When coming down the home stretch in 2008, Barack Obama famously stated, "Now we're getting into 'silly season.'" Well, it's that time once again. So, in honor of the silliness which happens in politics each presidential cycle, I'm staging Silliness Bowl 2012 - in which all the screwball criteria that have been used to evaluate a presidential candidate gets resurrected and applied to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Are we ready? Here we go!
Category 1: "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" (2004, Bush v. Kerry)
As a Mormon, Mitt Romney does not drink. In fact, Mormons eschew even coffee.
Default winner: Barack Obama
Category 2: "Which candidate will better defend family values?" (1992, Bush v. Clinton)
Interesting call. On the one hand, Obama is the first President since before Jimmy Carter to have kept his marriage vows and maintained a healthy, nuclear family. He sets a good example. (Reagan was divorced. Bush Senior was formerly the director of the CIA, do the math. Clinton and Bush Jr., we already know about.) Also, Obama supports women's reproductive care, allowing children to be better loved and cared for - which is the most important family value of them all. On the other hand, Romney has actually maintained the old-fashioned standard, marrying young and venting all sexual frustrations on the Missus. And we all know what the right-wing means by "family values." Namely, being against abortion and gay marriage. Obama supports abortion rights, while Romney has flip-flopped on that subject so often that it's hard to tell, but he's probably opposed to abortion. (We assume.) As for gay marriage, that's a bit clearer. Obama's for, Romney's against. (Historical irony note: most single-spouse laws that are on state books were put there specifically to oppose the Mormon faith, and its bigamy.) Ultimately, Obama supports real family values, but Romney supports what insanely passes for family values among the religious right. At least Romney doesn't have a daughter like Bristol Palin.
Winner: Mitt Romney
Category 2: "Which candidate is more Christian?" (Every election since at least 1972)
Let's see: Obama has been called everything from an atheist, to a Muslim, to the Antichrist Nicolae Carparthia. But the truth is that he's a member of the United Church of Christ, which makes him a mainline Evangelical Protestant. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which is only somewhat Christian. In fact, Mormonism is to Christianity what Taco Bell is to Mexican food. Up until 4 years ago, Evangelicals would have laughed at the very notion of ever voting for a Mormon. Today, the unthinkable has happened. Several televangelists might disagree with me, but neither candidate is the ideal Christian. At least Obama doesn't try adding 15 phony texts to the Canon of scripture. Oh yeah, and Jesus was a Liberal.
Winner: Barack Obama
Category 3: "Which candidate is the Ivory Tower Elitist?" (Bush v. Kerry, 2004)
Whether the winner of this category has a positive or a negative is a matter of taste. Personally, I don't mind elitism, because if the elites aren't governing than it can only be the second-rate people who are in charge. Still, people generally see this as a negative on the grounds that they don't like someone smarter than they are in public office. Strange attitude. But let's look at this one objectively. Obama has a Juris-Doctorate from Harvard University. And Romney? He has (get this) a Juris-Doctorate from Harvard University! Plus an M.B.A. on top of that. So in terms of being college-rats, Romney wins, unless you somehow regard an M.B.A. as a negative, in which case Obama wins. (Frankly, I think an M.B.A. is just fine.) For family connections, Obama was born relatively poor, the son of an abandoned mother and a military father. Romney was born rich. Obama has no immediate forebears in politics. Romney is the son of the former governor of Michigan. It's pretty clear who the Ivory Tower guy is, here.
Winner: Mitt Romney
Category 4: "Which candidate has the hotter wife?" (Clinton v. Dole, 1996)
This one's kinda close. On the one hand, Michelle Obama has the better body, hands down. Ann Romney might be considered by most to have the prettier face. I personally don't think so, but I have to take popular opinion into account, and not just reflect my own biases. Michelle at least wears less make-up, and Ann is a fake-blond. On the other hand, both women have kept extremely powerful and financially secure men faithful, so they likely both have mad skills in bed.
Winner: Tie Score
Category 5: "Which candidate is out of touch?" (Clinton v. Dole, 1996)
According to Republicans before Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee, it was Mitt who was more out of touch than Obama. Now that he's the last man standing, they're trying to pretend that Obama is more out of touch. Nice try! But you can't un-ring the bell!
Winner: Mitt Romney
Category 6: "Which candidate wins his home state?" (Reagan v.Mondale, 1984)
This one is tricky, because both candidates have multiple "home states." With Obama, it could be either Hawaii, or Illinois. With Romney, it's either Michigan or Massachusetts. Obama is currently leading the polls in Hawaii by 27 points, and in Illinois by 17. In Michigan, it's much tighter. Polls vary, but Obama has led most of them by a few points. Romney leads in one or two. RealPolitics.com has given a weighted average of 5 points in favor of Obama. And in Massachusetts? Obama is absolutely burying Romney! The people who know Romney best as a governing legislator, the citizens of good ol' Mass., are favoring Obama by 20 points!
Category 7: "Which candidate has the better winning campaign record?" (Reagan v. Mondale, 1984)
Here we have an easy evaluation. Obama and Romney have both run in exactly three elections to date. With Obama, he ran for the House of Representatives in 2000, but lost. He then ran for Senate in 2004 and won. He then ran for president in 2008, and won again. That puts him at 2 for 3. Romney ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, but lost. He then ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and won. He did not seek reelection. He then ran for president in 2008, but lost the nomination. So that's a record of 1 for 3.
Category 8: "Which candidate is better liked by his party?" (Bush v. Dukakis, 1988)
This one's interesting. On the one hand, Obama has gone from being absolutely adored to being revealed to be only human. Many Democrats are disappointed. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was absolutely despised by most Republicans, who tried desperately to find a replacement for him in Iowa, Vermont, and South Carolina, then stood back and watched in horror as the only two other options left, Gingrich and Santorum, ran out of money. Now, they're saying Romney is the best thing since sliced bread. Ah, no! You're not fooling anybody!
Category 9: "Which candidate has raised more money?"
Okay, normally, any incumbent president buries any challenger on this one. However, thanks to Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, the rich get to waste their money on lost causes as much as they want, much to the delight of television network executives (who rake in the ad revenues). So Romney is collecting more money, but for the first time in history, this is not necessarily because he's more likable. Looks like we'll finally have an objective analysis to see if money really can buy you love.
Winner: Mitt Romney
Category 10 (Bonus round): "Which candidate has the better beach body?"
Not even close.
So in the Silliness Bowl, Obama wins 6.5 to 3.5. This is not an indicator of who will win the general election in a few months, but it does give some insight, and (I hope) a few laughs.