The 2012 Presidential election campaign is turning out, so far, to be the absolute antithesis of the excitement seen in 2008. More than that, it’s turning out to be the antithesis to anything remotely exciting. Both sides of the political isle are dug in deep enough so that the warring factions of World War 1 would have to nod in approval. Much like the large pointless assaults to gain square inches of territory then, political assaults lobbed from either side of the barbed wire have really done nothing more than to move the popular vote needle mere tenths of a percentage point in either direction – and even then only for days at a time. At least there are no for-real causalities.
Perhaps it was the enthusiasm in 2008 that leaves the here and now looking boring by comparisson. Perhaps it’s because in 2008 problems still looked like they could be solved with more than all sides looking over their shoulder, stating “well that’s tragic”, and then going back to lob partisan grenades. Whatever the reason or metaphor, so far the country is just not that into this campaign. Into this abyss of shouted yawns and murky rhetoric passed off as national conversation we welcome in to the foray the last of the final four politicians stepping into the national limelight.
On Saturday former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney chose his running mate – Tea Party darling and seven-term Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan will bring with him a rabid fan base (the aforementioned Tea Party crowd) and his own bucket full of rhetoric grenades – perhaps even enough to swing the needle in the Republicans’ direction for days, nay, maybe even a week or two.
Something has to cause some sort of real movement in the polls. With a lackadaisical economic recovery and a political machine that for whatever good it does every now and again seems to be about as effective at moving forward as a truck’s tire digging deeper into the mud, Americans have a justifiable reason to not turn toward the Presidential campaign so much to look for hope about the future. On the one hand – now joined by Mr. Ryan – there is the promise of a return to the economic policies of the 2000′s, which did a great job at perpetuating a meager-to-average recovery coupled with an ever-increasing crush of debt. On the other – President Obama is valiantly leading team You Don’t Want These Other Guys, Really. A far cry from the inspirational campaign of 2008, it is hard to get fired up for an administration that was handed decisive majorities in the House and Senate in 2008 and parlayed it into two years of compromised ‘victories’ followed by two subsequent years of Washington existence that more accurately resembles uselessness.
Of course, don’t even get any seriously thinking person started on Guantanamo Bay still existing, the lack of any sort of oversight on warrantless wiretapping, declaring all whistle blowers as criminals, the handling of the Wikileaks fiasco, the Drone Wars, the de-clawing of new financial regulations, and the list goes on. With “the other side” being seen as worse by a vast majority of accounts when it comes to economic, social, and military policy, the notion that this is all that is left, however true, is still massively depressing and deflating to enthusiasm.
Such cynical views about the state of the race are confirmed in the lack of any sort of real movement in the polls. Compare from 2008′s poll averages…
…to polling averages so far in 2012.
So just how much will Mr. Ryan shake things up? With the initial positive coverage that candidates get when they appear in the limelight (see: 2011-2012 Republican primary season), expect a movement in the polls of a point or two. There will be a multiplier effect to come at month’s end with the Republican National Convention, so it is fairly likely that this race could narrow to a near tie nationally. In such a case it is likely that, in the polls, the states of Florida, Colorado, and Virginia will flip from leaning Mr. Obama to leaning Mr. Romney which, going along with the rest of the numbers from Nate Silver’s projections would move the electoral needle from the current 332D – 206R to 281D – 257R.
In other words, if the Republicans would like so much as a prayer at reversing the polls, taking the lead, and remaining there they need these three things:
- No more Romney gaffes (car elevators, dogs on the roof, escrow accounts in tax haven countries)
- Contain the dissemination of information about Mr. Ryan’s positions on Social Security and Medicare
- A really, really good convention
Mr. Romney releasing his tax returns from the 2000′s would probably help as well, though the continuing witch hunt for them and abounding conspiracy theories about what Mr. Romney could be hiding are on the tipping point of being as much of a turn off to liberal voters as it might be a point of swaying of the mythical ‘middle’ part of the electorate. While we’re engaging in pipe dreams, a massive shift to the middle coupled with a repudiation of the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and irrational stances of the Tea Party true believers would probably be handy, too.
Also Mr. Obama & team would have to not do or say a single positive thing at the same time. Then the Republicans could expect to gain and maintain a lead. In the meantime, welcome to our national trench warfare discourse, Mr. Ryan.
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