Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Reasons Obama Won.

The most striking aspect of the US Presidential Election results was how much of a landslide Obama won by. After months and months of the media saying it would be neck and neck, Obama cruised to victory winning every swing state except North Carolina (of course we are still waiting for Florida to be announced). It seems that Bob Dylan was the only person who predicted an Obama landslide (see my post on this).

The main reasons why Obama won and why Romney lost are:

1. The Media got it wrong. It was never as close as they predicted in the swing states. They were simply wanting to get a good story.

2. The Maths. Obama had a much easier electoral route to the White House, having several paths to reach the 270 electoral college votes, Romney was in a more difficult post having to win Ohio.

3. Women. Women, the largest demographic group, were turned off by the extremist social policies of the GOP. The Democrats claim the Republicans were conducting a ‘War on Women’ was effective.

4. Social Issues. The extremist position taken by a significant portion of the GOP is at odds with mainstream America.

5. Changing demographics. The GOP needs to find a way to appeal to Latinos and ethnic minorities if it is to gain power again.

6. Auto bailout. Obama’s victory in Michigan and Ohio was an endorsement of Obama’s Government intervention.

7. Economics. People rejected the Republican Party's right wing economic position. It’s very significant Obama was the only President to win re-election in an economy this bad since FDR. Alarm bells should be ringing for the GOP.

8. Mitt. Mitt was portrayed in the media as uncharismatic, rich and out-of-touch. Crucially, he didn’t articulate his vision for America or what he stood for well enough.

9. Get Out The Vote. The Obama Campaign’s grassroots campaigning expertise is unrivalled in modern politics.

10. Rejection of the Right Wing. The Republican Party has moved too far to the Right on both economic and social issues, moving away from the views of mainstream America.

How does the Republican Party move forward following this crushing defeat? There are 2 options:

1. Blame it on Mitt, a moderate, and the extreme right continues to determine the future of the Republican Party. The reason why we saw extreme right candidates like Akin is they raise money and Republican voters vote for them in the Primary therefore they are very influential within the party.

2. Rejection of the extreme right and the GOP moves to the centre in an attempt to reclaim the middle ground.

Moving forwards I feel the GOP has to move towards the centre in order to reclaim the White House. Someone who will shake the Republican Party to its core. The Republican Party needs a candidate who can appeal to women and Latinos (significant demographic groups). Marco Rubio springs to mind in that he ticks all the boxes but I don’t think he’s that charismatic. The Republican Party needs a once in a generation leader. The Republican Party needs a Bill Clinton figure.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Schoolboy Romney, Commander-In-Chief Obama

The final presidential debate was the last chance the presidential candidates had to talk in-depth about their vision for America. With the final debate being on foreign policy the candidates discussed America’s place in an ever-changing and chaotic world. Due to being a former governor of a state, Romney has little foreign policy experience so he needed to show he had a keen grasp of foreign policy issues. For Obama it was a chance to remind people of the strongest area of his Presidency, his foreign policy successes.
Romney began the debate on a weak note however he got better, and more confident, as the debate progressed. At the beginning, Romney gave the impression of a schoolboy who had memorised a chunk of information before an exam and was rushing to blurt it all out, to show all he knew, rather than give insightful analysis of events and reasonable solutions. Instead of looking like a statesman with a strong grasp of foreign policy he looked like a schoolboy. Similarly I thought both candidates appeared naive when talking about countries becoming friends, not allies.
If in the first debate Obama’s dour demeanour and lack of passion was a negative, in this debate it was strength. Obama is calm, clear and collected. He comes across as the sort of person who wouldn’t lose his cool in a crisis but rather keeps his feelings hid internally; this has its drawbacks as he can sometimes look aloof, however this is exactly the sort of person you want steering the ship of state in a crisis. As the debate fell on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were reminded of the monumental challenges a President faces and the importance of having a commander-in-chief who is both clear-headed and has foreign policy experience.
Content wise there was a lot of agreement between the candidates. One of the most interesting things about the debate was Romney’s, and the Republican Party’s, move away from an interventionist foreign policy, he is less willing to put American troops on the ground in the Middle East preferring a more intelligence-led, multidimensional approach. However Romney maintained America should retain a leadership role organisationally and governmentally in the Middle East if not in terms of actual troops on the ground. This is, of course, in stark contrast to George W. Bush’s interventionist approach. This is a reaction to the state of the economy at home and also the lessons learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama capitalised on this widely held sentiment by stating America should focus on nation building at home not abroad.
Obama performed more strongly and consistently in the debate than Romney did who started off badly and got better as the debate went on. Obama was most moving when talking about the closure Bin Laden’s death provided to a young woman who lost her father in the 9/11 attacks. Romney was strong when emphasising the security threats a weak economy presents and how it threatens America’s standing in the world. Romney was also convincing when talking about America’s relationship with China. However Obama hit back mentioning Romney’s alleged business links with Chinese companies.
The impact the debates will have on the election is debatable! One would think in light of the 24/7 media access people have to campaigns that debates would lose their impact. Surely issues like the economy will influence people more than how well a candidate performs in a TV debate. The debates gave Romney a platform to present an alternative vision for America. Being side by side the President elevated him from merely a former governor to a statesman and possible future President of the United States.
The debates have been mixed. Romney performed fairly strongly throughout all three but didn’t exactly set the world alight which he needed to do to unseat a President. His best performance came in the first debate which was emphasised by the absolutely dire performance of the President. Obama came back in the second and third debates buoyed by Joe Biden’s kick-ass performance in the Vice-Presidential debate which injected some much-needed momentum into his campaign. Obama won the last debate projecting the image of an experienced and clear-headed commander-in-chief. The most striking thing I took from the debates was how bad Obama performed in the first debate; that certainly was surprising and unexplainable. Overall the debates have been lacklustre with few memorable moments to go down in election campaign history.
Young Mitt Romney.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Out Of Touch With The Average American: The Second Presidential Debate.

The voters’ questions debate is a chance for the candidates to prove they relate well to voters by being down-to-earth and folksy. Neither candidate did that. In fact, they both proved to be pretty out of touch with the average voter. Romney showed he was out of touch with the concerns of modern women and Obama seemed out of touch with the reality of how bad the economy is. The most successful candidate in this type of debate was Bill Clinton in his debate with George H. W. Bush. Clinton’s ability to connect with voters on a visceral level was a defining debate moment and an election game-changer.
Obama won the debate however I feel the media hyped up how successful he was. This is perhaps because he did so poorly in the first debate. Obama won the debate because he came back fighting after Romney’s knock-down punch in the previous debate. Obama showed some passion, however considering the stakes -he is fighting to be re-elected President and to define the course the country takes - I felt he should have really come in all guns blazing.
Romney performed fairly strongly however there are innate weaknesses, of both his party and himself, he failed to overcome. The key Romney moment in the debate was the ‘binders full of women’ comment. This supports my hypothesis; in Politics the most damaging blow is self-inflicted aka reinforcing negative stereotypes of yourself. Romney’s comments reinforced the idea the Republican Party is waging a ‘War on Women’.
The fact Romney appointed 50% women to his cabinet whilst Governor of Massachusetts should be applauded, and I think if he had phrased it another way or was a Democrat, there wouldn’t have been a negative reaction. Romney made matters even worse when he mentioned women leaving work early to cook dinner thus conjuring up images of 1950s Stepford Housewives. Emphasised by Romney’s patrician manner, the whole statement suggested he was completely out-of-touch with the concerns of modern women.
If Romney’s weakness is his family background and wealth then Obama’s strength is the opposite; his family background. Obama’s story is very modern; a mother from Kansas, a father from Kenyan. He represents the modern face of America which helped propel him to the White House four years ago.
Obama has always been most convincing when he talks about his own family’s struggles with healthcare and student loans; we believe him as we know he has experienced this. Therefore once again, Obama was at his strongest when talking about his own personal experiences. He convincingly related the inequality his grandmother faced professionally to the inequality women face in the workplace today, linking it to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Romney played to his base by attacking Obama over his response to the Benghazi attack. However this had limited overall success and resulted in confusion over definitions of ‘an act of terror’ and questions surrounding Candy Crowley, the moderator’s handling of the question.
Obama has been strong on Foreign Policy, ending the war in Iraq and killing Bin Laden, therefore I don’t think this is a good line of attack for the Republicans. It also shows poor taste to play politics over the deaths of American citizens. Obama is at his most convincing when talking about his role as Commander in Chief. He has the look in his eyes which you can only have when you’ve had to make the phone call from the Oval office to the families of those lost in service to their country.
Obama had the most to win and to lose in the debate; another terrible performance could have drained all the energy out of the campaign. He also helped halt some of the Romney Campaign’s momentum. Romney performance showed he could be consistent and aside from the ‘binders full of women’ comment he was fairly strong, if uninspired. Fundamentally, neither achieved the key goal of the voters’ questions debate; that they understand the concerns of the average American.

Homer Simpson: The Average American?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Let Biden Be Biden.

Attack Dog Biden Goes In For The Kill.

Biden definitely won the Vice President Debate. He was able to do this in several ways:

1.      Reinforcing negative stereotypes of his opponents. There is a long-held belief that Republicans cannot be trusted on Medicare. This idea has been reinforced by the so-called voucher system Ryan et al want to introduce. Biden mentioned vouchers several time. Vouchers for healthcare would naturally make many voters feel uncomfortable and fear for the future of Medicare.

2.      Show Passion. Biden was passionate. He was himself; warts and all. As Leo McGarry said to President Bartlet in ‘The West Wing’; ‘Let Bartlet Be Bartlet’. Perhaps Biden followed that sage advice. Let Biden Be Biden. In contrast, Ryan seemed rather bland and boring.

3.      47%. Biden capitalised on Romney’s 47% gaffe (unlike the President). He mentioned it several times. Importantly, he aligned himself with the 47%. He said he was one of the 47%, his mother was, his father was, the people he grew up with were. The 47% Romney disparaged were the people who built this country. The people who just want a level-playing field and an even shot.

4.      Clear, Concise Answers. Biden’s answers seemed more straight-forward than Ryan’s. Ryan was particularly weak when talking about the affect the seasons had on fighting in Afghanistan (what was that all about!?!).

5.       Attack Dog. Biden was quick to butt in and refute Ryan’s answers.

 Ryan did show some strengths:

1.      He got in ‘my generation’ in regards to healthcare. However he didn’t play up the generational shift-enough, as some commentators felt he needed to. Although wasn’t Obama’s election, the passing of the torch to a new generation? So maybe that’s old news.

2.      Janesville. He always seems to mention his blue-collar roots which is refreshing to see in a Politician and adds authenticity.

3.      Economy and Jobs. As James Carville famously said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. Despite the Obama Administration’s claims the economy is improving, people are not feeling it on the ground, so this rightly is the Republican Party’s main line of attack. I think Ryan could have pushed this even more, asking the TV audience directly to camera if they felt the economy was improving.

4.       Ryan showed sincerity when saying how his family had relied on Medicare but is this enough to dispel long-held suspicions regarding Republicans and Medicare?

Biden showed passion and sincerity in this debate. Ryan came across as young, inexperienced and bland. He didn’t seem to show much charisma to me and so didn’t capture my attention. Biden raised his voice to show passion and lowered it to depict sincerity. Ryan, on the other hand, was Mr. Monotone throughout. In an election campaign, the VP’s role is to be the Presidential Candidate’s No.1 cheerleader and attack dog and Biden did this superbly.

Let Biden Be Biden.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mitt Won But Does It Even Matter?

Mitt Romney undoubtedly won the first presidential debate. Who’d have thought that Ken Doll would out-shine Mr. Charisma, himself? Of course Obama was on the defensive and so had the most difficult task. He’s been President for nearly four years and had to defend high unemployment, the huge deficit and his controversial Obamacare.

However Romney also had big challenges he needed to overcome. He had to convince the American People that he was the right man for the job. He had to overcome stereotypes of him being super-rich and out-of-touch.

Romney won the debate largely by:

1.    Focusing on JOBs, JOBs, JOBs. The no. 1 issue. In one sentence it seemed like he said the word Jobs 49 times, which although annoying, got the message across.

2.    Looking straight-ahead most of the time. Looking into the camera. Whereas Obama often had his head down. A friend pointed out Obama did better when he looked straight into the camera.

3.    Having sharp simple answers. Obama was longwinded and his answers were harder to follow.

4.    Obama seemed professorial and not passionate.

Obama was strongest when he was most passionate, particularly when he spoke of his Grandma and related that to Medicare.

This will give Romney a much needed boost. Remember it takes a hell of a lot to beat a President and I did not see a stand-out moment à la Bill Clinton in his debate with George H.W. Bush, so Romney still has a long way to go if he is to unseat the President.

Do the Debates even matter nowadays? In the past the Presidential Debates were one of the few times voters could see Candidates on TV talking in detail about their plans for America. In light of constant media coverage of the candidates and the 24 hour news cycle, it seems likely they will become less influential.
We are no longer in the days of Kennedy and Nixon where the debate gave the public a chance to see the candidates on a TV screen as opposed to reading about them in a newspaper. The legend goes Kennedy’s good looks and charisma in stark contrast to Nixon’s shiftiness and sweating forehead helped swing the election. Similarly the contrast with the dour, mechanical Bush and the charismatic, energetic Clinton helped put Clinton in The White House.

Nixon sweating during the debate with JFK.
Mitt did well but I’m not sure he had an iconic moment, one that compares to JFK or Clinton. Given the fact that we can now watch the candidates speak any time of day online or on TV, are the Debates becoming a quaint political relic of a bygone age?

Kennedy/Nixon Debate.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Politics the Most Damaging Attack is Always Self-Inflicted

In Politics the most damaging attack on a candidate is always self-inflicted. Conforming to negative stereotypes of yourself is the most damaging mistake a politician can make. There has been two major examples of this recently. The first was Obama's 'You didn't build that' gaffe when speaking about small businesses. The second is Todd Akin's horrible remarks referring to 'legitimate rape'. What makes these remarks so significant is they are concerning each parties biggest weakness;
for the Democratic Party: Small Businesses and for the Republican Party: Women Issues. 
'You didn't build that' is the main line of attack with which the Romney Campaign has sought to define Obama. It has caught on like wildfire with many small business owners across America sporting posters and T-shirts saying 'I Did Build That'. It resonates with many voters because it reinforces the stereotype Democrats are anti-small business and want to tax businesses into oblivion.
Obama's 'You didn't build that' remark was of course taken out of context. Obama, was in fact, seeking to echo Elizabeth Warren's immensely popularly statement; 'when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together' and that wealthy individuals should pay their fair share towards the good of society. However Obama lacked Warren's eloquence enabling his words to be twisted, shooting himself in the foot.
The Democratic Party has historically gained more support amongst women than the Republican Party. The Republican Party's current policies on women; their opposition to Equal Pay for Women and Planned Parenthood as well as the ultrasound requirement for women wanting an abortion in Virginia is the context in which we find Akin's remarks. Akin's remarks just reinforce the stereotype that the Republican Party is out-of-touch with the views of mainstream women. Democrats are pushing 'The Republican's War On Women' as their election theme. Thus focusing on an area where they have more support and shifting the news narrative away from the state of the economy.
See this Republican ad attacking Obama on the 'You didn't build that' and this Democratic ad attacking Romney and Ryan on women's issues. These ads are part of the tradition of reinforcing negative views the public already has about a candidate, the most famous, of course, being LBJ's 'Daisy Ad' (see my post on Negative Campaign ads). It will be interesting to see the impact these attacks will have once voters make their ultimate decision in the voting booth.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Republican Party's Woman Trouble

The Republican Party has serious woman trouble. Considering women make up the majority of the population, major alarm bells should be ringing.  Republican Congressman Todd Akin's unbelievable, disturbing comments that women's bodies were naturally able to prevent pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape" is yet another example of Republican Politicians' bizarre, sexist attitudes about women. This comes after Virginia's human rights-breaking law to require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

Unbelievably Rep. Todd Akin is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee which defies all conceivable logic. The more cynical amongst us may say its symbolic of how
topsy-turvy Congress is. Akin's comments reinforces the idea that the Republican Party is completely out-of-touch with women voters.

The Republican Party's problem with women extend beyonds the sexist views of certain male representatives. There is a striking lack of visible intelligent and sensible female Republican Politicians. The faces of Republican Women are the Botox Babies, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, who's frankly idiotic comments and extremist views reflect badly on their party.

The first names that come to your head when you think of Republican Women would be Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. Contrast that with the first names that come to your head when you think of Democratic Women which would likely be Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. That pretty much sums up the Republican Party's difficulty with women. Michele Bachmann is The Female Face of The Republican Party. That should be enough to terrify Republicans into taking action on women.The Republican Party needs to seriously rethink its policies towards women and to promote women who are actually representative of American women.

This all lends further credence to the Democrats accusation that the Republican Party is 'Waging a War on Women' in light of Republicans in Congress blocking Equal Pay for Women, Russ Limbaugh's calling Georgetown University student, Sandra Fluke, a 'slut', the iconic image of an all-male panel testifying before Congress on birth control and Virginia's requirement that women have an ultrasound before an abortion.

The Akin comments coming so close to the election, may be the spark needed to kick-fire Democratic women into action. The Democrats have easily been able to capitalize on Akin's comments by launching hard-hitting negative ads linking Romney and Ryan to Akin. Akin is running for the Senate in Missouri in a closely fought battle with the prominent Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill. His remarks have likely cost the Republican Party the Missouri Senate Seat. Of course senior Republican leaders are calling on Akin to pull out of the race but the damage is done.

Democratic Senate Candidate for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren has launched a hard-hitting negative ad about Republican policies on women which may be the kick needed to get her over the finish line ahead of Scott Brown. Warren argues Todd Akin's comments in Missouri were not just one extreme candidate in Missouri but part of a Republican pattern.

Win or lose come November, the Republican Party needs to thoroughly review its policies towards women at every level, from the grassroots up, to be able to legitimately claim to represent the American people. Crucially, the Republican Party needs to promote as leaders women who are actually representative of American women.

UPDATE: Todd Akin has accused the 'Liberal Media' of being out to get him. Whenever Extremist Republicans get called out for their ridiculous views they blame the 'Liberal Media'.

Akin's infamous quote.

Iconic image of all-men panel testifying on birth control.

Bachmann: The Female Face of The Republican Party.