Editorial: Conventions over, the real presidential race begins

The euphoria lasted all of nine and a half hours – between the thunderous ovation that delegates gave President Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, and the release yesterday of last month’s US employment figures.

Share

The statistics were, to put it mildly, disappointing. A mere 96,000 new positions were created. True, the jobless rate fell from 8.3 per cent to 8.1 per cent, but only because hundreds of thousands of Americans gave up looking for work altogether.

Such bleak data was an ice-cold reality check, a reminder that the overriding issue in November’s presidential election is the economy and, more specifically, jobs. The recovery from the last recession is the weakest of any since the 1930s, and no president has been re-elected with so high an unemployment rate since Franklin Roosevelt. One way and another, Barack Obama does not have a great deal to boast about.

He tried, of course, on Thursday night, pointing to the enormity of the crisis he inherited, and arguing that without the stimulus package and the rescue of the Detroit carmakers early in his term, the country might have been engulfed by a second Great Depression. But the speech (like most convention acceptance speeches, it should be said) was not one that will live in the memory.

Mr Obama was no more specific about what he would do over the next four years than Mitt Romney had been at the Republican convention in Tampa a week earlier. Instead, he pleaded for time, insisting that “it will take more than a few years to solve challenges that have built up over decades”. Gone was the thrill of 2008, of the dashing outsider who promised hope and change. This was an incumbent in the political fight of his life, running on the uninspiring slogan of “Osama bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive”.

That said, if the success of a convention is measured by enthusiasm and excitement, over the past fortnight the Democrats were undoubtedly the winners. Even setting aside Bill Clinton’s tour de force, Charlotte was slick, fast paced and relentlessly on message, repeating over and over that the only way to prevent America from being turned into a ruthless, winner-takes-all Darwinian jungle is to re-elect Mr Obama. By contrast, the Republican gathering was a sometimes tepid and meandering affair – even without that Clint Eastwood moment. One reason is that the GOP still has not entirely taken Mr Romney to its heart. Another, perhaps, is that deep down it believes that he is going to lose.

But such defeatism is premature, as yesterday’s poor jobs news underlines. A major improvement over the two months until 6 November is not to be expected; if anything, the opposite is more likely, given the slowdown in China and the uncertainties over Europe which this week’s moves by the ECB have only partly mitigated. The current picture of the economy is the one most Americans will take with them into the ballot box. And it will not help Mr Obama.

Right now, the President is essentially tied with Mr Romney in national polls, but fractionally ahead in most of the eight or nine swing states, including Ohio and Florida, that will determine the outcome. He can also probably expect a modest, albeit fleeting, bounce from the convention. But he is anything but home free.

Three debates between the candidates lie ahead, at which Mr Romney may dispel the Obama aura. Also to be unleashed is an avalanche of Republican ad spending, focused on those same eight or nine states. The Obama campaign has already been spending lavishly, while Team Romney, which is winning the fundraising race, has largely kept its powder dry.

In the end it was Mr Clinton (who else?) who best made the case for the President, summing up the Republican argument for change as: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.” Put that way, the Republican stance is preposterous. Mr Obama can only hope the electorate sees it that way too.

Gone was the hope of 2008. Obama’s speech was an incumbent in the fight of his political life

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
 

Rebekah Brooks to return? We all get those new-job jitters

John Mullin
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future