The 2012 political horse race hasn’t disappointed so far. We currently have Mitt Romney (the “moderate”), Ron Paul (the “libertarian”), Newt Gingrich (the “Newt”), Rick Santorum (the “true” conservative), and Rick Perry (the “if-elected-President-I-would-reinvade-Iraq”).
First, let’s do a quick recap of what happened in Iowa and New Hampshire. After defeating Rick Santorum by exactly eight votes in Iowa, Mitt Romney went on to win New Hampshire. There, by virtue of his governorship of the neighbor-state Massachusetts, Romney scored a win by trampling all his opponents with 40 percent of the vote (the closest second was Ron Paul, who received 23 percent of the vote).
The latest polls show a good amount of support for Romney in South Carolina and Florida. Funnily enough, Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report also announced his candidacy in South Carolina for the “President of the United States of South Carolina” after seeing that he polled higher than Huntsman, one of the candidates who dropped out. After giving the control of his super PAC to Jon Stewart, Colbert officially created his exploratory committee to see whether his candidacy is a viable option. We’ll see if he manages to beat any of the more conservative favorites in South Carolina.
At this point, I’d like to join my fellow opinion columnist, Keith Yost, on his bandwagon and say that, unless world-ending catastrophes ensue as per our expectations for the year 2012, Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee facing Obama. I think this is great. Choosing the right president will be more difficult than ever at a time when Congress has ridiculously low levels of support from the public, when the current President’s approval ratings are decreasing, and when the Republican/Democrat divide is so even that we’re in a constant state of Congressional gridlock.
As a result, in order to come out on top, both candidates will need to display an unmatched level of understanding of foreign and domestic policy, the economy, and social issues such as healthcare. Both lawyers from Harvard, Romney and Obama have the educational background to help them succeed as president. They are both very well-organized, have the support of brilliant campaigners and possess deep enough pockets to keep the race going as far as needed. However, both candidates have substantial and relevant differences which will make the election interesting.
With years of corporate experience at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and, more importantly, at Bain Capital, Romney is hardly a career politician. As a result, his first and foremost strength, if elected, would be to be the CEO of America. In light of our current economic predicament, this may very well be a good thing to jump-start our otherwise sluggish and barely growing economy (GDP growth for 2012 is expected to hover around two percent, not adequate to create a sufficient number of much-needed jobs). Romney’s biggest challenge against Obama in direct debates or other oratorical events would be that Romney is not as energizing a campaigner; he is colder and less charismatic than Obama. Past experience tells us that charisma, while a good thing for a campaigner, may be less than useful when elected.
On the other hand, we have Obama, a President who many revered as the harbinger of change and progress. As his tenure went on, however, he has managed to prove us wrong time and again, barely holding his own against the Republicans in the debt ceiling debate. In the coming election cycle, Obama will have to prove to voters that he can still bring something worth fighting for to the table, argue that he has brought forth a national healthcare bill that aims to provide as universal a coverage as possible, and show that he can repair the stalled economy. These would be bold, and certainly feasible claims, provided he acts more decisively this time around. To win, Obama will have several routes to choose from: he can either highlight the zeniths of his Presidency and try to convince voters that he’ll continue them, or he can argue that he will use another term to do things he didn’t have the chance to do. An alternative route, of course, would be to combine the two strategies.
At this point in time, it’s extremely premature to try to predict who will be the victor of the 2012 elections. One thing is certain — in order to win, the candidates will both need to appeal to the middle. Easier said than done. Getting the middle to side with either candidate will be a tough job, as the candidates will need to persuade them that America’s disappearing middle class will be taken care of, rehabilitated, and brought back to life. Exciting debates and campaigns await!