So the election isnt quite over.
Before Wednesday nights presidential debate, the conventional wisdom was that public opinion polls showed an electoral map with an Obama victory written in stone.
But the polls, in addition to being imperfect, are also impermanent. Polls are numerical snapshots. Elections are moving pictures with plotlines written by human agents.
Heres what Mitt Romney needs to do to author a Republican victory on Nov. 6.
First, Romney must make President Obama own his economic record, something that the presidents team seems embarrassingly willing to do. A week ago in North Carolina, Vice President Joe Biden wailed about the middle class that has been buried the last four years.
Who exactly does he think has been shoveling dirt on them? Here are the facts.
The Obama administration presided over the longest period of unemployment above 8 percent since the Great Depression. An Associated Press analysis of 10 U.S. recessions since World War II and the recoveries that followed them found that by just about any measure, the one that began in June 2009 is the weakest. Median incomes have fallen 7.3 percent since President Obama took office, or $4,000 per family. This is an economy that President Obama built.
Second, Romney must make the election a referendum on the scope of government.
Rather than being a one-time boost to the economy, the presidents $787 billion stimulus set a new baseline for federal spending that has created four consecutive years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits. FactCheck.org notes that as a percentage of GDP, federal spending under Obama reached the highest level since World War II in fiscal 2009, and has declined only slightly since. Federal debt held by the public is also at post-war highs. And all this is before the most expensive aspects of Obamacare take effect.
The solution proposed by the Obama economic team is seriously more of the same: more government, more spending, more debt, more quantitative easing and more cheap money, in addition to more taxes. In 2010, the presidents own debt commission warned, Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path. After two more years of Obamanomics, trickle-down government still doesnt work.
Third, Romney must offer a positive vision for the future. The most damning aspect of the 47 percent video is not that his argument about who pays taxes and who receives government benefits was wrong or that he seemed so willing to dismiss such a large portion of the electorate. It is, instead, that his endorsement of economic determinism betrayed an obliviousness to the conservative goal of empowering individuals.
Can anyone imagine Ronald Reagan telling any gathering under any circumstances anything even remotely close to what Romney said?
Of course not. Reagan would have talked about the desire of all people to be in control of their lives rather than being dependent on the beneficence of the state. And rather than writing people off, he would have laid out a framework for economic empowerment that appeals across all social, ethnic and racial boundaries.
Romney should do the same.
Time is short. The sliver of the electorate that is undecided or swayable is growing smaller.
Obama is unlikely to perform as miserably at the remaining two debates as he did Wednesday night. But Romney finally has some momentum. The question now is whether he can sustain it.