There’s 24 hours left to figure out who will move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I still can’t believe there are still undecided voters out there. So if you haven’t been exposed to zillions of ad blitz, debates, crazy news or simply that you haven’t talked to anyone in the last two years because you have been living in a cave then here is a quick guide to help you clarify this mess.
Reposted from the National Post
By William Marsden
WASHINGTON – America has reached a political crossroads. The Republicans and Democrats are so far apart in their vision of the nation’s future that Tuesday’s election likely will affect generations to come. As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in The New York Times recently: “The presidential election offers Americans a real choice, one with potentially large consequences.”
What are the key differences?
The Republican mantra of “taking back America” means tax cuts, less government and returning to the laissez-faire economic policies of George Bush. Critics say these policies will destroy the middle class and weaken the economy. Republicans also promise to curb abortion rights for women.
The Democrats’ rallying cry of “Forward” means continued economic stimulants, improvements in social programs such as public health care, and increased taxes on the rich. Critics claim this will bankrupt the country.
Why is this sometimes called the “Supreme Court election?”
As many as four Supreme Court justices could retire in the next four years. A Barack Obama victory would swing the court to a slim liberal majority. A Mitt Romney victory would reinforce the current conservative majority and guarantee its impact for another generation.
Which presidential candidate is more favourable to Canadian pipelines?
Republican Romney has been an unequivocal supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring Alberta oil to the Gulf coast. He also supports reducing environmental oversight over the fossil fuel industry in general. Democrat Barack Obama ordered a moratorium on the pipeline in November 2011, until 2013, pending more environmental reports. Pipeline owner TransCanada is working on an alternate route that detours around the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska. Obama has stated that he now supports the pipeline as vital to North American energy independence. In the future, Canadians should also watch for American reaction to Canada’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia. If it is built, the U.S. will compete with Asia for Canada’s oil.
The Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline from Alberta is seen at sunset in Kitimat, B.C. Photo Credit: Canadian Press Which candidate is more open to Canadian trade and getting rid of trade hurdles between the two?
Romney is a free trader who believes in minimum government interference in business. Obama follows a tradition of a more protectionist Democratic economic policy and has campaigned on awarding favourable treatment to U.S.-made products as a way of strengthening the country’s manufacturing base.
How important is the environment to each candidate?
That depends on where the candidates are campaigning. It tends to be a regional litmus test for Democrats and a national one for Republicans. Obama has supported fracking (hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method of extracting oil and gas from rock formations) in Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania where it has created thousands of jobs. Yet at the same time, he promises to continue to fight climate change through stronger environmental protection regulations to reduce carbon emissions as well as tax credits for solar and wind industry.
Romney, as governor of Massachusetts and while campaigning in the primaries, said climate change was man-made and called it a vital issue. After strong condemnation from the far right, he changed his tune. Now he claims the science of climate change is still undecided. He says he opposes regulations he claims will damage the coal industry and slow oil exploration. He also promises to cancel tax credits to renewable energy.
What’s an electoral college? Why does this matter?
The U.S. president is elected by an electoral college of 538 electors (including three from the District of Columbia), not by popular vote. In a federalist system, the electoral college gives smaller states more power in national elections than they would have in a popular vote. The number of electors in each state is equal to its number of representatives and senators. In most states, the presidential candidate who wins the most votes is awarded all the electoral college votes of that state. (The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska where electoral votes can be split according to the popular vote in each congressional district). A presidential candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to win the White House. In 2008, Obama took 365 electoral votes, to Republican John McCain’s 173.
Which states should I watch in particular on election night?
Watch for the major swing states: Florida (29 electoral votes); Ohio (18); Virginia (13); Wisconsin (10); Colorado (9); Nevada (6); and New Hampshire (4). With California (55), New York (29), Illinois (20), and Michigan (16), plus a host of smaller states voting Democrat, Obama has at least 239 electoral college votes in his pocket. This means he needs 31 more to win. Polls in the last week of the campaign showed him leading in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada and Colorado. If he takes Ohio, he needs only two other states in order to return to the White House. Romney, who has 191 electors, must take Florida, where polls show him leading, and Ohio, to have any chance of winning. Then he needs to grab Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin.
What proportion of the Congress is up for election?
All 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs. Of the 100 Senate seats, 33 are being contested. So behind the presidential battle is a major struggle for control of the U.S. Congress. At devolution, the Republicans controlled the House 242 to 193 and the Democrats controlled the Senate by three seats.
Which congressional races are worth watching?
There are many close races. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock suddenly made that race a nail-biter when he said last week that he opposed freedom of choice on abortion even in the case of rape. His statement served as a timely reminder of Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s mystifying claim in September that in a case of “legitimate rape” conception is not possible. So both races are worth watching. In Massachusetts, the Republicans are in danger of losing the Senate seat now held by Scott Brown (formerly held by Sen. Ted Kennedy) to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Other tight senatorial races are in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
About 60 House races are tight. One of the closest is Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District seat where incumbent Democrat Ben Chandler is up against an old rival, Andy Barr. Two years ago, Chandler won by 700 votes against the rising tide of the Tea Party. Chandler has accused Barr of hiding his criminal record (he was charged at 19 years old with possessing a fake driver’s licence) and Barr has claimed Chandler has closed Kentucky coal mines.
How much money did each presidential candidate raise?
The landmark U.S. Supreme Court “Citizens United” ruling in 2010 opened corporate coffers for campaign spending. As a result, campaign financing in this election has more than doubled since 2008, with radio and TV networks making out like bandits, particularly in swing states. As of Thursday, Obama had spent $924-million. Romney was slightly higher at $974-million.
Obama’s five largest donors are education institutions and high-tech companies: the University of California; Microsoft Corp.; Google Inc.; U.S. government employees’ individual contributions; and Harvard University. Romney’s largest contributors are banks: Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse Group.
In addition, so-called “Superpacs” supporting a specific candidate have spent $215 million. The largest single individual donor is Nevada casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who has given $53-million to the Republican cause. His single issue is support for Israel.
Are there state referendums?
Many states attach what they call amendments, referendums or propositions to the ballot. Colorado, for instance, has ballot measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana and to set a policy on prohibiting corporate contributions and expenditures in elections. California has propositions to end the death penalty, make labelling of genetic foods mandatory and ban corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates.
What’s the usual voter turnout for a presidential election?
Just over half of Americans of voting age bother to vote in presidential elections. In 2008, the figure was unusually high at 56.8%. Since 1980, the figure has swung between 49.1% and 55.3%. By comparison, turnout for Canadian federal elections has only once dripped below 60% since Confederation (in 2008 at 58.8%). About 51 million eligible voters (roughly one in four) are not registered to vote in the U.S.
How trustworthy are the polls?
One national poll had Obama leading by one point, two showed the candidates tied and two (Rasmussen and Gallup) had Romney leading by two and five points (these results as of Thursday, but many firms were not polling through Super Storm Sandy). But Rasmussen does not poll cellphones, which are increasingly the only phones used by younger voters and lower-income groups, who tend to vote Democrat. There is also an issue of whether these polls sufficiently sample minorities. Hispanics and blacks vote overwhelmingly Democrat (blacks 95%), as do the majority of women. This leaves mostly aging non-Hispanic white men for Romney. So it is difficult to believe that Romney could hold down a five-point lead as suggested by Gallup. As well, the polling was done prior to Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, which could also affect the outcome.
How trustworthy are America’s electronic voting machines?
According to Scientific American, “no one has yet figured out a straightforward method of ensuring that (electronic voting) can be double checked for fraud.” Since 1996, most states have used either a touch screen for direct voting or a ballot scanning machine, and some are now allowing email voting. The issue is whether these systems are fully accountable. Several federal investigations have concluded they are not secure and as a result there have been some highly questionable results over the last 15 years. Look for counties where the final result differs substantially from the exit polls.