In 2004 two deeply flawed candidates, Republican George Bush and Democrat John Kerry fought a difficult and dirty campaign for the very few independent voters who hadn't already decided for whom to vote. Bush, hobbled by the Iraq War and unable to defend himself faced John Kerry, a rich, vain liberal who tried to portray himself as a Catholic Vietnam veteran who was a solid alternative to the bumbling Bush. In the end, Kerry's disconnected demeanor and his questionable record in Vietnam helped to sink him in a very close election that came down to 118,000 votes in Ohio. Bush's highly organized campaign was able to eke out a victory in which only three states switched from one party to another from 2000 to 2004. It was as if two men playing poker had a pair of sixes and the only reason Bush happened to win was that he had an Ace when Kerry had a Jack.
Had Bush not been tripped up in Iraq he probably would have won going away but he was lucky to draw such a weak challenger in Kerry-a lazy, disinterested Senator who in twenty years in the Senate never authored a major bill or had a leadership position in the Upper Chamber. The Democratic party's hatred of Bush over the outcome of the 2000 election combined with the decision to intervene in Iraq dominated their primary season and they could not wait to face a President they considered stupid and politically weak. Losing in November 2004 came as a real shock to many liberals who simply assumed that a majority of voters believed as they did. Bush's approval rating hovered right around 50% on Election Day 2004 and it translated to 51% of the vote-just enough to win.
In 2012 I believe a similar narrative is taking place but in the opposite direction. President Obama, a classic liberal is abhorred by the rank-and-file GOP who can't wait to throw him out in November and they can't understand why most people wouldn't agree with them. If the GOP could nominate a strong, energetic conservative the party's base could gather around the nominee and prepare for battle in the fall election. The problem for Republicans is that the probable GOP nominee will be Mitt Romney, a rich, disconnected politician from Massachusetts that 2/3 of conservatives have not supported to this point in the primary season. He's got the worst favorability rating of any major candidate in a national election of modern times. In short, he looks like the guy who sold you that lemon of a car that even now sits in your parking lot. He's basically tied with the President in national polls of likely voters and could win. I'll be curious to see if he picks a solid VP that would help him not only secure his base but make him more attractive national candidate. He may win, he may lose, but he's tragically flawed. I'll get into this more in the near future but we'll get to sit back and watch a President who can't run on his record drag the former Massachusetts governor through the mud in what will probably be one of the ugliest campaigns in American electoral history.