A strong, positive message must come out of Charlotte

Tonight, the Democratic counteroffensive at the Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina starts. But unlike Mitt Romney and the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, there is no need for Obama to tell the American voters who he is. They know, after almost four years as president.

The question is whether Obama deserves another four years in the White House, and the voters’ judgment on the matter will decide the electfion in November.

It’s clear that the great wave of enthusiasm for the 2008 elections is gone. But much loyalty remains and Obama, as a person, is infinitely more “likable” than Romney, who barely won any new supporters on that point in Tampa. A new Gallup Survey shows that Romney received only “lukewarm” reactions to his speech there, and while 40 percent said it is now “more likely” that they would vote for Romney, 38 percent responded that it was “less likely”. And according to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, Romney has lost ground, both as to the number of electoral votes and his chances to win in November, which now stand at only 25 percent.

So the numbers are not really strong for the Republican challenger and his vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who continues to get beat up in the media for his half-truths, the latest concerning his time when he ran his last marathon. “Since When Did Paul Ryan Become a Liar”? asks Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

Romney’s insistent message, “you cannot tell us that we are better off today. America has been patient, but today it’s time to turn the page,” must surely resonate with many. The Democrats’ response in Charlotte is expected to be “absolutely,” we are better off now, after all, since the economic collapse in 2008.

For Obama and the Democrats, however, now is not the time to get caught in some kind of negativism, in an endless, tedious, long line of critical statements aimed at the Republicans. The offensive must be positive and contain a specific message about where Obama intends to take America during the next four years. He must convince the voters that he is best placed to continue the economic recovery that is underway, albeit oh, so slowly, and that it is not a good strategy for the country to change leaders midstream. He must also, according to Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast, tell the truth about what it really would mean for the country if Romney/Ryan win this fall.

Three exciting days await in Charlotte!


Success in Tampa crucial to Romney’s chances in the fall

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.