It is the most important position in the planet.
On Nov. 6 Americans vote for their President. The outcome is crucial. At stake is the fiscal cliff facing the U.S. economy and its impact on the dollar, global warming (the U.S. accounts for 18.3% of the world’s carbon footprint), America’s standing in the world, and Washington’s role in healthcare and income distribution. The new President will also be filling key vacancies to the U.S. Supreme Court (four of the nine Justices are past 74 years old), laying the stage for reproductive and affirmative rights and immigration that are expected to come for judicial determination.
There are two notions on the U.S. elections. The first is selected states always vote blue or red regardless of the candidates and therefore the elections come down to 7-9 swing states. The Pacific states (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii), the North-Atlantic (NY, New England) and middle industrial states consistently vote Democrat while the South and “Brokeback Mountain” states (Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming) vote Republican. This leaves this year Florida, Colorado, the Mid-Western states (Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin), N. Carolina and Virginia as the toss-ups with Ohio always going with the Presidency. That a minority of Americans essentially get to elect the leader of the nation is because of the American system of electoral votes. The Electoral College was instituted by the Founding Fathers to ensure people living in the smaller states are not marginalized by those with larger populations.
The second school of thought is the Democratic and the Republican parties have different dynamics. The Republicans Party is a pyramid consisting of a wide base of committed evangelicals, southern conservatives, Tea Party libertarians and big business; that narrows at the top. In the Republican set-up, the standard bearer need not be exceptional because he/she is carried by the base. This explains, absent Ronald Reagan, the ordinary cast of Republican Presidents.
By contrast, the Democratic party is an inverted pyramid made up of a small core of liberals widening at the top depending on the leadership. When the Democratic candidate is inspirational (Kennedy, Clinton, Obama) the party does well. When he is not (Gore, Kerry) the party cannot rely on the base to carry its leader.
In short, the Democrats need an exceptional candidate to win, the Republicans not. This year the Democrats are fielding a candidate, Obama, who because of the economy; is a minor version of his 2008 self. This explains why Romney, a conventional candidate who keeps re-inventing himself depending on his audience; is able to run even with him.
The Democrats present a holistic approach to the problems of the country, specifically the economy: Just as an illness needs a total prescription of medicine, diet and exercise, so does the economy require a combination of education, affordable healthcare, environmental sustainability, affirmative rights, and fiscal responsibility.
The Republicans have a single-barrel, super-hero approach: If jobs are the issue then Romney is your man. Trust me, says Mitt, I have managed businesses for over 25 years. In fact, as a private equity investor, Romney managed money more than he did businesses, two different skill sets. It apparently does not matter the Republicans are short on policy specifics nor that their budget numbers, by most experts, do not add up.
Romney is binary (zero or one, yes or no, black or white) while Obama is fifty shades of grey (nuanced, thoughtful, consensual). Mitt is about individualism, Barack about communities. Mid-westerners and Florida will have to choose between these two and what they represent. The older male white voter and the evangelicals are expected to select the simpler Republican version while women, blacks, latinos and the young the fuzzier alternative.
Romney is currently running even with Obama in the popular vote but behind in the decisive electoral count. The pundits have Obama with 243 (sure and leaning) votes needing 27 to hit the magic 270 electoral votes; Romney with 206 needing 64. Florida alone (29 votes) or Ohio (18) with 2 other swing states would put Obama over the top. Obama marginally leads Romney in Ohio, Iowa (6) and Wisconsin (10).
Superstorm Sandy has just thrown Obama a bone, crisis always help the incumbent (N.J. Gov. Christie, a staunch Romney supporter, praised Obama’s “outstanding” leadership during the disaster. N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg recently endorsed the President). Climate change, a Democratic priority, is back as an election issue especially in Florida, a hurricane prone state.The bookies have Obama ahead in the odds.
Ultimately it will come down to which party can energize its base and has the ground game to drive its supporters to the polls. My forecast? Barack to win in a split, popular vote decision.