Finding the Vote Digitally and Socially

Some social media platforms may come and go in popularity, but the overall impact is only going to continue to grow. Assessing that impact in the 2012 presidential election is an Indiana Chamber partner in BIPAC (Business Industry Political Action Committee), focused on electing pro-economy, pro-jobs members of Congres.

Romney may have captured voters over 30, but he still lost. Obama on the other hand captured the women's vote, minority vote and youth vote, giving him the edge he needed to win. Digital and social media is where he found these votes and it's what set him apart from Romney. It is where he fundraised more than 700 million dollars and activated mobs of volunteers. He was able to reach more than 5 million youth votes via Facebook. Michelle Obama connected with women on Pinterest and the Obama campaign reached scores of Hispanic voters through mobile.
 
With 31 million election tweets being sent on Election Day, this cycle was not only deemed "The Twitter Election," but it is being characterized as the first full digital election. Social media is a fundamental change in how our society communicates and for those with hopes of reaching voters, employees, Members of Congress and other stakeholders, your efforts need to be online as well as offline.
 

You’re Not Done Voting Yet

Yes, we’re the first to admit that the poll questions on this page definitely fall into the "unscientific" category. But the latest proved to be very close to reality — sort of.

In the week preceeding Tuesday’s election, we asked not who you wanted to be the next president but who you thought would be the winner. Your votes turned out to be nearly identical to how the Indiana vote for president played out.

  • President Obama: 44% of the Indiana vote; 40% in our poll
  • Mitt Romney: 54% of the Indiana vote: 52% in our poll
  • The third poll option of "we won’t know the outcome on Election Night, similar to 2000" drew 8% of the vote. The outcome, of course, was decided early without the drama that some national experts were predicting

The new poll question is not a direct follow-up, although the responses of some will certainly be a result of their pleasure or displeasure with Tuesday’s results. The new question (top right of this page): What’s your outlook for Indiana’s economy in 2013?

Political Polls: This is Getting to be Ridiculous

Well this is just depressing: A third-party candidate for president was omitted from a presidential poll in North Carolina.

When I look at the two mainstream presidential candidates, I find that I have a hard time siding with either of them, so I am all for a third party coming in to shake up our political system and maybe work on behalf of the taxpayers instead of the political machine.

But that’s not the truly depressing part: Instead of asking a key voting state about all the candidates on the ballot (Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is indeed on the ballot in North Carolina), the poll from Public Policy Polling took the space and time to ask the question: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Honey Boo Boo?

Okay, for those of you who don’t have cable (that would be me), or don’t have time to tune into TLC (The Learning Channel, amusingly), Honey Boo Boo is apparently the nickname of a child pageant participant from Georgia (first seen on the channel’s "Toddlers & Tiaras" program), who has her very own show on TLC: "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

As I have never seen the show myself and don’t want you to have to search for it, here is what I can find on the Internet: “Star” of the show, Alana Thompson, is a seven-year-old beauty pageant contestant. Her mother regularly feeds her a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, fondly called “Go Go Juice” just before her pageants. And, even though the family resides in America, a good portion of the show is subtitled, due to the slang and thick accents of its cast.

So, let me break it down for you one more time. Instead of asking 1,084 potential North Carolina voters between October 12 and 14 about their opinion of the only third-party presidential candidate on the ballot, Public Policy Polling instead asked about their opinion of a seven-year-old reality television star from a different state.

WHAT?

I am not a political expert, so while I’m sure there is some over-arching reason for asking such a silly question, it just gives me even less heart about our political system. I’m flabbergasted that this is what it has come down to these days.

At least 50% of those responders were “not sure” (47% “unfavorable and 3% “favorable”). Oh, and the poll had Republican Mitt Romney with a small lead in the state over President Barack Obama, in case you cared.

Though, had the third party candidate been included, who knows what the results might have been?

U. of Colorado Study: Romney Will Win Popular Vote

Campus Reform reports that a well-known University of Colorado study often respected for its accurate predictions reveals a 77% chance Mitt Romney will win the popular vote this November. However, as we know, the electoral college doesn’t always deliver the most popular president (and 77% isn’t exactly a sure thing). It’s simply food for thought, and a strong reminder to get to the ballot box and support your preferred candidate.

The University of Colorado (CU) prediction renowned for perfect accuracy will predict a popular-vote win for Mitt Romney later this month, Campus Reform has learned.

The poll has accurately predicted every presidential election since it was developed in 1980. It is unique in that it employs factors outside of state economic indicators to predict the next president.

CU Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Berry, who spoke with Campus Reform at length on Tuesday, said there is at least 77 percent chance that Romney will win the popular vote.

Professor Michael Berry from the University of Colorado told Campus Reform in an exclusive interview that there is a 77 percent chance Romney will win the popular vote.

“Our model indicates that Governor Romney has a 77 percent likelihood of winning the popular vote,” said Berry.

That number is significant, not only in its size, but because of the fact that only four presidents since the nation’s founding have won the presidency without capturing the popular vote, the last being George W. Bush in 2000.

Berry noted his model has never been wrong at predicting the outcome of a presidential election.

“For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,” he said.

Berry also acknowledged that while his poll is accurate, however, that his model does not “calculate a specific confidence level for the Electoral College result.”

The study, conducted every four years, is non-political and employs historical data as well as current unemployment numbers and income levels.

In the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, a recent poll reveals that a majority of voters believe the health of the economy is the most important issue of this election.

Additionally, more than double of the respondents in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll trust Romney over Obama to fix the economic state of our country (63%-29%).

Along with the economy, unemployment adds an element which only increases the probability of the CU prediction.

“The apparent advantage of being a Democratic candidate and holding the White House disappears when the national unemployment rate hits 5.6 percent,” Berry said.

Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder adds, “the incumbency advantage enjoyed by President Obama, though statistically significant, is not great enough to offset high rates of unemployment currently experienced in many of the states.”

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Politicians Lie? Not Shocking. But Why Don’t We Care More?

Lies. Falsehoods. Misleading statements. Whatever you call them, they’re part of the political process. Reuters’ blog has a worthy piece making the case that lying is part of election season. No matter how devoted we are to our favorite candidates, we’re probably lying to ourselves if we think they’d rate a perfect score on the truth meter.

This is the kind of info I’m keeping in my hip pocket for when I run for president of Newt Gingrich’s moon colony. "Today I promise you, if I’m elected, every city block will have an oxygen bar — and each citizen will have an American flag-themed moon suit featuring an image of ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan. Malektor! (That means ‘God Bless’ in Moon Talk – a fake language I’ll create to help sell more tchotchkes to tourists.)"

The candidates lie about each other, they lie about themselves, they lie about issues they know intimately, and they lie about issues they barely understand. Of Romney, the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank writes today that the candidate has changed, reversed and obliterated his views so many times that “Whatever Romney’s positions were, they are no longer.”

If either presidential candidate met you, he’d tell you a lie within 15 seconds of shaking your hand, and if he knew he were going to meet your mother, he’d invent a special set of lies for her. Politicians lie not because they’re wicked – though some are – but because they’ve learned that political markets rarely reward honest campaigners. Say what you will about Ralph Nader and H. Ross Perot, but they ran relatively honest campaigns on the issues, and the voters rejected them. The political market spoke many years ago and continues to speak: Telling the truth is not great for campaigns – and if it were, more people would be doing it…

Some of the lies the candidates tell are innocuous and are not held against them, as Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman write in their 2003 book, The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories that Shape the Political World. For example, “It’s great to be in Kansas City” is a completely acceptable lie, as is the platitude, “Nothing is more important to me than the future of our children,” Jamieson and Waldman write. Nor do voters care much if candidates claim to have “led the fight” for a piece of legislation if all they did was vote for it or sign it. Moving up the ladder of lying, candidates rarely are forced to pay a political price when they butcher the truth, even in presidential debates. ”You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,” said Vice President George H.W. Bush’s press secretary Peter Teeley in 1984, adding a “so what?” to the fact that reporters might document a candidate’s debate lies. ”Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.”…

Campaigns can survive the most blatant political lies, but candidates must be careful not to lie about themselves – or even appear to lie about themselves, as Jamieson and Waldman demonstrate in a long chapter about Al Gore’s image problems. Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet or to have discovered Love Canal. He did, however, falsely claim during the 1988 presidential contest to have gotten “a bunch of people indicted and sent to jail” while working as a reporter. Voters demand authenticity in their presidential candidates, even if the authenticity is fake, as was George W. Bush’s just-folks manner. To lie about an issue is to be a politician. To lie about a corporation is to be a public relation executive. To lie about a legal matter is to be a lawyer. To lie about international power relations is to be a diplomat. But to lie about who you are is to be a hypocrite, and voters despise hypocrites.

The pervasiveness of campaign lies tells us something we’d rather not acknowledge, at least not publicly: On many issues, voters prefer lies to the truth. That’s because the truth about the economy, the future of Social Security and Medicare, immigration, the war in Afghanistan, taxes, the budget, the deficit and the national debt is too dismal to contemplate. As long as voters cast their votes for candidates who make them feel better, candidates will continue to lie. And to win.

Debate Breakdown: Romney Comes Out Swinging

The hype and lead-up to Wednesday night’s presidential debate was substantial. As a rather moderate voter, I was quite eager to see how it would play out. Most pundits — and pretty much all post-debate polls – contend Mitt Romney was the winner, largely due to his aggressiveness and President Obama’s perceived lack of energy and unwillingness to challenge some of Romney’s assertions. I’d have to agree with that analysis. Here’s the breakdown from The Washington Post. (Note: The next two debates will be Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, while the vice presidential debate is slated for Oct. 11.)

The weak economy has long been Obama’s biggest obstacle to reelection. On Wednesday, he argued that, although the country faces problems, it has begun to “fight our way back” because of his policies and the resilience of the American people.

“Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. The auto industry has come roaring back. And housing has begun to rise. But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not where we’ve been but where we’re going.”

But Romney said the status quo “is not going to cut it” for struggling families. “Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.”

Romney clearly came to the debate determined to change his image as someone who cares little for ordinary Americans, a view that was heightened by his dismissive comments about the roughly 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes.

Throughout much of the early part of the debate, he sought to portray himself as a protector of the middle class, not the wealthy. He said that he would not raise taxes on middle-class families and that he would not reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans.

Obama, however, said that Romney’s tax plan would do just that. He said his rival favors a $5 trillion tax cut and argued that eliminating loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans would not provide enough revenue to avoid deepening the deficit. He said Romney would either have to cut into middle-class benefits or reduce spending on vital programs.

“The magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people but, more importantly, would not help us grow,” the president said.

Romney repeatedly has declined to specify what loopholes and deductions he would eliminate and passed up opportunities to do so again Wednesday. But he said Obama had mischaracterized his tax plan, saying that it does not include a $5 trillion cut.

“Let me repeat what I said,” Romney said. “I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.”

Mine Workers Likely Not Supporting President This Time Around

The United Mine Workers of America fully supported President Obama in his 2008 bid against John McCain. But as Obama seeks re-election this November, it appears the coal union’s support has cooled. Not that coal workers are clamoring to help elect Mitt Romney either, mind you. National Journal has the interesting saga:

“As of right now, we’ve elected to stay out of this election,” said Mike Caputo, a UMWA official and a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. “Our members right now have indicated to stay out of this race, and that’s why we’ve done that…. I don’t think quite frankly that coalfield folks are crazy about either candidate.”

Both candidates are trying to prove otherwise to voters in coal-intensive swing states. Earlier this week the Obama campaign released in the first coal-issue ad of this cycle, claiming that Romney has flip-flopped his position on coal. The ad includes comments that Romney made as Massachusetts governor in 2003 standing in front of a coal plant, saying that he wouldn’t support jobs that kill people.

For his part, Romney is claiming Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is waging a war on coal with a slew of regulations.

The 54-year-old Caputo, who grew up across the street from a coal plant near Fairmont in central West Virginia and has been in the coal industry virtually his whole life, said he couldn’t remember a time UMWA did not endorse a presidential candidate. Caputo is a vice president on the UMWA’s International Executive Board.

“It’s unusual,” he said during an interview at UMWA’s Fairmont office. Caputo, who describes himself as a “hard-core Democrat,” intends to vote for Obama. “I’m loyal to my party,” he said.

David Kameras, a UMWA spokesman based at the union’s headquarters in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., said UMWA has not officially completed its endorsement selection decisions for the 2012 election and expects to do so by about mid-September. In 2008, UMWA endorsed Obama in May of that year.

"Our members count on coal-fired power plants and burning of coal to keep jobs,” Caputo said. “We’re a very Democratic union and we try to listen to the rank and file. They’ve sent a clear message that they’re not supportive of the environmental rules that are being put in place.”

Caputo pointed out that many of the biggest EPA rules, including one finalized last December to control mercury and other air toxic pollution from coal plants, were first enacted under Republican administrations, including President George H.W. Bush.

“A lot of our members don’t realize that,” Caputo said. “But whoever is in charge is going to get blamed.”

Caputo also noted that newly discovered resources of shale natural gas found all over the country, including the coal-intensive states of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have contributed to coal’s decline as low natural gas prices compel utilities to shift from coal to gas as a power generator.

But politically, the EPA is the culprit for the coal industry’s woes. Throughout Appalachia where Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia converge, the coal industry’s disgruntlement with Obama is plastered on yard signs and billboards.

One billboard alongside a freeway near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border said drivers were entering “The Obama administration’s no jobs zone.” The billboard was sponsored by a coal-industry group, the Federation for American Coal, Energy, and Security (FACES of Coal). Yard signs seen along back roads and throughout towns juxtapose the word “coal” with “fire Obama.”

Labor groups almost always align with Democratic candidates, and Caputo said the UMWA would be very unlikely to endorse Romney given his record with the coal industry and his positions on labor issues.

“Governor Romney’s record on coal isn’t any better,” Caputo said, referring to the comments Romney made in 2003 that were featured in the Obama ad—and the fact that Romney’s former air chief in Massachusetts, Gina McCarthy, now holds a similar position at Obama’s EPA. “Mitt Romney has never been a friend of our industry," Caputo said. "Now he’s out preaching he’s all for coal, but his history sure doesn’t show that.”

Hat tip to the Chamber’s Jeff Brantley for the story lead.

Candidates, Tell Us How You Lead

What’s missing in political debates? OK, that might be a dangerous way to phrase it. But a Governing magazine columnist offers one strong suggestion – that questions about executive leadership and decision-making style would be helpful additions for learning more about the candidates.

If I had my way, every presidential or gubernatorial or mayoral debate would include a required question designed to illuminate the candidates’ executive leadership and decision-making style. Of course, there still could be the usual questions concerning the tax returns of the candidates, or their stand on marriage, or whether they think that food stamps make people overly dependent on government. Above and beyond those questions, however, here are some (by no means an exhaustive list) that I would argue are more important. These suggestions focus on skills and behaviors relevant to governing (as opposed to politicking):

  • What qualities do you look for in members of your executive team? Are there particular qualities that you are seeking for all positions? How important is it that those selected for positions have deep knowledge or expertise in the relevant area? (Does the secretary of the Treasury, for example, have to have Wall Street experience—or would a track record of sound economic judgment, compliance with tax laws and demonstrated management skills be sufficient?)
  • Are you tolerant, even encouraging, of dissenting views? Or are you unable to manage yourself in the face of pushback, and therefore discourage it in those who serve you?
  • More generally, how do you use evidence when you make decisions? When pursuing a particular policy course, will you consult with stakeholders and available data and analysis, both inside and outside of government, prior to making a decision? Which factor matters more: whether an approach has proven effective or whether it keeps a political constituency happy?

There is frequently a tremendous disconnect between what it takes to be elected and what it takes to govern. Sometimes candidates’ campaigns do provide glimpses of executive style, but usually unwittingly. When Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff quit in June of 2011, they cited his lack of discipline as a reason for their mass resignation. But we need more than these rare, chance indicators to go on when we are choosing the people who will run our governments.

The fact that leadership, and executive style, are not discussed in political campaigns is just further evidence of the inadequacy of our prevailing political discourse. As a constituency, we fail to take responsibility for the reality that when we elect a president, a governor, a mayor or a county executive we are electing a leader-in-chief and a decision maker-in-chief. Trying to gain insight into how that leadership would be exercised—and the extent to which data, analysis, and reasoned debate would influence decision-making—seems a topic worthy of at least one question in a campaign debate.

Speculation Time: GOP Primary Scenarios

After his narrow Iowa victory, Mitt Romney appears to be the most likely choice to garner the GOP presidential nomination. However, due to the fact that many conservatives simply don’t like him, that’s far from a certainty. CNN has an intriguing article outlining the different possibilities of how things will play out from this point on. Read the entire piece, but I have to run this portion for the die-hard Mitch Daniels enthusiasts out there:

(3) The long shot: Someone else enters the campaign (10% chance or less). Normally, this late in the game, a new entrant to the contest would be the stuff of science fiction. But conservative voters seem to be singularly dismayed by the choices in front of them: as CNN’s Erick Erickson tweeted last night, "Typical of email I’m getting: ‘If you put a gun to my head and said Romney or Santorum I would say pull the trigger.’"

Who would step into the fray? One hears voters pining for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (unlikely to join, especially after endorsing Romney) and some have floated Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (who endorsed Perry). Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be a strong candidate, but that may be a tough sell to Bushed-out voters only four years after the conclusion of his brother’s presidency.

Would a candidate who jumped in this late even have a path to victory? Perhaps. The early primaries and caucuses are richer in symbolic significance than they are in delegates, especially with the new rules prohibiting winner-take-all allotment of delegates in the early states. And even with such a late jump on fundraising and organization-building, a candidate who was able to rack up a string of impressive victories in the middle- and later-term primaries could theoretically build up a big enough head of steam to take the convention by storm while making use of the Internet and earned (read: free) media coverage to play catch-up on money and organization.

The late-entrant scenario is still a dark horse at best, but even the fact that it’s within the realm of possibility underscores the reason Democrats are quietly cheering last night’s outcome: the GOP is still, at best, a party that’s looking for a standard-bearer — or, more dangerously for their 2012 prospects, a disunited collection of smaller groups of voters still pushing their own.