Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RomneyRyan: Something in the air…

HAVE YOU noticed? Can you feel it? Slowly, little by little, the weather’s starting to change. For much of the country, the summery temperatures we’ve enjoyed since well before summer even started are beginning to drop off. There’s a whiff of seasonal shift in the air; by the time of the autumnal equinox (Sept. 22 in the northern hemisphere), daylight hours will be shorter by about two minutes every day, give or take.

The message that the changing seasons gives to all of us is simple: Get busy. Get going on whatever you haven’t done over the summer months. Time’s a-wastin’. There may be no one who understands that better than the REM-sleep-deprived, bewildered operatives of the RomneyRyan campaign.

In its battle for the White House, Team Romney has been scrambling to perfect its message in the face of an increasingly uphill climb to claim the presidency. A slew of new polling results and other information shows just how uphill that climb is right now.

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A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll has President Obama holding a solid 6-point lead among likely voters, and a 8-point lead over Romney among registered voters.

Team Romney woke up Monday to the results of two daily tracking polls with more bad news. Gallup and Rasmussen Reports both give the president a five-point advantage over Romney among registered and likely voters — 49/44 and 50/45, respectively.

Rasmussen also found that 52 percent of voters approve of Obama’s performance in office. “That matches yesterday’s total as his highest approval rating in more than a year-and-a-half, since January 2011,” the organization reported.

Real Clear Politics’ average of recent general election polls finds Obama leading Romney by just under three percentage points. And other polls give Obama a lead, from a little to a little more, in some of the swing states that could make the difference. Public Policy Pollling gives Obama a five-point edge over Romney in Ohio, holy of holies among the battleground states.

And according to a new and exhaustive Reuters/Ipsos poll of voters in 11 Bible Belt states from Virginia to Texas, 38 percent of white Southern voters are less likely to back a candidate who’s “very wealthy” than someone who comes from more modest means. Some of them even consider Romney's religion, Mormonism, a cult.

THERE’S MILES to go before this is over, and anything can happen. Post-convention bumps can be evanescent; things will happen in the next 55 days we can’t see coming. It’s way too early to order the victory Champagne.

But right or wrong, there’s a quietly building sense that preferences for the race for the White House are beginning to solidify. It’s not so much a metric or a polling number as it is the hair on the back of your neck. It’s a feeling of a gathering wave.

That’s by no means a forecast of a landslide coming (despite the recent prediction of same by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast). It is to say that, if polls can be believed at all, something approaching a consensus is starting to emerge, and it’s not a good one for Team Romney.

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The RomneyRyan tandem haven’t helped matters any.

For much of the summer, Mitt Romney has been shouting it from the campaign trail: “I will repeal Obamacare.” It’s been a reliable blanket condemnation of the Affordable Care Act by the candidate, so much so that we’ve come to believe it’s the one thing Romney wouldn’t reverse himself on.

Little did we know. Come Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney told host David Gregory that “I’m not getting rid of all of health-care reform, of course. There are a number of things that I like in health-care reform…”

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On Friday, campaigning in Colorado, Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said use of medical marijuana should be completely legal if the various state governments chose to allow it. “My personal positions on this issue have been let the states decide what to do with these things,” he told a reporter at KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs.

Fast forward, but only a little: On Saturday, Team Romney officially reversed Ryan with a campaign statement; the congressman was Gestapo-spanked into saying that, you know what, he “agrees with Mitt Romney that marijuana should never be legalized.”

For a day, the campaign was for the idea of states’ rights on medical marijuana … before they were against it.

First there is a RomneyRyan position, then there is no position, then there is.

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ON “MEET the Press,” Romney said the Republican Party erred in voting for the $500 billion in automatic defense cuts (sequestration) that will kick in on Jan. 1 unless Congress finds another way to cut spending. ““I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it,” Romney said. “I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.”

Inconvenient fact of the day: Ryan, Romney’s running mate voted for those defense cuts in the Budget Control Act — something Ryan himself had to be reminded of, forcefully, on Sunday by CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, on “Face the Nation.”

It’s these reversals, it’s this cavalcade of unforced errors and distortions that’s led to a perception of a campaign off the rails and out of touch. Veteran Democratic political analyst Robert Shrum observed last month in The Daily Beast:

“[O]ne of his advisors recently warned that we need to do more to defend 'Czechoslovakia' from the 'Soviet Union.' Neither country still exists. Romney himself won’t say himself how long he would stay in Afghanistan, and on the issue of a possible conflict with Iran he said in a Republican primary debate: ‘You sit down with your attorneys and [they?] tell you what you have to do.’

“He opposed going into Pakistan to track down terrorists and observed that finding Osama bin Laden wasn’t ‘worth moving heaven and earth.’ After the bin Laden raid —inside Pakistan — he gave credit to the Navy Seals and begrudged the President who had sent them to kill or capture the mastermind of 9/11. 

“The list goes on and on.“

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Have you noticed? Can you feel it? Slowly, little by little, the weather’s starting to change. For much of the country, the Romney campaign deceptions, miscues and goofs we’ve tolerated all year are beginning to wear thin.

A nation eager for substance and detail from Team Romney finds a campaign that seems to be allergic to both. There’s a whiff of seasonal shift in the air.

The day of the national equinox — Nov. 6 — is approaching fast.

Image credits: Ryan: Bryan Oller/Associated Press. Obama-Romney poll graphic: © 2012 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. Obama-Romney trend graph: © 2012 Gallup. Protester at Romney campaign event: screen grab from MSNBC. Romney yawn: Video grab, source unknown.

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