The US presidential elections start officially after Labor Day, in the first week of September. That is the time when all the party’s national conventions would have nominated and elected their electoral candidates. Obama would then become he official democratic presidential candidate and Romney would become the official republican presidential candidate. Until then both candidates are presumptive nominees.
It is difficult to see how either would not be the candidate of his party.
But from this arm chair observer Mr. Romney does not look like he belongs in the same ring with Mr. Obama.
On the surface it would seen that Romney is doing quiet well. It is now assumed by everybody that Romney and the republicans can raise more money than Obama and democrats; perhaps by as much as over $100 million. In an election where money is crucial this would seem to give Romney an edge. The primary showed that Romney beat out his opponents because he had more money and could deploy his money and personnel more rapidly and more effectively than his republican opponents. The primary also showed that while Romney was not the most beloved by the republicans he won rather handily when it mattered because of his money advantage.
But would a $100 million advantage over Obama be just as critical?
My answer is not really.
- The economics law of diminishing returns would set in. Under this law a unit increase in widgets, would have less an impact than the ones before it, once it begins to operate. I will put the base for diminishing returns to set in, in winning US national elections, at $500 million. A candidate who could raise this amount could win the presidency no matter how much more his opponents have to play with. Obama would raise this amount. Romney's money advantage would begin to matter less after $500 million. The incremental benefit would suffer a major drop. At some point, running one more ad for example, in a crucial state would start turning people off and could start backfiring. A smart candidate must know when he has told his story too many times.
- The method of raising the money also matters. If a candidate raises his money in large bulks it will not necessarily translate into comparable votes. A $10 donation to Obama presidential campaign is a vote just as a $5 million is. Thus ten $10 donations means 10 more votes which is more votes than a $5 million donation. The difference is that with the $5 million donation to a candidate would be much more able to influence the voting of more than 10 people. But as in other things each small donation reduces the number of votes available to purchase because the US population is a fixed number. Obama is raising his contributions from millions of voters thereby reducing the number of votes available to Romney to purchase or influence.
- Apart from money in politics is the message. A credible candidate must have a message to anchor his campaign which would motivate those who want to cast votes. It is here that Obama has out raised Romney by a wide margin. From the get go, Romney and the republican strategy has been to hit Obama hard, and often, on the economy. They believed that that would be the story of the election. It has been almost two months since Romney has become the presumptive republican candidate ready to take on Obama on the economy. In all these months Obama has successfully derailed this strategy. Obama seems to be saying that this debate will be on my terms and on the subjects of my choosing. “I will get to your topic when I have time.” But mean while let us talk about these things. Obama has successfully IMPOSED his will on Romney. And Romney seems unable to do anything about it.
- Obama has the knack for understanding politics at the retail level. He knows that US is made up of individuals who have many interests of which economy might be the most important. But the other matters have significance. And since there is no sure way of fixing the economy if they can pick up some of the other important things along the way they would do just that.
- So he gave the gay and lesbian community, something like equal rights which they gobbled up. That was the topic for about two weeks during which Romney had nothing substantive to say.
- When that seemed to die down Obama gave the Hispanics and immigrants another version of equal rights. If you came here as a child and have gone to school as you were encouraged to; or served in the country’s armed services; you are here to stay and work. Immigrants rose and cheered. To no one’s surprise Romney had no answer. His “self deport proposal” was very much kept hidden in back drawers. Another two or three weeks of no debate about the economy.
- Earlier in his term Obama had asked the Supreme Court to review his hated (by republicans) health care law. This June the court obliged, ruling that the law is duly enacted and did not violate any constitutional provisions. Obama celebrated. Romney protested and another several weeks has come and gone and we have not heard much about Romney’s much polished economic arguments.
- The upcoming topic initiated by the Boston Globe is when Romney left Bain Capital. Was it in 1999 as he has repeatedly asserted or was in 2002 as Bain’s SEC filings have shown? This is economic argument but of the sort that Romney would rather not have. This would get us to early August and a mere three months before the election
Which brings us to the question: where is Romney’s beef? When will he begin his economic assault on Obama’s presidency? Does he understand that Americans are bothered by many things other than the economy even when we agree that the economy is the most important? Does he know anything about retail politics? Mr. Romney needs to find some other things to feed us while we wait for the big ticket item.
Until he does this election would be conducted on Obama’s terms at the time and place of his choosing.
And Obama would win.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
July 13, 2012