If anything is clear about the presidential election so far, it’s that nothing is very clear at all. We have reached the first phase of the campaign where the key is for both candidates to define themselves and each other in diametrically opposite terms. Where does the race stand so far?
Both men are winning North Carolina, according to the latest polls. This might have something to do with both of their policy pronouncements concerning marriage equality, which seems to be hurting Obama in some polls, but the long-term trend in the country points decisively towards more people accepting marriage equality. In the end, if most North Carolinians voted to ban marriage equality and Obama just came out in support of it, that leads me to believe that the state might be out of his reach.
Electoral College projections have been fairly consistent so far, with Obama leading 243-170 in RCP (Wisconsin was just moved from Obama back to toss-up), by 303-235 at electionprojection.com and by 284-170 at HuffPost/Pollster. Most of those state polls were taken last month, so let’s see what May’s data shows. Mitt has seen a bump since the primaries ended and that will probably raise his state profiles a bit.
And what about the issues of the day? That depends on the issue. Obviously the economy is the country’s number one concern and my view is that May’s jobs numbers, to be released in June, might be his last opportunity to claim that the employment picture is improving sufficiently to show that the economy is moving in a positive direction. Most people will not pay attention in July and August, although if gas prices drop enough, people might feel better about their prospects for the fall.
Word now is that the GOP is going to press the debt battle over the summer and force the president’s hand on raising the debt ceiling, which really doesn’t need to be done until December. John Boehner believes that this is a winner for his party, but I’m not so sure. Much of this election will also be fought over Medicare and if Obama frames the issue correctly, he can run against any severe cuts the Ryan budget proposes. He can also say that Romney favors the wealthy and the military over health care. If the Supreme Court invalidates the health care law, then Romney will have a freer hand to say he’ll keep the most popular parts of the law (both of them) and make responsible additions once he’s elected.
If the Republicans really want to lose this election though, then running anti-Obama ads focusing on Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as reported in Thursday’s New York Times, is just the way to do it. As a strategy, this might appeal to the far right wing of the party, but these ads will spark a tremendous backlash against Romney. Americans like Barack Obama, but are not terribly pleased with his policies. Going after him personally is exactly the wrong way to defeat him. Plus, I’m sure there will also be ads aimed at his support for marriage equality. Has the Republican Party gone so far right that they think it would benefit them to run a racist, anti-gay campaign? It’s possible, but I’m thinking that cooler heads will prevail and will be able to walk them back from the precipice. Mitt’s already come out against the ads. Let’s hope that’s enough to convince the PAC not to run them.