I think I've made it clear thus far that I've found this election campaign to be facile and devoid of substance.
With that criticism withstanding, Mitt Romney has still proven to be an inept candidate. It's kind of staggering. He has a subtle, surprising incompetence. He has the necessary backstory and robotic handsomeness to keep up. But his blunderings sneak up on you.
And he is keeping pace. But when you consider the colossal leg-up Romney has in this campaign, is consistently polling a few points behind your rival enough of a result?
Because when you look at the funding advantage Romney is developing, through his own campaign and the surging, cash-drenched Super PACs - who have his back like its Entourage all over again and they're Jonny Drama, Turtle and E - and add in the lingering economic fog that just won't lift, it seems the opening stanza of Obama's presidential obituary.
In the 18 months of this campaign to date, the supposedly "unaffiliated" Republican-aligned Super PACs have raised $230 million. Democratic-aligned groups have brought in $80 million. (All sums of money are listed in American dollars.)
The Republican political action groups ended June with as much cash on hand as the Democrats had managed to bring in through all of the past 18 months.
And then there's Romney himself, who raised $149 million in May and June, to Obama's $126 million. Obama has had more time fundraising, so still had more money in the bank at the end of June ($98 million to $23 million). But the Super PACs, which for all measures should just be considered as part of the candidate campaigns, all but close that gap.
It's similar on a party-to-party level. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) have fundraised comparable amounts, but the DNC has spent a lot more and has about half as much money on hand to date.
Money is speech in America. And what is there to talk about at the moment?
In the last three months unemployment has been stagnant in the low 8 per cents. At the start of 2012, conventional wisdom was held to be that if the economy could continue adding over 150,000 jobs a month (which it was for a short spell) Obama was in the clear for a second term.
Between April and June, on average the economy added just 75,000 jobs a month. At the end of last week, economic growth was revealed to have slowed to 1.5 per cent for Q2 of 2012. The best commentary I read of this described it as being somewhere between "meh, and oof..."
With the wind at his back, Romney has generated appallingly little popular momentum.
Obama is a divisive president, as much so as Bush II, maybe even more. This has been so for a long time now. But his approval and favourability ratings have not moved that much in two years. His lead over Romney has been narrow for a while, but it hasn't stopped being a lead.
Romney remains stuck as the Obama-antidote rather than a self-supporting set of ideas and ideals. Much of this could be attributed to the fact that the two spend so much time fundraising that they don't actually have the time to say anything worthwhile. But he's now in danger of being the first Republican presidential nominee since 1996 to head into the party convention polling more unfavourably than favourably.
And remember, this is an American presidential election. It is a popularity contest, not some nationwide vote for what is in the best interest of America's future.
If I were to dial in my best basketball metaphor (it felt strange equating American politics with rugby), I'd go for something like this: Romney has all of the ball and a well-funded team. Obama has a smart team, but is constantly playing defence, and his team is saddled with injuries. Still, Romney keeps missing easy baskets, and giving away penalty, after penalty, after penalty.
Romney is the political equivalent of Shaquille O'Neal trying to make a free throw.
The most recent case of Romney-related foot-in-mouth was his Olympics trip. This was supposed to be the standard case of the presidential candidate going abroad to look like a statesman. It's considered a no-go to criticise the US president outside the nation's borders, so the trip is really one great public relations exercise. Romney goes to the Olympics, to remind people that he helped stage an Olympics... he gets photographed with David Cameron... he's a handsome guy with a broad smile... and so on.
Except on Romney's first day in town he questions London's preparedness for the coming games, and finds himself singled out by mayors, prime ministers and cabinet ministers, mocked by TV hosts and ridiculed on the front page of every newspaper.
There's also the tax return snafu: despite wide calls to go deeper than this, Romney has released just two years of his tax returns. Obama and Biden have released 12 years of tax returns. It's probably only to stop people from hassling him about the possibility of being both the wealthiest president ever and the one paying the lowest tax rate, but each delay only burnishes the collective imaginations of America.
There was also the cryptic disagreement between Romney's claim to have left Bain Capital in 1999, and the discovery that his name was listed as a director into 2002. And this is just the recent history.
My favourite boo-boo of his is still the now infamous,"I'm also unemployed" line.
Romney could still win the election. I'm not writing him out. But we're coming up to the halfway point of Obama-Romney and I can't overlook his ability to take a great situation and somehow trip over his own feet.
So that's my political thought for the day. The US election is coming up three months away. A few more of you might be paying closer attention now?
What's your feeling about it all so far?
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