Election 2012

Come at the King, You Best Not Miss

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) President Barack Obama waves to the crowd at his election night party celebrating his victory over challenger Mitt Romney. I f you want a sense of how remarkable Barack Obama’s re-election victory is, think back to last summer. At the time, the president was struggling to reach a deal with House Republicans, who were threatening not to raise the debt ceiling and plunge the economy into a second recession. Unemployment was high—9.2 percent—Obama’s approval had dipped to the low 40s, and to anyone paying attention, the first African American president looked like a one-term failure. But beginning in the fall, Obama began to reassert himself. With the American Jobs Act, he outlined a viable plan for generating economic growth and kick-starting the recovery. With his widely praised speech in Kansas, he outlined a populist agenda of greater investment and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Over the course of 2012, he built good will with important...

Relief We Can Believe In

White House/Pete Souza
Many years ago, legendary psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky used experiments to demonstrate the power of "loss aversion," the fact that losing something you have is more emotionally powerful than gaining something you don't. In other words, the misery of losing $100 is far larger than the pleasure of gaining $100. Which means that Democrats ought to feel even better today than they did in 2008. They probably don't, though. The election of 2008 was certainly the most extraordinary of my lifetime, and probably of yours as well. There were a few prescient voices at the time saying, "Don't get too excited, or you'll just be disappointed" (Paul Krugman was the most notable), but it was almost impossible not to get swept up in the moment, particularly because it came after eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. The emotion most Democrats are experiencing right now is not so much hope, or inspiration, but relief. It doesn't seem quite as likely to produce tears of joy...

Northern Virginia: BMWs and Cell Phones

(Patrick Caldwell)
Patrick Caldwell Decorations at an Obama field office in Alexandria, Virginia ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA —The daycare of a church named Shiloh Baptist isn't where you'd expect to locate the epicenter of President Obama's hopes for being re-elected. Inside, boxes of Toy Story fruit snacks, miniature scissors, and the occasional errant, bewildered toddler indicate the building's primary purpose, but the string of Obama-Biden yard signs marks this as the spot. While half of the building maintains its original use, the other has been taken over as an Obama field office. About 60 volunteers cram every nook and cranny of the second floor. They line the hallway walls, sitting on folding chairs or cross-legged on the floor, speaking softly into their cell phones, gently reminding voters to head to the polls. A chorus of voices echo the message: "This is so-and-so from the Obama campaign, calling you from Alexandria to see if you have voted today." By the time I arrive in the afternoon they've...

Reasons to Cheer?

(Flickr/ Barack Obama)
For progressives, waiting for tonight's election returns is less a matter of giddy anticipation a la 2008 and more a cause of intense nail-biting. There is potentially more to lose tonight (or God forbid, in a couple of weeks if Florida, Colorado, or Ohio make a mess) than to gain. There’s health-care and regulatory reform, of course. But more than that, there’s the much-needed sanity that President Obama has brought to a politically fractious, often-unhinged Washington. The wingers are champing at the bit, eager to unleash the destructive powers of an unfettered free market and the hounds of war. But if they fail—if we start to see confirmation this evening that Obama’s slim swing-state margins are holding—there will be plenty of reasons for liberals to do more than heave great sighs of relief. In 2008 we had a repudiation election: a national rejection of the destruction wrought by the Bushies. In 2012 we have had, as the president repeatedly said, a “choice election.” The choice,...

What Is to Become of Mitt Romney?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
I've often thought that there are few things worse than getting your party's nomination for president and then losing. To come so close to becoming the most powerful and important person on Planet Earth and then to fall short, and to boot, not only not getting a nice silver medal but being heaped with scorn, ridiculed, and condemned—that must just eat you up inside. Some losers, like John McCain, have a job to go back to, but most don't, and Mitt Romney hasn't had a job since he started running for president five years ago. Let's assume for the moment that all the polls are right, and tonight is going to end with Barack Obama getting re-elected. What will Romney do with himself? He certainly isn't going to run for office again. He couldn't get elected in Massachusetts, where he lives, and would he even want to? After you've reached for the brass ring, becoming a senator or even a governor would seem like going down to the minors. Is he going to go back to Bain Capital? That would seem...

Mitt Romney Falls Short with White Voters

Jamelle Bouie
If you’re looking for reasons to be confident of a Barack Obama win tonight, it’s worth noting Mitt Romney’s share of the white vote in the final pre-election polls: Given the likely composition of the electorate—74 percent white, 26 percent nonwhite—Mitt Romney needs to win at least 61 percent of white voters. But in this average, he roughly repeats George W. Bush’s 2004 performance. Then, this was good enough to eke out a small win in the popular vote. Now, it brings him within striking distance of 50 percent, but no further. What’s more, this is probably the last presidential race where Republicans can count on maximizing their share of white voters to win the election; as National Journal ’s Ron Brownstein points out , the white share of the electorate has steadily declined in every election since 1992, from 88 percent of all voters to 74 percent four years ago. Which is to say that if Republicans had made efforts to bring Latino voters in—or at least, not alienate them—they would...

Handicapping the Marriage-Equality Initiatives

(AP Photo/The Capitol, Paul W. Gillespie)
This is the tenth in the Prospect's series on the 174 measures on state ballots this year. Marriage equality is up for vote in four states. In three states, voters have a chance to affirmatively say yes to allowing their state to marry same-sex couples; in the fourth, voters can add a “one man-one woman” marriage clause to the state’s constitution. As we all know, support for LGBT issues in general, and marriage equality in particular, has been getting stronger every year, as more of us talk to our families and friends, explaining that love and devotion are the same whether you love a boy or a girl. Will this be the year that, at long last, we win at least one marriage vote at the polls? Below is a list of the states to watch, with some brief handicapping. As you watch, remember these two things about the difference between opinion polls and the final polling: All undecideds vote against marriage equality. Ignore the spread. A couple of points of support disappear at the ballot, as...

U.S. Voter Turnout: Better Than You Might Think

For a long time, curmudgeonly commentators lamented the decline of voter turnout in America. Fewer and fewer of us found our way to the polls, distracted as we were by the love lives of motion picture celebrities or the latest models of sporting motor car. But then about a decade ago, something strange happened. First, some political scientists realized that everyone was measuring voter turnout wrong. The accepted rates, which said that fewer than half of Americans turned out on election day, were based on census data of the voting-age population (VAP). The problem is that there are a lot of people who are of voting age but aren't eligible to vote, either because they aren't citizens, or have had their voting rights taken away because they committed a felony (you can read about that in this article by Michael McDonald and Samuel Popkin). When researchers looked at the population of voting-eligible citizens (VEP), it turned out that the numbers looked better than had been previously...

What About Today's Election Would Prove Me Wrong?

This post was originally published at The Monkey Cage . To date, I haven’t made a formal forecast of the presidential election (though I will below). But I want to answer the question in the title of this post first, because it’s one that isn’t asked (or answered) enough. Political science is more often about testing theories and explanation than forecasting the future per se. So when I think about today’s race, I am first and foremost interested in updating how I view key theories, as opposed to whether any particular forecasting model, “mine” or anyone else’s , is “right” (more on that below too). One interesting question is what today's outcome will say about the role of “fundamentals,” such as the economy, in presidential elections. Such factors are not the sole determinant of election outcomes, but they do shape whether candidates enter the race, how they campaign, and who wins. On balance, I have argued that the sum total of economic fundamentals favor Obama. If he loses, then I...

Get Out the Instagram

(Flickr/Stickware)
Michael Collis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania No line at the University of Pennsylvania polling place. Laurence Moore, Santa Clara, California Johanna Brugman, Washington state (where all ballots are by mail) Aryeh Cohen-Wade, Rochester, New York Jason Packman, Japan I live in Japan, and the county where I am now registered allows overseas voters to send in their ballot by fax (albeit with a waiver saying you forfeit your right to a secret ballot) So here is the fax machine I used the morning of the sixth in Japan to send in my ballot. Njaila Rhee, Newark, New Jersey Bernadette Kelly, New York City Baruch College. Hour wait. Jeremy, New York City Here is my roommate Alex voting in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY Jamelle Bouie, Virginia Patrick Caldwell, Washington, DC Lisa Edelson I voted absentee last week from this computer in Lausanne, Switzerland. I'm still waiting for them to e-mail back my "I voted" sticker. :-) Dawn Thomas My three children walking with me to vote. Jeremy, Michigan...

Wooing Old Dominion

Patrick Caldwell “T hank you for what you are doing.” Liz Childress, a 22-year-old volunteer for the Obama campaign, heard this refrain as she knocked on doors in Church Hill, a predominately African American neighborhood east of downtown Richmond, where dilapidated vacant homes dominate many of the blocks. Childress, in a navy pea coat with a Joe Biden pin fastened to the lapel, was canvassing as part of the Obama team’s final get-out-the-vote effort in Virginia. Gone were the days when the campaign sought to reach persuadable undecided voters. Even a week ago, Childress would have talked up Barack Obama to everyone she encountered, with arguments on why the president deserved their support. On the final weekend before Election Day, though, the campaign was pursuing a different strategy: Childress was only checking in with reliable Democrats and reminding them to go to the polls. From the Democratic signs in almost everyone’s yard to the “Occupy Richmond, VA,” spray-painted on a...

Ohio Legal Showdown?

(Flickr/thepodger/rheanvent)
(Flickr/rheanvent) I f you’re confused by the reports coming out of key battleground state Ohio about last-minute changes to voting rules there, you’re not alone. The state’s current voting regulations have more moving parts than a live Lady Gaga show. On Election Day, speculation abounds about legal battles that could lie ahead come Wednesday morning. I called up Ned Foley, professor at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and director of Election Law @ Moritz , a bipartisan center on electoral procedure, to guide me through the wilderness. Foley, it should be noted, thinks that the possibility we won’t know the winner of the presidential race by late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning is “quite unlikely,” despite the fact that the chattering classes have been talking about Ohio as this year’s potential Florida. That being said, semper paratus (always ready). “It’s not like there are seven different things that might happen on November 7,” Foley said. “It’s like we...

The GOP Apostate Campaigns for Obama in Virginia

(Patrick Caldwell)
Patrick Caldwell Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee at an Obama field office in Henrico, VA. Mitt Romney and Lincoln Chafee have surprisingly similar family backgrounds, both the product of prominent Republican households. Their fathers governed states as Rockefeller Republicans—George Romney in Michigan, John Chafee in Rhode Island—then served together in Richard Nixon's cabinet. The sons followed their fathers' molds as moderate Northeastern Republicans to great success a decade ago. Romney became the governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and Chafee replaced his father in the Senate, each serving one term in their respective roles. From there they split. Romney, of course, disavowed his moderate image to run for president in 2008, sticking to his severely conservative mantra up until the final month of this year's presidential campaign. Chafee, on the other hand, disavowed his party after he lost his Senate seat to a Democrat in 2006. He endorsed his former Senate colleague Barack Obama...

Will Mendacity Win?

Looked at from a certain angle, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been a grand experiment in whether it's possible to lie your way to the White House. Sure, all politicians stretch the truth like Play-Doh. They dissemble. They exaggerate. They tell the occasional out-and-out whopper. Traditionally, though, politicians tend to stick with truthiness, in the Colbert sense. Until now, there’s never been a presidential campaign built almost solely on a foundation of lies. Romney’s people have made no bones about it; his pollster, Neil Newhouse, told media at the Republican National Convention, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." Strangely, that might have been the single most honest statement to come out of the campaign. Romney has lied about Obama raising taxes on the middle class. He’s invented an overseas “apology tour." He’s sworn up and down that the president cut $500 billion from Medicare. He's claims that under Obama, the federal government...

Follow the Money—Where?

During the past few hours in California, the new model of Republican/Big Money campaign finance has become clear. It’s the Russian Doll model—every time you think you’re about to identify the source of a major contribution, you open it up and lo! There’s another doll that you have to open up and lo! There’s another … To move from the metaphoric to the actual, the contribution in question here was an $11 million check that came in several weeks ago to a Sacramento-based right-wing business organization called the Small Business Action Committee that is running a campaign against Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which would raise taxes chiefly on wealthy Californians in order to keep school and public-university budgets from falling through the floor, and the campaign for Proposition 32, which would make it much harder for unions to access their members’ dues for their political activities. The Sacramento organization, required by California law to reveal the source of the...

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