Despite scandal and a stagnant economy, he was surging towards victory. But in one debate, a gaffe sealed his fate. Gerald Ford, president at the height of the Cold War, adamantly stated that Eastern Europe was free from Soviet domination. Ballgame over. (But there was a silver lining. Had Ford won, Ronald Reagan would never have been president).
In 1972, Democratic Sen. Edmund Muskie’s presidential campaign immediately imploded when he cried during a speech.
And in 1967, a leading Republican presidential contender saw his hopes crushed after stating he was “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam War. That man? Gov. George Romney, father of Mitt.
A major gaffe can sink a strong candidate, especially with 24/7 news coverage. So the fact that many Republicans are writing the president's political obituary a year out from what will be a close election is not just naïve, but political stupidity.
And it will be a close election.
In addition to president's billion-dollar war chest, many miss the fact that the popular vote (and polls) are meaningless. The only thing that matters is 270 electoral votes, and Obama already has, at a minimum, 168. When you add the states he will likely win, that number rises to 228, just 42 shy of victory.
Is the president's road difficult? Absolutely. There will be no economic recovery until an energy policy is instituted, and that isn’t happening.
Bank failures continue, homes are still being foreclosed, inflation is rising, and companies are shedding jobs and closing doors. Uncertainty is so commonplace that nine percent unemployment is the new norm.
America is becoming a suburb of France. And that doesn’t bode well for an incumbent.
Sure, it’s a good bet Obama will not be re-elected, but the “put-it-in-the-bank” GOP mentality can only work to the his advantage. The recent special election for disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner’s seat in New York City tells the story.
A Republican won the seat for the first time since the 1920’s. Impressive? Yes. Good for the president's Party? No. A harbinger for Obama’s re-election? Absolutely not. For the few able to step outside the ridiculous spin zone, several things are obvious:
The Republican winner, Bob Turner, will be bounced next year or re-districted out of Congress.
Does anyone really think Turner will vote as a true Republican in an extremely liberal district?
Voters knew the world was watching, and many voted Republican as a rebuke to Weiner’s salacious behavior. Now it’s back to business as usual.
Many Jewish voters voiced displeasure over Obama’s position regarding Israel. But they will not abandon him in November. Some political insiders have even suggested that New York might be in play electorally, which is so insane that I can’t even come up with a sarcastic response. Optimism is great, but what’s next? The Iranians singing Kumbaya with us? Entertaining as it would be, let’s stick with reality.
The Democratic candidate was an uninspiring hack. Which leads us to the next principle: it helps to have good candidates.
Obama has certainly not been an effective president. His Big Government policies do not work in the real world, especially in a market-driven economy. And his advisers don’t have a clue, as they keep using the same old playbook that never worked well. The results speak for themselves.
That said, he is a great campaigner. And make no mistake: Running for president and being president are two totally different things.
While Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are formidable challengers, neither has been truly battle-tested. Maybe it will be enough in 2012 just to be an “R,” but that is no guarantee for success.
Just look at 2010, the largest Republican wave since 1946. Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell got be-witched, Nevada’s Sharron Angle was flattened by unpopular Harry Reid despite the state having the nation’s highest unemployment rate, and Alaska’s Joe Miller lost to incumbent Lisa Murkowski — by a write-in campaign. All three were bad candidates, and none of the races were close.
Republicans would be wise to focus on the issues and stop deluding themselves that 2012 will be a walk in the park. Just four months ago, in another New York special election, it was the Democrats who won a long-held Republican seat. They declared it a monumental setback for the Republicans and a validation of the president's vision.
That spin was wrong too.
Voters are fed up with scandal, bickering, and meaningless sound bites. They want action, and will reward whoever can deliver solutions — while kicking out those who can’t.
So while conditions certainly favor the Republicans, it is entirely too early to put 2012 in the GOP column.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the president's political death are greatly exaggerated. If the GOP refuses to recognize that, they do so at their own peril.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.
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