The World from Berlin: 'Obama Is Predictability, Romney Is a Pig in a Poke'

The US presidential race has started in earnest after Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum bowed out, leaving Mitt Romney as the party's likely nominee to take on President Obama. German commentators on Thursday say Romney's inconsistency and divisions within the Republican party will benefit Obama.  

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ahead of a campaign event on Wednesday. Zoom
AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ahead of a campaign event on Wednesday.

Following Rick Santorum's withdrawal from the Republican primary race on Tuesday, it's all but certain that Mitt Romney will now run against President Barack Obama in the upcoming United States election.

With that, a fierce two-man race for the White House began almost immediately on Wednesday, when both sides exchanged blows.

The Obama campaign released a video entitled "Mitt Romney: Memories to Last a Lifetime," which highlights some of Romney's most polarizing campaign moments. "The more the American people see of Mitt Romney, the less they like him and the less they trust him," said the president's campaign manager Jim Messina.

Meanwhile, assumed Republican nominee Romney criticized Obama for alienating women with his economic policies. "Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women," he told Fox News. "His policies really have been a war on women." Likely meant to sidetrack Democrats' accusations that the Republican debate on contraception has been an attack on women, the statistic was widely questioned. Fact checking website Politifact later called it "mostly false."

Economy Will Play Key Role

With the November election still more than six months away, women are showing strong support in opinion polls for Obama, who currently holds a narrow lead over Romney. But when it comes to the economy, Obama's ratings remain negative. Some 47 percent of respondents in a poll conducted by the Washington Post and broadcaster ABC said they trusted Romney, a former business executive, to better handle the economy, against 43 percent who said they preferred Obama in that role.

But questions remain about whether Romney will be able to rally Santorum's ultra-conservative voters, many of them Tea Party supporters and evangelical Christians. Romney expressed confidence on Wednesday that he could get his party to come together against Obama, though. "You will see our party more united than it's been in a long, long time," he told Fox News.

As the campaign begins in earnest, Germany's commentators on Thursday discuss how the Obama-Romney match-up might play out.

Center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The post-Santorum effect is a gift to Obama, because the right-wing momentum Santorum provoked has left deep impressions. America's political moderates, who have always decided the elections in the end, are not particularly comfortable with these Republicans. Obama has a decisive lead in polls. … The Americans simply like the current president better than Romney, who is hard to pin down, something Obama hasn't even had to point out. Santorum did it for him."

"Still, Obama has to fear Romney for another reason -- big money that the conservative millionaires and billionaires are putting into the campaign. … Obama can't match this. … Without the money of his rich friends, Romney would never have been his party's candidate. America could be in danger of having a presidential election that will be decided by the millions -- and the interests -- of its richest citizens."

The center-right daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Ultimately everything will depend on whether the Republican candidate can attract the swing voters who have been disappointed in the Obama presidency. The state of the economy, including the labor market, which is the basis for the election predictions, is on its way to improving, though it's still not good. That remains the president's handicap, regardless of the quality or ineptitude of the Romney platform."

"In any case, the American people have a clear choice: In their view of the world and their ideas about the role of the state, the two candidates are very different. … In a time of global upheaval, America's future is at stake. It sounds banal, but it's not an exaggeration."

Conservative daily Die Welt writes:

"The Baby Boomer generation will be the one to decide whether Barack Obama gets a second term or whether Mitt Romney takes his place in the White House. As ugly as the primary race may have been between the multi-millionaire Romney and the devout Tea Party apologist Rick Santorum, the duel between Obama and Romney will not be decided on the hostile fringes of the US political landscape. The next president will likely be the one who is able to give the tormented American middle class some hope."

"Obama's campaign speeches are now using terms that one tends to associate more with Europe's political arena: fairness, balance, equity. Romney will seek to use that against the 44th president -- and he will likely even stoop to agitprop, claiming that four more Obama years would transform the US into a new Soviet Union. But behind such claims, one will find more rhetoric than a political platform."

Financial daily Handelsblatt writes:

"The president's campaign team can draw abundantly from the material provided by the Republican primary race. Mitt Romney was the target of many other candidates who vilified him as a closet liberal, an aimless opportunist and a hard-hearted Wall Street banker. And hardly anything is more effective in a campaign that quoting from the opponent's camp. Romney's problem is that most of the criticism can be verified."

"The dilemma (of pleasing arch-conservatives) has trapped Romney like no candidate before him. … Compared to the Republicans, the traditionally disunited Democrats seem like a homogeneous party right now. Romney has yet to explain how he plans on merging these conflicting Republican interests."

"Obama may not have fulfilled expectations in a number of areas. … But these issues remain on the agenda for a possible second term in office. And at least you know what you're getting with Obama. In the end, that is probably the decisive difference. Obama is predictability. Romney, on the other hand, is a pig in a poke."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"There are certainly people who will regret that Rick Santorum is no longer a candidate in the Republican primary race. The arch-conservative provided ample material for joke writers, cabaret artists and late-show moderators. … But Obama's supporters should be disappointed with his campaign exit -- there couldn't have been a better opponent for the Democrats than this polarizing Republican."

"But the citizens can be happy. Now the candidates will no longer find it necessary to debate questions about birth control or religion. … Instead of faith, the election campaign can now turn to justice. … For the first time in decades, the Romney-Obama constellation now offers the chance for the country to discuss how to increase and distribute the prosperity of society -- instead of war, church or oral sex in the Oval Office. A real debate about this, if it's done in a serious manner, would be a victory -- regardless of who wins the election."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Now (that he has withdrawn) the various sideshows that the religious fanatic Santorum opened up during the Republican primary campaign should hopefully be finished. Instead of abortion, contraception, gay marriage and homeschooling, the focus will now be on the real issues of this election: the economy and the federal budget."

"One thing is clear. The evangelical conservatives and the Tea Party still do not represent a majority within the Republican Party, but their influence has grown once again. On both sides of the political spectrum, the same questions are now being asked. Romney cannot assume that the right-wing base, which unceremoniously rejected his candidacy in all the southern states, will now enthusiastically rally behind him. For his part, President Obama can now forget the hope that the terrifying prospect of a Santorum, Bachmann or Perry candidacy will mobilize the Democratic base. In the election campaign which is now beginning in earnest, both will focus on promising prosperity and demonizing the other side."

"From now until November, lies and promises will dominate the campaign (…). American politics will continue to lose its seriousness, and the political class will continue to do away with itself."

--Kristen Allen

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