Because of the Old Media's thoughtless bias against the Republicans, the absence
of a nominating contest on the Democratic side, the manipulative obsessions of
many conservative commentators and groups, and the presence of too many
polling organizations (many of them invisibly biased or distorted), there is a
noticeable absence of ACCURACY in the discussion of the 2012 presidential
campaign so far. There is the usual number of partisan charges and
countercharges, but the institutions and figures who might give perspective,
apply facts, and explain assumptions and presumptions, seem to be reduced
or ignored in the political atmosphere which exists on all sides.
I think this partially explains the volatile behavior of the American voter this
year. In the end, of course, the liberal voters will cast their ballot for
President Obama, and conservative voters will vote for the Republican
nominee, but I don't think any of us has any true idea yet of who the centrist,
independent and alienated partisan voters will choose. There always are third
party candidates in any presidential election, but it is also not clear if there
will be any (on the left, right or in the center) who will make much of a
difference in the final outcome.
There is, as well, an enoromous amount, as a consequence, of "unwisdom"
circulating in the American political public square. This conventional
unwisdom has set the stage for incessant "polling bubbles" and
melodramatic political surprises in the campaign year so far, and there is
no reason to believe they will stop until the Republican nomination is
finally secured. Among the items which form the "unwisdom" are
prognostications of late entry presidential candidates, a brokered
convention in Tampa, serious third party uprisings on both the left and
right, the inability of a particular candidate to win in November, and the
complaint that the GOP contest has gone on too long.
For example, it was "gospel" that Mitt Romney could not do well in the
South, and he did not fare well in South Carolina and the border state of
Tennessee. Yet latest polls show him holding his own or even leading in
Alabama and Mississippi, the very heart of the South. The current
unwisdom is that (if you manipulate the numbers) Mr. Romney is likely
not to clinch his party's nomination before the convention in late August.
Well, yes, this is possible in very unlikely circumstances (and the unlikely
is always possible in a presidential year), but most arguments for this do
not reflect an ACCURATE assessment of the political calendar and
geography. Even these distorted scenarios all seem to concede that Mr.
Romney, in the worst of circumstances, would be very close to the
required majority of votes he needs to be nominated. The unwisdom is
then advanced that some grand "conspiracy" will coalesce to deny Mr.
Romney the nomination at the last moment.
Mr. Romney could make a big mistake in the next few weeks that might
cost him some important support, but so far, most of these kind of
mistakes have been made by his opponents. I agree that a small window
exists in the remainder of March to slow his momentum. If he does well
in the remaining southern states, however, the main strategic political
argument against him will fizzle.
Perhaps it is unwise for Mr. Romney to call for his opponents to throw
in the towel just now, as it is unwise for either Mr. Santorum or Mr.
Gingrich to ask the other to withdraw. (By the time either of them would
realistically withdraw, the contest would probably be over, nor is it
reasonable to say that they could tell many of their voters who to vote for.)
Finally, I think the greatest unwisdom this year is the suggestion that the
November election will not primarily be a plebiscite on President Obama.
Some Democratic optimists and Republican pessimists seem to subscribe
to this notion. But American history does not work that way. Only if the
challenging party puts up a candidate who cannot win broad-based
support, holding views too controversial, can an incumbent president and
his party achieve such a deflection. On the other hand, should the U.S.
economy improve dramatically, with a significant drop in real
unemployment, and the stock market soars, accompanied by surging
retail spending and no acute inflation, then the Democrats and their
incumbent have nothing to worry about. No Republican could defeat
President Obama in those circumstances.
In spite of some current wild speculation, the Republican nomination
contest is going to proceed and be settled. The domestic and economic
well-being of the nation, and the (highly) volatile international
environment will take its course.
No one wins the presidency in the spring. Presidents are elected in
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.