Miller Center

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

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.”