By Luiza Ch. Savage - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 0 Comments
The stakes were never so high, the battle never so bitter. With America’s future in the balance, Barack Obama overcame a surprising surge from Mitt Romney to re-capture the presidency. The inside story, by Luiza Ch. Savage
As he stood in Chicago, claiming his second victory, Barack Obama had made history yet again.
He was the first president to be re-elected since Franklin Delano Roosevelt with an unemployment rate higher than 7.4 per cent. The jobless rate on Election Day, 7.9 per cent, was actually a notch higher than when he took office amidst the financial crisis and unfolding recession.
But as achievements go, it lacked the magic of 2008. And the man was different too: not the inspiring and redemptive figure—America’s first black president—he then was, but a toughened, hard-knuckled politician who had to scramble to preserve victory. In 2008, ecstatic throngs of Americans had swept him into the White House believing he was the one who would take them to a better place. In 2012, a slimmer majority kept him in office because he had convinced them his Republican rival would take them somewhere worse.
In 2008, Obama offered a broad vision of national unity and a promise of post-partisan healing that appealed to a cross-section of Americans. In 2012, his strategists cobbled together a narrow victory out of pockets of scientifically micro-targeted subgroups of voters across the swing states—women in Virginia, Latinos in Nevada and working-class whites in Ohio who liked the auto bailout. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 3:44 AM - 0 Comments
New York magazine’s Adam Pasick has put together a charming collection of electoral vote forecasts from American political notables. Because most of these people have some known prior commitment to one side or the other, the table makes for an interesting diorama of America’s political camps: the Republicans and conservatives are all over the map, with as many predicting massive triumph for Mitt Romney as there are imagining disaster, and the Democrats and liberals/leftists are united behind a party line of certain victory, though nobody thinks it will be too impressive. Most of the latter are in a band between 285 Obama electoral votes and 305—keeping in mind that the president got 365 last time out. The most pessimistic Romney backer of the bunch, who I guess would have to be Buzz Bissinger, has a higher number for Obama than any of the overt Obama voters I can identify. Granted, he’s called Buzz for a reason (and that reason is that he is approximately three-quarters crazy on a good day).
If you throw out Jim Cramer’s prediction, which he made explicitly to set himself apart from the crowd and give himself a longshot chance of looking like a lone genius 24 hours from now (good luck with that), the mean of all guesses is 274½ electoral votes for Obama. The Republicans are running about 20 below that on average, the Democrats about 20 above. It may be noteworthy that absolutely none of the Democrats and liberals is willing to place Obama as high as FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver, whose mean EV estimate for the incumbent at this hour is 315 and rising.
Screening Pasick’s “pundits” for general cool-headedness, insider knowledge, or just having strong incentives to get the call right doesn’t seem to help extract a signal from the noise. Bowtied eminence George F. Will, who is a conservative but hardly the model of a death-or-glory demagogue, submitted exactly the same numbers as Glenn Beck. Slate’s Dave Weigel, perhaps the only person on the list who has officially declared He Is Not Voting For Either Of These Bozos, is predicting a narrow 276-262 Romney win.
In lieu of a prediction, because I am short on insights into this particular election and there’s no reason you should care either way, I would offer one warning from this spring’s Alberta vote: it is dangerous to attempt to infer the true state of a political race from the last-minute behaviour of the candidates. The Progressive Conservatives, widely perceived to be behind on the final weekend, appeared to be defending what ought to have been relatively safe ridings in Calgary and the province’s northeast. Although I was cautious and emerged from the election only lightly bespattered with facial egg, watching Premier Redford move about encouraged me to think the PCs really were in serious danger.
In fact, if you think about it, the ridings—or states—where a candidate can do the most marginal good with a late appearance are not necessarily the ones closest to parity or 50-50 overall. If a candidate is blitzing a state with TV ads, that may just mean the TV audience in that state is especially promising in some respect. If a candidate is visiting in person, he may be forsaking a closer but less tractable state race for one in which a weak organization needs the personal touch, or the youth vote has an unusual quantity of undecideds, or… well, you can imagine an infinity of scenarios yourself.
It is tempting to regard late candidate activity as a form of revealed preference, a Fool Killer that smashes through verbiage to the truth. Sometimes, though, it is not telling you what you might think. In this election, a late rush by both sides toward Pennsylvania, a vote-rich state that Obama won by 10 points in 2008, has people wondering if Romney really might be ahead nationally and putting the president on the ropes. Well, for all I know he might be. But the real signal is probably simpler than that: “Hey, Pennsylvania doesn’t have early voting.“
By macleans.ca - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM - 0 Comments
While it’s no surprise that Romney’s support has taken a hit in the wake…
While it’s no surprise that Romney’s support has taken a hit in the wake of last week’s 47 per cent controversy, recent polls suggest that the Republican nominee is losing the support of American seniors—a vital base that Romney will need to win swing states like Florida in November, Reuters reports.
New polling by Reuters/Ipsos indicates that Romney’s support among Americans age 60 and older shrink from a 20-point to a 4-point lead over President Obama.
Although the numbers could still change before the election in November, Romney’s decision to make Medicare a central issue in his campaign seems to be working out differently than the Republicans had planned. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, put forward a budget in the House of Representatives that would have cut a number of government entitlements for seniors and turned Medicare, a health-care system for retired and disabled Americans, from one of universal coverage to a single stipend. The suggestion is not sitting well with older Americans, and Ryan was booed at a recent AARP gathering when he said he would end Obamacare. AARP is a grassroots lobby group representing Americans over the age of 50 and has over 37 million members.
Analysts say that Romney must have the majority of older voters, who vote in high numbers and historically have been reliably Republican, if he wants to win on November 6.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 10:35 AM - 0 Comments
The Democratic Party is going to officially support gay marriage for the first time,…
The Democratic Party is going to officially support gay marriage for the first time, reports the Associated Press.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Democratic party source told the AP that the platform drafting committee voted to include backing gay marriage during a weekend meeting in Minneapolis.
While language backing gay marriage would be a major step forward, it’s not clear whether the party would push for legalization federally. Obama has previously stated he considers it a matter for the states.
The party platform is expected to be formally approved during the party’s convention in early September.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, October 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 0 Comments
Technical glitches and partisanship may complicate U.S. results
The “butterfly” ballots of Florida’s Palm Beach County that snarled up the 2000 presidential election with their hanging, pregnant, and otherwise perplexing “chads” have since been replaced by optical scan cards—but a recent test during a local judicial election found that new machines that count them couldn’t come up with the same result twice. As early voting gets underway across the sprawling, decentralized American election system, technical glitches and pre-emptive partisan lawsuits are putting nerves on edge in anticipation of the record throngs expected on Nov. 4. In North Carolina, voters wanting to pick a “straight Democratic ticket” have to remember that they need to vote for Barack Obama on a separate presidential ballot. In West Virginia, some Democratic voters said touch-screen voting machines literally changed their votes from Obama to John McCain before their very eyes. The state’s deputy secretary of state Sarah Bailey told the Charleston Gazette on Friday, “Sometimes machines can become miscalibrated when they are moved from storage facilities to early voting areas.” She ordered a recalibration.
And the election lawyers have been mustering. A Democratic attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Charles Lichtman, has boasted that he will effectively lead the largest law firm in America on Nov. 4 when he commands close to 5,000 lawyers who will show up at the polls to assist voters, resolve conflicts, and if necessary, sue. Republican lawyers have sprung into action in Ohio, where they sued the secretary of state, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, to provide lists of voters whose registration information does not match information in other state databases. Brunner says most differences are due to clerical errors. (Even Joe Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber,” the now famous critic of Obama’s tax plan, has his name misspelled on Ohio voter rolls as Worzelbacher.) The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found last Friday that the state party did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. No matter, others are in the works.
Distrust permeates the system. Part of the Obama campaign’s strategy is to register legions of new voters—especially among young people and African-Americans, who tend to vote Democrat. Republicans are suspicious of the groups doing the registering. One such group, ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, handed in registration forms with some false names such as Mickey Mouse and addresses that turned out to be empty lots. The group, which is obligated by law to turn in all the forms, blamed low-wage workers trying to make more money by padding their numbers. But the FBI is investigating, and during the last debate McCain accused ACORN of “maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” He could be right—if Mickey actually gets to cast a ballot.
It was all supposed to be better this time. After the debacle of 2000, Congress passed a federal law, the Help America Vote Act, to avoid similar mishaps. It included money for new machines to replace problematic systems such as Palm Beach County’s punch-card butterfly ballots, and a system that would allow voters who believe they are wrongly deemed ineligible to cast a provisional ballot and have their cases resolved after the election. But as it turns out, since 2000 things have gotten messier. Before George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, an average of 96 lawsuits involving election law were filed each year; since 2000, the annual average has more than doubled to 231, according to Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “The system wasn’t good before 2000, but in some ways it’s gotten worse,” he says. “Part of the problem is more people are looking for problems. Litigation has become an important piece of campaign strategy for both campaigns.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 0 Comments
Why so many women, and some men, too, are so enraged by Sarah Palin
In the days after John McCain unveiled Sarah Palin as his running mate, David Plotz started having dreams about the Alaska governor. Plotz, who edits the online magazine Slate, said the dreams were “non-specific” but negative. “She appeared as a threatening ominous figure,” Plotz said in an interview, adding, “I don’t usually dream very much.” His colleagues were dreaming about Palin too. “I thought, this is odd. I don’t think anyone is dreaming about Joe Biden.” So Plotz asked his readers if the same thing was happening to them. He got roughly 700 responses—of which 200, he says, chastised him for writing about something so frivolous. But the rest were eager to share. Conservative men dreamed they were marrying the pistol-packing hockey mom or performing acts that Plotz deemed “unrepeatable.” Some women dreamed she was their pal. “And there was a huge set in which Palin killed animals, or ordered the dreamer to kill animals. In one, she shot all the animals in the zoo. In one, the dreamer was an animal killed by Sarah Palin,” says Plotz. There were several in which Palin “appears as a genial, sympathetic figure and morphs into a scary person murdering animals.” In others, she “emasculated” McCain, who appeared as a shadowy figure fading into the background.
It didn’t take a dream interpreter to see that Palin had burst forth from the backwoods of American politics with her rifle aimed right at the fragile psyche of Democrats. Those doomed animals? For a while it seemed they were Democratic electoral hopes. Before Palin was unveiled, Barack Obama was leading by three to four points in the polls. In the week after her convention debut, most polls showed either a tie or a lead for McCain. “It looked like everything Democrats had hoped for was going to go for naught,” says Plotz. “There was a panic about her that manifested itself in the subconscious.”
How bad did it get? Jon Wiener, a history professor at the University of California at Irving, with a Ph.D. from Harvard, confessed in a Sept. 11 posting on the liberal blog Huffington Post that he had developed an “obsession” and an “addiction” to Palin. “I read everything I can about her. I watch TV, hoping Wolf Blitzer will say something about her. I get irritable waiting for the next Maureen Dowd column about her. I’ve come to understand that this is not a bad habit, or a moral failing—it’s a disease.” Marty Kaplan, a speech writer for former vice-president Walter Mondale, wrote: “My therapist told me that I’d be astonished if I knew how many emergency calls she got the night that Sarah Palin gave her convention speech.”
And that was just the men. “All of my women friends, a week ago Monday, were on the verge of throwing themselves out windows,” an author and anti-war activist, Nancy Kricorian of Manhattan, told the New York Sun a week after the convention. “People were flipping out. Every woman I know was in high hysteria over this. Everyone was just beside themselves with terror that this woman could be our president—our potential next president.” Blog commentators declared themselves scared, disgusted and enraged. “I am angry. I am infuriated,” wrote the popular mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong on her blog dooce.com, where she rarely talks politics. One female attorney wrote to an advice columnist at the online magazine Salon that her work was suffering because she spent all her time looking online for more damning information about the governor.
There was a double bitterness for those who had supported Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman who built her own political campaign, mapped out her own positions on the issues, dominated the primary debates, and raised her own funds. Palin, sweeping onto a ticket while praising Clinton’s “grace” and the cracks that she put in the glass ceiling, declared “the women of America are not finished yet”—like the perky cheerleader beating the frumpy valedictorian in the school election. Anti-Palin women’s groups were formed on the Internet, including Facebook. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women, played it cool, limiting her Palin comments to, “Her policies are wrong for women.” But for Palin’s angry foes, it was more than a disagreement with her policies, which, after all, were John McCain’s. The repulsion was downright visceral.
Republicans came up with a name for it: Palin derangement syndrome—a cousin of Bush derangement syndrome, which the columnist Charles Krauthammer coined in 2003 to mean the irrational paranoia about anything having to do with the sitting President. “What all the attackers have in common is an almost pathological hatred and attendant desire to project upon Palin all of their worst fears, prejudices, and in some cases, fantasies,” wrote conservative commentator Cinnamon Stillwell in the San Francisco Chronicle. She noted that in Salon magazine, writer Gary Kamiya likened Palin to a “dominatrix,” while University of Michigan Middle East studies professor Juan Cole compared her to a “Muslim fundamentalist” and a member of the Taliban.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 0 Comments
The state has a history of deciding elections. Once again, it may come down to 12 critical counties.
Dan Bailey is 78. He sits on a plastic lawn chair on the neatly swept front porch of his modest house that backs onto train tracks. They once led to a thriving rail yard where his father had been a brakeman, back when the steel mills and towering shoe factories were humming, back when it was Bailey’s job to deliver coal to the 13 schools in town (now there are two), back when, he points out, his underwear was not yet made in Bangladesh, and when the little American flags the young ladies hand out in the park on the Fourth of July were not yet made in China.
His father was a lifelong Democrat. So too his grandfather. Bailey is registered as a Democrat. But in this historic election, in which Democrats had hoped Barack Obama would glide to the White House on the magic carpet of unpopular wars and a failing economy, Bailey remains undecided. Many of his neighbours feel the same way, here in the town of Portsmouth, Ohio, the seat of Scioto County, tucked into southern Ohio, where the town’s main street crosses a bridge across the mighty Ohio River into Kentucky and becomes the Country Music Highway.
National polls are showing Obama with a lead over Republican John McCain. But under the U.S. election system, those polls don’t matter. What matters is winning enough Electoral College votes, which are apportioned to states based on their populations. Since most states repeatedly vote for the same party in presidential races, no state matters more than the swing state of Ohio.
If Obama is able to hold all the states that John Kerry won in 2004, which today’s polls suggest he will, and keeps his current solid leads in Iowa and New Mexico, where Bush won in 2004, then he can take the White House by eking out a win in one of either Ohio, Virginia or Colorado, where polls are within the margin of error. Ohio has the most electoral votes, 20. No Democrat has won the White House without winning Ohio since John F. Kennedy—and that was back when many southern states still voted Democratic. According to analyst Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia, “It’s more than possible that, for a second straight election, the Buckeye State will essentially choose the next president.”
What makes Ohio swing is in part its combination of cities, small towns and vast tracks of farmland. Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the city of Mansfield has more than 300 wax figures in a “Living Bible Museum.” Politics here runs on conservative social values and economic struggle as the state goes through a wrenching transition from a manufacturing centre to whatever comes next. The unemployment rate is at 7.4 per cent and rising. “Even back in 2004, when Iraq was the number one issue nationally, it was the second issue in Ohio, behind the economy,” says Herbert Asher, a political scientist at Ohio State University in Columbus. There are about six per cent more Democrats in Ohio than Republicans. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling showed that Republicans are more committed to McCain than Democrats to Obama. Voters here prefer politicians who show up at the county fair over those who give soaring speeches. “Ohio is a tough place for Obama because he’s got to convince voters that he’s one of them,” says William Angel, an associate professor at Ohio State in Lima.
By Anne Kingston - Friday, August 29, 2008 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
So the rampant speculation about all of those establishment white guys as running mates…
So the rampant speculation about all of those establishment white guys as running mates was just a smokescreen. As I speculated yesterday John McCain has deployed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his stealth weapon.
Are we seeing some kind of weird Republican affirmative action? Yes siree. With less than a term as governor under her belt, Palin lacks experience, it’s true. But her track record is pretty unassailable; she’s proven to be a tough operator, willing to take on oil companies. Anyway, the Dems would be dumb to drum on that point, given that inexperience is the criticism commonly used against Obama. How Palin will square off against Joe Biden during the VP candidate debate is another big question mark. But her presence will make it must-see TV. More importantly, Palin brings fresh bounce to the McCain campaign; she’ll redirect media focus from Obama to thrall over her Northern Exposure existence: She flies a floater plane! She eats mooseburgers! Continue…