By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
2012 is no 1980, and Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.
At least that's the message coming from many Republicans to their party's presidential candidate.
Politico reports that comparisons to the 1980 race - when President Jimmy Carter lost to Reagan in a landslide - just don't hold up.
One Reagan biographer calls the comparison a "stretch" and says Romney needs to do a lot more at this point to win than Reagan did.
For starters, President Barack Obama remains personally popular among Americans despite a grim economy. Obama's approval is at around 50%, compared with 37% for Carter at this point in 1980.
Although Reagan trailed Carter in some polls - kind of like Romney - his unfavorable ratings weren't increasing. Romney just isn't connecting with voters like Reagan did.
What's more, Reagan was the overwhelming favorite of the Republican base; compare that to Romney: Many conservatives have never warmed up to him.
Another big difference between 1980 and today is the electoral map. Reagan ultimately carried one in four Democrats in that election. It's hard to imagine Romney ever pulling that off in today's highly polarized electorate.
Also, 32 years ago there were gas shortages and double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates - or stagflation.
Nonetheless, one top Romney adviser says the 1980 race shows there's no need to panic if Romney is down in the polls at this point.
Plus it's not the first time Obama - a weakened, liberal incumbent with a troubled economy and problems in the Middle East - has been compared to Carter.
Here’s my question to you: How is Romney-Obama like Reagan-Carter?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Election Day is six weeks from tomorrow, but tens of millions of Americans will actually cast their ballot before November 6.
Early voting has already started - and by the end of the month voters in 30 states will be able to cast absentee ballots or vote early in person.
This includes voters in key swing states like Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.
It's expected that more than one-third of voters - or more than 40 million americans - will vote early this year. According to Politico, in 2008, early and absentee voters made up more than half of all voters in some states. In Colorado, 79% of people voted early.
And that's not lost on the candidates. In a tight race, early votes could make the difference in who wins the White House.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are working to get their voters out early. It's something the president's campaign did very well last time around..
Early voting has also changed the way candidates and their campaigns approach the elections - and us.
For starters, it's not worth saving up all those precious advertising dollars until the last days and weeks of the campaign if one in three voters will have voted by then.
Also, it increases pressure on the candidates since any gaffe or controversy that happens now could be the last thing early voters remember before they cast their ballot.
And with modern technology and all the problems that can happen at the polls on election day, it seems fair to ask why we even have an Election Day where people have to go to the polls.
Here’s my question to you: How would you change the way we hold elections?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
Anti-american protests, some of them violent, are raging on in the Middle East and it could get worse tomorrow - the Muslim day oF prayer.
In Islamabad, Pakistan - thousands protested the anti-Islamic film and cartoons of Mohammed outside foreign embassies, including America's, and police responded with tear gas and warning shots.
In Kabul, Afghanistan hundreds chanted "Long live Islam, death to America."
And in Iran, demonstrators in Tehran protested against the same film, shouting anti-American and anti-Israel slogans.
All this after the killing of America's ambassador and three others in Libya last week along with more anti-U.S. protests in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia to name a few.
Back in the United States, the Obama Administration is facing questions about embassy security in the wake of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to testify to Congress in a closed intelligence briefing today.
It's been suggested that the U.S. was warned about the attack in Libya three days in advance.
But the administration insists they haven't seen intelligence about "significant advanced planning" for the attack.
But interestingly, the White House is now calling the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a "terrorist attack" for the first time. And it happened on the anniversary of 9/11.
U.S. relations with Israel, at least on the surface, appear to be getting much worse as President Obama continues to say he doesn't have time to meet with Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Iran is continuing its march toward nuclear weapons, and Syria continues to murder its own people.
Here’s my question to you: How satisfied are you with U.S. policy in the Middle East?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
As the clock ticks down to Election Day, the debates are the next big hurdle for the candidates.
Mitt Romney, who has had a rough few weeks to put it mildly, is under the most pressure to use the first presidential debate to turn this thing around. Some actually think October 3 is his last best chance.
Which is probably why he's been practicing a lot.
According to Politico, Romney recently did five mock debates in 48 hours. He's apparently told his advisers that it might be hard to win a debate against the president.
If you're on Mitt Romney's staff, the debates have got to make you at least a little nervous. Their candidate famously puts his foot in his mouth when he goes off prompter.
But the debates could also be a challenge for President Obama, who can give long-winded answers that sound more like a college lecture than a game plan for a second term. This is a man who once gave a 17-minute answer in a town hall meeting. The president can go on and on.
No surprise Team Obama was out lowering expectations this week, saying the president hasn't debated in four years, while Mitt Romney had lots of practice in the primaries.
We now know half the first debate in Denver will focus on the economy. Other topics will include health care, the role of government and governing. Pass the NoDoz.
Debates can be a defining moment for a presidential candidate, and October 3 will be huge.
Here’s my question to you: How much will the presidential debates matter?
His critics have called him a socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth of the nation from the haves to the have-nots. Now a newly surfaced 1998 clip of then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama would seem to support those allegations.
Republicans are pushing this audio clip – which they say was recorded at Loyola university...
In it, the future president talks about what he calls a "propaganda campaign" against government funded programs. He says he wants to resuscitate the idea that "we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind."
Obama goes on to say this:
"I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Obama's critics say the idea of redistributing wealth is socialism; they're linking these 1998 comments to more recent remarks like Obama's "you didn't build that" line.
Back in 2008, John McCain and Sarah Palin went after Mr. Obama after he said "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
More recently the president has said he wants people to feel like they're getting a fair shot. In a December interview with “60 Minutes,” he talked about inequality and people like teachers and small business owners who are working hard but feel like they're just treading water.
In response to the 1998 comments, the Obama campaign says Mr. Obama was making an argument for more efficient and effective government. They say the president believes there are "steps we can take to promote opportunity."
Here’s my question to you: Is the redistribution of wealth President Obama's answer to America's problems?
Mitt Romney's latest unforced error has a lot of Republicans worried that his, and by extension, their, chances of winning this election are slipping away.
As Politico puts it, "If political campaigns have nine lives, nervous Republicans feel Romney has used up at least eight."
The latest gaffe comes courtesy of Romney's comments to a group of wealthy Republican donors in May when he said the 47% of Americans who support President Obama no matter what depend on the government for handouts and "believe they are victims."
The leaked video could damage Romney's support among some Republican voters like seniors or members of the military, not to mention Independents.
Which is why some Republicans, including Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, are distancing themselves from Romney's remarks.
All this comes after Romney's bungled and highly political response to the Middle East riots last week.
In her Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan says the Romney campaign is incompetent:
"It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment ... an intervention is in order. 'Mitt: this isn't working.'"
Noonan writes that Romney, who's not good at news conferences, should stick to speeches and they "have to be big."
She says he should surround himself with a posse of top Republicans every day: people like Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie to show he's not in this alone.
Here’s my question to you: What does Mitt Romney have to do to right the ship?
The violence in the Middle East has renewed questions about which countries get U.S. foreign aid and whether they deserve it.
Some House conservatives wanted to strip foreign aid to Libya and Egypt from a six-month funding bill set for a vote today. That's not going to happen because it was too late for any changes to this bill.
Nonetheless, some Republicans are questioning if the U.S. should keep giving money to countries run by "radical Islamists" such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Others say before handing out aid, the U.S. should make sure Libya is helping with the investigation into the attack and murder of our ambassador and three other Americans.
But not everyone agrees. According to The Hill newspaper, senior House Republican David Dreier of California says it would be a "big mistake" to cut funding to Libya and Egypt. Dreier says it's essential now more than ever to "strengthen ties with these fledgling democracies."
It's worth pointing out that as millions of Americans suffer under a weak economy, our government is sending lots of money we don't have overseas to other countries. U.S. foreign aid to Egypt is about $1.5 billion a year. That's second only to Israel.
And Mohamed Morsy, the new Egyptian president, didn't even apologize for the attacks on the embassy in Cairo until today, two days after they happened. That tells us quite a bit.
The U.S. had withheld aid to Egypt this past year when the government was cracking down on protesters. Now a decision will have to be made whether to do it again.
Here’s my question to you: Should the U.S. halt foreign aid to Libya and Egypt?
Mitt Romney may have done himself in.
At the very least, the Republican candidate for president likely damaged his chances of being elected by the way he reacted to the violence in Egypt and Libya.
Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast suggests Romney's response makes him "unfit" for the responsibility of running the country.
Sullivan lays out the reasons why he thinks Romney should be disqualified from being president.
Including Romney's knee-jerk judgments, based on ideology not reality, his inability to back down when he said something wrong and his argument that President Obama sympathized with the murderers of America's ambassador to Libya.
Criticizing America's Commander-in-Chief while U.S. interests were still under attack, and Americans were dying, comes off as amateur and un-presidential, and might just be political suicide for Romney.
It's times like these when an unguarded comment can leave a lasting impression.
Compare Romney's response to how the 1980 Republican candidates for president reacted to the Iran hostage crisis under President Carter's watch.
As The Atlantic points out, when news broke that an effort to rescue the American hostages from the Tehran embassy failed Ronald Reagan said, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united."
George H.W. Bush went even further, saying he "unequivocally" supported carter and it wasn't a time to "try to go one-up politically."
Mitt Romney has been around long enough to know better.
Here’s my question to you: Did Mitt Romney kill his own chances of becoming president with his reaction to the violence in Egypt and Libya?
So much for the Arab Spring.
The wave of protests that swept parts of the Middle East and North Africa - in which the people fought to oust dictators - doesn't seem to have brought many of them any closer to a peaceful society.
Libya and Egypt are but the latest examples.
Years from now Historians might even trace the origin of the arab spring to the decision of George W. Bush to attack Iraq in the wake of 9/11:
Go in, overthrow a dictator, turn the country over to the people and nirvana will surely follow.
But violence continues in Iraq and people die there every day.
Egypt's now in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak is gone, they had elections and yesterday violent mobs assaulted the U.S. Embassy compound.
In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi is gone and the U.S. Ambassador and three other people are dead. Because some terrorists in that country didn't like a movie that was critical of Islam.
Syria's become a slaughterhouse with the dictator Assad hanging on and murdering the civilian population at will.
Iran continues its march toward nuclear weapons - I don't even want to think what might happen if they get them.
And al Qaeda is busy reconstituting itself in Pakistan and half a dozen other countries.
The songwriter who wrote the lyrics "Wishing won't make it so" was spot on.
And anybody who thinks the Middle East is going to suddenly transform itself into a peaceful civilization where the majority rules hasn't been reading the history books.
Here’s my question to you: Was the Arab Spring worth it?
The violence in Libya has suddenly yanked the spotlight off the economy and put it squarely on foreign policy as far as the U.S. presidential campaign is concerned.
Mitt Romney is slamming President Obama for his administration's response to angry mobs attacking U.S. diplomatic buildings in the Middle East.
Romney said that a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was like an apology, calling it "disgraceful to apologize for American values." Other Republicans are jumping in, blasting the president's "failed foreign policy of appeasement and apology."
The White House has disavowed the embassy statement, saying it did not approve the statement. In it, the Cairo embassy condemned "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." This all goes back to a film produced in the United States that some Muslims found offensive.
Meanwhile the president condemned the attacks and said we must "unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence" that took the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The president's campaign said Romney is using the tragic events for political gain.
Others agree that Romney may have jumped the gun with his response.
Sen. John Kerry called Romney's remarks irresponsible, inexperienced and reckless. He said Romney was wrong to weigh in before all the facts are known.
As for voters, they tend to trust the president more on foreign policy. A CNN/ORC International Poll released this week showed President Barack Obama with a 54%-42% advantage over Romney.
Here’s my question to you: How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
About Jack Cafferty
Subscribe | Send Feedback