The Problem for President Barack Obama: Where’s The Upside?

I like newspapers, I always have.  When I was a kid it was the funny pages (that’s what my grandmother called the “comics”), particularly “Peanuts.”  I think Linus and Charlie Brown had pretty good instincts about life.  As I got older I stopped reading the funnies, and moved on to the news.  Whether that is a good thing or not is up for debate.

At any rate I get my news from reading newspapers or online news, not watching television.  I find that reading allows me a better chance to comprehend the various events, facts and opinions that comprise the news.  Sometimes I watch network news, but not often.

One disadvantage of not being plugged into network news is that I miss a lot of details, breaking news, various “sound bites” and cultural highlights (I confess I watch the television show “Extra!” so that I am not completely left out of the social loop.) So my timing is a bit off and perhaps I’m not on the cutting edge of the news cycle.

But I think I have one big advantage: I’m not bogged down in details and I get to focus on the bigger themes.

There are three big trends that I’ve noticed lately: it’s an even race between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, the public doesn’t care very much about Bain,  and the economy is top-of-mind.

One would have thought that Mr. Obama’s status as an incumbent president, and a better campaigner then Mr. Romney, would be a distinct advantage.  I don’t think that a statistical dead heat at this stage of the election is a good sign for Mr. Obama.

Next, I believe the Bain attacks have run their course and the tax return questions will be a non-issue. The public doesn’t care about Bain very much, and the only reason Mr. Romney’s taxes are an issue is because the Obama team says they are — but what if there is no smoking gun? What if the tax returns reveal that Mr. Romney does what everybody else does — tries to find ways to pay less taxes? I suspect that will be the case, and no one will care.

What people do care about is their own financial security. Mr. Romney seems to enjoy an advantage on that topic.  Mr. Obama gets some high marks for being Commander-in-Chief, but then so did George HW Bush, and he lost to Bill Clinton.

So given the the election is tied right now, and the big issues are something of a draw, where will Mr. Obama get the votes he needs to win? I don’t see a lot of upside.  He will have to mine the undecided and independent voters, but I  fear that may be a lost cause.

A week before last I wrote that Mr. Obama was making Mr. Romney look silly, but last week Mr. Obama delivered the “you didn’t build that” speech and I think that was a game changer.  It’s getting quite a bit of press coverage, as one might expect. The upshot is that plenty of people found it insulting. I can’t blame them.

My sense of things is that what we’re seeing right now is not Obama vs. Romney, it’s Carter vs. Reagan (mainly because of the “you didn’t build that” speech.) And I think that gives Mr. Romney a big, big advantage.  If Mitt Romney can keep his head above water, stay on the offensive, and get just a few more people to question Mr. Obama’s ideals and his track record on the economy, he can win the election.

Is that good for the United States? I doubt it.  Because the other huge trend I notice: the complete and total polarization of US politics.  Given Mitt Romney’s performance so far, I give him low marks for being able to find his way back to the center and bridge the gap.

Just my 2 cents.

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