If you want a live-action version of a Democratic nightmare these days, the weekend events in Park City, Utah, are a decent start.
And that might look like the fun part of the week for Democrats before we’re through.
In Utah, at an exclusive retreat amid picturesque mountains, an estimated 700 well-heeled, well-connected Republicans convened with Mitt Romney and his top campaign aides for golf, hob-nobbing, and private campaign strategizing.
It was a show of force for Romney — all the more remarkable because he’s barely two months beyond worries about the toll of an extended primary season.
Those gathered, and their many rich friends scattered across the country, have reason for confidence. The race lurches into summer essentially tied, with views on the economy continuing to sour — just as President Obama is set to face a fresh set of challenges to his reelection bid.
As the Utah gathering is meant to demonstrate — with Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, and James Baker mingling with John McCain, plus an impressive next generation of Republican governors and members of Congress — concerns about party fractures going into the general election were overblown, if not completely off base.
Plus, Romney has already built a fundraising operation that’s competing with and even eclipsing President Obama’s, which was itself the most formidable in presidential campaign history. Add in the hundreds of millions in outside spending, and when the Obama campaign says it expects to be out-spent, that’s not spin — it’s reality.
The timing was coincidental, but Romney was showing off his well-oiled machine of a campaign just as squeaks are being heard in the Obama reelection bid. Outside forces are converging to test the White House and the Obama campaign all at once.
This week will bring the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Obama health care law. It will bring either repudiation or validation for the signature accomplishment from the president’s term — enough, perhaps, to shake loose what’s been a remarkably steady race.
There’s the big challenge of the unsteady economy, tempered at least for now by dropping gas prices. And there’s an administration facing new challenges from Congress — a stalled student-loan bill, national-security leak investigations, and Attorney General Eric Holder in a tense stand-off with the House of Representatives over a botched gun-running operation across the Mexican border.
Everything to this point has contributed to a race that’s as close as can be, and will be decided in the handful of battlegrounds we’ve all long assumed. That in itself is an achievement for Romney, as it would be for any challenger to a president who remains personally popular.
There may be nothing that shakes the race from its steady dynamics before the fall. But a close race means little things are magnified — and we’re about to see some very big things reverberate across the race.