Homer Simpson may doom Obama

RICHARD LONG
Last updated 05:00 06/11/2012

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Richard Long

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OPINION: Forget about Superstorm Sandy and that disastrous first presidential campaign debate. President Barack Obama should be more concerned about the electorate spinoff from Homer Simpson, the American TV icon, switching his vote to Mitt Romney in tomorrow's poll.

Just as the Centre-Left opposition bloc in New Zealand is practically level pegging with the Government, the polls show the American presidential contenders in a dead heat, although Mr Obama appears to have the advantage with the all-important electoral college votes.

After all the buildup ballyhoo many Kiwis will be glued to their TV screens tomorrow as the results come in for this nailbiter.

As a nation we are unlikely to be disadvantaged too much either way. The Republicans are not as protectionist as they once were. The only delay to free trade progress would be for new teams to be established under a new administration.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and his counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have overseen a considerable warming of relations, culminating in the Wellington Declaration, but this progress is not likely to be impeded by a Republican win.

In fact former foreign affairs minister Winston Peters and his Republican counterpart at the time, Condoleezza Rice, also bonded warmly.

Mr Obama, if he wins a second term, will go down in history as the president saved by Superstorm Sandy. That has enabled him to dominate the TV bulletins for a crucial election buildup week, sounding authoritative and presidential.

Mr Romney, on a roll after that defining first TV debate, was stymied. Till then there appeared a chance he might emulate Jack Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, who all came from behind to win the presidency after strong TV debate performances.

Mr Obama is also fighting against an unemployment rate nudging 8 per cent, the highest of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the 1930s. With 23 million out of work and 47 million on food stamps that should spell political oblivion. Mr Obama's glibness is also beginning to count against him.

Last time, against John McCain, he looked like the beginning of a brave new era.

His campaign then was accompanied by a cacophony of jingling cash registers, with donations rolling in faster than they could be spent. Mr McCain received so little he had to suspend advertising in crucial areas. The ill-considered selection of the Tea Party's Sarah Palin as running mate helped Mr McCain a little initially, but then disastrous.

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This is a different ball game with Mr Romney. While his activities with his predatory market-stripper company Bain Capital would damage him in a New Zealand context, it seems no hindrance in America. His multiple changes of policy stance would be derided here but seem to suit an American audience.

For example, he denounces "Obamacare", the health reform hated by hardline Republicans, but introduced much the same policy when he was Massachusetts governor.

He fudges questions on the discrepancy by appearing not to understand the policy.

Already some American pundits are wondering if we will see a rerun of the 2000 presidential race when the deciding state, Florida, was narrowly won by Republican George W Bush after the Republican-dominated Supreme Court prevented a recount that could have favoured Democrat Al Gore.

Similarly Mr Bush won the 2004 race against John Kerry when actual vote counts in some states differed widely from exit polls which gave the race comfortably to Mr Kerry.

Harper's Magazine quoted Lou Harris, the father of modern US polling, as saying of this: "Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen."

Already there is a conspiracy theory, with a following among Democrats, that America's largely Republican-owned electronic vote-counting companies can be programmed to pull elections.

These theories will reach a crescendo if Mr Romney pulls this one off against the odds.

But Homer Simpson, newly recruited to the Romney cause, can be relied on to have the final word of consolation for his former Democrat mates: "That's OK, honey, I used to believe in things, too."

- Wellington

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