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Friday Round-Up 10/26: The Final Stage

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.

  1. The most recent Rasmussen poll has the number of undecided voters at 2%. Setting aside Saturday Night Live’s recent parody of those few remaining, who are those undecideds? What are their common characteristics? Katharine Seelye of the New York Times offers a picture of the “waitress Mom” voter: a woman who voted for President Obama in 2008, who is dissatisfied with his first term, and equally dissatisfied with the Republican alternative. Colloquially, she is no longer a “soccer mom,” to reflect a general decline in her quality of life since the late 1990s. As Jen Doll of The Atlantic notes, Seelye’s piece offers a picture of a particular kind of woman, and is not all inclusive of the female swing vote--which underscores the fact that labels like “soccer mom” have less meaning as the female electorate fragments, defying simple categorization and the phenomenon of single-issue voting.
  2. In an originally “off the record” interview with the Des Moines Register, President Obama said that in his second term he would attempt to work out a “grand bargain” with Republicans to address issues like immigration and the national debt. Obama’s ambiguous second-term agenda has been a source of criticism throughout the campaign. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt asks the simple, most direct question regarding the issue: “What would President Obama do with a second term?” In a piece that compares Obama to Woodrow Wilson, Michael Barone makes the point that the lack of specifics frees Obama’s agenda of constraints--a source of potential unease. The Des Moines interview also showed a rare glimpse of the President talking shop about the campaign: “Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win [...] is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
  3. The Wesleyan Media Project found that the number of aired political ads this election cycle has increased 44% since 2008 (from 637,000 to 915,000). The total campaign expenditure on television advertising may reach $2 billion. Kantar Media CMAG found that 87% of ads this time around have a negative tone. NPR notes that it is unclear how cost-effective the ads are at actually persuading voters, but “as long as there is one more voter out there to be persuaded, the ad wars [...] will continue.”
  4. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball predicted as of yesterday that Republicans would maintain control of the House, despite losing a few seats. The prediction ended with the claim that Democratic control of the House was no longer among the possible scenarios worth considering--a further sign that the field of possible outcomes is narrowing as the race enters its final stage.
  5. President Obama received two high-profile endorsements this past week. Colin Powell endorsed Obama on CBS Thursday morning. In 2008, Powell famously broke partisan ranks and endorsed Obama--when asked if he was still a Republican, he answered in the affirmative, adding that moderates like him were a “dying breed.” Ken Burns, who criticized Romney after the first debate for his stance on public broadcasting, formally endorsed Obama, writing, “Like FDR, Obama has walked us back from the brink.”
  6. In a debate moderated by Larry King, four third party presidential candidates [Virgil Goode (Constitution), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Rocky Anderson (Justice), and Jill Stein (Green)] discussed issues that have received little attention in the “mainstream” campaign: drug enforcement policy and the legalization of marijuana, climate change, protection of civil liberties, LGBT rights, poverty, and Congressional term limits. However, while bringing the undercovered issues some much-needed fresh air, the candidates showed they were not above making lofty promises. Stein promised to create 25 million new jobs (more than double Romney’s promise)--all in the area of green-energy. Goode proposed a moratorium on all legal (and illegal) immigration.
  7. One (perhaps unintended) consequence of the final presidential debate came after President Obama made the following statement: “the sequester is not something I proposed, it's something that Congress proposed. It will not happen.” Regardless of who wins the election, President Obama and Congress must address the upcoming “fiscal cliff” which includes massive automatic cuts to government programs. Obama’s statement may have set his administration’s political posture in the post-election session. The White House maintains that the remark not a change in Obama’s policy or rhetoric on the issue.
  8. Donald Trump offered to write a $5 million check to a charity of President Obama’s choosing on one condition: Obama release his college and passport applications. The “offer” has Peter Grier wondering what angle Trump is playing. Is he a political double-agent trying to sink Romney’s final-stretch appeal to moderates? Is he a shameless egotist who cannot stand to be out of the spotlight? Is he a caring citizen with selfless concerns about the legitimacy of the executive office? Questions aside, we can wonder how (if at all) Trump’s last minute blitz will affect a race in its final stage.
  9. Israel was mentioned by the candidates 22 times in the final presidential debate--with a clear consensus on its close relationship/friendship to the U.S. A recent piece in the New York Times profiles Sheldon Adelson (who has pledged $100 million to the Romney), and may offer one possible explanation for the emphasis on Israel: neither candidate, whether garnering explicit support or not, is willing to take any political risks on an issue with as much salience as U.S.-Israeli relations.
  10. At the end of the 2012 debate season, we thought it would be interesting to provide some cursory summary statistics:

Presidential Debates, Viewers, and Polls

Debate:

Number of Viewers:

CNN Snap-Polls:

5-Day National Bounce [RCA]:

Oct. 3rd

67.2 Million

Romney +42%

Romney +2.7%

Oct. 16th

65.6 Million

Obama +7%

Obama +0.6%

Oct. 22nd

59.2 Million

Obama +8%

?

 

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