the energy crisis but, here again pivoting to economic issues, cost taxpayers money. Higher gas prices should be a centerpiece of the GOP platform on energy with a relentless attack on Obama’s lack of clear policy as the underlying problem, allowing a picture to be painted that the current Administration is in over their heads and it’s time for a change.
There are other issues that will grab the spotlight from time to time, and the Democrats will do everything they can to identify those issues since they are vulnerable in most of the top five. The Romney campaign and Republicans have to keep the debate in these areas where voters are most concerned and Obama is most assailable. Every news cycle, and we all know the mainstream media will make this easy for Obama to do, that is not focused on these top issues is a positive for Obama and the Democrats, and a negative for Romney and the Republicans.
Think of this as the OR election: O for Obama & Obfuscation because the facts are not on the side of the President, and R for Romney & Reality because when the facts are front and center Mitt gains ground.
If Romney emphasizes his strengths and Obama’s failures, and demonstrates to the voters the President had his chance and came up short, then reality can overcome obfuscation. Here’s hoping it happens!