Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 8:46 am | Overcast 64º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: 2012 Presidential Campaign Will Not Be Pretty

Democrats will resort to smearing Republicans to avert attention from Obama's less-than-perfect first term

Just as birds have to fly and fish have to swim, pundits have to predict. Please be warned that what follows comes from the same forecaster who, 11 years ago, assured readers that President John McCain in 2004 would not seek a second White House term.

But as the transvestite linebacker said: “You win some. You lose some. Some are rained out. But one way or the other, you have to dress for all of them.”

I am convinced that the 2012 presidential campaign will be one of the ugliest public spectacles you or I have ever endured.

Here’s why. Any election with an incumbent president running for re-election is, by definition, a referendum on the incumbent’s first term. The incumbent candidate seeking re-election can, if things are going well and the electorate is not unhappy, run a high-road campaign that celebrates the positive changes and argues a variation of “one good term deserves another.”

If, on the other hand, things have not gone swimmingly during the first term and the voters are annoyed or angry, then the incumbent will almost certainly run a low-road campaign that seeks to switch public attention away from his faults and blunders to his opponent’s alleged defects of intellect, character or judgment.

Barring a near-miraculous improvement in public prosperity, President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign will spend most of its time, money and energy trying to convince us that the Republican nominee, for perverse amusement, likes to stick bamboo shoots under the fingernails of widows and orphans.

An iron rule of American politics holds that when the economy is bad, the economy is the only issue. When unemployment is low and economic confidence is high, voters will tolerate a presidential campaign — like that of 1988 between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis — where the Republican candidate not only made mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a constant issue but, to emphasize his commitment to the cause, paid a campaign visit to an American flag factory in Verona, N.J., to which one wit suggested Bush had come “for a fitting.”

Rather than discuss or defend the disappointing present — or to make a public apology acknowledging the mistakes they’ve made and the human pain they have unintentionally caused — Democrats, you can bet, will repeatedly document for us between now and Nov. 6, 2012, the collective overdue library books, unpaid parking tickets and marital lapses of the Republican(s).

An incumbent running in hard times needs to first convince voters that he understands that things have not gone, during his stewardship, as he had planned and as they had expected. But then the beleaguered incumbent had better be able to persuade the skeptical public that, because of his foxhole experience, he now has a credible, realistic plan to improve the lives of all Americans in the next four years. Democrats must know that if 2012 becomes a referendum on the status quo, they lose.

So I strongly suspect that the relentless refrain from unidentified senior officials in the Obama re-election campaign will be the Republican nominee a) would steal a hot stove and then go back for the smoke, b) will not order his marriage counselor to make public his records, c) has consistently refused to buy any Girl Scout cookies and d) would not take a breathalyzer test once in 1975.

This campaign, I am sad to say, will not be pretty.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >