This is a daunting presidential election. President Obama has not made it easy for his supporters. It is similarly difficult to plant a flag on the shifting sands of Mitt Romney.
Cartoonists and others have made the point that the debate between Obama and Romney was a discussion between bloodless policy wonks. One delightful cartoon had Obama as Mr. Spock of Star Trek.
Neither of these candidates tugs at Americaís heartstrings in the manner of the Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan or the viscerally exciting John F. Kennedy. Obama and Romney lack the emotional intelligence that Lyndon Johnson deployed so successfully in his dealings with Congress and the public to win the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The economy is a dominant theme, and so is world politics. That mirrors where Barack Obamaís presidency began. Obama did some right things in responding to the economic calamity of 2008: fashioning a rescue plan for General Motors, for instance, which has paid off. But he and his financial team have been reluctant to hold Wall Street players responsible for what they did, as Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times has noted again and again. Sheila C. Bair makes that point in her new book Bull by the Horns.
The president also missed an opportunity to embrace the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, whose work he commissioned.
Obama inherited two daunting wars: in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has moved those two no-win propositions toward a close. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is correct that we should leave Afghanistan now. In responding to upheavals in Egypt and Libya, Obama has been far more circumspect and temperate than his predecessor. He knows that Americans have lost their stomach for more war. He also knows we cannot afford it financially.
The biggest question to ask about Mitt Romney is: Which Romney would we be electing? Is it the Romney who favors giving tax breaks to the very wealthy or is it the Romney of the first presidential debate, who moved to the center. Is it the Mitt Romney who authored a health care plan as Massachusettsí governor or is it the Romney who flees from that accomplishment and derides Obamaís health care legislation, which was modeled in part on what Romney had already accomplished?
The Republican ticketís attitude toward women seems quite clear. The vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan, embraced Congressman Todd Akinís stone-age view toward rape when he co-sponsored Akinís legislation. It is safe to say that the Romney-Ryan administration would roll back the clock on womenís ability to control their bodies. Electing a president is always about the Supreme Court, and a Romney-Ryan ticket would reliably stock the court with Antonin Scalia clones.
Obama has governed as a center-left Republican. The scare tactic that Obama is a socialist is looney-tunes. On environmental issues, Obama rates a D. He is remiss in holding relatively few press conferences.
The alarming aspect of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is the Republican base behind them. This is not your fatherís Republican Party. It is the most anti-female values strain in decades.
If you want to roll the dice and bet on which Mitt Romney would serve as president, the GOP ticket is your choice.
Our choice is Obama, who has been a highly competent president.