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If the 2012 presidential election were a horse race, it would most-closely resemble the 1978 Triple Crown championship contest between Affirmed and Alydar.  Obama would be Affirmed (the ultimate winner of the series), while Mitt Romney would be Alydar. In ’78, Affirmed was a clear winner over Alydar in the first race of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. However, in the next two events – the Preakness and Belmont Stakes – Alydar was able to get within striking distance of overtaking Affirmed, but was unuable to pass the latter horse, finishing runner up in both event.  According to John Veitch,  the retired, Hall of Fame trainer of Alydar, his horse was unable to beat Affirmed due to his failure to do something called ‘change leads.’

“……the only thing I could never overcome was that we could never get Alydar to change leads in his races. In training in the mornings, he changed perfectly. At Hialeah, I’d take him up there in the three-eighths chute and do figure-eights with him like a skater would do, and he would change leads like a ballerina. But in the running of the race, even for a mile and a half in the Belmont, he’d run all the way around there on his left lead. I never did figure it out.”

‘Switching’ the lead leg with which a race horse gallops is a necessary skill that it must aquire in order to run most effectively. Writes Alex Brown of the New York Times:

“………Why is lead switching critical ? A horse will get very tired if it remains on one lead for too long. It is also important for a rider to note if a horse is switching normally, a little late or a little early or too often. A change in behavior regarding lead switching is a signal that something is not well with the horse.”

‘Switching leads’ is crucial to a horse being able to compete at its optimal ability in a race. If we apply this principle to the sad Presidential campaign being run by Republican Mitt Romney, it is easy to see how it is not likely to result in a victory over Obama in November, due to major flaws in its execution. Although still close in the latest Polls to his opponent, Barack Obama,  there is a feeling from influential members of his party that his campaign is ,  in the words of influential conservative WSJ writer Peggy Noonan, a ‘rolling calamity.’  Noonan’s words point to the fact  that Mitt Romney has sabotaged a great opportunity to possibly ‘pull an upset’  in November, by basically being an ignoramus.

Mitt Romney was always going to be the ‘underdog’ in this Presidential Election. His own wife confirmed this fact in an interview earlier this month:

“….“I definitely think Mitt goes in as an underdog,” Ann Romney said in a television interview earlier this month. Mr. Romney’s campaign happens to be imploding at the moment, but his supporters have been calling him an underdog since the primaries. In February, Mr. Romney said he was the underdog in Michigan, his home state. In June, Gov. Scott Walker said Mr. Romney was the underdog in Wisconsin. Sometimes, being just any old underdog isn’t enough. “He’s the tremendous underdog,” said a Republican committeeman in New Hampshire.”

So, in actuality, Romney is actually not exactly like Alydar.  Alydar was actually a slight favorite for the Kentucky Derby, whereas Romney has had merely an outside chance to steal the Presidency from Obama. To steal the win, Romney would have to run an aggressive, creative campaign, designed to ‘shift the narrative’ of the current political landscape. The current political narrative surrounding Romney’s opponent, Barack Obama, is roughly this:

Obama rode a wave on excitement , hope, and change to the 2008 election win over John McCain. He was a ‘fresh face’ in the White House. Since then, he hasn’t really done much to either hurt nor help his image in the eyes of the American public.

Indeed, Obama’s popularity was at its highest the moment he won the 2008 election. It then settled into a steady, lukewarm groove, with Obama’s health bill signing, handling of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and even the killing of Osama bin Laden causing only minor boosts in attention for the President. In all honesty, Obama’s popularity actually looks a lot like Dubya’s attention wave from 2004 to 2008: it’s pretty tame. Obama, contrary to popular opinion, is not as big a favorite in this year’s Presidential election as one would assume. He can be caught, much like Affirmed was ‘caught’ in the home stretch of the ’78 Preakness and Belmont. But how is Mitt Romney supposed to pass him?

By pouncing on any of the few ‘openings’ the President gave to poke holes in his public perception. Obama is nothing if not ‘smooth’, and has been careful not to embarrass himself in any major way since taking office four years ago. It is a shame that Google Insights only contains data beginning in ’04, because one wonders what kind of richeter-scale-like waves Dubya’s first term (2000-04)  in office generated. Bush’s second term in office – over one year after his disaster in Iraq – was free of any real controversy. Obama, media-savvy President that he is, does not have many PR holes in his public persona. He has not stirred intense emotions with his actions, or made any perceived ‘big blunders’ domestically, or in foreign policy.

Except one: Libya

The Libyan Civil War, a war in which Obama – pushed by his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – got the United States into by threatening military action against then-Dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is Obama’s only true PR fumble to date.

from ABC News:

“President Obama told a bipartisan group of members of Congress today that he expects the U.S. would be actively involved in any military action against Libya for “days, not weeks,” after which he said the U.S. would take more of a supporting role, sources tell ABC News.”

To many Americans, the words of the President meant simply that America had once again ‘declared war’ on some country that they had honestly forgotten existed, for some unknown reason. After all, at the time of the Libyan uprising, there were scores of other skirmishes scattered throughout the Middle East, including places like Yemen and Bahrain. The big question was, ‘why is the US entering into this conflict?’ and sparked some of the same skepticism Dubya’s Iraq adventure had produced:

from the BBC:

19 March 2011 Last updated at 15:29 ET

Why is US backing force in Libya but not Bahrain, Yemen?

By Andrew North BBC News, Washington

The ‘Libyan Affair’ took almost an entire year to conclude. To many Americans – who had misinterpreted the President’s words about only ‘days not weeks’ to mean that the war should be over in about that time –  the failure to ‘accomplish the mission’ (which ultimately became ‘Kill Gaddafi’) quickly, was interpreted as another ‘failed’ US Military engagement by the American public. The wave was not too embarrassing for the President, but for much of 2011, it was an annoying buzz in the background of his Presidency. Despite his Secretary of State’s cheeky assessment of US involvement after the death of Gaddafi, Obama was no doubt red-faced over the Libya affair.

So he vowed to never repeat it.

And so, the chaos raging in Syria is something Obama has handled very carefully, taking a few moments to denounce the Assad regime, but otherwise making no mention of possible US military intervention in that country. The result has been that a full-scale civil war has been raging for over one year, and Americans have been able to  safely  watch football on Saturdays, as opposed to  Fox News updates of another Middle East/US conflict.

But then Libya crept back onto the scene.

The killing of US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens by an Islamist militia two weeks ago brought that country’s problems, as well as the US’s problem in that country, back into the consciousness of the American public. Libya’s turmoil had now become an American issue, an issue which may have been brought about by Obama’s choice to (needlessly?) intervene in a foreign (unimportant?) country for reasons unknown. This attention wave, coming just months before Americans would head to the polls and vote, could not have come at a worse time for Obama. It opened the door for his opponent, Mitt Romney, to attack him on his most vulnerable topic.

And attack Romeny did.

The attack on Ambassador Stevens came at the same time as a protest over a Youtube movie trailer was in full swing on the anniversary of 9/11. Obama issued what got interpreted as an ‘apology’ to Muslims over the video outrage, and Romney jumped on the president, saying, “….America must never apologize for its values, and that the Obama administration was apologizing when it pointed out a moral constraint on free speech.” It was a jab at the President, but a powerful hook was what the Republican candidate should have thrown.

That ‘hook’ would have been this:

Pointing out to an American public who had  totally forgotten by now that the situation in Libya was maybe Obama’s fault to begin with. That the intervention in 2011 was unnecessary, and maybe the latest crisis is a direct result of that. 

It might have been a bit of a stretch to make that claim. It certainly would have been politcal taboo to make such a statement so soon after the death of Stevens. But it would have also made Americans stop and think ‘hmm, maybe you’re right’. After all, it was the angle that  Michael Hayden, a former C.I.A. and National Security Agency director – and Romney advisor – , took when talking about the attacks. Regarding Obama’s Libya policy, Hayden said that ‘…if he broke it, he owns it.’ It was Romney’s one big chance to re-ignite his election campaign. It would have gone a ways towards shifting the narrative. Instead, Romney blew it completely.

 

Romney’s quip about the President immediately following the Libya attack were lambasted in the media, even from fellow Republicans. The fallout from Romney’s attack on Obama’s response the Consulate attack has led to his worst weeks ever; the man simply cannot seem to catch a break. This is because he lacks even half the media savvy the incumbent President possesses. After missing his best chance to reposition himself in the public eye, Romney has essentially gone out of his way to make a fool of himself, something Obama is very careful not to do. The Libya comments, as well as his 47% comment;  have alienated the man in the minds of undecided voters, according to the LA TImes. Add to this the man’s delusions about how effective his campaign has been – “..it doesn’t need a turnaround.” – despite plenty of detractors in his own camp, and it is clear that Mitt Romney’s chances for winning the Presidency are melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.

In horse racing, it is a novice mistake to assume that a horse making a ‘bold move’ past horses on the final turn of a race is ‘revving up’, increasing its speed, finding an extra gear to power by helpless opponents. In actuality, there is not a horse alive who runs any faster at the end of a race than at the beginning. The opposite is true: all of the horses in the race are tiring, and the question is simply which horses are tiring the least. A horse who is tiring badly is said to be ‘backing up’. Such a horse may still win the race, but only by virtue of having built a large enough lead earlier in the race to ‘hold on’ for a slim victory.

‘Backing into Victory’ has been the unofficial campaign strategy employed by Team Obama for the 2012 Presidential Election. Faced with an uncharismatic, unpopular ‘left-over’ candidate, from the Party that  gave this country its worst President ever , ‘Bam – the media-savvy man himself – realized that it was on the shoulders of Republicans to ‘come and get’ him. All he – Obama – would have to do is stay out of any hot-button situations like last year’s Libya, and it would be virtually impossible for the majority of undecided Americans to justify voting against him come November. Like Affirmed, Obama knew he just needed to not lose ground; he already had the lead in the home stretch. He could back into winning his second term with no problem.  Like Alydar, Mitt Romney has shown the inability to ‘switch leads’ and inject new life into a campaign that ‘isn’t working’ . Like Alydar, the Republican candidate will fail to make the pass for the win……….