Democratic President Barack Obama has been running a better campaign so far, said NPR correspondent Mara Liasson, but she believed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have more money to campaign with.
Liasson dissected the presidential campaign as the keynote speaker Saturday afternoon at the annual meeting and policy forum of the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference, scheduled to be held Thursday through Monday at Bally’s Atlantic City. The conference brought together eastern U.S. and Canadian state and provincial officials for several days to discuss and address common issues, problems and solutions.
Liasson, who has covered national politics for about two decades, said she believed the recent Colorado shootings would have no ultimate effect on either the presidential race or U.S. gun policy. In this polarized presidential election, she said, few things have significantly changed public opinion, including economics.
“All of the economic indicators … are flashing red for President Obama,” she said, including consumer confidence, employment and the general outlook.
Obama holds a slim, remarkably durable lead over Romney in polls, she said, but is essentially tied in the battleground states that decide presidential contests.
Nothing seems to affect polls, including the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2010 health care law.
As a result, she anticipated the race would be close and hinge on turnout, as campaigns seek to encourage their supporters and demonize the opposition.
“These are not two presidential candidates trying to find the moderate voters in the middle because there are so few of them,” Liasson said.
But the candidates and campaigns say little about what they would do if elected, she said, adding to “the bigger disconnect between the size of the problem and the smallness of the campaign.”
She added, “There are big structural problems facing the country, and the candidates have decided … that it’s just not a good idea to talk to the voters about them.”
Obama appears to be losing badly among several key demographics, including white, noncollege-educated voters, while at the same time deriving key support from the increasing number of Hispanic, black and younger voters.
Romney’s decision to go “hard right on immigration” during the primary election may come back to haunt him, Liasson said, if there is significant enough turnout.
At the same time, though, she said that Democrats were not as motivated as they were in 2008 for Obama. She said Republicans were generally more encouraged.
Democrats are attacking Romney’s business credentials, she said, running a campaign similar to the Republican’s 2004 campaign that re-elected President George W. Bush by attacking Democratic candidate John Kerry’s supposed strengths in the military.
“It’s a real change from the ‘hope-and-change’ campaign that Obama ran in 2008,” Liasson said, “but it’s the one that they feel they can win.”
However, Obama seems to have an easier path to accumulating enough Electoral College votes, she said. He just needs to hold onto the states that voted Democrat in 2004, plus Iowa and another state that voted Republican in 2008.
Republicans had hoped to make Michigan and Pennsylvania battlegrounds, but they did not succeed. She said Romney needed to win Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana — states Obama carried in 2008 — and then another state.
She said no one knew what the effect of voter-identification laws would be. Republicans say they fight fraud, but Democrats say they surpress turnout.
“This is a huge issue,” she said, “and the problem is, we won’t know what it meant until after the election.”
Contact Derek Harper:
Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper