President Barack Obama officially kicks off his re-election campaign Saturday, May 5, with rallies in two competitive swing states, Ohio and Virginia. The race between Mr. Obama and his expected Republican opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, is already well underway.
With just more than six months to go until Election Day, the Republican strategy for ousting President Barack Obama is clear - make sure voters focus on his economic record.
Most of Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals have quit the primary race and the former Massachusetts governor now appears to be on his way to winning the party’s presidential nomination in August. Romney could secure the necessary delegates to claim the nomination sometime in the next several weeks.
Romney has turned his full attention to taking on President Obama and promising economic relief if he is elected in November.
“The dreamers can dream a little bigger, the help wanted signs can be dusted off and we can start again," Romney said. "And this time, we will get it right!”
Analysts say there is little doubt that the domestic economy will be the determining issue in November. The campaign is also likely to highlight differences between the two men on the size and role of the federal government.
Romney has promised deep cuts in government spending, while the president has vowed to continue using the government to spur an economic recovery.
“I have kept that promise and I am still thinking about you," said the president "I am still thinking about you and I still believe in you and if you join me we will remind the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on earth!”
Among those keeping a close eye on this year’s election campaign is Ken Duberstein, who served as former President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff in the 1980’s.
Duberstein predicts a close election and says the outcome will hinge on how voters look at the choice between candidates Obama and Romney.
“If this is a referendum on President Obama’s first three and one-half years in office, if this is a referendum on the American economy, Governor Romney has a good shot of being elected president of the United States," said Duberstein. "If this is a referendum on the Republican Party and Governor Romney, President Obama has a decent chance of being re-elected.”
Romney must now unify the Republican Party after a bruising primary campaign that featured numerous appeals to the party’s conservative right.
But at the same time, Romney will also have to shift his focus to winning the support of moderate voters in the middle of the political spectrum, voters who often play a crucial role in deciding who wins the White House.
Duberstein expects that will be a challenge for Romney. “I think the fundamental issue is whether Governor Romney will define the Republican Party or will the far right define Governor Romney. And that is a debate that we are going to have right up until November 6,” he said.
Most public-opinion polls give the president a slight advantage over Romney at the moment. But experts note that the president’s edge, especially for an incumbent, is not large and could fade if voters decide the economy is not recovering as fast as they would like.