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Can Mitt Romney win in November?

Mitt Romney, after a long, contentious primary campaign, is on the verge of claiming the GOP nomination.   He has a commanding lead in the delegate count and with some of the largest and most Romney friendly primaries yet to come, his grasp on the nomination seems secure.  Even Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, his nemeses for the past few months, while not withdrawing from the race, have, for all practical purposes, suspended their campaigns.  Both of them gave Romney a run for his money, but alas, they couldn’t overcome his money and organization.  Now, with the dust settling, and the Republican Party,

fractious, and still not that comfortable with their likely nominee, there is an open question, “can Romney defeat President Obama in the fall?”  The answer, in spite of Romney’s short comings, is a highly qualified yes.

At the moment though, the campaigns are by no means evenly matched.  President Obama has a massive lead in fundraising. He has been hiring staff and recruiting volunteers since early last year.  In Virginia, a state he won in 2008, and probably needs to win again in, he already has a field office network in place and it’s growing.  He is in much the same position in other swing states, to include North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana.  With no primary opponent Obama has had free reign to focus exclusively on the fall.  Romney on the other hand is still putting the finishing touches on his nomination.  His national network is scant and his fundraising, while he is sure to get more than enough when he asks for it, is lagging.

Many have noted that Romney, even now, with the GOP nomination in sight, doesn’t have the support of the party’s conservative base.  This is probably true.  He has never been a favorite of the party’s conservatives.  However, as much as the party’s right wing may not want to hear this, with the primary season almost over, he doesn’t necessarily need them to win in November.  The election, like it or not, isn’t going to be decided by the Republicans who voted in the primary or by the so-called conservative base. It’s going to be decided by independents.  And that label attaches to a majority of voters who will turn out on Election Day 2012.  Also, I would ask the conservatives who say they can’t vote for Romney, “who else are they going to vote for?”  Barack Obama?  If they answer that they’re planning to stay home, beware, there is a strong possibility that their absence from the polls, won’t make a lot of difference.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the outcome of the election rests with those independents, and it’s there that Romney, if he has any chance in November, has to make his mark.  But he also has to find the issue that will bring them over to his side.

Romney’s campaign manager took the full brunt of the conservative media when he said that the fall campaign will be a lot like an Etch O Sketch.  It’s theirs to define.  No statement could have been more accurate.  Free from having to pander to the right wing of the GOP, a group whose passions sometimes seem limited to abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research, he can turn his attention to his strengths.  In Romney’s case, this is the economy and the economy.  And oh, did I mention the economy? He has been in the corporate sector for years and knows how finance and business work.  That’s his advantage.

The unemployment rate, the weakness of the recovery, and the increase in fuel prices are weak points for the President.  And like it or not, history, isn’t necessarily on the President’s side.  No President since before World War II has won an election with an unemployment rate as high as the one we have now.  However, that hardly seals the doom of the President’s campaign.  Obama is personally popular and well liked.  But that said, while a majority of the voters think he is a “nice guy” his approval rating has been stuck at below 50% for almost a year.  Again, offering another one of those political rules of thumb, in a two person race, getting reelected with that kind of approval rating, is extremely difficult.  

However, Barack Obama, and Romney knows this, isn’t just another opponent.  This isn’t 1980 and Obama isn’t Jimmy Carter.  Nor can the President be compared to George Bush, Sr. who lost his reelection bid in bad economic times in 1992.  Obama, by contrast to these former Presidents, is quick on his feet, deft in a debate, and overall, is a brilliant campaigner.  Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, their man doesn’t score well in any of these skills. That means that Romney’s only hope is to convince the American people that he is better equipped and more competent at managing the economy than the President.  

You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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