In modern America, where attention spans are short and distractions abundant, Republicans have a politically inherent advantage. Just look at the pillars of their platforms. Their main domestic policy is to cut taxes to spur economic growth and their main foreign policy is unwavering strength and leadership. Who could be against that?
Add in a moderate social policy and those who are politically apathetic would be tough to convince to vote Democrat.
Who likes to pay taxes? Who likes to hear that their enemy is working toward a nuclear weapon and the best line of action is to work through the UN and use economic sanctions? The obvious answer is no one, liberals and conservatives alike.
Potential better questions are, who is able to sit down and devote their attention to understanding the complexities of macroeconomics and international relations, and who is able to rationalize their sacrifice for minimal impact on a collective action problem?
This is not to say you have to be a genius to understand the Democratic platform, but rather to show how the GOP platform is an easy sell to the uninformed voter; that same voter was a part of the 67.5 million people who watched the first presidential debate, the second-most-watched event this year, bested only by the Super Bowl.
These 67.5 million Americans were told, often without logic or facts on their side, that the president punishes our enemies less severely than he punishes the American citizen through taxes.
Add this to the 7.8 percent unemployment rate, political misinformation and America’s short-term political memory and you see why Mitt Romney bounced the way he did in the polls. Voters forgot the “severely conservative” Mitt Romney from the primary battles and instead believed that Romney was a moderate technocrat, though that flies in the face of the positions he was taking just a few weeks ago. When the president called the governor out for his known stances, uninformed viewers saw a “he said-he said,” coming away believing even more strongly that politicians can’t be trusted.
How do you debate an opponent who has taken every position on every policy and, when told of what his known stances entail, tells a cute little anecdote and accuses the president of lying?
When uninformed voters found that the Romney they saw at the debate did not match the caricature they’d been expecting, they suddenly liked him, as evidenced by the new national polls. This draws a contrast to the voters in swing states, who are bombarded with television ads. These voters were not nearly as likely to change their votes, as seen by a poll from RealClearPolitics, which shows the president leading in eight out of 11 toss-up states.
Those close to the president have said in numerous articles that the president finds politics to be beneath him — an odd view for a politician. But his contempt for politics may explain his failure in the first presidential debate of this campaign.
While he came off the stage thinking he had clearly made the best case for the future of the country, he appeared unenthused, refused to attack the governor for his missteps (most noticeably his 47 percent comments) and rarely talked up his own accomplishments (most noticeably the resurrection of General Motors and the death of bin Laden).
He instead focused on the details of policy without playing into the horse race politics that has become our reality. While Romney saw the debate as an opportunity to sell himself to the American people, the president’s ultimate political failure was to see the debate as a chance to lecture the audience about the nuances of his policy choices.