(Providence, Rhode Island) – Much has been made about Mitt Romney’s “47%” remarks from a secretly-recorded video that was released this week (see photo). So what’s the fallout? Here are some observations:
“Obama’s Advantage” – In the past week, President Obama has done something significant: He has hit 50 percent in some presidential preference polls. All year his numbers have peaked at around 47 or 48 percent, indicating he might have hit the “ceiling” of his support. Hitting 50 percent means that the momentum - and the undecideds - are trending Obama's way.
“Romney’s Advantage” – Two polls out this week – Rasmussen and Gallup - show the race still tied. Both of these are multi-day tracking polls, rather than one-day snapshots. Historically, both pollsters are very accurate. So, the fact that Romney is still in the game - after arguably his worst week of the campaign - is significant. Simply put, the race is not over!
“Obama’s Disadvantage” – All year the Obama campaign has been warning voters about overconfidence. The campaign's daily emails are testimony to that. Campaign leaders are worried about Obama's supporters assuming that his reelection is inevitable, especially after this week’s developments. One friend sent me a text after Romney’s “47% speech” and simply said that its revelation was “game, set and match” for Obama. The White House is very worried about such assumptions because they can drive down voter turnout. They are especially worried about the youth vote not being as vigorous as it was four years ago. Anecdotally, I have not seen nearly the buzz for Obama on Facebook and other social networks in 2012 that I did in 2008 – again, especially among young voters.
“Romney’s Disadvantage” – Mitt Romney is not Ronald Reagan. For weeks I have been talking about how Ronald Reagan – running against a similarly weak economy – came from behind in the polls in 1980 to beat President Carter in a landslide. My point was that Romney could do the same (and he still can). But Romney’s problems include his lack of aggression and his modest public speaking skills. Reagan won in 1980 by taking the gloves off and punching Jimmy Carter hard, at the same time conveying that eternal Reagan optimism. This is how Reagan won so many union workers in the industrial states - the so-called “Reagan Democrats.” Romney has not been aggressive (playing defense, instead of offense), and his oratory skills hold no comparison to Reagan's. Romney has to kick it up a notch and come out swinging, or he’s done.
“Trouble Overseas” – Continued troubles overseas pose an advantage to Romney and a peril to the White House. In a crisis, any President needs to appear to have the situation under control (think Jimmy Carter in 1980). The Obama Administration's about-face concerning the nature of the attack on the American Consulate in Libya is a case in point. At first, the cause was described as random violence prompted by an anti-Muslim film in the U.S. Now a calculated and planned terrorist attack is being blamed. Those are two very different scenarios. Sure, the about-face could be attributed to new facts and developments that have come to light since the attacks; but the downside of that explanation is that it raises questions about the quality of intelligence and how much the White House is really clued-in on the Middle East.
“Senate Impact” – While we have focused almost exclusively on the Presidential campaign, the other big national political story is the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. A month ago, it looked like a toss-up, with Republicans having a 50-50 chance at taking control of the Senate. The Real Clear Politics composite polls gave each party 46 seats, with eight up for grabs. Now, due to a number of factors - including the President’s slight surge in the polls – the Senate is looking 48 Democrat, 44 Republican, with eight seats that are still too close to call (but three definitely trending Democrat). Even if President Obama wins reelection by only 50 to 48 percent, his modest coattails in some races (Wisconsin and Ohio, for example) could keep the Senate in Democratic hands. The GOP meltdown in the Akin-McCaskill race in Missouri could prove to be the fatal blow.
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