Traditionally – that is, for the last 50 or so years – Labor Day is considered the “official” start of the Presidential campaign. Since Labor Day is today t’s OK to pay attention now. The Democrats meet in Charlotte, North Carolina for their convention this week of which, I suppose, more later.

I wrote a column on Romneypalooza in Tampa for the Scotsman. Here’s the guts of it:

No-one will ever be inspired by Romney, but the convention did its best to present him as a real-life, honest-to-goodness actual human being. This unpromising project was more successful than seemed plausible before the convention began. The week’s most moving moment came when two of Romney’s fellow Mormons recalled how Romney had visited and comforted and inspired their sick children. Romney, who has hither to shied from making an issue of his religion, was revealed as a bigger, more decent, man than many of us had previously known or even suspected.

In theory, the state of the American economy should doom Obama’s re-election hopes. But the election is still a two-question referendum. Do you want to fire Obama? Even if yes, do you wish to replace him with Mitt Romney? The answers, at present, are “probably” and “probably not”. The president still holds a slight but significant advantage.

That is, in part, attributable to the changing colour of America. With every election the electorate is a little less white. The Republican party is acutely conscious of this. As South Carolina Senator Lyndsay Graham put it, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Quite. That explains why Romney’s speech was preceded by one given by rising star and Florida Senator Marco Rubio while, on Wednesday, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez was granted a prime-time speaking slot before Paul Ryan spoke. The message could hardly have been clearer: the Republican party needs – and wants – latino votes.

Neither side has much margin for error. Four years ago minorities – chiefly blacks and hispanics – made up 26 per cent of the electorate who actually voted. Obama needs minorities to flock to the polls again and he needs to win at least 80 per cent of the minority vote. If he does, according to calculations made by National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, Obama will then “only” need the support of 40 per cent of white voters. The more blacks and hispanics who vote, the better Obama’s chances.

Conversely, Romney needs white voters to turn-out in droves and he needs the support of three in five white voters. Four years ago Obama won 43 per cent of the white vote but his approval rating – especially amongst white men – makes it doubtful he can quite repeat that performance. If white men, especially white men without a college education, are Obama’s toughest audience, college-educated white women are his most important. In 2008 he won 52 per cent of their votes. If Romney can squeeze that vote below 50 per cent Obama will be in some trouble.

[...] Still, no Republican candidate has ever won more than 61 per cent of the white vote and the white vote has declined, as a proportion of the overall electorate, in every presidential election since 1992. If that pattern holds then Romney’s task becomes extremely difficult.

Perhaps that’s as it should be. Romney fared about as well as could be expected in Tampa this week but he remains just a generic kind of conservative running a generic kind of Republican campaign. Since he’s running against a formidable opponent that may not be quite enough. Thanks to the convention, we have a better idea of what kind of president Romney would make and what kind of man he is. He may be a better man than many suspected but, on this evidence, he’d be a very ordinary Commander-in-Chief.

Whole thing here.

Tags: 2012, Americana, GOP, International politics, Obama, Republicans, Romney, US politics