Finally, Obama’s opponent has been confirmed, but can the Republican nominee mount an effective challenge?
I doubt you will ever find a politician more desperate to believe Nietzsche’s aphorism that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger than Mitt Romney.
With former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum announcing that he is suspending his presidential campaign, it ensures what many political observers have assumed for quite some time – that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president this autumn. Only 26 other men have achieved this goal, so congratulations to Romney are in order. But a larger view of Romney’s political situation takes some of the bloom off this particular rose. Have the past 12 months of campaigning – while certainly not killing him – really made Romney stronger? So far the evidence is not very good.
Only 34% of Americans have a positive view of Romney, which makes him at this point in the presidential campaign one of the least popular presumptive nominees in American history. Even candidates who lost (and lost badly) such as Dukakis in 1988, Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008 were more popular than Romney is right now. More disconcerting still is the fact that even Republican rank-and-file voters are somewhat indifferent to Romney. His favourability among Republicans overall is a rather tepid 62%. Those who define themselves as conservatives within these ranks have an even less favourable view, with 47% viewing their party’s nominee in a positive light. On the other side, Obama has none of the same problems with a sparkling 86% favourability among Democrats.
Granted, most of these traditional Republican voters will cast a ballot for Romney in November, but it also means that he must spend some of his precious time over the next few months rallying conservatives behind him, to ensure they turn out in droves. On a practical level, this results in Romney not only needing to dent the relatively high favourability ratings of his opponent, but also having to rehabilitate his own.