What are we to make of Mitt Romney, the man who could very well beat Obama to the White House?
We put that question to Charles Kupchan, Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University in Washington DC.
James Franey, euronews: “Professor Kupchan, just a few weeks ago, most pundits were writing off any chance of Mitt Romney winning the White House. How has he staged such a dramatic comeback in such a short time?”
Charles Kupchan: “I think there were three key turnabouts in the campaign that put Romney back in the game.
“The first was his pick of Mr Ryan of Wisconsin as the vice-presidential running mate, and that in some ways galvanised the base, it got Conservatives excited, they started giving more money, the ground game built up.
“The second key point was the first debate. I think many people were surprised by Romney’s campaign, that it was really quite ineffective, that he seemed almost incompetent, not fit for the job, and then all of a sudden in the first debate, he demonstrates a capability that wasn’t there before.
“And then I think the third event came in the second and third debate when Romney attempted to portray himself as more moderate, more centrist than he had at any time previously during the campaign, and that I think has appealed to the centrist voters, who will ultimately determine the outcome, many of them living in the ‘swing’ states that are so vital to the election.”
euronews: “Who is the real Mitt Romney? If he does win the White House, are we going to see so-called ‘moderate Mitt’ from Massachusetts, the Governor, or are we going to see this candidate who picked fiscal hawk Paul Ryan as his running mate?”
Charles Kupchan: “It’s a very difficult question to answer because nobody knows. If I had to speculate, I would say that on the economic issues, he will move far to the right. That is to say he will cut the size of government, he will cut taxes: he sees government as the problem.
“On social policy, my guess is he will be more of a centrist. He doesn’t want to get into big fights over abortion, over immigration, over gun control, over gay marriage. He will probably hold back.
“On foreign policy, he may try to be ‘George W. Bush 2’ – that is to say, a unilateralist, and raise the defence budget. I don’t think he will be able to do it because there will be too much push-back from the rest of the world, and fiscal hawks in his own party are not going to want to see the defence budget go up when they want to see government spending overall cut back.”
euronews: “This polarisation that you have, currently, on Capitol Hill: to what extent does this really reflect the opinions of real Americans? We have this kind of ‘red versus blue’ narrative that plays out in some US media: how far does that reflect the reality?”
Charles Kupchan: “Well, I think that the country is deeply polarised in a way that we haven’t seen since the 19th century. At no point in post-World War Two America have we seen the political system so divided between Republicans and Democrats, and what’s interesting is that it’s not just about domestic policy, that’s traditionally the area of partisanship; it’s also about foreign policy. But I do think that part of the problem and one of the reasons why it is so intense is the economy.
“America’s middle class has been suffering stagnant wages for the better part of two decades. The United States today is the most unequal country in the industrialised world and that has brought back to life ideological cleavages that we haven’t seen since the New Deal era in the 1930s.
“So, in some ways, the key question for the next president is how to breathe life back into the economy, to get America’s middle class back on its feet. That is a pre-condition for trying to ameliorate some of these ideological cleavages and trying to put together a political centre that is, in some ways, the foundation for any governing coalition, be it [under] a Democratic president, or a Republican president.”