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Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Binyamin Rose, Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte,North Carolinamay be known as the home of auto racing. But it is the contest between President Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney that ignited political spark plugs last week, as the race to decide who will occupy driver’s seat in the Oval Office for the next four years officially got underway in this Southern city.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

obamaAbout the only common denominator between the recently concluded Republican and Democratic national conventions, inTampa andCharlotte respectively, was the weather. Both cities were hot and muggy, and in both locations the threats of rain were more intimidating than the actual rainfall.

The fact that there was more bluster than precipitation may have had symbolic undertones. Few of the numbers tossed around at the conventions have stood up to ensuing fact-checking.

The contrast between the parties’ viewpoints and values could not have been starker. In the final two months of the campaign, the Democrats will present themselves as the champions of the middle class. There is both reward and risk in that calculation. While most Americans fall into the broad swath known as the middle class, they are also the ones who have suffered the most from five years of economic stagnation. If they decide to hold the present administration responsible, instead of buying into President Obama’s acceptance speech line that these problems have been building for decades, the middle class may rebel against Obama on November 6.

The Republicans, on the other hand, hold that the best interests of the middle class are served when the business community — corporate and small — as well as the entrepreneurial class, is empowered. That wealth tends to trickle down and according to the GOP philosophy, the middle class will benefit from a booming business sector. The only problem with that theory is that in the past, it’s benefited the upper class more than the middle class. Gaps in wealth between the top and lower percentiles have never been greater in Americaand the average American is no better off financially now than he was at the end of the 20th century.

The party that wins in November will be the side that attracts the most voters to its political theory, but figures presented last week at the Democratic National Convention show that most voters have already made up their mind.

Of the voters surveyed who said they prefer President Obama, 76% say they will definitely vote for him. Some 72% of Romney supporters say they are set in concrete on their man. The battleground is over the 25% who can still be swayed.

Obama may have a slight edge in most voter surveys, but compared to 2009, when he captured 53% of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes, he is polling worse among every key voting group, with the exception of African-Americans, according to Anna Greenberg of the Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner public opinion research and strategic consulting group.

“You see erosion almost in almost every group: independent voters, blue-collar voters, and even unmarried women, who tend to be a core Democratic constituency,” said Greenberg.

An Obama supporter, Greenberg takes solace in the fact Obama is ahead even though the sluggish economy suggests that the incumbent should lose. “The fact that he’s doing as well as he is pretty remarkable and is a testament to both his personal popularity and problems within the Republican Party,” she said.

Republican political strategist John McLaughlin’s reading of the polls portends a bleak outlook for Obama’s reelection bid. “Even in the president’s best polls he’s under 50%, which means that most voters want to vote against him. Any time an incumbent runs under 50% they’re in trouble,” he observes. “Compare that to when George W. Bush ran for reelection [and won]. He always ran at 51% to 52%. This president is running at 46%, and that means he’s likely to lose.”

The battle lines are clearly demarcated. Election Day is 60 days away. As David Dimas, a leading Democratic Party consultant brought in to revive President Obama’s flagging fortunes among Jewish voters, told a coalition of Jewish Obama supporters: “This is a 50-50 country. And that’s the type of race it’s going to be.”

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