I hope so.
Just a month ago, Obama was reeling from a decrepit May jobs report and Mitt Romney was gaining in the polls.
Now, after a string of uninterrupted victories, starting with his endorsement of gay marriage, continuing with his executive order to halt deportation of DREAM Act-eligible immigrants and continuing with his massive Supreme Court victory over the Affordable Care Act, Obama is riding high. He maintains a 3.5-point margin over Romney in meaningless national polls, but has a much more noticeable lead in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where his Bain attack ads seem to be doing their job, and in Florida, where his immigration order gave him a massive bounce in the Hispanic population. If Obama wins all three of those states in November, he's set. If he wins even two of them, Romney's path to 270 becomes a hail-mary.
This is all despite the fact that the economy is just as bad now as it was last month. Romney's campaign strategy is built upon being the economic alternative to Obama. Unhappy with Obama's economy? Vote Notbama. By this logic, Romney should inching ever closer to the lead.
Instead, he's floundering. What happened? There's timingâthe ACA ruling just happened to come down this week, as opposed to sometime in the spring, when it would have been swallowed up by the Republican primaryâand then there's the fact that Obama holds office, which allows him the opportunity to make decisive calls like executive orders, whereas Romney can only make speeches and cut ads.
The problem is that Romney's Notbama strategy is predicated on Obama's failure, and there is no set of contingencies for when he succeeds. Romney has alternatives to Obama's (somewhat fictional) failed immigration performance, not his successful one; Romney has plenty to say for a president who wasted 1.5 years on a 2,000-page unconstitutional health care bill, not one who just became the only president in modern times to pass health care reform.
Romney's lack of specificity is a newer problem, one that seems to be superceding his old one of being a flip-flopper. In fact, as yesterday's scathing Wall Street Journal editorial points out, it's likely fear of being a flip-flopper that's causing Romney to refuse to make a stand on anything. When Romney was called upon to answer whether he would, as president, uphold Obama's immigration order or overturn it, Romney was unable to offer a response, even during a long speech to a Hispanic political group. This PoliticOlogist was working on a long rundown of Romney's immigration policy at the time, and waited with baited breath for the candidate to clarify that policy in his speech. Instead, the piece was shelvedâit's simply impossible to divine what Romney thinks about immigration.
Romney's two-step on whether the individual mandate is a penalty or a taxâhe's claimed both in under a weekâis an even worse example. John Roberts gave Romney and the GOP a wide opening to attack Obama on a huge middle-class tax raise, and Romney fumbled. The WSJ rightly calls it an unforced errorâRomney would have done better to have said nothing and let surrogates yell the word "tyranny / tax /tyranny" on as many cable shows as possible. Instead, he now looks confused, almost as if the man who first passed the template for the individual mandate doesn't understand the topic.
The absence of a response to Obama's successes has become Romney's response: he's poised himself as the candidate of choice in a race against a failing president, not a succeeding one. Rather than present a series of policies that he can promote as better than Obama's, he's simply presented himself as a semi-conservative void that will benefit from electoral circumstance: there are only two candidates to choose from, and one of has an economy around his neck. Game over.