With all the polls reporting continued slippage in Mitt Romney’s campaign, especially in the battleground states like Ohio, the only real strategy, it seems clear, is to hammer Barack Obama on his failure to keep a promise to cut the national debt in half in his first four years.
Unless he can center his campaign on that theme, the Republican’s odds of beating the incumbent Democrat are getting longer by the day. Even a sterling performance in the upcoming debates probably isn’t enough to overcome the president’s leads in Ohio, Virginia and other battleground states. Romney is trailing by 10 points in Ohio, and no Republican has won the presidency without carrying the state.
In Ohio, the power of the incumbency has been particularly noticeable with the White House dumping a truckload of federal funds into projects designed to improve the job situation. Ohio received the first grant in a program to create 15 manufacturing centers, and Ohio companies received $125 million in clean-air tax credits, to mention just a couple of examples of federal election-year generosity.
So how does Romney succeed in convincing voters they’d be better off with him? May we suggest taking a deep breath and promoting the deficit issue, to the exclusion of much else, making every stump speech a referendum on the administration’s major failing?
It is merely a case of attacking Obama where he is most vulnerable — and that is his inability to deal with the fourth straight year of $1 trillion increases in the national debt. Add that to 44 months of 8.3 percent unemployment and it should be enough, at least historically, to send Obama back to Chica
But these aren’t normal times. That formula for a successful campaign, as we h
ave seen, keeps getting sidetracked by debilitating wounds, some self-inflicted, as in Romney’s “private” 47 percent remarks, and others caused by an organization that micromanages badly. Republican leaders in the far-flung reaches complain that everything seems to have to go through Boston before it can be executed.
Take a lesson from Bill Clinton, Mitt old boy, and continue to yell loud and strong about one issue: the financial infirmity of the nation. It might not work,
but at least it provides much more of a chance than arguing about foreign policy, education and a lot of other busin
ess Obama can talk about better merely by dint of on-the-job training. The thing voters care about most is their pocketbooks.
It’s sort of like the 1954 movie with Judy Holliday, “It Should Happen to You,” in which a no-talent nobody becomes a celebrity through an advertising barrage, on a prominent billboard and elsewhere, with the message: “Gladys Glover, Gladys Glover, Gladys Glover and don’t you forget it!”
Well, with apologies to Clinton and James Carville, it’s the economy and don’t you let them forget it. What have you got to lose?
You don’t even have to be concerned about spelling out in detail how you would make things better. Besides, being too specific in a campaign always gets a candidate in trouble. Do you remember Democratic challenger George McGovern’s proposed $1,000 giveaway in the 1972 campaign? Don’t let the economists and all the pundits crowd you into that trap just so they can try to pole-ax you between the eyes with one of those exotic formulas nobody can understand.
Actually, the geniuses from the Wharton School of Confusion and the MBAs from Harvard can’t agree on anything except the fact that they don’t think you or Obama has a solution to the doldrums.
But don’t let that concern you, Mitt. Obama’s the one on whose watch all this terrible stuff has been happening. Just keep telling yourself that if there is any political justice, he will get blamed for it. The chief executive at the time always has.
And for goodness sake, quit worrying abo
ut what percentage of tax you paid and the fact that you are one rich dude. Most guys running for this office have been. Jus
t think: If you lose, you get to go back to the good life.
Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at email@example.com.