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August 21, 2012

Conventions Loom as Test for US Presidential Candidates

by Jim Malone

The next phase of the U.S. presidential campaign is about to begin with the Republican and Democratic conventions.  Republicans will meet in Tampa, Florida, beginning on Monday, August 27, to formally nominate Mitt Romney. Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina the following week to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term.  

Negative ads from both sides blanket the TV airwaves and the candidates are taking it personally.

"The other side has decided that compromise is a dirty word," President Obama said.  "And they spend a lot of time trying to beat me instead of moving the country forward."

“So Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America,” said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has excited conservatives with his choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

But Democrats are attacking Ryan’s past plans to reform Medicare, the government's health care program for older Americans.

“So we know hope and change has become attack and blame," Ryan said.  "We’re not going to blame other people.  We’re going to take responsibility.”

​​Romney has a chance to reintroduce himself at the Republican convention in Tampa, says analyst Norman Ornstein.

“Romney now has an opportunity to show that he is not the imperious, mean-spirited, out-of-touch rich guy but rather a warm family person who cares about others and also somebody who is competent enough to move forward,” he said.

Polls show President Obama is more likeable than Romney, but politically vulnerable because of the weak economy.

The president is trying to convince voters that better days are ahead.

“I’ll wake up every single day fighting as hard as I know how for you," he said.  "I will think about you and I will represent you and I will fight for you and I have kept that promise, Iowa!  I have kept that promise!”

​​ ​​Obama will have a different challenge when he speaks to Democrats at their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September, says Ornstein.

“You want to reinforce the things that you’ve done including killing Osama bin Laden that show you as the tough, resolute decision-maker,” he said.

Political conventions have changed from the days when they actually chose candidates, says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

​​“They are a way of presenting each party in its best light, and it’s a way of telling voters, this is who the party is, this is who the candidate is and this is what he stands for,” he said.

After the conventions, the next major campaign test will be a series of candidate debates beginning October 3.

See more VOA election coverage at USA Votes 2012. ​​