Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99


News Opinion

Four reasons why Romney might still win

Can Mitt Romney possibly recover? Pundits and pollsters are beginning to doubt it. A survey conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16 by the Pew Research Center -- before the "47 percent of Americans are victims" video came to light -- showed President Barack Obama ahead of Mr. Romney 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters.

That's the biggest margin in the September survey prior to a presidential election since Bill Clinton led Bob Dole, 50 percent to 38 percent, in 1996.

And, remember, this poll was done before America watched Mr. Romney belittle almost half the nation.

So I haven't been surprised by all the calls I've been getting lately from my inside-the-Beltway friends telling me "Romney's toast."

Hold it. Rumors of Mr. Romney's demise are premature for at least four reasons.

First, between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- Oct. 5 and Nov. 2. If they're as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Mr. Romney's claim that the economy is off track becomes more credible. And Mr. Obama's claim that it's on the mend will be harder to defend.

Economic predictions are always hazardous, but with gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

Second, between now and Election Day come three presidential debates, the first on Oct. 3.

It's commonly thought Mr. Obama will win the debates handily. He has a deserved reputation for eloquence. But that reputation didn't come from his debate performance, and the expectation he'll win may be very wrong -- and could work against him.

Yes, Mr. Romney is an automaton. But when the dials are set properly, Mr. Romney can give a good imitation of a human engaged in sharp debate. He did remarkably well in the Republican primary debates.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, can come off slow and ponderous. Recall how he stuttered and stumbled during the 2008 Democratic primary debates. And he hasn't been in a real-live debate for four years; Mr. Romney recently emerged from almost a year of them.

Third, during the final weeks of the campaign, the anti-Obama forces will be spending a gigantic amount of money. The gusher will be coming not just from the Romney campaign and Mr. Romney's super PACs, but also from other super PACs aligned with Mr. Romney, billionaires spending their own fortunes, and nonprofit "social welfare" organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's "Crossroads" and various Koch brothers political fronts.

Hundreds of millions of dollars will be dumped into TV and radio spots.

Some of the money will be devoted to get-out-the-vote drives -- to computerized targeting of voters likely to support Mr. Romney, phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to make sure they vote, and vans to bring them to the polling stations.

It's an easy bet these Romney and anti-Obama forces will far outspend Mr. Obama and his allies. I've heard two-to-one. The race is still close enough that a comparative handful of voters in swing states can make the difference -- which means gobs of money used to motivate voters to get to polling stations can be critical.

Fourth and finally, as it's displayed before, the Republican Party will do whatever it can to win -- even if it means disenfranchising certain voters. To date, 11 states have enacted voter identification laws, all designed by Republican legislatures and governors to dampen Democratic turnout.

The GOP is also encouraging what can only be termed "voter vigilante" groups to "monitor polling stations to prevent fraud" -- which means intimidating minorities who have every right to vote. They're poring through lists of registered Democratic voters, seeking to have "suspicious" names purged from the rolls or targeted for questioning when these people arrive to vote.

Republicans haven't been able to document a rise in voter fraud in recent years. They've manufactured the problem in order to give a patina of legitimacy to these efforts. And what about those Diebold voting machines?

For these reasons, don't for a moment believe Mr. Romney is "toast." There are still many weeks between now and Election Day, and he might just pop back up.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the author of "Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it," a Knopf release now out in paperback.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • BP is not a criminal -- but its executives might be
    BP is not a criminal -- but its executives might be

    Convicting an oil company for the Deepwater Horizon spill continues the Citizens United fallacy that corporations are people

  • Why Freddie Gray ran
    Why Freddie Gray ran

    We don't need four investigations to answer what may be the most consequential questions posed by the events leading up to Freddie Gray's death: Why did police approach him on April 12, why did he run, and why did they chase him? The outcome of that encounter was a tragic injustice of the sort...

  • Charges in Freddie Gray's death [Poll]
    Charges in Freddie Gray's death [Poll]
  • Flunking civics should no longer be an option
    Flunking civics should no longer be an option

    "Don't know much about history" -- Sam Cooke

  • Expanding the transportation conversation

    Transportation is a hot button issue in Baltimore City these days. In fact, it's red hot. At a recent community meeting, residents unloaded on the Maryland Department of Transportation over a proposed plan to restrict parking on the south side of Aliceanna Street during rush hour.

  • Preventing the next death in police custody
    Preventing the next death in police custody

    Growing up in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, there was rarely a week that went by when my parents, Bill and Madeline Murphy, weren't strategizing on how to end racial injustice in my hometown. Police harassment was a frequent complaint of our Cherry Hill friends and neighbors. The current...

  • Martin O'Malley's modern-day know-nothingness
    Martin O'Malley's modern-day know-nothingness

    Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is thinking about running for president on the Democratic ticket by appealing to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's populist fans. Ms. Warren is a very bright former Harvard law professor. So it is interesting that Mr. O'Malley thinks the best way to reach...

  • No 'lynch mobs' here
    No 'lynch mobs' here

    Given the circumstances of Freddie Gray's death, it's hardly a surprise that many in this city are justifiably concerned about the behavior of the Baltimore Police Department and the six officers who had contact with the 25-year-old when he was arrested and placed in custody and who have since...