Monday, 10 September 2012 10:02

Obama, Biden vs. Romney, Ryan: A divided nation debates presidential leadership

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romney-obama-smallThe show that is called the national party conventions is now over.  And a show is just what it was.  The Democrats and the Republicans each have their candidates for President and Vice-President.  The conventions are not designed to convince the convention goers whom to vote for.  They already know how they are going to vote.  As a decision making process the conventions are a thing of the past.  The outcome is already determined.  Rather it is a huge campaign commercial designed to sway voters to their side.  In reality the conventions don’t succeed at doing that either, but they are still a show nonetheless.

You would think that the President himself is capable of making his own argument as to why he should be re-elected.  That is why I thought it was quite interesting that President Obama brought Bill Clinton in to make the case for his re-election.   To say that Clinton upstaged Obama is an understatement.  But the appearance of Bill Clinton makes it very clear that the Obama campaign believes it is in trouble.  It also makes clear that the campaign does not believe that the President himself can win the campaign.  The strategy is obvious that he will rely on surrogates like Bill Clinton to save his presidency.  The campaign is in deep trouble, and it will pull out all of the stops to win.

Both campaigns now shift into overdrive with less than two months to go before Election Day and the candidates are in a dead heat.

In typical elections such a tie would not bode well for the incumbent and as such should not be a good sign for Barack Obama.  Undecided voters usually break in favor of the challenger.  But I believe this election is different because we have never had a race for President when the country was so divided.  According to numerous nationwide surveys about half of decided voters are content with the status quo and President Obama.  For this reason President Obama is anything but an underdog.  This is not to say that he will win the election.  Rather it is to say that despite the poor state of the economy, high unemployment, the fewest number of people in the workforce since the early 80’s, and his unpopular policies, like Obama Care, the President can still win re-election anyway.

Mitt Romney, however, has a tough task ahead of him too.  In the decided states, those states that are expected to vote Democrat or Republican no matter what, Obama has a healthy lead in the electoral college vote.  This means that in the toss-up states, states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and a handful of others, Romney must come close to a sweep to win the election.  To win,  the Romney campaign will also target a handful of other states that it thinks it can turn around.  These would include states that George Bush carried in 2004 against John Kerry.  But to win Romney must turn several states around or come close to a sweep of the “swing states” and a surprise here or there.  This is a tall order.

Over the next several weeks you will hear a lot about polls.  There will be polls taken nationwide.  Other polls will be taken in “swing states.”   The most reliable polls are the ones taken of likely voters in individual states.  It doesn’t matter what the population thinks about the candidates.  It only matters what the people who are going to vote think and that is the group that will be polled.   Both campaigns will rely heavily on polling and will live or die by the results of those polls.  The campaigns will direct their efforts to the ten percent or so of voters in “swing states” who have yet to make up their minds on which candidate to support.

With all of this said here is where the race for President stands today.  It is close.  It is very close and potentially closer than the Bush-Gore race of 2000, if that’s possible.  Our nation is evenly divided in philosophy on just about every major issue.  Never in our history have we been this divided.    So look for a very negative campaign and look for both sides to blame the other for the negative campaigns.  Look for the candidates to stretch the truth and the “fact checkers” employed by the media to have a field day verifying or disputing claims made by the candidates.

To win Mitt Romney must define himself and his vision of America explaining to voters why they should elect him.  This is something he has yet to do.  Remember the old adage that people will vote for what they know rather than what they don’t know.  If voters don’t know Mitt Romney and don’t feel comfortable with him, they will vote for what they know, Barack Obama, even if they hold their noses as they cast their ballots.

More than any other campaign for President, the debates will also play a major role in the outcome of the campaign.  If Mitt Romney shows himself to be in command of the issues, he likely wins in November.  If he does not, then look for Barack Obama to have another four year term.  To put it simply, the race is Romney’s to lose when it comes to the debates.

But there is a second thing you should watch and that is turnout.  If Barack Obama can duplicate the turnout of 2008, he can win re-election.  That is why the debates are so important.  If Romney shows the American people that he is up to the job of being president, the turnout that Obama needs to win will not be there on Election Day.

Lastly, remember that I said that the debates may decide the outcome of the race.  Well there is another debate that I believe will also be crucial to the Romney campaign and that is the Vice-Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  A good showing by Ryan can seal the victory for the Republicans.

So here we are.  A race for re-election in which the incumbent cannot brag about the job he has done.   An election in which the challenger has taken positions on issues that will be strong and bitter medicine for the American people to swallow.  Who will the American people choose?  Stay tuned.  The answer will come on November 6, and you can help answer those questions.

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Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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