Is 'Mr Business' Romney losing his grip?
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With the US election just days away, both Republican candidate Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama are hustling for an edge in the race. Yet in recent weeks, the president has been boosted by those traditionally considered Romney allies.
In what has turned into a razor-close race, US President Barack Obama has relied heavily on endorsements from all the usual suspects – liberal-minded movie stars, musicians and writers, as well as the who’s who of the Democratic party. In the past couple of weeks, however, it looks as though the president has also enjoyed a slight boost in support from a less-likely milieu – figures from the political right and finance.
London-based newspaper The Economist stepped forward in support of Obama in its November 3 issue, albeit in a rather reluctant tone. Although the publication, which also endorsed Obama during his 2008 bid, called the president’s first term “patchy”, it justified its decision by comparing the two candidates’ track records. While an endorsement from an international newspaper may not seem like a big deal at first, the fact that it is a highly-respected business publication matters.
Since campaigning began, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has striven to portray Obama’s handling of the country’s struggling economy as ineffectual and horribly mismanaged. The Economist pleads a different case, applauding the president’s wherewithal for having “helped avert a Depression”, and thereby undermining a pillar of Romney’s campaign. What’s more, the newspaper gashes the Republican candidate’s own approach to the economy, calling him “the great flipflopper” and saying his macroeconomics are off the mark. Regardless, a reported 60 percent of the $1.8 billion in business-related contributions thus far in the election have gone to Republicans.
Just two days before The Economist’s tepid endorsement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stepped into the presidential campaign after publishing a soberly worded statement endorsing Obama’s re-election bid on Thursday. A registered Independent, Bloomberg cited climate change as his principle reason for throwing his weight behind Obama.
While Bloomberg’s position on issues like gay marriage, abortion and gun control make it unlikely that he will sway voters in more conservative states, his status as a shrewd businessman and multi-billionaire may come as a check to Romney, who has attempted to tout his own business experience as a strength when it comes to tackling the country’s economy. Bloomberg’s endorsement carries all the more weight considering that the mayor, who Forbes rated as the 17th most powerful person in the world in 2011, declined to take sides during the last presidential election in 2008.
Most surprisingly, however, is New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie. Known for his free-flying opinions and fierce criticism of the president, the governor has had only good things to say about Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Christie, who has already endorsed Romney and was a speaker at the Republican National Convention, rattled other members of his party after stating that he “doesn’t give a damn about Election Day” and gushing that Obama deserved “great credit” for his deft response to the “superstorm”.
Christie’s compliments came a little more than a week after another prominent Republican and George W. Bush’s former secretary of state, Colin Powell, also endorsed the president’s re-election bid in an interview with CBS television. While Powell’s support came as no real surprise (he backed the Obama/Biden ticket in 2008), he did offer some searing commentary of Romney, saying that although he respected the Republican candidate, he had concerns over his stance on foreign policy.
“The governor... was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy," Powell said in the October 25 interview.
With polls putting the race at neck and neck just days before the vote on November 6, both candidates are scrambling to fine tune their messages and rustle up support in swing states. As Obama and Romney kick their campaigns into overdrive, anything from The Economist’s unenthusiastic endorsement to Christie’s recent adulation could give the president a slight edge in his re-election bid – an advantage neither candidate can afford to ignore at this late stage in the game.