We’re exactly one week away from the Iowa Caucuses and the polls are all over the place. And while anyone could pull off a victory from Ron Paul to Newt to Romney I know which one I don’t want to win. The worst thing that could happen for political writers in 2012 would be an early Mitt Romney victory for the GOP nomination. This would, and I’m sure that plenty of historians would back me up on this one, result in one of the single most boring presidential elections to cover in the history of America. If this happens I will give my students permission to skip the chapter on the 2012 elections in my next book.
I’m not being glib here: an exciting presidential election is one where you have a major contrast between candidates, in personality, style and – yes – even policy that the nation can battle over. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll get that if it’s Romney and Obama squaring up against each other in the Political Thunderdome for 10 months. I mean policy wise the choices are unpleasant as a writer and a voter. On the one hand you have Barack Obama, who believes in certain things but completely folds whenever he’s faced with major opposition because he’s more interested in finding solutions than he is in pushing for a particular outcome. Then you have Mitt Romney who doesn’t really believe in anything because all he wants more than anything else is to get into the White House.
Spineless or Souless? What kind of choice is that? You be the judge.
Stylistically and personality wise it’s not so hot a race either. I mean, Obama isn’t stiff and professorial in my view but he’s certainly cool under pressure to the point of being unflappable. Romney’s got Al Gore’s disease, an acute desire to express emotion without any of the equipment to do so. These guys are so reserved that I have this sinking feeling that the debates will play out like an argument between Frasier and Niles over where to place the new ottoman. I want to see haymakers in a political fight not hand slapping and acerbic wit.
The reason that this is problematic though isn’t just a matter of a political writer wanting funny comments and sexy soundbites to write about. In American politics the public only pays attention if they are under the impression that there is a lot at stake, and the only way the public knows that a lot is at stake in an election is if the people running for office are breathlessly passionate about the fact that the nation will face unmitigated apocalyptic disaster if you don’t vote for them. I don’t know if Obama has that kind of passion or darkness in him anymore and I know Mitt Romney couldn’t buy borrow or steal that kind of passion (even for $10,000!)
As we count down to the caucus let’s hope for the sake of the nation that we get a more passionate foil for Barack Obama. A year of pantomiming passion wouldn’t do anyone of us any good.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.