Biden’s Debate Boost

Posted October 12th, 2012 at 9:21 pm (UTC+0)

Vice President Joe Biden (R) and Republican challenger Paul Ryan (L) pass each other after their debate in Danville, Kentucky, Oct. 11, 2012. Photo: AP

Trying to Right the Democratic Ship

Democrats are feeling better after Thursday’s vice presidential debate and many are now singing the praises of that old liberal warhorse, Vice President Joe Biden.  Make no mistake about it; this was a big moment for the Democrats.  So many of President Barack Obama’s supporters sank into the dumps after last week’s presidential debate that there were real concerns that the president’s lackluster performance against Republican challenger Mitt Romney might depress Democratic turnout at the polls on Election Day.

Democrats were looking for a boost but were a little uncertain which Joe Biden would show up to the debate—the razor sharp debater who can dominate, or the gaffe-prone goofy uncle who can get himself into trouble.  Democrats were much relieved when it was the former.


Ryan’s National Debut

President Obama, shown here at a campaign event in the Miami, Florida area Oct. 11, 2012, is hoping for a strong showing in his second debate with Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday. Photo: AP

Paul Ryan did a credible job Thursday and kept his cool even though he was constantly interrupted and at times mocked by Joe Biden.  Most Republicans pronounced themselves satisfied with his low-key, “just the facts, ma’am” approach as he tried to fend off a relentless Biden, who seemed determined to channel all that Democratic angst over Mr. Obama’s showing in the first debate into an all-out attack on the Romney-Biden ticket.

Ryan did get hammered a bit when he criticized the administration’s emphasis on creating so-called “green jobs” in the environmental sector as part of the economic stimulus effort.  Biden quickly reminded Ryan he had written letters asking for help on behalf of constituents in his home state of Wisconsin who wanted some of that money to go to them. It turned out to be one of those “gotcha” moments that politicians love to dish on.  It was one of the few times during the debate when Ryan didn’t quite seem to be in Biden’s league.

When Ryan was picked to be on the ticket some ardent conservatives hoped it signaled a willingness on the Romney team to have a big philosophical debate about the role of government. The conservatives were especially anxious to talk about what they see as the need to reform social entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which many Republicans consider examples of Americans having become too dependent on government help.

But so far the big debate has not materialized and while that has disappointed, some conservative activists will probably get over it if the Romney-Ryan ticket can pull out a victory on November 6th presidential elections.


Foreign Policy Front and Center

The vice presidential debate took a strong turn into foreign policy issues, with full discussions of the fallout from the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, what to do about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, how to handle the civil war in Syria and how to wrap up the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

On Libya, Biden doubled down on the notion that the administration was not aware of the pleas for additional security before the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.  But a congressional hearing the day before suggested there were appeals for more help and this issue could dog the Obama-Biden ticket a bit more in the days to come.   Still it should also be said that it’s not likely that events in Libya will determine the outcome of the U.S. election.

Biden offered more pushback on the Romney-Ryan charges that the U.S. has been too soft on Iran in trying to check its nuclear program and has not done enough to help the opponents of the government in Syria.  Biden kept hinting that the tough talk from the Romney team could make U.S. military involvement more likely in both places, something Ryan scoffed at.

But the Biden strategy was clear:  Americans are war-weary after Afghanistan and Iraq. Most people want to focus on issues at home. And the notion of gearing up for another big military involvement in the Middle East is pretty unappetizing.

And again on Afghanistan, it was not clear exactly what differences the Romney camp has with the Obama approach.   Biden kept hammering on the idea that it’s time for the Afghans to step up and handle their own security, and reminding that the U.S. combat troops are leaving in 2014 as promised.  Ryan seemed to quibble about how U.S. forces are being phased down, but also acknowledged at one point that the Republican ticket agrees with the administration’s transition timeline of withdrawing by 2014.


Historically Little Impact

The late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (L) may have defeated Republican Dan Quayle (R) in their vice presidential debate Oct, 5, 1988, but Quayle and presidential candidate George H.W. Bush went on to defeat the Democrats in the general election. Photo: AP

But let’s be honest. Historically, vice presidential debates have meant little in the grand scheme of presidential politics.  One of the most withering lines delivered in any debate was Democrat Lloyd Bentsen’s retort to Republican Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate.  Quayle invoked the memory of John F. Kennedy in trying to fend off concerns about his youth and relative inexperience.  Bentsen pounced, wielding the debating equivalent of a light saber.  “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy.  I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.”  (Pause here for dramatic effect)  “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  Whoops and hollers from the audience and a clean kill, as they say in the business.  But in the end, the Bush-Quayle ticket still coasted to victory over Dukakis-Bentsen, a prime example of why vice presidential debates tend to have little impact on the outcome.

Four years ago, the bar was set so low for Republican candidate Sarah Palin in her debate with Joe Biden that many analysts called the showdown a draw just because she was able to show up and hold her own.  The decision of Republican presidential candidate John McCain to tap Palin to join the ticket paid some initial dividends by firing up the conservative base at their national convention. But ultimately, it became a distracting sideshow for the Republicans once Palin became the target of television comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live.”


Political Redemption

Palin, Quayle and, to a lesser, extent Al Gore are examples of politicians who became punch lines for late night comedians.  That can turn into the kiss of death for them.

One exception to that rule is former President Bill Clinton.  His extra-marital affair while in office propelled him into the stratosphere of comedy targets in the late 1990s.  But Clinton was able to do something few national politicians are able to do—he eventually sought and gained forgiveness from the public for his transgressions and turned around his image.  As a result, he remains today one of the most popular figures in either party.  In that sense, Clinton is kind of the anti-Nixon.  Both men had a fall from grace but handled it in different ways.  Clinton was able to draw on a reserve of affection from the public that Richard Nixon never had, and in the end Clinton achieved a certain measure of redemption while Nixon never really did.


Obama-Romney Round Two

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, shown speaking to a rally in Asheville, North Carolina, Oct. 11, can expect to face a tougher challenge from President Obama in their second debate Tuesday. Photo: AP

Next up is the second of the three presidential debates between the president and Mr. Romney, this one at Hofstra University in New York.  Most experts are betting a different Barack Obama will show up to this debate — more engaged and more apt to tangle with his Republican opponent.  Mr. Romney had an excellent first debate and it’s worth watching to see if he tries to continue his metamorphosis from “severe conservative” to “raging moderate” in this debate.

Most of the pressure, though, will be on President Obama to step up his game and take a cue from Joe Biden to be a bit more feisty and aggressive.  No doubt this will be a key moment for the president in this campaign.  His lackluster showing in the first debate cost him in the polls and race now looks about dead-even.  Another poor performance or major gaffe in this debate could continue to shift things in Romney’s direction.

This second debate will adopt the town hall meeting format in which questions are posed by members of the audience.  It’s hard to know which candidate that might favor.  But Democrats are expecting a much better performance from the president and the pressure is on for him to deliver.  It’s clearly shaping up as a key moment in the campaign.  An incumbent president stumbling in a debate is nothing new, but you don’t want it to become a habit.

Mr. Romney also will be tested.  He can expect to be challenged more in this debate and will be forced to defend some of his positions and statements, most notably the infamous comments from a secretly-recorded fundraising event earlier this year where he dismissed the 47 percent of people who support the president as government dependents who see themselves as victims.  Biden got into that in his debate and we can expect more on this theme from the president in this next debate on Tuesday.


Romney’s Surge

Posted October 10th, 2012 at 8:54 pm (UTC+0)

President Barack Obama and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney are evenly matched in the public opinion polling for next month’s presidential election. Much now depends on the vice presidential debate on Thursday and next week’s second presidential debate. Photos: AP

Lasting Impact Debatable

Mitt Romney is hoping that when the history of the 2012 campaign is written, the turning point will be seen as October 3rd, the date of his first debate with President Barack Obama.  National polls have shown a bit of a Romney surge in the days since the debate, partly due to those who actually watched it and partly to those who heard about it through critical media reviews of the president’s performance.  Pew Research and the Gallup polling organization now have Mr. Romney slightly ahead overall and that is beginning to cause some serious heartburn for Democrats, many of whom thought that a solid Obama debate performance might have put the race out of reach.


Watch the State Polls

But the latest CNN-ORC poll gives the president a 51 to 47 percent lead in the state of Ohio.  Some earlier surveys by other organizations had given Mr. Obama a lead of up to nine points, but even the Obama campaign people acknowledge they probably aren’t going to win swing states like Ohio by nine or 10 points.  So in that sense, the race has come back down to earth a bit. The good news for the president is that he’s at 51 percent in Ohio and now only has to maintain that lead for the next three-plus weeks.  The bad news is Mr. Romney has cut into his lead and now has an excuse to camp out in Ohio for some of the next few weeks in hopes of a furious comeback that would blow a big hole in the Obama re-election strategy.

Remember, we focus on individual states because the U.S. president is elected through a series of 50 state elections (add in the District of Columbia too).  In all but two cases, the winner of the popular vote in a state gets all of that state’s Electoral College votes (the exceptions are Maine and Nebraska where the results are based on votes in congressional districts).  Out of 538 total electoral votes, a candidate must win a minimum of 270 to get elected president.

Both candidates start out with a strong base of red (Republican leaning) and blue (Democratic leaning) states where the results are fairly predictable.  That covers about 40 of the 50 states that most experts can reliably predict right now which way they will go on November 6th.

The remaining eight to 10 states are the so-called “swing” or “battleground” states where polling indicates the election results could go either way. These are the states where both campaigns pour in the bulk of their resources in terms of television advertising, on-the-ground volunteers and candidate visits.

This year’s round up of swing states include (in my own order of importance) Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina.  This is why huge swaths of the United States are largely bypassed in terms of candidate visits and, to a lesser extent, TV ads.

California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, for example, are considered Democratic territory and not worth the effort to compete in for Republican candidates.  Likewise, Texas, the deep South except for Florida, the Plains states like Kansas and Nebraska and the sparsely-populated mountain west (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho) are considered strong Republican areas and don’t get much attention from the Democrats.


The Next Game-changers

Vice President Joe Biden debates Republican rival Paul Ryan Thursday, Oct. 11, in what could be a crucial encounter. Photo: AP

Democrats hope to start their counter-attack with a strong performance by Vice President Joe Biden in his debate Thursday with the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.  Mr. Biden is known for being a talker, but not always in a good way.  He does have an experience advantage over Mr. Ryan but that doesn’t mean the audience won’t be spared any “Biden gaffes.”

At the very least, Democrats will expect a much more aggressive defense of the president’s record from the vice president and more of an offensive strategy aimed at the Republican ticket.  In particular, Democrats will be looking for Biden to mention Romney’s comments on the “47 percent” of Americans who, he famously said at a private fundraiser, depend on government handouts and see themselves as victims.  The president made no mention of this in his first debate with Mr. Romney.


October 16th a Key Date

But Democrats really want a much stronger performance out of the president in the next presidential debate on Tuesday.  This will be a town hall format, which means it will largely be driven by questions from the audience that could make it a bit more unpredictable.  Both candidates will have to be on their toes, but look for the president to show some aggressiveness to get back into the game.

Republicans are counting on vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to hold his own against Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, Oct. 11. Photo: AP

As for the Republicans, they would be thrilled with Mr. Ryan holding his own against Vice President Biden and another spot-on performance by Mr. Romney in the second debate.  The Romney debate win was so important because it lit a fire under wavering Republicans who had been looking at the polls before the first debate and almost conceding the race to President Obama.

Now Republicans are fired up across the board and that means intensified efforts in key states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia to get out the vote on November 6th and even before, thanks to early voting in many states.

The second presidential debate now shapes up as a key moment for both candidates, but especially for Barack Obama.  He has a history of bringing his political “A game” when he needs to, and that will never be more important than next Tuesday.

Another dismal performance could easily spark panic among Democrats, which could lead to worries that key voters like younger women, students and Hispanic voters simply won’t come out in adequate numbers to vote on Election Day.

So let’s see how the candidates prepare for the next go-round and how they do.  Mr. Romney senses a huge opening and his newfound tone as a former “Massachusetts moderate” could play very well with the remaining small pool of swing voters who are looking for an alternative to President Obama, though not one from the far right.

The president’s task is tricky as well.  He has to reclaim some of the “fire in the belly” enthusiasm he had four years ago, mount an aggressive defense of his term and deftly pivot to the attack — all without looking desperate, mean or smug.

This will be a supreme test for two fairly skilled candidates.  Both men have strengths, especially Mr. Obama with his soaring rhetoric.  But that is less of an asset in a bare-knuckled debate where Mr. Romney has so far effectively put the president on the defensive and at the same time actually softened his image from hard conservative to aspiring moderate.  And don’t forget, Mr. Romney has had much more recent debating experience (in the Republican party primaries) than the president.

If, in the end, Mr. Romney loses this race, he may regret not transforming himself back into a moderate earlier in the race.  In hindsight, the Republican Party convention in August now seems like a bit of a waste since he made little progress in reshaping some of the negative views voters held of him.  His decision to reach back into the past and bring out that moderate label, reportedly at the urging of his wife Ann and eldest son Tagg, could prove decisive, provided it didn’t come too late.



Romney’s Resurgence

Posted October 5th, 2012 at 8:32 pm (UTC+0)

Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney, feeling momentum after his debate against President Barack Obama, speaks in Abington, Virginia, Oct. 5, 2012. Photo: AP

Obama Tries to Regroup

Mitt Romney came through when he had to.  Gone was the Republican presidential candidate who got to the right of all his rivals through first quarter of 2012.  Instead, we got the guy who resembled that moderate gubernatorial candidate from Massachusetts back in 2002, the Republican who was able to win in a liberal state and cut deals with a Democratic legislature.

There is no way around this for Obama supporters.  Mr. Romney gave a dominating performance in the Denver debate that managed to put President Obama’s economic record front and center as the key issue in the campaign.  Mr. Romney was aggressive and took his case directly to the people and, at times, the president during the debate.  But he never crossed the line into personal attacks that might have sparked sympathy for Mr. Obama.

President Obama speaks at a campaign rally Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Fairfax, Virginia. Photo: AP

As for the president, Democrats were wondering who actually showed up at the debate and will the same guy show up on October 16th when the next debate is held at Hofstra University in New York.  It seemed as though the president was overly coached not to get negative with Mr. Romney — so much so that he looked like a listless shell of his former self and made no real attempt to push back.


I would expect a different Barack Obama in the second debate.  I know Democrats are going to demand that.  The Obama strategy will be to blunt the Romney momentum with a stronger performance in the second debate, aiming at least for a tie so that the Romney folks can’t claim two straight victories.


Biden versus Ryan


Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Oct. 4, debates his Republican party challenger this coming week. Photo: AP

The Obama campaign might be willing to unleash Vice President Joe Biden when he debates Republican vice presidential Paul Ryan on Thursday.  Of course, this carries a number of risks because no one, including the president, is ever sure what exactly is going to come out of Mr. Biden’s mouth at any given time.  But in the past Joe Biden has proven to be an effective debater, especially when you get into class conflicts, protecting the elderly from cuts in Medicare and fighting for the middle class.

Expect all of that to be on display in the vice presidential debate and expect Congressman Ryan to have to defend the budget plans he put forward as the Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, here speaking in Derry, New Hampshire, Sept. 29, debates Vice President Joe Biden this coming week. Photo: AP

Even so, there is little evidence that vice presidential debates have much bearing on the outcome of presidential elections, so the focus will quickly shift back to the showdowns between President Obama and Mr. Romney.  The last of the three presidential debates on October 22nd will focus on foreign policy, one area where President Obama has maintained an edge in the polls.

But recent developments in the Middle East, especially persistent questions about how the administration handled the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American died. This is sure to come up in that debate and may give Mr. Romney an opening for criticism.


Obama’s Jobs Boost


But in the end, foreign policy probably will not decide this election.  The state of the economy will.  And to that point the latest jobs report dropping the U.S. unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, down from 8.1 percent, is welcome news for the president.

It’s the lowest the jobless rate has been since Mr. Obama took over in January of 2009 and may help strengthen his argument that things are slowly getting better just in time for re-election.  In 1984, President Ronald Reagan was easily able to win a second term with an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, mainly because the economy and job growth numbers were moving in the right direction in the months before Election Day.  Although in a weaker position, Mr. Obama will now try to make the same argument to that dwindling group of undecided voters still trying to make up their minds in the final weeks.

At the very least, Democrats hope the jobs report will take a little of the sting out of Mr. Obama’s debate collapse.  Republicans believe one of the most important effects of the strong Romney performance in the debate was that it would encourage anti-Obama voters to stay in the game in the final weeks, which could also help Republicans in their Senate and House races.  Before the debate, the president was pulling away in several key states and a narrative was building in some quarters that the race was close to being over.  The debate has helped the Romney campaign reverse that thought pattern, at least for now, and given them a chance to get back in the game.


Watch the Polls


Most analysts expect the race to tighten a bit in the aftermath of the debate.  It was already pretty close in the national polls — on average a three to four point lead for the president.  But the thing to watch for is poll movement in the 10 or so battleground states where both campaigns are expending huge amounts of money and time to swing these states one way or the other. If Mr. Romney starts to cut the gap in places like Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, it could have a cascading effect that could tighten the national map considerably.

President Obama has had a clear advantage in the Electoral College for some time now.  He simply has more paths to the get to the magic number of 270 electoral votes than Mr. Romney.


Ohio Ground Zero


Nowhere is the president’s advantage more crucial than in the state of Ohio.  No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.  In 2004, Democrat John Kerry lost the election because President George W. Bush was able to narrowly carry the state and win a second term.

This year the Obama campaign has built a firewall in Ohio and the lead in recent weeks has moved from narrow to solid, though it still could change.  If the Romney campaign can’t find a way to get back in the game in Ohio, that means trying to cobble together an Electoral College majority with uphill victories in several other swing states including Florida, Virginia and Colorado.

It’s not impossible, but it would mean Romney comebacks in several places where he has been down.  For the moment, Ohio is hanging out there as big checkmate in favor of the Obama campaign, and the Romney camp will be eagerly watching to see if the strong debate performance will move any numbers there or in some of the other key swing states as well.





Debate Duel out West

Posted October 2nd, 2012 at 8:32 pm (UTC+0)

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally in Las Vegas Sept. 30, before going into intense preparation for this week’s presidential debate against Republican Mitt Romney. Photo: AP

Romney’s Last Chance?

Less than five weeks to go before the election and now the presidential debates are front and center.  There will be lots of pressure on Mitt Romney to do something during the debates — especially the first one Wednesday — to somehow change the dynamic of this race, which now favors President Barack Obama.  The question is what will it be?  And will it help or backfire?

Historically, debates are seen as major moments in the presidential election cycle.  They go back to 1960 and the showdown between Democrat John Kennedy and the Republican candidate, Vice President Richard Nixon.  Nixon’s refusal to wear makeup did not hurt him with those listening on the radio.  They gave him the edge.  But Kennedy had the advantage with TV viewers and the rest, as they say, is history.


A Little Debate History

Richard Nixon dabs at his face with a handkerchief while debating presidential rival John Kennedy in October, 1960. Some political scholars say Nixon’s television appearance in the debates helped seal his defeat. Photo: AP

In fact, largely because of Nixon, there were no debates between 1960 and 1976.  Lyndon Johnson felt no need to give Barry Goldwater an equal share of the national stage in 1964, and Nixon was the Republican candidate in both 1968 and 1972, ergo no debates, thank you very much.  Jimmy Carter probably benefited from being on the same stage with President Gerald Ford in 1976, though Ford’s blunder about “no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” is one of the classic debate bloopers of all time.

Some political analysts say that the only debates that caused noticeable shifts in public opinion that affected the outcome of the election came in 1960 and 2000.  That may be technically true, but I think you can also make a case for the 1980 debate between President Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan.  Reagan came into that debate with some voters still wary that he was a war-mongering right-winger.  When he came across in the debate as genial and generally non-threatening, it really helped him dethrone Carter because so many people were looking for an excuse to vote against the incumbent president given the poor economy and the anger and frustration associated with the Iran hostage crisis.

In more recent years, some of the more memorable debate moments came in non-verbal form:  President George H.W. Bush looking at his watch in 1992 while Bill Clinton and Ross Perot held the floor.  Al Gore’s weird sighing habit in 2000, which was apparently supposed to show exasperation with his opponent, Texas Governor George W. Bush.  Perhaps strangest of all was Gore walking up to Bush as he spoke during one of the debates, bringing a quizzical response from the Texas governor.  It made Mr. Bush seem normal and Mr. Gore, well, less so.


Debate Stakes

Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney rallies his supporters at a campaign event in Denver, Colorado, Oct. 1.

Mr. Romney would dearly love to change the trajectory of this race, which right now is headed in the president’s direction.  But how?  Be more aggressive?  That carries enormous risks.

In the Republican Party primary elections, Mr. Romney was consistently the best debater of the bunch.  He could be effective on the attack.  But he could also come off at times as a little snooty and arrogant, like the time he challenged Texas Governor Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet.  Yeah, Mitt, everybody’s got a spare $10,000 in cash lying around the house.  Whatcha want to bet on?

And President Obama can, at times, come across as a bit aloof and professorial.  If Mr. Romney can find a way to deflate him a bit in those moments, he might be able to score points with voters.

The problem for the Romney campaign is that he’s behind in some many key states with so little time left. He has to have something dramatic happen to really change the momentum of the race.

In fact, even some die-hard conservatives are clearly watching the polls and getting a bit disillusioned.  One woman I interviewed last week out in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a bastion of conservative thought, already has a plan in case Mr. Obama wins a second term.  Her solution?  Impeach him, based, she says, on several federal laws he has already supposedly broken.

All she has to do now is convince Republican congressional leaders.  Of course, they have other problems at the moment — like holding onto their majority in the House of Representatives and trying to win the majority away from Democrats in the Senate.  Impeachment may have to wait.

Heading into the debate both parties have a major fear.  The fear for Democrats is that their supporters won’t show up in sufficient numbers on election day, allowing Mr. Romney to win a low-turnout election.  The fear for Republicans is that Mr. Romney has already lost the election and that his lackluster convention, coupled with his gaffe about writing off 47 percent of Americans as dependent on government, have sealed his fate.  The debates, especially the first one, may be Mr. Romney’s last and best hope for a game-changing moment in this year’s campaign.




Foreign Policy Campaign Clash

Posted September 25th, 2012 at 7:22 pm (UTC+0)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tells a Clinton Global Initiative audience Sept. 25, that President Barack Obama is losing control of his foreign policy goals. Photo: AP

Candidates Express Competing World Views

For those wondering when or if the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign would ever delve into foreign policy in a meaningful way, this is probably it.  Upheaval in the Middle East and what the United States can or should do about it was front and center as the two major candidates spoke in New York.

Mitt Romney spoke to the Clinton Global Initiative forum and while his tone was softer than in recent days, he offered criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the recent events in Libya, Egypt and Iran.  Mr. Romney said Americans are “troubled by the developments” in the Middle East and he went on to say that “we feel we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events.”

Mr. Romney has pointed to recent events in the Middle East as proof that the president has lost control of his foreign policy goals and has been reduced to being a watcher, and not a player.  It’s also the latest attempt by the Romney campaign to change the subject away from its own problems, especially Mr. Romney’s comment at a fund-raising meeting months ago about the “47” percent of Americans who will support the president no matter what, are dependent on the government and see themselves as victims.


Obama’s Tougher Tone at U.N.

It seemed as though President Obama was punching back a bit at the Romney critiques on his speech before the United Nations General Assembly.  Mr. Obama began by paying homage to the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, who died along with three others in what the administration says was a terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi earlier this month.

The president said the attacks targeting U.S. interests in the Middle East were not just an assault on America, but an assault “on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded—the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully.”

Mr. Obama went on to talk about how the United States supports the forces of change in the Middle East embodied in the Arab Spring.  He referred to the recent anti-Muslim video that sparked protests as “crude and disgusting” and said it was not only an insult to Muslims, but to the United States as well.


Vigorous Defense of Free Speech

President Barack Obama addresses the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Sept. 25, 2012.

At the same time, the president laid out a vigorous defense of free speech, one of the cornerstones of American democracy and the U.S. Constitution.  Mr. Obama noted that as president he has to accept that people call him “awful things” every day, but that he will always defend their right to do so.  He also said there are no words that “excuse the killing of innocents” and said it is the obligation of leaders everywhere to “speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.”

Some of this seemed aimed at rebutting the recent narrative from the Romney campaign that he is weak on foreign policy and weak on defending U.S. values.  Mr. Obama said those who condemn the slander against Islam must also condemn the hate associated with desecrations of the image of Jesus Christ or those who deny the Holocaust.

The president also recommitted the United States to walking alongside those who will work for a secure state of Israel next to an independent and prosperous Palestine.  He also sounded a tough line on Iran, pledging the U.S. will “do what we must” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

All in all, the U.N. speech seemed to be aimed just as much at a domestic audience as an international one — no surprise with the election just six weeks away.


Swing States Swinging Obama’s Way

The latest Washington Post public opinion polls give the White House plenty of encouraging news.  The latest survey in Ohio shows the president ahead of Mr. Romney by a margin of 52 to 44 percent among likely voters.  The president also had a lead in the latest Post poll in Florida, 51 to 47 percent.

There is no way Mitt Romney gets elected if he loses both Florida and Ohio.  So he has to win Florida.  The thing about Ohio is, no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio, so he would have to make it up by winning some combination of other states, probably Colorado and Virginia.  Colorado is close, though some polls give the president a slight lead.  Mr. Obama also had a modest lead in Virginia as well.

Both campaigns are paying extremely close attention to the swing state polls in the final weeks.  If Ohio continues to trend badly for Mr. Romney, his campaign could pull the plug there and focus its resources on Florida, Colorado and Virginia.

The Obama firewall in Ohio, if it holds, is one of the big electoral state stories of this election cycle.  And the fact is the improving economy in both Ohio and Virginia may be helping the president and hurting Mr. Romney, even though both states have Republican governors.

The next few weeks will tell a lot.  If the Romney campaign can’t get any traction in Ohio or Iowa, they may refocus on what for them may be a dwindling number of battleground states where they hope to turn the tide.




Obama Rising

Posted September 21st, 2012 at 9:30 pm (UTC+0)

Latest public opinion polls give President Barack Obama, shown here at a rally in Woodbridge, Virginia, Sept. 21, with a noticeable lead in key states seven weeks before the presidential election. Photo: AP

Romney Scrambles to Catch Up

It’s been three weeks now since Mitt Romney pleaded his case to be president before the American people in his speech before the Republican Party National Convention in Tampa, Florida.  Before the convention, the presidential race was essentially tied.  Three weeks later there has been a noticeable shift in President Obama’s favor.

So what happened?  The Republican convention did little to boost Mr. Romney’s chances of getting elected.  The lasting memory from the convention is not Mr. Romney’s speech, but Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood’s bizarre, unscripted appearance with an empty chair that was supposed to contain an imaginary President Obama.  The Romney campaign checked with Eastwood early on to find out what he was going to say, but Eastwood simply told them he didn’t know yet and that he would wing it.  Amazing that on such little things campaigns sometimes turn.


Self-inflicted Wounds

Mitt Romney’s decision to weigh in early on the anti-U.S. protests in Egypt and Libya was not well-received, even by some Republicans.  And his latest distraction is proving to be costly as well as he tries to defend his secretly-recorded comments at a private fund raising meeting in May that the 47 percent of voters who support President Obama are dependent on government handouts and see themselves as victims.

Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters at a rally in Miami, Florida Sept. 19, as he tries to gain support before the November election. Photo: AP

One of the big problems here is that many people, including many undecided swing voters, are going to be put off by comments that seem to divide and polarize people based on income and tax status.

The telling reactions here are from many Republicans who see the Romney comments as a major gaffe and not in keeping with a conservative philosophy that strives to empower and enfranchise all citizens, regardless of humble beginnings.  Republicans like to point out that Ronald Reagan was always able to put a smiling face on conservatism, but the Romney comments struck many as divisive and unhelpful in his efforts to woo undecided voters and those who are disappointed with Mr. Obama’s performance.


A Less Sour Public

Some of the latest public opinion polls show slight improvements in how Americans see the direction of the country and their views on the national economy.  This has always been the Obama “Achilles Heel,” the thought that voters will simply conclude he’s failed in line with a greater view that the economy is bad and little is being done to fix it or change course.

To be sure these are only slight indications and a number of surveys still show more people believe the country is headed in the wrong direction than on the right course.  But if the trend continues for a while, it could give the Obama campaign a much needed undercurrent of optimism about the economy, which has always been something the Democrats have hoped for but couldn’t count on.

Speaking of polls, the latest numbers for Mr. Romney from so-called battleground states – states that could go either way in the November election — are daunting.  He’s trailing by notable margins in Ohio, Virginia and Iowa, and though the margins are somewhat closer, he’s also behind in Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin, home state of his running mate, Paul Ryan.

That’s not to say Mr. Romney can’t overcome these deficits with seven weeks to go before the election.  But it does appear he needs some sort of major shift in focus or momentum if he’s going to overtake the president. And it’s got to come soon.

Obviously, his crew will look to the upcoming three presidential debates as his best opportunity to make his case and win over converts.  But despite all the attention debates get they don’t always have a major impact on the campaign.

As American University presidential historian Allan Lichtman told us this week, Democrat John Kerry was seen by many as the winner of all three presidential debates with President George W. Bush in 2004 and Mr. Bush still won re-election that November.


Romney and the Middle East

If Mitt Romney does win in November, some of his comments from the secretly-recorded fundraiser in May — released by Mother Jones magazine — may come back to haunt him.

Lost in all the furor over Mr. Romney’s description of the “47 percent” were his comments about Middle East peace, the Palestinians and U.S. policy toward Iran.

Palestinian leaders Saeb Erekat, standing, and Mahmoud Abbas, are unhappy with Republican Mitt Romney’s pronouncements on prospects for Arab-Israeli peace, according to Erekat. Photo: AP

Mr. Romney cast doubt on the longstanding goal of a two-state solution in the Middle East with Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in relative peace.  He said Palestinians “have no interest whatsoever” in peace with Israel, a statement that drew furious retorts from Palestinian leaders like Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas.  Erekat told the Associated Press that anyone who concludes the Palestinians have no interest in peace is also saying Palestinians are not interested in “their freedom and their independence” and that, in his words, is “absolutely unacceptable.”

In the very same video, Mr. Romney described the mullahs in Iran as “crazy people” who could conceivably blackmail the United States by developing nuclear capability.  He also warned that a nuclear-capable Iran would be able to supply terrorist groups with the means to make either a nuclear weapon or a radioactive “dirty bomb.”

Mr. Romney has tried to make U.S. relations with Israel a central part of his critique of the Obama foreign policy, arguing that Washington has been too tough on allies like Israel and not tough enough on adversaries like Iran, Russia and China.

Mr. Romney also likes to recall his special bond with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The two men became friends when they worked in Boston many years ago.  Mr. Romney also visited Israel on his limited foreign tour earlier this year.

In any event, if Mr. Romney is sitting in the Oval Office come January, it will be interesting to see how quickly his calls are returned from some corners of the Middle East.





Romney Reboot

Posted September 17th, 2012 at 11:45 pm (UTC+0)


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to the audience at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, California Sept. 17 in a bid to improve his support among Latin Americans. Photo: AP

Back to the Economy

Seven weeks to go and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is feeling the pressure. After getting no bounce from the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Florida and watching President Obama’s modest climb in the polls, the Romney camp is trying to refocus on the economy and jobs in the final weeks, or at least in the days leading up to the first presidential debate October 3rd.

Last week was a bit of a lost one for the Republican candidate and his campaign. Mr. Romney’s decision to move in full throttle on the violence in the Middle East drew bad media reviews and once again kept the campaign off-message for days. Instead of focusing on the economy — still the Romney camp’s strongest card — the candidate found himself on the defensive trying to explain his critique of Obama foreign policy in the Middle East in the midst of a crisis over the mob attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the embassy in Cairo.


Back to Basics

The central theory of the Romney campaign has always been that their man will win once he convinces enough voters that President Obama has failed and that Mr. Romney’s business experience warrants giving him a shot in the White House for the next four years.



President Barack Obama campaigns in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 17, as his bid for re-election moves into high gear. Photo: AP

But turning an incumbent president out of office is always a two-step process. Step one is convincing voters the incumbent has failed. Has Mr. Romney succeeded here? I’d say the grade is “Incomplete.” There is plenty of evidence for voters to understand that the economy is still nowhere near as strong and robust as they would like it. But polls suggest some voters still hold the previous administration of President George W. Bush at least partly responsible for the current state of affairs, so not all the blame is falling on President Obama. Plus some voters may be open to the Obama argument that things are not as bad as they could be had the president not taken action early in his term.

But the second step of the process is where Mr. Romney seems to have faltered. Once you make the case that the incumbent should go, you then have a responsibility to lay out why the challenger should be elected. That involves offering a clear picture of who the candidate is and what he or she stands for, and also what specifically they would do once in office.

Mr. Romney had success in making himself acceptable to conservatives during the primaries, but he has not made an easy transition to a general election candidate. For example, what did he and vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan have to offer to moderate swing voters during their convention? Mr. Romney continues to trail the president in terms of personal likability, but that doesn’t necessarily doom your chances in the election. Before giving Romney the keys to the White House, what voters seem to want from the Republican nominee is a better sense of who he is and a better idea of exactly what he would do once in office.


Debates are Key

Mitt Romney’s best chance to turn things around will probably be the first presidential debate on October 3rd. The first debate is always one of those key moments in the campaign where even casual voters like to tune in and get a sense of the two candidates.

If Mr. Romney can make a convincing case for his own election without appearing to savage the president, he could make the race a nail-biter once again. Mr. Romney did try to strike this note during his convention acceptance speech when he adopted a kind of sorrowful tone in trying to convince swing voters that as much as they would have liked the president to succeed, he wasn’t able to and now it’s time for a change.

Mr. Romney has to contend with the fact that voters probably will always like Barack Obama better, and that means he’s going to have to appeal to their heads, not their hearts. Sure, the far right was always an easy sell on the idea of turning Mr. Obama out of office.

But figuring out how to handle swing voters who are disappointed in the president and at least open to the idea of supporting the Republican nominee is a much more nuanced, subtle challenge. And it’s a challenge that so far the Romney campaign has not been able to figure out.



Obama’s Post-Convention Bounce

Posted September 11th, 2012 at 6:22 pm (UTC+0)

President Barack Obama, enjoying a slight bump in the public opinion polls following his Democratic Party’s convention, speaks to a campaign rally Sept. 8, in Kissimmee, Florida. Photo: AP

Slight Could Make Might in 2012

Taking a look at the latest public opinion polls, it appears President Obama got at least a modest bump following last week’s Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This may or may not be significant, but at the very least it suggests a bit of a lost opportunity for the presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney.

Heading into the party conventions, the polls had the race basically tied.  The Republican convention in Tampa, Florida seemed to set up the Romney campaign for an opportunity in which they could better connect with the public as to who their candidate is, what he stands for and why people should like him more.

Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney is slightly behind in the public opinion polls after the Republican convention. He is shown here at a rally in Mansfield, Ohio Sept. 10. Photo: AP

But a film highlighting Mitt Romney’s personal qualities was eliminated from the precious 10-11pm hour of network television the final night of the Republican convention. Instead, viewers got Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, who decided at the last minute he’d like to yell at a chair (holding an imaginary President Obama) while thousands inside the convention hall and millions more watching at home squirmed uneasily.

The result was a classic lost political opportunity.  Mr. Romney did a credible job in delivering his speech, but the post-Republican convention polls showed at best a one-point bump in popularity.  Granted this is a close race and has been from the beginning, but coming out of Tampa with very little to show in terms of momentum and changing the public’s view of Mr. Romney was not the outcome Republicans wanted.


Obama Bump Thanks to Bill and Michelle

The final word on President Obama’s post-convention bounce will come within a few days as the pollsters digest voter reactions to the Democrats’ Charlotte convention.  I was struck by the energy among Democrats I found there for the upcoming campaign.

I had figured the Republicans would be all revved up to beat the president in November, even if they weren’t convinced that Mitt Romney was the best guy to carry them into battle.  The Democrats also put on a good show and managed to do a better job of presenting their party positions on foreign policy and even national security, something the Republicans usually had an advantage on.

The Democrats also had some powerful surrogates—First lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.  It looks as though Mr. Clinton will win the gold as the best speaker from both conventions, giving the president a huge boost, especially with moderates who’ve been disappointed in Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy and his inability to solve political polarization in Washington (as if any one politician could).

The president’s speech was solid but not spectacular, in the view of many Democratic delegates.  But the contrasts the Democrats were able to draw with Republicans on a host of social issues and their attention to women voters gave them a leg up over the Republicans heading into the final weeks of the campaign.


Debates Make or Break

So now we have Mr. Romney looking ahead to the presidential debates as perhaps his last chance to alter the dynamics of the race.  His selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate didn’t seem to have much impact on the polls, probably because that choice doesn’t really speak to moderates looking for some sort of ‘game changer’ that would make them more likely to abandon the president and fall in behind Mr. Romney.

And now we have the aftermath of the conventions, where the president seems to have pulled into a slight lead.  All this points to the importance of Mr. Romney needing to make his case in a series of three presidential debates beginning October 3rd in Denver.

Richard Nixon, shown here (L) debating John Kennedy on Oct. 21, 1960, found out that presidential debates can make all the difference. Kennedy went on to defeat Nixon for the presidency. Photo: AP

Most of the time, the debates don’t produce a clear winner and likelihood of either candidate land a “knock-out” blow seems remote.  Often they focus on non-verbal moments like President George H. W. Bush checking his watch in 1992 or Al Gore sighing in his matchup with George W. Bush in 2000.

It’s possible the Obama campaign will adopt a strategy to play defense in the debates and simply try to deny Mr. Romney the chance to score any significant points.  But from the point of view of the Romney campaign, I think they will need to be aggressive, knowing full well that unless he can find a way to alter the current dynamic of the race in the next few weeks, it’s possible the president will be able to hang on to his modest lead and run out the clock on the Republicans by election day November 6th.

Of course, putting too much emphasis on an aggressive debate performance is risky.  Mr. Romney did well in the Republican primary debates earlier this year.  In fact, I would argue that is a key reason why he was able to prevail and become the nominee.

But during his Republican convention speech, Mr. Romney tried to appeal to disenchanted Obama supporters with a less confrontational tone. Apparently, he hoped to win over moderates who still like the president but believe his policies have failed.

But switching tone in the debates to an aggressive attack mode risks alienating that small pool of remaining undecided voters who may retain a measure of affinity for the president even though they are unhappy with the economy and the general direction of the country.

Going into the debates, both campaigns are aware that voters may be open to firing President Obama because of the weak economy.  But the Romney camp has yet to make a convincing argument that voters should hire their guy, either because they don’t like him, haven’t heard enough specifics about his policies or aren’t sure he could really do much better anyway.

In any event, the debates shape up as Mitt Romney’s last/best/perhaps only hope to win the White House in 2012.




Obama to Country: Give Me Another Chance

Posted September 7th, 2012 at 3:31 pm (UTC+0)

President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, wave to delegates at the Democratic convention Sept. 6, after he accepted the party’s nomination for re-election. Photo: AP

Says Voters Face a Critical Choice

Barack Obama gave it his best shot Thursday night and it just might give him a boost for the final two months of his race for re-election as president.  Essentially, Mr. Obama tried to make the case that while things have not gone as well as everyone had hoped when he was first elected four years ago, his path is the best way forward.

Mr. Obama brought his usual rhetorical flair to the Democratic Party’s convention here in Charlotte, North Carolina and the delegates were eager to react to every word.  But he did have a tough act to follow given the speech First lady Michelle Obama delivered on the opening night followed another from former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday.

The president focused his nomination acceptance speech on the future, telling voters they have a choice in this election like none other over the past 25 years.  By making that choice about the future, Mr. Obama hopes enough voters will overlook his less than stellar record on the economy and give him another four years.

The mood in the street following his speech was electric.  Thousands of Obama delegates and supporters flooded downtown Charlotte, some singing and chanting.  Clearly for those attending the convention the energy is back.  Maybe not like four years ago, but these past several days at the convention might have been enough to re-energize Democratic spirits.

In the hours leading up to the speech, scores of delegates headed for the arena in a giddy mood.  And that enthusiasm was on display during the president’s speech, with delegates whooping, hollering and generally having a grand old time while the president made his case.


Follow the Bouncing Polls

The question now is what kind of post-convention bounce the president will get heading into the final two months of the campaign.  I talked with noted Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who says the Obama speech came at a critical moment in the campaign, a real opportunity for Democrats to put some daylight between themselves and the Republican ticket led by Mitt Romney.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L), and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan smile as appear at a recent political gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: AP

Greenberg says Romney-Ryan ticket got a minimal bounce out of the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida the week before, largely because of the addition of Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate.  He says a strong public reaction to Mr. Obama’s speech coupled with a smooth and energizing Democratic convention could propel the president into a three to four point lead over Mr. Romney in the public opinion polls heading into the final eight weeks of the campaign.

That may not sound like much, but a lot of strategists say that in a close race it could be determinative, meaning this convention potentially was a watershed moment for Mr. Obama and his Democratic supporters.

But it’s still early and lots of things can still happen, like the Obama-Romney debates.  The first one is October 3rd in Denver.

Democratic Highlights:  Mrs. O and Daddy-O

Without question, the top three Democratic stars were — not necessarily in order — First lady Michelle Obama (Mrs. O), former President Bill Clinton (Daddy-O) and, of course, President Obama himself (The Big O?).  We should probably also throw in San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote address on the opening night.

Looking back to the Republican convention, Ann Romney had a solid speech that filled in some of the blanks about her husband, Mitt.  But two days after speech, delegates were still buzzing about the job Michelle Obama did on behalf of her husband Tuesday night.

There is a cool, sometimes aloof quality to President Obama that sometimes tempers his ability to connect with voters.  But Mrs. Obama provided the antidote for that in spades when she spoke to the convention.  Lots of delegates, especially women, had a very emotional reaction.

The Democrats seemed to be very effective in trying to maximize the advantage they have with certain key voting groups: women, who actually make up a majority of voters, Hispanics and African-Americans.  Given the challenges this year in trying to replicate the record turnout among young and first-time voters in 2008, the Democrats are counting on their convention to re-energize the critical voting blocs where the president has a big edge over Mr. Romney and make sure they get out and vote in November.


Whose Convention Was Better Anyway?

Somewhat unexpectedly, I found more energy at the Democratic conclave in Charlotte than I did in Tampa with the Republicans.

Look, the Republicans have been ginned up for two years about beating President Obama.  All the Tea Party conservatism and the takeover of the House of Representatives were just lead-ups for the expected main event — the defeat of President Obama in 2012.

So yeah, Republicans were psyched in Tampa to come together under a banner that says “Beat Obama,” instead of “We Love Mitt.”  You got the feeling in Tampa that most of the Republicans felt they did what they had to do — rallied around Mr. Romney more with their heads than their hearts, and got ready for the final two months of the campaign.

But in Charlotte, the Democrats seemed loaded for bear.  It’s like all that Democratic energy has been out there untapped and is now ready to come bursting out.

To be sure, the Democrats still have their challenges.  Have they won over enough swing voters?  Will the kids really turn out in droves again for the president?  Can they match the level of excitement and commitment among Democratic loyalists, especially Hispanics and younger, single women?

But after their convention, it’s easier to believe the Democrats just might be able to rally a better turnout than some of the experts predicted.  It’s not a lock, and a lot can happen between now and November 6th, but most of the Democrats I talked to feel a lot more confident about the president’s chances after Charlotte than before.



Democrats Getting Worked Up

Posted September 5th, 2012 at 10:59 pm (UTC+0)

Charlotte Off And Running

A quick survey of Democratic Party convention delegates here in Charlotte, North Carolina suggests that President Obama’s supporters are, once again, “fired up and ready to go,” to quote the lingo from 2008. I spoke with delegates from Georgia, California, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, West Virginia and North Carolina and all of them seem pretty excited following the opening sessions of the convention.


First Lady Michelle Obama wows Democratic Party convention delegates in Charlotte, North Carolina Sept. 4. Photo: AP

First lady Michelle Obama absolutely wowed the crowd Tuesday night, setting up an effective personal introduction to her husband later in the week. Some Democrats here agree with the notion that the party faithful need to be reminded about the president’s achievements during his first term, and they know they have a challenging case to make to the country at large as well.

But unlike the Republicans, who were united in their distaste for Mr. Obama well before their convention in Tampa, Florida last week, the Democrats really do need a pep rally. Barack Obama drew a huge wave of new voters four years ago that propelled him to the White House.

Party leaders acknowledge there is almost no way he can match his performance this time around among young voters, first time voters and women. That means there will need to be an extra push for those and other constituencies coming out of the convention.

Republicans believe opposition to the president will be enough to rally their base and get out their voters. Democrats may need to remind themselves how it was before Mr. Obama, and many seem to be making an extra effort to get back the enthusiasm they had four years ago. But a convention lineup of Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is pretty formidable, and party leaders are counting on a big boost coming out of Charlotte.


Can an Obama boost trump Romney?

Speaking of boosts, it doesn’t look like the Republicans got much of one out of their convention in Tampa, Florida last week. To be fair, they put on a disciplined show, basically stuck to the anti-Obama message and Mr. Romney gave a pretty good speech. But some of the public opinion surveys recorded only a one point poll bounce following their convention and I know they were hoping for more.

President Obama, arriving in Charlotte, North Carolina Sept. 5, is expecting a boost in the public opinion polls after the Democratic Party convention. Photo: AP


This sets up the Democrats and President Obama to retake a slight edge in the race after the president’s acceptance speech here Thursday night. If the Democrats keep control of their convention as they have and focus on Mr. Obama’s strengths, especially his like-ability and ability to connect with middle class voters, a good speech could set up a healthy popularity bounce that might put him in the driver’s seat for the next several weeks. It could be a critical moment in a close election campaign where neither candidate has been able to move into much of a lead.

After the conventions, the next major event is the first presidential debate on October 3rd. in Denver, Colorado.

Candidates usually play it safe in debates, not wanting to make a mistake that might take days to fix. Still, the debates are a true wild card in our political system and the candidate who comes out of the conventions with a lead, even a modest one, can have an advantage in the final weeks of the presidential race.



Jim Malone

Jim Malone

After a stint in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Jim joined VOA in 1983 as a reporter and anchor on English broadcasts to Africa.  He served as East Africa correspondent, then covered Congress in the early 1990’s.   Since 1995, Jim has served as VOA national correspondent responsible for coverage of U.S. politics, elections, the Supreme Court and Justice Department.  Jim has been involved in VOA’s election coverage since the 1984 presidential campaign and has co-anchored live VOA broadcasts of numerous national political conventions, candidate debates and election night coverage.


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