William Galston

Two weeks after the first presidential debate and on the eve of the second, it is clear that Mitt Romney’s surge is more than an evanescent bump. He has moved into the lead in the national poll of polls (something John Kerry never quite managed despite his victory in the first 2004 debate), and a number of swing states have shifted in his direction. This 2012 election is now in the zone where the Electoral College comes into play.

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Mitt Romney has run a miserable campaign.  If the election were held tomorrow, he would lose—a stunning situation, given our continuing economic woes.  Absent a catastrophe at home or abroad that shifts public perceptions, he has only one opportunity to turn things around—the first presidential debate.  But if the past is any guide, the opening is wider than many now believe. In 2004, on the eve of the Republican convention, George W.

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During the past two weeks, the dynamic of the 2012 presidential election has shifted, and President Obama has moved out to a modest but significant lead against Mitt Romney. No developments in the economy or the world can explain this shift. That leaves the campaigns themselves.

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By itself, the state of the economy is enough to guarantee a close election, and every national survey during the past two weeks has put Obama and Romney in a statistical tie. Now another key factor points in the same direction—the shifting balance between the political parties. This matters because party preferences and voting patterns are more closely linked today than they have been in several generations—and two recent in-depth surveys of the party system document that a clean Democratic victory, of the sort the party enjoyed in 2008, is exceedingly unlikely.

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2012 is shaping up as an election in which the winner may earn victory not by virtue of winning the most votes, but on account of the Electoral College. If one candidate enjoys a popular vote edge of 2 percentage points or more, there’s virtually no chance that the other candidate will achieve a majority of the electoral votes.

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Political polarization has become an obstacle to economic growth because it is increasing uncertainty, and delaying new private sector investment and hiring. That’s the view emerging from the business community and—increasingly—from the economics profession. Earlier this month, in a front-page New York Times story, a number of CEOs gave voice to their fears about the fiscal cliff and the broader policy impasse in Congress. According to Vincent Reinhart, chief U.S.

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We’ve seen this movie before. Republicans offer an extreme version of a good idea, Democrats blow it to smithereens, and we all end up worse off.

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I have no idea whom Mitt Romney will choose as his running mate. But I’m fairly certain about who he ought to choose: Rob Portman. Here’s why. Every successful presidential campaign has a theory of the case—a clear conception of the path to victory—which it works in every way to reinforce. This theory must begin with the character, experience, and priorities of the candidate and with the context in which the candidate is operating.

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Republicans should not be surprised if voter laws becomes a major topic of debate this election season—they will be the ones responsible for making it so. Over the past two years, the GOP has made a concerted attempt in a number of states to tighten voter registration procedures, cut back on alternatives such as early voting, and—most controversially—require would-be voters to show state-issued photo IDs as proof of identity.

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