With October comes debate season, and we are now at the time where we can expect to see undecided voters break out their legal pads, create a pros and cons list and ultimately pick the guy they are inclined to hate the least in office. At this point in election season, there are not many self-proclaimed undecideds left. Most people have selected the person they will vote for in November. But this still leaves around 10 percent of the population left to court, and so the campaign trail surges on.
October is the month that can make or break a candidate. President Barack Obama was able to open up a four-point lead following a series of Mitt Romney faux pas, namely the “47 percent” video, a secret recording at a fundraiser from May in which he said 47 percent of Americans “are dependent upon government” and “pay no income tax” and “believe that they are victims” — and “they will vote for this president no matter what.” Among current registered voters, a recent Gallup poll shows that 50 percent of voters favor Obama and 44 percent favor Romney.
The president must be careful not to make any slips himself when hard-pressed on jobs issues during the debates. In the opposite vein, this is Romney’s chance to turn it around, as his gaffes thus far have evidently cost him some major points.
An analysis done by the New York Times showed that the national popular vote was barely affected by the Republican National Convention. Overall, it didn’t seem to help or hurt Romney. While there was a pretty significant increase for Obama following the Democratic National Convention, it was the Romney 47 percent and Libya gaffes that really salted the wound. While Libya seemed to hurt Romney more than boost Obama, the 47 percent comments from Mother Jones’ video leak proved to be detrimental to Romney’s campaign, and more so than many originally imagined.
It wasn’t necessarily Romney’s comments on entitlement that enraged people — in fact, many Americans agreed — but the fact that he seems willing to discount nearly half of the population right off the bat. To consider an entire group of people a futile cause is problematic and telling of the kind of president Romney may prove to be. People voiced concerns over the kind of decisions Romney would make in office concerning entitlement programs like Medicare if he is already willing to write off half of the population as victims. Obama was quick to pounce on this and capitalize on the idea of being inclusive and caring about the 100 percent.
You know it’s bad when even some of the staunchest Republicans in Congress do not want to be associated with your comments. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has clearly evaded the topic; he even excused himself early from a news conference so as to avoid comment. GOP candidates running in some of the most contested House and Senate elections right now, like George Allen in the battleground state of Virginia, are working to distance themselves from Romney’s stance as well. As representatives of their states, they need to be seen as willing to represent the needs of their entire constituency. Particularly in states like New Mexico, where a significant portion of the population is at the poverty level, government officials are not willing to discount the poor and side with Romney’s stance on entitlement programs.
Here’s the thing: It is typical campaign strategy to determine which voters are more worth your time, money and outreach efforts. We get it; there is not an effective use of your resources to try and win over the votes of staunch liberals if you are a conservative, but there is a reason why these strategic plans are never revealed to the public. When campaigning for president, you need to at least be able to pretend that you care about every vote.
It will be interesting to see if this gaffe will continue to impact swing states over the next few weeks. Obama appears to have a small lead in several of the crucial battleground swing states, but recent polling suggests that those undecided voters are still holding out for the debates.