The endgame nears! So does mental exhaustion -- for everyone.
We lurch from debate to debate, poll to poll, leaked video to calamity overseas. One day we decide we'll settle for Obama. The next, we're leaning toward rolling the dice and taking a chance on Romney.
As we ponder how little we know about how GOP candidate Mitt Romney would govern in the White House, or exactly what President Barack Obama would do if we give him another four years, let's take a look at the pros and cons for each man. We'll try to shed the hype and negativity saturating each campaign.
Pros on Romney: He was an effective governor of Massachusetts. Although he vetoed hundreds of bills (most overridden by a Democratic-controlled legislature), he persuaded key Democrats to help him push through landmark legislation to give many more residents of Massachusetts health insurance.
He salvaged the Salt Lake City Olympics and raised enough money to keep the facilities at Park City, Utah, maintained for the training of hundreds of athletes for years to come.
He is by nature a results-oriented businessman and pragmatist who wants to solve problems. And this country has plenty of problems.
Cons on Romney: He disavowed his health-care plan after it became the model for Obama's plan. He wrongly said in the first debate that his plan would cover pre-existing conditions and children up to age 26, as Obama's plan would do. Romney's would not.
The moderate Romney was hidden so long that we really don't know what he thinks about such issues as abortion rights and gay rights and a myriad other controversial social issues. His oafish comments about not bothering about the 47 percent of Americans who don't have to pay federal taxes remain stunning especially for a man who pays only 13 percent in federal taxes.
Romney has yet to offer a serious, well-thought-out plan for jump-starting the economy. Insisting that we can create jobs by lowering taxes on the wealthy, dropping regulations on business, cutting government programs and raising defense spending is not good enough.
Pros for Obama: Despite the GOP playbook and his failure to get everything he promised done, Obama did have some successes in his first term. He saved the auto industry. He prevented another depression. He oversaw the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. He ended combat missions in Iraq. He got legislation passed, not yet fully in effect, to provide more Americans with health insurance.
Despite the bad economy, the unemployment is back where it was when he took office. Not great, of course, and many have stopped actively looking for work, but the rate is no longer a whopping 10 percent. Foreclosures are also at a five-year low although they are taking longer.
On women's issues, Obama signed legislation giving women more time to file suits alleging pay discrimination. He is a firm supporter of a woman's right to choose whether or not she will have an abortion. He ended the despised don't ask, don't tell policy on gays in the military.
Cons for Obama: He promised a new bipartisan era in Washington, which he could not deliver, partly because Tea Party movement activists have been in no mood to compromise. But Obama often seems aloof from the hard work of political compromise.
He asked for a bipartisan report on solving our economic solutions but when Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson delivered one that many economists said could work, although it wouldn't be popular because it would change Medicare and Social Security formulas and raise taxes, Obama ducked it and never actually proposed a comprehensive plan of his own.
The excitement over Obama is gone. We're sadder and wiser. We know there is no overnight, miracle cure for our economic ills. Life came at us fast.
The race, as was always predicted, will go down to the wire. But there's plenty of time for us to be more thoughtful and fact-motivated than we have been for the past year. Sorry, Big Bird. You're sort of irrelevant.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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