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Independents’ Day

Romney’s advantage with unaffiliated voters could prove key.

Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By JAY COST
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And now the Obama campaign is in a real bind. With a week left and behind in the polls, the president must dislodge the voters’ impression that Romney is the better man to handle the big issues. Hence, Obama’s starkly negative tenor and tone over the last few days. More and more, his campaign resembles those run by losers in the modern era; there is a kind of annoyance and anger to his attacks, which so far are not resonating with average Americans. Perhaps before the campaign is over, he’ll repeat Bob Dole’s frustrated cry of “Where’s the outrage?”

The president could have done more. And if he ultimately loses, the comparison with Bill Clinton will be instructive. After his rebuff in the 1994 midterms, Clinton made a course correction that likely saved his presidency. He rightly interpreted the Democrats’ drubbing that year as a sign of public frustration with the drift of the government, and a demand for greater cooperation between the two sides. A modified direction and greater cooperation is exactly what Clinton delivered through 1995 and 1996, with the bipartisan welfare reform bill serving as capstone.

President Obama, on the other hand, basically ignored the 2010 midterm verdict. The public clearly was demanding greater comity between the two sides and a focus on solving the problems of the economy and public finances, yet Obama brokered no lasting deals with his Republican foes. Instead, he battened down the hatches, figuring that he could wait out the Tea Party storm, then castigate the GOP as a bunch of right-wing crazies who had made things worse.

That strategy seemed to be working until the debates, when Romney utterly shattered the mold Obama had cast for him. Now, the country is left with a choice: more of the same with Obama or a change with Romney. More and more, Americans are coming around to the idea that a President Romney would be a change for the better, which means that—barring some unforeseen shift in public opinion—Obama’s days in office look to be numbered.

Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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