Supporters wave signs and flags as Obama gives his acceptance speech in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AFP)
Charlotte (North Carolina), Sept. 7: If oratory alone could win an election, America’s Democrats have already ensured Barack Obama a second term as US President. But in the world of realpolitik other factors count.
As the President’s party faithful departed for home from Charlotte after their three-day national convention, the stark realities of today’s America were already haunting them.
Before delegates to the Democratic National Convention, which concluded here last night, had time to savour the success of their meeting, the US labour department this morning released employment figures for August which painted a disappointing picture of the American economy.
News that only 96,000 new jobs were created last month pricked the balloon of reassurance that Obama and former President Bill Clinton created at the convention with their arguments that the incumbent administration’s medicine for the ailing US economy was working.
Democrats would have liked to take heart during the remainder of the presidential campaign that unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 per cent from 8.3 per cent in July, but economists were quick to point out that the fall was because many Americans simply gave up looking for work because they could not find any for months.
According to official statistics, a total of 368,000 people stopped hunting for employment in August. The Republicans are sure to make the most of this in their campaign advertisement to ensure that Obama does not benefit from the party’s successful convention.
This week’s opinion polls, updated even as Democrats were meeting here show Obama in a virtual tie with his Republican rival Mitt Romney. Historically unemployment above 7.8 per cent has been a disaster for any incumbent President seeking re-election. Unemployment during Obama’s presidency reached its peak of 10 per cent in October 2009, but the figure has since fallen although not appreciably.
Last night Obama formally accepted his nomination by the party as its candidate and pleaded in his acceptance speech for patience, insisting that his policies to pull America out of the economic crisis he inherited are slowly working.
At the same time, he warned that voting in a Republican President would turn the clock back and take the country to another century and its failed policies. Obama said the election offered a clear choice between him and Romney that represented the starkest in a generation.
India did not figure even in passing in Obama’s speech although he referred to several countries, including China, Israel, Britain and Russia.
In the remaining two months before voting, Obama’s strategy will be to attempt to solidify a coalition of blacks, Hispanics, youth, women and gays to propel him into the White House for another term. He has been targeting these groups with sops and speeches aimed at motivating them to exercise their franchise in November.
It is a reverse of George W. Bush’s strategy which won him re-election in 2004. That time, the Republicans mobilised whites, Christian evangelicals, anti-gay groups and military veterans to energise the party base and get them to polling booths ensuring a Democratic defeat.
This year these groups are not enthused by Romney, a Mormon who is also considered as a moderate and is not Right-wing enough on these social issues unlike Bush. This was clear during the Republican Party’s national convention in Tampa last week, a tame affair compared to the Democratic event here.
The next big date in the American election calendar that will influence the outcome is the presidential debate that will be televised in prime time. There will be three debates between presidential candidates and one between vice-presidential nominees.
The first debate between Obama and Romney will take place on October 3 in Denver, Colorado. The second in Hempstead, New York, on October 16 and the last in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22.
The only vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will be held in Danville, Kentucky, on October 11. Democrats are confident that their presidential and vice-presidential candidates will outdo their rivals in the debates, but history is proof that anything can go wrong on the stage.