Where was the end when we needed it?

After all of the campaigning, all of the political posturing, all of the polling and remarkably reality-defying punditry, all of the… noise, the election finally happened. In its wake, we saw the worst of people on social media. I counted a few particularly rogue Facebook statuses that had been deleted by Wednesday. A handful of dumb students reflected poorly on the University of Mississippi.

The whole thing makes us crazy. But credit Governor Romney and President Obama, because perhaps the greatest moments of a multi-year campaign came at its end.

This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation […] Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion […] [W]e look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics. – Mitt Romney, Concession

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. – Barack Obama, Acceptance

How gracious in defeat was the governor? How re-energized and inspiring was the president? With the burden of the campaign finally removed from each man’s shoulders, we saw what we had been looking for the entire time. In the fog of war, divide and conquer was the master plan, when we the people were looking for sense and civility all along.

Calls for unity. Calls for effort from citizen and servant alike. Calls for prayer. The invocation of God, for one night, not a political province of the right but a hope for one nation.

Maybe it won’t last. Probably it won’t last. But on the night when so many Democrats were gloating and so many Republicans were forecasting the fall of Rome, Mitt Romney’s campaign website was streaming Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in a simple gesture of solidarity. And so, on Election Night, this disaffected voter watched two men emerge from battle, wondering where philosophies like these were one week earlier, and what will have happened to them one week later.

Voting shouldn’t feel like this

Go vote. It’s a right and a privilege, and as I found out this year, there are a heckuva lot of people involved in making elections work.

For the first time in my life, I voted absentee. Barely. In early October, I requested my ballot from my home county circuit clerk’s office, only to see the weeks pass without a ballot arriving. When communication with the office failed, I sought the aid of my secretary of state’s election division to remind the folks in my county to do their job.

It was a mess of phone calls, record keeping, and legal actions. I was thankful for the good I saw in public servants – I must have gotten aid from five or six different people in the S.O.S.’s office, many of whom called me. Yet, the well-documented incompetence of one county’s election infrastructure seemed too much to overcome in time to exercise my right to vote.

This was going to a blog post about voter disenfranchisement, a system that failed its displaced constituency. Fortunately, the cogs and gears fell into place, and the system came through for me without a moment to spare.

So it seems my ballot will be among those counted this year. And it should feel better than ever before. This time, it took real time and effort – to make the calls, to fill out the paperwork, to find the notary, to beat the deadline. This time, my vote came with hardship. This time, I valued the notion of our representative democracy and what it meant to have a voice.

It should feel better than ever before. But it didn’t.

Continue reading “Voting shouldn’t feel like this”

[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?

The Fourth Estate improved in its role as informer and vetter in the 2012 Republican primary, but it continued to bog itself down in political minutia and reflection of public sentiment, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study found that 64% of primary coverage was devoted to what the researchers deemed “strategy,” a term inclusive of public opinion polls, momentum, advertising, and fundraising – the so-called “horserace” aspect of an election. The remaining coverage was split among the candidates’ personal background (12%), position on domestic issues (9%), existing public record (6%), position on foreign issues (1%), and other uncategorized topics (6%).

It may seem a disservice that so little of the newshole was devoted to informing the electorate about the candidates, but the PEJ was quick to point out what an improvement it was over 2008. The 28% of “vetting” coverage was roughly double the amount candidates received in the 2008 Republican (11%) and Democratic (15%) primaries.

The variations of these primaries is worth considering. The 2008 Republican primary was much different than 2012. John McCain cemented his nomination on Super Tuesday, though one could argue it came even sooner than that. Every legitimate candidate but one (Mike Huckabee) had dropped out by early February. Meanwhile, the 2008 Democratic primary carried on even longer than this year’s GOP battle – a two-person contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that led most of us to learn for the first time what “superdelegates” were. The validity of coverage comparisons between the two primary years might indeed be acceptable then, considering the 2012 Republican primary would fit snugly between the two extremes of 2008.

The Pew study argued that while the 2012 battle may have lasted until mid-April, media coverage established the endpoint on February 29 – a day, ironically enough, that only occurs in an American presidential election year. Or, more relevantly, the day after Mitt Romney won Arizona and his native state of Michigan – a must-win for his blue-collar challenger, Rick Santorum.

Continue reading “[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?”

Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates

Mississippi rarely receives much attention from candidates in presidential elections. After all, there’s usually little doubt as to the inclinations of the most conservative state in the union. Furthermore, with its primary scheduled after Super Tuesday, party nominees usually have been all but officially accepted by the time the Magnolia State rolls around.

2012 is different. While Mitt Romney is a clear frontrunner in the Republican primary, he still faces three opponents, one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to clearly delineate himself from his rivals, and one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to preserve any credibility as to why he is still in the race. That’s why Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich all visited Mississippi the week prior to the primary.

All three men made stops in Jackson. I managed to see two of them in person – Santorum and Romney – while collecting a handful of reliable reports on the Gingrich events. As polls show a tight race going into the primary, each candidate used a different strategy to court voters.

Continue reading “Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates”

GOP Presidential Candidates Visit Mississippi

Never in my lifetime can I recall so many campaign buses rolling into Jackson, Miss. Not just for those $2,000 plate lunches, either – for honest-to-goodness, down home, public rallies.

Naturally, I’m game.

The blog already attended Rick Santorum’s rally at the Ag Museum Wednesday night. Tomorrow, Newt Gingrich will be making the rounds, while the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, makes his appearance on Friday. Sadly, no word of a visit from the Ron Paul team.

Keep an eye on the Twitter page (@voiceofD) for live updates as I try to catch as many of these events as I can. A full blog post recapping the candidates’ strategies, the public’s reactions, and an attempt to project the Mississippi primary will come over the weekend.

Magnolia State politicos, enjoy the moment. We don’t get many.

Polling suggests Nominee Romney rapidly becoming a reality

Barring a dead body showing up in one of his many backyards or a surreptitious harem that would make Tiger Woods blush, Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee for President of the United States Tuesday night in New Hampshire.

Conservatives may not love his Massachusetts healthcare mandate. Tea Partiers certainly can’t like his history of political maneuvering. But this much is true, Republican voters realize that Romney is their best shot at beating Barack Obama. And in this game, electability is the stuff of winners.

Give early primary and caucus-goers credit – they have their staunchly conservative poster children, but the votes are going to the only elephant who can sway an independent voter in a general election (save Jon Huntsman, who, despite his truly presidential platform, lacks partisan primary chops. Example A: He is trailing comedian Stephen Colbert in South Carolina opinion polls.).

As you’ve probably heard by now, Romney is the first non-incumbent Republican candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire did very well, but nothing historic (way to count votes, Iowa). Pundits, and the remaining candidates in the field, feel confident that South Carolina will be Romney’s bump in the road. However, the exit poll data from the Granite State suggests that it will instead be the fatal blow to the Santorums and Gingriches and every other remaining Republican hopeful.

Continue reading “Polling suggests Nominee Romney rapidly becoming a reality”

[Clickworthy] The Media Primary

We are still over a year from the 2012 presidential election, but, as the New York Times reported today, even primary debates are delivering large audiences to cable news networks. People are hungry for politics, and it seems like the Republican pool of candidates face off three times a week in an attempt to gain a few extra points before the Iowa Caucuses.

So how does the media coverage of the 2011 phase of the 2012 election look so far? The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study this morning detailing tone and extent of coverage across multiple media from May 2 to October 9.

Look at the study and you will find all sorts of interesting nuggets. The central findings are as follows:

– The GOP candidates seem to be getting a pretty fair shake from the media in terms of tone of coverage. Newt Gingrich looks like the only current candidate who can claim he is being treated unfairly by the media [which he already does, with every other breath (Look at your watch. Now back at the screen. Newt just blamed the media for his poor poll numbers again.)].

– The candidates may be receiving similar coverage tone, but they are not receiving similar coverage. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann have dominated the news cycle, leaving scraps for the remaining candidates (I’ve already discussed this phenomenon, and Ron Paul in particular, in an earlier post). The most striking part of this finding is that Perry, who has been covered more than any Republican candidate, didn’t even enter the race until August, which means he was absent for 3 of the 5+ months measured in the study. That’s some serious agenda-setting coverage.

– And finally, the finding that jumped out to me:

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.

 

Clearly, the positive coverage Candidate Obama received in 2008 has dissolved over almost three years in office. If the media reflects public opinion (which is my interpretation of this relationship) and voters feel the same way, things don’t look good for a second term.