John Podhoretz takes a clear-eyed view of recent polls, all of which show an Obama surge. It’s a long post, and can be summed up simply: the polls probably oversample Democrats, but the fact is that Obama is doing extremely well and may even have a small lead. Mitt Romney’s campaign should shake off its apparent malaise and work really, really hard in the coming weeks.
There is nothing foreordained about this election. Yes, it’s true that Obama has a terrible economy, but it’s ever so slowly coming around, and an economy’s direction is as important to an election as the job numbers on voting day. Yes, it’s true that the Middle East is exploding on Obama’s watch, but many people may be leery of changing leadership in the middle of an international crisis. Yes, it’s true that Obama’s redistributionist views are coming into sharper focus, but Obama’s four years of non-stop class warfare have resulted in many Americans believing that the rich ought to be punished.
Obama’s biggest ace in the whole is the media. Media outlets may be losing revenue and trust, but they still control the flow of information that reaches most Americans. With that information control, they can do precisely what they have been doing: engaging in a non-stop barrage of attacks against Mitt Romney, while assiduously hiding or downplaying any negative information about Obama.
Even if a few savvy voters recognize what’s going on, this is a subliminal drumbeat that affects how people think. It’s the same approach that has me singing “Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer wiener,” every time I pass by the hot dog section in the grocery store. No matter what my higher brain is thinking, my lower brain was taken over decades ago.
Don Quixote told me the other day that, in Florida, the Obama ads are much more dynamic and persuasive than the sedate Romney ads. Obama is working hard to activate people’s lower brains, while Romney is casually trying to engage their (often MIA) higher brains.
Given all this, I hope the Romney campaign is thinking along the lines Podhoretz advances (emphasis mine):
These are the reasons to be reasonably skeptical—not dismissive, not conspiratorial about motive, but reasonably skeptical—about the margins by which these polls are bolstering and boosting Obama. They appear to anticipate an electorate on November 6 that is more Democratic and Obama-friendly than is likely to be the case.
The Romney people should not be skeptical, though. They ought to believe it. They ought to think they’re behind, because they are; and they ought to think they’re farther behind than they are, because that is the only way they will experience the urgency they need to show to change the trajectory of this race.
Perhaps they, like their excessively calm candidate, haven’t quite reckoned with the degree of public humiliation and outright scorn that will be hurled in their faces and the damage that will be done to their professional reputations if Romney loses a race he should have won.
They, like Romney, have every reason to fear such a result and to act dramatically to prevent it. And they have an obligation to the 60-million-plus people who will vote for them, and who believe the country’s future is at stake, not to let this all dribble away.
Taking a daily sedative is no way to run a presidential campaign. If you can’t get excited about yourself, why should the voters get excited about you?