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      Obama Defines Election As Rerun Of 1964; America Has Moved On

      Analysis: The attempt by Barack Obama to portray Mitt Romney as a latter day Barry Goldwater needs a reality check. It's not so simple.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 4/12/2012, 4:50 PM

      Will Obama Kick Ass?
      Will Obama Kick Ass?
      Reuters

      Now that is clear that Mitt Romney will be Barack Obama's opponent, a silly season - hopefully, brief - has commenced.

      Both parties are expressing confidence in their man, deriding the weaknesses of their opponent and making predictions to boot.

      Those who are political junkies, this analyst included, will lap up the stuff and produce our own, even though most of the predictions are worthless.

      Nobody knows what the economy is going to look like a few months down or what the price per gallon will be at the gas station.

      While Vice President Joe Biden is a given, analysts have not factored in the impact of the Republican vice presidential nominee.

      And each state has its own political tradition and prism.

      At this stage, the parties will try their best to frame to contest as advantageously as possible for themselves.

      One such attempt was made by Barack Obama himself when, he predicted that the 2012 elections would follow the script of the 1964 contest, which pit the Republican Barry Goldwater against Lyndon Johnson.

      Obama would relish a victory that allowed his opponent to carry only a few states in the Deep South, plus his own state, as happened then. But a total wipeout win for the Democrats is simply not going to happen.

      The fight for the Republican nomination in 1964 was extremely bitter and the recriminations lasted through the Republican convention. Barry Goldwater's opponents, notably Nelson Rockefeller and Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, portrayed Goldwater as an extremist and refused to endorse him even after he had secured the nomination.

      Goldwater represented the shift in influence within the Republican Party, from the East and Midwest to the South and the West. Goldwater was the insurgent candidate who humbled the Republican establishment.

      Mitt Romney's opponents during the primaries essentially made the point that Romney was too centrist and had no clearly defined ideology.

      They said he was a RINO - a Republican in name only - and the darling of the Republican establishment; but these are two qualities that set him completely apart from Barry Goldwater.

      Obama, however, may have a point if he sees his contest against Mitt Romney as a replay of Goldwater versus Johnson on the philosophical level.

      Lyndon Johnson was a believer in an interventionist government, because he felt that such intervention was beneficial for securing greater equality, be it in the face of racial discrimination or in a war on poverty. Goldwater scoffed at the call for a president with greater power. "Perhaps they should just plug him in" he suggested.

      Johnson was a product of the New Deal Era and appealed to an electorate, that on the basis of the New Deal experience, believed that government was a positive force, capable of solving all problems provided it was endowed with sufficient resources and prerogatives.

      The 1964 landslide and the Great Society that followed reflected this consensus.

      The belief in big government peaked midway through Johnson's term - and by the time the Nixon administration was voted into office in 1968, that moment had passed. Americans are not so predisposed to paying for an increased government role, particularly if it involves massive deficit spending.

      If Obama and his circle felt that 2008 had given them a mandate for their own Great Society, the 2010 congressional midterm elections should have disabused them. 

      Nobody can confidently predict November's results, but it will not be a walk over. However, Romney is no Goldwater and we are in 2012, rather than 1964.