The temperature outside is scorching, yet both presidential campaigns are lukewarm at best. Amid the hot summer months of the Mid-Atlantic and fewer than four months from election day, we also expect the presidential campaigns of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to be heating up. This is not the case, much to the dismay of campaign watchers like me and an electorate that demands bold action.
Both campaigns are primarily focused on discrediting the other candidate. The Obama campaign is trying to disqualify Romney as the legitimate alternative to a second term of the Obama administration, while Romney's camp has been concentrating on defining Obama's politics as incapable of sparking the job growth the citizenry desperately needs, especially in light of the recently released June jobs report.
While I personally retain strong partisan beliefs, I -- like most Americans -- am first and foremost interested in my children living in an even better America than my generation enjoyed.
Unfortunately, to the detriment of you and me, neither candidate is offering credible solutions to our nation's most pressing issue. It is the veritable triple whammy we face immediately after November's election:
1. The expiration of tax cuts
2. The triggering of the budget sequester that guts our military
3. The need to raise the debt ceiling again
America has as much government debt as a percentage of the nation's economy as the nations that currently struggle in Europe, yet no one has put forth a solution to the catastrophe that awaits us.
The pros and cons of negative campaigning aside, it is evident that measures to stop our acceleration toward the fiscal cliff are imperative. During a time when the campaign is in a dead heat, the opportunity is available for either or both candidates to put forth bold commitments and a vision for addressing this credit pressures that threaten to unleash the debt tsunami similar to the one that is now flooding Europe.
The key ingredients of candidate commitment that would shift the tide in this campaign include
1. an appropriate sense of urgency (first action after election);
2. prioritizing the needs of the nation over pandering to any one party's ideological preferences (recognizing that both parties will be unhappy with at least some provisions of the resolution); and
3. expressing a willingness to be held accountable for results (perhaps committing to not raise money for self or anyone until a bill is signed).
This kind of bold action will attract the independents that hold the keys to victory in November.
Electoral success requires the delicate balance of both energizing the base to activate donors and volunteers while appealing to the middle, who ultimately will decide the electoral outcome. Both sides have eager bases with starkly divergent views regarding policies on same-sex marriage, immigration, health care, and myriad others.
The decisive factor will be advancing issues that 80 percent of voters agree on, not just harping on those issues where there is nearly an even divide among the electorate.
Jobs is not one of these issues. Although everyone wants the economy to generate more jobs, not everyone -- Obama and Romney, of course, included -- agrees on how best to accomplish this.
Committing to a bipartisan solution to the fiscal cliff has wide appeal. Both candidates have the potential to make such a commitment.
• Obama's appeal to citizens' desire for pragmatic action on divisive issues, more than anything, propelled him to victory in 2008. While his actions belie his ability and perhaps his commitment to achieve true bipartisan action, this latent memory of his fervor for such results could allow him to make the case for his re-election.
• Romney has even more credentials for credibility in advancing a commitment to bi-partisan action. After all, he was a Republican governor in one of the bluest of states. And all of his opponents in the primaries spent millions trying to convince the conservatives on the fringes that he would play in the middle.
The candidate that moves from timid and negative to bold and credible commitments will carry the day in November. If the victor follows through on his election season promises, he will rightly be regarded as someone who truly deserves to be hailed with the highest of civil honors, being admired as the president of the United States of America.
Mark R. Kennedy leads George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and is Chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota. He previously served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Senior Vice President and Treasurer of Federated Department Stores (now Macy's).
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