The Republican presidential debates have accomplished the impossible. President Obama, despite the terrible economy, now looks like a strong contender for re-election. This year’s Republican debates have all the essential elements—talent, torment and sex—to become this season’s hottest reality show. I had already steeled myself for a likely inauguration of President Romney in January 2013, and for the final farewell of President Obama and his family before being whisked away by Marine Force One. But if I were Michelle Obama, I wouldn’t start ordering those change of address cards just yet.
The instinct to always go for the jugular, the incessant drumbeat of anti-Obama messaging on FOX News and talk radio, and the “my way or the highway” attitude of the Republican governors in states like Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Virginia have finally begun to take their toll on the Republican Party’s chances to regain the White House. The party who worships free market capitalism is ignoring the significance of the Occupy Movement, one of the largest protests modern America has ever seen, even as it has successfully mobilized its supporters and sympathizers to speak with their dollars and transferred over 4 billion dollars in cash deposits from for-profit mega banks to non-profit credit unions in the last couple of weeks. Add to this renewed fervor of opposition amongst independents and liberals the turmoil within the ranks of the GOP as it struggles to marshal a majority of its voters around any of its candidates, and you could have a recipe for an upset victory by an Obama Administration many had written off in August.
In the last 60 days, the overexposure created by the GOP’s chock-a-block broadcast schedule, along with the fact that there are simply too many people on stage to elicit anything more than soundbites, campaign slogans, and one liners, has put more of a spotlight on the ineptitude and the cartoon character-like behavior of most of the candidates than any negative ad campaign the Democrats would be capable of dreaming up on their own. My home phone and my cell phone rang so much during the last debate with calls from friends who were incredulous about they were seeing, I had to quit answering them just to keep up with what was happening on the screen.
Are we really going to tune into CBS tonight to listen to foreign policy positions? Or are we just watching to see if Rick Perry can remember who’s on first? Or are we waiting for a moderator to ask Herman Cain a sexual harassment question so he can give his patented evil eye glare? Or are we playing the new game where you count how many seconds will elapse before Michelle Bachmann crows Obamacare?
The icing on the cake for the president, who faces an uphill battle for re-election next year, is the spectacle the Republican presidential primary process has become this year. Every day the Republicans spend worrying about Herman Cain is one less day they can spend marshalling their forces against President Obama. I have not read one of the 59 points in Mitt Romney’s economic plan, but I am intimately familiar with the lives of Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar. Even worse, in trying to continue along this vein of pairing up a salient platform position of one of the other candidates with a factoid from the never ending Cain controversy, nothing else besides “repeal Obamacare” and “9-9-9” comes to mind.