Friday, September 30, 2011

Voter Turnout and Presidential Debates

In 2004 Curtis Gans predicted a high level of voter turnout based on the great interest in the debates.  He also noted that the increased population would increase the potential turnout.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Latino Voter Turnout

Latino voter turnout tends to be increased when a Latino is the candidate, such as was the prediction of Arturo Vargas for the 2006 midterm election in New Jersey.  He notes other instances as well in which increased voter turnout could make key impacts for that election.

Democratic National Committee Seeks New Voters

The Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine worked in 2010 to improve voter turnout in a key demographic – first time voters.  He acknowledges that turnout will certainly not be as impressive as in a presidential election, but notes that just an additional ten percent of first time voters could help Democratic candidates throughout the country for the midterm elections. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mitt Romney’s Wealth as a Liability

As a major contender in the GOP primary, Mitt Romney must be careful to limit his potential liabilities as a politician.  Governor Rick Perry is proving to be a staunch rival at this point in the race, so Romney is beginning to make various strategic moves to reassert his position as frontrunner.  He is, for instance, taking advantage of Perry’s stance on Social Security; the view that each state should run its own program is proving unpopular, and Perry has therefore left himself vulnerable to attacks by his rival.  Romney has also begun to employ a defensive maneuver:  he is trying to become, that is, an average Joe.

Romney has identified that, perhaps, owning a number of multi-million-dollar properties may cause a few problems in terms of relating to the lower and middle classes, especially in the harsh economic climate.  The natural inclination for any political consultant would therefore be to limit any appearance of superiority in order to make the candidate more likeable to the constituents.  The most recent trend, as described the New York Times article, “Adventures of a Common Man…Mitt Romney?” has the candidate posing for photo ops doing normal things. 

Not only is Romney eating all sorts of middle class luxuries like pork on a stick and Subway sandwiches, but he is also going out of his way to purchase economy class tickets from the inexpensive Southwest Airlines.  He is maintaining a level of – well-publicized – frugality in his campaign spending, a practice that he claims carries over into his private life.  The candidate is hoping to appear at once modest and thrifty.

Publicizing so heavily the normality of his campaign life could end up backfiring for the candidate.  In other words, making mundane events such as a meal at a fast food restaurant into a photo op is so blatantly obvious that he could become a caricature.  The comedy of the situation it well outlined in a site called Mitt’s List, where the candidate’s common man shenanigans are logged with a humorous spin.  A picture depicting Romney’s preference for the economical Southwest Airlines is described in the site, only with the sarcastic caption, “Bags fly free…Golf bags fly free too.”  Another photograph, taken with Bill O’Reilly and two staff members at Fenway Park in Boston, seems suspiciously staged – the entire row below the candidate is conveniently cleared out.

Nevertheless, Romney’s wealth could end up being less of a problem than anticipated.  His experience with business and money management could be seen as a positive attribute, a reason for the electorate to trust him to help bring the country out of harsh economic times.  The question remains if his “common man” campaign is necessary, or even counterproductive.  In all likelihood, the photo ops will serve little more than fodder for satire.  Before the end of the GOP primary race, more serious issues will certainly arise.    

Saturday, September 24, 2011

President Obama, Back in Campaign Mode

Although President Obama will be securing the Democratic nomination for the 2012 presidential campaign, he is slowly putting more emphasis on acting like a pure Democrat, as opposed to a bipartisan facilitator.  Quite often during primary races do candidates tend to the extremities of their respective parties, as can be readily observed by watching the GOP presidential debates.  Yet it appears that this phenomenon occurs even when the primary race has no competition.  The perfect example of this is the current Democratic primary “race,” during which the president is making his liberal tendencies very clear to his support base.

As outlined in Dan Balz’ article for the Washington Post, “Obama turns fire on Republicans," the president is changing his approach to various issues in an effort to appeal to the Democratic voters who would reelect him.  No longer is he willing to concede as frequently to Republican wishes as before.  Instead of striving for a consensus – which at times afforded the president grief from his own party for giving in too easily – he is now “drawing lines in the sand” to make it absolutely clear where his allegiance lies.  In short, his political moves are being made now for the purposes of reelection. 

President Obama’s push for taxing the wealthiest Americans is perhaps one of the most manifest examples of his effort to appease Democratic voters.  The outrage of many Republicans, who claim the idea is merely class warfare, makes the political distinction necessary to properly label the Obama Campaign a partisan enterprise.  That is, he is giving the electorate a tangible example of why he can be trusted to uphold  the Democratic platform should he be elected once again.

Another important distinction made in the last few days is the president’s view on Medicare (link).  Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed the need to revamp the program to make it more economical and sustainable. However, the president was sure to articulate his intention to prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of citizens by avoiding the possibility of the program becoming a “voucher plan.”  This distinction is unlikely to be maintained since it is a relatively complex issue that is subject to political rhetoric geared toward confusing the electorate.

And finally, an issue that has caused President Obama much grief recently – the Palestinian application for statehood – can be viewed through the prism of a primary/general election campaign.  Although the president initially pushed Israel to accept the borders that were in place pre-1967, a political decision that aggravated the Jewish electorate in the United States, he has now taken the stance that the United States should veto the Palestinian’s bid for statehood.  One can easily make the argument that one of the president’s intentions is to once again acquire the support of Jewish voters.  The effort, though, may simply result in a loss of support from voters who subscribe to both sides of the argument.

Special Interests in Campaign Finance

President Obama discusses campaign finance in a weekly address, during which he claims ultimately that "sunlight is the best disinfectant" in terms of potential corruption in campaigns.  He warns that it may give certain organizations more influence in government than citizens.

The Outdated Public Financing System

Meredith McGehee describes the current drawbacks of public financing in presidential campaigns, including the limitation of funding for each state.  She claims that the system should be updated.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Presidential Campaign Finance in 2008

Bara Vaida discusses the different tactics employed by the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns in 2008 regarding campaign finance.  In particular, Ms. Vaida discusses the issue of the public campaign finance option.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Political Ramifications of Taking on Social Security

Being the front-runner in a primary election has its drawbacks. Since the only possible direction is down, candidates like Texas Governor Rick Perry must be especially careful to fall in line with the majority on controversial topics, or else face the consequences illustrated so dauntingly by opinion polls. The ongoing Social Security debate can be seen as one such topic. Despite Perry’s strong opinions on the subject, the attacks by fellow GOP presidential candidates have quickly given him something that he is not necessarily accustomed to: bad press.

In the Washington Post article “Mitt Romney campaign seizes on Rick Perry’s Social Security comments after debate,” Philip Rucker introduces the differing political strategies embedded in the approaches to the topic of both the Romney and Perry campaigns. He describes the political tactics of the two campaigns as risk assessments: Perry on the one hand is hoping that the strong rhetoric against Social Security will serve to propel him to the nomination amid the harsh economic environment, and Romney on the other hand is taking the stance that such an argument would render his rival “unelectable.”

Regardless of Governor Perry’s reason for speaking out so harshly against the Social Security program, it is clear that the framing of his argument is leaving him wide open to attacks by other GOP candidates. To say that the program is “a Ponzi scheme” – as Perry has been quoted as saying, and as Romney alludes to in the following clip – is an inflammatory remark. The truth of the statement is politically irrelevant, depending on how pessimistic one’s view of politics is. In other words, one could contend that Perry’s stance on Social Security is damaging enough to rob him of any chance he has at making any improvements to the system in the first place.

Mitt Romney, for sure, takes the safe route, vowing in a bit of framing genius to “save Social Security,” to restore the pocketbooks of all of the individuals who depend on the program for survival. Philip Rucker notes, however, the interesting similarities between Romney’s position on the issue and that of the front-runner, Perry: “Perry and Romney both say they would continue existing benefits for seniors but acknowledge that Social Security is unsustainable and say it needs to be reformed for future generations.” Suddenly, it seems that Perry’s intentions are almost identical to those of his rival. Each candidate not only agrees that the program must be reformed, but also that seniors should certainly not be left to survive without their much needed benefits.

Yet the fact remains that Perry has been quoted, on the record, as saying that Social Security should be likened to a criminal Ponzi scheme, and that it should not be a federal program. It takes little creativity for an opponent to oversimplify his views and claim that he wants ultimately to destroy the social safety net of the United States. However false that statement might be, it could easily change the way citizens view the current front-runner. This swaying of public opinion could likely give Romney the upper hand when it comes time to vote in the primary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GOP Candidates Play King of the Hill during Monday Debate

The sudden emergence of Texas Governor Rick Perry as the GOP front-runner is likely the reason that Monday’s presidential debate focused more on inter-party politics than in previous debates. As reported by various news sources this week, candidates took great interest in challenging the political record and positions of Perry, instead of merely contrasting their own positions with those of President Obama, who is certainly not a barrier to securing the Republican presidential nomination.

Former front-runner Mitt Romney took the lead in the inquisition, likely because he has the most to gain should Perry drop in the opinion polls. Romney questioned Perry directly regarding his stance on Social Security, asking if he believed that the program should be dismantled and given to the states to handle. Perry’s reply indicated that Social Security has many problems that need to be fixed, but that, as quoted on CNBC’s website, “We’re not going to take that program away. Rather than trying to scare seniors, like you’re doing and other people, it’s time to have a legitimate conversation about how to fix that program so it’s not bankrupt.” Romney responded to a statement made the previous week by Perry, when he claimed that Social Security was a mere Ponzi scheme, stating that the term was “unnecessary and frightful to many people.”

Both Representatives Michele Bachman and Ron Paul made similar attacks during the debate. Referring to an executive order given by Governor Perry requiring that young girls be vaccinated for a sexually-transmitted, cancer-causing virus, Bachman accused him of backing the drug company that manufactures the vaccine, Merck. Moreover, Paul questioned whether Governor Perry truly deserves credit for the economic success of Texas.

The supposedly harsh treatment of Perry can potentially be explained in two ways. First, since the candidate has only recently entered the primary race, he has benefitted from a great deal of mostly positive press. This first view is articulated by GOP candidate Rick Santorum, as described in an article by Fox News, where he is quoted as saying that “this is the first time in a month he’s had to answer for some of the policy questions,” and “he’s gotten a free ride for a month from the media.” The second explanation is that all of the candidates are implicitly agreeing to a strategy based, quite simply, on the child’s game king of the hill. In other words, it is rational for Michele Bachmann to join with Mitt Romney in attacking Perry to prevent him from gaining too much momentum and leaving the other candidates in the dust. At this point in the contest, it is simply a game of common interest.

As with most political discussions, the real explanation lays somewhere in between the two options, or even a combination thereof. Certain individuals tend to secure better press coverage than others, and this is likely a point of contention for those who do not benefit; the natural desire, therefore, would be to hold competitors equally accountable for their actions and words. And, since only one candidate can – under normal circumstances – be king of the hill, then the others must focus their attention on that person and hope to be the one to take his or her spot.

We shall see who will be defending that spot when the next GOP primary debate airs on September 22nd.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Differing Perspectives on the Electoral College

Two representatives from not-for-profit organizations, Rob Richie and John Samples, answer caller questions regarding the electoral college. They both tackle the issue of proportionality of votes as it pertains to the electoral college.

Open Phones Discussing the GOP Presidential Nomination

A caller from Michigan introduces an interesting topic - who is allowed to participate in the primary debates. The caller expresses dissatisfaction that former congressman Buddy Roemer did not debate.

GOP Primary Candidate Rep. Thaddeus McCotter Discusses the Wall Street Bailout

Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan), a long-shot presidential candidate, explains his opinions regarding the Wall Street Bailout in contrast to those of former President George W. Bush and fellow GOP primary candidate Mitt Romney.