[Posting of this was delayed due to Sandy storm coverage...]
(Providence, Rhode Island) – We are now in the home stretch, with the final full week of campaigning. I am ready to vote; and, to have all the final votes counted. With that in mind, here are some of my weekly observations.
Where’s Mitt?– If Mitt Romney loses the election, it may come down to one unanswered question in the final debate on Libya. The moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News said, “The first question, and it concerns Libya. The controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?” Romney gave a generic, polite, businesslike answer. He never attacked and never pushed or probed. Libya remains President Obama’s Achilles heel, and Romney’s greatest opportunity. I have been in this business a long time, and a week later I am still stunned at Romney’s tepid response.
What Were They Thinking? – I have heard various theories all week on why Romney failed to take the gloves off on Libya. One theory is that they were sitting down at the table, and that naturally makes the debate less confrontational. Another hypothesis was that polls indicate women don’t like confrontation and personal attacks in debates, and that in his efforts to close the gender gap we saw a “kinder, gentler” Romney. Theory number three suggests the public already “gets it” and knows the Obama White House really messed up in Libya. And finally, there is the theory Romney needed to look more “presidential” on foreign policy and that an angry, thrashing Mitt might send the wrong message to our allies, as well as voters at home. My own guess is that a combination of all four theories was at play. Had I been a Romney advisor, I would have been more aggressive on Libya.
The Obama Doctrine – On the other hand, President Obama needed to look more “presidential,” too. And at times, he didn’t. Obama got some digs in at Romney saying things such as, “I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy – but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong.” But at other times the President was also condescending and didn’t need to be. For example he said, "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed." And he added, "We also have things called aircraft carriers that planes land on and submarines that go under water." Those comments were roundly criticized, particularly in the military community. Still, this debate had a slight edge to President Obama. But he didn’t win the debate; so much as Romney lost it by passing on Libya.
Bringing It Back Home! – One place Romney did score points was on the economy. I said in last week’s column that the candidates needed to talk about the economy and how it is affected by foreign policy. Things such as gas prices and jobs are all affected by what happens overseas. The fact that 60 million people watched the debate means people were engaged on the number one issue – the economy – and that helped Romney. He was strong here, and the President wasn’t. Again, overall, I’d give the debate to Obama, but I would score it close – 53 Obama, 47 Romney, on a 100 point scale.
Ohio, Here They Come! – The candidates will spend a disproportionate amount of time in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire in the next week. Most important now is Ohio. If Romney wins Ohio, he’s the next President. If he loses Ohio, he can still win by picking up Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire, but that’s a tougher road. If the election were today, I still say Obama wins the Electoral College, but Romney wins the popular vote.
'Weather' Your Vote Matters! – Odd, unexpected things happen in campaigns, and severe weather can be one of them. Hurricane Sandy – and its aftermath – could disrupt or ever suppress voting in a key swing state such as Virginia. Right now, the storm is forecast to have the greatest impact on northeast Virginia (the Washington, DC) suburbs, which are a Democratic stronghold. But the storm could have far less impact in central, southern and western Virginia where the GOP is king. This could affect not only the presidential race, but the razor thin U.S. Senate race between Republican George Allen and Democrat Tom Kaine. Mother Nature could cast some crucial votes!
All Politics Is Local – The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say, “All politics is local!” One of the things he meant by that is that voters are most affected by the politicians closest to them – their local and state officials. Voters also have the most access to these folks. With that in mind, I was honored to moderate the debate last Wednesday night for the District 30 House race in Rhode Island, between Republican Anthony Giarrusso, Democrat Mark Schwager, and Independent Kevin McDonough (photo above). They are vying to replace 24-year veteran lawmaker Bob Watson. These names are well known locally, but head scratchers for my national readers. I mention them, because to my readers in DC, California, Wisconsin, Florida and elsewhere, I urge you to pay attention to your state and local candidates. Yes, the presidential race and Congressional races garner all the headlines, but who represents you in your local city hall or statehouse is just as crucial. So, do your homework on races that are lower on the ballot!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions. Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.