Despite unsavoury economic and job statistics, United States (U.S.) voters and analysts of 2012 presidential election are beginning to sift the shafts from the wheat after the conclusion of the Republican and Democratic Conventions. And now, after initial swinging clouds of Republican primaries, goofs, tirades of the contestants against each other and President Barack Obama’s programmes and policies, the coast is becoming clearer on who will become the favourite choice of American voters as presidential pick in November.
Using agency reports and records, AEB writes about the election, how the candidates emerged, highlights of the two parties’ national conventions and comments of analysts on speeches delivered at the events and the shape of the campaigns and current opinion poll ratings of the candidates.
U.S. 2012 Presidential Election
UNKNOWN to many people, the United States (U.S.) presidential election which will be held on Tuesday, November 6, will be the 57th quadrennial presidential election in which presidential electors, who will officially elect the president and the vice president of the U.S. on December 17, 2012, will be chosen. Also, incumbent President Barack Obama is running for a second and final term during the election. Aside his major challenger, former Massachusetts governor, Republican, Mitt Romney, two other candidates have attained ballot access sufficient enough to mathematically win the election by a majority of the electoral college. One of them is Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor and the Libertarian Party nominee; and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.
More so, the 2012 presidential election will coincide with the U.S. Senate elections where one-third of the senators will face re-election, and the House of Representatives elections – which occur biennially – to elect the members for the 113th Congress. Eleven gubernatorial elections and many elections for state legislatures will also hold.
How Democratic and Republican candidates emerged
For the two dominant parties, Obama, who is the candidate of the Democratic Party, is an incumbent president elected on the platform of the party and hence, his party did not hold primaries.
But it was a long road to victory for Romney as he fought it out with other candidates for the Republican nomination in the early stages of the primaries. And on May 29, Romney won the Texas 2012 Republican primaries; the subsequent accumulation of the state’s 155 delegates was enough for him to clinch the party’s final nomination.
Highlights of Republican and Democratic National Conventions
On the way to the two conventions proper, Romney picked Paul Ryan, a budget hawk congressman from Wisconsin, as his vice presidential candidate. And this temporarily spiralled Romney’s rating with Ryan stealing much of the campaign limelight, appearing before large pumped-up crowds on the trail with Romney.
As expected, on August 28, 2012, delegates at the Republican National Convention (RNC) officially named Romney the party’s presidential nominee. He formally accepted the delegates’ nomination on August 30, 2012.
The RNC was held on August 27, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. Following the approach of Hurricane Isaac, the convention officials changed its schedule on August 26; and it finally came to order on August 27 and then immediately went on recess until the following afternoon owing to concern for the potential effect on people in the path of the storm as well as the Tampa area itself.
During the convention proper, the most coveted speaking slot that was intended to close the Monday night programme was scheduled to go to Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife. But since the major television networks had opted out on Monday’s primetime coverage – prior to Monday’s cancellation of activities, her speech was moved to Tuesday, August 28 after 10.00 p.m. EDT, when broadcast networks began coverage. With an introduction by Lucé Vela Fortuño, the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Ann’s task in her speech was described by Lois Romano of POLITICO as, “to try to accomplish what the sharpest minds in Republican politics have failed to do: Present her stiff and awkward husband as a likable guy.”
Ann started off by stating that her speech was not about politics, not about party, but about heart, about love. Ann employed emotions to appeal to her audience by showing her audience what she had realised about the economic problem in the country. In this, she related to the average American and more importantly, to women.
In the second portion of her speech, she talked about her husband, Mitt, in an attempt to present him as a likable guy by trying to make the audience relate to her and Mitt’s personal lives; the struggles that they went through and the success that they built by working hard.
Also, the early lineup of speakers that Tuesday was dominated by GOP minorities, including Tim Scott; Rep. Francisco Canseco of Texas, who spoke to the audience in Spanish; Ricky Gill, a congressional candidate from California; and congressional candidate Mia Love, an African-American mayor of a small town in Utah as well as Sher Valenzuela, a candidate for lieutenant governor in Delaware.
Before the Republicans closed the curtain on Thursday, Clint Eastwood was later revealed as the mystery guest due to speak minutes before Mitt’s speech. For days, organisers had teased the 50,000 convention goers with a blank space in one of the prime slots in the speaking schedule, refusing to reveal who would take the stage before a television audience of millions.
And finally, delegates were given their first clue as the house band began to practice the distinctive theme song to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and official confirmation came soon after. He was Eastwood, a long-time Republican, endorsed Romney earlier in the month after remaining neutral throughout the party’s long primary season. Eastwood has made several forays into politics and in 1986 successfully ran as a Republican to become mayor of Carmel, the wealthy Californian beach city where he lived. Agency reports indicated that his politics remains idiosyncratic and he has sometimes described himself as a libertarian, supporting abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
But he could not give Romney the required lift when he addressed the convention. Eastwood later defended his widely mocked appearance, saying criticism has come “from the left”.
The 82-year-old had at the convention, conducted an imaginary conversation with Barack Obama, when he was endorsing Romney.
Speaking to California newspaper, he said the idea had come to him at the last minute. He admitted it was “unorthodox” but called the crowd “super enthusiastic”.
“I may have irritated a lot of the lefties but I was aiming for people in the middle,” Eastwood told the newspaper, which serves the California town of Carmel where he served as mayor in the 1980s.
The rambling speech drew widespread criticism, with some commentators saying it had damaged Romney’s campaign.
Eastwood addressed an empty chair, asking: “Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people?”
Later he concluded: “When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ‘em go,” before drawing a finger across his throat.
MSNBC news presenter, Rachel Maddow, seemed to be lost for words immediately after the speech. “I don’t know what was going on there,” she told viewers.
Also, Cable News Network (CNN) host Howard Kurtz called it the “weirdest convention moment I have ever seen.”
According to the New York Times, even Republican Party advisers called the 12-minute address “strange” and “weird.”
But Eastwood – star of Unforgiven and the Dirty Harry films – was unabashed by the reaction. “It was supposed to be a contrast with all the scripted speeches because I’m Joe Citizen,” he said.
“I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there,” he explained.
The idea to deliver a speech to an invisible Obama only came to him 15 minutes before he stepped out on the stage in Tampa.
Following the speech, President Obama tweeted of himself seated in the chair labelled “The President”, saying: “This seat’s taken.”
However, The Washington Post rated the speech of Mario Rubio better, saying the expectations for the Florida Senator heading into his speech introducing Romney at the Republican convention could hardly have been higher. Rubio is widely regarded within the Republican Party as the star among stars. In spite of all those expectations, Rubio soared — delivering a convincing case for why he was a Republican and why Romney was the right choice in November. In a Republican convention in which many of the party’s much-touted future stars failed to impress, Rubio stood out as the class of the 2016/2020.
Also, Romney’s speech at the RNC in Tampa received a lower score than any presidential candidate’s convention speech since the polling firm, Gallup, started asking the question after Republican and Democratic conventions in 1996.
In the speech proper, Romney launched his for the White House with a personal speech to the RNC and a prime-time TV audience, proclaiming that America needs “jobs, lots of jobs” and promising to create 12 million of them in perilous economic times.
“Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney declared to a nation struggling with 8.3 per cent unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in decades.
The candidate, who is usually seen as a distant politician, made a press-the-flesh entrance into the hall, walking slowly down one of the convention aisles and shaking hands with dozens of delegates.
This made the hall to erupt in cheers when he reached the stage and he waved to his shouting, chanting supporters before beginning to speak.
“I accept your nomination for president,” he said, to a roar of approval. Then he pivoted into personal details of family life, recounting his youth as a Mormon, the son of parents devoted to one another, and a married man with five rambunctious sons.
He aimed numerous tirades at Obama and drew cheers when he vowed to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office,” Romney declared.
Romney did not mention the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and made only the most fleeting references to social issues.
A CNN columnist, John Avlon, said: “On family, Mitt Romney got an ‘A’ in his nomination speech last night. On positive presidential vision, he got a ‘C’ – and on presidential policy he got “an incomplete.”
In contrast, at Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hollywood starlets – Eva Longoria, Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington – told American voters how they relied on government schemes early in life, as they called for Obama’s re-election. The trio laid out ordinary early lives far from the bright lights of Hollywood with Longoria using her previous existence as a server at fast-food chain, Wendy’s, to have a dig at Obama’s Republican rival Romney.
“The Eva Longoria who worked at Wendy’s flipping burgers – she needed a tax break. But the Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not,” she said, pressing the charge that Romney is only interested in protecting the rich.
Washington, the 35-year-old star of Ray and The Last King of Scotland was the first to speak. “I’m here not just as an actress but as a woman, an African-American, a granddaughter of immigrants,” she said.
“A person who could not have afforded college without the help of student loans and as one of millions of volunteers working to re-elect President Obama!” she said.
Also, in contrast to Mrs. Ann Romney’s speech, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned speech backing her husband for another four-year White House term.
Closing the first night of the Democratic convention, Michelle spoke of the vision and values that guided Barack as president.
She said it was an “extraordinary privilege” to serve as First Lady.
Mrs. Obama said that four years ago she “believed deeply” in her husband’s “vision for this country”, but worried about how a run for president would change their life and the life of their daughters.
In a speech well received by a hyped-up crowd, she shared memories from their 23-year relationship, and noted that she had found a “kindred spirit” in a man whose values were similar to hers.
But of all the speeches delivered at the two conventions, former President Bill Clinton’s was the best rated. It was widely believed that Clinton, in the speech last Wednesday, lent his signature charisma to President Obama’s re-election campaign at the Democrat Convention. The former President vigorously and point-by-point argued that his party’s candidate had placed American on a path to renewed prosperity.
A Washington Post commentator stated that watching Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention was like watching Usain Bolt run or Lionel Messi play soccer. “You know you are watching pure genius, someone who was born to do exactly what he is doing. Clinton’s ability to take complicated arguments and boil them down to the simplest possible terms, his folksiness, his attacking with a smile — it was all on display during the speech. That Clinton added more than 2,000 words to the prepared speech through a series of ad-libs was the sort of cherry on top, an athlete at the highest level showing off because, well, he can…Therefore, Clinton declared before hundreds of delegates and by extension, millions of American voters and viewers globally that “Obama deserved four more years to finish the job,” the analyst said.
Ostensibly, the two-term former president told the Democratic Convention that he believed “with all my heart” that the 44th president had led a remarkable, if incomplete, recovery.
Clinton said Obama had saved the economy from collapse and laid the foundation for the kind of growth seen during his own presidency in the 1990s.
“No president – not me or any of my predecessors – no one could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years,” Clinton said.
After holding 15,000 of the Democratic faithful in Charlotte enthralled for over 45 minutes, Clinton was joined on stage by a smiling and energised Obama, leading to frenzied applause.
The Democratic standard bearers – estranged during Obama’s long 2008 primary battle with Hillary Clinton – then embraced on stage, symbolising a renewed determination to defeat their Republican rivals in November.
Obama also addressed the convention late the same Wednesday night at the same venue.
The campaign had cancelled plans for the president to give his nomination-acceptance speech in a vast outdoor American football stadium, in which they had hoped to recreate the celebratory atmosphere of his 2008 convention address.
Officials said they could not risk thunder and lightning disrupting the event, Obama’s best-unfiltered chance to take his case to voters before the November 6 election, and moved the big set piece inside.
But Obama’s speech at the convention wasn’t the most exciting speech but it wasn’t intended to be. In 2008, Obama had to introduce himself to the American people and sell his optimistic vision that the country could be restored.
This time, he had to tell a story about governance and competence both throughout the last four years but also about the four years still to come. He cast himself as someone who had risen to the test – be it expanding healthcare, killing Osama bin Laden or saving the auto industry – and who has a practical achievable vision for the future. And he made the case for his vision of a government that steps in to provide opportunity and keep the country moving forward.
Specifically, Obama laid out his case for being re-elected to a second term by comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won an unprecedented four presidential elections and led America to recovery after the Great Depression.
He used his speech to launch sarcastic attacks on Republicans as the party of the wealthy and even mocked his opponent for a slip in an eve-of-Olympics interview in London that affronted some Britons.
But commentators stretching from the left to the right agreed that the speech fell short of the passion he stirred in 2004, and they lambasted the president for failing to give specifics in an address they deemed “dull and pedestrian.” Obama’s speech paled into insignificance compared to the rollicking address by Clinton on Wednesday night and the emotional, affecting speech by his wife, Michelle, on Tuesday. It was also not as rousing as Vice President Joe Biden’s speech just beforehand. But overall, analysts said Obama’s speech gets better marks than Romney’s.
Post-Convention rating for Obama and Romney
After the two conventions, Barack Obama claimed the early momentum in the U.S. presidential election on Monday night as he pulled clear of Mitt Romney in three polls and even managed to raise more money than his Republican rival for the first time in months.
Each of the polls showed the president with a five point lead, a potentially significant advantage now that the campaign proper has started following the end of the party convention season.
Also encouraging for Obama, were the latest fund-raising figures, which showed that his campaign had out-raised Romney for the first time since April, raking in $114 million in August, up sharply from the $75 million they raised in July.
The Republican challenger also faced claims that he had “flip flopped” over the president’s landmark healthcare reforms after an interview on Sunday in which he suggested he was now in favour of some of its key provisions.
Obama’s lead already was more sustained than a smaller and shorter-lived boost that Romney enjoyed after the Republican convention finished in Tampa on August 30, Clark said.
Meanwhile, the economy was and is still No. 1 issue in the race for the White House, and followed by the employment growth. Other issues include deficit and tax cuts as well as medicare, abortion and foreign policy issues.
However, the campaigns have now taken shape and in days to come, Americans and the world would be treated to more glamours and jabs of the 2012 elections.