Boring Campaign Time–Pre-Debates
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Tomorrow is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 and Election Day is eight weeks later. During that time there will be three presidential debates, on 10/3, 10/16, and 10/22) and one vice-presidential debate on 10/11; meanwhile there will millions of dollars and scores of hours of campaign ads which will inundate the public airways. To be shown primarily in the key swing states of Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, campaign sponsored ads as well as outside groups’ ads will try to persuade the 5% or less of undecided voters by spreading the message of the candidates and attacking the opponent. In between the two candidates and their running mates together with surrogates will traverse most of the country raising more money and trying to rally their supporters.
The post conventions polls show that Obama has expanded his national lead to 4-6%. It appears that his campaign—thanks largely to the First Lady and Bill Clinton—got a real post convention bounce. Whether this bounce will last remains to be seen, but he is in better shape than were he trailing Romney. Rather than these national polls, the Romney campaign needs to examine the internal polling in the swing states which will be the key, plus his performance in the debates—especially how he comes out swinging in the first one—which will be determine if he is able to overcome the Obama lead.
It seems that Romney did not hurt himself at the convention, but he did not help himself very much either among the undecided. His stiffness and cluelessness still make him seem to be aloof from many of the average voters. He definitely will need a kick which perhaps can be provided by Ryan.
As a result, Romney also began this weekend to try to moderate his message, for example, with respect to healthcare. This was a step many Republican consultants had been waiting for him to do hoping that it might break his right drifting image. While Romney leaves himself open to attack from his right-wing supporters, he undoubtedly measured the potential gain now of moving his message more to the center. This could ultimately be the only strategy for Romney to expand his supporters and attract the independents who have been sitting this out. It will be interesting to see how Ryan responds to this move as well.
Neither Obama nor Romney are divulging much in the way of details at this point about how they plan to govern over the next four years. They will no doubt be forced during the debates to respond in some detail which should open them both up somewhat. Meanwhile, in the States with early voting the time is almost upon them.