The Obama-Romney duel: gloves are coming off

WASHINGTON DC: The not so nice phase of the US presidential campaign is slowly coming closer. Remarks aimed below the belt have begun. It is quite like that phase in Indian elections when leaders tear up candidate lists or call each other ‘maut ka saudagar’ or make comments about other’s foreign origins.

Over the week-end, President Barack Obama mocked Republican candidate Mitt Romney at a campaign event saying, “We don’t need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office.” Romney was accused by the President of having shipped jobs overseas to “places like China and India” when he had owned and “pioneered” a private company called Bain capital. This impertinent remark by the usually placid Obama won him applauses from the audience but reporters and political analysts were quick to point out the hypocrisy in his speech. Will a second term Obama stop America from outsourcing its jobs?

‘Outsourcing pioneer’: Mitt Romney was accused by President Obama of having shipped jobs overseas to “places like China and India” when he had owned and “pioneered” a private company

The Obama campaign managers, meanwhile, are working hard to dig up dirt on Romney’s business background. He is depicted as being a cut throat business magnate who laid-off workers, is standoffish, almost robotic. In comparison, Obama is shown to be caring, father of two girls, often speaking about them in his speeches and interactions with reporters. Obama is also not hesitating in shimmying up with Hollywood stars for fundraising activities.

Religion: a confusing issue. The US President is a practicing Christian but the Gallup survey shows that just 34 per cent of Americans think that Obama is Christian and 11 per cent think he is Muslim. But more confusing is that Romney being a Mormon is seen just as odd as an Obama as a last name.

Romney wears his ‘job creator’ image proudly, quite like Nitin Gadkari while his detractors vilify him for it. The socialists make their distaste for the corporate world quite apparent whether in American politics or in India. The similarities in both countries are quite amazing, really. “The President has the most anti-business anti-investment, anti-jobs administration….they act like they don’t like business,” said Mitt Romney. And he isn’t wrong. The Obamas antipathy for life on the fast track is known. Just last week at a commencement speech Michelle Obama commented how she felt unfulfilled in a corporate job and both she and her husband fled the business world.

But today, she and her husband represent the most powerful nation in the world and it is their duty as first couple to show their country that businesses will hold up there. That is imperative for their presidency.

The advertisements have started rolling out. Romney’s Super PAC (Political Action Committee) largely fueled by the Ultra-Conservative Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, spent $12.4 million on advertisements to run between June 20 and June 26. Team Obama and support groups, spent over $9 million in these 7 days. And yes one of them has an Indian call centre guy in the advertisement, which one can at best ignore, chalking it up to election banter (just like in India). Or else worry that it might be something that could put a spanner in the works in the next administration as far as India-US relations are concerned with regard to outsourcing and visa issues.

Mitt Romney’s advertisements are positive but boring. They seek to bring out local issues and show how the Republican presidential nominee will get the job done, from day one. But then Romney looks uncomfortable and pasty in the ads. Campaign managers work very hard in crafting perfect lines, pithy messages that promise to have strong recall value, but so far nothing seems to have clicked with voters. There are four months to go, when mega bucks will be spent and last minute voters will be ensnared.

Will it be a one term in office for President Barack Obama? Hard to say at this stage. The Pew Survey found that while Obama still leads Romney 50 per cent to 46 per cent among registered voters, the margin narrowed from the 7 point advantage Obama had in the May survey. Still, I would bet a masala dosa that it will be Barack Obama in the Oval Office for one more term. Why? Because it doesn’t seem like Americans think that Romney has a plan. Yes, there is disillusionment with Obama because he couldn’t deliver all that he promised in the first four years, but the connection with Obama is not yet broken.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter@smitaprakash 

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