Since one of my dissertations is largely about the 2012 US presidential election, it seems like a good idea to get a prediction for the outcome in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m going for Obama to be re-elected. Picking an incumbent to be re-elected is hardly daring – the incumbent has only lost twice in the post-war period (1980 and 1992, for those interested), and in both cases the challenger was highly charismatic, something Romney can hardly be accused of. All the same, the polls are close, and the four point lead that realclearpolitics.com gives Obama is hardly insurmountable, so why am I sticking with him?
Put simply, Romney has lost control of the debate at precisely the point he needed to be grasping it by the horns. The ‘47%’ gaffe in particular has left him having to defend himself when he should be attacking – much like John Kerry in 2004 with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign. He’s unable to attack Obama on the economy, and particularly areas like welfare and government spending, without having to field questions about his view on Americans being victims and reliant on the state. In many ways he’s been caught telling his audience the exact opposite of the Republican message, which has always been one of aspiration. Vote for tax cuts for the wealthy, because one day, with hard work, you too could be on that income level. Romney has, in one fell swoop, told almost half of the electorate that it isn’t the case. Coming from a man with a sketchy image when it comes to his business dealings, it’s almost fatal.
There are, of course, other problems for Romney, summarised nicely here, but I suspect that when the election is other, if the Romney campaign is unsuccessful, then his inability to control his own message is going to be one of the key reasons given for his failure.