Now that the last of the presidential debates are over, incumbent Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will be making a mad dash to the finish line as they increase their campaign ads and overall presence in crucial swing states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Not only is this the most expensive campaign in presidential history-Obama and Romney have together raised over $2 billion-but the candidates are also essentially tied in the polls. The only thing that is certain is that this election will not fail to be exciting come next Tuesday.
For the past month, Obama has maintained a slight lead over his opponent, but after the debates they have landed almost dead even, with the CNN Polling Center placing Obama at 47 percent to Romney at 48 percent as of Oct. 29. Obama’s lackluster debut in the first presidential debate leveled out the playing field, but most political scientists seem to suggest that the debates do not have that great of an effect on voters’ opinions overall. In his Oct. 3 article, Dylan Matthews of The Huffington Post cites that the polling impact of the first presidential debate is relatively small at an average shift of 2.3 percentage points. The Washington Post seems to concur. In an article from early September of this year, they suggested that although new information is relayed through the debates, information is not likely to change many voters’ minds as a large majority of people who watch the debates are politically invested and are usually party loyalists. Furthermore, they posit that because the debates occur late in the campaign, most people have usually made their decision by that point.
What does appear to have a significant effect is the media spin-campaign ads and either left- or right-wing-affiliated news stations. In the same article, Matthews provides an experiment conducted during the 2004 election between John Kerry and former President George W. Bush in which 25 voters watched the debate with no analysis afterwards, 25 watched the debate and saw commentary from NBC News, and 24 watched the debate and saw commentary from CNN. Those who only watched the debate thought that Kerry had won, whereas those who watched the debate with the NBC follow up thought that Bush had won, and finally those who watched the debate with the CNN follow up didn’t have that great of an effect with 43 percent thinking Kerry won, 38 percent thinking Bush won, and 19 percent thinking neither candidate won. As frightening as it is to think that media spin can significantly influence voters, it is a sad truth of any campaign.
Upon being asked about the debates and the effect of media, most Lawrentians seem to be extremely invested in this election and have given much thought to the effect of the debates and the media in general. Senior class president Andrew Kraemer stated, “I thought the debates were
awesome. I anticipated Obama to be a stronger debater due to his strong speaking skills. Was there a real winner? I don’t know-Obama definitely didn’t look good in the first debate, but in my opinion, the last two did not present a clear ‘winner’ or an overall ‘winner.’ I think the media is extremely influential! People read The New York Times, The Huffington Post and watch CNN and Fox News to get informed. Very few people read full speeches or watch all of the debates. Favorite zinger: The bayonet line. Most media-inflated comment: “binders full of women.”
Senior Caitlin Buhr was “impressed by both candidates. I don’t support Romney, but I was impressed with him. The weeks leading up to the debates, he looked pretty bad. I think a lot of people saw him as this guy who couldn’t relate to the middle class-but after the first debate, he looked like a relatable person. I was frustrated with how much Obama and Romney were cutting each other off and making immature insults. I think Obama did the best job because he has had experience as Commander in Chief that Romney has not, and I stand by a lot of what Obama has achieved-especially Obamacare. It’s hard to say that there was a clear winner, but I stand by Obama.
With regard to the influence of the media, Junior Jack Canfield said, “As someone who grew up and around affluent and educated folks, it was hard for me to understand how someone could vote based on a 30-second ad. However, the truth is that the only political information that a significant portion of the population receives is through television advertisements.
So while we complain about the volume of these ads around this time of year, politically they are effective. Remember, these ads don’t have to be accurate, either. Anybody can pay for advertising claiming pretty much anything they want, and if a person sees the same ad 10 times in a week, whether the ad is factual or not, an idea has been implanted.”
When asked about whether he thought Lawrence was a politically active campus, Canfield responded, “Yes. I think that because we are a smaller school it can sometimes feel inactive, but I don’t think this is the case. I think Lawrence is going to have a great voter turnout percentage.”
President of College Democrats and junior Polly Dalton elaborated on what she enjoyed about the political atmosphere at Lawrence. She said, “What I like about LU is that most of the students are interested in voting, educating themselves on how to vote, and encouraging others-regardless of political view-to vote as well. You can’t complain if you don’t vote.”
Regrettably, the publication deadline resulted in limited time to hear back from the College Democrats and College Republicans, and the only group available at press time was the College Dems.
The zeal seen on campus for the election serves as a microcosm for the rest of the country-there is a lot riding on this presidential race. Obama entered the presidency at a dismal time-the economic crisis, the loss of jobs, the bailouts, the war in Afghanistan, the partisan divide, etc. Fast forward to 2012, and it is still a difficult time with a lot of uncertainty as to where our nation is heading. With a race this close, many people speculate on the possibility of a recount and whether there will be a definite winner by Tuesday night or even Wednesday morning. Frighteningly, these speculations echo the recount debacle seen in the 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore. Many people fear a repeat.
An interesting article was published in the Chicago Tribune Tuesday that explained what would happen if there was a tie in the Electoral College. According to the article, a tie would result in a delay in which the new president would not be announced until all the electors formally cast their votes on Dec. 17. The Constitution states that in the event of an electoral tie, the decision goes to the incoming House of Representatives in which each state gets only one vote. Assuming the Republicans retain the majority, it would seem that Romney would be the obvious victor. However, things could get much more complicated. Although the Republicans represent the majority in the House, Democrats have the majority in the Senate. Although the House votes for the president during a tie, the Senate votes for the Vice President. Following the article, if Democrats maintain control of the upper chamber, many believe they would most likely choose Vice President Joe Biden. So there you have it-in the case of an electoral tie, we could potentially see Mitt Romney as president and Joe Biden as his VP.