Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Line Drive: Debate Night Preview & Voter Registration

It's Presidential Debate Night in America - and you should tune in. The first of the four debates (three presidential, one vice presidential) is tonight at 9 P.M. EST and will be airing on all major local and cable networks, and will also be live streamed online on many mainstream news media sites.

Jim Lehrer of PBS Newshour  will be the moderator. The debate will be split up into six segments of 15 minutes each. The topic choices were previously announced by the moderator, and will consist of three segments on the economy, one segment on health care, one segment on the role of government, and one segment on governing. Per the CPD, "The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic." It was determined by a coin toss that President Obama will speak first during opening remarks, and Mitt Romney chose to speak second during closing remarks.

Debate Preview
I briefly laid out some things to look for during the debate in First Pitch earlier this week. Many media outlets have their own debate prep for viewers, which I encourage you to look at if you have time before tonight's debate. One headline that caught my attention was this one from NPR: "OMG! A Deb8! What Young People Really Want To Ask Obama And Romney," which discusses the genuine interest of young Americans in this election, particularly due to how the economy has impacted them in recent years.

Many pundits believe that President Obama will need to play defense and avoid saying anything that would be damaging during the debate tonight. They also believe that Mitt Romney needs to use the opportunity to showcase his ability to relate and empathize with the American people, particularly due to the fact that he is still recovering from his comments on the 47%.

Here were the things I said earlier this week to look for during tonight's debate:
  1. How many "zingers" does Romney get in? A New York Times article from last Friday discusses Romney's preparation for the debates, in which it says that "Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August." The media has jumped on the article, and now expectations for Romney have been slightly raised. This is a stark contrast from what the Obama and Romney campaigns have been doing in recent days leading up to the debate, which is do downplay expectations from their side and praise the skills of the other. Body language, delivery, timing, and context will also be important, regardless of zingers.
  2. Will Romney find time to explain the math? In an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan said that "I don’t have the ... It would take me too long to go through all of the math" when asked for specifics on how the Romney tax plan would be able to reduce taxes 20% without raising the deficit. If the moderator of the first debate, Jim Lehrer, doesn't press Romney on this issue, expect President Obama to do so. Aside from the fact that Ryan doesn't have the time to explain the math, his budget plan would also cut funding to education, that way he doesn't have to explain math (or anything else) to you. The real reason he doesn't want to "go through all of the math" is that doing so would show that their policies doesn't add up. Then again, this is the same campaign that said it wouldn't be dictated by fact-checkers.
  3. How will Obama respond if Romney steers the conversation towards Libya and foreign policy? As I mentioned earlier, I expect Romney to try to bring up Libya in the first debate. He wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday talking about Middle East foreign policy. I think he should be careful, however, because there is a difference between having military strength and saying that the U.S. should be engaged in more wars abroad. Support for the war in Afghanistan is decreasing by the day, and the idea of going to more wars in the Middle East will gain little traction, especially considering our economy and our deficit. There is no math behind ideas in which we should go to war and spend more money in defense while cutting taxes 20% for everyone. Does this sound familiar?
In addition, it will be interesting to see how President Obama and Mitt Romney respond to each other verbally and non-verbally. The President has been known to get frustrated during debates while Mitt Romney has been known to ask his challenger to make $10,000 bets, so how these two respond to one another in this head-to-head environment on a national stage will be important. Voters will want to see which person can keep a level head and deliver clear, concise responses to questions posed by the moderator and his opponent.

I wrote in a Foul Ball post last week that poor polling numbers might drive donors away from supporting Romney and shifting their dollars toward down-ballot races, and this week it was reported that it may be an accurate assessment. This is important because the Romney campaign has spent the last few weeks saying that the first debate will be a turning point in this election, so Mitt has a lot at stake tonight. Couple that with the a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that shows the President up a point over Romney, 51%-43% in Ohio among likely voters (with a sample that was less Democrat leaning), and you see why this debate is important for Romney. Early voting is already occurring in Ohio and in many states across the country, and if Romney does lose Ohio, he has to win EVERY other swing state still up for grabs in order to beat the President. It is also worth noting that no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. So yeah, while this debate is a big deal for both candidates, it is really important for Mitt Romney.

I believe President Obama should focus on the clear distinctions between him and Mitt Romney. Here's what I think he should say:
  • While Romney has business and private sector experience, the United States government shouldn't be run as a business. A business' main purpose is to generate profit, and it will pursue anything that will result in it, regardless of the consequences to people. This is clearly demonstrated in Mitt Romney's business experience at Bain Capital, which loaded up companies in debt, sent jobs overseas, and took investor fees while those companies were forced to declare bankruptcy. 
  • The President should also answer Romney's question on whether or not we are better off now than we were four years ago. He should remind the American people that four years ago we were losing 750,000 jobs per month, the stock market was in complete disarray, we were in two wars, and economic uncertainty was its worst since the Great Depression. He should also note the progress we have made and what he plans to do moving forward. Mitt Romney will say that he will create 12 million jobs over the next four years, if elected. The problem with that statement is that Moody's Analytics says that 12 million new jobs will be created regardless of who is the next U.S. president. Also, the war in Iraq has ended and the President has not thrown America into any additional unfunded, unending wars. Personally, I would rather have our tax dollars used for investing in roads and bridges in the U.S. than roads and bridges in Iraq or Afghanistan. I would rather have our government spending money at home than on a war abroad. Are we where we need to be? No. Have we made significant progress from four years ago? Absolutely.
  • In Mitt Romney's convention speech, he said "That president [Barack Obama] was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections" and "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed." Except that he (and Republicans in Congress) didn't want President Obama or America to succeed. The 2010 mid-term elections were led under the guise of the Republican and Tea Party rallying cry of "jobs, jobs, jobs," only to have Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell say "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." But it started well before 2010. On the night Obama was elected in November 2008, Republicans were already meeting on how to stop the President from succeeding. TIME put out an article in August discussing it based on a book by Michael Grunwald (I highly encourage you to read this link). Considering we were in the midst of the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression with no end in sight, you would think that this time, one of the greatest times of need in our history, would be the time America's elected officials put partisan differences aside to help get the country back on track. But the answer, as has been the answer by Republicans to anything supported by Obama, was an emphatic NO. If the GOP couldn't put aside partisan differences for the country in its greatest time of need, why would they do it now? If not then, when? I hope that Obama makes this message clear to all Americans tonight and hammers the do-nothing Congress of the last two years and the do-nothing Republicans of the last four years (Don't believe me?: Senate Republicans even blocked a jobs bill for veterans, who have a higher unemployment rate than the national average).
While that is my hope for what President Obama will say, I don't think he'll say it. I don't think the country wants to hear the President talk about how the Republicans have stopped progress. He will probably play it safe and outline his vision for the future instead of reflecting on the past, and try to contrast his plan with Mitt Romney's. We'll see how it plays out - remember to tune in!

Voter Registration
Finally, please take a few moments to check and see if you are registered to vote. Voter registration deadlines are quickly approaching, so if you aren't registered - please register right now. Voter ID laws have also changed and recent judicial rulings on those laws (including a ruling on the controversial Pennsylvania Voter ID Law) may cause confusion. Check the Voter ID map at the end of this post to see the rules in your state. You can find more information by clicking on the Register to Vote tab underneath the LfLF logo or below:

Why Should I Vote? 
The most important thing you can do this (or any) election cycle is vote. Regardless of the amount of money you can donate to Obama/Biden 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, MoveOn, or Priorities USA (if you can afford to, please do!), voting is the only way you can make a difference in November. The money will continue to flow in to the parties, campaigns, and Super PACs, but none of that money will actually vote. If you haven't registered, do so today. If you think you're registered, check again. If you aren't aware of what you'll need to bring with you to the polls on election day, get informed.

Voter ID
Republican state legislatures across the country, most notably in Pennsylvania and Florida, have passed and tried to implement new voter ID laws to suppress votes under the ruse of "voter fraud." Many sources, including the USA Today, have referenced a study by News21 that found there have been 10 cases of voter fraud since 2000. As the USA Today puts it, "with 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters." Voter fraud is simply not an issue in this country and voter ID laws are only in place to disenfranchise those in urban areas and major cities who don't have photo identification (like a driver's license) because they are poor, elderly, or haven't needed a driver's license because they don't drive a car. These people are also generally minorities and African Americans, who (surprise!) tend to vote for Democrats. This is not a coincidence - if you live in a state with voter ID laws, check out the map below from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to determine what type of ID you need to vote on election day.
UPDATE (10/2/2012): Per the NCSL, "A state judge temporarily halted enforcement of Pennsylvania's voter ID law for the November election. The judge stated that an insufficient number of IDs had been issued for voting purposes at the five-week mark preceding the election, and ordered that while poll workers can still ask voters for ID, they must allow those without ID to vote. Read the order here. There will be a status conference on December 13, 2012 to prepare for a trial on the application for a permanent injunction."

Get Informed & Register to Vote
Different states have voter registration deadlines, so be sure to stay informed and get registered! If you haven't registered, want to confirm that you are registered, need absentee ballot or photo ID information, or have any other questions, please visit these sites:

Gotta Vote (via the Obama Campaign):

Source (Map up-to-date as of 10/2/12): National Conference of State Legislatures

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