The economy, by a matter of public opinion, is the ultimate deciding factor in the 2012 presidential race. However, news coverage of recent events leaves another issue as a close contestant: likeability. Yesterday in class, we discussed how President Obama’s 52% approval rating does not mask the fact that the electoral environment does not favor him. Likewise, Governor Romney should be doing better in the race, but he isn’t. While a candidate’s stance on social issues, health care, or immigration, for instance, often sways a citizen’s opinion, this case is just too severe to leave out other potential factors. In this particular presidential election, voters’ personal opinions of the candidates play an especially crucial role. As the Republican campaign was in the process of recovering from missteps made throughout the last two weeks, the recent release of secretly captured footage revealing Romney’s opinion of Obama supporters presents a serious step backwards for the nominee.
I agree with Niall Ferguson in an article he wrote for The Daily Beast a few weeks ago when he states that the likability of the candidates has affected how people will vote for them. Photos of Obama receiving giant bear hugs from humble shop owners remind the public that the President is indeed human, and perhaps someone they would enjoy spending time with. Having this person continue to be president gives Americans a sense of comfort. On the other hand, videos of Romney revealing his distaste toward “the 47 percent…who believe they are victims…who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing…who pay no income tax,” have not only given the liberals another reason to distrust Romney, but also the Republicans, conservatives, and undecided voters who were either planning on voting for him all along or at least considering it (Mother Jones).
Now that this information has been revealed, it makes me even more uncomfortable to think that this man is in the race to represent the American people. Even if Romney had apologized when he was given the chance at his impromptu press conference, the people do not possess the ability to unlearn what they already know. Apologizing would have been similar to asking them to disregard the comments, but it is human nature to not forget such severe comments like that. I disagree with the Former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu when he says that “the Obama campaign was trying to wage class warfare” when the Obama campaign posed a response to the videos. The 47 percent that Romney claims is “poor” and “dependent upon government” also includes veterans, senior citizens, and extremely wealthy people, all of whom do not pay any income tax. These groups of people may not all come from the same social class. What’s more, it seems that Romney is forgetting middle class people vote Republican as well. He has clumped together all working class people into a mass with all the same needs and has assumed government dependence. In fact, according to The Guardian, when white middle class voters were asked who “would do more to advance their families’ economic interests,” Romney had 58% of the votes while Obama had 32%. However, after the leakage of the videos, these numbers could turn around. In the videos, Romney claims he cannot say any of these words in public for fear of losing the support of the independent voters. It all seems very ironic now.
This incident draws attention to how public politics and private politics are conducted differently. While Romney’s dishonesty seems to have been served up on a golden platter, one can only wonder about Obama’s honesty as well. So far, Obama has given us little reason to believe his inherent disposition is untrustworthy, but there is a still a few months before the election.
Lastly, plenty of Internet memes have been created after the “47% incident” occurred. I have posted one of the below.