Romney's Daunting Challenges

The swing state polls are discouraging. The news is bleak. The press is filled with articles about what’s wrong with the Romney campaign.

And some of those doing the carping hail from the right. Others on the right are busy cheerleading and saying it’s all a ploy to demoralize us, and that the polls are rigged. And although there is little doubt that some of the negativity is an attempt to dishearten the right, and that some polls are rigged and others just poorly designed, some of the problems with the Romney campaign are very real.

But every campaign has its inevitable problems — its disagreements and dissension and errors and missed opportunities. Keep on blaming Mitt Romney and you’ll miss what’s going on. It’s not really about Romney at all; he’s just the present focus.

Let’s take a look back. During the 2008 campaign, it didn’t take long to see that Obama would do whatever it took to win, and that he was very good at finding out what that “whatever” might happen to be. In fact, one might say that the politics of destruction, subtle or direct, coupled with the simultaneous ability to present himself as a really nice guy, has been the greatest skill he’s demonstrated so far. He certainly isn’t good at governing.

Go back to Obama’s Chicago days and you’ll see it clearly (see this and this if you need a refresher course), and remember what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2008. Despite the fact that she was no political neophyte, Obama mowed her over and she hardly knew what hit her. Flailing around to find an effective way to counter-attack Obama, she came up empty.

Initially, when Obama first became president, it made sense to conclude that his chances for a second term would depend on how well he performed in his first. But in retrospect, it seems clear that Obama’s popularity and electability have never rested on his record of accomplishment, and it was an error to think that his becoming president would change that.

And after all, who among his previous supporters is going to turn on him and vote for Romney instead? Not the left, or most liberals. Not white voters who are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on his record because they feel so good about themselves when they vote for the black candidate. Still others who probably won’t leave Obama are those low-information voters who might theoretically be swayed but who don’t like to dig too deeply into things and are pleased with Obama so far because he’s “likeable” (whatever that might mean), and who are susceptible to sound bites and headlines in an MSM with a mission to help re-elect Obama by presenting everything Romney does as bad and ignoring or minimizing Obama’s errors.

When the 2012 GOP presidential contenders first announced themselves it was unsettling. Who among the declared candidates had a truly realistic chance of unseating an incumbent Obama? The uncharismatic, emotionally volatile, baggage-ridden, and long-in-the-tooth Newt Gingrich? Rick Santorum, who could easily be painted as a religious fanatic out to control our lives? Rick Perry, who seemed to implode before he began? Herman Cain, who had no political experience and who turned out to have an exploitable past? Michele Bachmann, prone to gaffes and not unlike Santorum in her weaknesses?

Mitt Romney seemed the best of the available lot. But it was always clear that his road to defeating Obama would be hard (especially in the Electoral College), as it almost certainly would have been for any Republican candidate — perhaps even for the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan everyone has been looking for, and who has somehow failed to materialize. This is because any candidate in 2012 would not only have to be super-humanly squeaky-clean and gaffe-free, he/she would have to know the best way to circumvent and override the MSM’s determination to be Obama’s cheering squad by finding gaffes where none existed in the GOP nominee and boosting Obama whatever he might do.

The events of the past week and a half have brought this all home with great force and clarity. Who would have thought that the Arab street could explode with anti-American riots and violence, an ambassador could be murdered on 9/11, Obama could say Egypt was neither enemy nor ally, the U.S. embassy in Cairo could condemn a film, the Benghazi consulate could be found to have had woefully inadequate security, our UN ambassador could deny a well-coordinated attack featuring rocket-propelled grenades was pre-planned, and it would be Romney who would draw the media’s scorn for criticizing the Cairo embassy’s statement? And that the polls would not fall significantly for the man who had presided over all of this?

Could there be any better demonstration of the power of MSM propaganda and the unwillingness of so many voters to abandon Obama no matter what? Although most liberals and the left were already disappointed in him for various reasons, it doesn’t seem to matter. Like the woman who’s madly in love with the guy who neglects her but still can bring her some flowers and sweet-talk her into anything, they’re standing by their man, and any Republican candidate would have an uphill climb to overcome it.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. Perhaps even Mitt Romney can do it. The polls are not encouraging at the moment, but one thing they are not able to predict is turnout, and in the end it’s turnout that will probably decide this election. How many disaffected Obama voters will choose to stay home? How many will forgive him and go to the polls to cast their ballots for him? And how many other people who supported Obama in 2008 will be fired up enough — either by the Romney-Ryan ticket itself, or by a determination to get Obama and his destructive policies out of office — to put Romney over the top?