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Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Announcing the Miller Center’s new Historical Presidency Series

“That’s what’s the matter” from the Library of Congress. McClellan separates Lincoln and Davis in a tug of war over a map of the United States.

Beginning this fall, the Miller Center will host a new lecture series based on the Historical Presidency.  The theme for 2013-14 is "The American Presidency and the Crises of the Nineteenth Century."  On September 18 at 5pm, series organizer Gary W. Gallagher (UVa history) will kick things off with Princeton Emeritus Professor James M. McPherson for a conversation about Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. 

Check out the entire 13-14 series here.

Honoring MLK in the Inaugural

Reagan Speech on the Creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Holiday, November 2, 1983

The theme of this year’s inauguration is “Our People, Our Future,” a theme intended to promote national unity and reconciliation as most inaugurals do. In a Presidential Inaugural Committee video released over the weekend, President Obama noted that two men he admires more than anyone in American history are Dr. Martin Luther King and President Abraham Lincoln because without them, he would not be in office. The inaugural weekend once again featured a “Day of Service” because the public ceremony falls on the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. President Obama told the country:

The inauguration reminds us of the role we have as citizens in promoting a common good as well as making sure we carry out our individual responsibilities.

President Obama will be sworn into his second term using the bibles of Dr. King and President Lincoln, bringing additional significance to the inaugural ceremonies as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Dr. King’s speech to the participants in the August 1963 march was one of the most memorable moments and he roused the crowd by addressing the racial injustices and discrimination that continued to plague the nation 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. He criticized the nation for defaulting on a “promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned”:

Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

In some of the most powerful lines of the speech, Dr. King told the crowd he had a dream. Among his dreams was that his “four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Inaugural Addresses: Insider Accounts of How and Why They Matter

Panel on Inaugural Addresses with Presidential Speechwriters Ray Price (Nixon); Don Baer (Clinton); Patrick Anderson (Carter)

The inaugural address is one of the most important speeches a president will give. It has a special place in political life because it documents the history of the nation. Indeed, as Ken Khachigian, the chief speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, noted:

One thing that struck me about reading all the inaugural addresses is that they are a history of America. You can go through, beginning with Washington, and you can learn all about the country just by reading them. If you did nothing else, you’d know almost all about the history of the Civil War, about the Depression, about World War I, about World War II, and about the Vietnam War.

Don Baer, speechwriter for Bill Clinton, summed up the importance of the inaugural address as “the one communal national monument that we have had right along, throughout the entire history of country.” And Ray Price speechwriter for Richard Nixon, called the inaugural a “ceremonial speech with a programmatic content” and “one of the great sacraments of democracy.” He said the opening lines of Nixon’s first inaugural summed up what the sacrament is:

“Senator [Everett] Dirksen, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Vice President, President Johnson, Vice President [Hubert] Humphrey, my fellow Americans, and my fellow citizens of the world community, I ask you to share with me today the majesty of this moment. In the orderly transfer of power, we celebrate the unity that keeps us free.”

In June 2008, the Miller Center hosted a symposium on presidential speechmaking that featured nine former Republican and Democratic speechwriters who served every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton.  One of the sessions included a discussion on Inaugural Addresses. The session provided an insider account of writing the inaugural address, what makes an effective inaugural and what the addresses should be about. In this post, we highlight some of their key insights.

Patrick Anderson, speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, noted that in an inaugural address, you introduce yourself as President, you are no longer just a candidate:

It is solemn. It is historic. I think it I also, under the surface, a very competitive situation, because you are very aware that you are going to be judged against [John F.] Kennedy and [Ronald] Reagan and other great speeches of the past – which tends to inspire both the candidate and his writers to make their best effort. It shouldn’t be partisan or political. It should be inspirational and personal, I think. It should be an attempt to unite the nation for a new start, which all new presidents think they’re going to accomplish.

Baer added:

I think that inaugural addresses ought to be elevating. I think they need to remind the nation more of what we have in common than what divides us.

The Biggest Myths of the 2012 Election

As part of the Miller Center’s Recasting Presidential History conference in October, the History News Network interviewed participants on presidential history. Following the conference, Dick Walsh, editor of the History News Network, conducted a post-election analysis interview with Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado. The full video chat is available on the Miller Center’s website (click here to watch), but in this post, we survey key insights on the election offered by Prof. Chernus.

In the video chat, Chernus discussed the key myths told during the campaign. To clarify, what Chernus means when he says myths are “the stories that are told to create a sense of identity to make sense out of the American experience. They are a mixture of fiction and truth.” In 2012, the dominant myth that resonated was a story that hasn’t been seen on the national scene in quite awhile – the story of the gap between the super rich and the rest of us. The story first began to surface with the Occupy Movement in 2011. It’s been a long time since wealth and income inequality has been a story in the mass media. Obama began to speak about the difficulties of the middle class and the privileges of the rich about a year before the election. It is, of course, a story with deep historical roots, and has been used in the past by Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as earlier progressive and populist movements. According to Chernus, the Obama campaign made very effective use of this myth to create a story about Romney as a vulture venture capitalist. Of course in politics you want to define your opponent before your opponent has a chance to define you. Obama defined himself as a champion of the middle class fighting against a predatory capitalist who would do to the whole nation what he had done to the workers of the companies bought out by Bain Capital.

The Romney campaign made some effort to rebut this myth, but for the most part their strategy was not to engage. When you rebut, you go on the defensive and reinforce what your opponent says about you. Instead, the Romney campaign’s effort was to define Obama as incompetent, and someone who had destroyed the economy and who didn’t know how to get us out of the recession. The Romney team went back to Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  That is also a traditional story in American politics. In the spring and summer, most pundits thought it would be the story of the election. The intervening months since then have shown that was too simplistic an analysis. The idea that political fortunes are determined by the economy is a long-standing story, but Chernus hopes it will be harder to make that case in the future because it is too simple – there are too many other variables interacting in elections.

Presidents and the Institutionalization of Thanksgiving

1939 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1939 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Photo Courtesy of the FDR Library, PD.

How have Presidents institutionalized Thanksgiving? There are three critical moments in the development of Thanksgiving as a formalized, national holiday. Not surprisingly, they center around three of the most studied presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt.

At the request of Congress, Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation on October 3rd, 1789:

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

His statement is indicative of the both the character and structure of the holiday in early American history. Thanksgiving was--as it is today--a day of thanks; but specifically, it was an expression of gratitude toward “that great and glorious Being.” This first presidential thanksgiving took place on the last Thursday in November--a precedent that the next fourteen presidents would only loosely follow.

Nearly 75 years later, Lincoln, at the urging of a newspaper editor Sarah Josepha Hale, would issue another Thanksgiving Proclamation, which nationalized the holiday. The statement, which was written by Secretary of State William Seward, called upon Americans in the midst of civil war to remember the gifts they daily received:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

Between 1789 and 1863, states issued their own thanksgiving proclamations, and dates of the holiday varied. After Lincoln, Thanksgiving became an annual presidential responsibility, which charged future presidents to proclaim the last Thursday of November a holiday.

That precedent held for another 75 years, until FDR faced a crisis of calendar in 1939. In that year, there were five, not four, Thursdays in November--which, if Roosevelt had followed tradition, would have shortened the Christmas shopping season (retailers considered Christmas advertising prior to Thanksgiving improper). Fred Lazarus Jr. of Federated Department Stores successfully lobbied Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November in order to lengthen the Christmas shopping season in years in which November had five Thursdays. The executive move angered a number of states enough that in some places two Thanksgivings were celebrated. In 1941, Congress passed and Roosevelt signed into law a joint resolution making the fourth Thursday in November “a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as” Christmas, New Years, and the Fourth of July.

So, with the tip of the presidential signing pen, Thanksgiving Day has gone from an informal religious celebration, to a national holiday that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Was the Presidential Election a Progressive Win?

2012 Presidential Election Results by State. Map by Ernesto Barahona.

2012 Presidential Election Results by State. Map by Ernesto Barahona, November 8, 2012. CC-SA.

On the surface, President Obama’s reelection appears to have been the electoral equivalent of a progressive exclamation point. Obama not only won 8 of the original 10 battleground states (winning: CO, FL, IA, NH, NM, NV, OH, VA; losing: IN and NC), but also earned a whopping 332 electoral votes.

A cursory comparison of CNN’s exit polls from 2008 and 2012 also seems to suggest that the “emerging Democratic majority” first described by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira is beginning to take hold. Latinos, Asians, and young people (18-29) made up a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than they did in 2008 (each group gained a percentage point), while whites made up a smaller share (72% in 2012 instead of 74% in 2008). Further, President Obama’s margins among Latinos and Asians grew between the two elections by four (from 67% to 71%) and 11 percentage points (62% to 73%), respectively. Some have even gone further to argue that the country is now “center-left” because “the Republican Party lost the middle everywhere, and as a result the map got slightly bluer everywhere.”

But is this the correct interpretation of the trends above?

The simple answer to this question is “not exactly.”

As James E. Campbell, SUNY Buffalo, noted during last weekend’s Northeastern Political Science Association Conference, the 2012 exit polls also revealed that 51% of the electorate believes that the government is doing too much, while only 43% believe it should do more. Additionally, more of the electorate said that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed than not (49% to 44%).

Beyond these data, Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics.com pointed out the real issue that neither progressives nor conservatives can afford to ignore in their interpretations of the results: “The 2012 elections actually weren’t about a demographic explosion with non-white voters. Instead, they were about a large group of white voters not showing up.”

So who didn’t show up?

Friday Round-Up: “The Post-Election Dust Settling”

Barack Obama and volunteers at the Hyde Park, Chicago Obama campaign office make phone calls on Election Day 2012

Barack Obama and volunteers at the Hyde Park, Chicago Obama campaign office make phone calls on Election Day 2012. Photo by TonytheTiger. CC-SA.

  1. President Obama held his first media Q&A session on Wednesday, during which, he outlined a policy agenda for the beginning of his second term. He said that a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform would be the first item on the table after inauguration day. Obama said he was “very confident” he could pass a bill early in his second term. “We need to seize the moment.” He also took the opportunity to reiterate that he would veto any compromise on the ‘fiscal cliff’ that did not raise taxes on those making $250,000/year or more. Obama hinted at the possibility of compromise, emphasizing that if all the Bush-era tax cuts expired, it would be a “bad thing” that was “not necessary.”
  2. President Obama met with Congressional leaders today for discussions on reaching agreement to avoid the Fiscal Cliff. Following the hour-long meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner appeared together, a rare occurrence, and pledged cooperation. McConnell said Republicans “are willing to put revenue on the table,” while the Democrats said they recognized the need to curb spending. It’s likely that the two sides will forge a temporary agreement before December 31 to avoid fiscal contraction, but the agreement could provide a framework for a longer-term overhaul to major programs such as Medicare, as well as major tax code reform.
  3. Romney Explains Loss to Donors: Romney said Obama used the “old playbook” of directing specific official policies to “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.” Several Republicans, especially those with an eye on 2016 including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, quickly denounced the remarks. “We have got to stop dividing American voters,” Jindal said. “I absolutely reject that notion, that description. … We’re fighting for 100 percent of the vote.”
  4. How did the Obama campaign approach the task of ad-buying in an election season with record spending? In the vein of sabermetricians in Major League Baseball, the Obama campaign bought airtime when they would receive the most ‘bang for their buck.’ That is, when they would reach most of the right kind of voters for the smallest price tag. This meant buying airtime outside of expensive primetime programming, and into daytime TV and stations like the Food Network, Hallmark, and Family channel.
  5. Gay voters appear to have been crucial to President Obama’s reelection. According to analysis of exit polls by Michael Cohen at Five Thirty Eight, five percent of voters claimed to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Among those voters, 76 percent voted for Obama. Meanwhile, Libertarian candidates appeared to play a spoiler role for Republicans in at least nine close state-level races.

Inaugural History Feature of the Week: Abraham Lincoln

The second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln, given on 4 March 1865 on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol.

The second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln, given on 4 March 1865 on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. PD.

Each week leading up to President Obama’s second inauguration, which will take place on January 21, 2013, RTT will feature an inaugural speech by a previous president from the Miller Center’s archives.

November 19th will mark the 149th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and it, as well as Lincoln’s second inaugural in 1865, are acknowledged to be among the great orations in American history. Given the upcoming anniversary, this week RTT highlights the importance of both of these speeches.

Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865 was delivered just over a month before his assassination and as the end of the Civil War was rapidly approaching. The address was brief, but profound.  Abolitionist Frederick Douglass called the speech a “sacred effort” and praised it  for sounding "more like a sermon than like a state paper." Lincoln used the address to “look with high hope to the future” and to unite the country by propounding a providential interpretation of the cause, duration and consequences of the war for both sides. While the President rejected the triumphalism of radical Republicans, he also denounced slavery in concrete terms:

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.

Lincoln concluded the address with a defense for a pragmatic approach to Reconstruction and reconciliation: 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the fight as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

What’s Up with White Women in 2012? Nothing new!

White American Presidential Vote Choice

White American Presidential Vote Choice. Graph by Adam Hughes.

Gender has been in the news a lot this week, since women seemed to be vital to President Obama’s reelection. Maybe they were, but the white ones? Not so much, John Cassidy noticed in a New Yorker blog post the Friday after the election. Challenging the much-hyped gender gap, Cassidy wondered “What’s up with White Women”? They've headed the “wrong way,” he claimed: in the Republican direction, causing what Cassidy called a “reverse gender gap" with white women preferring Romney to Obama by 14 points in 2012 (56% to 42%). What's more, wrong-way white women chose McCain (53%) over Obama (46%) last time around, while 55% of white women picked George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004. So what's up?

A little bit of history would've taken the punch out of Cassidy's line of reasoning. What's up with white women? Absolutely nothing. White women have not reversed or changed course. In 2012 and the two elections before that, white women voted about the same way they've been voting since the 1970s: almost always for the Republican Presidential candidate.

Surprise that white women are doing what they’ve always done stems from distorting media spin on findings by polling organizations, such as Gallup, which suggests that women’s concern for women’s issues drives them towards the Democratic Party. Yet as political scientists have shown, the gender gap – that is the difference between women’s aggregate vote preferences compared to men’s – is explained best by differences in how the sexes see the size and role of government. Further, political scientists have shown that the gap opened up around 1980, when white men headed for the GOP, not when white women abandoned it for the Democratic Party. Way back in 1991, the venerable political scientist Warren Miller (gated article) cited work published even earlier, by his younger colleague Dan Wirls (gated article) in 1986, to wit: “the appearance of the gender gap in the Reagan years was not as much a function of a liberal, pro-Democratic growth in the partisan sentiment of women as a function of the sharply conservative pro-Republican move among men.”

What Wirls said in 1986 and Miller broadcast in political science’s flagship journal, the American Political Science Review, in 1991 should have become conventional wisdom, but it didn’t. So we repeat the (still not yet conventional) wisdom here. Using data from recent exit polls, NES data and other data, our colleague Adam Hughes created the graph pictured with this post to demonstrate the history of the gender gap. Like all polling data, these data are estimates of real votes (that of course are not recorded according to gender or any other personal attribute) to give us a sketch of the vote choices individuals make on Election Day.

The graph shows how, for a long time, white women have reliably voted more Republican than Democratic, though less dependably so than their white male counterparts. The graph also shows that the only year in which white women are more Democratic than Republican in their Presidential vote choice is 1996, which also happens to be the only year in which there is a large, unequivocal gender gap in the sense that more white women voted Democratic than Republican and more white men voted Republican than Democratic.

Friday Roundup: Election Take-Aways

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

  1. Who voted for whom, compared to 2008? According to the Washington Post, in 2012, Mitt Romney won more independents, more white voters, more black voters, and more educated voters than John McCain did in 2008. The big shift: Hispanic voters. Romney was only able to capture 26% of the Hispanic electorate, compared to John McCain’s 35% in 2008. The overall trend in swing states is that Romney did better than McCain did in 2008--but the effort simply was not enough.
  2. How historic is Barack Obama’s second victory? As James W. Ceaser mentions in The Weekly Standard, an Obama’s victory is the first time an incumbent has received less of the popular vote in their bid for re-election--and still been re-elected. Obama’s re-election also means that Democrats have held all 18 “blue-wall” states since 1992, a record that Spencer Green points out is the most states Democrats have won since the formation of the party system in 1828. Green goes on to write that Obama’s swing state strategy varied based on the prevalence of the “old” and “new” Democratic coalitions: working class whites and the combination of young voters, ethnic minorities, and college-educated women, respectively. The Obama campaign succeeded with a historic amalgamation of different voter groups.
  3. What now? President Obama invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week to begin working out a deal to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff.’ John Boehner said he was open to “responsible compromise” that would not include increasing tax rates. Obama responded by saying that any approach needed to be “balanced” and that the American people had expressed their support for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans by re-electing him.
  4. An look at what could have been: Romney set up a transition site in the event he won. It was quickly taken down. Additionally, the Boston Globe disclosed that the Romney campaign purchased and planned an eight minute fireworks victory-celebration in Boston harbor.

Virginia’s Role as a Demographic Bellweather in the Presidential Election

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008.

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008. Photo by SyalAntilles. CC-SA.

Is Virginia becoming a “blue state”? Although Virginians voted solidly Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 2004, voters in the state backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. As 2012 exit polling has demonstrated, the demographics of Obama’s coalition played an important role in his reelection. According to University of Virginia experts,  demographic shifts in Virginia also played a role in delivering the state to the Democrats in the last two elections.

Miller Center Faculty Member and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics David Leblang had this to say:

The 2012 and 2008 elections have been really interesting in terms of the power of demography over ideology.

As a former resident of Colorado, I witnessed that state transition from being a red state in 2000 to purple and then blue in 2008 and 2012. Virginia is going through the same shift. In both cases, the shift is driven by what look like small blue pockets on national county-by-county election maps. Those blue pockets look small geographically, but they are densely populated areas, like Denver and the Front Range cities of Colorado, and the Northern Virginia exurban counties of Loudoun and Prince William.

What do the people look like in those blue pockets? In general, they are younger, more highly skilled, less white and less male than rest of the state. So that is the challenge for the Republican Party – how to appeal to those groups.

People become increasingly conservative as they get older, while younger people tend to be more liberal for a whole number of reasons. So how do Republicans package an emphasis on fiscal responsibility in a way that appeals to younger voters who are not yet wealthy enough to benefit from the type of tax breaks that Romney emphasized in this campaign? They have work to do, just like the Democrats did after the 2000 and 2004 elections.

A Grueling Duel to the End - Now Let the Votes Be Counted

Early voting center at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville, Maryland. October 28, 2012. Photo by Ben Schumin

Early voting center at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville, Maryland. October 28, 2012. Photo by Ben Schumin. CC-BY-SA-3.0.

President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney—along with their myriad surrogates, advisors and official and unofficial campaign wingmen—worked deep in the final night of the contentious 2012 campaign spinning predictions for the outcome of today’s election, preparing for the blame game that will follow bitter disappointment certain for millions who vote for the losing candidate, and making a frantic final scramble for votes.

For months, this race was described as a grueling duel between candidates who each were viewed less than enthusiastically by even their own base of supporters—a grinding battle of attrition by two flawed and not-so-inspiring men. Yet in the last days and hours of the campaign, something very different appeared to be happening. As Romney, Obama and their allies raced through a whirlwind of appearances across the key battleground states, the campaign transformed as they were by raucous crowds of often staggering size.

Romney closed his day in New Hampshire before more than 12,000 ecstatic supporters. Earlier, the Republican made aswift visit to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, part of a last ditch effort to put in play the 20 electoral votes held by a state long assumed to be solidly in the Democratic column. He was greeted by a crowd of 30,000, according to local reporters.

Obama finished the night in Iowa, in an emotional gathering before 20,000 during which, in the style of his late-campaign partner, former President Bill Clinton, he reportedly shed a single tear.  Earlier, the president spoke to 20,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin. That was on the heels of a Virginia rally late Saturday with a crowd of more than 24,000 people. (Notably, the other most recent ex-president, Republican George W. Bush, remained to the last hour as he has been throughout this election year—completely invisible.)

On both sides of the race, advocates for the candidates made dramatic claims that the huge gatherings of supporters and other signs demonstrated that the electorate was breaking their direction—that victory was certain.  Michael Barone, an editorial writer for the conservative Washington Examiner, pronounced that Romney was on his way to a stunning 315 electoral vote victory. That tally included a sweep of not just both Florida and Virginia (where polls have shown the candidate with razor thin leads), but also in most states where surveys put him meaningfully behind—Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Friday Round-up: All or Nothing

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

  1. It’s the economy, stupid! The final jobs report before the election was issued this morning and the presidential campaigns have already incorporated the findings into their talking points even though the report is unlikely to make a difference with just four days remaining. Employers reported adding 171,000 jobs in October, which was better than expected and better than September (148,000).  The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent, up from 7.8 percent, but the reason behind the increase was that more people counted themselves as looking for work.
  2. Disaster Politics. Mitt Romney suspended campaigning on Monday and Tuesday, while Barack Obama didn’t return to campaigning until Thursday due to Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane also interrupted early voting efforts in affected states, though not in Ohio. Sandy appears to be benefitting Obama, at least at the margins.  According to the latest release of the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, President Obama received high marks for his response to Hurricane Sandy. Nearly eight in ten likely voters think the President did an “excellent” or “good job” responding to the disaster. And finally climate disruption has entered the race, thanks to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Independent) who endorsed Obama in an op-ed in the wake of Sandy:

The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday's presidential election into sharp relief ... Our climate is changing. ... We need leadership from the White House.

Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie together surveyed storm-battered New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Romney ignored repeated questions from reporters regarding his position on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In a June 2011 CNN debate, Romney agreed that federal disaster response could be curtailed: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Economic damages inflicted by Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion, according to the catastrophic risk modeling company Eqecat.

  1. According to the Center for Responsive Politics' new analysis of Federal Election Commission data, this election will likely cost $6 billion. The 2012 election will be the most expensive election in American history, with the cost exceeding the next most expensive election by more than $700 million.

The Consultant President

Mitt Romney, October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voter Summit (Omni Shoreham Hotel) in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC-SA.

Tony Lucadamo, Senior Editor at the Virginia Policy Review, contributes today's guest post, which explores whether Mitt Romney represents a new generation of consultancy leaders.

If you have not already, I encourage you to watch a recent PBS Frontline special on the Presidents entitled, “The Choice 2012.” The show’s season premiere takes an in-depth look at the backgrounds of both Presidential nominees. The most interesting point was this. Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker remarked:

It’s a little bit like a consulting engagement. You go in. You figure out what the problems are. You fix things. You make things more organized. Then you go on to the next challenge.

Romney’s senior advisors essentially concur in later statements. Their narrative runs like a private equity assignment. He presented a product – the socially liberal, fiscally conservative Governor -- which he thought would meet demand. He then did what he could given a Democratic-controlled State legislature. In particular, he picked the issue of healthcare and made it the main issue of his four years in office.

Yet, in many ways, this alternate method is nothing new. Certainly, populism has been around for a long time. Governor Romney's Profile is perhaps an evolution of the executive-centered, efficiency-minded values that took root in the Progressive Era combined with a populism gleaned through the lens of modern business. The service sector constitutes an increasing proportion of U.S. GDP with each passing year. In that case, it should come as no surprise that this new generation of leaders is upon us. Men and women who have built their careers in private equity and consulting may increasingly seek to transfer their skills into politics. There is equal fodder for both pessimists and optimists in that case.

Continue reading this post at the Virginia Policy Review.

 

The Agony of Victory: Behind the Scenes on Election Night

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters.

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters. The president shows the Victory-Sign following his landslide election victory against republican candidate Barry Goldwater. November 3, 1964. Photo by Cecil Stoughton, PD.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have campaigned formally for the better part of a year. When this election is over, the total amount spent by their campaigns or on their behalf will approach $2 billion. They have traveled with few reprieves, been coached for debates, and endured attacks from television advertising (which has been 87% negative overall). And, once it is finished, Obama or Romney will have to move past it—and presumably, govern.

With Election Day just one week away, we wondered how previous candidates have reacted and felt to the culmination of the campaign season. We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center and found phone conversations that provide a glimpse of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon on the eve of victory. Given the years LBJ and Nixon would endure following their success on election night, we are reminded that being up on the mountain and riding the tiger are each their own agony. Impending victory did not bring instant relief for Johnson and Nixon. Instead, election night conversations centered on the nerve of the opponent, the absence of complete victory, and one “sore hip.” This profoundly humanizing fact sheds light on the impending winner of November 6th, 2012.