Six months out from both the US and Australian elections the polls were adamant that the incumbent administrations were doomed.
At home, Tony Abbott was rubbing his hands with glee at the certain prospect of a permanent move to Canberra.
In America last year, six months out from their election the opinion polls and much of the media were suggesting that President Barack Obama looked destined for only one term of office. America was in damage control and his popularity was plummeting to new lows. In May we saw that:
. . . polls indicate President Obama is trailing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. The Rasmussen poll shows a 47 to 45 percent race with Republicans enjoying a 7 point lead in a congressional generic ballot. Meantime, the newest CBS News/ New York Times poll shows the president trailing Romney 46 to 43 percent among registered voters. The economy remains the most important issue to voters, with 62 percent voters and most Americans (67 percent) believing the economy is in bad shape, all troubling signs for the president. Romney leads the president among independents and women. The president had been leading with women last month in this poll.
They showed a commanding lead lead to Romney. If the election was held in May Obama would have been swept from office. But just three months later, as the polling day in November drew closer there was witnessed a sharp swing towards him.
Barack Obama has opened a significant lead over Mitt Romney in a Bloomberg National Poll that reflects the presumed Republican nominee’s weaknesses more than the president’s strengths.
Obama leads Romney 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, even as the public gives him low marks on handling the economy and the deficit, and six in 10 say the nation is headed down the wrong track, according to the poll conducted June 15- 18.
If voters considered that Obama hadn’t handled the economy and was heading the nation down the wrong track, why then did they favour him over Mitt Romney? Sampling of the people who were polled provided us with the answer. It was, simply, Romney’s irreparable image:
A majority of likely voters, 55 per cent, view him as more out of touch with average Americans.
He hasn’t fulfilled a lot of his campaign promises, but I would vote for him (Obama) anyway because Romney would be extremely destructive for this country.
His perspective is you just let the free market take care of everything, and we’ll go right down the toilet drain, and everything — all the jobs — will go straight to Asia.
I think the guy is a little bit out of touch, because he has too much money to understand what a guy like me deals with.
It was crunch time for Romney at home. It was not much better for him on the international stage:
The British were offended, the Palestinians accused him of racism and even in friendlier Poland, Mitt Romney’s union policies drew criticism from the current leaders of the movement that toppled communism.
Romney’s visit to Britain, Israel and Poland was never expected to produce the same media frenzy as then-candidate Barack Obama’s extravagant, eight-country tour of 2008.
Obama received rock star treatment from international media and world leaders as he travelled from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the glittering chancelleries of Europe.
Nevertheless, comparisons were inevitable and much of it was less than favourable to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“The designated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to demonstrate foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills with his trip to Britain, Israel and Poland,” the Swiss newspaper Tages-Zeitung said Tuesday. “Today, on the last day of the tour, he must be made to admit that he clearly missed this target.”
Despite their previous history of perceived arrogance and assumptions that the rest of the world can be damned, it seems Americans now expect their leader to stand tall on the international stage. Romney doesn’t.
It was clear that as the election loomed on the horizon the blowtorch was finally applied to the alternative President and people were seriously taking a long hard look at the challenger. After a long period of condemnation towards Obama they eventually turned their glare to Romney. When it counted – on the eve of the election – they were expressing doubts about having a President who was out of touch with them, who had no understanding of the issues faced by them, who was unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent them proudly on the international stage.
That’s what happened in America.
In Australia, many of us in the Fifth Estate similarly see in Tony Abbott a person who is out of touch, who has no understanding of the issues we face, who is unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent us proudly on the international stage. Our glare has been fixed for some time, but as the election here looms closer will the public and media blowtorch finally be applied to him.
I have no doubt that, if it is, he will quickly go the way of Mitt Romney. In the year leading up to their respective elections they have traveled similar paths. The stand out is their shared value of being out of touch with the average voter.
The international expectations of being Prime Minister of Australia certainly are not the same league as being President of the United States, however, that should mean nothing to the Australian voters who will be more likely to vote on local issues. At home, to quote Douglas Evans:
To me we stand on the brink of a social/political/economic/environmental catastrophe of unparalleled proportions.
In Tony Abbott we have an unusual case. He is against every social, environmental and economic reform imaginable. Surely this is an indication that he is out of touch with much of the electorate.
How out of touch? Let’s consider some of the issues:
Same-sex marriage: Mr Abbott has said marriage is between a man and a woman not just to fulfill their own personal happiness ”but because we have obligations to the children that come with families”.
Homosexuality: Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has defended comments he made about homosexuality on 60 Minutes, saying gays and lesbians “challenge” the order of things.
Mr Abbott said he felt “threatened” by homosexuality on the program, a comment that has angered the gay and lesbian community and something he tried to back track from during an interview on the ABC.
“There is no doubt that it (homosexuality) challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things” Mr Abbott told Lateline.
Abortion: “Christians aren’t required to right every wrong in the political arena, but they can help change the nation’s culture, suggests Tony Abbott despite the debt that political institutions owe to the West’s Christian heritage, there is the constant claim that Christians in politics are confused about the separation of church and state. There’s also a tendency among Christians in the community to think that Christians in politics have to sell out their principles in order to survive. Christian politicians are often warding off simultaneous accusations that they are zealots or fakes. Indeed, the public caricature of a Christian politician is hypocrite or wuss, in denial about the ruthlessness and expediency necessary to wield power, or too sanctimonious to be effective. Take the challenge of abortion. The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience”.
Boat people: Tony Abbott claimed boatpeople were acting in an un-Christian manner. So is sinking the boats.
Euthanasia: “Legalising euthanasia in Australia would put elderly people at risk of being “bumped off”, federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has warned, after an Australian man traveled to Switzerland to legally end his life”.
The needy: “We can’t abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour”.
Women’s rights: Tony Abbott warns women against sex before marriage. And how about this brain fart: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”.
Recognition of Indigenous culture: “Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that . . . Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage”.
Climate change: As a climate denier, Tony Abbott is most famous for his statement that climate science is “absolute crap“. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – he actually has a long history of denying climate change science. “The fact that we have had if anything cooling global temperatures over the last decade, not withstanding continued dramatic increases of carbon dioxide emissions, suggests the role of CO2 is not nearly as clear as the climate catastrophists suggest.”
Technology: “There is no way on God’s earth that we need to be spending $50 billion plus of borrowed money on what is going to turn out to be a telecommunications white elephant – school halls on steroids.”
Foreign investment: Tony Abbott made headlines recently when during a visit to China, he declared that “it would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business”.
In other words: foreign direct investment by such entities would not be welcome.
Divorce: Liberal Party frontbencher Tony Abbott wants laws toughened up to make divorce harder. The opposition families and Aboriginal affairs spokesman has called for a return to the fault-based system of divorce discarded in 1975, which was replaced by a “no-fault” system. Mr Abbott’s plan, outlined in his book Battlelines, would see a grounds for divorce reintroduced, including adultery, cruelty, habitual drunkenness and imprisonment. It would be similar to the defunct Matrimonial Causes Act.
Pensioners: “Tony Abbott’s Liberals have re-confirmed they will claw back hundreds of dollars from Australian pensioners. The Member for Curtin, Julie Bishop confirmed on Channel 10 Breakfast that an Abbott Government will rip away the latest increase to the pension – $338 a year for single pensioners on the maximum rate and $510 a year for pensioner couples on the maximum rate”.
Low paid workers: “The Coalition has today confirmed that they would re-impose a 15 per cent tax on Australia’s lowest paid workers (earning below $37,000) including 2.1 million women”.
Democracy: In his address to the National Press Club this week he told us he likes democracy and: “Government is important – my colleagues and I are in the parliament because it matters and because we care about our country – but, in a democracy, the people must come first”.
Yes, of course. That’s why he has tried every trick in the book to bring down a duly elected Government; a Government he calls “illegitimate”, “inherently unstable” and “toxic” to name a few.
Small business: “Tony Abbott has confirmed that the Liberals will cut vital tax breaks for Australia’s more than two million small business men and women if elected in September. Mr Abbott has pledged to scrap the instant asset tax write-off, which allows small businesses to claim a deduction for the full value of each new asset costing up to $6,500 after one year”.
With such a suite of archaic views he belongs in a museum, not politics.
According to the opinion polls Tony Abbott now has a more formidable opponent. But this might mean zilch if the blowtorch isn’t applied to him like it was to Romney in the latter stages of the US campaign. As noted above, 55 percent viewed him as being out of touch with average Americans. Locally, how many Australians would consider Abbott to be out of touch with them if Abbott’s views (above) were given more prominence in the media?
The other big move against Romney was the perceived embarrassment he would cause on the international stage. Abbott is more safe in that regards. As yet he hasn’t had the opportunity to make a global fool of himself. It’s up to the Australian voters to decide if they think he would.
Personally, I think there is enough evidence mounting that Abbott will continue down Romney’s path: One that started out leading to the highest office in the land to one that did a U-turn at the last minute. The key of course, is dependent on Australians seeing in Tony Abbott the same as Americans saw in Mitt Romney those negative aspects that they ignored for so long, until it mattered. I will repeat them: a person who is out of touch, who has no understanding of the issues we face, who is unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent us proudly on the international stage.
Could it only happen in America?