About a month ago, I wrote an article asking whether Mitt Romney could beat the President in November. Looking at the electoral map, it seemed like Republicans had little chance of making Obama a one-term President. In swing-states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, Romney was running about 10 points behind. But, my, what one month can do in politics. With gas prices remaining high, and unemployment trickling down at an anemic rate (and, let me add, a manufactured rate. It’s dropping in large part because of the millions of people who have given up looking for work), the President is more vulnerable than ever. And yes, the polls are finally showing it.
Over the last 30 days, I’ve watched as Romney, in poll after poll, has closed the gap. Today, according to a Real Clear Politics national average, he trails the President by a mere 1.5%, easily within the polls’ margins of error. A month ago, Romney trailed by 5%. However, the biggest shifts haven’t come on the general election front; they’ve come from state-specific polls. In Florida, Romney trails Obama by a statistically insignificant 0.5%, and in three of the last four polls taken in the state, has led the President by roughly 1.33%. A month ago, Romney was behind by 5%. In Ohio, a Quinnipiac poll released several days ago had Romney trailing Obama by 1%. In North Carolina, Romney trails by 2.4%. Need I mention that the President essentially gave this state away after publicly humiliating its populace by coming out in support of gay marriage? I could go on, but you get the picture. Things are tightening up, and they’re tightening up quickly.
So why is this? I think there are a multitude of reasons, all of which I cannot possibly cover. First and foremost in Romney’s rise has no doubt been the end of the Republican primary race. Two days ago, Rick Santorum formally endorsed Romney for the Presidency. Michele Bachmann did the same a couple days earlier. What we are seeing is a wholesale effort to unite the Party, and so far, it’s been successful. As we near election day, the most important thing for Republicans is unity. Don’t even think about voting for Ron Paul as a third-party candidate (that would be the last straw for Mr. Paul and I). To win, Romney must focus on independents and disillusioned Democrats. He can’t spend time worrying about the conservative vote. With the endorsements of scions like Santorum, Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich, Romney should be able to move forward with an overwhelming majority of Republican voters on his side.
Another factor critical to Romney’s rise has been the apparent stagnation of the economy. In the last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has posted losses equaling about 300 points. Our unemployment rate stands at 8.1%; if you add discouraged workers and workers who are working part-time jobs (and need a full-time job), you’re looking at a rate of 14%. Also, the civilian labor force participation rate fell to 63.3% in April, the lowest rate since 1981. To make matters worse, gas prices haven’t budged from their $4.00/gallon price in well over a month and the national debt is nearing $16 trillion.
All in all, the President has had a tough time convincing rational Americans that the economy is doing well. Sure, things are getting better, but for how long? How long can we survive with 14% of our workers unemployed? Small businesses across the nation are closing down because of gas prices; how long until those layoffs start affecting us once again? These are questions that Obama seems to be unable to answer. Instead of finding solutions to our real problems, the President appears content to infuriate swing-state voters and affirm his support for issues that can only hurt him. As I see it, these numbers represent Obama’s biggest problem going into November, and possibly, the best explanation for why Romney is pulling ahead.
For the most part, voters in states like Florida and North Carolina don’t care what the President’s stance on gay marriage is (although North Carolinians may well take offense to his indiscriminate rejection of their collective opinion). They care about the jobs that he’s going to create in their respective states. As of now, Obama’s only solution has been to spend billions of dollars building roads that lead us nowhere. Mitt Romney offers an alternative that’s appealing to many people. Less government, lower taxes, and more creativity in business. Those are answers. Throwing money at the problem is not the solution; in fact, it’s part of the problem. Taking a bold stance on possibly the most divisive social issue in America was a huge gamble. In the end, though, it won’t matter. The people want results and Obama hasn’t delivered. Shame on him.