At Commentary, Peter Wehner writes:
Obama is no longer the master of his fate. During the 2008 campaign, Obama could and did seize the initiative in the face of unexpected events. His agile response to the mid-September financial meltdown propelled him into a lead that he never surrendered. In 2012, by contrast, he will be at the mercy of events that he cannot control. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act. A military confrontation between Israel and Iran would put the administration in the no-win situation it has struggled to avoid, with incalculable consequences for our national security as well as our politics. If job creation returns to the strong pace of the late winter and remains there through the fall, he will be reelected with room to spare. But if the middling March employment report is a harbinger of things to come, the electorate’s evaluation of his performance will be harsh, and the road to reelection very steep indeed.
No politician wants to be in a position where he’s not the master of his fate. More than most presidents seeking re-election, though, that’s the situation Obama finds himself in. To win re-election, Obama needs most things to go right for him and most things to go wrong for Governor Romney. That scenario isn’t out of the question, but it’s not a terribly comforting thing to have to base your re-election on. Yet it’s all the president has right now. A record of nearly uninterrupted failure will do that to a campaign.
Which is why Obama, his immediate cronies, and his media enablers will go all negative all the time on Mitt Romney, as we saw last week. “It’s Romney’s to Lose,” William Tucker wrote at the American Spectator on Friday. “Call me crazy, but I think Mitt Romney has more than an even chance of winning this election against Barack Obama. If he plays things right — and I’m pretty sure he will — I think there’s a very good possibility a surge of voter sentiment will put him into office.”
Tucker compares 2012 to the 1993 New York mayoral election pitting Rudy Giuliani against David Dinkins. After losing to Dinkins in 1989, Ed Koch was famously quoted* as saying, “The people have chosen, and now they must suffer.” And they did. After recounting some of the horrors of the Dinkins era, Tucker writes:
In short, after four years New Yorkers were wondering if electing Dinkins had been such a great idea. And so in a city where only 10 percent of the electorate is registered Republican, the people of New York closed their eyes and pulled the lever for a former Republican prosecutor named Rudy Giuliani as mayor. The rest is history. To this day there are die-hard liberals in New York who are reluctant to admit they voted for Giuliani in 1993, but that’s why we have a secret ballot. Right up until the election Giuliani trailed in the polls and there was never any broad expectation that he might win. But he did.
And that, I suspect, it pretty much the way things could happen in this election. I wouldn’t expect to see Romney piling up any lead in the polls. It’s almost better that way. If people start expecting Romney to win they may have second thoughts or start feeling guilty about abandoning Obama. Changing leaders is a very big deal for Americans, especially when it’s an incumbent who has only had one term in office. It’s not something people want to talk about too much. That’s the way things went when President Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980. Reagan never led in the polls. He was 25 points behind at this point in the campaign and still trailed going into the final week. Only after their first and only debate did the electorate start to swing toward him. The surge came only in the final three days and was never apparent to the public. Only Pad Cadell reading his daily polls saw it coming and grimly told Carter the situation had become hopeless. That’s the way it could go this time as well. If people go into the polls still trying to make up their minds, they’re very likely to say, “Oh, what the heck, let’s give someone else a try.”
So what should be the strategy for Romney’s campaign? It’s simple. Be positive. Obama is going to run a nasty, nasty campaign. What else can he do? He can’t run on his record. People know he’s been a failure and he probably knows it, too. So what else is there but to run an ugly, ugly campaign trying to brand Romney as “weird,” “rich,” “selfish,” “uncaring,” “a Social Darwinist” and whatever else come to mind. It’s going to be downhill all the way.
All Romney has to do is ignore it. Don’t get into spitting fights and mud-slinging contests with the President. Be above it all. Let Obama stew in his own anger. Romney should be the happy warrior, delighted to be out mixing among the people, learning about their problems, becoming more and more comfortable with the backslapping and glad-handing. He’s already improved quite a bit and the press is starting to notice. There will be a drama in watching him become more relaxed on the stump and that will build momentum. People will become absorbed in it.
Especially as the Obama administration seems to have gotten a bad case of the yips that all administrations seem to get — at the end of their second terms, when the A team has long departed, and those who are left are emotionally exhausted and can’t wait for it to be over. Of course, for some hapless administrations, that moment arrives sooner rather than later. As John Podhoretz wrote in September of 2010, “Something weird happens when presidencies go wrong — presidents become incompetent at doing the things they were always able to do in their sleep, and their aides follow suit:”
I noted this when I wrote my first book, Hell of a Ride, about the decline and fall of the first President Bush, back in 1993. When Bush spoke, it rained, and his advancemen weren’t quick-thinking enough to move his events indoors. When he went to Japan on a state visit, he vomited. He was so intent on getting out his message of the day that he referred to it as “Message: I Care.”
Obama is heading in that direction right now. It’s hard to imagine what could have possessed him to take to the microphones this morning to claim that the unemployment numbers released this morning were “positive news” and that the “economy is moving in a positive direction” when the unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point.
Flash-forward a year and a half. As Don Surber writes today, along side a photo of Hillary Clinton partying in Colombia like a drunken wannabe teenage frat girl, Katie Couric or Madonna (but I repeat myself) or heck, her husband, “Obama’s actions show it is over:”
The undignified display of raucous partying by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Colombia shows that this administration cares nothing for the American people or the United States of America. Her spend-it-all attitude toward America’s goodwill, Treasury and reputation in the world shows more than any poll will just how slim the president’s real chances are for a second term. Secret Service agents partying with hookers reflects directly on this administration. Hard to imagine wither President Bush tolerating such nonsense. The fish rots from the head down, and this fish head is Barack Obama.
And speaking of Bush-style gaffes:
THIS MUST BE MORE OF THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” STUFF WE WERE PROMISED: Barack Obama makes Falklands gaffe by calling Malvinas the Maldives. “President Obama erred during a speech at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, when attempting to call the disputed archipelago by its Spanish name. Instead of saying Malvinas, however, Mr Obama referred to the islands as the Maldives, a group of 26 atolls off that lie off the South coast of India.”
It would have been an error to call them the Malvinas anyway, since the Argentines might have interpreted that as support, but this is just sad.
UPDATE: Reader DRJ emails:
It is sad. I think this also tells us Obama supports the Argentines, or at least doesn’t support the British. Otherwise he would have called it the Falkland Islands — as the British call it — or the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) — as the UN calls it: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/gacol3225.doc.htm.
It also tells us Obama doesn’t do his homework well enough to even get place names correct. The sad part to me is this happened on a trip when he knew or should have known this would come up, and he probably planned on talking about it.
Still though, Romney needs to ignore all of this advice and campaign as if he’s 20 points back — not as if, as Don suggests in a follow-up post, he’ll capture a “40-state sweep.”
Never campaign assuming your opponent is the second coming of Jimmy Carter — even if, as the Professor likes to say, “a Carter rerun is now the best-case scenario.”
* I’ve seen this quote worded a hundred different ways; but it’s referenced in this 1994 Times article on Koch.