Friday, January 27, 2012

The Republicans’ Wasted Angst

Republicans need to chillax. Especially within the Republican establishment, some apparently are having anxiety attacks about how the primaries are unfolding.

Here’s what the panic prone seem to be overlooking — if the election were held tomorrow, Charley Sheen would beat Barack Obama. Heck, you could even say John McCain would beat him. The point is this: the election in November will be almost exclusively about Obama. The relative importance of Obama versus fill-in-the-blank will be in the neighborhood of 95 to 5. This election will be overwhelmingly a vote against rather than a vote for. The deciding question on the majority of voters’ minds will be, “Which of these two guys is not Barack Obama.” There will be tens of millions of “one-issue voters” and the one issue will be Mr. Obama.

In the 2008 election Obama had virtually every imaginable factor in his favor. The mainstream media gave him a free ride, as they will again in November. There was no due diligence, no vetting. Even with every imaginable advantage, 47 percent of the electorate voted against him. It’s reasonable to assume that virtually none of those who voted against him then will vote for him this time.

Now consider the 53 percent who voted for him. That 53 percent comprised a number of sub-populations — young people, minorities, Jews, labor union members, progressives, independents, for example. Now on an almost daily basis we see polls showing how he is hemorrhaging support from one or another of these groups. In a wide variety of ways he has managed to alienate many of his supporters.

There are, of course, Democrats and liberals who would never vote for any Republican. Nevertheless, some will simply opt not to vote at all. On the other hand, those who voted against Obama in 2008 are now more highly motivated to vote than they were then.

Obama’s greatest asset in 2008 was his unknown-ness. That asset has now disappeared. In 2008 his blank résumé miraculously transformed into a blank canvas that voters used to envision their heartfelt fantasies. Obama is now a known quantity and a known quality. Getting elected by concealing who you are is not a strategy that can be recycled.

The number of people he has angered or at least disappointed is immense. Even his supporters are angry at him. The difference between the hope and the results is huge. People who were mildly against him are now fervently so. The high unemployment rate only partially reflects the pain and anxiety in the population. Thousands of businesses have failed, and thousands of others are hanging on by their finger tips. Many of those people voted for him last time and will have a tough time doing so again.

The Obama White House and reelection team are trying to show a brave face. The Republican primaries are their primary basis for optimism. They and their mainstream media support team think the Republicans are self-destructing, and many Republicans seem to agree.

Fortunately for Republicans, in this election an ideal candidate is not a prerequisite for victory. As is always the case, everything is relative.

It is now obvious that Obama cannot run on his record. His State of the Union address almost totally avoided any mention of his accomplishments other than killing Bin Laden.

Obama’s only real hope is that the economy turns around between now and November. That, of course, is a real possibly. Our economy has enormous inherent strength and resilience. No recession has lasted forever.

If the economy does turn around it will be in spite of, not because of, Obama. Nevertheless, a recovery would change the mood of the country. Some voters will give credit to Obama. Many voters, however, are so strongly opposed to Obama that nothing between now and November could swing their vote in his favor. If the economy does not recover significantly, Obama is toast, no matter who the Republican nominee turns out to be.

It’s never smart to be overconfident or to make assumptions, but it’s also not smart to be defeatist when there are so many valid reasons for being optimistic. You’ll have a lot more fun watching events between now and November if you maintain an optimistic outlook.

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The Republicans’ Wasted Angst January 27, 2012

Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at rossecon@gmail.com.

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