It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have incontrovertible evidence that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Of course, forward-thinking readers of the Farmer Blog know that this was a foregone conclusion because they read it here, here, here, here, and, oh yeah, here.
Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich put up a heck of a fight and did more to dent, ding, derail and at times demoralize Romney and his supporters, and for that Obama voters can be eternally grateful. Romney’s comments about trees in Michigan or how many Cadillacs he has also hurt him and planted in people’s minds just how wealthy he is, but I suspect that those independents who will decide the race will forgive him if the economy stalls or he’s able to make the case that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term. The president is already running a spot that highlights Romney’s conservatism in anticipation of Mitt coming back to the center for the general campaign.
For his part, Romney will have difficulty running away from some of the harder right positions he took in the primaries, especially support of the contraception and abortion legislation that has alienated women from the GOP. Winning them back is possible, but it’s always more difficult to do that if women’s attitudes have already hardened. Look for Romney to try to be warmer and fuzzier, but that’s not playing to his strength. Right now he’s about as warm as the Titanic’s iceberg and as fuzzy as a Brillo Pad. And if he says any more rich-guy stuff he’ll be in real trouble.
As challenger, Romney is in a position where he’ll need to remind Americans that times are still bad and he’ll need to hope that they don’t improve or improve so slowly that he can label Obama as inept on the economy. Job growth slowed in March, but as the economy improves, and it is improving, Romney will need to accentuate the negative at a time when he’ll need to project a positive image. Tough to do.
Gas prices are another issue that he’ll use against Obama, but there are signs that prices are peaking at the pumps. Plus, the media is finally catching on to the fact that we are now a net exporter of fuel and are finding sources of energy in places unimaginable 10 years ago. This is also tricky for Romney because he’s essential saying that Obama should fiddle with the free market to lower prices, which is something that runs exactly opposite to the GOP’s free market ideology.
The President has his work cut out for him as well. The right-wing PACs have much more money than his left-wing supporters, and Romney was tremendously successful at using that money, and his, to beat back a zesty challenge from Gingrich and then Santorum, both of whom were running shoestring campaigns. Romney’s message will find some sympathetic ears in the battleground states, and although polls show Obama ahead nationally, that support will weaken somewhat under an onslaught of advertisements and right-wing media messages.
The latest polls show Obama’s job approval in positive territory and he’s presently in command of the Electoral College. I would certainly expect these numbers to change, but it’s always nice to be in the lead when the campaign starts.