2012 Shapes Up As Repeat of 2004
The incumbent president is despised by supporters of the opposite party. Many voters feel the country is on the wrong track. The challenger is wealthy, a little stiff, and from Massachusetts. And Ohio could decide the race. Sound like 2012?
2012 is shaping up to be a repeat in reverse of 2004 when John Kerry tried to unseat George W. Bush.
Let’s start with hatred, ok, strong dislike. Democrats strongly disliked George W. Bush. They felt he and the US Supreme Court stole the 2000 election. They hated his tax cuts. Democrats felt President Bush could have done more to prevent the 9-11 attacks and then used the attacks to overly restrict civil liberties and start an unjustified war in Iraq.
Now in 2012, the strong dislike is reversed. Republicans despise President Obama. Conservatives hate the president’s stimulus program, the rising debt, the healthcare law and what they call “appeasement” of hostile regimes in the Middle East.
Country On Wrong Track
Like now, most 2004 voters were pessimistic about the future of the country. In October of 2004, an ABC News poll found that 55 percent of Americans thought the country was headed in the wrong direction under President Bush. This year, polls show nearly 56 percent of Americans believe we are on the wrong track. Those are not numbers incumbents seeking re-election like to see.
OK, About The Other Guy…
That brings us to the challengers. In 2004 John Kerry used his foreign policy experience in the senate and Vietnam War record to capture the Democratic nomination. He seemed like the ideal candidate to challenge a war-time president like George W. Bush. But Kerry was for the war before he was against it. He was distant, awkward, and very wealthy. And he was from Massachusetts.
Scan forward to 2012. Republicans seem to have the idea candidate to challenge a president with a questionable economic record. Rather than foreign policy, Republicans are going after President Obama’s handling of the economy. Their choice: Mitt Romney, the successful CEO who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics and brokered bi-partisan compromise as governor. But Mr. Romney was for the president’s healthcare plan before he was against it. He’s distant, awkward, very wealthy and from Massachusetts.
Swift Boats and Bain Capital
The tactics of 2012 mirror those used in 2004. Eight years ago, the Bush campaign and his, ahem, unaffiliated supporters spent the summer attacking John Kerry’s strength – his heroism in the Vietnam War. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth cast doubt on that record and nullified Kerry’s advantage. This cycle, the Obama campaign and his, ahem, unaffiliated supporters spent the summer going after Romney’s strength – his success at Bain Capital. Ads claiming Bain reaped millions of dollars shutting down companies and outsourcing jobs have nullified Romney’s business record.
The Two-Part Question
Presidential re-election campaigns ask voters two simple questions. First, are you happy with the current president’s performance? In 2004 and in 2012 the answer to that question was and seems to be “No,” based on the wrong- track, write track data,
But the equally important second question is: Do you think the challenger is a better choice? In 2004, the answer was also “No,” and George W. Bush turned back the John Kerry challenge, if only barely. Now in 2012, a majority of voters seem unhappy with President Obama, but so far, like 2004, they don’t seem satisfied with the challenger.
Mitt Romney has six weeks to fix that, and like Mr. Bush, Romney must win Ohio.