There is increasing pessimism about Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the presidential election, even among Republicans. Some are in denial, as many right wing bloggers and pundits believe that the polls are rigged by the mainstream media to predict a Romney defeat. There’s no good explanation as to why Fox and Rasmussen are going along. Others are in the anger stage, blasting Romney for not going far enough to the right or attacking Obama strongly enough. No, Romney has delivered the far right wing message and has repeated all the right wing talking points about Obama, along with making up some of his own. Romney’s repetition of right wing arguments don’t work because because of the absurdity of the message, even if Romney is a flawed messenger. Other Republicans have reached the acceptance stage, including many in Ohio:
Either many top Ohio Republicans are in the grips of the worst panic attack since an Orson Welles 1938 radio drama convinced thousands that the earth was under attack by Martians. Or more likely, judging from the comments of these GOP insiders, Romney’s hopes of carrying Ohio are fast dwindling to something like the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
Presidential candidates have rebounded from downbeat polls before, especially when we are still five weeks from Election Day. So Romney’s problem is not just the recent Ohio surveys that show him losing to Barack Obama by as many as 10 percentage points. Instead, what is striking is the funereal interpretation that downcast Ohio Republicans derive from these numbers. Maybe Romney isn’t down by 10 points, they argue, but the GOP presidential nominee seems destined to lose by a solid 5 points – and in closely divided Ohio that represents a loss of nearly landslide proportions. (That would mean that Obama would slightly improve his 2008 victory margin against John McCain.)
Many of the well-known Ohio Republicans I interviewed offered their blunt assessments only after they were guaranteed complete anonymity. That is often the Faustian bargain of political journalism in 2012: robotic talking points on the record or something resembling honesty with no names attached. The reason, though, that I am emphasizing the don’t-quote-me part of the equation is that I was stunned by the vehemence of the thumbs-down-on-Mitt verdict. All but conceding the state to Obama, these Republicans were offering what may be the biggest rejection of Ohio since Philip Roth wrote “Goodbye Columbus.”
The Romney problem in Ohio is not so much campaign strategy as the candidate’s inability to transcend who he is. “The Obama people have convinced Ohio voters of two things,” says Curt Steiner, a well-connected Republican public relations strategist. “That Mitt Romney doesn’t believe anything. And what he does believe is all anti-middle class.”
While there is time left, Romney does not appear to have the ability to turn things around:
The potential pitfall for Romney in Ohio, though, is the person behind the political veneer. As a Ohio Republican insider, who resisted my pleas to put this colorful metaphor on the record, told me, “Romney is a guy who is used to talking to the board of directors instead of the shareholders or the employees.”
When a presidential nominee is perceived by his own party as not being able to talk even to Americans wealthy enough to own stock, there are deep political problems from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
There is still time for things to change but I don’t believe it is possible for Romney to do anything to change his fate. If Obama were to lose it will be because of external events which harm the incumbent allowing Romney to win by default, but I cannot see anything Romney could do to win without major external assistance. The quotation on the 47 percent is hurting Romney by showing that the narrative spread about him really is true. As much as that quote hurts, I’m not so sure that the choice of Paul Ryan wasn’t more disastrous, tying Mitt Romney to the Republican plans to destroy Medicare and Social Security.
If Romney was only facing a six point deficit nationally there might be a chance of recovery. His problem is in the electoral college, with swing states beyond Ohio leaning strongly towards Obama. At this point Obama appears to being very close to repeating his 2008 margin of victory in the electoral college. Obama leads in at least some polls in every state he won in 2008 other than Indiana, which regrets its 2008 decision to join the 21st century. Some states such as Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and especially North Carolina are close but Obama could still squeeze out 271 electoral votes even if he were to lose all of these states, provided he maintains his lead in Ohio and other states where he now has a comfortable lead. There is also a chance that Obama could pick up some states he lost in 2008 should he decide to make an effort there. Some polls show Obama close in Arizona and Missouri. While he will probably lose both again in 2012, I wonder if Obama should spend some time and money there to force Romney to fight to preserve those states, along with the long list of swing states mentioned above where Obama is leading.
The bleak Republican outlook in the race for the White House caries over to the Republican prospects in other races. There is no longer much talk of the Republicans being able to win control of the Senate, and a Democratic take over in the House no longer looks unimaginable.