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Writing Romney's Political Obituary and Race Over Very Premature

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This week, many were writing Mitt Romney's obituary of his presidential aspirations and declaring President Obama the winner about five weeks before the election.

Such banal conjecture was flowing from a liberal mainstream media, and even GOP political stalwarts, who had from the start questioned Romney's fitness to win against the personally popular Obama.

On the surface, there were several good reasons to justify pronouncing the race over.

First, Romney was the target of hyped condemnation for his premature, severe criticism of Obama over a news release condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" after U.S. diplomatic compounds were attacked in Egypt and Libya.

There was also a report by Politico about serious infighting among top staffers of his campaign.

Then, the political Pièce de résistance, an explosive release by Mother Jones of a tape of Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser stating that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government" and that "they think that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it."

If you had to try to define 'pulling a political boner,' this was it.

After the release of the fundraiser clip, GOP leaders and candidates in House and Senate races, fresh from distancing themselves from Romney's Libya remarks, once again were tripping over each other to disassociate themselves from yet another Romney gaffe. Most significant, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Connecticut GOP Senate contender Linda McMahon both repudiated Romney's remarks.

And gleeful Democrats bounced. President Obama went on Letterman this week and stated "One of the things I learned as president is you represent the entire country. If you want to be president, you have to work for everyone."

And so did the press. Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal blogged "It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one." In a piece entitled "Let Them Eat Crab Cake," Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote off Romney's chances of winning "One thing we have to give Mitt, though: He is, as advertised, a brilliant manager. He's managed to ensure that President Obama has a much better chance of re-election." Timothy Noah of The New Republic wrote: "Hmm, maybe it isn't too early to declare Romney's candidacy dead after all."

To make matters worse, all major polls this week showed Romney slipping, particularly in swing states.

Yet, despite all this angst that was endured by Romney and the GOP in the last few days, the perception that these gaffes spelled early political doom was hopeful rather than intelligent reasoning by those declaring the race for president over or even others decrying a poorly run Romney campaign.

As this presidential election grows near, the framing of those gaffes in a context of fatal political blunders is nothing more than a ramping up of the staging of very effective distractions that the Obama camp and an accommodating press has been continuously throwing out there against Romney to keep him and the GOP off balance and sidetracked from pounding the president on the major issues that Americans are really concerned with, such as the economy and a dangerous, failing Middle East policy.

Each one of these three recent gaffes, taken separately or together, realistically had a news spin life of about three, four days at the most, even if they were twisted in the most cynical, direst manner.

If anything, the Obama campaign made a mistake releasing the Boca fundraiser tape way too early in this cycle. At this point, at most, it reaffirmed an already standard perception of Romney's detractors that he is really an unfeeling, out of touch rich guy. It's being made public days before the election would have been much more effective in gaining much of those 47 percenters who are still sitting on the fence in early November.

Unlike other previous presidential races, the velocity of the news cycle and the resulting diminished attention span and interest of American voters have already depreciated the significance, and the relative damage, from these mistakes.

These gaffes signaled not the death of Romney's candidacy, but the beginning of a new, really dirty phase of the 2012 campaign that will become increasingly derisive and combative, particularly when the serious Super PAC money hits the airwaves-and as gas prices continue to climb at the pumps.

The time left to Election Day is a political eternity, and Romney can still win -- and win big -- in November.

Published in Sun-Sentinel on September 20, 2012

Steven Kurlander is a columnist in the Sun-Sentinel and Florida Voices. His blog is www.stevenkurlander.com and he can be emailed at kurly@stevenkurlander.com