OBAMA vs. CANDIDATE X
In George Will’s July 6th, Washington Post column, he uses the image of “Alibi Ike”, the invention of a Chicago sportswriter, to assess the power of the leading GOP POTUS candidates to effectively challenge the president on his “alibi defense” strategies.
It is an astute and telling analysis. Here is the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/who-will-bat-against-alibi-obama/2011/07/05/gIQAiImI1H_story.html
And here is my take on the unfolding drama. The players have all been revealed.
Obama 3.0 vs. X
So far there are these six players:
Obama 3.0, played by himself Palin, played by herself Palin 2.0, played by Congressman Michelle Bachman Romney 2.0, played by Governor Romney Romney 1.0, played by Ambassador John Huntsman Bush 3.0, played by Governor Rick Perry
The negatives have already been floated. Obama’s audacious hope campaign (the poetry) has mutated into the prose of new governance, a pattern of inconsistent leadership and poor outcomes. Fairly or unfairly, the president owns the current state of affairs. Bush 2.0 is no longer a useful opponent.
Fairly or unfairly, the GOP candidates carry their own negatives:
Palin is considered out of her league; Bachman is seen as a rhetorical hothead with insufficient experience; Romney is portrayed as a flip-flopper with liberal Massachusetts and conservative Mormon baggage; Huntsman is seen as too tepid and unable to criticize his former Boss-in-Chief; Governor Rick Perry (not yet in the race) is portrayed as another scary Texan when the country hasn’t quite yet recovered from the still-unpopular Bush 2.0.
The Case for Romney 2.0
Electability: Romney is better than Obama 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 in the eyes of all conservatives and a majority of independents. Note that, over the last 12 months, the electorate has remained almost evenly divided into three roughly equal parts – Republicans, Democrats, & independents. Also note that independents tend poll against the president.
So Governor Romney’s main virtues are these:
Not Bush Not Palin Business Experience Executive Experience Fiscal Conservative Sufficiently Strong on National Security Solid Personal Character
For these reasons, I believe that Romney 2.0, if nominated, will defeat Obama 3.0 if the economy remains the Central Issue, despite his evident killer instinct deficit and flip flopping rap.
But even Perry, Huntsman and Bachman could win if the unemployment numbers remain as bad as they are now or even weaken further.
But the economic situation is fluid. An Obama 4.0 (having moved to the center, at least in rhetoric), armed with a nascent recovery could be reelected against an inadequate GOP campaign. Romney 2.0 is more like Bush 1.0 than Reagan. Giving the changing political and economic landscape, he may not be the candidate for all seasons.
BTW, I am personally persuaded that Romney’s religious affiliation will not be a material factor in a race against Obama unless Governor Romney makes the mistake of dignifying the attacks on his Mormon upbringing by responding to them as if they were serious concerns. The nation is deeply mired in an intractable recession, facing a pending world currency crisis, experiencing energy shortages and a regional civil war across the Middle East and dealing with the omnipresent threat of terrorist attacks on the USA and our allies. An LDS man with strong business and leadership credentials can’t do a good job as POTUS? Get real.
The Case for Romney 3.0
This hypothetical version of Romney is a more coherent and pointed, a much stronger critic, the head of a campaign aimed at the administration’s jugular. This would be a candidacy powered by relentless, authentic optimism.
This Romney wins in 2012, absent an Obama miracle.
But Mr. Romney’s current effort lacks spark and drive. It threatens to turn the 2012 Race into “Good Enough” vs. “Not Good Enough.”
Such a campaign will be a squeaker, and may well fail to prevail against an incumbent president on election night.
But the actual choice this country may face is between Ongoing Failure and the American Recovery. This will be the heart of the Obama campaign – absent any concession of failure, of course.
So the real litmus test for the president’s 2012 challenger is a simple one: A credible better course, led by a credible better leader. Will the next president of the united sates please step up?