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Obama versus Romney and Jill Stein in 2012

Romney wins Republican primary

Looking toward the coming 2012 presidential election the Republicans were divided. Some were accusing moderates of being Republicans-In-Name-Only. The RINOs were describing their accusers as lacking pragmatism. Both factions agreed on the gravity of the coming elections. On 11 August 2011, concerning candidacy for the US presidency the Republicans gathered in Iowa for a friendly debate in front of a fired-up crowd. Among the candidates were businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr, former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and a political analyst for Fox News. (Described by the New York Times)

Missing from the group was Donald Trump, who had been outspoken in his skepticism that Obama was a citizen. By August 2011 he had backtracked on running for President, saying he wasn't ready to leave the private sector. Also missing from the group was the Tea Party star Sarah Palin. Three weeks later she was the Tea Party's main speaker at a rally in New Hampshire. The Tea Party, she said, "is not about any one candidate". Its drive, she said, is to "reform our government and restore our country." In the weeks ahead there were expectations that she would announce her candidacy. Instead, she spoke of the advantage of being unshackled and more active. "Americans", she said, "are ready for someone outside the box." She planned to serve the movement by helping to elect "true public servants to office."

Republican candidates running in Iowa in December emerged behind Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul, the latter emerging from the caucuses with the most delegates. On January 10 Romney won the New Hampshire primary with 39.3 percent of the votes. Ron Paul had 22.8 percent and Newt Gingrich 9.4 percent.

The next primary was in South Carolina on January 21. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin urged voters to vote for Gingrich. Gingrich had the billionaire Adeleson backing him, and he was aggressive in his criticism of the front-runner Romney and emerged with 40 percent of the vote to Romney's second place with 28 percent. Santorum and Ron Paul were fading, Paul viewed by many as favoring isolationism, including withdrawing from the United Nations and from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In Florida, Romney triumphed over Gingrich 46 percent to 32. Also on January 31, the Gingrich campaign acknowledged responsibility for a Florida robocall that accused Romney of "forcing Holocaust survivors to eat non-kosher food" while he was Governor of Massachusetts. The Romney campaign said the calls were "sad" and "desperate". Gingrich denied knowledge of the calls.

Romney won the Washington primary on March 3 and he won six states (Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia) in the SuperTuesday primaries on March 6. Romney was on his way to winning the nomination, and, by late April, Gingrich removed himself from the race, claiming that "The Republican establishment is anti-intellectual and anti-change. They're for winning as long as it's meaningless." The columnist David Brooks described Gingrich as subject to "narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance." Another Republican columnist, George Will, wrote that Gingrich "embodies almost everything disagreeable about modern Washington," and the National Review magazine ridiculed him.

The Republican Party nominating convention was held in late August in Tampa, Florida (just in time for Tropical Storm Isaac). Herman Cain had dropped out back in December. Michele Bachman had dropped out in early January. Rick Perry had also dropped out in January, endorsing Gingrich, whom he described as "a conservative visionary who can transform our country. "Newt", he said, "is not perfect, but who among us is?"

Gingrich and Santorum released their delegates and encouraged them to vote for Romney, who emerged with 2,061 delegates, Paul emerging with 190 delegates and Santorum 9. During the convention there were policy workshops hosted by Gingrich and described as an effort to counter an image of Romney as an out-of-touch elitist. The party platform included banning abortion, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, abstinence should be the only form of family planning for teenagers that is government funded, Medicare revisions, ending the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment, opposing regulations on business to curb climate change, curtailing the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, and promoting "private stewardship of the environment".

Romney chose Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate. The keynote speaker was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, described as a speech primarily about himself that ignored Romney. Christie said, "We are beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make our country great again... We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down, and work together to take action on the big things facing America... We are taking our country back."

In his acceptance speech (video) Romney echoed Christie, saying "We are beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make our country great again... We are taking our country back." He added:

This president cannot tell us that YOU are better off today than when he took office... In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class... His assault on coal and gas and oil will send energy and manufacturing jobs to China... President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.

Romney spoke of a "united America" that "will preserve a military that is so strong, no nation would ever dare to test it.

Media attention went not so much to Romney's message as to Clint Eastwood's presentation at the convention delegates, Eastwood's attack on Obama by speaking to an empty chair.

Bill Clinton Nominates Obama

The Democrats gathered in early September. Their party didn't accept donations to fund the convention from corporations, and it was compelled to cut back on some of its planned activities, but friendly corporation did manage to help with some transportation costs and the hosting of parties. A left-leaning coalition of more than ninety left-leaning organizations protested the convention, complaining about the influence of corporations and the military-industrial complex.

Obama had won his primaries against more than a dozen barely known challengers, the most successful of whom won 23 delegates. In California those to the left of Obama had shown their stuff. In that state's primary, 404 persons had cast their ballot for someone other than Obama, and 2,075,905 had voted for Obama. Obama went to the convention with more than 3,000 delegates, a few hundred more than the 2,383 required for nomination. Some on to the Left of Obama complained about a failing democracy — a complaint to be taken up by presidential candidates running for third parties.

It was Bill Clinton who spoke for Obama's nomination. Clinton reminded his listeners about his effort at cooperation with Republicans. He said that cooperation was necessary in order to get things done, and he faulted the Republicans for their rigidity. He praised Obama's "reasonable plan" for attacking the debt and accused the Republicans of not using the method he used for attacking the deficit: "arithmetic." He said, "We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down." He described the Republican approach as "you're on your own" and "winner take all." A better approach, he said, is "We're all in this together."


At night on September 11, five days after Democratic Party's convention close, members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia attacked the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Earlier in the year there had been unrest and armed clashes in Benghazi. Armed groups not controlled by the government were still around. On August 2 the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, had called "the security condition in Libya ... unpredictable, volatile and violent." On August 27th the US State Department issued a travel warning for Libya citing the threat of assassination and car bombings in Benghazi and Tripoli. The compound was not an official consulate and it was not covered by the normal State Department procedures for security funding. Ambassador Stevens did not coordinate his journey to Benghazi with the US security team based at the US embassy in Tripoli. Security at the compound in Benghazi was obviously inadequate. By the morning of September 12 four Americans were dead, including Ambassor Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation (asphyxiation).

The media described the attack on the US compound in Benghazi as having evolved out of protest demonstrations. Susan Rice was Ambassador to the UN at the time, and in speaking to the press she went with the sloppy intelligence she had been given: that the attack on the embassy evolved out of protest demonstrations.

The Presidential Debates

The first debate was on 3 October. The subject: domestic issues. Polls showed the percentage of people believing Obama had won were only in the 20s. In the Washington Post, Obama was described as "halting at times" in his responses and as conceding points to Romney on issues like deficit reduction. Obama was following in inclination to be polite, but Obama's approval rating kicked up four percentage points from the week before, according to Gallup: 52 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval.

The second debate, on 16 October, was about foreign policy. According to the NY Times, thinking he had been 'too polite' in his first debate, he was more aggressive: "He interrupted, he scolded, he filibustered, he shook his head." Romney said that Obama "bungled security for American personnel in Libya. And Romney went back to domestic issues, accusing Obama of doing "nothing to reform entitlement programs," of having "deserted a middle class" and not understaning what it takes to get the economy working again." Someone wrote that it was hard to image the debate changing anyone's mind.

Notable regarding the second debate was the attention the Green Party candidate Jill Stein received by protesting and getting arrested for disorderly conduct. To partipate in a presidential debate (as Ross Perot had in 1992) candidates needed at least 15 percent support based on an average of five national polls. Stein didn't even come close, but she called the debate a "mockery of democracy." Someone complained that the Green Party try working their way up the political ladder by getting a few state legislators or House members elected, and someone pointed out that the Greens in years past had managed only to get one state legislator elected in Maine and for only one term.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson had also complained, filing an antitrust lawsuit in the US District Court against the Commission on Presidential Debates — to no avail.

Various third parties got together for their own debates, on October 23 and October 30, the latter hosted and narrated by Ralph Nader and was postponed because of Hurricane Sandy. Obama and Romney were invited to join, but declined. CSPAN broadcast the debate.

The third and last debate between Obama and Romney took place on 22 October. A NY Times editorial concluded:

Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded completely lost. That's because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan...At his worst, Mr. Romney sounded like a beauty pageant contestant groping for an answer to the final question.

The Returns

In the primary contests people were voting for someone, and in the presidential contest there was more voting against someone and more of a tendency toward dichotomy — polar opposites. It was different with parliamentary systems, where governments were chosen by a president. (Back in 1998, Jesse Ventura won a race for Governor of Minnesota, and his success gave hope to people interested in third, fourth or fifth parties, and they tended to ignore the significance of the race being for a governorship rather than the presidency.) In the November 2012 presidential contest the usual dichotomy was in play, with the media riding along, but there was the systemic difference rather than just the wickedness of corporations that some claimed.

Obama won 51 percent of the popular vote to Romney's 47 percent, and 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206. The Democrats picked up 2 senate seats (51 seats to 47 for the Republicans), and they won 8 more House seats, leaving them a minority in the House, 201 to 234. John Boehner was still majority leader and Nancy Pelosi minority leader.

Jill Stein had gone to work for the Green Party believing she could reach a broader audience. She got it in 2012, but without success regarding desired effect. For all her efforts she won only 0.36 percent of the vote. The Libertarian Party candidate, Johnson, won just under 1 percent. Rosanne Bar, running as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate won 0.05 percent.

Tea Party Patriots were not sectarian like the Greens. They were working within the realities of politics that was not parliamentarian. They were not into the self-importance felt by an individual candidate so much as they were for working within the Republican Party. They claimed that Romney lost the election because he was a "weak moderate" candidate that was "hand-picked" by the establishment GOP. They promised to work harder within the Republican Party to stop the "mushy-middle" members of the GOP from "getting rolled" by the left. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin said they would turn their attention back to Congress and push their message of fiscal conservatism, battle over the budget, the debt and against Obamacare.

CONTINUE READING: Frustration in 2013

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