At July Lull, Presidential Race is Close as Ever

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama,
Associated Press + More

Romney is vacationing this week in New Hampshire, where family games might mix with talk of who his running mate should be. Romney, whose oversight of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games won wide praise, plans to attend the Summer Games later this summer in London.

He also will go to Israel, a trip that could appeal to Jewish voters and donors, and to conservatives who see Israel as a vital military and political ally.

Meanwhile, Republicans worry that Democrats are making headway with claims that Romney supported shipping jobs overseas when he headed a corporate restructuring firm called Bain Capital. His campaign says Romney did not oversee the export of U.S. jobs, although Bain at times invested in companies that helped pioneer outsourcing certain jobs to places such as India.

"It is a problem," Galen said of anti-Romney ads citing Bain and outsourcing. But he said the ads might have had greater impact if Obama could have saved them for September. Instead, Galen said, Democrats had to throw every weapon possible to counter the damage from Obama's "private sector is doing fine" remark.

It's not clear how June's biggest political headline — the Supreme Court's decision to uphold "Obamacare" — will play out in the campaign.

Congressional Republicans have jumped on the court's conclusion that a fee to be imposed on people who refuse to obtain health insurance is actually a tax. Romney tiptoes around the issue because the fee/tax is similar to one he imposed on Massachusetts residents who failed to buy medical insurance.

"Once the dust settles, the health care issue still serves as a way for both sides to motivate their respective bases, but it's hard to see it playing much of a role with the rest of the electorate," said Dan Schnur, a former Republican adviser who teaches political science at the University of Southern California. A more important issue, Schnur said, "is Bain vs. Solyndra."

Solyndra was a California-based solar panel manufacturer that received a large federal loan and big compliments from Obama before filing for bankruptcy.

"There's no question the Bain argument is working very effectively for Obama," Schnur said, "because it hits directly at voters' biggest concerns about a private sector-driven approach to the economy. But Solyndra accomplishes exactly the same thing for Romney, when he argues about too large a role for government."

The economy, Schnur said, will remain the top issue until polling places close on Nov. 6.

Summer vacations and Olympic Games might distract voters for the next several weeks, and political and legal activists might keep arguing over health care and immigration. But Romney is staking his candidacy on the claim that Obama has failed on the economy.

An election that seems destined to be tight will largely turn on voters' gut feelings about job security, the government's role in boosting or hindering employment, and candidates' visions for the nation's role in a global economy.

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