National election news covered through the eyes of UW students and faculty.
November 4, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Young voters are more engaged with the election than ever before, thanks to social media. But are today’s conversations as deep as they were in the past?
Seattle — You’ve heard the trends. College students who didn’t even have time to tune in to any of the three presidential debates know that their friends are talking politics when the subjects of Big Bird or binder — particularly those full of women — come up. It’s the product of the social-media engine, where a South Korean pop star can go viral in the United States and an “Ask Me Anything” open forum by the president causes Reddit participants to chant, in the form of internet comments, “One of us! One of us!”
November 3, 2012 at 7:00 PM
As election day looms, “zinger” retweets and reblogs catapult political memes into the public eye.
SEATTLE — Internet meme (n.): “a catchy phrase or idea associated with an image, which often becomes viral online.”
During the presidential debates, my Twitter feed was aflutter with homemade memes and my Tumblr flooded with political commentary in that oh-so familiar form of white blocky text over photos.
The first memes I remember seeing were of the “I can haz” variety, but plenty has changed in the past few years, and now this internet art form has become a key part of the 2012 presidential election.
This became especially apparent during the months leading up to the first of the 2012 presidential debates. As October neared, Internet users of all ages were churning out Obama and Romney memes at full-speed.
November 2, 2012 at 8:00 AM
What can Virginia tell us about the presidential race? Seattle transplant and UW student Lisa Strube-Kilgore reflects on life in a purple state.
SEATTLE — All the polls seem to agree: Virginia’s looking pretty purple these days. Historically, Virginia was considered a democratic stronghold, but it’s also a deeply conservative state socially. Virginia’s 13 electoral votes went to President Obama in 2008, but this year could see a reversal as polls there seem to show the state as a toss-up.
The idea of living in a battleground state can be pretty foreign to us here in true blue Washington, where it can feel like you’re more likely to run across a unicorn than a swing voter. Even the idea of undecided voters seems to baffle us, but as a native Virginian, they’re no mystery to me. I know them. They’re my friends and family, my old neighbors and classmates, and right now, they’re the people every pollster and political aficionado wants to talk to. The outcome of this election, as pundits and analysts keep telling us, is very likely in their hands. Everyone wants to know how Virginians (and voters in states like it) are going to vote on November 6. Well, if you ask me, if you really want a good idea of what’s happening in Virginia, you need to head to Lynchburg. (more…)
November 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM
The Romney-Ryan campaign suffered a blow today over allegations of another staged photo op, its second in three weeks in the crucial swing state of Ohio.
Buzzfeed quotes an anonymous staffer as saying the Romney campaign purchased $5,000 worth of merchandise at an area Wal-Mart to serve as props in a hastily-planned “Relief Rally.” The original plan was to change a previously-planned “Victory Rally” into a “Relief Rally” to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. However, the campaign faced a challenge in pulling off the switch in short notice and instead relied on prop donations paid for by the campaign itself. Buzzfeed writes:
But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal-Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it “did donate supplies to the relief effort,” but would not specify how much it spent.)
Opinions differed on the event. The Wall Street Journal covered the same rally, but did not mention the alleged purchase and instead quoted Romney complimenting the “American spirit” of the attendees.
If true, the revelation would be another black eye for the Republican Presidential ticket and comes on the heel of another widely-panned faux photo op. in Mid-October, Ryan reportedly washed pots that had already been cleaned at a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio. The Washington Post quoted the charity’s president as saying Ryan “did nothing” in the soup kitchen and had arrived well after the needy had been fed.
Ohio is a hotly-contested battleground state in this year’s presidential election. A CBS News/New York Times poll released on Halloween day showed incumbent Barack Obama with a 50-45 lead, while Romney was seen to be closing the gap in fellow swing states Virginia and Florida.
October 24, 2012 at 6:55 AM
The presidential campaign is at its last sprint: two more weeks left to go. The debates are done, the race is nearly even, and the candidates are making their final push to get out the vote and to convince those last few “undecideds” to vote for them. What do the candidates want to tell the voters immediately after the last debate? Below are two very recent ads that both campaigns have released in swing states.
Barack Obama is hopeful and forward-looking: give me your vote and we will continue moving the country forward. He also wants us to look at his plan once more.
Mitt Romney is at first negative: “Most people believe we’re heading in the wrong direction.” He paints a dark image of the future — unless we choose him. Only he can “find a way”.
Romney: Find a Way
The challenge for Romney in convincing voters that we are headed in the wrong direction is that signs of recovery are showing up around us: our unemployed neighbor has found a job, for-sale signs are disappearing, and people are shopping again. Nationally, housing starts are gaining steam.
But Romney has closed the gap with Obama with the first presidential debate, and the growing recovery might come just a bit too late for the president.
October 22, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Monday Eye Openers: Obama Blitzing Swing States, Third Party Debate, George McGovern Dies, and Washington Governor’s Race Intensifies
Each Monday we feature several important stories in US politics — ones that just occurred, are defining moments, or are key markers on the horizon. We call these Monday Eye Openers.
Obama Hit Swing States Hard
With most polls showing the candidates running neck and neck, President Obama has a two-day campaign blitz planned next week.
Starting with Iowa on Wednesday, the President will spend two days visiting six swing states, ending with fiercely-contested Ohio. Rather than spending nights in hotels, Mr. Obama will camp on Airforce One and make use of travel time to call undecided voters.
Most news stories regale us with breathless updates on the cliffhanger race between Mitt Romney and President Obama, but perhaps we should be keeping an eye on those “other” candidates.
Two-time New Mexico Governor and former Republican Gary Johnson, now the Libertarian candidate for president, may attract fiscally conservative but socially progressive voters and is thought to have the most potential for disruption in Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Although grudging Romney voters may find him an attractive option, historically third party candidates do not live up to polling expectations.
He’s not the only alternative for voters not seeing their dream candidate in the Obama/Romney contest.
The Green Party is sponsoring Dr. Jill Stein, a physician and former Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate. The Justice Party is represented by Rocky Anderson, a two-term former mayor of Salt Lake City, and the Constitution Party is standing Virgil Goode, former member of the House of Representatives and a politician who has pursued office as an independent, a Democrat, and a Republican.
Intrigued – or perhaps just ready for a change from the intense back and forth of the Obama/Romney race? The third-party debate sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation and moderated by Larry King this Tuesday may prove diversionary.
Debate viewers can relay questions to King via Twitter by using the #AskEmThisLarry hashtag.
Loss of another Political Icon: George McGovern
Former Senator George McGovern passed away in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Sunday morning. Known for his dedication to social justice and anti-poverty legislation, Mr. McGovern famously lost his bid in the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon. The rest, as they say, is history.
McGovern remained a staunch defender of the anti-war, anti-discrimination platform and a defender of the environment and the middle class.
“We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak,” Mr. McGovern once wrote. “Our party believes that poor children should be as well educated as those from wealthy families. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and that everyone should have access to health care.”
Here in Washington State We Have Our Own Cliffhanger
The Washington State gubernatorial race between Democrat and former congressman Jay Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna has been touted on of “four governor races to watch.” Inslee’s slender 2-point lead puts him in a statistical dead heat with McKenna. At $12 million in campaign funds raised to date, McKenna has a financial advantage over Inslee, whose campaign fund tops off at $10.5 million.
While far apart on some issues, our state gubernatorial candidates have both painted themselves as pro-education and in favor of business tax cuts. On the issue of same-sex marriage, the candidates fall along party lines, with Inslee supporting Referendum 74 and McKenna opposing. Likewise, Inslee voted for the Affordable Care Act as a congressman, while McKenna participated in a multi-state attorneys general lawsuit to overturn it.
It promises to be an interesting week.
October 19, 2012 at 12:11 PM
SEATTLE — President Barack Obama’s account popularized a new Twitter hashtag, #Romnesia, and tweeted six #Romnesia tweets in quick succession today, catching the social media world by storm and becoming a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. The first tweet came through at 12:39 p.m. EDT, calling out his presidential rival for switching positions on important topics.
President Obama: “He’s conveniently forgetting what his own positions are … We need a name for this condition—let’s call it #Romnesia.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 19, 2012
The Obama campaign has been slick users of social media. Obama’s verified Twitter account has over 21 million followers. At the time of writing, this ranked as the sixth-most followers on Twitter behind Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Britney Spears and ahead of Taylor Swift.
Presidential candidates branding each other as hypocrites is nothing new. In one recent example, George W. Bush’s campaign successfully attached a “flip-flopper” moniker to Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
October 19, 2012 at 7:16 AM
The presidential debates have provided sound bites from President Obama and Governor Romney when they discuss women’s issues. But what do the candidates’ official websites reveal regarding what they believe on issues of equal rights, women in the workplace, or equal pay?
SEATTLE — Women make up half of the electorate and their opinions are valued because they vote in greater numbers in all presidential elections. Both candidates take opportunities on the campaign trail and in the debates to highlight their support of women and women’s issues. But when I examined the presidential candidates’ official websites I immediately noticed a tone difference.
Let’s start with Governor Romney.
The Romney website emphasizes issues such as foreign policy, the economy, and taxes (see first image below). Romney’s big economic initiative is his 5-point jobs plan – a tactical move given how the economic recovery continues to move slowly.
Now on to President Obama.
The Obama website focuses on the economy, health care, and education – and he offers specific links for women and seniors (see image below). Obama clearly wants to attract the female voter.
Upon closer inquiry of the issues on both websites, you find that women’s issues are more prominent on Obama’s site. When you click on the Women link, you are directed to a page with Lilly Ledbetter’s incredible story on top of the page, and a list of women’s issues follow, such as health insurance discrimination, birth control, protecting access to Planned Parenthood, and protecting women’s rights. The very first law President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and his campaign is proud to promote this fact.
On Romney’s site you cannot find a “women’s issues” link at all. The closest to women’s issues you can find is the “Values, marriage, family” link, which is buried under All Issues. This page explains in detail that the Romney ticket is “pro-life” and that the Romney presidency would reverse Roe v. Wade through electing Supreme Court Justices who oppose it. The page continues to explain why Romney is against stem cell research and gay marriage. There is nothing about women in the workplace, equal rights, or equal pay.
Issues that women like me are concerned about are serious issues. They are all “our” issues. Women make daily decisions regarding their families, major purchases, and health care choices. These decisions have an impact on our communities, our schools, the work place, and the economy.
When asked about equal pay at the last debate, President Obama expressed that women’s issues were family issues that impacted everyone in one way or another. Romney shared the story of how he tried to get more women into leadership positions in Massachusetts State government while Governor. (He may have taken more credit for this than was fair.) While explaining his past actions on women’s issues, Romney inadvertently created an overnight meme – Binders full of women — but in my opinion he never actually answered the question.
The bottom line for women is economic: fair pay, decent benefits, and good preventive health care enable us to be more attentive mothers, heads of household, spouses, and leaders in our communities.
October 17, 2012 at 7:10 AM
We hear so much about “the power of social media.” But just how much are we influencing others when we post or tweet to those already in our audiences?
SEATTLE – You care about the future of your country. In this closely fought election and in this polarized environment, you are enthusiastically posting every persuasive bit that floats by you in the blogosphere: re-tweeting choice commentaries, linking to op-ed pieces, and “liking” on Facebook everything that lines up with your candidate choice.
You want your voice to be heard.
The question is, are you really having an influence? Or are you just preaching to the converted? Will Uncle Jim change his vote based on your Facebook likes? Or will he softly close the door and steal back to his own choir on his Facebook page? Are we influencing each other, or emoting over candidates and causes within our own, homogeneous bubbles?
Looking back at our last presidential election, one could be lead to believe that the candidate who harnesses social media the most effectively will win. In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign harnessed the reach of social media for the first time in a presidential election and won despite the powerful campaign contributors backing John McCain. This election is happening on a rather different playing field, where social media is not as novel as it was four years ago. Polls are very close for President Obama and Governor Romney, but the statistics from Facebook cast their standings in a different light.
Obama’s Facebook page, as of this writing, shows 30,883,602 likes and 2,605,889 “talking about this.” The Romney Facebook page indicates 9,462,525 likes and 2,554,805 “talking about this.” Significant? Undoubtedly, but probably for what it says about the contrasts between the supporters of these candidates than it does about how each candidate is doing in the presidential race.
But don’t write off the power of social media just yet.
Putting aside the issues of who “likes” who and how many hash tags about certain Sesame Street characters are zipping through the Twittersphere aside, the subtle power of social media to inform those who market the candidates and how they calibrate their channels and their messages could easily be underestimated. Perhaps it should not be.
In a recent guest post on Forbes, social media consultant Stacey DeBroff writes that today’s mothers are both inveterate bloggers and consumers of social media. Unlike the “soccer moms” of an earlier time, lumped together in one demographic, today’s mothers register a range of traits and belief systems within the “mom” demographic. With 66% of women registered as voters, they comprise an “umbrella” category of voter that politicians would be wise to pursue. Social media provides one avenue.
Some discussion points in the campaign rhetoric may be universal enough to have a strong effect on this demographic. If you saw the internet traffic after Mitt Romney used the phrase “binders full of women,” you’ll have an idea of how this word choice unambiguously affected female Obama supporters.
The virality of the “Women in Binders” memes soaring through the social media space even before the latest presidential debate ended on Tuesday night shows us how one phrase can sprout legs. Within moments, images playing on Mr. Romney’s words were flitting across the screens of Obama supporters and decorating their Facebook pages. Still, it seems unlikely that this traffic had much of an impact on the Facebook pages or the votes of likely Romney supporters.
How will all of this social media action affect the 2012 election? Are we influencers – or are we cheerleaders? In a few short weeks, we’ll know.
October 15, 2012 at 7:01 AM
Monday Eye Openers: Romney and Ryan in Ohio, Obama preps for debate, Clinton hits the road, Arlen Specter dies, and WA Governor race
Each Monday we feature several important stories in US politics — ones that just occurred, are defining moments, or are key markers on the horizon. We call these Monday Eye Openers.
Romney and Ryan hammer Obama in Ohio
This weekend, Mitt Romney jump-started his campaign by skydiving from 128,000 feet above the earth’s surface. Wait, no—that was Felix Baumgartner, but Romney did try to energize his supporters in the crucial swing state of Ohio by hitting Barack Obama on China.
According to Politico, both the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate, Paul Ryan, criticized Obama’s unwillingness to brand China a “currency manipulator” in separate rallies in the swing state.
“It’s time for us to stand up to China for their cheating,” Romney told a cheering rally in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Obama focuses on debates
Meanwhile, CNN reports that President Obama spent the weekend preparing for the second presidential debate, scheduled for Tuesday. Atlanta mayor and fellow Democrat Kasim Reed said that Obama needs to “step up” his performance after some felt Romney got the better of him in their first encounter.
Reed said on NBC’s Meet The Press that Obama must “stand up and every time sharply address him.” There were plenty of sharp remarks in the Vice Presidential debates and both politicians were parodied over the weekend on Saturday Night Live’s cold open alongside surprise guest Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.
Clinton hitting campaign trail
From a fast runner to a fast talker, we move to news of Bill Clinton. We haven’t seen too much of Bubba recently, but the Democrats’ last two-term President is hitting the campaign trail hard these days. CBS News has the story, including the news that Clinton and Bruce Springsteen will pair up at a Thursday rally in Ohio. No word yet on whether Clinton will bring his saxophone.
Arlen Specter passes away
Longtime Senator Arlen Specter passed away this weekend at the age of 82. Characterized by NBC News as “a gruff, independent-minded moderate,” Specter was elected to five consecutive six-year Senate terms in Pennsylvania.
Closer to Home, the Race for Governor Heats Up
Finally, the Washington gubernatorial race continues to hum along in advance of Tuesday’s debate, scheduled to take place after the presidential debate. Jay Inslee’s campaign took a hit when the Tacoma News Tribune endorsed his rival, while the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Jim Camden gives a lighthearted take on Republican candidate Rob McKenna’s widely-syndicated Gangnam Style dance, saying it could lock up the coveted “dork vote.” McKenna will need every vote, as he’s aiming to be Washington’s first Republican governor since 1980.