The election is far from over, and there's still lots of work to do to ensure that Mitt Romney is the next President.
But if the trend in the polls continues and President Obama goes on to lose, there may be a number of questions about the choices that ultimately spelled disaster for his reelection. Even now, there are a few decisions the campaign and/or administration have made that are likely to have lasting consequences for the President's reputation, and which are -- frankly -- puzzling. To go in reverse order:
(1) The Benghazi Debacle
It's not surprising that the Obama administration -- contrary to what it knew to be the facts at the time -- deliberately misled the country about the nature of the terrorist attack on 9/11/12 (or sought to blame American free speech -- a movie -- for the attacks, rather than terrorism). The President's narrative about his supposed successes in a new kind of outreach to the Muslim world (mixing toughness on bin Laden with apologies and conciliatory talk to everyone else) would be destroyed if it became apparent that America's longstanding jihadist enemies had successfully executed premeditated terrorist attacks (the first outside a war zone since 9/11/01).
What is surprising is that once caught in a lie, the Obama administration would try to blame it on the intelligence community. One needn't be a sophisticated Washington insider to understand that the intelligence services aren't going to allow their reputations to be besmirched -- especially unjustly so. What we learned (in another context) during the Bush administration is that skilled inside fighters exist in these bureaucracies, and they have no hesitation in leaking damaging information. Now, the Obama administration may well be at the mercy of intelligence community insiders who have been incentivized to release the most damning information about administration decisionmaking at the most politically damaging times.
(2) A "Flighty" Response to the Debate
The campaign's response to the President's horrendous -- and Mitt Romney's fantastic -- performance in the debate is mind-boggling. Rather than just throwing itself on the mercy of the American public, admitting a bad night and good-naturedly congratulating Romney on winning "this round" -- while promising to come back strong the next time -- the campaign has been desperate (accusing Romney of lying) and completely out of touch (the President really thinks the problem was that he was "too polite"?!). Allies like Al Gore making ridiculous excuses -- altitude sickness, really? -- hasn't helped . . . but even worse have been the campaign's continued allusions to the debate. Romney really owes them one for keeping it front and center in America's consciousness. If he (or his campaign) tried to achieve the same objective, it would seem like gloating, so complete was his victory over the President.
Coming out with the ridiculous Big Bird ad only took a terrible situation and made it even worse. It highlighted the Obama campaign's obsession with the trivial, its snarkiness and its utter dearth of new ideas. It validated a key Romney debate critique. And that brings up the next big mistake:
(3) A Cartoonishly Evil Portrayal of Romney
Granted, it's not easy to run for reelection when, by almost any measure, the country is worse off (or no better) than when you ran the first time. But shouldn't someone in the Obama campaign have taken the time to think up a second-term agenda?
Instead, the President and his true believers have decided to indulge their nasty side, using hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads to paint Mitt Romney as a cross between Darth Vader and a clown. Not only did they undermine the President's much-vaunted "likability" in doing so, they also created a standard so low for Romney that they would have revealed themselves as slanderers (and Romney could have won the first debate) simply by showing a modicum of decency and knowledge. Luckily, Romney far exceeded that low threshold, and the President was the one who was ultimately discredited by his campaign's massive negativity.
(4) HHS Mandate
In allowing his HHS to impose the dreadful ObamaCare mandate trampling the conscience rights of people of faith, the administration thumbed its nose at people of faith in general -- and Catholics in particular. Unfortunately for Obama, there are plenty of Catholics in swing states like Wisconscin, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Florida and Virginia. We all know Obama wanted to pursue the "war on women" meme (from a left-wing universe where "concern" for women has only to do with support for abortion) but with his history of abortion extremism, it was inexplicable why the President would want to take on faith-based voters whose defection will damage his reelection chances.