There seems to be a cottage industry of center-right opinion generators who have recently begun mumbling gloom and doom for the Romney campaign. These "experts" seem to be bothered mainly because Mitt Romney trails the President by a point or two in most national polling. As awful as Obama is, they say, Romney should be polling better. They are wrong.
Let's go back and look at the last eight presidential elections. I chose the last eight because post-Watergate the national dialogue changed a bit. 1932 through 1960 were all elections fought on the Depression/ New Deal battlefield. While each election had its various specific issues no radical ideas were introduced by either side. 1964 saw Barry Goldwater fire the first shots across the bow of the good ship New Deal. 1968 and 1972 were largely about the Cold War, Vietnam and law and order. During that period there were major shifts taking place beneath the surface of American politics as the South moved toward the Republicans and organized labor's grip started ever so slightly to slip. Jimmy Carter's win in 1976 was very much about Watergate which means that 1980 was the first election of the current era.
Since 1980 our national political debate has revolved around the size of government. Only two Democrats have been elected president in this era. Neither ran as big-government liberals and each ran on the idea of making government leaner and smarter. Bill Clinton actually attained that goal to a degree (yelling and screaming the whole way) while Barack Obama has most assuredly not.
Now about those last eight elections. Below are the percentage of the two party vote received by the losing candidate in each year:
So only Walter Mondale running against the most popular president since Eisenhower, failed to get 44% or better. Only Jimmy Carter, whose name has become synonymous with failure, joined Mondale in failing to reach 45% and only Old Bob Dole joined those two in falling short of 46%.
When candidates as poor as John Kerry and John McCain do as well as they did, then both parties clearly have a base of roughly 45% of the two-party vote. Why then is anyone disheartened that an incumbent president is consistently polling between 45% and 48%? When you consider that McCain got over 46% running a crappy campaign in a crappy-squared year, I see no reason for surprise or concern that Barack Obama is polling in the same area code.
As awful as we conservatives consider Barack Obama to be, there is roughly 45% of our fellow Americans who think he's just dandy. If they are unhappy with him its because he hasn't been radical enough for their taste. No matter who the Republicans nominated and no matter who their running mate turned out to be, and no matter how messed up our financial situation was, Barack Obama would be guaranteed roughly 45% of the vote.
And about those polls.....The current (as I type) RealClearPolitics average has Obama up by 4 points. But that figure is driven by registered voter polls several days old, that all show big Obama leads. The three latest polls in the average are Gallup's registered voter poll that shows a tie and Rasmussen and Battleground likely voters polls that show Romney up 3 and Obama up 1 respectively. So national polling at this point is not bad at all for Mitt Romney, in fact I find the numbers to be rather encouraging.
This will be a close election but as Jay Cost wrote last week, this is Mitt Romney's election to win and he is in good position to do just that.