Martin Sieff is Chief Global Analyst for The Globalist. He is former chief foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former managing editor, international affairs for United Press International. He is the author of Shifting Superpowers and the upcoming Cycles of Change: The Patterns of U.S. Politics from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama. He is a Fellow of the American University in Moscow
Gov. Mitt Romney is on course to beat Barack Obama and become President of the United States: That is the lesson to be drawn from the Washington Post-ABC poll released Monday on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. It shows Romney leading Obama nationwide by a hairsbreadth 47 percent to 46 percent among registered voters. Since Romney is hardly charismatic and Obama enjoys the advantage of incumbency, being so close to the incumbent, let alone ahead of him, at this point in the race is a major achievement in itself.
To say that Romney is on course to beat Obama of course does not mean that he will. There are three realistic ways this election can end – Obama can win by a whisker; Or Romney can win by a whisker; Or Romney can win by a blow-out, just as Obama did four years ago. The first of those predictions are Conventional Wisdom, the third is not.
But the fundamental issue driving this race is the economy and the failure of Obama and his mainstream Democratic liberal Keynesian polices to revive it. James Carville had the truth of it 20 years ago: It’s stillthe economy, stupid
The Carter-Reagan race in 1980 was expected to be a quite close one: The scale of Reagan’s victory took the pundits of the day by surprise. Polling data in fact showed that large numbers of independent voters only swung to Reagan in the very last days of the race. The economic condition of the country was miserable in those days – inflation and unemployment, rolled together in the term stagflation, were high.The economy, stupidrolled all those independent voters into Reagan’s camp at the last minute.
The opposite process happened back in 1948: Pollsters showed Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York certain to beat incumbent President Harry S. Truman. But the economy was booming. America had never been more prosperous, especially in the crucial swing Mid-West, and those states went big for Truman and buried Dewey.The economy, stupidproved decisive then too.
Today, the jobless crisis is at its worst across the Heartland and in the key swing states. Unemployment figures in most of those Battleground states are inching up and almost as a direct correlation to that process, approval ratings of the president are slipping in them. These two developments alone could assure Obama’s defeat in November. He failed to masterthe economy, stupid, and now he’s paying the price.
This is not to say Romney with his neo-Reaganite passion for slashing spending for the poor and taxes for the rich will have the solution either. But Romney doesn’t have to answer for his economic management of the past four years – Obama does.
Romney, therefore, now enjoys the same tremendous advantage against incumbent Obama that Obama himself enjoyed against GOP candidate John McCain in 2008 that Bill Clinton enjoyed against George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 and that Ronald Reagan enjoyed against Jimmy Carter in 1980. It wasthe economy, stupidthen, and it’sthe economy, stupidnow.
Any realistic assessment suggests that things are not going to get dramatically better for Obama before the November vote, and they could easily get a lot worse.
Obama certainly inherited a totally failed economic policy and strategy from George W. Bush, and by spending money like water and bailing out Wall Street he stabilized conditions in the short term. But he hasn’t had a clue how to create new jobs. His annual budget deficits of more than $1 trillion a year offer the real risk of hyper-inflation and ruin if he continues them in a second term. And for all his talk, he is as much of an outsourcer of jobs in reality as Bush was and Romney would be.
Romney heads into Tampa with some surprising strengths. He survived the Long Year of Debate with an endless succession of simplistic clowns to emerge far more unscathed, and with a far more united party behind him, than anyone thought possible. This was a real achievement.
Romney pulled this off not through any obvious political brilliance but through a combination of limitless money, limitless, plodding endurance and quite simply having had more experience on the road than any of his challengers. He had waded through the 2008 Republican primaries as the main challenger to the hapless and doomed McCain. His strengths are not those of a visionary or charismatic leader, but they have their own advantages. Romney’s opponents, including Obama and his top political strategists in the long campaign have repeatedly underestimated him: Bad mistake.
For a man who so often exhibits the foot-in-the-mouth haplessness of the born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-
Martin Sieff covered the last three presidential elections as a senior political correspondent for United Press International. He is the author most recently ofThat Still Should Be Us,a study of U.S. industrial and energy policies.