Presidential elections do not get much attention from voters until the party conventions and the presidential debates. The conventions are over and the first debate is October 3rd, so if you are just tuning in to the campaign, things are going terrific for Democrats, something no one thought was possible for this election.
The 2012 election had all the earmarks of a Republican rout. Of the 33 Senate seats up for election, the Democrats had to defend 23. After picking up 6 seats in the 2010 midterm election, the Republicans only needed to win 4 more in 2012 to regain the Senate majority. In the House, the Republicans had crushed the Democrats in the 2010 mid terms; they won 63 seats and a 47 seat majority.
President Obama’s reelection looked shaky as well. The economic recovery from the Bush recession was slower than expected; the enthusiasm gap favored the Republicans, many of whom hate Obama with an irrational, white hot passion, giving Republicans a motivated base of voters, regardless of the nominee. And for the first time ever, the Supreme Court allowed unlimited, anonymous funding of political campaigns, and money has long been a Republican advantage. In January of 2012, the political landscape looked very bleak for the Democratic Party.
Shortly after the New Year dawned, the Republican presidential primaries began. I certainly hope the Republican Party enjoyed its moment in the sun, because it quickly became clear that President Obama had nothing to fear. A-list Republican candidates decided to sit out this election, leaving only an amusing collection of retreads, wannabes, egoists and Ron Paul. Wall Street, corporate America and billionaires not named Soros picked Mitt Romney as their candidate, and armed with their endless supply of campaign cash; Mitt crushed each Not-Romney as they took their turn as the front runner. However, Mitt could barely get 45% of the Republican vote in each of the contested primaries and that did not bode well for him in the general election. True conservatives supported Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and Santorum, each of them leading Romney at one point in the campaign. Even a national punch line, Donald Trump, rode the Birther nonsense to frontrunner status for a blink of an eye. Republican voters wanted anybody but Romney, and they still ended up with Romney.
Mitt Romney the presidential candidate is exactly what Democrats believed, a stiff, insensitive, arrogant zillionaire, with zero political instincts. Money and negative ads alone crushed his opposition in the primaries and he believed that would do the trick in the general election, as well. But you do not defeat an incumbent president by simply outspending him; you need a plan, personality and policies, as well.
The wheels first began to come off during Romney’s disastrous trip to the London Olympics, Israel and Poland. That sowed the seeds of doubt as to his foreign policy competency, exacerbated when he threw gasoline on the Libyan fire, solely for political gain. The 2012 Republican convention was a disaster for Mitt, the first one in memory that gave the candidate no bounce, and whose most memorable moment was not the presidential candidate, but a grumpy old American icon yelling at an empty chair.
Mitt Romney has trouble relating to any problems not caused by great wealth. On the campaign trail, this became evident each time he opened his mouth to speak to the commoners. He casually dismissed 47% of American citizens as worthless moochers, not worthy of his attention. Since he clinched the nomination, the Romney campaign has been one long spiral to the bottom, and it is dragging the entire Republican ticket down with it.
Mitt Romney is going to lose in a landslide, President Obama currently leads in states with 332 electoral votes, and only a massive fail by the president in the debates will change that dynamic. Democrats are projected to retain their majority in the Senate, and may even pick up a seat or two. With this kind of political tailwind, the House majority may even be in play. Republicans now hold seats in 66 districts won by Obama in 2008 and Democrats need to win only 25 of those contests to give the gavel back to Speaker Pelosi. We may have to wait for the 2014 mid-term elections for a House majority, but the Republican Party has not retooled for the 21st Century and they are paying a political price.
What a difference a Romney makes, coupled with Paul Ryan and his toxic, Ayn Rand inspired budget, the presidential ticket is dragging the down ballot Republican candidates to the bottom with them. But while Democrats certainly should enjoy the current political landscape, we must also keep our foot on the accelerator. Overconfidence is our enemy and nothing is certain until the votes are counted on November 6th. The good thing is that all we need to do is what we are doing now, because it is working out very well so far.