April 25, 2012

Romney, Obama prepare for faceoff

With less than seven months until the presidential election, the Republican Party is positioning its candidate, President Barack Obama is gearing up to campaign and members of the Knox community are solidifying their predictions for who will be the next person to occupy the Oval Office.

As Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10 and Newt Gingrich will suspend his on May 1, Romney has essentially clinched the Republican nomination. The other remaining GOP candidate, Ron Paul, has not won a single primary.

In January, Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini said that Romney had a two to three chance of winning the presidency in November. But the changes in the Republican field and a slower pace of economic recovery than expected have led him to revise his prediction to 55 to 45.

“When people think about the economy … it’s about, ‘Am I better or worse off than I was six months ago,’ not four years ago,” Civettini said. “So if the economy tanks, Romney will win.”

Some Knox students, however, were not so sure that Romney could wrest the presidency away from Obama.

“I don’t think his chances are very good because there isn’t strong conservative report for Romney,” senior Kate Sedney-Read said. “People who switched to a more conservative candidate [during the primary] will be less likely to vote for Romney.”

Throughout the campaign season, Romney has been denounced as a flip-flopper, leading some to question where he actually stands on issues.

“During the Republican primary, Romney pushed himself far to the right to keep pace with … other people who were running,” senior Greg Noth said. “His biggest challenge will be re-centering and picking up moderates and women. If he can’t do that, Obama will win.”

Obama, on the other hand, has trouble demonstrating the very conviction that Romney appears to lack. According to Civettini, Obama tends to speak in caveats and conditional statements rather than with the decisiveness that typically characterizes presidents.

“If Obama sounded like everything he did was a matter of conviction rather than deliberation, it only serves to accentuate what appears like a career of taking the position that is politically expedient for Romney,” Civettini said.

Obama will also face a challenge from Romney in regard to bipartisanship. Civettini predicts that Romney will stress his experience working with a liberal government while he was governor of Massachusetts to forge solutions, even if they were not ideal from his perspective.

While this is hardly a strategy that will excite the sorts of voters who got behind Santorum, Civettini doubts that the skepticism harbored by many Republicans toward Romney will affect how they vote.

“You can only do so much to change minds of people who have a longstanding psychological affinity with one party or the other,” Civettini said. “So really, it’s about bringing out voters.”

On top of coordinated efforts to increase turnout, economic progress in the coming months will also play a major role in determining the outcome of the election. Still, senior Casey Samoore believes that Romney’s campaign will face a serious disadvantage regardless of what happens over the rest of the campaign season.

“It’s very hard to vote out a president, especially since Romney and the Republican Party had a rocky and intense ride just to get the nomination,” Samoore said. “Obama has got a pretty good chance.”

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