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 18, 2012 at 7:10 AM
With the cost of higher education rising along with the level of student debt upon graduation, politicians at the national and state level need to address the issue frankly and provide real solutions.
SEATTLE — As a master’s student at the University of Washington with a small mountain of student loans, I find myself paying even closer attention to the 2012 election. And I don’t just mean listening to Mittens and BO (an unfortunate combination of nicknames if I’ve ever seen one). I think the Washington State governor’s race is just as important.
I have been educated entirely through Washington State public schools, from kindergarten through my last quarter of graduate school (not counting one year in pre-kindergarten lest some fact checker start digging). First of all, let me say thanks to anyone who has made a purchase in state for the financial support. Secondly, I need to come out of the closet, as a current Husky who did her undergrad at Washington State University.
We all know that tuition rates have shot up at colleges around the state (and country) in the past few years. But let me just put it in perspective. My final year of undergraduate study at WSU, the tuition cost $5,812, a 7% increase from the previous year. This past May, five years later, WSU approved a tuition rate of $10,874 for 2012-2013, a 16% increase from the previous year.
That’s 87% more than my final year of undergraduate. In five years.
Similar raises were made at other state universities and the proposal has been made to de-fund the University of Washington. Higher education in Washington State has been dramatically impacted by the recession over the past four years. Yesterday WSU President Floyd proposed tying the school’s tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index, so that the cost would rise with inflation.
Add to that the issue of student debt. As of 2010, the average graduate in Washington has a student debt load of over $22,000. This year total student loan debt passed credit card debt in the U.S. and has topped $1 trillion (an amount Austin Powers didn’t even use in 1999).
American Student Assistance reports that “as of the first Quarter of 2012, the under 30 age group has the most borrowers at 14 million, followed by 10.6 million for the 30-39 group, 5.7 million in the 40-49 category, 4.6 million in the 50-59 age group and the over 60 category with the least number of borrowers at 2.2 million for an overall total of 37.1 million.”
Of the 37 million student loan borrowers, around 5.9 million have fallen at least 12 months behind on payments. Combine that with high interest rates for those who default and no federal statute of limitations on collections, and it seems to me a recipe for disaster.
Maybe you think I’m overreacting. But I think the number 1,000,000,000,000 says otherwise.
Budget shortfalls and cuts today are something the younger generations are going to pay for for decades to come. Add to that higher than average unemployment rates for recent graduates, higher numbers than ever moving back in with parents, and issues with programs like Social Security and Medicare, and I think we have a recipe for disaster.
I know I sound alarmist – I swear that’s not my default setting – but this issue should be leading discussions during this election season. (Along with the environment, health care, jobs, etc., etc. Okay,we have a few issues.)
I’ve been thankful to see it as a such a focus in the Washington governor’s race, but I’d like to see it more in the national conversation. Mitt Romney promising one student a job after graduation, which he did in Tuesday’s presidential debate, isn’t enough.
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.
October 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM
The fear of gun violence is an ever-present reality to parents, kids, teachers, neighbors, passers-by in America. But our politicians are not discussing it in any serious manner – even during the presidential campaign. It is time to change that.
SHORELINE — Last May, when I had just finished a meeting at work, I received a text message from a friend saying that there had been a shooting in Shoreline the previous evening, and two youths had been shot. One of them, a 17 year old girl, had died.
She was a student in my daughter’s high school at Shorecrest.
The shooting had taken place on the same street on which my daughter’s Metro bus travels from school to home every day. At that moment the police had no suspect or motive – it looked like a random act of violence.
I was petrified.
I texted my daughter, “DO NOT TAKE THE BUS” home after school, and that I would pick her up. I left work early with an uneasy feeling in my stomach: something terrible had just happened and my life was directly affected by it. I could not control the events in my neighborhood, and I could not protect my daughter from the reality of gun violence and death.
October 11, 2012 at 6:00 PM
If you’d like to join our Twitter feed, use #electioneye. Here’s to an interesting conversation!
October 10, 2012 at 6:30 AM
In the debate on the Obama administration’s health care policy, the term “socialized medicine” surfaces often, with fingers pointed to Canada. A Canadian national living in Seattle weighs in on her health care experiences, both in Canada and the United States.
SEATTLE – What’s in a word?
When it comes to describing President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, much is suggested by conservative use of the term “ObamaCare.” Even a newly-arrived visitor to this country would find the controversy obvious. As a Canadian living in the U.S. now for many years, I have always found American attitudes toward healthcare perplexing. My career has focused on healthcare systems in both countries, so I find the phenomenon of American hostility to “socialized medicine” even less understandable.
Have I been everlastingly grateful to flee the purported queues in the land of my birth and avail myself of the high-tech healthcare available in the U.S.?
Not so much.
October 8, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Minority voters play crucial role
Early estimates indicated that President Barack Obama will need 80% of the minority vote and 40% of the white vote to win the 2012 election. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, needs an estimated 61% of white voters with a 74% turnout of this demographic. If Obama receives more than 80% of the minority vote and their turnout is higher than expected, he will need even less of the white vote to win.
Check out an interactive map by the Center for American Progress to see the state-by-state impact of the minority vote.
According to a Latino Decisions tracking poll released this morning, 72% of Latino voters support Obama, which is slightly higher than the 67% who supported him in 2008. In 2008, Obama took 91% of the black vote.
Voting turnout is pivotal for either candidate to have a chance to win these margins. While minority populations are growing, a smaller percentage of them are eligible to vote than whites. For every 100 Hispanic residents, the fastest growing population in the U.S., only 44 are eligible to vote. Additionally, Hispanics had significantly lower turnout than whites or blacks in 2008, 50% to 66% and 65%, respectively.
Who gets to vote is also a big factor in turnout. With the 6th Circuit Court of appeals reinstating Ohio’s early voting Friday, October 5, the Obama campaign claimed a small victory. The Justice Department, the ACLU, and the Brennan Center for Justice have been successful in all of their challenges to voter restriction this year.
‘Tis the season…to debate
With the first presidential debate and a Washington state governor’s face-off last week on Wednesday, October 3, many national and state-wide races are heating up with more head-to-head meetings in the coming weeks.
In Washington state, gubernatorial candidates Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee will face off two more times. First on October 11 at 9 p.m., a debate that will be simulcast on KING, KOMO, KIRO, KCPQ, and NWCN. The second meeting will be hosted by KING 5 and the Seattle Times on October 16 at 8 p.m.
There will be two more presidential meetings, as well as a debate between the vice presidential candidates. On October 11, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will meet in Kentucky to discuss domestic and foreign policy issues. Obama and Romney will meet two more times, on October 16 and October 22. The first debate will be a town meeting format, while the second will focus on foreign policy.
Gallup polling information released this morning shows that Romney’s victory over Obama in the first debate was considered by voters to be the most decisive debate victory in presidential history. Last night at a fundraiser in Hollywood, Obama made fun ofhis performance. Expect the Obama campaign to come more prepared to the VP and next two presidential moments.
WA Referendum 74 gets support from unexpected voices
On October 4th, the president of Seattle Prep, a Seattle Jesuit high school, shared his reasons for supporting Referendum 74 on his blog. Kent Hickey cited his conservative beliefs as the main reason for supporting the law — which he said is often seen as a liberal viewpoint — as well as adding reasoning based on his faith as well.
Local hip-hop artist Macklemore added his voice to support the referendum. This week, the artist, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, released an official for the song Same Love, which tells the story of a gay man and his lifelong love. The video has gone viral, racking up almost 2.5 million views in less than a week.