From his thoughts regarding Palestine to queries concerning the reasons why aeroplane windows cannot be wound down, it’s been a lively presidential campaign for gaffe-prone Mitt Romney.
Controversy has followed the Republican presidential nominee since he began his nomination campaign in 2011 and started to display his unease with the media.
George Dubya style mistakes such as introducing his Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan as ‘the next President of the United States’, and more sizable errors in judgement such as claiming the 47% of Americans who are predicted to vote for Obama ‘do not pay income tax’ has generated a slew of bad publicity for his campaign.
Why then, when Romney’s reputation is in disrepute, is the race for the presidency so tight?
One suggestion is the American public’s perceived dissatisfaction with the Obama administration.
The salient issue for the majority of middle class Americans is the state of the economy and the creation of new jobs. Currently 8.1% of Americans are unemployed, a fact that Romney has continued to exploit throughout his campaign.
However, it must be noted that although the national unemployment rate is higher than that of January 2008, the beginning of Obama’s term of office, unemployment has been steadily declining for the past year. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’, Bill Clinton’s famous quote, seems to be more appropriate than ever.
The right wing media’s perception of Obama as a ‘socialist’, led by leading right wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, has also served to skew the swing voters’ opinions on the Democrats. In this context, ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ are treated as the same theory and with the same McCarthy-esque suspicion.
Negative campaign advertising has become a powerful tool in this election, with one such example being the likening of Obama’s health reforms to the creation of ‘death panels’ according to Sarah Palin. It is interesting to note that although Romney was, and still is, staunchly opposed to Obamacare, whilst Governor of Massachusetts he pushed forward state health reforms in 2006 (dubbed Romneycare) that provides the minimum level of healthcare insurance coverage for nearly every resident of the state.
The most prominent reason, one can argue, why this presidential race is so tight is money. Campaign finance is now largely unregulated as a result of the Citizens United vs FEC case of 2010, where the caps on campaign spending imposed by none other than John McCain in 2002 were lifted.
This means that multi-millionaire Romney encounters few restrictions as far as campaigning is concerned. Romney can afford a prominent media presence though advertising and political rallies. This allows him to keep on recreating his public image in the eyes of the swing voters who possibly saw him claiming he is unemployed or mentioning that his wife owns a ‘couple of cadillacs’.
With these reasons in mind, surely the reputation of the Republican Party has been damaged yet again by the failure to pick a candidate that is in touch with reality? The likes of Palin, Newt Gingrich, Christine ‘I’m Not a Witch’ O’Donnell and Todd ‘Legitimate Rape’ Akin give the party an image of wackiness. Does the Republican Party need a more down to earth nominee or, as the evidence suggests, does America particularly care about the nominee when the incumbent President is portrayed as doing a bad job?