With the parties’ faithful freshly charged up, the 2012 campaign comes down to a seven-week courtship of independent voters, especially those in the 10 states where polls say the electoral votes could go either way.
Kansas isn’t among those states, having supported every Republican nominee since Richard Nixon in 1968. That “Barack Obama was raised by Kansas women,” as former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in her Democratic National Convention speech (referring to his Wichita-born mom and Augusta-reared grandmother) is unlikely to put Kansas in the Obama column this time. And it can count itself lucky to be missing out on the monotonous and ugly advertising onslaught the swing states are experiencing.
But this election matters no less to red-staters and blue-staters. How America votes on Nov. 6, in the presidential contest but also for House and especially Senate, will set the course on taxes, the deficit, health care, foreign policy, energy, environment and the rest. It will either break or extend the stalemate between the White House and Capitol Hill. And the next president likely will chart the path of the U.S. Supreme Court and, therefore, American justice for far longer than four years.
For all the jubilance of Democratic delegates last week in Charlotte, N.C., many Americans are disappointed with the president and wary about giving him more time. They are unmoved by the global context of Obama’s challenge, such as China’s deepening downturn. They want the U.S. economy to be better already. And “it could have been worse” isn’t much of a sales pitch.
That said, the party mood in Tampa, Fla., two weeks ago wasn’t so infectious that everybody is eager to check the box for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. While his favorability among Republicans newly hit 89 percent just after the GOP convention in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, among all Americans it was only 40 percent (compared with Obama’s 47 percent).
The nominees’ convention speeches, though stingy on specifics, at least set out dueling visions for voters to consider in the coming days.
“Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known,” Obama said, going on to prescribe “common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”
A week earlier, Romney had sketched out steps for a Romney-Ryan administration spanning energy independence, school choice, a balanced budget, deficit reduction, lower taxes, less regulation and the repeal of the health care law. He also spoke of a united America that “can unleash an economy that will put Americans back to work, that will once again lead the world with innovation and productivity, and will restore every father and mother’s confidence that their children’s future is brighter even than the past.”
The candidates could not be more different, nor the voters’ looming choice more important.