With the business-ignorant president howling about the timing of Mitt Romney's leave of absence from Bain to save the 2002 Olympics, and some conservatives arguing for a "tax records for college transcripts" challenge, it is useful to take a step back and look at the broader campaign.
- Romney navigated the primaries despite a series of media-hyped alternatives and the Obama campaign's active efforts to get a different opponent through attack ads, advocacy of cross-over voting, and enflaming social conservatives who would support Rick Santorum.
- Romney has eliminated Obama's fundraising advantage, both through the conservative PACs, which are limited in their flexibility, and his more recent surge to a $100,000,000 monthly take in contributions to his campaign and the Party. Obama will not have the huge fundraising advantage that helped bury John McCain in 2008.
- Romney has managed to keep the party largely united, with potential wild card conservatives such as Jim DeMint, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin joining the team. Unlike Obama who campaigns alone, Romney is surrounded by people like Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, and Marco Rubio. He has Reince Priebus while Obama is stuck with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Romney needs to navigate the Ron Paul faction, but there will be no splinter candidate of the Tea Party and efforts to promote a viable third party disruptor have fizzled.
- "Wrong track" continues to poll at 65 %; a strong plurality of voters continue to consider the economy to be the primary issue; Obama's favorability rating continues to linger in the dangerous 45 - 47% range (much worse on his handling of the economy.) Unemployment sucks. Housing sucks. Trillion dollar deficits continue. A "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts looms on January 1. The GDP growth rate remains at an anemic 1.9%. The 2008 candidate of Hope offers none, just division and envy.
- The bin Laden bullet has been fired, and there is not much else to crow about internationally: Syria; Iran; Egypt; Israel; Pakistan/Afghanistan; Europe; Russia; China. No help for Obama there.
- Easy targets abound - ones that the public understands with a catch phrase: Solyndra; Keystone; Fast and Furious; Leading from Behind. The president's prized initiative, Obamacare, remains double-digit unpopular.
At this point the Romney campaign has the feel of front line infantry watching and waiting while the enemy rushes across the open space whooping and hollering. Romney's been here before. He's run senate, governor, and presidential campaigns. He's won and he's lost. He understands strategy, pacing, and management of resources. He's plenty smart and successful. His focused to do list:
1. Select the best vice president possible. My expectation is that he will lean in the direction of who can do the best job, with the hope that the public appreciates qualifications enough to convey some political advantage.
2. Take the tour of Europe and the Middle East to expand his knowledge, establish some relationships, and - most importantly - gain a bit of international credibility.
3. Manage the August 27 to 30 convention as a launching pad for a two month sprint.
At this point there is plenty of time. There are plenty of good issues. There is no profit in trying to explain a "leave of absence" and legal tax deductions to a media that is only interested in gotcha's. And Obama's economy isn't going anywhere.
For anyone offended by the above "business-ignorant president" comment, this week's video is President Obama's explanation that small business owners did not create their businesses. It is great when he gets on a riff about what he really believes.
bill bowen - 7/20/12