What to look for come ELECTION 2012
Monday, November 5, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Readers should not be misled by the confident tone of the literature (and my own observations) into confusing opinion with established truth.--Historian ERIC HOBSBAWM
I very much doubt that any readers of my verbiage on The Green Papers- whether they might like (or, however grudgingly, respect) what I might write hereon or merely think me an abject "nutcase"- would at all confuse my opinion with "established truth" (and one certainly hopes Mr. Hobsbawm was being altogether 'tongue-in-cheek' with his parenthetical statement as quoted above): however, having duly noted the foregoing "truth", I- as I ever try my utmost to do- proceed onward herein with "confident tone" in any event!
As most people already know, come Tuesday 6 November 2012, the 50 States of the American Union- along with the District of Columbia- will (here utilizing the language of the United States Constitution itself) "appoint" Presidential Electors equal in number to the total number of United States Senators (2 per State) and Representatives in Congress to which they might be entitled (the District of Columbia, not being a State of the American Union, is given 3 Electoral Votes) and all of these utilizing the vehicle of Popular Vote by qualified voters within each such jurisdiction in order to so "appoint" said Electors.
In addition, 11 of the American States will be choosing their respective Governors (the vast majority of States will also be electing at least one, if not both, chambers of their respective Legislatures), 33 of the States will be electing one of their two United States Senators to six-year terms and the entire United States of Representatives (435 voting members all told) is up for election for two-year terms. As regards the latter two groups of election contests, there is- besides the obvious interest in the Presidential Election itself- great interest in just which Party will control each house of Congress (especially the United States Senate, where the Democrats currently hold a rather precarious majority).
In my Commentary of this past 13 August (primarily written in response to Governor Romney having, at that time, so recently named Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate), I expounded upon two essential elements going into (and now, nearly three months later, coming out of) this Presidential Election campaign which I will do my best to, once again, explain here:
1. the odds are that the American Economy will actually be improving by the time the next Presidential Election year (2016) rolls around (if not by the time of the 2014 Midterm Elections) and much of the vehemence with which the Major Parties are now fighting over control of Congress and, more to the point, the two Major Party presidential nominees are battling for the White House (one to keep living in it, the other for the right to move in) is due to the fact that the winner in this 2012 Election will, by default, gain the credit for having so improved the Economy by then, pretty much regardless of just which policies they might support (if only because Consumption and Investment are two of the three components of Gross Domestic Product and the third- Government- has little, if any, real effective control over the behavior of either consumers or investors: thus, the Economy will improve over time primarily because of things the Government has not all that much to do with, no matter who wins;
2. until the American Economy so improves, some people here in these United States are going to be hurting more than others (the "pain" of continuing economic recovery- whether slower or faster- will not be shared equally, no matter who is elected) and that- at base- the difference here between the two Major Parties is that which has been most traditional throughout their respective histories: Democrats more usually seek to shield the poorer from the predations of the wealthier (however effectively or not, as things might turn out) and Republicans (again, effectively or no- depending) more usually seek to protect the assets of the wealthier from the seemingly ever-increasing demands of the poorer (for Government services, etc.): the "loser"- between 'Poor' and 'Well Off'- will, ultimately, have to bear more "pain" than the other even as the Economy improves. Meanwhile, the battle for the hearts and minds of the Middle Class between both Major Parties largely turns upon just who might consider themselves "Middle Class" (as opposed to 'Poor' or 'Well Off') and just which Major Party is seen as better protecting those who so see themselves (or, conversely, just which Major Party those in the Middle Class [including Middle Class "wannabe"s from either side of the economic demographic spectrum] see as their adversary, if not even their enemy)!
This, then, is the fundamental dynamic in this 2012 Presidential Election and these are the fundamental questions it will, finally, answer: which presidential candidate will be in the White House as the Economy improves beyond its already, admitted sluggish, improvement since- at least apparently- it had hit "rock bottom" and who, amongst the American population, will most have to wait for their own more evident share of the benefits of said improvement.These questions will be best answered by, at its broadest (in terms of the overall American electorate), the Middle Class but also, at its narrowest, by the independent voter of the "bell curve" Center who is not so committed- ideologically- to either traditional Fiscal Conservatism or Progressive Liberalism and, thereby, is also not so committed to either Major Party!
That is why Foreign Policy, however important, is on the proverbial "back burner" in this Presidential Election and may well explain just why Governor Romney handled the Third (and Final) Presidential Debate in the way that he had (and I still think that how Governor Romney's performance in that last Debate is perceived- whether positively or negatively- will play no little role in the outcome of this Election): one explanation I saw in the immediate aftermath of this Debate (and this is one I did not cite in my 24 October 2012 piece) is that Romney may simply have wanted to get Foreign Policy "off the table" as much as possible as a campaign issue- thus, his (in many cases) contradicting much of what his own running mate, Congressman Ryan, had said re: Foreign Policy less than two weeks before in Ryan's own Debate with Vice President Biden!
But, as I myself wrote, on 24 October: I myself have- and so obviously- no idea why Governor Romney approached this Final Presidential Debate in the manner in which he did... nor, frankly, do I really all that much care!
However, I will say that, all in all, this- as much as anything else- well illustrates just how much the American Economy (and concomitant issues, such as Health Care and Taxation) is the principal driver of Politics going into these Elections (again: not just the election for President, but also for both houses of Congress and [where applicable] State Governors and State Legislatures).
With that said, let's now go- chronologically- through what might be well looked at as the Election Returns come in:
The first polls to close on United States territory come Tuesday 6 November will actually be in the Northern Marianas and Guam (at 4 AM and 5 AM Eastern Time US [0900 and 1000 GMT], respectively) but, of course, neither of these will be "appointing" (to here, again, use the actual constitutional language) Presidential Electors re: the Electoral College- although each will be electing their non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives: the same can also be said of both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (where the polls will close- in relative time- before or [in the case of the Virgin Islands] at the same time as the first polls close in the United States of America proper) and, in addition, Puerto Rico is electing its Governor.
Both Indiana and Kentucky have some of its polls close at 6 PM Eastern Time [2300 GMT] but there will still be parts of each State still voting for another hour beyond this (because both States are split between Time Zones). From this point on throughout this piece, the poll closing times will be those for when all the polls in a State will have closed but, please note, in certain cases (such as where the polls close an hour earlier relative to Greenwich Mean Time in that part of a State with far more population than the rest of that State [this would likely be the case as regards North Dakota Texas]), national news networks and other media may well be comfortable reporting returns (and even calling races!) before all the polls in a given State have closed.
7 PM Eastern [0000 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia- States with a total of 60 Electoral Votes for President. Besides the Presidential Election, interesting races include that for the United States Senate in Indiana where Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock- a 'Tea Party' favorite who defeated long-time incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the Primary- squares off against Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly: Pro-Lifer (hence, against legalized abortion) Mourdock got himself into "hot water" recently with a comment to the effect that, where a woman might get pregnant as the result of a rape, it was still something God had intended. In Virginia, two former Governors (including one hoping to return to the United States Senate) battle it out for an open Senate seat currently held by a Democrat: Republican George Allen- who had lost this seat six years ago- is here facing off against Tim Kaine.
7:30 PM Eastern [0030 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia- States with a total of 38 Electoral Votes for President. Ohio- in particular- is considered to be the key to the White House (it is thought that the winner of Ohio will, likely, win the Presidential Election): so closely contested, it will also be so closely watched! Also in Ohio is an interesting race for the United States Senate, in which incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown is trying to stave off a challenge from State Treasurer Josh Mandel.
8 PM Eastern [0100 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee, as well as in the District of Columbia- States (or equivalent jurisdiction- at least for Presidential Election purposes- in the case of D.C.) with a total of 172 Electoral Votes for President (as the polls will now have closed in States totalling 270 Electoral Votes and 270 Electoral Votes- it just so happens- decides the Presidential Election, this is the earliest [if only in theory] a winner of the Presidency could be projected [but, of course, it is almost certain that no such projection will be able to be made so early in the evening]).
Most eyes are on the United States Senate race in Massachusetts in which Democratic university professor Elizabeth Warren seeks to unseat incumbent Republican Scott Brown who himself had won this seat in a Special Election after the passing of liberal Democratic Party icon Ted Kennedy; also being closely watched is the United States Senate race in Missouri, where another Pro-Life 'Tea Party' favorite, Republican Congressman Todd Akin, got himself in no little trouble by suggesting- during the campaign- that pregnancy resulting from rape was nearly impossible: Akin is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. In Connecticut, wealthy Republican businesswoman Linda McMahon once more seeks a seat in the United States Senate- something that eluded her two years ago; her Democratic opponent, this time round, is Congressman Chris Murphy. In Florida, incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson faces a challenge from Republican Congressman Connie Mack IV (whose father was the Senator Nelson himself replaced). In New Hampshire, former Republican State legislator Ovide Lamontagne is seeking the Governor's office he failed to win 16 years ago: he is opposed by Democrat Maggie Hassan.
8:30 PM Eastern [0130 GMT]: the polls will have closed in Arkansas with 6 Electoral Votes for President.
9 PM Eastern [0200 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming- States with a total of 147 Electoral Votes for President. In Nebraska, former Democratic U.S. Senator (and one-time unsuccessful presidential hopeful two decades ago) Bob Kerrey is seeking his old job back. In New Mexico, the Republican candidate for an open United States Senate seat (currently held by a Democrat) is former Congresswoman Heather Wilson who- back in 1998- became the first female military service academy graduate (the Air Force, in her case) to serve in Congress; her Democratic opponent is Congressman Martin Heinrich. In Texas, there is a race for an open United States Senate seat currently held by a Republican: the GOP candidate is former Solicitor General Ted Cruz- another 'Tea Party' favorite- and his Democratic opponent is Paul Sadler, a former State legislator. Wisconsin has a United States Senate race pitting an openly lesbian Democratic Congresswoman- Tammy Baldwin- against a former Governor and George W. Bush Cabinet secretary- Republican Tommy Thompson.
10 PM Eastern [0300 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Utah- States with a total of 30 Electoral Votes. Montana features a United States Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Denny Rehberg that seems to be as much about which one more "believes" in Second Amendment Gun Ownership Rights as it is about anything else. In North Dakota, former Democratic State Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp faces off against Congressman Richard Berg for an open United States Senate seat currently held by a Democrat (but I primarily note this one because the Congressman happens to have the same name I myself was given at birth, though- at least as far as I know- he is no relation!)
11 PM Eastern [0400 GMT]: all the polls will now have closed in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington- States with a total of 82 Electoral Votes for President. Oregon and Washington, by the way, both vote by mail and the "poll closing time"- in this case- is that by which all mailed-in ballots from voters in those two States must already be in the possession of election authorities in order to then be counted. The race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Hawaii pits two former political opponents against each other once again: Republican former Governor Linda Lingle was elected Governor a decade ago now by defeating her current opponent for this Senate seat, current Democratic Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.
At Midnight Eastern Time [0500 GMT], the polls in the Territory of American Samoa- which will be choosing a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and its Governor- will close (but, of course, this will have no effect on the outcome of the Presidential Election); most polls in the State of Alaska will also have been closed at this time- however,
not until 1 AM Eastern Time [0600 GMT] will all polls in Alaska (with 3 Electoral Votes for President) have closed and, with that, no polls anywhere within the United States of America and its dependencies will remain open after this time.
Finally, a few words about the potential effect of Hurricane/Superstorm 'Sandy' on the Presidential Election:
No... not anything about whether or not President Obama might have gotten something of a positive 'bounce' (one that might well aid his re-election bid) out of the Administration's initial response to the storm and its aftermath (for all we know, any such 'bounce' as the incumbent President might have gotten may well have dissipated by the time Election Day actually comes around!)...
rather, I am herein writing about the storm's aftermath potentially (as well as adversely) impacting upon the very ability to vote!
The States of the American Union that were hardest-hit were those making up the very three States of the so-called 'Metropolitan New York/Tri-State region' (these being Connecticut, New Jersey and New York: wherein much of the coastal areas- in particular- of each were, in all too many cases, outright devastated!), along with West Virginia (parts of which were fairly buried in an early snowfall engendered by the "back side" of the storm). This is not to at all discount adverse effects of the storm on isolated communities along the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia (not to mention Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island-- as well as inland New Hampshire and Vermont) but it is, nonetheless, clear that it is in the first four States enumerated in this paragraph that most- if not all- major problems as regards voters being able to get to (or even find!) their local polling place this coming Tuesday (along with concomitant issues re: collecting, and then actually counting, the vote [and returning same to central election authorities so that the results can then be reported out in a most timely fashion]) will occur.
Connecticut and New Jersey are relatively small geographically (as compared to the average-sized American State) but, at the same time, each is densely populated, while New York State is both geographically large (at least by East of the Mississippi standards!) as well as of large population: thus- even were, for some reason, none of the Municipalities or other Minor Civil Divisions in each of these three States either badly damaged by coastal flooding or, even without such damage, still without power come Election Day able to report their respective voting returns (or even vote at all!)- this would, in all likelihood, have very little effect on the determination of the presidential candidate ultimately entitled to the votes of the Presidential Electors from each of these States (keeping in mind that it is a majority of the Electoral Vote- not the nationwide Popular Vote- that, constitutionally, elects a President and Vice-President of the United States of America!)...
of course, I most fully expect those residents of the most-affected communities in those coastal regions most adversely affected by 'Sandy' who might wish to do so to do their utmost to find a way to cast their respective votes in this Election (even in those all too sad cases in which said residents might no longer have a physical residence within their own election precinct to go home to after so voting!) : I am only saying that, if they cannot, the overall result in each of the three most affected coastal States will, in all likelihood, not be at all altered, simply because the overwhelming majority of voters in each of those States will not be anywhere as affected by the aftermath of the storm as, say, those who live much closer to the coast (for instance, I myself live in the State of New Jersey, but I live well inland and, therefore, while there was relatively minor damage in my neighborhood [fallen trees which, in many cases, brought down power and phone lines (where these trees didn't also do damage to houses and/or automobiles parked outside them], it appears that my usual polling place will- in fact- be available on Election Day: most voters in my State [as will also be the case in both Connecticut and New York] will find themselves more in my position than in the position of those in the most adversely affected areas).
On Monday (5 November 2012) afternoon, by the way, Governor Andrew Cuomo [D-New York] had signed an Executive Order permitting 'Affidavit Voting' (in which a New York State voter who has been displaced from their home and, thereby, cannot get to their usual polling place [but said home (and usual polling place) must be in one of the counties of New York State already declared a Federal disaster area] can sign an affidavit to that effect in any polling place in the State and then vote in that alternate polling place: the caveat here being that any vote cast by said 'Affidavit' voter for any elective office they would otherwise not be eligible to vote for in their home election precinct will not be counted [but all votes so cast for President (and Vice-President) of the United States and Class 1 United States Senator from New York State will be counted, as the candidates contesting for that office are uniform throughout that State]).
As for West Virginia, from everything I have been able to glean as of this typing, some isolated communities within that mountainous State might well have issues (due to the unusually high snowfall at this time of year therein) when it comes to, perhaps, running the Election in a normal, more usual, fashion but, again (as is the case in the Metro New York/Tri-State region), I am quite sure the residents of these areas will do the best they can to have their votes cast and counted (Montani Semper Liberi: "Mountaineers are always Free"!)... should this, however, prove to be most difficult- where not even impossible- the overall vote cast by West Virginia for President (which, in turn, will determine which presidential candidate receives that State's Electoral Votes) will not be all that affected (because of the much larger number of those voting in that State who will be able to cast their ballots, as usual, in any event).
In the main, then, it appears that- apart from any political ramifications from the response to the aftermath of 'Sandy'- the storm per se will not have so adversely impacted upon (or even at all altered the outcome) the 2012 Presidential Election from a purely logistical standpoint!