This year’s U.S. presidential race is considered a toss-up by both sides, and unforeseen events could prove determinative: contagion from the European economic crisis, war or terrorism.
The largest imponderable is the economy. With a Republican-controlled House that isn’t eager to help a Democratic president in an election year, even a mild stimulus is a nonstarter.
There are some foreseeable milestones, however, that will also help shape the outcome of the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Obama strategists are less upbeat and more nuanced. If the law is upheld, they plan to stress its popular elements, a challenge they’ve failed to meet for the past two years. If it’s overturned, there will be a temptation to attack both the court’s decision as driven by ideology and to put Mitt Romney on the spot as to what he would do.
This month, the high court also is expected to rule on Arizona’s anti-immigration law. The politics here may slightly favor the Democrats: If the measure is upheld, the court’s decision will energize Hispanic voters, who are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Obama.
In Tampa this year, the Republicans will bash Obama as a failed president who is in over his head. They’ll also try to shed their image as a narrow club of rich guys by highlighting more diversity than commonly seen at Republican gatherings.
Nevertheless, there will be lots of hype, and this affords each candidate a chance to hold his opponent accountable: Romney will be able to call on Obama to explain the poor performance of the economy over the previous four years; Obama can highlight his opponent’s many policy reversals and support for some hard-right positions.