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Economist: Game On

April 14, 2012

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American voters will have to choose between a Republican Party "allergic to needed tax rises" and a Democratic Party that "lacks the courage to make the spending cuts required," the Economist writes.

AMERICA'S primary elections are not yet formally over, but with the exit of Rick Santorum it is at last plain that Mitt Romney will be the Republicans' nominee. After the bruising primaries, Mr Romney starts from behind. Barack Obama leads in the head-to-head polls. But there are still seven months to election day, and Mr Romney has a fair chance of victory in November. Less than half of America's voters approve of the way Mr Obama is doing his job. Six out of ten think the country is on the "wrong track". The recovery is still weak and 12.7m Americans are unemployed. America added only 120,000 jobs in March, below expectations and fewer than in previous months.

This fight is going to be nastier than the one in 2008. By instinct Mr Romney is a moderate, but the primaries tugged him sharply right, forcing him to boast that he was "severely conservative" by embracing policies, including deep cuts in social spending, that even the famous flip-flopper will now find it difficult to drop. After the primaries, candidates pivot towards the centre. But Mr Romney knows that to turn out a conservative base that does not love him he must mobilise their hatred of Mr Obama. In the meantime Mr Obama appears to believe that he cannot afford to present himself once more as a healer who will soar above party divisions. He is running a more partisan campaign this time round. An already polarised America therefore faces a deeply polarising election.

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