Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

From Hope to Doubt in a Single Election Cycle

The president who promised to unify the country now stands as the most-polarizing president ever as Election Day approaches, with 90 percent support from Democrats and 8 percent from Republicans, an 82-point gap.

President George W. Bush, who also promised to be a uniter, held the previous record, with an 80-point gap in 2004. During Bush’s last years in office, he averaged a 76-point partisan approval gap, according to Gallup polls. Obama’s average this year is 75.

In 2008, independent voters supported Obama 52 percent to 44 percent. This year, they support Romney, 48 percent to 38 percent with 11 percent still undecided.

Hope springs eternal. Now it’s Romney who’s playing the role of the cross-party-lines problem-solver. But, given his record, there’s every reason to fear it’s just an act.

Romney now says he would expand Pell Grants to enable young people to go to college, but he previously endorsed the budget put forward by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), calling for education aid cuts.

During the primaries, he denounced granting legal status to young illegal immigrants as “amnesty” and a “magnet” for illegal immigration. Now he’s for allowing the Obama administration policy of non-deportation to continue, at least for a while.

He’s softened his proposal for handling 12 million adult illegals, from driving them to “self-deportation” to “a matter of choice,” which may not be any different in practice.

During the primaries, he joined his fellow candidates in refusing to accept a deficit plan that called for even $1 in revenue increases for each $10 in spending cuts. Now, he’s saying that his proposed tax reforms will increase government revenues.

On foreign policy, Romney sounded in the primaries like a Dick Cheney-style super hawk ready to drop bombs on Iran. Now, except on defense spending, he’s minimizing differences with Obama and even praising the United Nations.

Who can tell whether he’d make Cheney ally John Bolton, Bush’s former U.N. ambassador, his secretary of state, or Robert Zoellick, the “realist” just-retired president of the World Bank?

And if moderate Mitt were elected, would he resist right-wingers in his party’s Congressional delegation to make deals with Democrats, or do as Obama did, letting party partisans run the show?

This campaign has been so nasty — with supposed nicer-guy Obama now leading the way in nastiness— that it’s hard to see how either candidate could end up uniting the nation.

Americans looked at the Rorschach four years ago and saw “Hope.” This year, with two ink blots, all I can see is doubt.

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