Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Here is the ninth issue of Capital Brief, from September 12, analyzing the presidential race dynamics following the two major party conventions and Romney's response to Libya and Egypt.

Click below to read the Brief.

Capital Brief  
Amy Greene
Capital Brief, n°9 – September 12, 2012

After the Two Conventions, What is the State of the Race?


  • A few key takeaway elements from the two national conventions (RNC, DNC):
    • Both conventions, heavily-scripted and poll-tested, focused especially on leaders from crucial “swing” demographics (women, minorities)
    • Republicans: Voters most remember Clint Eastwood’s rambling introduction of Romney – a bizarre rant to an empty chair. Instead of leading into Romney’s acceptance with a well-done biographical video, they chose an actor whose improvisation eclipsed the candidate’s big night.
    • Democrats: Voters most preferred Bill Clinton’s 48-minute point-by-point rebuttal of Republican attacks on Obama that also criticized Republican policies, and endorsed Obama. Clinton resonated with voters (65% favorability rating), and as ex-president he had unique ability to praise Obama’s performance without seeming too subjective. Obama’s speech admitted to “failings,” made the case for his re-election, and painted a social values-driven contrast with Romney.
  • Barack Obama received a post-convention bounce that now places him 6 points ahead of Mitt Romney in major national polls. Obama leads among registered voters also by 6 points, and leads among likely voters by 1 point.


  •  Post-convention polling shows that race dynamics that slightly favored Obama beforehand continue to favor him. But the closeness of the race hasn’t changed.
  • Negative personal attack ads from both sides have been, and will be, a key characteristic of this race.
  • Prominent conservatives resumed their criticism of Romney for lacking policy details. The Wall Street Journal accused him of wavering on health care. Rupert Murdoch urged Romney to stop fearing the Right and start giving specifics.
  • Romney’s perceived weakness on foreign policy is harming his campaign.
    • His failure to mention the troops in his convention acceptance speech is considered offensive and some Republicans call it a major error. Democrats use it to argue his inability to be commander in chief.
    • Obama’s strength on national security has made the Republicans now look to be weak and rudderless on foreign policy/defense.
    • Romney’s reaction to the attack on US diplomacy in Libya was instead a sharp criticism of Obama. His comments look small, do not successfully draw a contrast with the president, and will not attract Undecideds.
    • Romney has little interest in starting this fight with Obama – the public approves of Obama on national security. Obama himself is confident on this terrain, whereas Romney has seemed gaffe-prone (cf. Olympics criticism, Europe/Israel trip, omission of troops in acceptance speech). Romney has little to gain when the topic is foreign policy rather than the economy – especially given the latest disappointing jobs numbers.
    • Romney wants to avoid looking like a one-issue candidate, but this unseemly criticism of the president may reinforce that very image.