Voters Move to Center Stage on Tuesday
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – On Tuesday, the economy, unemployment, Big Bird, binders full of women and bayonets will take a backseat to the only poll that maters in electing a president and vice president – ballots cast in the polling booth.
Either way, history will be made on Election Day. Barack Obama will become the first Black president elected to a second term (as well as the first) or Mitt Romney will become the first Mormon elected president of the United States.
Obama is relying on his strong organizing ground game to propel him to victory, a strategy that relies heavily on Blacks, women, labor unions and youth. Romney is relying on high unemployment numbers and a sour economy to clear the path for a victory.
However, David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a progressive public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., doesn’t think that will be enough for the former Massachusetts governor.
“A lot of White working class union employees, like in Ohio, know that [Romney] is anti-union,” Bositis said. “He opposed the bailout of the auto industry. He and the Republicans opposed extensions of unemployment benefits.”
Unemployment may not be the strong issue that Romney has expected.
Unemployment is down in seven swing states from August to September: Wisconsin (7.5 percent to 7.3 percent), Colorado (8.2 percent to 8 percent) Iowa (5.5 percent to 5.2 percent), North Carolina (9.7 percent to 9.6 percent), Florida (8.8 percent to 8.7 percent), Ohio (7.2 percent in August to 7 percent in September) and Nevada (12.1 percent to 11.8 percent).
Obama hopes to get a bounce from news that the economy is recovering. The Commerce Department reported that new home construction was up 15 percent in September compared to August and up 34.8 percent compared to September 2011. The gross domestic product, which represents economic production and growth in the United States, increased from 1.7 percent in August to 2 percent in September.
Both camps are battling for the small slice of voters who are still undecided.
According to data collected by Reuters and Ipsos, an independent research company, the undecided voter is typically a White female who didn’t go to college and makes less than $25,000 a year.
“They don’t follow politics very closely. It’s not like they’ve been thinking about politics for the past year,” explained David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Bositis said that now is when undecided voters are turning their attention to the presidential election.
In an effort to reel in those undecided voters, the Obama campaign released the “Blueprint for America’s Future,” a detailed manuscript outlining the president’s plan for his second term.
The “Blueprint,” the Cliff Notes from recent campaign speeches, includes steps to end the war in Afghanistan, a proposal for energy independence, strategies to add construction jobs for much needed infrastructure projects and 100,000 teachers to the nation’s classrooms.
After Romney took a decisive victory in the first presidential debate, President Obama sharpened his attack winning the last two debates.
“He didn’t come out of the gates swinging or running the fastest, he came out on top in the last debate,” said Angela Minor, director of the Martin L. King, Jr. Forensics Program and debate team at Howard University.
Minor said that President Obama’s strong showing in the final presidential debate left a lasting impression with likely voters.
“I would rather see a presidential candidate that progressively gets stronger than a presidential candidate that comes out of the gate stronger and then weakens as he goes,” said Minor.
Some political analysts believe that Romney’s “Etch-a-Sketch” shift to the center following the Republican Primary weakened his already tenuous standing with his base and may have limited any bounce that followed the first presidential debate.
“I think the help has already been exhausted,” said Lorenzo Morris, chairman of the Political Science Department at Howard University. “He moved enough to the center to make himself more credible with independent voters. Now payback is coming in.”
Morris said that when Romney embraced key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, pivoted on abortion rights, and backed President Obama’s handling of Syria and Afghanistan he raised doubt of the “extreme” conservatism he boasted of in the spring. Now rallying his base may be an uphill battle.
“He has to reinforce those conservative ties, because he can’t abandon his base,” said Morris. “They are the ones that are going to get him over.”
But some experts say that Americans still want to leave the voting booth with hope for a brighter future and that President Obama could lose last minute undecided voters in the weeds of a policy paper, especially given criticism of his “professorial” tone and lengthy explanations of his goals and accomplishments during his first term.
“Some of Obama’s failings is that he comes off as too technical,” Morris said. Morris suggested that President Obama lose the bullet points and seek to inspire voters with a vision of a better tomorrow here in the United States and around the world.
“Talk as Reagan did about the United States as a ‘shining city upon a hill,’” Morris said. “Talk about the United States of tomorrow and that United States of tomorrow doesn’t have to be a detail, it simply has to be a vision.”