The poll results are in and the conclusion is beyond dispute – President Barack Obama and his Democrats have won the Battle of the Conventions.
Gov. Mitt Romney and his young, energetic and ferociously articulate running mate Paul Ryan got precisely zero bounce in the polls from their smooth-running Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
But President Obama is riding high with a four percent bounce after the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina last week.
And even better for the president, he has pushed increasingly into the lead in eight of the nine main Battleground states. That is especially the case in Ohio, the ultimate must-win swing state prize in this race. Unemployment figures have been dropping in Ohio and the manufacturing economy there has been showing clear signs of revival.
Predictably Romney and his camp have publicly shrugged off these results as being unimportant: As Mandy Rice-Davies said nearly half a century ago when a Peer of the British Realm denied sleeping with her, “He would, wouldn’t he?”
In an ultimate sense, Romney and his people are right: There are still eight weeks to go in the presidential campaign. A lot can happen in eight weeks. Canny little Harold Wilson, the opportunistic Labour Party leader in Britain who won four out of five national parliamentary elections, famously decried that one week was a long time in politics.
The global macro-economic situation is dire: Greece is still staggering towards default – a move that will plunge the euro zone into even worse crisis. Xi Jinping, the vice president and anticipated next ruler of China has disappeared without trace for nearly two weeks, even missing his long-anticipated next meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Israel might attack Iran. Wall Street could deliver another mega-crisis surprise as it did four years ago this month. Any serious surge in unemployment, or – more likely – inflation, could spell bad news for the president.
But that will be then and this is still now: The hard bottom red line at the bottom of the political balance sheet this week is that the Republicans and the Democrats each shelled out around $115 million for their mega-sized monstrous jamboree: Yet, with the worst unemployment figures in more than 70 years still blazing clear in the sky for all to see, the GOP and its candidates couldn’t persuade a single percentile of independent voters to swing their way. The Democrats, with all their focus on same-sex marriage, federally-funded condoms and abortion on demand, did far better.
Romney defines himself by his business acumen, his piercing ability to read the crucial failures and cover-ups in any balance sheet and his ruthlessness in purging failures and losers: If he doesn’t start applying those fabled skills to his own campaign, he will lose on Nov. 6 – maybe not lose big, but lose all the same.
It is certainly the case that an immediate post-convention does not guarantee victory at the polls a couple of months later. Hapless Michael Dukakis briefly soared into a double digit lead over Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush after his convention in 1988. It popped like a bubble and Bush buried him when the voters had their say.
Another sitting vice president, Al Gore, erased a 14-15 percent deficit in the polls in 2000 against Gov. George W. Bush of Texas after he displayed Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as his running mate. Even Sen. John McCain of Arizona who played Wile E. Coyote to Obama’s Road Runner in 2008 got a good convention bounce when he picked Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his partner on the ticket. Those convention bounces didn’t last. Romney obviously hopes Obama’s won’t either. But at this stage of the game, he can’t afford to be complacent about it. He’s just wasted $115 million on a convention that failed to deliver for him.
McCain and Palin were Orwellian non-persons at the All-Set-for-Victory GOP bash in Tampa – But they got much more for their money out of their convention than Romney got out of his.
Romney had his golden chance to shine before the American people and convince independents, centrists, swing-voters, you-name-it that he was a regular guy with heart and soul. But he completely failed to do it.
Romney still has his upcoming debates with the president – on which he remains highly optimistic. He shouldn’t.
McCain felt the same way about Obama in 2008, Nixon about Kennedy in 1960, Carter about Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Al Gore about George W. Bush in 2000. They all thought they were smarter than their opponents. They were all confident they would make mincemeat out of them. And they were all badly, fatefully wrong.
The guy Romney most echoes in his continued complacency in the face of his continued failure to connect with the American people is his fellow establishment Republican Gov. Thomas E, Dewey of New York in 1948.
Romney doesn’t have Dewey’s famous moustache, but otherwise, in his stiff, more-than-slightly robotic public style, he could easily replace him as the little man on top of the wedding cake.
A word of advice to Gov. Romney, free of charge: “Ruffle your hair, scrap the gel. It was too preternaturally perfect when you made your prime-time pitch to the American people in Tampa. Roll up your shirt sleeves and get moving.”
When he ran Bain Capital with such conspicuous success, Romney was famous for – rightly – never closing his eyes to the weaknesses and failures of the companies he was restructuring. Now it’s time he turned that ruthless gaze to his own stumbling campaign.
As many Americans are now out of work as their ancestors were in 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression. Yet when Romney presented his economic solutions to the problem, he didn’t persuade a single percentile of undecided or committed voters to join him.
Unless he changes his game – and fast – he’s gonna lose.
Martin Sieff is an editor at Sputnik, the Russian-owned news organization. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), Gathering Storm (2014) and Cycles of Change: The Three Great Eras of American History and the Coming Crisis that will Lead to the Fourth (2014). Follow Martin on: @MartinSieff