When a presidential campaign comes down to talk about voter turnout, and the concentration on fewer than nine states in the Electoral College, you know it is a cliffhanger.
Barack Obama has all the advantages of incumbency, which history shows has its assets, but Mitt Romney is making his own victory a real possibility. A sluggish economy and a sense that little will improve under existing policies may lead America to choose a different path, just four years after making that very consideration.
Mitt Romney has had a good month of October. His debate performance on Oct. 3 against a lackluster President Obama will ultimately have the effect of a knockout win in history, should he triumph Nov. 6. Was it that he was so good in the exchange, or was Obama so bad? Obama has rebounded since and Hurricane Sandy seems to show his steady hand and experience, but Romney has stayed the course. He is a serious challenger and the national polls attest to that.
When one looks at the Romney of the primary season and the “moderate Mitt” of October, we see two different candidates. It is, as one of his close advisers said, an “etch a sketch” transformation. He veered to the center without much challenge from Obama in the first debate, and nearly parroted Obama’s positions in national security during the third debate on Oct. 22. The effect has been to place the strident Republican Party voice of recent years in the background, and present an image of a competent, successful, and strong family man able to take on the most important challenges of the leader of the free world. It may actually work.
It is somewhat ironic that the Romney of moderate Massachusetts governor days had to hide during primary season and be replaced by the Romney of Bain Capital days, and the Romney of flip- flopping fame over such core issues as abortion rights, healthcare, and gun laws only to see a semblance of the former Massachusetts governor resurface in the closing days of the campaign. There is now talk of his record in job creation in Massachusetts. There is also repeated mention of his positive relations with a Democratic controlled Assembly in Massachusetts. The only thing missing is saying that Romneycare would become his national healthcare program. Oh! That would be Obamacare!
When one takes a closer look at his policies, however, we see greater consistency with the Romney of the primary season. On cultural issues such as abortion rights, he has indicated his intent to appoint judges that would likely overturn Roe v. Wade. He remains adamantly opposed to gay marriage, and remained ambiguous about Obama’s policy about DADT and gays in the military. The tone and style has changed, but the essence of where he wishes to take America has not.
On deficit, debt and tax matters, he may refer to the Simpson-Bowles Commission and how Obama failed to endorse it, but his running mate Paul Ryan also voted against it. He endorsed the pledge against any new taxes as did his GOP opponents in the primaries. To be fair, he promises to change the tax code, which could produce more revenue, but fails to be specific about which tax deductions he would eliminate. The Bush tax cuts set to expire this year would remain in place. There is not much change from Bush era economic policies.
As he repeated in the last debate, he intends to increase military spending which should appease neo-conservative supporters and advisers such as noted neocon and former UN Ambassador John Bolton. When Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush left office, however, the very policies of tax cuts and higher defence spending had led to the greatest deficits in U.S. history. In fact, the majority portion of the current U.S. deficit can be attributed to the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unfinanced universal drug prescription program.
The strongest argument for a Romney presidency may well be the fact he may be in a better position to deal with a Republican Congress. With the so-called fiscal cliff on the horizon, this may represent a distinct advantage for Romney and independent voters.
Romney may well win this election, but there is no doubt his victory would represent an important change in direction for the nation in economics, cultural, and national security areas. He may even break the partisan gridlock in Congress. A victory by Romney, however, will clearly lead many to ask: which is the real Romney, and which one will America get after Nov. 6? That has been the consistent question that has dogged him since day one of his candidacy, and makes one wonder whether he has successfully closed the deal.