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We are in the general now

In this Elections 2012 analysis, Center for Politics and Governance Director Sherri Greenberg explains why November will bring a close general election.

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Sherri Greenberg is lecturer and director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She served for 10 years as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, completing her final term in January 2001. Her expertise includes state and national campaign politics, electronic government, and public finance and budgeting.

You may have noticed that the presidential campaign appeared to enter the general election phase several weeks ago when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination on April 10. Subsequently, Mitt Romney quit paying attention to his opponents in the Republican primary and concentrated his attacks on President Barack Obama and the general election.

Now, it’s obvious. We are in the general election. On Tuesday, April 24, Romney had a clean sweep, winning the New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island primaries. The next day, Wednesday, April 25, Newt Gingrich suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination and announced his support for Romney’s effort to beat Obama.


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The 2012 election season is promising to be one of the most unpredictable cycles in recent history.

In the Elections 2012 coverage on Know, experts from across The University of Texas at Austin weigh in on the politics and the issues, from the economy, the environment and demographics to immigration, energy, social change and more.

Visit a complete list of elections experts at the university.

Romney has not reached the golden number for the Republican nomination, but he may well do so by June. In fact, Governor Rick Perry has endorsed Romney and a poll released on April 24 by Public Policy Polling reveals that, even in Texas, Mitt Romney polls at 45 percent, with Newt Gingrich at 35 percent and Ron Paul at 14 percent. Unless Ron Paul can pull some type of Warren G. Harding move at the National Republican Convention this summer, Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee.

As my father would say, the chances of Ron Paul doing that are slim and none. So let’s get back to Romney as the presumptive Republican nominee and November.

On the evening of April 24, Mitt Romney gave a speech that, in reality, was his first speech of the general election. Romney focused on the economy with his single best line in a speech to date: “It’s still about the economy and we’re not stupid.”

Then, he made a pivot to the center with his position on student loans by stating that Congress should extend the current interest rates on student loans.

On that same day, April 24, Obama reached the delegate number for the Democratic nomination. Also, he made presidential stops at college campuses in the swing states of North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa where he appealed to Congress to extend the current rate on student loans prior to the July 1 expiration date.

As we move into the fall, what will be some of the general election themes?

Of course, expect to see more and more discussion of what has been the consistent, main issue: the economy. Also, we will continue to hear about Mitt Romney’s problems with authenticity. Can they be cured with a vice presidential pick?

Obama will focus on fairness and claim that Romney is out of touch with the majority of Americans. Romney will claim that Obama is likeable, but that Obama has failed to deliver. Then, there is the fight for women’s support. Romney will talk about moms, and Obama will tout his record on women’s issues. Will the gender gap narrow?

The following is a big question mark: Who can win the voters in the center? In the final analysis, the election will be won or lost in the center, and with swing voters.

Fasten your seat belts everyone, since we are in for a wild ride. All in all, this is shaping up to be a contentious fall, with a close, hard-fought general election.

What to read and watch next:

More from Sherri Greenberg:

Watch more videos from the LBJ School.