Meanwhile, the Romney tortoise, head down on the campaign trail, keeps lumbering along toward the November finish. There is nothing fancy day in and day out -- only the steady plod of a good enough convention, workmanlike speeches that pass muster, a Midwestern vice president nominee who is informed and reliable, and the standard conservative correctives offered to liberal excesses.
We have now gone through Obama's various caricatures of a scary Mitt Romney - the financial buccaneer who outsources his wealth abroad, the misogynist who wages a war on women, the veritable racist whose proposed budget cuts and nativism are aimed mostly at the nonwhite, the ageist bent on dismantling Social Security, and the near killer who cares little when the innocent die in the wreckage of his Bain profit-making. At each juncture, President Obama gains some traction, picks up a few points, and then slowly slides back to even.
How does Romney's thick tortoise shell withstand these frenetic assaults as he keeps trudging back to even in the polls?
Barack Obama does not do well as Richard Nixon. Four years ago, he ran on a new civility, an end to name-calling and an abhorrence of partisan bickering. And an unknown Obama without a record was largely able to abide by his professed ethos in 2008. After all, it was easy to as donations poured in, the McCain campaign was as polite as it was timid, and the banalities of untried hope and change mesmerized millions.
But now, all the new negative advertising just cloaks Obama in hypocrisy. By the same token, Romney's challenge has always been that he is blandly and predictably straight-arrow. If that normalcy means he cannot give soaring hope and change speeches, it also ensures that casting him as a multifarious sinner is preposterous, and reflects more poorly on the accuser than the intended target.
Obama cannot run on his record of Obamacare, reset foreign policy, Keynesian deficit priming, and wind and solar power in preference to developing fully vast new finds of oil and gas. What ultimately doomed incumbents Jerry Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 was that they likewise did not wish to talk about the economy under their respective watches, but instead alleged that their opponents would be far worse to the point of being unfit. Such tactics usually don't work.