Now that virtually everyone including Newt Gingrich believes that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee it is time to pivot toward the general election and cast an eye on how Romney matches up with Barack Obama.
While many conservatives are quite glum about our prospects, in recent weeks I have become more hopeful as it appears the macro factors are increasingly in Romney's favor. Political contests are a mysterious mixture of design, luck, and perception. I think the latter two factors are starting to favor Romney. It remains to be seen whether his team is up to the task of out working and out thinking the Obama campaign.
The economy continues to splutter and some economists are even starting to talk about recession again. Foreign policy is as much a mess as ever but its hard to see how Obama gets much credit beyond the killing of Bin Laden and exiting Iraq. Afghanistan is a disaster that is directly attributable to Obama. He ran in 2008 on the platform that Afghanistan was the "good war" that he would reemphasize as the Iraq War wound down. That hasn't worked out very well and the American public is increasingly war weary after eleven years of body bags and little to show for it.
The perception of Obama has changed over the last year or so. More people are speaking up about his short-comings and at times he has come dangerously close to becoming an object of ridicule. Events such as the "flexible" gaffe show him to be at best a typical double-talking politician and at worst a dangerous poseur.
Mitt Romney can win this by hammering at Obama's failings and keeping the campaign focused clearly on the economy, repealing Obamacare, and returning our foreign policy to a more familiar "American" approach. Obama's competence should be hammered incessantly. I suspect that while centrist American's have growing doubts about Obama's ability they also don't want to see him vilified as a socialist or "the other" etc.
To the extent Romney gets caught up in junk like contraception or trying to explain "self-deportation" he will lose. To the extent he keeps the conversation focused on Obama's lack of answers that don't involve a few trillion more in debt, he will win.