Obama in 2012: Who can challenge him?
Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist Jack W. Germond says Republicans don't have anyone yet who can challenge Barack Obama for the 2012 presidency.
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His backing and filling, hemming and hawing reminds those with long memories of the problem with the Vietnam War issue that wrecked the 1968 presidential campaign of his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney. The elder Romney eventually adopted an approach that was essentially the policy followed by Richard Nixon once he reached the White House, but it was far too late to save his candidacy.Skip to next paragraph
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The issues were quite different, but both Romneys were compromised by the way they handled controversy rather than by the substance of their policies. Voters have to be comfortable with challengers to a sitting president. They know there is always some risk with a newcomer in the White House.
Mitt Romney has been doing the conventional things to get beyond the questions. The longtime businessman is trying to change the subject by insisting the central issue is the economy, not health care. And, borrowing from Al Gore’s clumsy 2000 campaign, he has taken to wearing more casual clothes and no neckties, a tactic that in Gore‘s case evoked only ridicule.
It may turn out, of course, that Romney will overcome these early missteps. Most Americans are not paying much attention to presidential politics at this stage. And he will have the money and political operation to build a positive image in the seven months before the primaries and caucuses begin.
It also may turn out that some other candidate—Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman are rated as the heavyweights in the field—will find a formula for dealing with the extremes in a way that doesn’t alienate those essential independents.
So far, however, no one in the field has declared his independence from Sarah Palin.
Jack Germond has been covering national politics and Washington since 1960. He spent 20 years with the Gannett papers, then eight with the still-lamented Washington Star and more than 20 with the Baltimore Sun. He and his partner Jules Witcover wrote a syndicated column five days a week from 1977 through 2000, and four books about the 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns. Germond's memoir is called Fat Man in a Middle Seat—Forty Years of Covering Politics; he has just completed his first novel. He and his wife Alice live on the Shenandoah River in West Virginia where he enjoys watching the birds and playing the horses.