Well, it’s all but official now—it’s a two man race. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made a post-Easter exit from the campaign trail Tuesday to focus on being a more present parent to his three-year-old daughter, Bella, who has since birth been afflicted with chronic illness. His departure has mostly cleared the path to eleven-forty-four for Mitt Romney. Sure, a few sporadic votes will still be cast for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, but with them sitting at 136 and 51 delegates, respectively, there is no logical or mathematical way for either of the gentlemen to get to 1,144, aside from a brokered convention. I suppose it’s time for me to hop on the bandwagon and claim that Romney is now the eventual Republican nominee for President of the United States. But what does that mean for the Romney and Obama campaigns from here on out?
THE OBAMA CAMP
President Barrack Obama began his re-election campaign in earnest, well, on January 21, 2009, the day after his inauguration. But will his three years of campaigning for another four years pay off? Let’s examine what he can, and can’t, run on.
Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment is in jeopardy, in Supreme Court limbo with a decision not expected until June, right in the middle of the campaign season. If PPACA (ObamaCare) is upheld, it will become a major instrument in the Obama 2012 orchestra, being trumpeted across the nation, accompanied by the lyrics, “Republicans are just fear-mongers and Obama is the champion of the middle class.” (The middle class, not so much; the far left ideologues, absolutely.) He will sing the song, “The right fought the law and the law won.”
But if the Supreme Court strikes the law, woah Nelly, watch out! The left will go into a tizzy screaming for Obama to be given another chance. “The Supreme Court is just full of right-wing justices and can’t be trusted!” they’ll cry, even though the Supreme Court has an approval rating even higher than the president’s. “The Supreme Court was wrong; Obama was right (as he always is) and deserves four more years to get health care for everyone.” But I would strongly caution Team Obama to not use this approach. If the campaign hierarchy is wise, they will let sleeping dogs lie by leaving an overturned ObamaCare out of the strategy. If conservatives see Obama striving to rehash the health care debate, it will awaken a sleeping giant and will likely be to the peril of Mr. Obama’s re-election dreams.
So, the president can’t run on ObamaCare. What about the economy? Unemployment is still above the detrimental 8% threshold and under-employment is roughly 15%, people are making less money and sending more of it to Uncle Sam. Gas prices are nearly $4.00 per gallon, up 102% since Mr. Obama took office. As a result, the necessities of everyday life—everything from groceries to clothing—will go up in price. Mr. Obama must find something besides the economy to tout.
ObamaCare is out. The economy is out. Perhaps his record? One problem: his record sucks. Nothing he has done has improved our way of life; indeed, his actions have made things worse. Increased government spending, more people out of work and on food stamps, a skyrocketing debt and energy prices, auto bailouts, green energy companies failing with taxpayer backing, an attack on the Catholic church and Christianity in general with his contraceptives mandate, and now a GSA out of control. His record of leadership is one of failure. The only instance of leadership he exhibited in his first term was during the ObamaCare debate, and even that was tainted by stories such as the Cornhusker Kickback and of Senator Mary Landrieu accepting a (not so) sweet deal for Louisiana.
No ObamaCare, no economy, and no record. I guess Mr. Obama will have to resort to attacking Mr. Romney. And attack, he will. In fact, it has already begun. As far back as a few months ago, Mr. Obama started taking veiled shots at Mr. Romney. But last week, the Obama Camp sliced through that veil and attacked Romney directly, tying him to the Paul Ryan budget. Because the media have been touting a Washington Post-ABC News poll, albeit faulty, released Tuesday showing Mr. Romney trailing the president in the category of supporting the middle class, the latter will certainly use the former’s wealth against him. And that’s despite the fact that Mr. Obama is nearly as equally affluent at Mr. Romney. In any case, the gloves will come off and the fight will be on.
Aside from messaging, Mr. Obama certainly has the upper hand. On the grassroots front, he has organized labor (unions), left-wing organizations such as ACORN spin-offs, and racist groups like the New Black Panther party behind him, all of which can call upon members to canvass neighborhoods, attend rallies, and shout from the rooftops how wonderful the president is. They can even, in the case of the latter group, scare little old ladies away from the polls on Election Day. He also has the media in his corner, rooting for him, pushing him to victory. Plus he already has a one-billion dollar war chest that will be used to purchase all the mud needed to sling at his GOP rival. Obama and Company will certainly tap all of these resources in the next few months.
THE ROMNEY CAMP
Once the Republican nomination is secured, the former Massachusetts governor will likely not have to face any more music about RomneyCare, the health care legislation he signed into law as governor, which is said to be the blueprint for ObamaCare. It may be brought up to paint Mr. Romney as a flip-flopper, but if he returns to, and sticks with, his 10th amendment argument, he will be just fine on this front.
Romney’s strategy will most assuredly be attack, attack, attack. All of the points that Mr. Obama can’t run on, Mr. Romney will embattle. Attack the president on the overreach of government powers. Attack the president on the economy and high gas prices. Attack the president on his record of failed policies and failed leadership. Tie him tightly to pains at the pump, to Solyndra, to cramming through unconstitutional legislation against the will of the people. Romney’s strategy will certainly focus on highlighting the failures of the current administration. But he must include one caveat in that strategy.
In attacking Mr. Obama’s failed presidency, Romney must provide alternative ideas. It will be grossly insufficient to scream “repeal” without a plan to “replace.” On ObamaCare, Mr. Romney must develop a solid, yet understandable alternative. On the economy, he has to give realistic solutions to putting people back to work and lowering gas prices. On the president’s failed leadership, he must point to his own record, both in the private sector and as governor, showing his capability for true leadership, even if that means (gasp!) working across the political aisle.
However, if I were advising Mr. Romney, I would strongly encourage him to stay away from personal attacks. Don’t attack Barack Obama’s past as a community organizer; keep at arm’s length his personal wealth and academic records. Keep at an even greater distance the birth certificate issue. The glorious thing about Mr. Obama’s first term is that he has provided the GOP with all the ammunition it needs to defeat him this fall. Romney should stick to policy and shy away from personal attacks. And he shouldn’t let the media trap him into addressing these issues. He should, in other words, stay on message.
But what Obama claims in grassroots, media, and money, Romney is found wanting. Liberals are traditionally known for their grassroots organizing efforts. Sure, the TEA Party emerged in 2010, propelling conservatives and Republicans to an epic reclaiming of the House of Representatives, but that was an exception to the rule. This year, with the strongest conservative now out of the race, the social right is already shifting its focus to the Senate, all but foregoing the presidential race altogether. This will most certainly dry up Romney’s pool of money and volunteers. The media will not be giving Romney a fair shake; we all know that. And when it comes to fundraising, I believe it will go the way of the grassroots effort—lackluster at best.
BRINGING IT ALL HOME
So what of these strategies? What will the ultimate effect be, that is, who will win in November? This will undoubtedly be one of, if not the, nastiest campaign in American presidential political history. We will be able to widen the Floridian Peninsula by 10 miles with all the mud that will be slung between now and November; the question is though, what will stick? If we are to believe the WaPo-ABC poll, Mr. Romney’s message will reign victorious. But he doesn’t have everything else needed to win. His available sources of donors and volunteers, as I’ve already shown are now focused on the Senate. So will Romney’s message alone be enough to trump Mr. Obama’s grassroots, media, and monetary upper hand? I highly doubt it. And while only time will tell, I am pained to say that come January 20, 2013, I believe Mr. Obama will once again be “President Obama.”