It’s been a slightly hectic half term – filled with history coursework, UCAS forms and marginal cost curves. And it hasn’t just been busy for me. The American election has heated up, Syria and Turkey are sparring at their border and the party conference season bored everyone to tears.
I went on holiday to Washington, DC this week and was metaphorically sat on by the campaign. The Republican adverts on Fox News physically pained me (I bought an Obama badge to make myself feel better), and CNN didn’t mention the gun battle raging in Beruit in their hurry to analyse the pre-debate run up. The highlight for me was Obama explaining the 21st century to Romney, who he accused of having social policy from the 1950s and foreign policy from the 1980s (a political truism if ever there was one – the Governor believes Russia, not al-Qaeda, is still the biggest threat to the US).
Obama has a point here. Romney’s domestic policies are scary (banning abortion, banning gay marriage, denying healthcare to the poor – my, he’s a bundle of fun), but the idea of him running the international community is truly terrifying.
Just imagine him at any Palestine-Israel talks. He’d probably refuse to recognise the Palestinians at all, or something, as he seems to believe that all Palestinians are terrorists. Talk about making a bad situation worse. Obama, by contrast, is committed to a two state solution.
And just imagine a Ahmadinejad-Romney phone call. Or one between the Republican and Hu Jintao. You see my point. Romney is already threatening to brand China a currency manipulator, have you ever heard a more sure-fire way to rebuild East-West relationships?
If you’re still unconvinced about Romney’s inability to handle foreign policy, I remind you of the Romneyshambles. Yes, that was what his tour to Britain was dubbed by our press. The man managed to insult America’s closest ally by insulting our preparedness for the Olympics – an event, incidentally, seen world-wide as a success. If he can offended the don’t-give-a-damn Brits, his hopes with the touchier ones are slim.
And yet, as election day draws closer, Romney’s chances of becoming the world’s most powerful man are increasing. Obama’s soaring rhetoric seems a thing of the past and his promises of change have gone stale during four years in which the economic recovery has been pitiful. I would argue that the economy he inherited was simply too bad for him to repair in one term, but many see things differently. Even I am disappointed in his failure to close the detention centre at Guantanamo. But I also recognise that he has been dogged by the almost fundamentalist Republicans in Congress, who I hold mainly responsible for the debt-ceiling debacle. Maybe a more reasonable opposition would have made the balancing act envisaged in the Constitution a political reality.
For most of the summer, Obama had a comfortable lead. His poor performance in the three Presidential debates ate into this and put Romney in the lead for the first time. But the picture is more nuanced. Because of America’s electoral college system, the popular vote is not the most important measure. What matters is how many, and which, states you win. And in the so-called swing states – those actually up for grabs – Obama’s edge has narrowed less. Most are now neck-and-neck. All is still to play for.
This is the closest race for a long time. Not since the Nixon-Kennedy contest have the debates mattered so much. Romney definitely triumphed here, but may be left without a lot to say now that figures have put recent growth at 2%. He may now not be able to keep his other policies on the sidelines. One can only hope that American voters find them as unsavoury as I do.