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US election 2012: The tone has been set
17 July 2012, 13:35 PM | Source: CL
Note to far-off observers: The 2012 election campaign will be different to others. A tone has been set – poking the rival in the eye – but what is spectacularly different is that Democrats have learned to do the poking.
Previously, parties of the left (which America’s Dems are still nominally part of) seemed content with solely winning the moral argument. It seemed to not really matter so much about a vote result so long as convictions – and the high ground - held true. In 2012, however, President Obama is swinging and getting hits.
What Democrats seem to have learned from Republicans is that it doesn’t matter how you win, it just matters that you win. And it turns out this generation of Democrats may be as good at that as Republicans.
Obama’s recent attacks have included videos about Romney’s professional preference for outsourcing jobs overseas and personal preference for stashing his fortune in offshore accounts and Swiss banks. All good stuff that plays against Romney’s pro-jobs, pro-America stump speeches. This video is equally powerful as evidence that Romney cannot sing.
Romney has also made himself vulnerable to broader criticism by refusing to release more than two years’ worth of tax returns. His reasoning appears to be that he doesn’t have to. Legally, he’s correct. That’s fine if you are trying to be successful in business but fraught with perception dangers if you are running for high office.
The subsequent questions are easy to pose for his detractors: Why won’t Romney release more tax returns? What is he hiding?
The answer may be nothing and there’s nothing, in principle, wrong in earning millions and millions and millions of dollars but Obama’s attack team have picked up on another, related, angle.
Romney made a lot of his cash as boss of Bain Capital. This was a company that specialized in buying failing companies, gutting them, remolding them, and selling them off for huge profit.
Romney has said he quit Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Documents suggest otherwise, stating he was boss during a period when Bain made controversial investments in companies that specialised in outsourcing, fired workers, and generally acted in a way that disadvantaged American workers for private profit.
Rather than ignore the Obama attacks, or even re-spin them, Romney requested an apology from Obama claiming the tone of the Presidential contest has been lowered. But rather than play nice, Obama checked himself, flicked his shirt cuff and ramped up yet more attacks.
Presidential politics is more often than not about which candidate you identify with. In this election, President Obama, once the outsider who many Americans may not have been able to relate to, is pitching himself as the man of the people. It’s Romney, rich beyond belief and a member of the exclusive elite, who is being painted as the out-of-touch outsider.