Friday, 21 September 2012

The gulf between voters and the political class yawns ever wider


US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (above) has had a pretty terrible couple of weeks. He failed to get a polling bounce from his Republican Party's national convention. He was deemed to have intervened too hastily, and too clumsily, when the Middle East erupted against an obscure American video insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Then an article broke the news of deep-seated discontent and in-fighting inside his campaign. To top it all, of course, a secret video recording was then released basically which basically said that Governor Romney had written off nearly half of all voters. Faced with the inaccuracies and bare-faced untruths in his string of insults, Romney then refused to apologise and turned his fire on a 14-year old video of President Obama

He is, by all rights, toast - so much so that many journalists have variously pronounced his run for the White House doomed, a farce that was over before it even began

But who has pronounced on all this? Not the voters. Not really. Despite a big swing towards the Democrats in Senate polling since that party's activist-enthusing convention, the numbers in the Presidential race have not shifted all that much. Despite a sizeable 'bounce' from President Obama's own gathering in North Carolina, that effect now seems to be fading a little. Polling averages have Obama about three percentage points ahead, rather than the two that he led by in late August. Big deal.

Now the President will probably still win. As of right now, betting sites give him about a 70 per cent chance of victory, and some of the best predictive modelling sites about a 75 per cent chance.

But that's not the point here. The interesting thing to notice about the furore surrounding Romney's campaign - according to many observers the worst in modern history - is that all this doesn't really play in Main Street. On K Street, Washington DC's lobbyist heaven, maybe. Inside newspaper offices, among scribblers and in the blogosphere, definnitely. On 24-hour cable news, most certainly.

But among the voters? Not so much. The majority of independent voters in key states say that Governor Romney's eye-watering '47 per cent' gaffe will make no difference to how they vote. Their questions remain: where are all the jobs going to come from? Will I be able to get one of them? Will petrol prices keep going on up, year after year? When will the housing and foreclosure crisis come to an end? There are tentative signs that the economy is looking up, at this stage only the barest of green shoots - but another reason to suspect that President Obama will win out in the end.

That's much more important than Mr Romney's tragi-comic blundering. The fact that you wouldn't know it from the media only shows how far apart the political class and the people have now drifted.

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