As the summer begins, where does the presidential election stand five months before Americans go to the polls? If retired general Colin Powell is to be believed, he is one of those voters still undecided who make the polls a muddle when in fact I suspect they are not. I guess we are going to trust his word. The reality is the election is being decided each day. It would be a good bet that the endless news cycle is driving more voters to an earlier decision than four years ago. The much-ballyhooed lack of intensity among voters will be a wash if the campaigns do their work correctly. Even though the electorates of 2008, 2010 and 2012 will be different one from the other, in many ways the election perhaps is closer to already having been decided – except for the final tally of votes.
With endless news reporting and a campaign already at full bore, I have a hard time believing that the image that voters have of President Obama and Mitt Romney is not already set. Is Powell really undecided?
There have been so many defining moments in this campaign, especially for Romney, who cannot escape that his brand now is that of a wealthy person at a time when the nation perceives the system – whatever that is – as biased towards the wealthy. And the recent Facebook insider allegations and the JPMorganChase bad-bet “mistake” hardly do anything to not jell the idea. Obama’s opponents and supporters are set. Those who hate him hate him all the more, and his supporters, respond in kind.
So most of the polls have Obama consistently ahead – even in the critical states. That says a lot. If the election is as undecided as the pollsters say, Obama should be polling badly in the critical states of Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. But he is not. And among HispanicLatinos – critical in four of those states – he is down only a few points from what he got in 2008, depending on which poll you read. But Romney is lower now than the support John McCain got from HispanicLatinos by almost 10 points.
So someone explain to me how Romney, who has been the subject of 24/7 reporting during his difficult primary campaign, changes his image? And someone explain to me how Obama’s Presidency which looks like Hall of Fame material compared to George W. Bush’s is going to sink so low in the minds of voters, especially in light of Osama Bin Laden’s capture? Oh, and, by the way, Obama has ended one Bush war and is ending another, and, oh, kept the country from sliding into an economic depression. These are the critical points around which people are making up their minds on a daily basis.
At what point does the voter conclude that Romney looks and sounds suspiciously like both Bushes? Now is not a bad answer, which is why the Obama campaign has gone whole hog in attacking Romney, to solidify what the polls reflect.
Much is made of the sideshows, like the controversy manufactured by the Catholic Church’s bishops and same-sex marriage. But neither has affected the polls significantly in the important, critical states. And no ad is going to change the threat to women that Romney-appointed justices to the Supreme Court represent. The 1950s do not look that good to anyone – women most of all.
Sure, anything can and usually does happen in a national presidential campaign, but haven’t the American people seen enough already? And as June begins, the presidential campaign in the minds of most Americans will diminish to some extent but not so the intense heat waves that will remind many more voters about climate change, not exactly a Romney asset.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.