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President wanted: only those with experience need apply

10/24/2012

The insanity of the 2012 Presidential election is finally drawing to a close—for better or worse. Presumably, we won’t have to perform our tedious civic duty as citizens of a democracy and exercise political efficacy for at least four more years.

While the show isn’t quite over—a little less than two weeks remain before polls open—the final debate between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney took place Monday night at Lynn University of Boca Raton, Florida.

Bob Schieffer, host of Face of the Nation on CBS, moderated—he had an easier time of it than Jim Lehrer did. The decision to seat both candidates within arm’s reach of the moderator just like in the Vice Presidential debate may have contributed slightly to that fact—Bob looks old-school.

In my last column, I wrote about what a wonderful job ABC’s Martha Raddatz did moderating the VP debate. Bob Schieffer deserves just as much credit—his hands-on approach to moderation worked because, like Raddatz, he was qualified to ask the right questions.

He wasn’t quick to second-guess either candidate’s facts, but it almost felt like he didn’t have to.  The debate focused on foreign policy, and frankly, Team Romney just doesn’t have a horse in that race, as much as they would like to pretend they do.

Yeah, Mitt, keep talking about the “credibility” of America with its allies in the Middle East—we’re sure you know just how to deal with Pakistan from your extensive experience governing the state of Massachusetts.

Yet, it’s his experience in governing Massachusetts that gives me reason to pause. Romney is a politician who, prior to becoming involved in this presidential election, had a decent track record. He successfully governed a state with a bipartisan legislature and literally saved the 2002 Olympic Games.

So where is that man now? Nowhere to be seen; it seems as if the GOP has body-snatched him. Instead of Romney campaigning on his principles, he was been made to conform to whatever mold necessary in an attempt to win the demographic at hand.

So far, that has included the far right—Tea Party “patriots”—the wealthy—the top 3% of Americans—and the “middle class,” or people who vote Republican purely out of habit.

Monday night, it sounded like Mitt was attempting to do what he does best—recast himself. He was probably hoping to appeal to a demographic that he’s largely ignored this election cycle: women.

Because this election is so closely matched, mere percentage points mean either victory or defeat; if Romney can court the far right, super-rich elitists and traditionally Republican voters, he has a shot at winning. Throw in a few soccer moms and it could be over. That’s the theory, anyway.

I don’t think it’s going to pan out for Romney, though. Winning by the margins might have been possible if the GOP’s nominee and his running mate had been able to provide specifics for their sweeping tax reform policy and budget cuts, but they couldn’t pony up.
This last debate was important because it highlighted the contrast of the choice before us as a nation—should we re-elect the guy who has demonstrated the ability for sound leadership through four tough years, or do we give the murky, evasive wild-card a chance? To be honest, it really doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.

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