I arrived in New York yesterday. As I queued at passport control I watched Nick Burns, Harvard Professor and once America’s top diplomat commenting on the outlook for Egypt (“difficult”) and Syria (‘grim’). New York, scene of Sunday’s rumpus in the UN Security Council, when the Chinese and Russians vetoed a tepid resolution condemning Syria, still feels like the world’s centre. This morning’s news has been all been about (i) the Super Bowl (for non-Americans: the New York Giants won the final on Sunday and this morning were given a ticker tape parade and a heroes’ welcome in Manhattan) and (ii) the Republicans. As I ran around Central Park’s (decommissioned) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir this morning – the high cliff faces reflecting gold morning light, a nip in the air, the promise of America everywhere – groups of middle aged women out brisk walking discussed Romney versus Obama. I ran back to my hotel past Trump Towers and remembered Donald Trump’s fleeting campaign to win the Republican nomination (as he failed he pushed right wing notions that Obama is not actually a US citizen).
The nomination will surely be Romney’s, but the fight with Gingrich and Santorum has pulled him to the right on issues like immigration and this will make it more difficult for him to take the centre ground off Obama come the summer. Unless the economy goes backwards, or there is an unexpected catastrophe that can be laid at Obama’s door; I can’t (from where I’m sitting) see the President losing. Interestingly, Obama is relenting to pressure from Democrat Party leaders and is “signalling” to his supporters that he now wants them to make donations through Priorities USA Action, the leading Democrat ‘Super PAC’, a type of loosely regulated fundraising vehicle which can raise an unlimited amount of money. Is he taking the gloves off? His Chicago-based re-election machine is formidable. When it gets going I can’t see Romney finding traction.