“You know it don’t take near as good a man to be a candidate as it does to hold the office, that’s why we wisely defeat more than we elect.”
— Will Rogers, 1928
Mitt Romney’s sweep of five states in the Republican presidential primaries Tuesday put to rest any lingering doubts (if, indeed, there were any) as to whose names will top the lineup in the political Super Bowl this sixth of November.
The Republican race, relatively early on, had all the excitement of a second-half Citadel Bulldog vs. Clemson Tiger football game, without pretty cheerleaders on the sidelines. On the Democratic side, where no one challenged President Barack Obama, there was no excitement whatsoever. All was pre-determined, all mere formality. Oh, for a smoke-filled room or two.
Not in my lifetime, and I’ve lived a long time, has either party dumped an incumbent president. There have been a few close calls — Ronald Reagan’s challenge to President Gerald Ford in 1976, Ted Kennedy’s in 1980 to President Jimmy Carter, the former peanut farmer from Georgia who many Democrats, in their secret heart, wished had stuck to his earlier career choice. You might argue that President Lyndon Johnson, politically destroyed by the Vietnam War, might not have won nomination to run for a second full term had he sought one. And if the fallout from the Watergate scandal had peaked during President Richard Nixon’s first term instead of his second, and he hadn’t resigned, his own party might have rejected him.
But such is very rare in a two-party, democratic country.
There are still decisions to be made by the Obama and Romney campaigns that will add a bit of drama in coming months. There’s talk that Vice President Joe Biden might be sent out to pasture, replaced perhaps by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to shore up the foreign service vote (I’m joking). Democrats think they already have women voters safely corralled, though I rather doubt they do. Politically corralling women, like corralling cats, is not as easy as it might seem.
For Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio, a fresh-faced, one-term U.S. senator from Florida, is being given a lot of ink as a potential vice presidential candidate. Rubio is young, well spoken, of Cuban descent and hails from a critical swing state. Too bad he’s Latino, not Latina. If he were the latter he could give a double boost to the Romney ticket.
Assuming, of course, that election politics is what will govern Romney’s choice of the man or woman to attend state funerals, break tie votes in the Senate, and spend the next four or eight years a heartbeat removed from the most powerful elective office in the world.
Seriously, is there not a better way to do this?
The broad outlines of the presidential campaign that lies before us (and behind us, too, if you agree with those who say President Obama has been conducting his these many months) are already clear. The president, foreclosed by dismal economic statistics from running on his record in office will seek to capitalize on class envy and the unfairness of unequal distribution of the nation’s wealth.
Romney will run by touting his successful career in the private sector and his record as a Republican governor in the most Democratic state in the country — Massachusetts. The centerpiece of the Romney campaign, however, will be the president’s failure to address:
¦ The national debt, now totaling more than $15 trillion, debt fueled by massive budget deficits in each of President Obama’s first three years in office, debt that has increased by more than a third on his watch. This cannot all be blamed on George W. Bush.
¦The U.S. money supply up by more than 18 percent, monetary growth reflected, in part, by soaring gasoline prices ($1.83 a gallon when Obama took office, double that now); corn, up 78 percent; soybeans, up 42 percent; sugar, up 165 percent; et cetera, et cetera.
¦Unemployment, which climbed above 8 percent early in his term and has stayed there; unemployment among blacks even worse — more than 25 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics data).
¦Food Stamp recipients, up 35 percent.
¦People living in poverty, up more than 8 percent.
And there is more, much more of this that requires explanation on President Obama’s part.
It isn’t “fair,” and it isn’t something that one running for re-election to a second term in the White House would want to see brought up. But it will be brought up, again and again.
You can bank on it. R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.