In all of politics there are two universal constants—incumbents and challengers. During the lead up to an election each has his or her advantages unique to their position.
An incumbent has the power of incumbency. Incumbents can appear to do things that attract press attention just by doing the job they were elected to do. They can show up at business openings, hold press conferences, initiate new legislation, propose some new programs, give out awards and appear at ceremonies, or do any of the countless things that will naturally get their doings in the news and their faces on TV.
A challenger has much less ability to make news except as part of his or her campaign itself (unless they already hold some public office, and even this has limited value compared to the higher office they are running for—which the incumbent currently controls). BUT, an incumbent has one thing in the office up for election that the challenger does not have: a record. And here is where the challenger has an inevitable advantage. No matter how praiseworthy an office holder’s record of achievement, no matter how many things that person has done and no matter how many people that person has helped, no one ever achieves everything that everyone wants done. And this gives an opening for criticism to the challenger.
A challenger can always find something that the incumbent did that was not perfect. And a challenger can always find something that the incumbent did not do at all. This is what will become the basis of any challenger’s attack.
As the presidential debates approach, consider these two challenges each of the two candidates faces. Look to President Obama and watch to see if he seems to be appearing at events in which he looks “presidential.” Of course he can’t help it; he IS the President. But is he taking unfair advantage of his incumbency?
And look at the criticisms of Mitt Romney. Is he finding fault in everything President Obama has done? Is he portraying the President as a total failure, with not a single accomplishment to his credit? In an imperfect world, where compromise is the way anything in politics gets done, is Romney criticizing Obama for compromising? It is easy to do. It is the only way for him to get elected.
But will the public be convinced?