The upcoming presidential election between President Obama and Governor Romney is shaping up to be one of the closest since President Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey in 1968. That election came down to a margin of only 511,944 votes nationwide; a number of votes that separated the two candidates by less than one full percentage point.
With this year’s election being so close, President Obama and Governor Romney will be focusing the majority of their campaigning on the swing states: Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, being prime examples. In each of these states the candidates are statistically tied, with either candidate falling within the margin of error of the leader.
The circumstances of such a close race, which have come to define President Obama’s re-election campaign, are very different from his election in 2008. During 2008, President Obama received a sizable lead in the Electoral College, finishing with 365 votes, even though he only took 52.9 percent of the popular vote. Today, the latest tracking polls from Gallup show President Obama’s support has dropped to 47 percent, just enough to eke out a lead over Governor Romney… by one percentage point.
This downward trend in electoral support for the President is exactly the opposite of what President Nixon experienced during his re-election campaign. In four years, President Nixon went from taking office without a majority mandate, to achieving the greatest electoral mandate in American history, taking slightly over 60 percent of the popular vote. But what is important to note, is that it was the actions taken President Nixon’s administration and his policies that brought together a nation over a four year period. In foreign affairs, these achievements include normalizing relations with China, pulling troops out of Vietnam, initiating the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and the ABM treaty. Domestically, President Nixon began the war on cancer, worked to end the draft, established the EPA, oversaw the peaceful desegregation of the school system, and with the New Federalism returned power and autonomy to the states through a revenue sharing program. It was this record of leadership guiding bipartisan achievements that pulled the nation together, not the rhetoric of President Nixon’s re-election campaign.
As President Obama’s term comes to an end, there still remains a deep division among the electorate. Bridging that divide and bringing the nation together cannot be done with a re-election campaign. A substantive basis for national unity is something that can only be accomplished through administrative leadership and action.