It was roughly this time in 2008 that the event called "The Great Recession" began rolling. Lehman Brothers, a huge financial services firm, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 15th, 2008, thus beginning a domino effect of big banks and financial firms shuttering their doors, filing for Chapter 11 or announcing that suddenly their huge profits were really huge deficits.
As the world fell (or seemed to), then Republican Presidential candidate John McCain boldly said that he would suspend his campaign in order to return to Washington to work directly on the crisis. However, while he was in Washington, attending meetings on the crisis on all levels, instead of looking like a leader, he looked like he was barely paying attention. By contrast his opponent, then Democratic candidate Barack Obama, said that a president must be able to balance several priorities at once, and in those same meetings, looked attentive, active, asking follow-up questions and making notes; in other words, he looked like a working president. September 2008 is more or less seen as the point in the last election where McCain had officially lost his bid to become President of the United States.
Welcome to September 2012, a point where many, even Republicans, are saying that Mitt Romney lost his presidential bid.
Compounding on a series of gaffs already jamming the political pipeline is this week's release of a tape from a Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton. In it, Romney basically dismisses nearly half the electorate as moochers, beggars and parasites, people so hopelessly attached to the government teat that they'll vote for Obama out of sheer reflex. They can never be convinced to look to alternatives, because they're too busy being a leech to society, riding high on the government hog and not knowing the important American value of pulling yourself up by your boot straps. He also said, to somewhat less fanfare, that he'd be having an easier time if his father had been born an actual Mexican rather than just being born there.
I'd say that Mitt Romney shouldn't give up his day job, but running for president is his day job.
If you're a Romeny campaign worker, this is the kind of week you did not want to have. The original plan has gone off the rails. With a polarized electorate hopeless deadlocked, and only a couple of percentage points via independent voters up for grabs, the strategy was a three stage boost from the announcement of the nomination of Paul Ryan, the Republican National Convention, and the presidential debates in October. But Ryan seemed to have no effect, there was no post-convention bump, and with still three weeks to go before the first debate, Obama has pulled ahead of Romney in several swing states. In fact, according to Electoral College analytics on The Huffington Post, if the election were held today, Obama would easily secure re-election with a similar margin to his 2008 victory over McCain.
The struggle for Romney has been almost nonstop for the month of September. Following the RNC, he went radio silent. Reportedly he was deep in debate prep, while at the same time the Democrats were eviscerating him and his platform at the DNC. Result: Obama comes out of his convention with a measurable bump in the polls. Next was a round of press and townhalls for Romney and Ryan, resulting in the two of them taking positions to some degree oppositional to previous statements. In Colorado, Ryan told a townhall that legalizing medical marijuana was a state's issue outside the pervue of the Federal government. On "Meet the Press," Romney said that there are some aspects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that he liked and would keep if he were elected president. The campaign had to do some serious spinning on both counts.
Then there was last week's crisis in Libya where a U.S. Ambassador and three other diplomats were killed in a terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi. While the attack was still in progress, and the extent of the casualties and the damage was still mostly unknown, Romney's campaign released a statement attacking the Obama administration for apologizing for the supposed catalyst for widespread violence across the Middle East, a poorly-produced though utterly offensive You Tube video called "Innocence of Muslins." In fact, the administration didn't apologize for the video, and even if the press release in question did, it wasn't even sent out by anyone representing Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or any other foreign policy surrogate from the White House. In fact, the so-called apology was actually an appeal for calm from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, as tensions began to swell in regards to the video that afternoon, before the violence.
Regardless, Romney doubled-down on the statement the next day at a brief press conference, the death of the ambassador could be laid at the feet of Obama and his "make America weak" agenda. Obama had apologized to the people attacking U.S. embassies overseas, and was apologizing for American values, which, of course, he didn't. Paradoxically, Romney was the proverbial cheese once the media started attacking him for getting his facts wrong, standing alone as even members of his own team piled on. Conservative commentators like Peggy Noonan and William Kristol both said that Romney was speaking out of turn, attacking a sitting president on policy as the country was dealing with a genuine emergency, let alone that his own information on the matter was incorrect, a fact he seemed to be ignoring out of either choice or ignorance.
But that stuff he could have recovered from. In this election, foreign policy credentials weren't supposed to be the decider, but following Romney's gaffs and his failure to name check Afghanistan in his convention speech, there are now serious questions if he has what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief. But that was all before this week began.
The video in question, which was surreptitiously recorded in May and posted to Mother Jones this week, perhaps didn't detail anything new about Romney, so much as conform what a lot of people suspected about him in the first place: he's a rich guy that doesn't care about working Americans so much as maintaining the wealth of himself and people like him. The tape has now confirmed that to the minds of those people. Leave aside that the 47 per cent of people who don't pay income taxes are made up of people who don't pay them either because they don't make enough income, or because they have would enough loopholes to not have to pay, but this screed about people who don't pay taxes is coming from a man who refuses to release more than one year of his own tax returns.
In the wake of this, many Republicans seem to abandoning the Romney campaign; even his campaign co-chair Tim Pawlenty left the campaign just seven weeks out from Election Day. Meanwhile, those who haven't already said it's over are suggesting that the candidate and his campaign are in need of a serious game changer, and hope is still being banked on the three presidential debates. But perhaps the explanation for Romney's troubles is simpler. Never a favourite of the Republicans during the primaries, and seemingly the best of a lot of bad options, Romney not only secured the nomination by default, but there's the perception that as runner-up to McCain in '08, it was Romney's "turn," so to speak. That kind of attitude doesn't breed a lot of excitement, even before this week's gaff-a-palooza.
As the week winds down, Romney's troubles continues, albeit not in a world-ending way. At a Univsion townhall he answered a question about medicare and the correlation between his Massachusetts healthcare reform and Obamacare saying, "I have experience in health care reform. Now and then the president says I'm the grandfather of Obamacare. I don't think he meant that as a compliment but I'll take it." Romney later said that the comment was in jest, but having very little experience hearing Romney tell a joke, people weren't a hundred per cent certain. The other thing was that Romney told a "Meet the Candidates" forum in Florida that if one of his grandchildren turned out to be gay, he'd want them to be happy, and that they "should be able to pursue a relationship of love and respect and raise a family as they would choose," but that they shouldn't be allowed to marry. It's strange that this development is probably the least innocuous of all of Romney's missteps this week, but it's not like he had much of a hope securing the gay vote anyway.
In the midst of all this it's almost easy to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. The party establishment wasn't entirely at his back to begin with and in these troubled final days of the campaign they seemed to be abandoning him rather than rallying, and it's not just that U.S. conservatives are looking to 2016, they're even looking to total abandonment of the party and building something else in some cases. But the fault lies not in the stars, but in Romeny himself. His biggest selling point as a candidate is his experience as a business manager, and if he can't manage his own campaign very well, what hope will he have in the Oval Office. It's only America's future at sake. No big deal.