Victor Davis Hanson

The public is about evenly split between the two arguments. About half seem to want even more big government and public assistance; the other half want far less of Washington. Romney sounds more competent in matters of the economy, but also stiff. Obama can still soar with his hope-and change-rhetoric, but the now-canned content increasingly ends up all too predictable if not wearisome.

Everyone still insists the election will hinge on the economy and voter turnout, but at the same time there is no national consensus yet on whether Obama should be blamed for making bad things worse -- or on whether Romney could do any better.

Barring some atrocious gaffe, personal scandal or miserable debate performance, what else might break things open in the next 100 days?

Here are a few scenarios. In the next three months, an Iranian detonation of an atomic bomb, or a preemptive Israeli (or American) strike at Iran, could change the entire complexion of the election. If the threat is diffused, Obama reminds us that he really is the guy who got bin Laden. If things blow up, then he proves another bumbling Jimmy Carter who fiddled while the Middle East burned.

Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez or Kim Jong-un might time a new round of adventurism to predate the November election.

If a regional war breaks out over Syria, or Israel intervenes next door, or dangerous weapons fall into the hands of terrorists, Obama will be caricatured as a naif in matters of the Middle East. If Assad leaves quietly and reformists take over, then Obama appears steady.

A major al-Qaeda strike, heaven forbid, on the homeland would remind us of all the crazy talk about trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court, the silly politically correct euphemisms like "overseas contingency operations" and "man-caused disasters," and promises of shutting down Guantanamo within a year of Obama's inauguration. Continued quiet, however, will recall Obama's wise continuation of the Bush-era predator drone program, renditions, tribunals and preventative detentions.

An election that is supposed to turn on the economy may not. And in the next 100 days, an inward-looking, divided electorate may be forced to look abroad.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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