A new Politico/George Washington University poll now shows President Obama with a slight national lead over Republican Mitt Romney. Other polls also show the president moving into the lead in critical “battleground” states such as Ohio and Virginia. The respected Pew Research Center concluded that the president “holds a bigger September lead than the last three candidates who went on to win in November.”
Republicans are getting nervous and showing it by openly expressing their dismay with the Romney campaign. Conventional wisdom was that high unemployment, a very slowly recovering economy and Middle East unrest would virtually guarantee a GOP victory this fall. Even Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan recently called the campaign “incompetent."
For all the job reports and gloomy economic news, Republicans seem to have severely miscalculated a fundamental aspect of Obama’s enduring popularity with the American public. It has virtually nothing to do with poll numbers and has everything to do with the narrative of the United States. Obama’s greatest asset in 2012 may very well be the history he wrote in 2008.
Many Americans took great pride in helping to create this history by electing Obama as the first African American president of the United States. Even Republican candidatereferred to 2008 as an “historic election” in his concession speech. Those voters' belief that something undeniably important occurred in the last election now runs as an undercurrent in this one.
Numerous polls this year consistently have shown Obama’s high likeability among voters. Even if those polled didn’t approve of the job he was doing, they still wanted him to succeed. Numerous voters, aware of the history and the serious problems Obama faced when he first assumed the presidency, simply don’t want to turn their backs on him.
For these voters to abandon Obama this year they would have to say “we were wrong” and essentially rewrite history, going back to a time when many Americans did indeed think that no African American could ever be a successful president. There’s no doubt that some of these voters will side with Romney this year, but the majority seem willing to stay the course, feeling that America cannot go back from the immense leap forward it took in 2008.
Republican efforts to counter Obama’s likeability and connection with the American public have so far been unsuccessful, in part because Romney is turning into his own worst enemy. It’s not that his “shoot from the hip” comments about Libya or not caring about the 47 percent video would be so damaging on their own. It’s that these gaffes keep on coming like Christmas gifts for the Democrats, only re-enforcing the impression in voters’ minds that Romney isn’t ready to be president. Romney has simply not been able to make the case that Americans should take a leap of faith and elect him while turning away from the man whose election was one of the most momentous occasions in the United States’ chronicle of race relations.
Obama has always been about the power of making history. He was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review, the highest accolade for an American law student, long before he became the first African American president of the United States. Achieving both took enormous personal determination and willpower, two personal qualities that say as much about Obama the man as Obama the candidate. Those Americans that stand behind him in 2012 not only want America to move forward, they also want to again be part of an era which will be forever remembered as one of the most important turning points in U.S. history.
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