Romney,Obama rally the faithful
The Republicans and Democrats in the US have officially nominated their presidential candidate for November’s election. Both parties held relatively successful national conventions over the past two weeks; the Republicans in Tampa, Florida and the Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina. Florida and North Carolina are both ‘battleground’ or ‘swing’ states which the candidates would like to win in November, so it is no coincidence that the respective conventions were held there.
Although both conventions went well, neither of them were particularly inspiring and both Romney and Obama have both been accused by political observers of not spelling out exactly how they would get the economy moving again. Overall, the Democratic National Convention was probably more successful that its Republican counterpart; Romney did not get a boost in the polls after his convention, while Obama got a slight one, probably due to former President Bill Clinton’s excellent speech to the Democratic Party faithful.
Romney’s address was deemed to the lowest rated convention speech by a party presidential nominee since polling began, according to Gallup. His wife Ann Romney did a reasonable job of trying to shed his image as a ruthless businessman and corporate raider, telling the convention delegates: “Mitt is an incredible husband, father, and leader. And he’s exactly the man America needs at this pivotal moment”.
Soon after the Republican Convention closed Romney posted a message on Facebook where he told his followers: “No President in modern history has ever asked to be re-elected with this many Americans out of work. Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work, and more families wake up in poverty than ever before. It’s unacceptable. And now, America needs jobs – not a litany of President Obama’s excuses, scapegoats, and alibis. To change direction, we need a President who will own up to the simple truth: Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.
“With your help, the Republican team, Paul Ryan, and I will deliver that brighter future. Our Plan for a Stronger Middle Class will create 12 million jobs, and ensure more take-home pay and better opportunities for all Americans”.
Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate was essentially aimed at appeasing the Republican Party’s conservative base, which considers Ryan to be a hero. Ryan, a right-wing Wisconsin congressman who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and who has proposed a radical reform of Medicare (federal government insurance programme that guarantees medical cover for those aged over 65), gave a reasonably good speech at the convention, but failed to improve Romney’s ratings in the polls. While delighting conservatives, Ryan could be scaring away independent or moderate Republicans, in the same way as Sarah Palin did in 2008.
President Obama, on the other hand, arrived at his Democratic Party Convention with the lowest pre-convention favourability (47 per cent) for an incumbent President since 1980, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. In fact since the beginning of the 20th century only two presidents have been re-elected with an unemployment rate above seven per cent, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, so Obama has no easy task.
Furthermore there was bleak news from the manufacturing sector on Tuesday, just as the Democratic Convention opened, namely that the Institute for Supply Management Index fell for the third straight month. This index measures new orders, inventories, exports and employment in the manufacturing sector. There was further bad news for Obama on Friday as the latest jobs figures showed that only 96,000 new jobs were created in August; economists had said that at least 125,000 new jobs would be needed every month to keep up with the growth in population.
Obama gave a good speech, as he always does, but he lacked new ideas on the economy. His wife Michelle spoke on the first day where she spoke of the vision and values that guided Obama as President.
“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it… and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter whom we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love,” she told the delegates.
Obama told voters they face a generational choice in November’s election, and concentrated on attacking Romney’s credentials to be President. “From all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning,” he said to wide applause.
Obama also used the convention to criticise Romney’s foreign policy: “So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy, and not al-Qaeda, unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp,” he told his party delegates.
With barely 60 days to go before the election, the two candidates now plunge into an intense race which will mainly be concentrated in the swing states. The polls are still showing a very tight race and at this stage either of them can win. In a nutshell Obama is more likeable and popular than Romney but voters are not yet convinced about the President’s economic record. If the jobless figures continue to worsen, Romney’s chances will improve, although I still think Obama will scrape through.