Leading up to the Republican convention in Tampa this week, it’s not just the weather that’s put a spoke in the wheel of the Romney/Ryan strategy to focus the campaign on the economy and unemployment, and that they are better suited than Obama to lead the U.S. in these difficult times.
There has also been an abortion debate after Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s stupid statement about “legitimate rape,” which produced lots of attention on the fact that the Republican Party platform prohibits abortion in all cases, even rape and incest. Then we had Romney’s equally stupid statement that he has never been asked to show his birth certificate — a bad joke to some, to others a calculated political signal to the despicable “birther” movement. And we had Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.
So it hasn’t been a smooth ride, which raises the stakes for the Republican ticket this week in Tampa. Although conventions are no longer what they used to be, an estimated TV audience of about 35 million is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it is a golden opportunity for Romney/Ryan to re-focus their campaign, show who they are and where they want to take the United States in the years to come. Romney, it is said, must reveal more for himself and of who he really is. It will be difficult. Does he really have something to offer beyond what we already know about him?
Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate has not resulted in any major swings in the polls, except that Obama’s lead in Ryan’s home state Wisconsin has shrunk a bit. On point after point, voters still prefer Obama over Romney, according to the latest Gallup Poll. Obama is more “likable” with 54 percent against 31. Obama is a stronger leader, he is more honest and generates more confidence, and he cares about people like you (the respondents). He is ahead on foreign policy, taxes, energy, healthcare. Only on the economy did Romney beat Obama, 52 percent to 43.
The economy is the most important issue for November, so the fact that those asked in the Gallup Poll thought that Romney is better suited to reverse the present dismal picture – something that could be re-enforced with successful convention – is of great importance looking ahead to November. But the economy alone will not decide the election. There will be Medicare and taxes and abortion, but, most of all, there will be the fundamental question of whether an ever more conservative Republican Party, increasingly hostile to the government, dominated by whites with only five percent Hispanics and two percent African-Americans, and with ever fewer moderate Republicans in the ranks, can appeal to a broader American electorate.
One of those moderates, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, has chosen to retire and walk away for a certain re-election this fall after 18 years in the Senate. In Sunday’s Washington Post, she pleaded almost in despair for deep changes in her party now so hostile to America’s women.
“Today, the Republican Party faces a clear challenge: will we rebuild our relationship with women, thereby placing us on the road to success in November, or will we continue to isolate them and certainly lose this election?”
This will be no easy task for Romney/Ryan. Another Gallup Poll recently showed that Obama leads among women voters by 50 percent to 42. Romney, once a moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts, has since then a moved righton a number of issues, disavowing his record as governor, and taking far more conservative positions.
With his choice of Ryan, Romney’s conservative conversion is complete. He has now joined the ranks of Ryan and the Tea Party sympathizers in the House of Representatives and a party about which Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein recently wrote in their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks:”
“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges. “
This is where Mitt Romney now stands. The Republican Party’s conservative base is certainly happy about this. The question is what the broader American electorate, those outside the Republican Party, will say about this in November. Without them, Romney cannot win.