President Obamaís upcoming reelection campaign got a much-needed shot in the arm in May when he went on the record stating he officially supports same-sex marriage. It was a historic moment. No doubt, allying with a revolutionary social platform is a savvy way to curry excitement among preexisting supporters. But a fact remains: this isnít the issue that will affect him in November.
As Mitt Romney effectively secured the Republican Presidential nomination with his May Texas primary win, national polls show both candidates remain in a statistical dead heat. In many cases the margins are so slim the difference lies within most pollsí margin of error (a May 30 Gallup poll literally had them tied at 46% to 46%). But thatís not the issue here. A May ABC News poll revealed Obama holding a small (two percent) lead over Romney among registered voters, with Romney bearing a small (one percent) lead as the candidate most Americans think would do better at reviving the economy.
Itís beyond obvious that the economy will be the predominant theme in November, and both candidates know it. Poll after poll has shown the economy remains a top concern for most Americas, and almost as many polls during the last two years show many still feel Obama hasnít done enough to fix it. The Presidentís current economic hurdles stand at crisis proportions, and itís clear Romney is intent on hitting Obamaís sore spots.
The good news for Obama is that recent polls measuring economic confidence now reveal a tilt in his favor, albeit a small one. A May Gallup Economic Confidence Index poll shows nearly 20% of Americans now consider our economic conditions ďgood,Ē the highest number this poll has registered since 2008. The same poll also shows American confidence in the economy has been improving this year. And a May Washington Post/ABC News survey finds 2% more Americans think Obama would do a better job than Romney in working for the economic interests of voters and their families. Our job market is improving ó Dept. of Labor statistics prove it ó and Americans are slowly catching onto this fact as well.
But in terms of re-election votes, these numbers arenít enough, and any change in national perceptions are happening at a pace thatís too slow. George H.W. Bush, who ran a similarly tight re-election campaign in í92, lost for this very reason. Due to partisan repetition alone, Obama is still married to the moniker of an anti-business president. He needs to get over this hump. He needs to show Americans what heís done to fix the economy thus far, and he needs to outline a solid proposal for job creation in the future. And finally, he needs to attack Romneyís economic record as governor of Massachusetts and head of Bain Capital ó far more than he has already.
Romney will remain in good shape if he plays the fallback businessman card, focuses on the economy and stays away from credibility-crushing wing-nuts like The Birthers. In May, the New York Times obtained a political strategy memo from a GOP PAC run by billionaire Joe Rickett, which revealed a strategy to revisit the Jeremiah Wright nonsense that McCain briefly used during the 2008 election. This kind of tactic would be a disaster for Romneyís campaign. Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim socialist are already on the fringe; they arenít going to be swayed to join his side no matter what. Romney should stow these votes quietly and stay the course.
Romney is making already making critical missteps. For one, heís stooping to the common election-season practice of making false statements. In a May press release, his campaign attacked Obama over a ďnetĒ loss of U.S. jobs, a factually inaccurate statement given employment numbers in the months during and before Obama took office. Also, appearing at a May fundraiser with Donald Trump was a blow to Romneyís credibility. No oneís going to make a decision on anything because Trump says so. In fact, a January Pew Research Center poll showed that a Trump endorsement would actually make 26% of respondents less likely to vote for that person. Heís election poison.
The other problem with Romney is he doesnít curry the groundswell of enthusiasm that Obama can seemingly achieve with the flick of a wrist. Letís face it: Romney got the gig amid notoriously tepid support. The only reason many Republicans will even cast a vote for Romney is simply because heís not Obama. Itís never a good sign when youíre identified solely as the default candidate. To date, conservatives still donít like him. Evangelicals donít like him. The Tea Party doesnít like him. During the primaries, huge swaths of what is now his core constituency voted for other candidates. So, Romney is going to need a VP that rallies his supporters better than he has thus far. This means someone popular and someone with a stanch conservative record. Ideally, it should be someone who doesnít just ally with northeastern conservatives ó a demographic Romney already has ó but someone who can rally enthusiasm with conservative voters on a whole, a demographic that strangely, this Republican candidate has not yet attracted.