US 2012 Project: Editorial #1, Heart of a President

As Deputy Editor of a massive university project to cover the US electiUS 2012 electionon LIVE overnight on November 6th, I’ve had my plate full lately! I’ve been busy commissioning and editing articles, conducting interviews and helping to keep our website looking fresh! I hope you take a look – we have everything from interviews with Stephen Sackur and Alistair Campbell, to breaking news and Politics 101.

Here’s my first editorial, published October 29th in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

 

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Heart of a President

Of all the challenges a president faces, you might not think that a little thing like sympathy would rank too highly. In fact, wearing the heart of the nation on their sleeve is a constant balancing act. When you’re faced with disaster and the eyes of the American public are awaiting your response, how do you appear both calm and collected yet remorseful and full of concern?

A message for Mitt – you probably shouldn’t continue along the pep-rally route, questionably disguised as a relief effort in a part of the country as yet relatively unaffected. You might be called insensitive, in fact you’ll probably be called worse.

At the other end of the spectrum, Obama sits tight in the Whitehouse, quoted as wanting to put his people ahead of his political game. But while Barack occupies the moral high ground in that sense, is it more significant that Romney could be taking control of a key swing state?

In a survey by Gallup on each candidates’ top 15 greatest strengths, personality traits ranked highest for Obama. In the eyes of the American public, Obama’s greatest selling point is recorded as his “excellent” speaking and communication skills, closely followed by the fact that he is “for the people,” a leader who “helps the less fortunate.”

In the same survey, these qualities feature in the bottom two spots of Romney’s top 15 greatest strengths. The Republican’s number one attribute is listed as him being a “good businessman,” with the next three to follow being his economic policies, fresh ideas and aptitude with budgets.

Decisions like the ones made by the candidates in the wake of Sandy serve to reinforce the personalities both Obama and Romney have publicly made for themselves.

Before we sum up one as sentimental and reprimand the other as ruthless, however, we should consider that it is not a simple matter of choosing to follow your heart or your head; a great politician can show their heart without laying their cards on the table.

Will the tactful approach pay off for Obama? Or has he missed his final opportunity to secure wavering support?

It’s not out of line to say that there was a certain air of enamour around the Democratic candidate in 2008, a romanticised view of the history-making new president. Well, four years is a long time in any relationship. With one week to go before election night, have the US public fallen out of love with his heart-felt appearances? If they haven’t, how can we explain the way in which Romney has recently closed the gap between them in terms of public support?

In crucial swing states across the nation, the polls are close. In Ohio alone, Obama clutches on to a 2.1% lead. If that changes, he will lose the state’s full 18 Electoral College votes to Romney. Given those numbers, Romney’s last-minute tactics don’t seem so extreme. Distasteful, maybe, but critical also.

The Republican candidate currently holds the lead in Florida – worth an essential 29 Electoral College votes – by 1.3%. Romney also maintains a 3% lead in North Carolina, a further 15 votes where they really count in a race this close.

General predictions may still lean slightly in Obama’s favour, but there is certainly everything to play for, and we will be watching the candidates closely to assess their game plans in this final stage.

Sandy has redirected the election route entirely; it has physically and emotionally unsettled the remaining voters, it’s placed the candidates on the world stage to confront a topic they hadn’t prepared answers for earlier. They can’t be opportunistic about each-other during a natural disaster, they are forced to rely solely on their own strengths.

As far as those strengths go, Gallup statistics suggest Obama is recognised as someone the American public would want around in a crisis situation. The question is, when the dust settles, will it be he – or Romney – who is deemed best to pick up the pieces?

Vikki 

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