I wish I was as optimistic for Mitt Romney as Carter is. Romney's honeymoon has already lasted longer than I thought. I'm particularly surprised by the absence of a meaningful barrage of attack ads from President Obama.
And so far Romney has been lucky. He hasn't interrupted his own ascension to the nomination with a mistake or gaffe, while Obama has made mistakes and has been subject to every bothersome distraction one could imagine — and some no one could imagine.
Obama has strayed too far from the White House, too often appearing as campaigner in chief. In the meantime, the economy isn't getting better (note: Great Britain has gone back into recession), and North Korea and Syria are becoming more alarming while we seem feckless. Also, the General Services Administration scandal is developing into a Solyndra-esque scar for Obama, and the Secret Service scandal, while not Obama's fault, is what everyone is talking about. Obama couldn't have had a worse month.
The current polls reflect all this; Romney gets the anti-Obama vote that sits between 42 and 47 percent of the vote. I don't think this number will move much anytime soon. Things couldn't get worse for Obama (this is a risky thing to say). But I don't expect Romney to be consistently ahead in the meaningless head-to-head polls until they begin to matter in late September at best.
During this time we call the interregnum, between now and the conventions, the Romney campaign should build state organizations and raise money. That is the easy part. The hard part will be to make fulfilling news constantly. The "news hole" for the 2012 presidential campaign is bigger than ever before, and Romney's portion will be filled every day, regardless if he actually makes any news or not. It will be hard to have enough courtesy meetings with GOP leaders, give "major policy speeches," and roll out fresh endorsements or campaign personnel to make enough real news to satisfy all the media. So look for campaign dramas and crises to create themselves. Little things will become big things and they will linger in the media until they are replaced by something else. Also, the work of investigative reporters, who are currently living under Romney's bed when they aren't talking to his fourth-grade classmates, will begin to hit the airwaves or be published. Someone will write an unauthorized biography, etc.
The interregnum is much easier for a sitting president to manage than for a challenger. Romney can't have a state dinner, announce an executive order, have a Cabinet meeting or bomb anybody. But Romney and company know this. They have always been steady. Again the golf analogy is: Romney hits fairways and greens while others make mistakes and beat themselves. It won't be flashy and it won't be exciting, but it will keep him in the match until the fall, when he will need to make some great shots.