EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 2, 2012

Column: In presidential race, economy still matters most

A few months ago, I became convinced that the presidential election would turn on just one issue: the economy and the nation’s sluggishness in growing its way out of the Great Recession of 2008. After all, history shows that, with the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt, no incumbent chief executive has been re-elected with the kind of steady, high unemployment rates we have sustained for nearly four years. The president’s overall approval rating is becoming dangerously low.

It was my opinion that the two candidates — Barack Obama for the Democrats and Mitt Romney for the Republicans — could do very little to change the outcome, aside from one or the other committing a lethal political mistake.

In other words, I thought the electorate pretty much had made up its mind, either that Obama had performed acceptably at getting us out of the mess or that he hadn’t and what we need is change, which the president promised but hasn’t delivered. All Romney had to do was to keep the focus on the economy and convince enough independents and crossovers that he had the best chance of improving it, even if he wasn’t someone with whom you’d like to have a beer or, in his case, a caffeine-free soft drink.

I began to change my mind in the wake of Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, architect of the controversial solution to control Medicare costs and a Catholic whose stance on women’s issues follows pretty much what many female voters consider the anti-feminism of the church’s bishops. I couldn’t see how Ryan could help the ticket, even though he was more charismatic than Romney.

I thought women’s issues might even supersede the economy as a turning point, thanks to Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, who’s the GOP candidate for Senate. Akin allowed as how a ban on abortion should extend even to rape victims, most of whom, he argued, were protected from pregnancy because the trauma caused their bodies to shut down. Afterward, though Akin has had a close working relationship with Ryan and shares his views on the reproductive rights of women (which is to say, they have none), Ryan and Romney immediately jumped to disassociate themselves from such monumental ignorance. While the nitwit apologized, he refused to quit his campaign.

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