In days of old, presidential campaigns didn’t start until Labor Day. They would then consume the country’s attention for two full months leading up to Election Day in early November.
Presidential campaigns back then were exciting events. Candidates presented real issues and debated over real proposals to deal with real problems. (Or at least that is the memory I have of the campaigns of my youth, circa 1960.)
Times have changed, my friends. Presidential campaigns now begin as soon as the parties have chosen their nominees. And, with the Republicans now having completed that task, as the calendar turned to May this week, the 2012 presidential campaign is already wholly engaged, and, with a full six months until votes are cast, I can already feel the tedium setting in.
Don’t get me wrong. There are big issues confronting the nation, and the two candidates will offer dramatically different solutions for them.
But how much of the same political chicanery and game-playing can a country take? How much should it take? And how little actual governing will take place while the candidates and their parties are trying to one-up each other, with constant attention paid to tracking polls and preference polls and relatively little to what solutions are really necessary and how the populace can be made to understand those realities?
Even for a political junkie, the prospect of six months of team Obama vs. team Romney is a depressing thought. How depressing? Here’s a likely scenario:
May – With his nomination guaranteed, Romney steps up the steady barrage of attacks on everything Obama has done and has not done. Obama has failed in his foreign policy, as witness the continuing threat that Iran represents and the failure to stop that country’s quest for a nuclear arsenal. He has failed to deal effectively with the European economic crisis, with potentially disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy. And his efforts to turn around the unemployment figures are proving to be inadequate as the continuing 8+ percent rate indicates.
For his part, Obama ties Romney to Paul Ryan’s budget in every speech he gives, attempting thereby to establish that Romney is insensitive to the needs of the average American family. He tries to make Romney’s support for the Ryan budget a replay of his attacks on the Bush years that he claims led to the economic mess he has been working so hard to get the country out of.
June – Romney leaks word that he is considering a woman for the VP slot, leading to speculation that Sarah Palin is being considered. Meanwhile, Marco Rubio denies that he has been vetted for the job, thereby keeping his name on the front burner. Romney continues his attacks on Obama’s economic policies, arguing that the momentary dip below 8 percent unemployment doesn’t mean the country is out of the woods, and predicting that unemployment will surge again after the election if Obama is re-elected.
Obama commits to Joe Biden as his VP, claiming that Biden has been a great vice-president, even as his top staff members leak word that Obama is contemplating a switch to Hillary Clinton if the polls stay as close as they are (with Romney continuing to lead in the Gallup tracking poll by three to five points).
July – Romney declares that he will not cut Medicare in any meaningful way, creating a rift with Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. John Boehner assures everyone that the Republicans in Congress are united behind Romney because another four years of Obama would destroy the country.
Obama claims that his policies are working, as the latest unemployment figures (steady at 7.9 percent) indicate. He assures everyone that he is serious about the deficit and the national debt, and that his plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top one-tenth of one percent of the population will result in a significant reduction in the deficit. But, more importantly, he says, it will show the world that America believes in fairness.
August – The Romney campaign stalls over the controversy surrounding his VP pick, which he still hasn’t announced. The Tea Party wing of the party demands Paul Ryan, but polls show Ryan to be a negative on the ticket. A week before the party’s convention, Romney announces that he has picked New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez leading to cries of disaster from the Republican establishment (envisioning another Sarah Palin debacle).
Obama goes to Europe to meet with the leaders of that continent as Spain, Ireland, and Greece all effectively declare bankruptcy. He promises United States support for any European plan that demands “shared sacrifice” of all countries in the region. Angela Merkel smiles in the joint press conference she holds with Obama, leading the press to believe that Obama has made a “post-election promise,” which Obama’s aides deny.
September – Romney and Martinez, having held a wildly successful convention, storm the country while Obama and Biden (re-nominated after all) do the same.
The Republicans claim Obama’s secret deal with Merkel will bankrupt the United States and that the nation’s unemployment (still hovering just below 8 percent) will explode if Obama is re-elected.
The Democrats hit the Ryan budget at every opportunity, their internal polls showing that Paul Ryan is disliked more than Romney. Romney/Ryan becomes the catch-phrase that Joe Biden uses when referring to the Republican ticket (even though Ryan is not on the ticket).
October – Romney does a good job in the debates, but Obama surprisingly wins the initial polls after each one. Martinez has a great debate against Biden, as the Vice President stumbles when pressed on the secret deal Obama is alleged to have made with Merkel. Martinez ends up looking more presidential and closes the month with the biggest crowds at her campaign rallies.
November – The last days of the campaign are a blur. The November unemployment report spikes up to 8.2 percent. The last pre-election polls show Romney up by two points.
Election night – Neither candidate gets a majority of the Electoral College votes. Florida is too close to call.