With only 47 days left until the general election, both the Obama and Romney campaigns have begun to move at a breakneck pace. Still, speed bumps are in store for both candidates, with both a persistently weak economy and a de-energized Republican base lining the road to the White House.
According to Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini, the odds are currently 4-1 that Obama will be reelected in November. Civettini had previously put the odds at 11-9 in April. One reason for the shift in Obama’s favor, he said, is an apparent ceiling on public enthusiasm for Romney.
“There’s a limit for how much people will like Mitt Romney, and that’s it. They’ve hit it,” he said. “They don’t like him any more.”
Excitement is even low among members of the Republican Party. At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., few speeches made clear arguments for why Romney was the party’s best hope for returning to the Oval Office. Condoleezza Rice, whose speech the media touted as one of the best at the convention, barely mentioned Romney at all.
“Obama [will win] — not because we have faith in him, but because Mitt Romney isn’t taken seriously even by his own party,” junior Maricruz Osorio said. “Romney fails to convince voters without a real plan for the nation he would hope to create.”
The announcement of House of Representatives Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Romney’s vice presidential candidate was expected to add momentum to his campaign, as such announcements traditionally do. But the upswing in the polls dissipated quickly, and many question why Ryan was even considered in the first place.
“I think they wanted [Senator] Marco Rubio [(R-FL)],” Civettini said. “I think they wanted Marco Rubio from the beginning. I think they targeted him. And my suspicion would be that he turned them down.”
Ryan, whose family is worth between $3 and $6 million, does little to play down accusations that Romney’s policies would help the elite at the expense of the majority of Americans. Moreover, Civettini feels that Ryan’s most useful characteristics no longer apply.
“He [Ryan] doesn’t sound like Paul Ryan anymore,” Civettini said. “If part of the reason they liked Ryan was because he was policy-driven and talked in specifics, by reining him in, they have … basically nullified the thing about him that they thought was useful.”
Romney also faces the conundrum of being the first Republican presidential candidate in 50 years, according to Civettini, who polls lower than his Democratic challenger on issues of foreign policy. Voters also are more likely to rate Obama as a strong leader than Romney and to say that Obama shares their values.
“If the economy were in better shape … we wouldn’t even be talking about a contest,” Civettini said. “A Democrat that beats a Republican on foreign policy and strong leadership runs away with an election in a decent economy.”
It is the economy, then, that remains Romney’s strong point. Whether or not his plans to simultaneously reduce spending and taxes will help bolster economic growth and employment numbers, he has the advantage of not having been in office during the 2008-09 financial crisis and its aftermath. It is therefore difficult to assign him any blame for the current economic state of the country, as many have done with Obama.
“Romney wins by making people think about … only their current economic state,” Civettini said.
Despite Obama’s strong performance on issues of character and other policy areas in the polls, 47 days remain until the election. Much can and will happen in 47 days, including a series of four debates between the two candidates. There is also the possibility of economic upheaval such as during the 2008 election cycle after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
“Depending on where I get my news, either side is going to win,” post-baccalaureate fellow Rachel Lyman ’12 said. “I’ve talked to people who voted for Obama last election who are disappointed and are either now voting for Romney or not voting at all. I’ve heard the opposite.”
In senior Kelli Kleitsch’s mind, however, the events of the past four years will lead to more people getting involved in electing the person who will help determine the events of the next four.
“I think the social strife created by this election has really galvanized a lot of people into action who might not have been motivated to vote before,” she said. “I think the election is going to be really close.”