If you believe the polls, it would appear there is one big factor standing in the way of Mitt Romney being elected president: Americans don’t like him as well as they do Barack Obama.Um... this has been true for months now. Months. You finally noticed?
Such drastic inconsistency is rare in someone with real political convictions. Which suggests that Romney might not have many of them. Romney stumbled in London because he has little apparent interest in the world beyond America. Last week he gave his first major foreign policy speech in nine months. His campaign has no senior foreign policy staffer. When Romney has offered a view, it has been either confused, undiplomatic or both.Salon:
In this, Romney is fully in step with the party he leads. Today's Republican Party is characterised by a kind of bellicose ignorance towards the world, contemptuous of Obama's attempts to show respect to foreigners, crudely aggressive towards those deemed the enemies of the US, uninterested in its friends. Take the response of Romney's allies to the London debacle, his surrogates professing that ''we're not worried about overseas headlines'', while one media cheerleader dismissed Cameron as ''limp-wristed'' and Britain as ''a second-rate, semi-degenerate nation''.
This, remember, is the party that slammed John Kerry for the crime of speaking French. Its antics, like those of the man it has chosen for the presidency, would be funny were the Republican Party not aspiring to hold an office that is still mighty and, for the rest of the world, deadly serious.
People are asking, “What’s with Mitt Romney’s trip to the London Olympics?” He has made so many gaffes that the Daily Mail’s political editor asked, “Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?”National Journal:
That question is most important for the American voter. What drove Dubya were anxiety and fear, much of which he masked with his tough-guy swagger and rhetoric – and with his disarming sense of humor. When asked direct questions by the press, however, Bush would often freeze like a deer in the headlights. His slips of the tongue became the stuff of talk-show hosts, magazine articles and even books.
Now we have Mitt Romney, the putative Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election. His gaffes are different from the 43rd president’s; they don’t involve mispronouncing words or frequently issuing nonsensical sentences. They are more social gaffes, ones that seem to be made without much thought – if any. Bush was trying to say things he couldn’t say. Romney is not trying to say anything in particular, other than answer questions or make comments when called upon to do so. In fact he is too casual, and what comes out is often carelessly hostile.
Romney’s close affinity for Israel’s right-of-center Likud Party; his tough line on Russia and Afghanistan; and his unwillingness to propose solutions to climate change all sound familiar to many Europeans. “Notwithstanding their widespread disappointment in President Obama, Europeans are nervous about Romney precisely because his positions remind them of George W. Bush,” said Simon Serfaty, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.James Zogby:
If this all sounds Reaganesque or a replay of a George W. Bush speech, it is precisely because many of Romney's foreign policy advisers come out of the "Project for a New American Century," the group created by the acolytes of the Reagan era who then populated the Bush Administration. George W. Bush's rhetoric often conflated the good/evil world view of neo-conservatism with the Manichaeism of right-wing Christian Fundamentalism. In Romney's case there is a disturbing mix of neo-conservative hawkishness and militaristic American supremacy with Mormonism's narrative of divinely ordained American exceptionalism. Just as Bush's interpretation of Christianity was not shared by most Christians, Romney's America-on-steroids is a minority view among Mormons.Jonathan Chait:
In an interview with Hayom, a right-wing Israeli newspaper, Mitt Romney says something really bizarre about the Arab Spring:Nate Cohn:"The Arab Spring is not appropriately named. It has become a development of more concern and it occurred in part because of the reluctance on the part of various dictators to provide more freedom to their citizens. President [George W.] Bush urged [deposed Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak to move toward a more democratic posture, but President Obama abandoned the freedom agenda and we are seeing today a whirlwind of tumult in the Middle East in part because these nations did not embrace the reforms that could have changed the course of their history, in a more peaceful manner."This is extremely weird...
Since this was the kind of thing Bush had called for in his speech, neoconservatives immediately began claiming credit for it. (A slight variation on the Bush-was-right theme came from former Karl Rove aide Pete Wehner who, torn between his love of Bush and hatred for Obama, proclaimed that the Arab Spring was happening because of Bush and despite Obama’s lack of support for the Freedom Agenda.)
Notice that the relationship between economic growth and a successful reelection is far from perfect. GDP growth was higher for Bush 41 than Bush 43, yet it was W who narrowly won reelection. In the opposite direction, economic growth in 1956 wasn't too far off of 2004, yet Eisenhower won by 15 points in the national popular vote. Now, political scientists attempt to account for these deviations by introducing other variables, like incumbency, polarization, job approval ratings, or even additional economic metrics with varying degrees of success. But the point is that this economic performance doesn't assure either side of victory.
Nor are the numbers so notable that they might be expected to change the horserace. 1.5 percent GDP growth is thoroughly mediocre, but that means the news aligns with existing public perceptions. If the numbers pointed toward a double dip or signs of renewed economic vigor, perhaps Obama or Romney would benefit. But as it is, today's data suggests we should expect the race to continue along the road it was already traveling, regardless of whether we're heading toward an Obama or Romney victory.