The Republican primary in Texas has confirmed Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate for the 2012 election. At present, there is no significant independent candidate in the field. So the race for the White House pits the incumbent, Barack Obama against the challenger, Mitt Romney. According to the polling data, the race starts approximately even. The usual incumbent advantage at this stage in the competition has been eroded by the slow economic recovery and by the complete failure of the President to present the electorate with any kind of manifesto for his next four years in office.
Neither candidate has outlined a realistic economic manifesto, though clearly Romney’s agenda is tilted more to economic efficiency and Obama’s is tilted more to some undefined notion of fairness. It is to be hoped – though hardly to be expected – that media pressure will force more details out of both candidates as the competition progresses. At this stage, voters are well-advised to be wary. When candidates waffle, either their minds are vacuums, or their purposes are devious.
In terms of valence characteristics, the candidates are evenly matched. They are approximately the same height. They both sport full heads of hair. They are both slim. They are both physically fit. They are both wealthy (Romney significantly more so at this stage than Obama). They are both well-educated. They both appear to be monogamous and good family men. Both their wives are home-makers. One candidate is white, the other half white. That will most likely make a difference, but who can tell at this stage, in which direction.
Let us pray that the candidates are pinned down on salience, so that informed voters can identify policy commitments. The rationally ignorant voters will focus on valence in any event, which is a major reason why the candidates are inclined to obfuscate and lie about their true intentions.
So start your engines! And may the better man win!