2012 Tuesday: Do timing and the economy finally play in Romney’s favor?

In September 2008, when Lehman Brothers failed and John McCain panicked, it became obvious the former businessman Mitt Romney would have fared better against Barack Obama. As the fates would have it, that information simply came a few months too late.

This time, the prospect of a double-dip recession is looming well before the first primary votes are cast. Could it be that timing is finally going to work out in Romney’s favor?

While Romney’s chief rival, Rick Perry, is running on his record of presiding over impressive job growth in Texas during the past decade, Perry also is clearly more of a loose cannon than Romney. For the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, the times dictate that the “reassuring” Romney is preferable to the “revolutionary” Perry:

Both are harshly critical of Obama’s economic policies. But unlike Perry, Romney refuses to hurl the accusation of “socialism.” Romney argues that an overbroad condemnation of Social Security would leave Republicans “obliterated as a party.” His own 59-point economic plan contains a “number of options” for incremental entitlement reform — an approach the Wall Street Journal has criticized as “timid and tactical.” But Romney’s timidness on some issues is his main tactic against Perry. With the economy suffering a series of complex maladies, who wants a surgeon who performs only amputations?

The outcome of a presidential primary can’t be predicted by a single theory. A well-run campaign, or a poorly timed gaffe, can make all the difference. … But if this is the choice during a period of national stress, the advantage goes to the reassuring. During the financial panic of September 2008, John McCain’s response was emotional and chaotic — suspending his presidential campaign in order to make time for a series of rash and contradictory statements. Obama said little of interest, but he said it calmly. And he benefited greatly.

I think that’s about right — for now. But there are a few reasons that temporal qualifier might not last.

First, uncertainty abounds at the moment. In spite of the downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating, the yield on the 10-year Treasury has been bouncing around near or below 2 percent during the past few weeks — an unmistakable indication that investors are putting a premium on safety (as is gold’s continued strength). Consumer confidence has been rattled. The wavering dominoes over in Europe have everyone scared. In this environment, simple competence may well outweigh ideological purity — giving Romney a chance to catch and even surpass Perry in the polls.

But who knows when the uncertainty will end? (No one, of course; that’s why it’s called uncertainty…duh.) If consumers start shopping again and this turns out to be just a soft patch in what’s been a soft recovery, the electorate’s focus will shift back to more ideological issues as taxing and spending and Obamacare — the latter being a big disadvantage for Romney in the primary, at least.

Second, as Gerson notes, Perry’s “specific economic policies remain defiantly unspecific.” That lack of specificity leaves Perry open to charges, based on his rhetoric, that he would be a presidential bull in an economic china shop — and it enhances the reassuring nature of Romney, he of the 59-point economic plan.

But what if Perry comes out with a detailed plan on taxes, spending, regulation, deficits and entitlements that eases worries among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents? How long, then, would Romney’s edge as the Man with the Plan last?

Finally, there’s a chance that things get worse — to the point that Perry’s “revolutionary” style makes him more attractive.

It’s a long shot; voters tend to be risk-averse when times are tough. But I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with an Irish business leader about how that country was able to summon the political will to slash its corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent, attract tons of investment and launch the Celtic Tiger phenomenon (which lasted until an overheated housing market based on overly low euro-zone interest rates caused overextended banks to seek overly generous bailouts from an overly profligate government that had long since spent the flood of tax revenues that came in the good times).

What he told me was, Sometimes you have to be staring at the abyss before you’re willing to take dramatic steps.

I hope we are not staring at the abyss anytime within the next 14 months. Not only because it would be bad in and of itself, but because the things you do in those situations might turn out well, but they also might turn out very badly.

That said, there’s at least a chance that revolutionary will seem like a good idea between now and November 2012. What an irony it would be if that didn’t become clear until after the reassuring Romney got the nod.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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57 comments Add your comment

USMC

September 20th, 2011
12:47 pm

Mitt Romney 2012!

JDW

September 20th, 2011
12:52 pm

Kyle wrote…”there’s at least a chance that revolutionary will seem like a good idea between now and November 2012.”

Maybe, but for those that forget, we were to have gotten a “revolutionary” last time around and as usual it did not work out that way. One of our societal problems is that our politicians are squarely focused on getting re-elected. Every time they start to stretch the edge of “revolution” the polls bring them right back.

reaganlover

September 20th, 2011
1:12 pm

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney produced minimal job growth. He is running away from Romney-care. Has flip flopped on every major social issue from abortion to gay rights. And headed a company that outsourced jobs overseas.
How is Romney good for the USA?

Junior Samples

September 20th, 2011
1:17 pm

The aftermath of the Celtic Tiger lead Ireland to a junk rating by Moody’s. Not all the blame rests on the housing bubble. The Finance Minister boosted public spending by 48% while cutting income tax.

Sound like anyone we know? A previous Republican President perhaps? “If we don’t keep shopping, the terrorists win”

Yes, we should certainly entertain that idea. Again…

thebuzz27

September 20th, 2011
1:23 pm

If I had a choice between Obama and Perry. I would vote for Obama!
Romney is not running away from his health care in Massachusetts bill. Please show a reference for this. Everything I’ve seen, he has stood up for it. Also, what part of gay rights has he flipped on?
Romney actually has an education and you can see it in him. Romney 2012!

reaganlover

September 20th, 2011
1:30 pm

@thebuzz27 here’s evidence for you:
Romney the flip flopper…
http://tinyurl.com/69hbgma

Junior Samples

September 20th, 2011
1:31 pm

Middle America is not going to vote for the guy that strapped his dog’s cage (with dog inside) to the roof of the car for a family vacation.

A 12 hour drive.
That’s 9 hours longer than the fateful tour of the SS Minnow.

But I can’t wait for the Democrat’s commercials if he wins the nomination. I would cast Sarah McLachlan as narrator.

reaganlover

September 20th, 2011
1:34 pm

Romney has consistently criticized Pres. Obama for obamacare.
Yet, obamacare is based on the Massachusetts health care model — Romneycare. It is the same program that Romney created as governor.
No Romney!

Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
1:43 pm

Romney is smarter than Perry, so you know who the GOP will pick, eh?

Proud Democrat

September 20th, 2011
1:44 pm

Neither Romney or Perry would be good for the country. Neither are visionaries and both would just continue the Bush/republican policies of the past. Look around and see where those policies have gotten us. Trickle down economics only work for those at the very top, not for middle class and working class Americans.

Dumb and Dumber

September 20th, 2011
2:02 pm

We have a winner, worst syntax and grammatical bloviating of the day, Kyle wrote:

“But I’m reminded of a conversation I once had with an Irish business leader about how that country was able to summon the political will to slash its corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent, attract tons of investment and launch the Celtic Tiger phenomenon (which lasted until an overheated housing market based on overly low euro-zone interest rates caused overextended banks to seek overly generous bailouts from an overly profligate government that had long since spent the flood of tax revenues that came in the good times).”

Did the AJC lose all its editors when it moved to the suburbs?

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
2:09 pm

“As governor of Massachusetts, Romney produced minimal job growth.”

Remember, Romney was governor of the bluest state in the nation, where liberal policies run amok. He had a legislature that was approximately 12% Republican. The rest were dyed-in-the-wool limousine liberals. As with national issues, it is less the President in office as it is the Congress that is in power. Even a threatened veto by Romney was largely laughed at during his time as governor, as that 12% was only half as many as he would need to make a veto stick.

“He is running away from Romney-care.”

Uh, no, he is not.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
2:13 pm

BTW, Kyle, great overall analysis of the safe vs. revolutionary choice facing GOP voters, something I have been commenting about for months.

Hopefully, the GOP primary voter (and the independents that will be voting in them this year vs. 2008 when they tried to affect the outcome of the Democrat primary between Hillary and Obama) will recognize that safe plays better in the general than revolutionary does.

BULLSEYE

September 20th, 2011
2:17 pm

Kyle, the Returdlican boot licker.
Why does he hate America?

Nixon's Head

September 20th, 2011
2:27 pm

Obama would eat Perry alive in a head to head debate. Romney might just get roughed up. Perry won’t beat Obama. Please nominate an electable candidate whoever that may be. PS it’s not Bachman, Palin, Santorum, Cain or Perry.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
2:44 pm

Nixon’s Head, our current President doesn’t do so well off the cuff, as it were.

A Romney / Obama debate would be a good one, with Romney coming out on top.

Perry / Obama? I might watch it simply for the train wreck that is sure to happen from both sides in that one.

West Indian Charlie

September 20th, 2011
2:52 pm

I have seen how Perry perform in the debates to know that he is not intellectual enough to be President. But then again that does not seems to matter to todays Republican voters. They will rather pick a loose cannon over a sane rational intelligent candidate such as Romney.

Jimmy62

September 20th, 2011
3:14 pm

Ron Paul is the only true revolutionary in the bunch. Once elected, Perry’s stances will soften. They play well to some people in campaign season, but once elected only Ron Paul will stick to his convictions. Not necessarily saying he’d be a good President, but he’s the only one that will try to make real change, not just variations on the same theme.

Seanus Romney

September 20th, 2011
3:17 pm

Mitt strapped me to the roof of the station wagon, for 12 hours!! Of course I made an accident, and maybe that was on purpose. But did he take the hint?

Hosed me off and kept going, he did. And don’t ask what he did when I was a puppy. The horror!!!

BlahBlahBlah

September 20th, 2011
3:17 pm

“But what if Perry comes out with a detailed plan on taxes, spending, regulation, deficits and entitlements that eases worries among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents?”

What exactly is he waiting for?

Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
3:22 pm

The president’s odds on reelection are better than the odds he would have been elected in the 1st place. This is fact.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
3:29 pm

“This is fact.”

This is an opinion.

Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
3:33 pm

So what were the odd a mixed race man with a middle name his opponents make fun of would become the president of the US? Fact, bud.

Road Scholar

September 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

JDW: “One of our societal problems is that our politicians are squarely focused on getting re-elected.”

Or throwing the kitchen sink of “NO” at President Obama in hopes of making him unelectable!

Oh the uncertainty! Oh the whining!

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
4:08 pm

“So what were the odd a mixed race man with a middle name his opponents make fun of would become the president of the US?”

In 2008, they were 50/50. First, when he ran against Hillary for the nomination, then later against McCain in the general election. In both cases they were 50/50 (he either was, or he wasn’t).

Nice try, though, to interject race into the discussion, Jefferson.

carlosgvv

September 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

I think it’s safe to say that the “reassuring” Romney will never ever be the choice to The Tea Party. Since The Tea Party appears to be firmly in the Republican drivers seat, and poorly timed gaffes have no effect on their fanatical ideology, it looks like Perry will be the nominee.

jt

September 20th, 2011
4:13 pm

“What an irony it would be if that didn’t become clear until after the reassuring Romney got the nod.”
.
People that look to the Federal government for solutions or protection……………are pathetic………….and quite frankly…………..deserve the Romneys and Obamas of their fright-filled lives.
.
Meanwhile………………the army of Personal Liberty trudges on……………………………Ron Paul 2012.
Everyone else…………the line for free cheese forms on the left.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

And I think that making such a prognostication this early in the process with faulty analysis is, well, faulty.

Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

Race is part of the odds, so is gender.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

“Race is part of the odds, so is gender.’

No, actually they are not.

Unless you wish to focus on them. Most people don’t.

Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
4:24 pm

Your logic is woman like, ti — very GOP.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
4:50 pm

The reality is, Jefferson, that most people just don’t give a damn about race or gender anymore.

Only those that wish to be victimized by it, or those relative few who cannot escape their past.

JDW

September 20th, 2011
5:39 pm

@Road Scholar…”Or throwing the kitchen sink of “NO” at President Obama in hopes of making him unelectable!”

:lol: That Too! Of course they go to all that trouble and then run this group as opposition… :roll:

JDW

September 20th, 2011
5:52 pm

And while I am pontificating…it is Happy Hour BTW (Kyle still got that silver spoon in your mouth? :lol: ), lets talk about the societal problem of our politicians striving for re-election. I am sure some of you are saying to yourself that is a good thing, keeps them in tune with the populace. Not so much.

We were founded on purpose as a Republic and as such we elect representatives to serve in government under the theory that they will make good decisions based on what they believe is the right thing to do. In the Founders Vision they would then go home and go about their business. Problem is they never foresaw the rise of a “political class” that focuses on getting re-elected. Frankly, I think they would have the same opinion of them as they did the English Aristocracy.

Of course the world is more complex these days and citizen politicians have a far steeper learning curve, but somehow we have to devise a way to allow our politicians to make decisions that reflect right and wrong rather than public opinion.

Ret

September 20th, 2011
6:09 pm

Best thing in GOP favor is Obama; best thing in Romney’s favor is GOP has mindset of –’whose turn is it from among those who have “paid their dues” w/regard to stumping for GOP sacred cows.

Michael H. Smith

September 20th, 2011
6:12 pm

A few conservatives will probably get mad about this statement but take this for what it is worth or risk putting ZERObama back in the oval office: Go with Romney. Perry will never win the general election for President. He is simply too hard right to win over independents and he lacks the business skills that only Romney and Cain have from amongst them all that the country will need to right the economy.

And yes once again, “It’s the economy stupid” Part III.

Scene one, act one: JOBS!

Scene two, act two: JOBS!

Scene three, act three: JOBS!

Did anyone miss reading the script of show besides ZERObama & crony company?

Pizzaman

September 20th, 2011
6:22 pm

Gee! Who would the GA Redneck Republicans vote for the Black Man on the Non Christian. Can’t wait to find out!

Ray

September 20th, 2011
8:04 pm

It really is about time you warmed up to your party’s likely candidate, Kyle. They need you to round up sentiment. Yes, we all know you wish it was someone who decided not to run this year, because your heart just is not in it. And, oh gosh, if he wins it will be just like having Obama in there. Two arbitrators by nature, and profession, back to back presidencies. Good men, just not men of great principle. In short order, you will be disappointed too. Because they are simply good men, working their hind quarters off for the betterment of this country. We own them a debt of gratitude.

ObamaNO

September 20th, 2011
8:14 pm

Please people………Anybody but Barak Hussein Obama…..I mean anybody……Elmer F
udd is a better choice…..

Diehard

September 20th, 2011
8:46 pm

So Republicans should nominate a Moderate rather than a Conservative who has the balls to turn this country around? You so disappoint , Wingy.

D.A.N.

September 20th, 2011
8:48 pm

@Jefferson

September 20th, 2011
4:24 pm
++++++++++++++++

Bookman is calling you. Go Home.

WestOfAthens

September 20th, 2011
9:16 pm

Doubt casted on all?
President Obama will learn a lot more throughout this upcoming campaign. Yes, doubt exists within this nation’s economy, but it is not failed if the people can put forth effort, NOT sit back,idle, with the typical “what have you done for me latetly” attitude.

What have you done for yourself, and those around you, lately?

STUPID POOR REDNECKS DEFENDING AGAINST THE RICH TAXHIKE

September 20th, 2011
9:19 pm

JUST LIKE I THOUGHT BUSH JR WOULD NOT BE RE-ELECTED,I WAS FOOLED!

YOU REDNECKS WILL BE FOOLED JUST LIKE I WAS WHEN BARRY OBAMA GETS RE-ELECTED!
BY HIS FAMILY MEMBERS THE BUSHES! BY WAY OF DIEBOLD ELETRONIC VOTING MACHINES,SO HICKS TAKE THAT,ITS CALLED KARMA!

Soothsayer

September 20th, 2011
9:26 pm

“2012 Tuesday: Do timing and the economy finally play in Romney’s favor?”

No, America’s third-grade intelligence level plays in Perry’s favor!

the mehlman rings twice

September 20th, 2011
9:34 pm

Now wait just a minute! I thought it was Newt who would blow the socks off President Obama in a debate. How could he be trailing so much in GOP polling right now?

the mehlman rings twice

September 20th, 2011
9:39 pm

Kyle,
What do you mean “In September 2008″ mentioned in your first sentence? I thought all the bad happened since President Obama took office!

buck@gon

September 20th, 2011
9:51 pm

Kyle,

Why you continue to “warn” us of Perry is remarkable. Luckovich recently ran nearly a month’s worth of nonsense about him that was nothing but critical–along the lines of your calling him a loose cannnon.

Well, highly paid columnist, the myths embraced by this newspaper, including Perry’s “loose cannon” and Barack Obama’s great “articulation” are WAY overdone. We, the people are sick of these cliches, and the promotion of such myths is likely to back fire on those who promote them so eagerly.

Reagan was a dunce too, supposedly. Maybe that helped him crush Jimmy Carter electorally.

Here’s hoping.

buck@gon

September 20th, 2011
9:58 pm

Hey STUPID,

If you can’t make points without being overtly cartoonish, bombastic, absurd and sarcastic (and occasionally vulgar), then you are in good company. Liberals do this regularly here on the ajc blog, though you have a far greater number sitting in their pajamas on the Jay Bookman blog.

Hint: what most of the others do is express their seething rage and schizophrenia via augmented cusswords like, for example, “shyte” and “f*ck”. Try that, and you will soon get a bigger picture of the fine fraternity to which you belong. Nothing is too impolite for people like you because in your minds, you always provide a better alternative than your political opponents, even if you can’t express it without cursing.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

September 20th, 2011
10:44 pm

Hey, STUPID, in case you didn’t get the memo, typing in all caps is considered shouting and rude.

Add to that your nonsensical rantings, and you just don’t have anything going for you.

SmittyATL

September 20th, 2011
10:46 pm

I’m not sure yet whether I like Perry or Romney better. Obviously, Obama’s policies are taking us down the wrong path, and he needs to be voted out. I do think the country needs someone who can bridge the partisan divide. Bush and Obama both said they wanted to do so, but both failed miserably. I don’t know if anyone could do so in this environment; but if anyone can, it probably ain’t Perry.