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Election’s Eve: Our Roundup of Some of the Key Issues

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Election’s Eve is finally upon us. Even after the longest presidential campaign in history, the two candidates and their running mates are scheduled to hold 14 events across eight states in the final hours. The current (as of 2 pm) Real Clear Politics average of twelve polls shows President Obama at 48.5 percent, with Mitt Romney closely following at 48.1 percent. Some have maintained this election is too close to call. Nate Silver puts the odds at 86 percent chance that President Obama will win the Electoral College. This morning, Larry Sabato and the Crystal Ball predicted that President Obama would likely win a second term. Here at Riding the Tiger, we aren’t the prediction business, but we have been following the election closely throughout year and weighing in with historical analysis and commentary. In this post, we highlight some of the more salient issues in the election, as well as some issues the candidates didn’t address but we wish they had.

  • Much of the election centered on the economy. In May, the Miller Center partnered with ABC News for an election year debate on whether the economic recovery was built to last. One of David Walker’s most salient points in the discussion was that neither party has presented real solutions to the country’s long-term challenges. On RTT, Guian McKee argued that the candidates’ shared idea that manufacturing represents a key component of the nation’s economic future was a significant and surprising departure from the economic focus of most recent presidential campaigns. We also noted that polls have consistently indicated that in this election, “It’s Economy + Personality, Stupid!
  • This election was marked by unprecedented fundraising and campaign spending. As we noted in last week’s Friday Round-up, this election will likely cost $6 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' new analysis of Federal Election Commission data. 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. Ray LaRaja posited on RTT that it could easily be argued that there is too little spent on elections, particularly if we consider the costs of informing and mobilizing voters. However, the Obama campaign amassed a base of more than 4 million unique donors — or 1 in 75 Americans – a new record. We also witnessed the emergence of a Super PAC political arms race. The Super PACs and campaigns have spent substantial sums of money on mostly negative ads in battleground states (87% of ads this election were negative, according to the Wesleyan Media Project). As we have argued previously on RTT, whether all the money raised and spent will make a difference in turning out voters is an entirely different question. Indeed, what will matter more is the ability of each of the candidates and their campaigns to organize and mobilize voters. In the final hours, Republicans are painting the picture that they carry the enthusiasm advantage that will help Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts in the final hours.
  • The debate over Obamacare was one of the central issues in this election. Miller Center Senior Fellow Barbara Perry discussed the consequences of the judicial victory over Obamacare—a reinvigorated GOP base, Tea Party, and Romney candidacy.
  • In “Is There Much Difference Between the Candidates on Foreign Policy?,” we argued that as Romney’s major foreign policy speech, the foreign policy debate and other statements reveal, we’re unlikely to see much difference in national security and foreign policy or in the use of executive power in this domain under a Romney administration compared to the Obama administration. As Stephen Knott argued, both candidates embrace executive war powers. Sarah Bush laid out differences in the candidates’ approaches to democracy promotion in the Middle East. And Romney has sought to distinguish himself from the President on policy towards China and Russia.
  • In “The Candidates Views on Energy,” we provided an overview of the key differences between the Republican and Democratic tickets over clean energy, climate policy, government regulation and the Keystone pipeline expansion.
  • The presidential candidates’ responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona vs. United States made clear a partisan divide over how authority to set immigration law should be divided between the federal, state and local governments and competing visions for the shape immigration reform might take. 
  • In “Do the Candidates Really Want to Wake the Sleeping Issue of School Reform?,” Jesse Rhodes noted that neither Obama, nor Romney made much of education before the presidential debate on domestic policy even though it has been an area of major, albeit submerged, programmatic reform in 2012. Christopher P. Loss further noted the striking thing about contemporary education politics is just how much agreement there is among policymakers and the public that the education system is broken and needs to be fixed.
  • While both the presidential candidates decidedly focused on wooing the middle class in this election, we asked: “Why Aren’t the Candidates Addressing Poverty?” We also noted that in the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, there was a window of opportunity to discuss gun laws, but we cautioned that because of election year politics, “Don’t Expect a Gun Law Showdown.”

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