The strange Sandy-coloured campaign

Mitt Romney, en route to Illinois, 29 Oct Mitt Romney - en route to Illinois

When the day began it was almost a normal campaign here in Ohio; now, with huge winds and rain lashing down, what became the strangest campaign in modern history has ground to a halt.

As Mitt Romney wound up his speech at Avon Lake High School, word went round the media pack, penned in behind barriers from the crowd of bellowing supporters, that his campaign was cancelling any more events on Monday, suspending for Tuesday as well.

It seemed a logical response to the oncoming storm; in the same way that the Republican National Convention delayed its start because of a tropical storm travelling up the Gulf Coast, it was inconceivable that Mr Romney should continue campaigning while death and destruction was wreaked upon the Atlantic Coast.

The rally was fascinating; the crowd of around 3,500 was seriously fired up, whooping and applauding at every mention of Mr Romney's name. Chatting to Republicans beforehand, there wasn't hysteria about their prospects, but real confidence that things are moving their way - a sea-change from a week before the first presidential debate, when Republicans I talked to were already plotting whom to blame when they lost the election.

As is so often the case with Republican gatherings, the crowd was overwhelmingly white, and predominantly middle aged (or older). There's nothing wrong with that in itself - I plead guilty to both. But it is noticeable that in one of the most heterogenous societies on Earth, the Republican party attracts almost no overt support from ethnic minorities and fails to attract a whole lot of interest from those under the age of 40.

As for Mitt Romney, he seems curiously unaffected by the enthusiasm which now surrounds his campaign. Within minutes of him turning up on stage, the students who had come for a look at the man who may be the next president of their country were chatting to each other or checking their phones.

Mr Romney gave his standard stump speech, laying out - eight days before the vote - not a vision of what the US might be like under his leadership, but instead how he would cut corporate tax rates and scrap deductions and loopholes to pay for it.

But Republicans seem unfazed by their resolutely wooden candidate. And swing voters don't appear to mind too much either - indeed, some like the fact that the high rhetoric and lofty promises of the 2008 campaign have been replaced, at least by Mr Romney, by a drier, more technocratic approach.

"Everyone says Mitt Romney is not a likeable person," Brian Leonard, a former Obama voter, told me in Chicago last week (you can hear the full report here).

"Well I'm not voting for Mitt Romney to be class president. I'm voting for him more because we need to get things done."

It all seems a bit underwhelming given the scale of the problems that America faces, and the importance that both sides ascribe to the upcoming vote; but that's the campaign that the country has right now.

Or had, until Sandy roared in. The campaigning is not quite over. Faced with a total media vacuum, Mr Romney's campaign has found a way to keep him in the news without actually having him hustle for votes while the Atlantic seaboard gets pounded. His team is holding a storm-relief event on Tuesday in central Iowa.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    GW Bush was President when the US went from sound economy to basket case, I think he will always be the one responsible
    You are conveniently ignoring the fact that it was Clinton that repealed the Glass Steagall Act

    Clinton got elected by adopting a neo-liberal economic agenda as Blair did here, everyone in power back to Reagan/Thatcher shares culpability,

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    82. Jay
    I don't support the GOP's policies, so I will not come to their defense. I only point out changing trends. These trends will make it harder for a candidate's race to be an indicator of anything - including who will vote for them. I do think your assertions about Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley's ethnic pride are in bad taste though. It is precisely what is wrong with mixing race and politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    @ indy_comment (81). GOP stopped being a serious political party and became more like an activist group with sole goal of white supremacy and fundamentalist orthodox Christianity.
    All those Indian origin GOP leaders (including Nicki & Bobby) are (converted) Christians and hardly proud of their Indian heritage.
    Moreover only 6 Blacks are nominated in Congress by GOP since 1921, while 99 by Dems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    2010 Republicans won elections for female, Hispanic-American, African-American and Indian (Asian) American candidates as governors, congressmen and senators. If Romney loses they probably will nominate the first Hispanic for president (Marco Rubio) or the first Indian-American (Bobby Jindal). They also got 38% of the Hispanic in 2010. In the near future, race will be a poor substitute for policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    It's a shame no one appears to have asked either candidate why NY is getting so much attention so quickly when there was nothing like this response when New Orleans was hit a few years ago. Don't mistake my point - it's right there should be an instant reaction to help NY etc, but why was there not one for N.O? The need was equally pressing - but there was no election imminent was there?


Comments 5 of 84



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