After incessant speculation about who might be chosen for vice president,
the next most frequent media compulsion in the early stages of the
pre-Labor Day period of the November presidential campaign is to
second-guess the putative presidential nominee and his campaign team.
This custom applies to both parties, but this year the Democratic nominee
will be the incumbent president, so the first second-guessing, already begun,
is mostly about Mitt Romney.
For the most part, this public second-guessing is harmless, and it is always
possible that it might even contain some good ideas, but it is usually an
exercise in self-promotion or lobbying for some interest group or another.
After all, the winning nominee was only one of many competing candidates,
each of whom represented various party base constituencies. Now that the
nomination is settled, each constituency seeks some assurance that their
concerns will not be forgotten or ignored.
When members of Mr. Romney's team initially disagreed with the notion
that Obamacare was a tax (presumably because Romneycare, as a state
law, was not a federal issue, and thus was a "penalty"), a hue and cry arose
that the Romney campaign had blundered and failed to take advantage of
the obvious political opportunity the Supreme Court decision had given to
the opponents of President Obama. When Mr. Romney himself spoke up
about the issue, he reversed the comments of his team, and conceded that
Obamacare was indeed a tax (saying the Court decision, being the law of
the land, had made it so). Then a new hue and cry arose, saying Mr. Romney
was being a "flip-flopper" again. He had caved in, this criticism asserted, to
his party's grass roots which presumably wanted some "blood and guts" in
his reaction to the Supreme Court action.
In fact, Mr. Romney has said that his very first priority on January 20, 2013,
should he be elected, would be to repeal Obamacare. He has been unambiguous
and firm on this point throughout the nomination process.
No doubt, criticism of Mr. Romney and his campaign from fellow Republicans
will continue. Some of it might have merit, although usually the most effective
criticism is communicated privately. The criticism of Mr. Romney which will
come from Mr. Obama and his campaign is part of the normal and necessary
The presidential campaign of 2012 turns on whether the voters want to keep
Barack Obama in the White House for four more years or not. Mr. Romney
and his team evidently understand this, and are understandably acting and
speaking in a manner not to change this equation, believing that on the merits
the voters want a new president. They will be critical of the president and his
administration, and of his policies, but they will strive to keep public attention
on Mr. Obama.
After Labor Day, when the autumn campaign will begin in earnest, and after
Mr. Romney will have chosen a vice presidential running mate, he and his
campaign team will follow a strategy that will seek to conclude with the
election of a new president. Mr. Obama and his team will follow a strategy of
their own, designed to re-elect the president. There will be three presidential
debates. The media will properly examine and evaluate these strategies in
the heat of the battle, and during the critical time period when most undecided
voters will make their choices.
The day after the votes are counted, and the result is in, there will be plenty
of time for a second round of second-guessing.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.