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ANALYSIS: A Look at Obama, Romney Campaigns

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 15, 2012 / 03:38pm | Local News, Political
JULIE PACE
WASHINGTON (AP) - Four months from Election Day, President Barack Obama has an edge in support among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, groups that could swing the race in November.

He retains the power of incumbency and people generally like him.

But there are indications that Obama's supporters aren't as enthusiastic about him as they once were, and the Democrat no longer is in a fundraising league of his own, with Republican Mitt Romney and GOP-leaning groups raking in the campaign cash.

Plus, the shaky economy, which crashed in fall of 2008 and helped Obama capture the presidency, is a huge vulnerability. Come November, it could trump all his other advantages.

A look at Obama's assets and liabilities:

ADVANTAGES:

Power of Incumbency: He's the president, and that means he can set the national agenda. It's a power Obama has put to good use during his re-election campaign. He used the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death to remind voters of his national security credentials. He made a direct appeal to Hispanics by announcing a more lenient immigration policy for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. The president also already is known to the public so his campaign can focus its efforts on defining Romney instead of spending time and money introducing Obama.

Demographics: Obama leads Romney among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, edges with key voting blocs that could help him capture battleground states. The Obama campaign is banking on support from Hispanics to win out west in places like Nevada and Colorado, and in Virginia, where the Hispanic population has surged. High turnout among African-Americans would help Obama in North Carolina. And if Obama wins the women vote, it would be a significant boost to his efforts to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Likability: No matter how bad the economy gets or how low Obama's job approval ratings dip, polls show many Americans still like the president. And that personal appeal could make a big difference with undecided voters who may find it hard to vote against someone they like. About 50 percent of those surveyed in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll felt positively about Obama, compared to 33 percent who felt positively about Romney.

Strong Surrogates: The Obama campaign has two popular and persuasive surrogates at its disposal: Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Both keep up a robust campaign schedule. They head to battleground states when official business keeps the president in Washington. And they're dispatched to places where they may be more popular than he is. The first lady's approval ratings - 64 percent view her favorably according to a recent Pew poll - far exceed her husband's. And Biden has an easier rapport than Obama with white, working class voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

LIABILITIES:

Economy: There is no greater threat to Obama's re-election prospects than the economy. Even the most loyal Obama supporters say that if the already shaky economy softens any further before Election Day, the president's chances of winning will be significantly diminished. The nation's unemployment rate is stuck above 8 percent, though it has come down from its high of 10.1 percent in 2009. No one in the White House or Obama campaign expect significant economic improvement before the election. But advisers do fear that the economy could get worse, it could cement the notion with voters that the president is the wrong economic steward.

Outside money: Romney and outside groups supporting him are expected to spend more than $1 billion during the campaign, with much money being used to flood the airwaves with TV ads attacking the president. Democrats have struggled to compete with the torrent of GOP money. A Democratic super political action committee hasn't come close to matching the fundraising totals of its Republican counterparts. And Obama's campaign was vastly outraised by Romney's campaign last month. The president and his advisers say Obama could be the first incumbent running for re-election to get outspent - though the also may be trying to motivate reluctant Democratic donors.

Waning Enthusiasm: Obama himself acknowledges that his candidacy isn't as exciting as it was in 2008 when he was a political newcomer. Voters who lack enthusiasm may not donate money or volunteer for his campaign. They also may not show up to vote in November. That's a particular concern for Obama among young people, who not only voted for him in large numbers in 2008, but were a core part of his volunteer base. A Pew Research Center poll conducted last month showed that 60 percent of younger voters say they are giving quite a lot of thought to the election, down from 71 percent in 2008.

Lack of second term specifics: Obama's re-election rationale is based more on broad themes, like economic fairness, than specific policy objectives for a second term. A recent economic speech in Ohio was largely a rehash of ideas the president has previously proposed. It left the president open to criticism from Republicans and some Democrats who say he hasn't provided voters a clear enough sense of what he wants to do in a second term. Obama campaign officials counter this criticism by saying the presidents still wants to pass previously proposed ideas that were blocked by Congress in his first term - and by noting that Romney hasn't offered many specifics of his own.

KASIE HUNT

WASHINGTON (AP) - As the White House challenger, Mitt Romney can seize on the attention that accompanies the selection of a running mate. When the London Olympics get under way, he can use that spotlight to play up his leadership of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

His candidacy also is benefiting from the fundraising power of outside GOP-aligned political groups that are spending millions on TV ads to promote him and undercut President Barack Obama. The weak economic recovery offers the chance for Romney to make inroads among unhappy voters.

Not all is rosy, however, for the former Massachusetts governor.

Health care is the last thing Romney wants to talk about. As he appeals to independent voters, he has to fend off charges that by moving to the middle, he's changing core positions for political purposes.

ADVANTAGES:

Picking a vice president: It's one of the biggest decisions Romney will make during the campaign and will shed light on Romney's judgment at a time when voters are just getting to know him. Announcing the decision will ensure that he can dominate headlines, for a few days at least, in the middle of an otherwise slow summer, and could provide a fundraising boost. With a running mate in place, Romney will gain a new top surrogate who is likely to act in the traditional role of a vice presidential nominee: attacking the top of the other ticket - Obama in this case.

The Olympics: The 2012 Games in London are made for Romney as he looks to showcase one of his signature achievements, his work running the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The event was mired in scandal before Utah leaders hired Romney to try and dig them out of the mess. Romney's campaign so far has refrained from introducing to the general electorate his record as steward of the Olympics, but aides have planned extensively for the August games. Look for Romney do interviews with major media outlets and attend the opening ceremonies as well as a few events.

Super political action committees: Romney has exceeded fundraising expectations, and he's also getting lots of help from wealthy Republican donors and some Supreme Court decisions. The new rules allow outside groups to spend millions - individuals don't have the same $2,500 limit that's placed on the official campaign - to run TV ads. Super PACs can't coordinate with the campaign, but they can coordinate with each other, and they've spent millions on the air to counter Obama's onslaught of TV ads.

The Republican National Convention: The spotlight will be on Tampa, Fla., at the end of August, where the Republican challenger will accept the party's nomination and his running mate with make a national debut. Numerous rising stars within the Republican Party will get prime speaking slots. At a time when Democrats control the White House and Senate, Romney and the Republican Party will command attention for a full week.

LIABILITIES:

Health care: It's the last thing Romney wants to talk about. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the key part of Obama's health care law - the requirement that all in the U.S. carry health insurance - is constitutional under the power Congress has to levy taxes. Romney enacted a similar mandate in Massachusetts when he was governor, calling the requirement a penalty instead of a tax. After the Supreme Court decision, a senior Romney adviser appeared on MSNBC and said Romney didn't believe either mandate was a tax; the candidate reversed that position just a few days later, telling CBS that Obama's mandate is a tax. The contradictions weaken Romney's ability to attack Obama on health care, potentially a critical campaign issue.

Moving to the middle: After a brutal primary, Romney is working to appeal to independent, swing and other voters he'll need to beat Obama. But moving to the middle is a dangerous endeavor for a politician who's been accused of changing his core positions to accommodate political realities. An example: immigration. After months of using the issue to bloody his primary opponents, Romney has softened his rhetoric and tone in a bid to attract Hispanic voters. But he's been careful to say little about what he would do as president and was hesitant to take a stand when the Supreme Court ruled parts of Arizona's harsh immigration enforcement law unconstitutional.

Staying in the spotlight: It's always a problem for a challenger running against an incumbent president: attention. Without the bully pulpit the presidency allows, staying in the spotlight through the Olympic Games and long summer vacations will be challenging for a candidate who still needs to introduce himself to voters. Romney will have some high-profile opportunities to get noticed, particularly his selection of a vice president. But Obama still has an edge.

Defining himself before Obama does: Romney still isn't well known to most voters. In a May Associated Press-GfK poll, 44 percent of adults felt they had "a good idea of what policies Mitt Romney would pursue if elected president," compared with 67 percent who said they had a good idea of the policies Obama would pursue. That gives Obama a chance to define Romney for voters before Romney can define himself. Democrats have been hammering Romney for once having a Swiss bank account and for keeping investments in offshore tax havens.
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