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April 10th, 2012
06:44 PM ET

Letters to the President #1177: 'And now to the playoffs!'

Reporter's Note: Rick Santorum effectively conceded the Republican race to Mitt Romney today, and so that is the topic of my daily letter to President Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, barring some extremely unusual event it looks like the last reasonably hefty challenger on the GOP side has bowed to the inevitable. Santorum has given up the race, and so Romney can turn his attention to the campaign against you.

Let’s weigh the consequences.

On the plus side, you finally know whom you are running against. You can fully focus all your fundraising, speechmaking, and ad buying on a clear target. I realize that you’ve been teeing off on Romney a bit already, but now you can pull the driver out of your bag and really whack him down the fairway. Another positive: He is generally not seen as having a particularly compelling or magnetic personality. Like it or not, many voters cast their ballot primarily on whether they like or dislike a candidate, regardless of his political views. To be honest, many don’t even bother to find out that much about the actual plans of the folks who are running. So if you can simply be more “likeable” than Romney that will also work in your favor. And lastly, you may have noticed that he has a flair for stepping into puddles…acting uneasy about his wealth, misstating his ideas…things like that. You, on the other hand, have proven to be a gifted speaker who rarely stumbles. I mean, unless there is a microphone and some Russians around.

On the negative side? Well, Romney can now fully focus his attention on you as well. Say what you like about the man, he’s done a decent job smacking you down the short grass too. Being an incumbent has its advantages to be sure, but there is also this disadvantage: When things are not going well, you opponent can point relentlessly at your failures and Mr. Romney clearly intends to do just that. You are still generally well-liked by many Americans, but let’s face it…Romney has been so busy fending off attacks on numerous fronts, it’s been a while since he’s had a chance to brush up his image with only one foe giving him fits. I suspect within a few weeks he’ll be looking better to many voters. And there is this final bit of bad news: Some of the latest polls show you with an advantage over Romney if the election were to be held today. That’s good, but your lead is so very, very small, it suggests real vulnerability. Look at it this way; he’s been fighting for his life, struggling with message issues, and dealing with a fractured party for months…and he’s still statistically tied with you.

There are plenty of other goods and bads we can weigh in the days ahead, but I hope this gets you started. Because remember, in the playoffs, every victory is just the start of the next tough game.

Regards,
Tom

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