Please note: I am not the Devil.
So he did it. Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. Of course, this had been inevitable for a while but only now can it be confirmed that the Republican convention will be a coronation rather than a contest. Now the question is who he chooses as a running mate. I don’t really know and don’t really care who the runners and riders are to join one of the dullest politicians in living memory on the Republican ticket. All I can do is note that he’s going to have to work hard to come up with a crappier choice that McCain in 2008 (although both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum would make Palin look like a great choice by comparison).
However, with the confirmation of Romney as the Republican nominee, it is now certain that, on some level of other, Obama will win the 2012 Presidential election. Firstly, Romney enters this contest bruised and battered. The duel for the nomination has been one of the most vicious since the notorious 1964 battle for the Republican nomination, when Barry Goldwater went off to fight LBJ despised by a substantial part of his own party. The Obama camp can now sit there and cherry-pick their way through all the jibes, taunts and insults that other Republicans have thrown at Romney for their attack ads, and round them all off by pointing out that this is what members of Romney’s own party think about him.
Then there is the problem that this is Mitt Romney that we’re talking about. Despite all the hype, Obama lacks that common touch that Clinton and Reagan, to name but two, had coming out of their ears. However, next to Mitt Romney, Obama looks like a man of the people. It is difficult to imagine a more wooden political operator than Mitt without actually nominating a tree to run for the presidency. Mitt was not nominated because he is a credible candidate, but rather because his opponents were either too radical, compromised, hypocritical or just plain batshit crazy to be a credible nominee.
Of course, the US voters won’t simply be looking at personality and a sterling display of loyalty at the convention should aid Mitt massively. But there are still problems. For a start, Mitt Romney has changed his positions on numerous issues more than someone with ADHD playing “Twister” while on crack. His crawl to the nomination as so slow because he has failed to convince his own party that he is a man of conviction and someone to be trusted. And these are the people who are meant to be his core supporters. And overall Romney increasingly resembles the Republican answer to John Kerry – and that is very much not a good thing, since the question Kerry turned out to be the answer to was “how do you go up against a discredited, unpopular and divisive president with an appalling record in office and still lose the election?”
In short, Obama is likely to win and if I was a betting man, I’d be putting my money on him. But it has to be conceded that this is shaping up to be a close election. So we have to entertain the scenario that Obama could lose. Given the relative closeness of the election there are a number of different things that could finally sink the incumbent, from debate performances through to the economy tanking (again). So how can Obama win if he in fact loses the election?
Well, on a personal level, he is still the first president from an ethnic minority to attain the highest office in the land. He would have massive name recognition and the sort of fame more commonly associated with entertainers. He would be able to rinse the after dinner speech circuit dry, he would have interviews coming out of every orifice and he would be able to write yet another dull, leaden autobiography. In short, he’d be able to go out and earn a fuck load of cash, all the time assured that a place (however controversial) is assured for him in the history books.
On a political level, the answer as to how he wins is simple – again, it’s the man who is his opponent. If it is Romney inaugurated next January rather than Obama, then precious little will change. You only have to look at Romney’s statist record as governor to see this (not least in the oft-commented on similarity of Romneycare and Obamacare). And while many Republicans are now desperately trying to see the differences between Obama and Romney, a lot of that is purely wishful thinking. It is difficult to shake the feeling that, with a Romney victory, the faces and names would changes, but the policies would remain largely the same.
And that’s the tragedy; regardless of who wins the ballot come November, Obama wins personally and politically. The supposed choice that America will make in November increasingly looks like a distraction from the fact that they are choosing from two men who agree on the end destination, and are just arguing over the best way to get there. And it is a tragedy that is replicated on this side of the Atlantic as well; we get to choose between statists who increasingly can only be distinguished from one another by their party tags. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the epitaph for and the most apposite description of politics in our age.