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Frequently lost amid the cacophony of a national political campaign is the true essence of the election. This essence is the one or two issues most critical to the nation’s health. While reason would dictate that such critical issues would inescapably constitute the core of every national campaign, this is unfortunately not always the case.

Dissonance, frequently sown by clever campaign consultants, often masks important national issues if they are perceived as political weaknesses. In place of important issues, the electorate often is subjected to an endless barrage of trivial issues masquerading as somehow important. This is even truer today with the ubiquity of social media and blogs, as online partisans now join the fray by piggybacking on these trumped-up side issues and endlessly hyping them with great alacrity.

As if things couldn’t get any more absurd this year, the latest sideshow revolves around none other than Big Bird. The essence of the 2012 national campaign is not Big Bird, nor any other inane triviality. The essence is the economy and the national debt. The economy sits month after month in the doldrums and the national debt continues to grow at levels that exceed disbelief. The country is suffering from an economic malaise not seen since the late 1970s, and we’re wasting our time on complete nonsense.

We were told four years ago that if our current economic policies were put in place, our deficit would be cut in half. Well, they were put in place and our debt has instead exploded. Every year for the past four years, we have witnessed an annual deficit of well over $1 trillion, adding a staggering $6 trillion to our national debt in only four years. These eye-popping numbers get worse. By the government’s own figures, if the same policies remain in place for another four years, this administration will have doubled the national debt to over $20 trillion. To put these numbers in perspective, the debt will have increased more in just eight years than in all of the previous administrations from George Washington to George W. Bush combined.

We also were told that if the nearly $1 trillion stimulus plan was passed in 2009, the unemployment rate would fall to under 6 percent. Well, it was passed, and the country instead had to endure 43 straight months of unemployment over 8 percent, with many of those months seeing unemployment well above 9 percent. Worse still, if the number of people who have given up looking for work are counted, the real unemployment rate would be around 11 percent. Sadly, about the only thing stimulated from the so-called stimulus plan was more debt for our children.

And we still are being told that the country exited the recession in the summer of 2009, but how many people truly feel that the country is well? Record numbers of college graduates are moving back into their parents’ homes because they cannot find jobs. This horrific fact coincides with the record amount of student-loan debt saddling the very same people that are jobless. If America’s young, educated class is struggling to find work, imagine how the rest of the country is coping.

The answer: not well. The number of people now getting food stamps is up an incredible 46 percent since early 2009, or 14.7 million additional people. Yet, we are told that America is in recovery. Does it feel like a recovery? If this is a recovery, then what will a recession feel like? No wonder political operatives build slick campaigns around Big Bird.

The country needs a change, and obfuscating our painful economic reality with Big Bird will only lead to four more years of pain. The country simply needs someone who can reverse both our debt and our economic woes, and that person is Mitt Romney.

When Romney became governor of Massachusetts, he inherited a deficit, which he turned into a surplus. In fact, under Romney’s leadership, the Massachusetts rainy day fund swelled to a $2.2 billion surplus, or 144 percent above where it was the year before he took office. Impressive as these facts are, perhaps none are more impressive that his financial and managerial stewardship of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games of 2002.

Before Romney assumed the reins of the Salt Lake City Games, things were floundering. The Salt Lake Olympic Committee had become plagued with corruption scandals and unscrupulous financial management. The organization was flailing to such a degree that there was even talk the unthinkable could happen: The United States of America would fail as host of the Olympics.

Of course that didn’t happen. What did happen was Mitt Romney revamped the management of the Olympics, got everything back on schedule and on budget and changed the entire direction of the Salt Lake City Games. He took the Games from near bankruptcy and total failure to not only success, but to among the most successful Olympic Games ever hosted on U.S. soil.

Romney has clearly demonstrated his superior leadership and management skills over and over again. He is what America needs today to right our struggling economy, so we can begin creating jobs and reducing our crippling debt. Big Bird is cute, but America needs jobs. This Nov. 6, let’s elect Mitt Romney president and get our country growing again.

George E. Koklanaris, Great Falls