“I’m Mitarack Obamney, and I approve of this message.” But what message is being approved of? A closer examination reveals that both candidates are much more alike than different. Both nominees are pragmatists and moderate candidates from the left and the right. President Obama, despite right-wing pundits labeling him as a Marxist-socialist – has taken a moderate stance on the issue of free trade, opting to take a page from the Clinton playbook by signing trade agreements with countries like South Korea, Columbia, and Panama. The president has also taken a stronger approach to national security, hunting and killing Osama Bin Laden, affiliates of al-Qaeda, and is even willing to target American citizens through drone strikes if suspected of collaborating with enemies of the state. This has forced the staunchest Republicans to applaud his efforts. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was the most moderate candidate who ran in this year’s entertaining Republican primary and managed to beat (or outspend) his more conservative challengers. While he played to the Republican base as a true conservative, Romney’s moderate stances on economic and social issues, not to mention being the governor of ‘blue-state’ Massachusetts, also explained why conservative voters pegged him as the second most palatable flavor throughout the primary election opting towards more conservative candidates like Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum until the lack of funds and poor organization forced these candidates out of the race.
Since both men are essentially middle-of-the-road candidates, this general election campaign will focus more on independent voters than with energizing an unenthusiastic base albeit both candidates will still attempt to appeal to them. Obama’s recent coming out in support of marriage equality may or may not have been driven by conviction (we will never know) but did score him tremendous political points by infusing millions of dollars into his campaign coffers from an under-tapped LGBT community and powerful Hollywood allies, i.e. George Clooney and friends. Romney’s appeal as being a genuine conservative backfired when onetime campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom made the infamous “Etch A Skecth” gaffe that argued that Romney is able to re-invent himself and change his positions on key issues as they entered into the general elections. This author believes that both candidates will not be able to muster strong support from their bases. Obama will have difficulty to recapture the same excitement and momentum from 2008 because he is forced to defend his record and Romney will be challenged to rally his conservative base, those who view him as not conservative enough and those evangelical Christians who may view him negatively because of his Mormon faith. Regardless of whether or not both bases become energized this campaign season, the reality is that the war will be won in who can cater to independent voters particularly in battleground states like Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida.
Every election for the second term is always a referendum on the incumbent president’s first term. Thus, independents, when deciding who to vote for should not just consider President Obama’s record but to also ask the question, “What would Romney have done in that situation?” This author believes that Romney would have taken similar action to the major policy decisions Obama made from the past four years.
The Great Recession
Would Romney have passed economic stimulus in 2009 when the country was experiencing an economic freefall losing an average of six-hundred thousand jobs per month? Of course, he would. No sitting president would stand idly by as the economy falls into shambles. A policy of doing nothing isn’t policy at all and could be seen as a sign of weak leadership. If President George W. Bush’s economic policies in his lame duck years were to give an indication of what Romney would have done, it would have been towards preventing the banks from collapsing while injecting economic stimulus. Why? Recall that the financial crisis occurred due to market failure (a bubble created from a bloated housing market) because of laisez faire policies and deregulation. To cure the financial contagion would not have been to lessen regulation and allow the market to fix itself, as Republicans would have preferred, but to do the opposite, to increase government intervention to reign in Wall Street. I’m sorry, but private equity firms like Romney’s Bain Capital, if given the choice, would not suggest that Wall Street simply restructure itself and fail, understanding full-well the economic repercussion: the entire U.S. and global economy’s demise. Don’t believe me? Just ask former Secretary of the Treasurer and former Goldman Sachs executive, Henry Paulson the next best option.
Would Romney have aggressively pushed healthcare like Obama in 2009-10 - probably not, but would Romney have supported it if he sat in Oval Office? Yes, he would if his Massachusetts’ health care plan was an indication. In fact, Obamacare’s national provisions are far more moderate than the one Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. Despite Mitt’s attempts to distance himself from Obamacare – asserting federalism as a justification stating that he would have never proposed the same model on the national level is disingenuous – and calling for its repeal to satisfy the Tea Party is no doubt political.
The Auto Bail-Out
Would Romney have bailed out the auto industry? While Romney wrote an op-ed that argued that he wouldn’t have bailed out General Motors in The Detroit News, in hindsight this was a political tactic to differentiate him from the president and to show that he would have done things differently. However, if he were sitting in the Oval Office presented with the same proposition, I suspect he would have done what Obama did since it would have affected his home state of Michigan. If faced to make a decision to save thousands of US jobs, Romney would no doubt follow in the same footsteps. To let GM fail would be political poison.
While the campaigns will do everything to differentiate the candidates, define the other as more different or not in touch with the American people, remember that both candidates are likely to take the same policy positions on the major issues, despite the common philosophical-ideological-political differences both candidates hold. In the end, America’s choice this November is really not one of apples and oranges but really just two different types of apples.