Peter Morici: Among Republicans, it is an article of faith that high unemployment and voter
disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy should put Governor
Romney in the White House. Unfortunately, Republicans fail to grasp that
challengers must offer a compelling alternative to unseat an incumbent. Plus
other issues matter more to voters than party leaders care to recognize.
Governor Romney’s platform lays out detailed proposals to improve U.S.
competitiveness, develop more domestic energy, streamline regulations, and lower
health costs, but those are too complex to capture voter attention.
On the stump, it’s the usual Republican message—lower taxes, deregulation and
free trade. In Ronald Reagan’s time, that was a winning strategy, but the
country has changed.
African-Americans and Hispanics are a growing share of registered voters, many
with strong allegiance to progressive values and critical to the outcome in some
swing states. The latter are frightened by many Republicans’ views on
Republican opposition to abortion and guaranteed free access to women’s health
care services is easily cast by liberal talk show personalities as a Republican
war on women.
According to most polls, President Obama is winning the popular vote by a small
margin but more importantly, he is ahead in seven of eight battleground states
still up for grabs.
Real Clear Politics compilation of the various polls has President Obama ahead
in 19 states and the District of Columbia—together those would deliver 247 of
the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Governor Romney is ahead in 23 states,
garnering 191 electoral votes.
That leaves Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North
Carolina, and Virginia to determine the election. President Obama leads in all
those states, except North Carolina where Governor Romney’s margin is less than
If Governor Romney delivers a more convincing economic message and reassures
seniors he will shore up Social Security and Medicare in ways that do not
threaten them, he should snag the close states. In Florida, Iowa and North
Carolina, President Obama currently enjoys a margin of less than 2 percent, and
securing those would give Governor Romney 241 electoral votes.
Of the remaining states, victories in Virginia and Ohio with 13 and 18 electoral
votes respectively put him over the top, and if he loses one of those, it is
unlikely he could win the election.
In Virginia and Ohio, unemployment is well below the national average, and
important elements of Republicanism—limited government, conservative family
values and ambivalence toward unions - - don’t resonate as well as in places like
North Carolina or Iowa.
In Virginia, the numbers of African American and Hispanic voters has swelled in
recent years, in part thanks to effective Democratic Party get-out-the
vote-campaigns. It is the home of many federal employees, contractors and high
tech activities. And, so far Governor Romney has proven no better than Senator
McCain in framing a message attractive to the Old Dominion.
Although a strongly Republican state in congressional races, Ohio has sided with
the winner in last 12 presidential elections. It has a well diversified economy
and is recovering better from the recession than most parts of the country.
Governor Romney’s message that President Obama has failed does not sell quite as
well as in other places.
More importantly, Ohio is still a strong manufacturing state, with substantial
union membership. Many folks working in its successful service activities have
parents, siblings or schoolmates with union affiliation.
Sympathy toward collective bargaining runs deep in Buckeye culture. That is why
Governor Kasich’s bid to curb public employee unions backfired, and the legacy
of that confrontation is a burden to Governor Romney.
Running against President Obama’s record on the economy will carry Governor
Romney only so far.
Republican baggage on women’s issues, immigration, unions, and harsh view of
government and regulation hurt him where it counts the most—Virginia and Ohio,
the states that will pick the next president. Governor Romney better wakeup and
reassure voters on these issues or he simply can’t win in November.
Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland,
College Park, MD 20742-1815,
703 549 4338 Phone
703 618 4338 Cell Phone
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