By DAVID BEILSTEIN
IT’S IN THE metaphorical water.
The clouds, still someway off, appear dark and foreboding for the president. President Obama is in trouble politically and the president himself knows it. Polls show such realities. Mr Obama, even when shown leading in national head-to-head match-ups with Mr. Romney, is unable to rise above 46%.
We have seen this writing on the wall before. The most recent: the 1992 presidential election between George Herbert Walker Bush and William Jefferson Clinton. Bush, Sr., wilted in incumbency, was impotent to comprehend the people’s waterside view of the anemic job creation.
Bush Sr. flinched at the coarsening economic environs helplessly; he stepped backwards instead of slipping and countering. The more Bush warned and attacked Clinton’s licentious character flaws, the worse it got for the former President. Bush pounded the lectern about Bubba’s ‘I can feel your pain’ tack, crying loudly Clinton only planned to raise taxes and destroy the achievements of Reaganomics.
And still, Governor Clinton crept steadily up in the polls. In 1992, Clinton proposed a future. He connected. The elder Bush countered-punched not with a plan, but with fear. It did not work for Bush and it will not work for President Obama.
Republican voters foresaw the elder Bush losing in 1992. We may propose a kind of wisdom in Bush’s rhetoric in hindsight given Mr. Clinton’s peek-a-booing with an intern half his age 6 years later, but, alas, history is history. We find ourselves besieged by a media sated in bias dross of Romney’s flaws. Romney does have flaws. Lots. Obama has (and had) flaws, too. But the public perception of former President George W. Bush’s failure for at least half of his presidency, blinded people to Obama’s flaws in the 2008 election.
The same, to me, will end up being true for Romney. The present economic conditions and public dissatisfaction with such realities will be the white sheet Obama’s sizeable muddy stain will become offensive to an American public weary of the direction of the country and Obama’s stewardship at the helm. It is the husband or wife ready to leave a marriage for greener-pastures whom most notices—and is driven to contempt of—their spouses’ defects of character.
President Obama is smart. He’s a gifted orator. But Obama is not a good politician. His political trek would have shouldered policy initiatives of a different stripe if he were gifted politically.
Winning and losing in politics is analogous to boxing. Having some experience doing and watching ‘the sweet science’, it did not take me long to see all fighters lose alike. They start getting hit more and more. Simultaneously, the losing fighter’s own offensive attack becomes increasingly ineffective. In time, the tipping point happens: the legs go, arms go spent; punches
become pointless lunges. Discipline evaporates, and panic begins to bleed into the fighter’s tactics. Obama is showing fatigue. When the Obama campaign threw a succession of negative ads at Romney and came out of that safari basically empty-handed, and according to many polls, still down; one could see the fun go out of the campaign for the Obama minions.
Such political winds reminded me of the November 1996 fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Tyson came out like a bullet train. Mid-way through the first round, Holyfield calmed himself, circled Tyson, and struck back with a succession of quick combinations and snappy footwork.
Tyson could only fix his groin protector. It was in his eyes: defeat. He lost, too. Badly.
That bewilderment is beginning to appear on team Obama’s proverbial face. Yes, President Obama is fighting on steady legs, for now. He still has a punch and his foot speed is still impressive. But this only means he can still win. The problem with such analysis is that former President George H.W. Bush and Senator John McCain could also have still won their prospective elections.
Neither man did.
There is an ebb and flow to pugilism and politics. It’s natural law. Anyone who confidently presumes an Obama reelection wants Obama to win. But feelings and wants do not norm reality. Conversely, the person who sees Romney raising his hand to assume the Oath of Office on January 20, 2013, is seeing the shape of the political and electoral landscape. Far off, they see the rolling, dark clouds, and the coming gale.
They see the obvious: losing, whether Republican or Democrat, looks the same.