It was ugly four years ago. McCain beat Obama 64 to 36 in 2008. My guess is that it will be by about the same numbers this year. That, my friends, is what you call a landslide. In some corners it can be referred to as a shellacking.
When you get that kind of overwhelming, lopsided, tsunami it creates coattails. There are very few state races on the ballot and the five Supreme Court seats would be easily retained by the GOP regardless. In fact, only one of the five is even contested. However, the GOP landslide will probably take out the last surviving Democrat in a statewide office. Lucy Baxley will more than likely lose to Twinkle Cavanaugh in the PSC presidency contest by a 45 to 55 margin. The landslide will also beat some of the remaining democratic probate judges in the state. In short, Barack Obama heading the Democratic ticket will drive the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party on the state level in Alabama.
However, the presidential race will be very close. It will be an eyelash photo finish. The candidates are spending all of their time and money in the eight pivotal swing states. The states to watch are Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. Romney’s campaign perceives that they have an opening in three traditionally Democratic states. They are branching out and actually spending money in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The economy is the ultimate issue in all of these battleground states. However, Romney’s internal polling indicates that President Obama’s endorsement of same sex marriage is energizing Christian conservative voters. Pastors in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida are hammering the issue home. Indeed, Romney needs to win in these three states, which Obama carried four years ago. More than likely, neither candidate can lose both Ohio and Florida and win. Therefore, if you follow their campaign itineraries over the next four weeks they will more than likely be in Florida and Ohio most of the time. Obama seems to be obsessed with and has camped out in Ohio and Virginia.
President Obama is focusing on Mitt Romney’s wealth in an obvious class warfare ploy. Romney counters that Obama is a novice when it comes to economics and is unqualified to lead the country out of a recession that has lingered now for at least half a decade.
The jobless rate numbers are critical. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 42 consecutive months. No incumbent president has ever been reelected when the unemployment rate is above 7.5 percent percent.
Another factor that will affect this election is Mitt Romney’s and the GOP’s ability to outspend the Obama campaign through third party PACs. In past decades each party has been able to spend about the same amount of money. Campaign finance laws and the equal partisan makeup of the country have dictated this level playing field. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling two years ago that struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending has created an uneven playing field in favor of the Republicans.
A plethora of super PACs has been created. These super PACs are organized with innocuous names and millions of dollars to spend, mostly on negative ads. These PACs have no limit on the amount of money they can raise and spend. The court has ruled that they are protected under the First Amendment. Corporations are taking advantage of this new card dealt to them by the Supreme Court. The amount of money being spent by well heeled individuals and corporations is mind boggling. Most of this prolific campaign dollar largesse is gravitating toward the pro business candidate, Mitt Romney.
The next four weeks will be interesting and fun to watch. Unfortunately, we in Alabama will not be able to enjoy seeing all the ads. All of the advertising and campaigning will occur in the eight to 10 battleground states. I suspect many of you are saying right now, “That’s a good thing. I’d rather watch my favorite TV shows than be bombarded with silly negative ads all night.”
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.