B S Raghavan

The next President of the US is …?!

B.S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on September 12, 2012

With the formal announcement of the Democratic (Barack Obama-Joe Biden) and Republican (Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan) tickets, the US presidential race has begun.

The contenders for the top slot for the most powerful and influential country in the world will now be criss-crossing the country, engaged in non-stop campaigning.

As an incumbent, Barack Obama starts with an advantage. He can present the score-card of one who has been on the job and on the ball, and urge the voters to give him the chance of a second term to complete the tasks he had undertaken.

Whereas Mitt Romney is, as yet, untested, except as an erstwhile Governor of an important State like Massachusetts where his performance had earned moderate praise.

He has already been constantly plugging the theme that Obama, who stormed into the White House in 2009 on the slogan of Hope and Change, and Yes, We Can, has reduced the country to a state of hopelessness and proved a great disappointment; entrusting the nation’s affairs to him for another term will only take the US further downhill.

Romney, however, has been having an image problem from the time he stood forth as a candidate. The Democrats, and generally, the liberal sections of the populace and the media, had been painting him as one who had been sitting on a pile of riches, unaware of the woes of the common American.

He was also seen to be a political opportunist devoid of passionate commitment to any set of principles or programmes with which he could be identified. His belonging to the Mormon faith was also held against him by the die-hard segment of the religious mainstream.

With the result, polls right up to the time of national conventions showed him to be less likeable than Obama. However, the latest poll has bridged the gap. Romney’s likeability rating is 31 per cent as against Obama’s 54 per cent.

Economic issues

All this, however, is mere sound and fury. What is going to count in the contest this time is not foreign policy or promises of domestic reforms in education, energy and the like, of the kind Obama has been making.

The outcome of the election will hinge quintessentially on the perception of the electorate as to who, of the two aspirants, can be trusted to rescue the country from the oppressive ravages of the economic recession.

Large numbers of Americans have been reduced to dire straits, with unemployment soaring at unacceptable levels, and the misery index showing no sign of abating. They are desperately looking for a visionary leader who is additionally endowed with dynamism and vigour capable of making up for lost time and turning around the economy.

The challenge before the candidates is to generate in the American voters the abundant confidence of being equal to the promises that both Obama and Romney are making: To wit, reducing the fiscal deficit of $1.2 trillion, and the public debt of $15.3, trillion and at the same time spurring business and industry to create the millions of jobs needed to bring back a semblance of financial sustenance to the average American household and providing for tax cuts for the middle class.

Advantage Romney

Viewing the scene from a distance, I give only an average rating to Obama. The excuse that he has been trotting out for his unsatisfactory performance is trite and time-worn: Which is that he inherited a mess from the Republican Administration and it was impossible to clean it up within his first term.

The plain fact, though, is that he was out of his depths in facing the economic crisis and his leadership was not from up front.

Another not openly stated factor is that last time, a large number of Whites voted for him, so as not to be viewed as being anti-Black. They may have no such compunction this time and switch sides.

The finding of the latest polls also is that Romney is the better candidate to tackle the budget deficit and revitalise the economy, while Obama holds strong leads on taxes foreign affairs, energy, and Medicare. But these, in my opinion, will not by themselves convince the voters that they will be better off under him.

Don’t be surprised if Mitt Romney heads for an upset win.

Published on September 11, 2012

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