There You Go Again
An interesting piece in The Daily Telegraph, where Tim Stanley has clearly got over-excited by recent polls. In other words, it's a 'Mitt Romney is not doing that badly' newsflash (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/mitt-romney/9289994/Barack-Obama-is-facing-his-Jimmy-Carter-moment.html).
Here are five reasons why the Obama-Romney contest in May 2012 is nothing like the Carter-Reagan contest in May 1980:
(1) The economic problems of 1980 hit Americans where it hurts them most, namely, the price of gas;
(2) Carter's reputation as a world leader was damaged badly by the ongoing Iranian Hostage Crisis. While Obama is hardly a giant in foreign policy, he has not been damaged in foreign affairs to the same extent. He has failed to win over the Iranians and North Koreans, but this marks no change at all from the Bush years. When Carter fell out with the Russians over the invasion of Afghanistan - and pulled the US out of the SALT II treaty - it marked an end to the improved relations between the USA and the USSR that had been made possible by the diplomacy of his predecessors, Nixon and Ford. While Carter's efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict with the Camp David Accords should be praised, it remains the case that the killing of Osama bin Laden (something which any president would have authorised) and the downfall of Gadaffi (something for which Obama deserves no credit) put Obama in a far stronger position in terms of electability;
(3) Obama's message may be empty, but, in his communications with the American public, he at least re-assures his own supporters that he is up to the job, whereas Carter's infamous 'malaise' speech suggested that he was out of his depth and out of touch with the nation. Obama's endorsement of gay marriage may have alienated some, but it has at least given others the impression that he is decisive;
(4) Mitt Romney has not galvanised American conservatives in the way that Ronald Reagan was able to in 1980. When Reagan challenged Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination in 1976, he came very close to winning it. In 2008, Romney was buried by John McCain, he appeared uncomfortable meeting voters, and there were already serious questions being asked about whether America will accept a Mormon president. This year, little has changed, except that he has not encountered a serious challenger.
(5) The Watergate disaster and the Nixon pardon were probably the two biggest contributors to Carter's election victory in 1976. In other words, it was far easier for those who voted for him to decide to abandon him in 1980. By complete contrast, the time, energy and hype that were devoted to ensuring the victory of 'the first black president' and the triumph of 'change we can believe in' in 2008 have made it virtually impossible for people to admit they made a mistake. Voters are hanging in there with him, despite a dreadful rating of the Democrat-controlled Congress and a huge number of people who wish to see his only legislative 'achievement' overturned.
So I don't really see what all the fuss is about, unless it is simply a means of setting up a 'surprise' re-election victory that will enable the media to paint this as a 'comeback kid'-style story similar to that of Clinton's re-election in 1996. All of this just reminds me to avoid the British press this time around. But that will probably be another post.