bookmark_borderThe Afghanistan of GOP Campaigns

Every GOP Presidential candidate since 1992 has tried to kick the football:

In 2008, John McCain visited Pennsylvania the Sunday before the election, but Obama won the state.

In 2004, George W. Bush visited Pennsylvania the day before the election, but John Kerry won the state.

In 1996, Bob Dole visited Pennsylvania the Friday before the election, but Bill Clinton won the state.

In 1992, George H.W. Bush visited Pennsylvania the day of the election, but Bill Clinton won the state.

Pennsylvania is where GOP candidates go when they get desperate. We always leave them disappointed.

bookmark_borderWe’re All The Middle Class Now

In a long piece in today’s The Guardian (UK), Gary Younge explores a topic near and dear to our heart here at MPH: why do working class voters support Republican candidates?

The key point is buried a third of the way in:

Americans are particularly reluctant to describe themselves as even working class let alone poor. A Pew survey in 2008 revealed that 91% believe they are either middle class, upper-middle class or lower-middle class. Relatively few claim to be working class or upper class, intimating more of a cultural aspiration than an economic relationship. Amy Pezzani, the executive director of the Larimer county food bank in Colorado, explained that politicians are reluctant to refer to “the poor” and “poverty” because it turns low-income voters off. “People who find themselves in these situations don’t want to consider themselves poor. They’re more likely to refer to themselves as the ‘struggling middle class’.

We still want and need to believe in the American Dream. Social mobility is the reason many of us get up in the morning. The dream of a better life is still attainable, or so we tell ourselves. But do we even know how the world works anymore? The quintessential anecdote about this disconnect is the senior citizen yelling at the legislator in a town hall, demanding that the legislator “keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

bookmark_borderA Failed Experiment

Timothy B. Lee has a feature article up at Ars Technica today on the state of e-voting in America. It isn’t pretty.

A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.

Voter-verifiable ballot advocates may have won most of the battles, but they’re in danger of losing the war. The reason? There was plenty of money under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help counties and municipalities buy electronic voting machines, but there isn’t any money available to help those that want to go back to more secure voting systems.

bookmark_borderTaxonomy of Indecision

(This is the second in a series of articles about undecided voters)

Who are all of these Undecided Voters? I’ve so far come up with four types. I’m open to expanding or narrowing the list.

I’m not an undecided voter, but I play one on television / Attention Whores

Once ever four years, the world turns to these undecided deciders. These self-styled last true men (and women) enjoy the sense of power and the possibility that the candidates for the Most Powerful Job in the World are vying for their personal vote. In the end, they’ll probably write in Mickey Mouse or Homer Simpson and think themselves witty or clever with their little act of civic protest.


Fish or Cut Bait? / Indecisive people make indecisive voters

These voters can’t decide what to cook for dinner, or even if they’re hungry. What chance do they have of picking a President?


Just Fooling Themselves / Republicans and Democrats in Denial

If you looked at these voters’ record, they consistently pick one party or the other. They’ll tell you they are Independent and they look down on partisans as they believe party membership is for the sheeple. They’ll often misquote George Washington as saying the US shouldn’t have political parties.


Too Busy, but know they should Care

They can barely find time to sleep, let alone think about the election. (The ones who show up in focus groups are actually Attention Whores.) They know they should be engaged, and they really want to be good citizens, but they just don’t have the time. So they rely on mass media to inform them. On that basis, can you really blame this group for being undecided?

bookmark_borderWhen Undecided Voters Attack!

(This is the first in a series of articles about undecided voters)

I’ve been thinking about undecided voters a lot this week. I really want to know what makes them tick.

I think Thomas Frank got close to the problem in What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank describes a disconnect between what people identified as their concerns and their own interests. For instance, a voter who is concerned about their job and the economy will not vote for the candidate that would best help on that issue because they don’t see the issue as being a political issue. In other words, they lack the vocabulary to talk about their needs and concerns in a productive way.

I believe undecided voters, on the whole, are in a similar situation. They lack the ability to ask the questions they really want answered, and instead get bogged down in minutia. Take, for example, today’s story about Katherine Fenton, the woman who asked about gender equality in the workplace at the Presidential debate the other night. In an interview with’s Irin Carmon, she said she wasn’t satisfied with either candidate’s answer. She wanted specifics, you see; not what they’ve done before. If you accept, however, that past acts reveal priorities, then you know Mitt Romney will probably have women in his cabinet, and that President Obama will probably champion and sign legislation leading to mor equal pay between men and women. Both candidates were admittedly short on policy specifics, but you can get those from a position paper. Debates are where candidates tell you who they are as people.

The kicker for Ms. Fenton, however, was that $16 trillion dollars is “a huge figure” and that made her inclined to fire President Obama. Here we see the disconnect. This is what the candidates are running against.

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