Three things I still don’t understand about Obama v Romney

I’ve been doing my homework, diving into Nate Silver‘s stats every morning for breakfast, reading Real Clear Politics’ “A time for choosing” and “The battle begins“, Politico’s “Obama’s last stand” and even “The race to 270“, and with a few days left before the election there are still three things I don’t understand:


All pundits have noticed and remarked a shift in how the Obama campaign depicted Romney, going from decrying him as someone who’d say everything to get elected to painting him as a hardcore conservative. The problem is not that the two strategies are contradictory, it’s that they both don’t work: voters think that virtually any candidate is going to lie to part of the electorate to win their vote (but they never think that it’s going to be them), and the former governor of Massachusetts doesn’t really come across as a dangerous conservative, particularly after a primary season when the Republican base stubbornly supported the most unlikely series of candidates rather than endorsing him.

The only attack that produced any result was about making him the embodiment of corporate America’s cynical and irresponsible greed, and that may  be enough to cost him Ohio (and the election), but it’s not a rounded strategy: it’s only about the economy, and voters might actually welcome a Gordon Gekko, as long as they think that someone else will pay the price (just like with candidates’ lies).

Ironically, a much better strategy was right before everyone’s eyes: Romney is an incredibly efficient robot that pursues the interests of whoever is behind him. A single strategy that can be adapted to target different groups of voters:

– Blue-collar workers. When Romney was serving the interests of Bain and its shareholders, it made companies bankrupts, fired people and shipped jobs overseas.

– Women and civil right activists. As validated with his pick of Ryan as his running mate, Romney is going to serve the interests of an extremist Republican congress, and will efficiently pursue a radical agenda.

– The middle class. Romney would be a great middle class advocate if that’s where his supporters came from. But they don’t. He’s a candidate of the 1%, and you can rest assured that he will very effectively serve their interests, and their interests only.

– Independents. There is no denying that Romney can be a good person and a good manager: his community service and his record  at the Salt Lake City Olympics testify to that. Moreover, a Democratic Massachusetts General Court helped him be a relatively successful governor. He just can’t be trusted to be the President of his irresponsabile party and extremist contributors.

This strategy would have allowed the Obama campaign to weave Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate to the White House (his appearance and demeanor,  his history at Bain, the general disdain for the GOP…)  into a consistent narrative, while preserving a personal respect for him, and avoiding silly canine-related issues. I don’t know why it was never tried.


This, courtesy of of is.R(), shows exactly how fast and how strongly the Republican Party has been moving towards radical positions in the past couple of decades. How the candidate for president of this GOP can make claims of bipartisanship is hard to believe, but why he’s being given a free pass on this is even more past my understanding.

This is not just a lie: it’s the lie that could win him the election.

There are many voters who know that key Republicans are irresponsible extremists from another planet who are alien to logic and common sense, but they consider Romney a competent businessman and would like to give him a chance. Reassuring them that he could reach across the aisle and bring together reasonable minds from both parties may just be what swings their vote.

Moreover, this plays into a cynical but ultimately solid reasoning: early in his term President Obama tried to reach across the aisle and collaborate with Republicans on a range of issues from the economy to health care, only to be met with categorical oppositions, calls of socialism and anti-americanism, and a declared intent to make him fail, all else be damned. This Republican party has no intention of working with President Obama, to the point of entertaining the thought of a sovereign default.

Democrats, on the other hand, are in the inconvenient position of having repeatedly proven to be much more responsible, so that now a rational voter can acknowledge the current attitudes of the two parties and consider a Romney Presidency as more likely to break the gridlock in Washington. They should make it perfectly clear that as long as Romney is the standard bearer of the GOP, no compromise is possible.


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