The Republican presidential ticket is complete and the official nomination just a day away, yet it remains unclear which candidate will have the edge in this election.
If the 2008 campaign showed anything, it’s that money is a more powerful political tool than ever.
As Obama outspent McCain three to one, the path to victory was clearly paved in dollar bills. In this election cycle, Republicans have taken that lesson to heart. While Obama outspent Romney by $20 million in July, Republicans outraised Democrats by nearly $30 million. Romney’s slower spending is a result of the expenses his campaign incurred in the extended primary, but all indicators suggest that the GOP will prove a force to be reckoned with in the coming months.
Although Republicans seem to have caught up to the new standard for campaign finance, they are still behind the trend of a strong ground game. Latest reports show that the Democrats have recruited three times more campaign workers than Republicans.
While Obama has been building up his campaign infrastructure, Romney has been focusing on advertising, spending almost $30 million more than his opponent in what has become the most expensive ad battle in an election to date.
This alternate focus could be a dangerous concession of ground to the Democratic candidate. Democrats have registered far more new voters than Republicans. Romney is not going to deliver a decisive blow to Obama with an excessively dramatic, multi-thousand dollar ad on a major television network.
With Romney vying to remain neck-and-neck with Obama, these strategic considerations will matter most in battleground states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. While the Romney camp should fight for every electoral vote, special attention ought to be given to Ohio. The Buckeye State has proven a reliable litmus test in modern elections, with each of the last 12 presidents taking the state on their path to victory.
Although the state has historically leaned and remains conservative, it is not a sure victory for Romney. The Obama camp is able to tout steady economic improvement in Ohio and can ride on the momentum that began when Ohioans voted to strike down a law that restricted workers’ collective bargaining rights earlier this year.
At this point in the game, Romney’s greatest asset may well be his recently announced running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan is personable and accessible in a way that tempers Romney’s troublesome image of being out of touch with the average American.
But the congressman offers more to the Republican ticket than just likability . Ryan has been criticized by both liberal and conservative colleagues for being an ideologue, and Democrats have been quick to point to his defined policy stances, such as the well-known Ryan budget, as problems for Romney.
Rather than a weakness for the GOP ticket, the vice presidential candidate’s political ideology has the potential to be one of the Republicans’ greatest assets. In a time of general uncertainty, directed leadership with clear vision is what voters are looking for. Ryan is not a rigid, one-dimensional ideologue, and it will be a shame if his opponents successfully characterize him as such. The Romney camp would do well to depict Ryan’s dynamism: He’s the man with the plan.
While focusing on fundraising and an effective ad campaign is critical for Romney to challenge Obama in ways McCain was unable to in ’08, Republicans need to avoid being blinded by the game of catch-up. First and foremost, Americans need to be registered to vote and know what they are voting for. Voter turnout is what counts on Election Day, and Republicans would do well not to forget that.
Hannah Miller is a junior in the College.