Charlie Cook Says Romney Might Be Down, But He’s Not Out

The presidential race doesn’t look good at the moment for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to Charlie Cook, who is recognized as one of the best political handicappers in the country. However, Cook adds the election isn’t over and things can still change.

“If something doesn’t happen to shake up the race, Romney will lose,” Cook said in his latest column in National Journal, a Washington, D.C., news magazine that covers politics.

Getting an unbiased outlook on the presidential contest, isn’t easy. However, Cook comes as close as anyone I’ve known who writes or talks about national politics. He is a Shreveport native who is founder of the Cook Political Report, an electronic newsletter that does political analysis for political action committees, lobbyists, trade associations and others interested in behind-thescenes campaigning.

Cook was in Lake Charles last year as principal speaker at the Hector San Miguel Memorial Fund Award luncheon. He predicted that Romney would win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. And he added that Romney had the best shot among GOP hopefuls at beating President Obama.

“It pays to have done something before. Romney has,” Cook said. “The guy has got it down.”

Unfortunately for Romney and the Republicans, the candidate has had a rocky campaign, and that has detracted from the state of the national economy. Cook said last year the economy was Obama’s major weak spot because of his low job approval ratings.

Obama’s approval rating in a Gallup poll in late-October of 2011 was 41 percent and his disapproval rating was 51 percent. The president’s job approval rating climbed to 50 percent to 44 percent disapproval in a daily Gallup poll done at the end of last week. Gallup said Obama’s alltime high approval rating of 69 percent came Jan. 22-24, 2009. His lowest was 38 percent Oct. 15-17, 2011.

“Presidents with approval numbers above 48 to 50 percent in the Gallup poll win re-election,” Cook said when he was here last December. “Those with approval ratings below that level usually lose. If voters don’t approve of the job you are doing after four years in office, they usually don’t vote for you.”

Cook talked about the economy again in an earlier column last week.

“While there are plenty of reasons to believe that the economic situation is not getting much better — taking one step forward, one back — the public seems to be thinking that things are getting better, and in terms of politics, voters count more than economists,” Cook said.

Obama has been able to sidetrack the economy as a major issue because he is using Romney’s gaffes to his advantage. However, Romney appears to be making a serious effort to put the economy back at center-stage. Consider what he said last week about the gross domestic product, which is the market value of all officially recognized goods and services produced within a country.

“By the way, Russia’s GDP growth is at 4 percent. And we’re at 1.3,” Romney said. “This is unacceptable. The president does not understand how to get this economy to work for the American people.”

Romney said in one of his TV commercials that more people are living in poverty than when Obama took office and that 15 million more are on food stamps. A Rasmussen Reports poll shows 43 percent of voters believe a victory for Romney and the Republicans would lead to a stronger economy next year. Only 34 percent believe that would happen with an Obama victory and Democratic control of Congress.

Despite some valid reasons to be pessimistic about Romney’s chances, he can turn things around. Ron Fournier in a Sept. 18 column in National Journal listed five ways “the campaign narrative could turn against Obama.”

“Take a breath, Washington. It’s too early to write off Mitt Romney,” Fournier said, noting the economy is still No. 1.

“Americans are hurting, and the president owns this economy …,” he said.

Foreign policy is another problem for Obama, if Romney can capitalize on “the mess in the Middle East,” Fournier said.

Like many others, Fournier believes the upcoming presidential debates offer Romney the best opportunity to seize the initiative. The first one is on domestic policy and is scheduled for 8-9:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday.

“Anything can go wrong in a debate, and Obama is not a perfect debater,” he said.

Obama has made his share of mistakes, but they haven’t grabbed the headlines and been constantly harped on like Romney’s miscues. The president appears to get a pass when it comes to the national news media. Many agree there is a legitimate fairness issue in the way Romney is being treated.

Fournier admits Romney is not a good politician, but he said the odds are the candidate’s staff will figure out a way to pull out of the campaign’s current gloomy outlook.

Time is running short with just over five weeks to go, but Romney has more than enough time to seize the momentum. Romney and his supporters need to do what the 0-3 New Orleans Saints fans should remember — keep the faith and work harder to right the ship.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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