Thursday, April 5, 2012

Play Time Is Over for Obama and Democrats

The Way We Were
Photo: Getty Images
For nearly a year, we Democrats have lounged comfortably on our sofas, munching our popcorn and writing our snarky blogs, while the GOP circus came to town each day and entertained us.

Big top performers like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum amazed and amused us, while unforgettably freakish sideshow acts like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michelle Bachmann, sent us wildly retreating in horror and befuddlement. Until now, a good time was had by all.

As the primary race nears its inevitable conclusion though, and the Republican party finally moves forward through the stages of grief (Romney "denial" seems to have been an inordinately stubborn phase), those hilarious political barbs we've seen the GOP contenders toss candidly at each other will now be sharpened and hurled with increasing force at President Obama and his policies.

Remember how much fun those televised debates were? Rick Perry stumble-fucking his way through almost every argument or response, Herman Cain sound-biting his way to shooting star-like brightness and burnout, Ron Paul sounding measured and reasonable - pushing his thoughtful agenda of actual ideas as if someone in the GOP really cared, and Michelle Bachmann, that wacky Minnesota congresswoman, just plain scaring the crap out of all of us. Oh, the memories. Letting go is hard, but we can't let ourselves live in the past. We all have to move on eventually.

Here we are at last, with a clear frontrunner and a nearly presumptive Republican nominee. Beware Democrats! I warn you - this one is not like the others. While the rest of the field has been sloppy, undisciplined, and slightly lunatic, Mitt Romney has proven himself to be a well-oiled machine (sorry, as soon as I thought of it, I had to use it).

Romney is prepared and organized, and with more than five years of practice under his belt, he is finally a formidable foe in the world of presidential politics. He's a master of deception, capable of deftly shifting positions right before your eyes, a man who can appear to be passionate about nothing while caring deeply about representing his own interests.

Here's a look at the clever trickery we have to look forward to from the Romney campaign.

  • Candidate Romney will accuse President Obama of wasting billions of dollars in giveaways to banks and automobile companies - while simultaneously labeling Obama as the greatest anti-business president in history.
  • Candidate Romney will charge that the President's policies have been irrelevant or even harmful to the economy, while acknowledging and then downplaying the good news of steady economic growth. (It's all in the timing anyway, right? Like the way that lucky bastard Peyton Manning showed up in Indianapolis in the late 90s, right when the Colts were planning to begin their decade-long surge anyway.)
  • Candidate Romney will declare the President to be a European-style socialist who wants only to cram his elitist bullshit down our throats - real frightening and distasteful Karl Marx stuff like health care for everyone and increased access to higher education.
The President has plenty of weapons, or as Democrats like to call them - facts - available to defend himself against these attacks, but he will need to use them aggressively.

As we move beyond the conventions and deeper into the fight this fall, we'll be able to gauge how well Obama's defense is going by the topics the GOP attempts to elevate. If Republicans are holding their own, they'll press hard on their concerns about jobs and GDP growth, but if the President begins to stretch his lead, Romney will abandon real issues like the economy and drag out traditional Republican red meat topics like gay marriage and gun control. (Remember that one time Senator Obama didn't put his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem?)

I hope the President and Mitt Romney will keep this year's election dialogue substantial and meaningful. By now, we should all have had enough of the Obama is...Muslim/Kenyan/Communist/Black distractions. There are certainly enough legit issues to keep us talking for the next 6 months - jobs, economic growth, Iran, national debt, Afghanistan, and Euro-nomics just to name a few. 

The President and his supporters will need to guard against feeling complacent or comfortable on the road to re-election. While Obama's approval rating has climbed from 41% to over 50% nationally, early polling from the NewYork Times shows a very tight Presidential race (Obama 47%, Romney 44%, Undecided 9%). Consider also that Romney will no doubt surge in the polls as the Republican convention nears, and it's conceivable that he may even overtake the President. If Romney wants to build a sustainable lead though, he will have to earn it.

President Obama and his team are unlikely to stumble and they operate with incredible political and marketing savvy, while the right-wing has regularly bumbled about and struggled to avoid the baited traps that are set for them. Anyone want to rehash the embarrassing GOP cave-in on the payroll tax extension or maybe engage the POTUS in a debate about the merits of birth control? 

I predicted several months ago that if unemployment numbers continue to show steady progress, regardless of how slow-paced, the President will be unbeatable in November 2012. Barring unforeseen revelations of a torrid love affair with a secret Hawaiian mistress, I stand by that prophecy.

However the election unfolds, the bad news for Democrats is that the time for sitting in the stands and laughing at the clowns on the other side has come to a close. General election season is here, and we all have to join the circus now.

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