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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

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You are currently viewing all posts written by David Domke. David Domke is a former journalist with The Orange County Register and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is now a Professor and Chair in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. He is the author of two books, including (with Kevin Coe) The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon in America (updated edition 2010). In 2006 he was named the Washington state Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

December 31, 2012 at 7:00 AM

It’s been epic, see you in 2016

We have filed more than 400 posts on U.S. presidential, state, and local politics over the past 12 months. It’s been an incredible experience as journalists, educators, and citizens. We’re now going to take a break, but we’ll be back in four years for the next presidential rodeo.

On the final day of the South Carolina Republican Party presidential primary, January 21, 2012, Newt Gingrich made several campaign stops — including at this iconic Southern eatery. Photo by David Domke/UW Election Eye.

Nearly one year ago, on Jan. 14, I boarded an airplane with three University of Washington students and headed across the country. Our mission was epic: to spend a week on the ground reporting on the South Carolina 2012 Republican Party presidential primary. It was our first gig for UW Election Eye, a new blog partnership of the UW’s Department of Communication and The Seattle Times.

One week later I had a pretty good idea who was going to win the 2012 presidential election. Arizona congressional representative Trent Franks told me so.

Franks, one of the nation’s most conservative congressional members and a favorite of the tea party movement, was standing by Newt Gingrich’s bus as Gingrich spoke to supporters in his last stop of the state’s primary. A few hours later Gingrich would win his first statewide race in his life — a double-digit victory over Mitt Romney that upended the Republican primary for a time.

Franks was one of the few members of Congress to endorse Gingrich. A former speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich does not have many friends in high political places these days. But Franks is one of them, and he was traveling with Gingrich on the campaign trail.

I spoke with Franks for 10 minutes while Gingrich held court inside a restaurant. Franks told me why he supported Gingrich and why Barack Obama had to be defeated. I thanked him for talking with me and turned to walk away.

That’s when Franks surprised me.

He took hold of my arm and said, “Hold on, I’ve got one more thing to say.” I was listening. He stretched out his index finger and said “The 1 percent. We hear a lot about the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Mitt Romney is a caricature of the 1 percent — rich, out of touch, doesn’t understand most of America. If Republicans nominate Romney in the midst of this terrible economic time, we’re going to lose. That’s why I’m here. We will lose if we pick Romney.”

That’s when I knew: If a diehard conservative, a red-blooded Republican who would do anything to get rid of Obama, thought Romney couldn’t win, then Romney almost certainly wouldn’t win.

That moment is one I’ll not forget. It was one of the hundreds of up-close-and-personal experiences, all over America, that defined UW Election Eye.


Comments | More in Local, National, State | Topics: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, The Seattle Times

October 3, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Why the presidential debates will either upend or end the 2012 race for the White House

Presidential debates are spectacles, watched by millions of U.S. voters. This evening we kick off a three-week run that includes three presidential debates and one vice-presidential one. Tonight we’ll be live-chatting the debate along with Times reporter Jim Brunner. Here’s a primer on why we’ve just arrived at The Biggest Moment of the Campaign.

For the past couple weeks I have read countless pieces by pundits, strategists, and analysts insisting that presidential debates don’t matter, and the debates are meaningless rituals. They point to the polls this year, which have hardly budged — as the realclearpolitics average of polls shows. average of all national polls on the presidential race, January 1, 2012, to October 2, 2012.

So, the conventional wisdom is that the debates won’t matter.

I don’t buy it.

Here’s my view: The first presidential debate — scheduled for 6 pm Pacific time tonight — will be the moment that turns the 2012 presidential election upside down, with Mitt Romney suddenly asserting himself as the dominant candidate. Or, alternatively, the debate this evening will be the moment that Barack Obama clinches a second term in the White House.

It will be definitively one or the other. By 9 am Thursday morning the race for the White House will be a brand new one, or it will be over. Tonight will matter.

I offer five reasons, after the jump.


Comments | More in National | Topics: John Kerry, mccain, obama

September 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Presidential ads are everywhere — if you’re in a battleground state

Presidential advertising is off the charts this election, but we wouldn’t know it because Washington is not a battleground state. Here’s a glimpse of what we’re missing.

In 2008, I traveled to Iowa right about this point in the presidential campaign.

Washington Post compilation of total presidential ads run in battleground presidential states, April 10 to September 12, 2008 and 2012.

Iowa was a hotly contested state, eventually won by Barack Obama, 54%-44%, over John McCain. When I turned on the television my first evening in Iowa, I was immediately run over by ad after ad after ad after ad.

It was nonstop.

And there are even more this year.


Comments | More in National | Topics: battleground states, presidential advertising

August 24, 2012 at 9:47 AM

With Republican convention up next, why Mitt Romney is losing when he should be winning

By all traditional measures of a presidential campaign, Mitt Romney should be crushing Barack Obama. But he’s not. Why? The numbers tell the story.

The economy has been stagnant, unemployment is at 8.3%, and the approval ratings of Barack Obama are in the mid to upper-40s. This presidential campaign should not be close. But it is.

In fact,when we look at the realclearpolitics daily average of polls on the presidential race, Mitt Romney has almost never led over the past 18 months. The lines of Obama and Romney support go up and down, sometimes almost crossing. But Obama has been on top consistently for many months.

And this morning, New York Times reporter John Harwood noted that the Romney camp acknowledges they are slightly trailing as we head into the party nominating conventions.

How can that possibly be? A USAToday/Gallup poll out this morning provides a pretty clear answer.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Barack Obama, Gallup, likeability

August 20, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Insights from Mormon history on why Mitt Romney won’t publicly talk about his faith

Mitt Romney can trace his membership in the Mormon Church back to its founders. Yet he is tight-lipped — to an unprecedented degree among recent presidential candidates — about his faith. Will this change at the Republican National Convention in Tampa?

NAUVOO, Ill. — Mitt Romney is Mormon. Most Americans know this, polls tell us.

Nauvoo Mormon Temple, photographed on May 24, 2012 and dedicated in 2002 as a close facsimile of one built in the 1840s. Mitt Romney’s family traces its American history to Nauvoo and the temple.  (Photo by Lucas Anderson/UW Election Eye)

But voters haven’t heard it from Romney, who almost never talks publicly about his religious beliefs and who for the first time yesterday — after more than five years of running for the White House — invited the press to share his church-going experience.

To understand Romney’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell religious policy, I came to this town on the Mississippi River in western Illinois. All roads — personal, theological, political — collide here for the presidential candidate, who will deliver the most important speech of his political life next week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

In 1841, Romney’s great-great grandparents Miles and Elizabeth Romney arrived in Nauvoo from Lancashire, England. The Romneys were among the first English converts to a distinctly American religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Joseph Smith founded this faith, also known as Mormonism, when he claimed to receive visions from God in the 1820s in upstate New York. Smith and his followers traveled to the Midwest to settle, eventually landing in Jackson County in western Missouri, where they hoped to create Zion, a New Jerusalem. The Saints sought to deeply integrate religious beliefs, economics, and politics, and their close-knit, outspoken ways were not well received.

The locals were so hostile that in 1838 Missouri’s governor issued an Extermination Order, which made it legal to kill or expel Mormons, a law that stayed on the books until 1976. Running for their lives, literally, Smith and followers crossed into Illinois, where they settled in Nauvoo in 1841. There they grew, with European converts like the Romneys arriving.

And then things really got bad.


Comments | More in Culture, National | Topics: Carthage, Joseph Smith, Latter Day Saints

July 19, 2012 at 6:45 AM

A presidential campaign that doesn’t need polls

Screen snapshot of the database of polls on the presidential campaign, from December 1, 2011 through July 8, 2012.

Been watching the presidential campaign?

Seen all those attack ads and seeming verbal gaffes and millions of Super PAC dollars? Ignore it. None of it seems to matter so far. This is the most stable presidential campaign I have seen since 1996, when Bill Clinton led Bob Dole by just about 10 points the whole way.

Public opinion regarding Barack Obama and Mitt Romney refuses to budge.

Any single poll might suggest a wider gap or a marriage gap or a move one way or another, but when we look at a “poll of polls” — essentially an average of all polls — we are almost exactly where we started.

12/1/2011 polling averages: Obama +2.3% over Romney

7/19/2012, polling averages: Obama +2.1% over Romney

So what gives? Why does nothing seem to give?

Three thoughts, after the fold.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Bain, Economy, Latino

July 6, 2012 at 7:11 AM

Stumbles by Romney feel like South Carolina

Mitt Romney is in political trouble. He has allowed Mitt Romney to become the story. Again.

Screen snapshot of the RealClearPolitics database of polls on the presidential campaign, from January 31 through July 4, 2012.

Barack Obama has middling public approval ratings and the economy continues to struggle. His signature act as president, an expansive health care law, survived by one vote on the Supreme Court last week and is opposed by about half of Americans.

By all rights, he should be behind by 10 points in the polls. But he’s not.

Consensus among pollsters shows Obama ahead of Romney by about 3 points. And he’s on a bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania yesterday and today touting his policies and blasting Romney. He’s got the momentum it seems.

The last four weeks tell us why.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Barack Obama, immigration, Mitt Romney

July 3, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Lives, Honor, and Words From Gettysburg Echo in 2012

The First Minnesota Infantry Monument, dedicated in 1893, honors a unit that surged forward at great personal toll to stop Confederate troops on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. I visited the battlefield on April 15, 2012. (Photo by Elizabeth Wiley/UW Election Eye)

GETTYSBURG, Penn. — I’ve wanted to come here for years.

I have read a number of books about the epic Civil War battle on these rolling fields in southern Pennsylvania. I have watched movies. I have listened to historians talk about the soldiers and their lives. For me, coming to Gettysburg was more than a visit: it was a pilgrimage.

Still, I was unprepared.

I was not ready for the knee-buckling sense of history that I felt atop Seminary Ridge, where Robert E. Lee and his Army of the Northern Virginia made headquarters. I was not ready for the awe I felt standing in the footsteps of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain—a college professor who led the 20th Maine Regiment as it held the left end of the Union line on Little Round Top. I was not ready for the intense sense of history that hangs over the rock wall that marks the high water mark of Pickett’s Charge on the final day, July 3, 1863—exactly 149 years ago today.

This is sacred ground.

Everywhere are monuments and markers: more than 850 on the battlefield. They invoke those who can no longer speak. As a people, we create monuments so that we might never forget the past.

Unfortunately, I think we have forgotten too much of what happened here—on the battlefield and in the words of Abraham Lincoln afterward.


Comments | More in National | Topics: Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, Gettysburg

June 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Will conservatives come after John Roberts? UPDATED

Update at 1:01 pm And Brent Bozell, conservative firebrand, goes after John Roberts here. Money quote: “People are already talking about the idea that he could be replaced as Chief  Justice.” ———– Original post Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stunned many people today–including me–by siding with liberals to uphold the individual mandate in the Obama administration’s health…


Comments | More in Culture | Topics: health care, John Roberts, Mitt Romney

June 27, 2012 at 6:45 AM

On eve of Supreme Court ruling, political toll of health care remains

Stupak is Whacked

A protestor at the Washington state capitol makes known her view of then-Michigan congressional representative Bart Stupak. At a rally in Olympia on January 22, 2010 (photo courtesy of Flickr member Berd).

BOYNE CITY, Mich. — Three years of political war–a word that unfortunately seems to apply–will culminate tomorrow when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health care law. The political toll of this conflict on the American body politic has been high.

No one symbolizes this carnage more than Bart Stupak.

Stupak is the former representative of the first Congressional District in Michigan. In 2010, after passage of the Obama legislation, he decided that he’d had enough.

The beginning of the end came when Stupak, a Democrat, angered some liberals by joining with a handful of his party colleagues to initially withhold support for Obama’s health care plan because of concerns about abortion funding. In his words at the time, “We are not voting for health care if we do not resolve this language on public funding for abortion–no public funding for abortion.”

And it ended when he angered some conservatives because he and his allies eventually voted yes after a compromise–known as the Stupak Amendment–was brokered. Immediately he was harassed and had his life threatened. He was called “baby killer” by a Republican on the floor of the House of Representatives. A month later he announced he would not run for re-election.

I wanted to know what people thought of him these days, whether emotions were still raw. I found some former constituents miss him.


Comments | More in National | Topics: abortion, Bart Stupak, Dan Benishek

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