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Campaign, economy characterize 2012 national election

September 11, 2012

Charlie Cook provides insight into the dominating aspects in the 2012 national election. Photo by Melissa Kansky.

The economy and political campaign will be the deciding factors in the upcoming national election, but the candidates each demonstrate a mastery of only one of the significant elements.

“If President Obama is reelected it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign, and if Mitt Romney wins it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign,” said Charlie Cook, founder of The Cook Report and a political analyst for NBC.

Cook analyzed the events pertaining to the 2012 election for an audience of Elon University students, faculty and staff Monday night.

The lack of economic growth under Obama’s leadership typically motivates the public to elect change, Cook said. Although he acknowledged the economy was poor when the Democratic candidate entered the Oval Office, after a certain amount of time the public expects the President to assume ownership of the nation’s situation, he said.

A collection of Charlie Cook’s commentary of the 2012 election on Dipity Timeline.

Since the stimulus package designed at the beginning of Obama’s term, he has taken little action concerning the economy, Cook said. While economists can point to the flaws and positive aspects of the initial plan, the public has adopted an overall negative view of the President’s economic program.

“They’re not economists, but that’s what they think,” Cook said of the voters. “And during the election, they’re the judges.”

Although previous data suggests an incumbent president usually does not get reelected under the current economic conditions, Romney’s campaign has not portrayed him as a trusted alternative, according to Cook.

Determining for whom to vote rests on two questions, Cook said. Do you want to renew this president’s contract for another four years and, if the answer is no or maybe, do you want to hire Mitt Romney?

Charlie Cook’s opinion regarding candidate favorability altered after the national conventions. Photo by Melissa Kansky.

Cook criticized Romney for failing to address his own abilities and, instead, focusing on Obama’s poor management of the economy, a national condition the voters have certainly recognized.

“What (the Republicans) were not doing was figuring out the second half of that question: should you feel comfortable with Mitt Romney,” Cook said.

The speaker recalled a focus group that asked women from swing states about their knowledge of the Republican candidate. Several of them described him as a rich, successful businessman, and few knew he was a Mormon.

Cook suggested the lack of familiarity hinders the perception of Romney as a trustworthy candidate. He faulted Romney for not developing a campaign that earned the confidence of his constituents.

Furthermore, the absence of an established image enabled the Democratic campaign to define Romney before he could label himself, Cook said.

“You should always define your candidate before the opponent has the chance to define him,” he cautioned.

The lack of Republican Party advertisements in swing states further weakened Romney’s campaign, according to Cook. Additionally, the attention Clint Eastwood received during the Republican National Convention overshadowed the candidate’s vision for the country.

“The people managing the campaign should be sued for malpractice,” Cook said of the Republican Party.

Although the election is extremely close, prior to the national conventions Cook said he believed Romney held a slight lead, but now thinks Obama will be reelected. Nevertheless, the polarizing views of both candidates frustrate compromise between parties, making Cook weary of the next four years, regardless of who wins the election, he said.

“Too many of our elected officials think compromise is a four-letter word, it’s a sign of weakness, it’s a loss of principle,” Cook said.

He expressed a hope that, in the future, presidential candidates will recognize compromise as an avenue to successful leadership.

“I hope your generation does it better,” he said.

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