This election is going to turn on a relatively small number of voters in a relatively small number of states.
These are the voters who haven’t already decided who they are going to vote for.
In the 10-12 swing states that will decide this election, these undecided voters represent roughly 10% of the electorate. In the other states leaning or solidly in either candidate’s column, their leads exceed the margin that these undecided voters could influence.
So what do they want?
According to the AP, these voters want more details about Romney’s economic proposals and Bain Capital record, less bickering between the parties and a greater sense of inspiration and leadership from both candidates.
They also understand that this is a vague wish list, but it happens to be the issues that will move them from one candidate to the other.
What is also striking is what is NOT on this list. This group, for example, is not going to be moved the by jobs reports. Most feel that the economy, or at least short term improvement in the economy, is beyond the ability for either candidate to deliver. They also aren’t questioning Obama’s personal history or Obamacare.
So what does that mean for both candidates who have been running very controlled campaigns designed to minimize the mistakes and quickly respond to criticisms?
Here’s my take.
Romney is going to hold out as long as he can hoping that the economy will deteriorate to the point where he can win without providing more information about either his personal finances or his economic plans. He is certainly not going to do much before the Republican Convention in hopes that the national coverage associated with the convention and his choice of a VP will give him a bounce that will close the gap in the battle ground states.
Obama is going to continue to hammer Romney on his failure to provide specifics while Romney will attempt to deflect that criticism by claiming that he would rather talk about the economy while at the same time avoiding any specifics on what his plans really are to improve it.
This will likely not help either candidate because the undecided will view it as more bickering and less leadership and inspiration.
Romney will eventually be forced to reveal more personal and policy information. When he does, he will lose. That’s because on a policy level, his numbers won’t add up. On a personal level, the information he releases will not answer any questions, but only raise more questions.
Until that happens, we have one of these weird end games that in chess would just result in a draw. Neither candidate is going to make a bold move because they don’t have to. Romney is hoping between the economy and the convention to close the gap without releasing any more information. Obama is hoping that the economy does not get any worse, and that his unrelenting attacks on Romney will eventually force Romney to release more information.
They could very well stretch this whole thing out until November and frustrate undecided voters in the process.
Here’s what I wish they would do to demonstrate leadership and inspiration.
Romney should promote himself as the candidate who can square the circle. He should be claiming that he is the only one who will be able to reform that tax system, close loopholes created by the rich and powerful, create an incentive-based hiring program, a federally subsidized jobs training program, and capital gains incentives for domestic investments that result in new jobs. He could have promoted himself as someone who understands the need for healthcare reform and would IMPROVE the Affordable Care Act rather than repeal it.
Obama needs to call the Tea Party Republicans out for the hypocrites that they are regarding government spending and jobs. He should be using the current conservative Republican bleating about sequestration as evidence to the American people that those who said that debt was THE most important thing and were willing to put the country into default rather than approve one dollar of tax increases are now suggesting that we NEED all of this deficit spending to keep all of the defense industry jobs that will be lost if the defense budget is cut. He needs to defend government spending as an effective stimulus tool, and propose a whole series of “targeted” jobs programs. Things like “first fired first hired”. Eliminate time limits on unemployment insurance until unemployment numbers go under 8% for at least six months, and provide mortgage protection for homeowners who have been laid off until they are able to get new jobs. This gets paid for through meaningful entitlement reform.
In other words, Romney the conservative should be touting his WILLINGNESS to raise taxes on the rich by closing loopholes. Obama the liberal should be touting his willingness to reform the entitlement programs in order to continue to invest in job growth.
Just like the undecided, it is a wish list that probably won’t come true.