With fewer than seven weeks before the U.S. presidential election, the campaigns will have to be sharp and avoid missteps in a tight contest.
This week, the “47 per cent” incident started things off on Monday – and put the Mitt Romney campaign on the defensive.
“My campaign is about the 100 per cent of America," he said several times during a televised forum on the Spanish-language channel Univision.
President Barack Obama, in an appearance on the same channel the next night, had this to say about Mr. Romney’s videotaped comments, made at a May fundraiser: “When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot.”
So who won the week? Below, four experts share their Friday score scorecard with The Globe and Mail.
Do you agree with our experts? Tell us here who you think won the week.
Paul J. Quirk was a lifelong U.S. resident until he joined the University of British Columbia as the Phil Lind Chair in U.S. Politics and Representation. He holds dual citizenship.
“The real question is whether Romney lost the week or rather, this week, lost the election. There were some indications it was indeed the election — a pronouncement from Republican commentator Peggy Noonan that the Romney campaign is “incompetent,” statements by several Republican congressional candidates distancing themselves from their party’s presidential candidate, and the sudden departure of campaign co-chairman, Tim Pawlenty, for a new career in the private sector. It appeared that some Republicans were almost throwing in the towel.
“Romney is clearly behind in the race, and yet the margin remains slim. To preserve his chances, he needs to “keep calm and carry on.” His main grounds for hope are the possibility that disastrous economic news will weaken Obama, that Obama will make serious mistakes in the debates, or that the polls have generally been off by a few points in the remarkably challenging guesswork about Democratic and Republican turnout.
“Republican turnout could considerably exceed most of the pollster’s expectations. Romney needs to keep probing for new openings, and more effective appeals. But overly drastic strategic moves — such as trotting out a lot of specific policy proposals — could just backfire and seal his fate entirely.”
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.
“President Obama clearly won this week. He won it by default because Romney's secret fundraising video put him in such hot water.
“The comments that Romney made seemed to show something of the candidate that many voters had felt for a while: that he does not really connect with the average American; he doesn't really understand their lives. Moreover, Romney did not really back away from his comments. He said they were expressed awkwardly, but not that he thought they were wrong.
“Meanwhile, the Obama campaign reminded voters of the video at every turn and watched as their poll numbers continued to improve.”
Donald Critchlow is a political historian and the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University. He argues that while there is a lot of attention on Mr. Romney’s gaffes, there is a ‘wild card’ in the presidential race.
"This week appeared to be a bad week for Romney when a video clip at a fundraising event… showing him saying that 47 per cent of the people receiving government support were a lock for Obama. The press hopped on the statement, which was given full coverage by Mother Jones, a left-leaning magazine.
“Suddenly there were reports of discord within Republican ranks over Romney's campaign. It was not the first time that Romney's off-the-cuff remarks had gotten him into trouble. His interview in London in July, in which he told an American reporter that the summer Olympics were not well-run, attracted hostile British and American news.
“It was not just a matter of gaffes when not speaking from a script. After the first reports of the Libyan riots that left four Americans dead including the U.S. Ambassador, Romney issued a prepared statement criticizing Obama's foreign policy. This statement came before President Obama had issued a full statement about this tragedy. Yet, at the end of the week, Gallup and Rasmussen showed in their polls a dead even race.
“Obama appears to have gained strength in many of the swing states. Yet while Washington insiders scrutinize the minutia of the polls, international events – anti-America riots throughout the Middle East and Asia, a nuclearised Iran, rising oil prices, and the Obama administration's handling of these problems – just might make foreign policy a wild card in this election."
Diana Owen is an associate professor of political science and director of American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
“It is difficult for any candidate to have a good week in the excessively nasty 2012 election, but Mitt Romney has had an especially bad time of it lately. The [“47 per cent”] incident played directly into the narrative of Romney as a candidate who favors the interests of the wealthy, a perception that polls indicate is hurting him in battleground states, like Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado.
“There also were shake-ups within the Romney organization, leading to headlines that his campaign was in disarray. Tim Pawlenty, the Romney campaign’s national co-chair, left to take a position lobbying for a financial services organization.
“Barack Obama had a week of ups and downs. He dealt with the fallout over his administration’s initial response to protests in the Middle East that resulted in the deaths of four Americans which opponents claimed was not sufficiently robust. Since the American public’s interest in foreign affairs is limited, Obama likely did not lose much ground as a result.
“The Obama campaign has strategically scheduled trips to battleground states where he has used big rallies to set the campaign agenda. During a trip to working class Ohio he lambasted China for taking American jobs and Romney for outsourcing jobs to China. This message resonates with voters in states hard hit by the persistent economic downturn. Romney is using the China issue to reboot his campaign, responding that Obama has “let China run all over us.” Some polls show that Obama is pulling away from Romney, but polls have been all over the map and there is a lot of election time to go.”