Notes from the American Elections. The last two weeks of the campaign
By Joe DiMento. Unless there is a major news item that I might be able to interpret in the next ten days this will be my last column before we know who the President of the United States will be in January. Today I give some interpretations of what has happened since I last reported and what we can expect in the final pushes of the two candidates, and their parties.
The last debate
The theme of the fourth and final debate, the third between the Presidential candidates, was supposed to be foreign policy. However while the candidates spoke about Russia, Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Syria, the Middle East [and who is a better friends of Israel], the size of the military budget, and the role of war and peace in U.S. policy, both candidates, Governor Romney most often, emphasized that the place of the United States on the world stage is directly linked to the health of the domestic economy. In fact, Governor Romney made few direct criticisms of the President’s foreign policy speaking at times in the most general of terms: I support the President on that or “It’s very simple: find the bad guys and kill them.” As has been the case throughout the debates there was very little focus on Europe and nothing said about Italy.
The effect of the debates as I noted in an earlier column is very difficult to assess. However the good performance by the President and the quiet, gentlemanly, and not specific performance by Governor Romney probably had only a minor effect, if any. The polls as of October 25 show the following, although in some even more recent polls there is a shift toward Romney’s favor at the national level.
What might change these numbers? Historically in modern American Presidential elections just before voting time in November a major announcement or news item, or occasionally a scandal, becomes the “October surprise” presumably timed at shifting public opinion toward a candidate.
These last minute often desperate “revelations” go back to the 1960s. In October 1968 President Johnson suggested there was a major peace breakthrough in the Vietnam War in an attempt to assist his then Vice President who was running against Richard Nixon.
In 1980 a confusing set of charges and countercharges surfaced, just before the election, about President Jimmy Carter’s attempt to gain release of the Iran hostages.
In 1992 less than a week before the election Caspar Weinberger the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair. Later that year before Bill Clinton took office President Bush pardoned Mr. Weinberger as he was about to be tried.
We learned just before the Bush-Gore election that President Bush had been arrested for drunken driving in 1976, but George Bush himself confirmed the report and went on to “win” the election in 2000.
On the last day of October 2008, we were enlightened that a half-aunt of candidate Barack Obama was living as an illegal immigrant in Boston.
Surprises this time?
Some of these were clearly unimportant but this time so far the surprises are true duds. One involves an obscure allegation that Governor Romney may have been less that truthful in a decades old divorce settlement case involving one of his friends. Another came from some nosing about that seems to have discovered that at one point Michelle Obama was considering seeking a divorce from Mr. Obama.
If surprises won’t play a major role in this election in the remaining days one will likely see, rather than further analysis of important issues, the following in attempts to make the difference in final outcome.
√ Massive, obscene amounts of money being spent on saturated media campaigns. About $100 million in ad campaigns will be expended before November 6 much in the remaining swing states about which I wrote in an earlier column. Governor Romney‘s campaign announced recently that the Republican ticket and the Republican National Committee raised $111.8 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17.
√ Energetic well organized get out the vote activities. Turn-out is critical again. Weather can make a difference. Mobilizing assistance to the elderly and the poor can also. Conversely we are witnessing increased efforts to keep out the vote on the part of party operatives aiming to limit the turnout of groups likely to vote for the opposition.
√ Some reliable voters not voting on election day—- because they already voted; none of the new money will have any effect on their choice: “The country is likely to easily exceed the early voting totals from 2008, when 30 percent of all ballots were cast ahead of Election Day,” stated a George Mason University professor who tracks early voting. And Reuters reported that early voters could reach 40 percent of all voters in this election. Polls of people who have already voted find that President Barack Obama has “a comfortable lead” over Governor Romney. One of the Obama votes was cast by the President himself two weeks before the election.