The end of the 2012 presidential race, I mean, not the end of the world. The world isn’t scheduled to end until Dec. 21, so we still have plenty of time to finish our Christmas shopping — although the Mayan calendar kooks say we won’t be celebrating Christmas this year anyway, or ever again, so perhaps we shouldn’t bother.
Eh, where was I? Oh, yeah, the presidential race. We’ve got about a week to go until Election Day — but thanks to this politically memorable October, we’re getting a somewhat better idea of who might win next week.
About three months ago, I went on record with my ever so tentative prediction that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would defeat President Barack Obama. (Not that anyone cares, or should care, who I think will win the presidential election.)
After three televised and webcasted presidential debates and one vice presidential debate (or what passes for debates in modern American politics), and having seen the polls moving gradually in mostly one direction (Romney’s) for most of the month ever since the remarkable first debate in Denver, I am now prepared to say that my prediction is no longer “ever so tentative.”
I feel confident enough about Romney’s chances of winning the election next week that I now say my prediction is merely “tentative.”
So, a few thoughts about the debates — or “debates,” I should say. Even though U.S. voters never get to see true debates between candidates, our pseudo-debates still can serve a helpful purpose in allowing viewers to get a sense of a candidate’s personality, competence, people skills and even aspects of his character.
With little in the past three or more years that he can run on, Obama instead has sought to poison voters’ perceptions of his opponent by an intensive campaign of negative political ads and gross caricature and misrepresentation. This strategy was having some small degree of success, keeping Obama slightly ahead of Romney in the polls.
And then, in a single night in Denver, Obama’s campaign saw all of those millions of dollars worth of ads swirl right down the toilet bowl.
In that debate, many undecided or independent voters got to see Romney in action for the first time, and they liked what they saw — or so it appears judging from Romney’s surge in his favorability ratings (he’s now ahead of or at least even with Obama in favorability) and the evaporation of Obama’s lead with women voters (Romney and Obama now split the women’s vote evenly)
Jay Nordlinger of National Review has said, “If people can see that they can leave the presidency in a safe, able pair of hands, they’ll fire Obama.” Romney’s debate win in Denver seems to have opened the minds of many voters to the proposition that there is a viable alternative to the less than safe and quite incapable pair of hands currently holding the presidency.
In the next two debates, Obama gave much better performances and eked out narrow wins both times, but Romney’s performance at those debates not only did not dispel but tended to strengthen the good impression voters had formed of him in Denver. Consequently, Romney’s polling has continued to improve, both nationally and in the crucial electoral vote swing states.
As for the single vice presidential debate, it probably confirmed for most of us why it is important to pray every day that no physical harm ever befalls President Obama, because God alone can help us if Joe Biden, affable buffoon that he is, were ever to become president.
Conversely, Paul Ryan acquitted himself well enough that he probably assured voters that he could assume the presidency were anything to happen to a President Romney. And learning if a presidential candidate’s running mate can competently step in if the president dies or resigns or is impeached is perhaps just about the only practical purpose for vice presidential debates.
So, things have been going Romney’s way, while the Obama campaign has been doing the kinds of things you’d expect of a campaign that sensed things were going against them. This is why Obama’s side has been increasing its negative tone and working to shore up the support of its base by playing up Big Bird, binders and abortion (not the primary issues driving the debate this year).
Even so, both the polls and the Electoral College math are showing a pretty close race, so I’m playing it safe prediction-wise: a Romney win, tentatively.
Jared Olar may be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.