The conventional wisdom has arrived: 2012 was a status quo election. The President was re-elected. Democrats continue to have a majority in the Senate. Republicans still control the House. Only two states changed their presidential votes from 2008 to 2012 (North Carolina and Indiana). Six billion dollars were spent and almost nothing changed!
The conventional wisdom is wrong. Things have indeed changed. Voters came out to defend the revolution of 2008. They rejected a return to the old order.
The status quo candidate in this election was Mitt Romney. Romney represented the old order that’s been in power since 1980: the Reagan regime with its power base of older white men. Bill Clinton, the only Democrat to win the White House during that regime, tried to make accommodations with it. They impeached him.
All that changed with the revolution of 2008. The New America, led by Barack Obama, came to power. It was a movement of young people, working women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, union members, liberals, gays and other groups that had long been out of power.
The Republican Party focuses on mobilizing its conservative base to win elections. The Democratic Party focuses on mobilizing its liberal base. But the bulk of votes are in the middle. Presidential elections have featured more moderate voters than either liberals or conservatives in every year since exit polls began asking the question. In the battle for the White House, moderates dominate.
By Bill Schneider, Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way
What we expect to hear in the closing days of a campaign is a call to arms. Instead, what we’re hearing from both sides is a call to disarm.
“I’m going to have to reach across the aisle and meet with good Democrats who love America just like you love America,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a recent campaign rally in Virginia. “And there are good Democrats like that.”
“In the end, we’re all in this together,” President Barack Obama said at a rally in Wisconsin. “We rise and fall as one nation, one people.”
Why the sudden craving for unity? Because that’s the issue that got Obama elected. He became a star when he told the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America.”
In all 12 of the presidential battleground states, Obama maintains leads in polling averages in 9 states and Romney in 3 states. If these polls held on Election Day, President Obama would be reelected with 290 electoral votes and Romney would have 248 electoral votes.
It is difficult to assess how the candidates are performing among Independents in the state polls. Many of the state-level polls do not report data for Independents, have very small sample sizes for their crosstabs, or provide contradictory data.
For example, in Ohio both Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling released state level data this week. Both had Obama winning the state by 5 points, but Quinnipiac has Romney winning Independents by 6 (49% to 43%) while PPP has Independents evenly split.
Governor Romney’s tax plan contains nearly $5 trillion in specific tax cuts over ten years. The Governor has also said his plan will not add to the deficit. To date he has only proposed one specific policy to make up the lost revenue—capping itemized deductions.
However, each version of the Romney plan falls well short of the promise he made to keep his tax plan revenue neutral. Based on our calculations, Governor Romney needs to find up to $4 trillion in additional revenue to make his numbers work.
“If President Obama wants to go into this debate like Joe Biden last week, that won’t go over with an audience of undecided voters… They want problem-solving, and their most deeply held belief is that politics is the enemy of problem-solving.”
Bill Schneider, Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way to NPR.
With the first 2012 presidential debate slated for Wednesday night, we thought it might be helpful to pass along a few suggestions — some more substantive than others — to the participants.
We were inspired by a memo recently issued by Third Way, a Democratic advisory group — as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The memo offers a slew of helpful hints, including:
Start by writing your “dream” post-debate headline.
Develop a list of the three items you MUST say in the debate … use it as a checklist before each answer — see if you can fit one in your answer.
Punches are good; counterpunches are better.
Study what your opponent has been saying, especially in the days just before debate … 90 percent of what your opponent will say in the debate will have come out of his mouth in the week before.
Begin answers with “yes” or “no” if possible; answer first, then explain. … Voters will see you as candid and responsive.
The author of the memo is Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. Klain has also prepped several Democrats, including then-Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992 and Sen. John Kerry in 2004, for presidential debates.
Because Klain is helping Obama prepare this time around, the memo takes on additional import. But does it go far enough?
As a public service, we offer even more friendly, unsolicited advice to the candidates, from specialists in various fields.
Debates are rarely game changers. That’s bad news for Mitt Romney, who is depending on the debates to turn his campaign around. The most likely way that would happen is if President Obama made some kind of unforced error. That’s a risky thing to count on.
In 2004, CNN polled viewers after every presidential debate and asked them who won. The answer, after all three debates:John Kerry. Voters were in agreement that Kerry was a better debater, and certainly more articulate, than George W. Bush. The debates did make the race closer, but Bush sustained a narrow lead. Most people don’t vote for you for president because you’re a better debater.
Debates have a tendency to do more harm than good.
Only one contender, President Obama, has been expanding his populist appeal during this year’s campaign (against Romney, it isn’t that hard). Two post-convention polls show Obama far ahead of Romney as the candidate more “in touch with the problems facing middle class Americans” and better for “advancing the interests of the middle class.”