Homecoming and Family Weekend continued on Saturday morning with a thought-provoking reflection on Romney’s White House bid. Newsweek contributing editor, regular panelist on “The McLaughlin Group,” and author Eleanor Clift delivered a talk to the families and alums in attendance at the President’s Forum lecture in Albright Auditorium. Clift, who has written about politics and policy in Washington since the Carter administration, begged the question,” Can the GOP take back the White House?”
“Clift is a keen observer and a dazzling writer – I know this because I have been on the other side of her notebook,” said President Mark D. Gearan. “Everyone in Washington respects her work and the integrity that she brings to this country’s journalism.”
The election, says Clift, is an exceptional one when one considers all that has happened – and all that has not. The U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding healthcare legitimized Obama’s signature bill, as well as the tumultuous Republican primaries and controversy regarding Representative Todd Akin’s remarks did not help the GOP’s image. Not to mention, Romney’s continued problems are pulling the rest of the ticket down.
Now, mere weeks before the election, the Republican Party faces the challenge of overcoming Romney’s comments about the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes made at a private function earlier this year. “Romney has done serious damage to himself in revealing an ignorance to the benefits people in this country receive,” said Clift.
Romney’s greatest weakness, however, is that – even after a full year of campaigning – voters still don’t know who Romney is and what he stands for. “People don’t feel that Romney is on their side,” said Clift.
The Republican Party tried to boost Romney’s likeability during the Republican National Convention; however, the convention itself did not deliver much content, damaging the Romney Campaign further. “He is now doing things he should have done months ago,” explained Clift, citing his recent release of his 2011 tax returns. “If Romney loses this election, it will be a lost summer and squandered convention.”
Despite having backed off his claim to repeal “Obamacare,” Romney’s time is running out; neither his campaign nor his finances have been managed well. In battleground states, national polls still show a tight race, and Clift expressed hope that the upcoming Presidential debates will encourage a thoughtful exchange between the candidates – possibly even helping the Romney Campaign gain more equal footing.
Clift said that working to the GOP’s advantage is Obama’s projected weakness and the recent attacks in the Middle East, which could be perceived as a gaff in the current administration’s foreign policy.
However, despite the shift in the country’s demographics of the country since the Reagan administration, the GOP is clinging to a declining base of voters. Diversity has increased exponentially, and millennials are a much larger generation than Baby Boomers – yet the Republican platform has not changed to reflect this growth. “Romney doesn’t agree with all of his party’s platforms, but he can’t shed his party,” said Clift. “His party is out of touch.”
Clift expressed her belief that if Romney does manage to pull out a victory, it will mean unified Republican control of the House and the Senate. In the end, there is still a very slight chance, said Clift, that Romney could see his time in the White House. “In the remaining weeks, this race is significant enough that there is still room for Romney to make a comeback,” said Clift. “Either way, both parties are on tenterhooks.”