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Matthews on Obama, Romney: 'I don't know anybody who's impressed with this campaign'

Let me finish tonight with this: I don't know anybody who's impressed with this campaign so far.

I'm talking about both candidates. Romney seems like a guy trying desperately not to make another mistake, hoping that the economic numbers will win it for him if they get just a little bit worse and he can avoid blowing it — after all these years of running — for just a few more months.

Now can you think of anything less inspiring than that? A guy just trying not to crash, hoping that the economy will do it for him. 

Obama, to be fair, hasn't exactly been all that inspiring either. I know times are tough and he can't just play defense, and I know that means hitting his rival in the shins but, like you, I remember that wonderful poster from the first time with that picture of him looking upward and that single word: "Hope." 

Hope is what this campaign has lacked. Romney's basically calling for a "return to normalcy," all this "restore our future" stuff. That's what his party promised back in the early 1920s before giving us, thanks to Harding and Coolidge, the Roaring Twenties followed, before the end of that decade, by the Great Depression. 

Romney is now in search of his Coolidge. He already has his theme, which is precisely what Harding ran on: a government atuned to the wants and needs of business, a government that knew its place when it came to corporate power, which is basically to stay out of the way and let those big boys make money.

That's what you hear his supporters and donors want; that's what you can be sure Romney stands ready to give them. As for Obama, who I still believe has the brains and conscience to lead, seems to have settled on a single goal this summer: tear down his rival. Incumbents never look good when they do that. They look good when they ask the voters for a second endorsement, a second term to do what they couldn't get done with one, what they didn't get quite right in one. 

I'm waiting for that moment when Obama or Romney offers something beyond what we've gotten before. People really want it. America is built on the promise of something better. The guy who gives that, the candidate who paints a credible, blazing picture of something bold and true, is going to get the brass ring. The one who plays it safe — and here's where I'm letting my heart speak — will not. 

I didn't get interested in politics at the age of five to watch two guys avoid being leaders. Let's hope the conventions shake this thing up. Let's hope we start hearing about the sharp difference in direction these two candidates are going to take this country, because the evidence suggests it's going to be huge.