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Posts Tagged ‘Election 2012’

How did Obama do it?

November 6th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on Al Jazeera.

It was partly a personal victory. American voters like Barack Obama. Mitt Romney, not so much. Romney came across as an opportunist. He was a moderate when that was required in Massachusetts, and he was a “severe conservative” when he ran for the Republican nomination. In the end, voters just didn’t trust Romney

What about the issues? The economy was a huge burden for President Obama. That’s why the election was so close. It was by far the biggest issue to voters, and those concerned about the economy did vote for Romney. But not by a huge margin. Obama benefited from the fact that a lot of voters still blame President Bush for the financial crisis. And from the fact that people believe the economy is beginning to turn around. Obama sells hope, and there’s still a lot of hope out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank Your Grandparents for Equality Surging in Polls

October 31st, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on the Advocate.

This year might bring the first-ever statewide vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples — and for that you have your grandmother to thank. Why? Because contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans born in the 1940s have been changing their minds on the marriage issue faster than nearly any other age group. And they are in good company.

Some marriage advocates have posited that the mammoth growth our country has seen in support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has been primarily caused by younger, more accepting voters replacing older ones in the population. But new data released in our new report, The Big Shift, shows that this phenomenon only explains one quarter of the total movement since 2004, while 75% of the shift was caused by Americans of all ages — including your parents’ and grandparents’ generation — changing their minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Energy Policy after 2012

October 23rd, 2012

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Summary points

  • Thanks to continued partisan gridlock, major congressional action on energy is unlikely after the 2012 elections. However, this could change if there is a deal to address the budget deficit or if one party makes significant gains in seats.
  • Domestic oil and natural gas production will continue to grow under either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
  • A second Obama administration would be likely to seek to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of clean energy through a mix of tax incentives, encouraging private financing, and regulation of conventional and climate pollutants.
  • A Romney administration would be likely to focus on increasing domestic conventional energy production by reducing environmental regulation, particularly on coal-burning power plants, and opening more public land to oil and natural gas development. Excluding basic research, government incentives for clean energy would most likely be eliminated.

Introduction

In 2008, the price of natural gas in the United States was roughly $8 per thousand cubic feet (tcf), coal was used to generate more than 47 per cent of all electricity, and there was a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that climate change was real, caused by humans, and needed to be addressed immediately. It seemed only a matter of time before the country adopted a cap-and-trade system similar to one backed by both parties’ presidential nominees.

Four years later, the energy landscape has changed dramatically. Cap-and-trade is on the ash heap of history, and climate change and clean energy have become enormously politicized. The price of natural gas has dropped as low as $2.25 per tcf thanks to the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) that has given the United States access to more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and sent domestic coal use into a precipitous decline. That same fracking technology has led to a domestic oil boom, with imports dropping to 42 per cent of use, the lowest level in two decades. Clean energy, particularly wind and solar, also saw a boom in the early years of the Obama administration thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The growth in domestic shale oil and gas production seems inevitable. But the broader future of US energy faces much more uncertainty. There are enormous differences in how the two candidates would approach regulation of energy production and generation, climate change and America’s competition in the global clean energy race. Polling shows that these issues will have little impact on the decisions voters make. But they will have enormous implications for the price and source of the energy Americans consume, the success of America’s energy industries and the fate of international efforts to stem climate change.

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Battle for the Senate: North Dakota

October 15th, 2012

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North Dakota’s Senate race is shaping up to be a surprising toss-up in 2012. The most recent poll from Mason-Dixon (October 3–5) has the race tied at 47% apiece, with former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Berg (R), both well-known and evenly matched in the state. In order to clinch a victory in this often red state, Heitkamp will need to dominate among moderate voters—who compose about half of North Dakota’s electorate. If Heitkamp can use the two upcoming debates to appeal to those moderates (one today and the other on October 25th), she may be able to pull the 65% of moderates we predict she’ll need to win in November. By contrast, because the number of conservatives far exceeds the number of liberals in the state, Berg may be able to declare victory if he can peel off just 36% of moderate voters.

In a recent poll, both had favorable name recognition among North Dakotans, with few people unfamiliar with the candidates.

Statewide Name Recognition

Recognize Favorable Recognize Unfavorable Recognize Neutral Don’t Recognize
Heitkamp 46% 35% 18% 1%
Rep. Berg 42% 37% 20% 1%

 

In May Third Way released a report highlighting the importance of moderates in the 2012 Senate Battlegrounds races. Throughout October, we will assess how well the candidates are doing in appealing to this crucial group in the middle. Below, we take a look at Nevada and the Senate race between Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Rep.Rick Berg (R).

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Battle for the Senate: Nevada

October 11th, 2012

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Moderates aren’t sold on either candidate seeking Nevada’s Senate seat in November. They disapprove of Senator Dean Heller’s job performance by 8 points (37% approve to 45% disapprove), and they have an unfavorable view of Representative Shelley Berkley (45% favorable to 47% unfavorable).

Heller and Berkley square-off in Las Vegas for their second debate and while scoring points with their respective bases might be tempting, to win in November, Heller and Berkley need the support of Nevada’s largest ideological bloc of voters: moderates. Third Way predicts that if Heller garners 40% of the moderate vote, he’ll win in November. But if Berkley earns the support of 61% of Nevada’s moderate voters, then she’ll be Nevada’s next Senator.

In May Third Way released a report highlighting the importance of moderates in the 2012 Senate Battlegrounds races. Throughout October, we will assess how well the candidates are doing in appealing to this crucial group in the middle. Below, we take a look at Nevada and the Senate race between Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R).

Read the rest of this entry »

Paul’s Power Play in Iowa — But What’s Next?

December 27th, 2011

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This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Ron Paul is likely to win the Iowa Republican caucuses next week. What can that possibly mean?

Ron Paul is something of a crank. He’s a libertarian with extreme anti-government views. He wants to abolish the Federal Reserve system. And the federal income tax. And cut spending by one trillion dollars in the first year. And end all foreign aid (including aid to Israel). And bring home all U.S. forces stationed overseas.

He dismisses a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to the U.S. He has said he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2007, he was the only Member of the House of Representatives to vote against creating a National Archives exhibit on slavery and Reconstruction. He was also the only Member to vote against giving a Congressional Gold Medal to Pope John Paul II, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Paul published newsletters that included inflammatory contributions by white supremacists, anti-Zionists and far right extremists. The newsletters bore his name — The Ron Paul Political Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report — but he says he was not responsible for the contents and may not have even read the articles.

Paul ran for President in 1988 — 24 years ago! — as the candidate of the Libertarian Party. He got less than one half of one percent of the vote.

Paul is ahead in the Iowa polls right now. But, at age 76, he is never going to be President of the United States.

So what does it mean?

There is not much evidence that Paul has moved toward mainstream Republican conservatism. Instead, the Republican Party has moved toward him. The Tea Party insurrection has certainly pulled the GOP in that direction. But Paul is not a Tea Party favorite. In a recent CNN poll, 53 percent of Republican Tea Party supporters nationwide said they would not support Paul for the party nomination “under any circumstances.”

Paul is to the right of the Tea Party, particularly on foreign policy. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right, it is in danger of falling over the edge of sanity. Because Paul says such outlandish things, voters think he’s honest. Asked by CNN which Republican candidate “is the least likely to act like a typical politician,” Paul was ranked first.

The simplest explanation for Paul’s strength in Iowa is the weakness of the rest of the field. Iowa Republicans have had six, count ‘em, six frontrunners in the last eight months: Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and now Ron Paul. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole. Every time a frontrunner sticks his head up, he gets pounded down. Paul just has the advantage of being the latest.

Paul’s led also says that organization matters in Iowa. And Paul doesn’t just have an organization. He has a cult. His cultish following — which includes a lot of young people who like his antiwar views and his opposition to drug laws — gave him a strong second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll last summer.

Organization matters in Iowa because the Iowa contest is not a primary. It’s a caucus. A primary is an election. A caucus is a meeting. It takes a lot more effort to attend a meeting on a freezing winter night than to stop by a polling place and cast a ballot. Organized groups — churches in the Republican Party, unions in the Democratic Party — arrange rides and provide babysitters in order to get their supporters to the caucuses. According to one independent Iowa voter interviewed by the Des Moines Register, Paul “has an amazing organization, no question. . . . They’re out there giving out signs, signing people up, following up with supporters and it’s paying off.”

Many observers idealize the Iowa caucuses as the ultimate expression of democracy: good citizens gathering in their neighborhoods to decide the fate of the country. That’s nonsense. Caucuses are public voting. You have to stand up in front of your friends and neighbors and God and everybody and declare your support for Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry or whoever. Ideological activists love to do that. Normal people don’t bother.

The former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party recently wrote this characterization of Iowa Republican caucus participants: “It’s hard to talk about real issues when three quarters of the audience wear tin foil hats.”

Compare turnout in the Iowa Republican caucuses and the New Hampshire Republican primary. In 2008, Iowa had more than twice as many registered voters as New Hampshire (1,630,000 in Iowa, 756,000 in New Hampshire). But turnout in the New Hampshire Republican primary was about twice as large as turnout in the Iowa Republican caucuses (235,000 in New Hampshire, 119,000 in Iowa).

Reports suggest that some of Paul’s biggest applause lines in Iowa come when he denounces foreign aid and U.S. military intervention overseas. He may be tapping into a long tradition of Midwestern isolationism. In the 1930s, the Midwest was a hotbed of American First sentiment opposed to U.S. involvement in World War II. That sentiment never entirely died on the right. More recently, it has been joined by left-wing antiwar sentiment generated by Vietnam and Iraq. That strain of isolationism horrifies mainstream conservatives.

If Paul wins Iowa, he is unlikely to go much farther. The Republican establishment will stop him, just like they stopped Patrick Buchanan in 1992 and 1996. The one establishment Republican who will be happy to see Paul win Iowa is Mitt Romney. Paul is his least threatening opponent on the right.

Iowa is where Republicans get their thrills. They date flashy suitors who have sexy come-ons. But in the end, they settle for a good provider. That’s what Romney is counting on.