Zero Bounce? A Pessimistic Preview of the RNC
The most hopeful sign for Republicans is that Mitt Romney is sitting on a pile of cash he has not been able to spend yet. Because if they are hoping that the Republican ticket receives a boost from this week's convention, they may be disappointed--and not just because the first day has been canceled due to weather.
American politics is more divided than it has been in generations--and the American electorate is starting to reflect those divisions, with 9 of 10 likely voters already certain which way their votes will go. The polls--that is, those polls that don't offer up ridiculous Democrat-heavy samples--have been neck-and-neck, and stable, for the past several weeks. There simply are not that undecided many voters out there to convince, and they are difficult to reach. Romney's best hope is that undecided voters tend to break for the challenger.
Otherwise, there is not much the Republican party can do this week that has not already been done. Adding Rep. Paul Ryan has encouraged and mobilized the conservative base. Focusing on Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" comment has given the campaign a coherent economic message. Getting ahead of the Todd Akin controversy has minimized the damage to the national ticket. What's left is to get out the vote--and while that process begins in earnest at the Republican National Convention, the Romney/Ryan campaign must rely on preparations made beforehand. And whatever "bounce" emerges from the Republican convention may be matched or canceled out by the Democratic convention that follows during the week after Labor Day.
The one advantage the GOP has is that just as a tropical storm is bearing down on Tampa at the start of the Republican National Convention, a different kind of storm is bearing down on the end of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. It won't force any schedule changes, but it could overshadow anything else that happens. That storm is called the August Jobs Report, and it is due to make landfall the morning after President Obama makes his nationally televised speech to accept his party's formal nomination. It could be mediocre, just as July's report was; it could be awful, just as last August's report was; but it will not be good.
But as for this week, what is said and done is less important than the fact that Romney will finally begin to make use of his cash-on-hand advantage by tapping into his general-election funds. Obama--who has spent his campaign, like the federal government, into debt--will struggle to respond and will rely on the mainstream media to fight his battles for him. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. We won't know this week.