Whether it's on the campaign trail or in voter surveys, it has been a bumpy week for the Mitt Romney campaign.
First, let's start with the polls.
A CBS News/New York Times poll shows U.S. President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney in a national survey of likely voters by 49 per cent to 46 per cent.
Among the broader group of registered voters, the President leads his rival 51 per cent to 43 per cent – a very different picture, as the analysis points out, from the deadlocked nature of the race before the party conventions.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of battleground states shows Mr. Romney trailing by seven percentage points in Ohio, and five percentage points in Florida and Virginia.
The battleground poll results also show that on the key question of who is better able to handle the economy – an area where Mr. Romney is seen as having an advantage – President Obama is about even with his rival and ahead in Ohio by four points.
That’s what the polls say. But what do the experts think about this week on campaign trail? The U.S. embassy crisis in Libya upended the political campaigns and forced the candidates to address issues of foreign policy.
Below, three observers share their Friday score sheet with the Globe and Mail.
Paul J. Quirk, a U.S. citizen and lifelong resident until he joined the University of British Columbia as the Phil Lind Chair in U.S. Politics and Representation:
“Romney shot himself in the foot this week, then re-loaded, and shot the other foot. First, he said he would keep parts of Obama's health care reform. After saying thousands of times that he would repeal Obamacare, with no qualifications, he offended conservatives and left his position on health care badly confused.
“Second, he attacked Obama for a statement on the Libyan crisis that a) most people will approve of and b) Obama himself did not even make. He appeared to many observers too political and too reckless for the presidency.
“Both episodes provide material for Democratic advertising and for embarrassing challenges during the presidential debates. The sad thing about all this, from a Republican standpoint, is that desperation is not yet warranted. Romney is throwing ‘Hail Marys,’ very likely to be intercepted, in the third quarter of the game.”
Donald Critchlow is a political historian and the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University – and he wonders if voters will be left with echoes of another U.S. president, who, in 1979, had to deal with an embassy crisis in Iran that resulted in 52 American hostages being held:
“This week was a toss-up for both candidates. The week started off well for Obama with the polls showing that he got a major boost from the convention, putting him up six percentage points over Romney.
“Later, these polls were disputed as being too heavily weighted toward Democratic voters in their samples, but this was inside-the-beltway stuff not followed by many voters. Momentum appeared to be on Obama’s side. Meanwhile conservative pundits from a variety of quarters were criticizing Romney for not being bold enough by laying out specific plans for addressing the economy and foreign policy.
“Romney appears to be holding his fire, waiting to the debates to provide specifics. This makes some sense. Why give the opposition something to bite their teeth into with specific plans? By the end of the week, events in Egypt and Libya dominated the news. Romney was accused on politicizing this crisis, but many were left wondering if Obama was headed toward his ‘Jimmy Carter moment.’”
Michael Parkin is a Canadian and associate professor of politics at Oberlin College in Ohio. He studies the relationship between candidates, the media and voters. He offers his take from this battleground state:
“I would give the edge to Obama this week. He managed a small bounce out of the convention, and the unemployment rate dropped even if the overall jobs numbers were not as good as expected. The president also got some encouraging results from polls in key battleground states which are vitally important if he is to remain in the White House.
“His real advantage came, however, from his handling of the tragedy in Libya. Romney pressed on the gas a little too hard in criticizing the administration's policy in that part of the world. Romney wanted to appear strong and presidential, but Obama's comment about "shooting first and aiming later" left Romney looking unprepared and inexperienced.
“So, in the end, Obama stayed about even on the domestic front while strengthening his foreign policy advantage over Romney.”