Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mitt Romney Can Absolutely Win...

Prior to last week's first Presidential Debate between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, it seemed that this race was drawing to a close. President Obama had enjoyed success in portraying Romney as an out of touch money-man who would drag the country back to the same failed policies that in large part, were responsible for where we find ourselves today. Despite a mediocre, weak economic recovery and unemployment numbers still above 8%, Mr. Obama had a fairly substantial lead that for many of his supporters, seemed almost too good to be true. Turns out it was exactly too good to be true.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, had experienced a few rough months. A clumsy looking visit to England during the Olympics caused many to wonder aloud about Romney's ability to represent America across the pond. While a small thing overall, there was bad press. Then came a pleasant Republican Convention, which failed to produce the vaunted "bump" in the polls the Party so badly wanted. All of which was nothing compared to the firestorm that erupted after the release of the infamous secret video of Romney commenting on the "47%." That took Romney off message for the better part of two weeks, during which time President Obama built his most commanding lead yet. Worse yet, Romney seemed to be losing ground in many of the battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, which are key to any chance he has to win the White House in November. Everything was looking bad. But things were about to get better.

The first Presidential debate was widely predicted to see Romney, with nothing to lose, swinging for the fences, while Obama would likely play defense at least some of the night. There was belief that Romney was vulnerable on the details of his tax plan and that Obama would almost certainly explore that, while also forcing the challenger to explain his 47% comment and perhaps also explain his role at Bain Capital. Both men had a "hit list" of things to go after, which should have made for riveting television.

By now, we all know how the debate went for both men. For President Obama, it was a head-scratcher, to say the least. He never showed any willingness to attack the 47% comments, Bain Capital was never even mentioned. Nor did he seem very interested in attacking Romney's sudden but predictable, move to the center. For candidate Romney, it was the performance of a lifetime. While seemingly re-inventing himself in front of the American people, Romney looked prepared, composed and one step ahead of the President most of the evening. Polls in the days after the debate have rewarded the challenger handsomely for his performance. For many Americans that night, Mitt Romney may have closed the sale.

Any talk of the race being over have been dismissed. Polls are tightening across the country and most importantly in the battleground states, where this election will be decided. Its still probably better to be in Obama's shoes than Romney's, but the notion that Romney was fading away has been proven to be wrong. Romney's execution in the debate is paying huge dividends to his campaign. We hear talk of a different strategy from the Obama campaign for the next meet-ups, but I'm not sure anything can unwind the effect of the first one. A repeat of the fiasco last week would do major harm to his re-election chances.

The unemployment numbers falling below 8.0% last Friday were a good thing for the President. Plus, he seemed to rebound very quickly and seemed his old self in campaign appearances last Friday and through the weekend. President Obama must do better in the next two debates. I think if he succeeds and nothing unknown crashes down upon him, he will likely win re-election by a close margin. If the headlines after the next debate and/or the final one favor Romney, then it seems we'll be in for a too close to call election night.

Too many on the left were declaring success a few weeks ago and belittling Mr. Romney's ability to take down the President. What they in many cases under-estimated was Romney's salesmanship. As Romney recreates himself, even if in image or perception only, it seems to be working. Certainly working better than any prior approach. Its almost as if the far right of the party finally said, "it's ok, Mitt...go move to the center and win us the election."

Which is exactly what Mr. Romney just might do.

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