In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Warfare or Courtship in 2012?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/opinion/brooks-warfare-or-courtship-in-2012.html), David Brooks asks whether the 2012 presidential campaigns will continue to be a no-holds-barred slugfest, or will Obama temper his campaign and again run on his charm, and will Romney also desist from dirty tactics and stress his ability to fix the economy. Brooks writes:
"The campaign-as-warfare metaphor may seem sensible to those inside the hothouse. It may make sense if you think today’s swing voters hunger for more combat, more harshness and more attack.
But it’s probably bad sociology and terrible psychology, given the general disgust with conventional politics. If I were in the campaigns, I’d want to detach from the current rules of engagement and change the nature of the campaign. If I were Obama, I’d play to his personal popularity and run an 'American Idol' campaign — likability, balance, safety and talent. If I were Romney, saddled with his personal diffidence, I’d run a plumber campaign — you may not love me, but here’s four things I can do for you."
"Today’s swing voters hunger for more combat"? In fact, many voters -- not just swing voters -- are going hungry and don't have the time or patience for either "American Idol" or "American Gladiators." It's hard to remain entertained when you don't know when you will see your next paycheck.
In 2008, Obama promised to reduce unemployment to 6%, but this didn't happen, and it's not going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. Can Obama convince the electorate that the Bush administration remains culpable for America's faltering economy, combined with a recalcitrant, do-nothing Congress? Yeah, it's a hard sell, given that the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House during the first two years of Obama's administration, and given that Senate Democrats have been unable to pass a budget for three years.
Can Romney propose a credible fix which will prevent the US budget deficit from spiraling out of control, while jump-starting jobs growth?
This time around, charm and personality are not going to sway sorely disillusioned voters who can't find their way off the unemployment line.