As someone who mocked Romney mercilessly during the primaries and co-founded NotMittRomney.com, I can’t be accused of being a water carrier for Mitt. Moreover, I wouldn't walk back a single word I said about him, including the fact that he's the least electable GOP candidate since Goldwater. Yet and still, despite what you're hearing from the mainstream media, today Mitt Romney should be considered the favorite to win in November. There are no guarantees, of course, because it's tough to knock off a sitting President under the best of circumstances -- but if you were a betting man, there are a lot of reasons why Mitt would be the one to put your money on.
1) Weak Obama numbers: The early numbers we're seeing aren't good for Obama. At this stage of the race, a candidate who's almost universally known would like to be pushing, or ideally over, the 50% mark. The farther a candidate gets from that magic number, the more trouble he's in because it means the voters know his record and are looking for an excuse to vote for someone else. That's why, in races like this, undecided voters tend to break heavily towards the challenger.
According to RealClearPolitics’ poll tracking, Obama has lost every national poll of likely voters for the last month and more importantly, he hasn't cracked 45% support in any of those polls. Polling data at the state level is shoddy this early in the cycle, but Mitt Romney looks like he'll have an opportunity to compete with Obama not just in traditional must-win red states like Ohio and Florida, but in key states that normally go blue like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If Obama is going to win, he must turn around a lot of voters who are familiar with his record and don’t seem to want him back as President.
2) Negative campaigning: People often say that "Negative campaigning works" -- and it does. That's why candidates keep using it. However, when you throw mud, you inevitably get some of it on you in the process. In other words, the more negative a candidate goes, the less people like him. That's doubly so for Barack Obama whose appeal in 2008 was built around being a post-partisan, post racial, hopeful “Mr. Nice Guy.” Unfortunately for "Mr. Nice Guy," his agenda has been extremely unpopular and so he's been forced to trade in his unicorn for a hellhound. Obama's campaign so far has been relentlessly nasty, negative, and hyper-partisan. That cuts into his biggest strength, likability. The voters may think Obama is a bumbling incompetent who's completely in over his head, but they like him personally and want him to do well. The nastier and more negative he gets, the less people like him -- and that's a big deal because he certainly isn't going to win because he's the best qualified man for the job.
3) Obama's record of failure: Barack Obama has actually accomplished quite a bit during his first term. Unfortunately, his agenda has been extremely unpopular and ineffective. Obama's nearly trillion dollar stimulus was a complete failure and we've already run up more debt so far than Bush did in eight years. America lost its AAA credit rating, we no longer have a manned space program, and we lost more than 14 billion dollars bailing out Obama's cronies at GM. We've had the longest streak of over 8% unemployment since the Depression. Obamacare is unpopular, unworkable, and promises made about the program are already being proven to be untrue before it even goes into effect. Just about the only thing Obama did right during his entire first term was giving the SEALS permission to kill Osama Bin Laden, but he's overplayed his hand so much there that even that has produced some blowback for the campaign. With Obama's dismal record, it's impossible to make the case that he deserves another term based on his accomplishments.
4) Turn out the base plus populism: Obama pretty clearly seems to be pursuing a turn-out-the-base strategy while making a half-hearted attempt to appeal to the center with raw populism. The problem for Obama is that those have proven to be poor strategies for Democrats at the Presidential level. For example, Bob Shrum is famous for running Democratic presidential campaigns that rely heavily on populism. He's also famous for working on eight different presidential campaigns, all of which ultimately ended in defeat at the ballot box. Obama seems particularly ill suited to run this kind of campaign since he's extremely wealthy, regularly goes on ritzy vacations, and has taken more money from Wall Street than any presidential candidate in history. As to turning out the base, the Democrats have never had the numbers to win a turn-out-the-base election at the presidential level and given that all indications seem to show a lack of enthusiasm from black Americans, liberals, and young voters, this seems unlikely to be the first one.
5) Obama's awful campaign: Simply put, Obama is running a terrible campaign so far. Literally every Catholic bishop in the United States has come out in opposition to Obama’s decision to force Catholic hospitals to provide birth control and abortion-producing drugs. Who in his right mind would go out of his way to alienate 60 million Catholics in an election year? Additionally, although gay marriage is getting close to rough parity amongst adults, likely voters still seem to oppose it by somewhere between 15-20 points. So, Obama's decision to flip-flop on gay marriage may excite his base, but it's a political loser and it, along with his persecution of the Catholic Church, will cause social conservatives to flock to Romney's banner in 2012.
Getting beyond that, Obama's attacks on Romney so far have been completely ineffective, his side issues like "the war on women" aren't working, and he’s lost his "speechifying" mojo. There doesn't seem to be any centralized theme, effective defense of Obama's first term, or compelling promises for the future that Obama's offering. His whole campaign so far seems to be Mitt bad, Obama good. The messaging so far is at the caveman level of sophistication and it must be ramped way up if Obama is going to beat Mitt Romney.
6) Obama's flagging fund raising: In 2008, McCain foolishly took the high road and went with public financing of his campaign. That allowed Obama, who raised more than 750 million dollars, to outspend McCain roughly 3-to-1. This time around, many people thought Barack Obama would be able to run the first billion dollar campaign. Despite the fact that Obama has "attended more fundraisers than his four predecessors combined," he seems likely to fall way short of expectations and it's entirely possible that Romney, with the help of conservative super PACs like American Crossroads, may actually outspend Obama this time around.
7)Bad economy: Everyone knows the economy was in the dumps when Barack Obama took office, but it's still terrible three and a half years into his presidency. Moreover, it's not as if Obama didn't have an opportunity to make an impact. He's passed a nearly trillion dollar stimulus. He slammed through a massive government takeover of health care. He bailed out his cronies on Wall Street and dumped billions into "green job" disasters like Solyndra. In 2009, Obama could get away with passing the buck to Bush on the economy. That was harder to do in 2010 and in 2011, it was getting increasingly implausible. At this point, the economy belongs to Barack Obama and as the Wall Street Journal notes, it's running like a Chevy Volt.
On Thursday the government reported that growth in the first quarter was 1.9%, even weaker than the 2.2% initial estimate. Then Friday delivered the third slower jobs report in a row, which qualifies as a depressing trend. Employers created only 69,000 net new jobs in May, and April's total was revised down to 77,000 jobs. Stocks were crushed in the backwash.
...The jobless rate of 8.2% marks more than three years of unemployment at or above 8%, despite an economy that ostensibly emerged from recession in July 2009. Few industries outside of manufacturing (up 12,000 in May and up by a robust one-half million since January 2010), transportation and health care saw job growth.
...Even worse is the news that hours worked declined slightly, hourly earnings were up only 0.1%, and hourly earnings on a year to year basis are up a meager 1.7%. All of this means that income growth after inflation is stagnant.
On Friday the White House blamed the third slowdown of its four-year term on Republicans for blocking the President's policies, but what policies are they talking about? In his first two years in office, Democrats gave Mr. Obama everything he wanted, save for cap and trade and union card-check, which would have done even more harm to job creation. They passed stimulus, ObamaCare, multiple housing bailouts, Dodd-Frank and more.
If the economy were humming right now, everyone knows that Barack Obama would be taking all the credit for it. So, it's only fair that he deserves the blame for a bad economy, too.
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