It’s been a rough week for Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney.
Given Romney's comments on immigration, policy on taxation and stance on his own income-tax returns -- as well as the fact Democratic President Barack Obama holds a 3.3 percentage-point lead over him in the RealClearPolitics average of presidential polling data -- it’s no wonder the blogosphere is having its way with his campaign.
With 45 days between now and the Nov. 6 general election, the question for many political analysts, and many Romney supporters, is: Can he fix it?
Assuming the former governor of Massachusetts can, it won’t be easy -- and pretty much everything may ride on his debate performance.
As the Associated Press pointed out, Romney’s effective federal income-tax rates of 13.9 percent for 2010 and 14.1 percent for 2011 -- as well as his continued refusal to release income-tax forms from previous years -- lends credibility to the Obama campaign’s assertion that he has been manipulating his taxes through “loopholes and tax shelters only available to those at the top.”
The fact Romney pays a smaller proportion of his income in taxes than most Americans, coupled with his comments making it sound like he is completely disgusted with the freeloading tendencies of senior citizens and veterans, has the likes of even the Fox News Channel's Bill O’Reilly telling him to “snap out of it” and stop being so “touchy-feely” for the debates, as noted by the Huffington Post.
Making matters worse, Romney is reportedly trailing badly in the ground game, even in terms of the sheer number of people working for him. In the battleground states of Colorado and Iowa, Obama campaign offices outnumber Romney campaign offices by a 4-1 ratio, AP reported. And in the battleground state of Nevada, the Democrats have registered 61,000 more voters than the Republicans have, AP said.
Still, as The New York Times, that bastion of the left-wing liberal media elite, noted, Romney’s comments about the alleged 47 percent of Americans who are dependent on government largesse and pay no income taxes may have been “jarring” to some people, but it is common for almost all presidential candidates to tailor their speeches to suit their crowds. Obama, too, has had his share of embarrassing gaffes because of this apparent occupational hazard.
Therefore, Republicans should not lose their hopes and Democrats should not lose their fears. There are almost seven weeks until the election, which in political terms is a lifetime, as Mark R. Kennedy, a professor of politics at George Washington University, wrote on the Huffington Post on Saturday. Kennedy pointed out Romney’s “woes” are “largely self-inflicted wounds,” and that his performance in the debates has the potential to swing the elections.
And, as Paul Harris of the Guardian pointed out, Obama is “hamstrung by a still sickly economic recovery, high rates of joblessness and a disillusioned activist base.”
Steve Schmidt, a strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential-election campaign, told NPR that Romney is “still very much in the game” and that there’s still time to turn this thing around. He, too, emphasized the effect the debates will have on the polls. "They can't focus on opportunities lost,” Schmidt told NPR’s Dana Farrington. “They've got to focus on the opportunities ahead. And the opportunities ahead are these debates. You can't overstate their importance."
Even Sarah Palin, the erstwhile governor of Alaska and the apparently former contributor to Fox News, chimed in, telling the conservative Weekly Standard on Saturday that Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., need to “go rogue” and “not hold back from telling the American people the true state of our economy and national security.”
So, now, on to the 2012 Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates. On Oct. 3, 16, and 22, Romney will need to come down strong on jobs, gas prices, and the situation in the Middle East, as James Rainey wrote in the Los Angeles Times. On the same occasions, Obama will want to keep the focus on Romney’s aloofness and other apparent character flaws.