I must confess that I am completely and totally stunned by the turnaround of events surrounding the presidential race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Never before in modern American political history has a candidate, in this case being Mitt Romney, been able to beat back the polls and public perception and the political professionals to make an almost complete comeback.
To be clear, Obama is not a dead man walking. This race is still too close to call, but to be even having this conversation so close to the election means that Obama is in fact vulnerable and two months ago, I did not think that was the case. Most of the president’s misfortunate can be pointed to his own mistakes. The most recent and glaring example is the debate were America saw a Mitt Romney that they’ve never seen before. Not just from a policy perspective, but also from an image perspective. Romney appeared to be presidential. He seemed comfortable being on the same stage as the president and he looked relaxed. In other words, while the president looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but at the debate, Romney looked as if could not think of anywhere else where he wanted to be but right there next to Obama. In other words, he showed up to win and it became clear to anyone who watched the debate, including the president, that anyone taking Mitt Romney for granted should do so at his or her own peril.
Another Obama mistake: assuming that Romney over the past few months was going to continue to let others define him. In truth, I have been baffled by the Romney campaign for allowing the president’s team to define him early on as an archconservative. Romney’s nothing of the sort. At quick look back at Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts could tell you that Romney has always run to the right of his party in primary elections, only to move to the center when he actually became the nominee and sworn into office. Critics would say that he is a flip-flopper. My response to that is that every modern politician runs to the far wing of their party to the nomination only to move to the center when they become the nominee. Clinton did it in 1992, Dole did it in 1996, Bush did it 2000 and again in 2004 to rev up the conservative vote in the general election against Kerry and Romney is proving to be no different. All I’m saying is the president’s folks and ultimately the president should have known this was going to happen and should have prepared for it.
And the last Obama mistake: The candidate himself seems to have gotten way too comfortable with being ahead in the polls since the summer and appeared to be overconfident, almost cocky in campaign commercials, stump speeches and surrogate remarks. In other words, the president’s team believed their own hype, while the vital American center so far has not, or at the very least has been open to hear Romney’s own set of facts which is evidenced by the polls.
As the column is being written, it appears that no candidate has the brass key to the White House — and that’s exactly how it should be as the people will and should be the ultimate decider on who gets to call 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home for the next four years. Not Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. But you.
Robert Traynham invites you to follow him on Twitter or on Facebook at @roberttraynham.