In the broadest terms, Romney and the Republicans want this election to be about the economy, whereas Obama and the Democrats want this election to be about the Culture Wars. Both attempts make sense.
It is hard for Obama to run on the economy, but he is appealing to women, minorities, and the liberal sense of decency by appealing to the issues of the Culture Wars, e.g.women's right to choose and control their reproductive health and lives, human rights for gays, opportunities for women, etc. Their basic message is that if you feel oppressed by a rigid authoritarian and unfeeling white male society, Obama and the Democrats understand and will fight for you. I think it has been a pretty effective campaign, and one that is made easier when things happen all the time during the campaign to demonstrate evangelical or libertarian rigidity.
The most recent example of the rigidity of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party is the Missouri Senatorial candidate, Aiken, who actually thinks that if a woman is "forcibly raped" her body will shut down and prevent a pregnancy. This of course is preposterous. But, why does he think that? Apparently, there is a theory created by those who avidly oppose abortion and see it as a hideous genocide of the most innocent and helpless human, fetuses. They oppose abortion in all cases, and to justify being against abortion in cases of rape they have developed a silly theory that a woman's body prevents impregnation if she is being assaulted. Stupid, of course, but it shows the power of ideology: we all believe those things that support our deeper beliefs and passions.
The most telling example of the rigidity of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party is the Vice Presidential nominee apparent, Paul Ryan, himself. He was part of the Simpson-Bowles commission that studied ways to reduce the deficit. Simpson Bowles got 11 of 18 votes but needed a super-majority of 14 of 18. Four liberals and three conservatives voted no, including Ryan, but Simpson Bowles was published and passed by a majority. Unfortunately it was never pushed by the president and it died.
Romney would like to avoid the Culture Wars and focus on the economy, but his party has been taken over by avid Culture Warriors. I think the economy and the budget are critically important this election cycle. Something like forty cents of every dollar that our country spends is borrowed. That is totally unsustainable and is leading us toward disaster.
To best see what happens when Democrats are allowed to rule a government one needs go no further than my home state California. Democrats run California, even when we had a Republican governor, Schwarzenegger, the Democrats ruled. California is in serious financial trouble. Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown has put an initiative on the ballot to raise taxes to be able to offset the deficit, and his reasons are persuasive: parks are being closed, libraries are cutting back, the tuition for colleges is skyrocketing, K-12 education is on the brink of cutting back their school-years, the bond ratings of the state are falling, etc.
But, what do the Democrats do? they fund a liberal money gobbling fantasy - high speed rail, just about a month ago, for six billion dollars, the same six billion dollars that the schools need to stay open for the full school term. Then, they approve a 14 billion dollar project to build two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Juaquin delta to ship water from northern California to Southern California.
Democrats just can't seem to help themselves, if they see an idea that sounds good to them they just spend the money. They are like shopaholics with a handful of credit cards, and they are spending us into bankruptcy. Speaking of bankruptcy there are a number of California cities who are bankrupt with more to follow, I am sure.
So, it is obvious why Romney wants to focus on the economy and the budget, and Obama wants to focus on the Culture Wars. Each speaks to the other party's weaknesses.
By the way, I sure would like it if the Republicans actually were trying to reduce the deficit, but when they refuse to raise taxes they show that they are not serious about it. Oh well.