It is obvious to everyone, either Democrat or Republican or independent;
liberal, conservative or centrist, that there have just occurred several very
bad days for the re-election of President Barack Obama.
I need not list the amazing and seemingly unrelenting number of campaign
mistakes, poor economic numbers, effective jabs by GOP nominee-to-be
Mitt Romney and errors of judgment by the Democratic candidate and his
team, that have contributed to this bad streak.
While it is true that I have predicted outright that Mr. Romney will be
elected president in November, and the Republicans will control both
houses of Congress after the election, five months remain before that
election day in November. So I caution Republicans who may welcome my
predictions, and Democrats who understandably reject them, to be careful
about reading too much into one bad week, or even one bad month, for one
candidate or the other with so much time to go.
One political truth I have learned over many decades of writing about
politics, and particularly presidential politics, is that rarely if ever do the
political fortunes of one candidate or one party go up or down in a
I think the most significant moment for Mr. Romney this past week was his
response to a question about the heckling that had earlier been directed at Mr.
Axelrod, the president's campaign manager, who had been making a speech
far away in Massachusetts. Mr. Romney said, "What is sauce for the goose
must be sauce for the gander." He himself, he went on, had been frequently
heckled by Obama supporters, and he and his campaign were simply not
going to take it lying down. This tough and combative stance was in contrast
to the previous Republican nominee John McCain who in 2008 had seemed
to back off responding to the challenges from the 2008 Obama campaign.
While no one doubted war hero's John McCain's personal courage, his lack
of a strong campaign against Mr. Obama clearly disheartened many
conservatives. Mr. Romney has now signaled he will not be intimidated by
the Obama strategy of 2008, and now being repeated in 2012. For those in
his own party, and among independents, who have had some doubts about
Mr Romney, I think this was a turning-point moment for them, making his
conservatism and his presidential standing much more real and believable.
I think the most significant low moment for the president occurred at the
unveiling of the official portraits of George W. and Laura Bush at a ceremony
at the White House. It was an occasion that called for graciousness, humor
and generosity, as Mr. Bush had shown during a similar occasion when he
was president and Bill and Hillary Clinton came to the White House to unveil
their portraits several years before. For whatever reason, Mr Obama this
time could not help but be ungracious to Mr. Bush in his brief remarks, and it
was obvious for all to see. (I might add that Mrs. Obama, in contrast, was a
model of good humor and generosity.)
Unquestionably, there were bigger events this past week, including economic
statistics, that were not helpful to Mr. Obama. But, in my opinion, it was the
two seemingly "smaller" matters mentioned above that revealed character
to the voters, and may in the long run have more impact.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.