Mitt Romney has been getting stronger in opinion polls as the U.S. economy gets weaker. The latest economic news is discouraging — relatively few jobs created, declining GDP growth, a rise in unemployment — and it’s caused a tectonic shift in the presidential race. Democratic pollster Mark Penn observed, “I think if you’re the Obama campaign now, you’re gonna do some retooling. You’re gonna really, I think, go big with a new economic plan.”
For several years we’ve heard politicos say that the top three issues are “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Romney has made it his top six issues. The presumptive Republican nominee promises, like Bill Clinton did as president-elect, that he’ll focus like a laser on economic growth. Clinton’s recent, surprising praise of Romney’s “sterling” business record made that promise seem more credible. And if the U.S. economy seems increasingly like the troubled Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002 — a crisis requiring a “turnaround artist” — Romney’s past success could convince many undecided voters to give him a chance.
With bad economic news from almost every front — stock market, Europe, employment, home construction — Barack Obama’s campaign slogan, “Forward,” seems out of touch with reality, while Romney’s new slogan, “Putting jobs first,” could not be more timely.
But stimulating job growth in the private sector isn’t the only challenge. The $64 trillion question was posed by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post: “Who is more likely to fix the nation’s finances, a second-term President Obama or a first-term President Romney?” In his commentary he explains the fiscal math — and the political calculus:
Achieving a grand bargain will require a leader with the steel to stand up to his own party; the charm and muscle to assemble a legislative coalition; and the eloquence and passion to persuade voters. Put that way, it’s hard to be optimistic. Obama has the eloquence, but neither Obama as president nor Romney as governor showed much patience for legislative jawboning or relationship-building. And steel? The reason to doubt Obama can be summed up simply: He’s had his chance. When the Simpson-Bowles commission presented its plan to reduce the federal debt, with bipartisan support, the president ducked.
As a longtime presidential candidate, Romney hasn’t shown the strength of steel either. But, if the economy continues to weaken, most swing voters will settle for sterling.
This program aired on June 5, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.