The home stretch

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After two political conventions with no big surprises, the nation has two months to decide whether to rehire President Obama or give Mitt Romney his job.

You wouldn’t know from a local perspective that this presidential campaign is, in the words of Obama’s senior adviser David Plouffe, likely to be as “tight as a tick” until Election Day on Nov. 6. He doesn’t expect the president to gain a big bounce after the Democratic Convention.

Kentucky voters refused to board the Obama bandwagon in 2008 and may be even more reluctant in 2012. But the commonwealth’s eight electoral votes are mere peanuts in a nationwide tally. Preference polls fairly consistently show the two candidates running neck and neck. The outcome could hinge on voters who still haven’t made up their minds.

With the economy the top issue and Americans increasingly uneasy about the long-term implications of a mushrooming national debt and deficit, a canny Republican businessman like Romney might seem just the tonic we require. Many do have high regard for his expertise. Others have a nagging suspicion that business doesn’t much care about anything but its own bottom line. They’re troubled by reports of the former Massachusetts governor’s role in Bain Capital, which helped distressed companies overcome their financial difficulties but left a string of job losses and decimated pensions in its wake. Republican talk of privatizing key “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare makes them nervous.

Demographics and fiscal necessity will force significant changes to these social services regardless of who wins. Is Republican business acumen or Democratic humanism the better way to get there? The nation is torn.

Obama has the edge on charisma. He especially captivated young voters in 2008. Now some of them are disillusioned, disappointed that their leader failed to achieve the kind of hope and change they had in mind.

Both candidates have had to buck headwinds within their parties. Staunch conservatives fault Romney for not being conservative enough. Even though he promises to push repeal of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – they can’t shake off misgivings about Romneycare, the health care reform he brought to Massachusetts. Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, blame Obama for doing too little to advance liberal causes. He knows he needs a more centrist approach if he’s to prevail.

Party icons, with some exceptions, have done their bit in the past two weeks to allay internal doubts.

Former President Bill Clinton whipped Democrats into a frenzy with his oratorical defense of Obama as a leader who took on the economic mess created by the Republicans and just needs more time to create the jobs and prosperity America wants. Believers put a lot of stock in Clinton because his administration recorded a budgetary surplus and presided over a thriving economy – until the dot-com bubble burst and brought the boom to a halt. The faithful downplay or ignore his sex scandal and impeachment. George W. Bush, the last Republican president, enjoys less adulation. While his administration had its moments, two wars on borrowed money and the onset of the recession left bad memories.

It now comes down to two candidates of starkly contrasting personalities and philosophies. Pollsters can tell us which way the wind is blowing but it’s still our job to make the decision. As of Sunday, 66 days and counting.

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  • Bush has been gone for only 4 years (and has already been conveniently "forgotten" by the Republicans), but the effects of his administration's fiscal policies are still frozen in time, thanks to the Teabagging House and filibustering Senate who have steadfastly refused allow the President to pass much of anything to correct them (they are throwing the country under the bus trying to make the President "look bad"). The unfunded wars (2 of 'em), the unfunded Boosh Tax Cuts (heavily favoring the rich) and the increased federal government spending (from $1789 billion to $2983 billion (+70%) while revenues were only increased from $2025 billion to $2524 billion (+25%), all contributed to the economic disaster inherited by Obama. The Obama Administration and the Democrats are the only adults in the room, and while Needforspeed (and most Kentuckians) will never be convinced (he's black...can't you see he's BLACK!), their plans are the only way to keep us from slipping back into a real Great Depression 2.0. They are the ONLY ones who understand that this country does not have a deficit crisis...it has a jobs crisis. Take care of the jobs crisis and the deficit will evaporate. bjos has it right...is it a mere coincidence that the states with the lowest educational achievement are also the states that will vote for the shapeshifting Mitt Romney in November? Like Newt Gingrich said, "Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president, will lie to you when they are president." (Jan. 1, in Waterloo, Iowa) "[Romney's] not telling the American people the truth. It's just like this pretense that he's a conservative.... I just think he ought to be honest with the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points."(Jan. 3, on CBS's The Early Show). And Newt continues, "Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money, or is that somehow a little bit of a flawed system?... I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods, and leaving behind a factory that should be there." (Jan. 9, in Manchester, N.H.). "We're not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs while it forecloses on Florida and is himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while he tries to think the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together to understand what this is all about.... People matter more than Wall Street." (Jan. 26, in Mount Dora, Fla.). "I took very seriously the Etch A Sketch comments of his director of communications. ... You can't run a campaign with no principles and win the United States. You are not going to beat Barack Obama by being clever." (April 2, in Frederick, Md.).....................................................................................Come on Needforspeed, you can't honestly say that you really want THAT guy to be President...REALLY!

  • The train wreck that you say he will inherit is not as bad as when he was first elected. It would have been a lot better if the republicans would have done their jobs. We were in a free fall and it was because of what the republicans AND BUSH did for 8 years. We are in this mess because of them. Four years of healing can't make up 8 years of distruction. I can't get over how you all forget who was in office and how bad it was....even towards the end of his term BUSH told the people that it was really bad. And good for you 1713 stay true to your convictions and beliefs don't let some one try to bully and shame you because you don't agree with them.

  • "...the commonwealth’s eight electoral votes are mere peanuts in a nationwide tally.".......Since the Commonwealth has a preponderance of ill-informed, unthinking citizens, this is good news.

  • Bush has been gone for 4 years...GET OVER IT!. Just think what a train wreck President Obama is going to inherit if he is re-elected. And 1713, you are the perfect democrat parrot: BARAAAWWK! re-elect Obama BARAAAAWK!

  • No surprises? I guess that you were not surprised that Romney and Ryan were big on criticism of the Obama Administration for not fixing in 4 years what their party under George W. Bush had destroyed in 8? Or surprised that the Republicans offered NO new plan of their own to fix the economy any faster or better...just more of the same Bush policies that got us into the mess in the first place. Or surprised that George W. Bush was not even mentioned during the entire Republican Convention? Me neither.