A Storm-Tossed U.S. Presidential Race
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 30, 2012
Summary: An October Surprise has finally debuted, just before the end of the month. But it is neither a war, nor a scandal. Instead, it is a hurricane -- Hurricane Sandy -- headed directly toward the South, the Eastern seaboard, and parts of the Midwest, including several swing states that President Obama assumed were already in his pocket. It has added a wild card to an already tense election.
Full Text below:
An October Surprise has finally debuted, just before the end of the month. But it is neither a war, nor a scandal. Instead, it is a hurricane -- Hurricane Sandy -- headed directly toward the South, the Eastern seaboard, and parts of the Midwest, including several swing states that President Obama assumed were already in his pocket. It has added a wild card to an already tense election.
During an election year, most voters in the United States are concerned about economic issues. The Obama administration has yet to emerge from the 2008 global financial tsunami. The unemployment rate has reached 7.8%, and has become the biggest obstacle to Obama's re-election. Ever since the war, whenever the unemployment rate exceeded 7.5% during an election year, the incumbent has lost his bid for re-election. Over 23 million people cannot find jobs. Over 10 million people rely on food stamps to get by. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has invoked the same slogan as President Reagan. "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Naturally this is striking a chord.
The voters have given Obama a chance. Four years ago, he chanted, "Change. Yes, we can!" He stirred peoples' hearts. He became the first ever black president of the United States. But Obama failed to display the same leadership and charisma shown by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. Nor could he convince the Republican-led Congress to support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the way President Bill Clinton did. The bad blood between Obama and the House of Representatives prevented him from winning over members of Congress. Therefore his economic policies, financial reforms, and education reforms all stalled in Congress.
But he has an even bigger problem. Even if Obama wins re-election, he must once again face a Republican-led House of Representatives. This means four years of battles between the White House and the House of Representatives. History will probably repeat itself. Liberal newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times have endorsed Obama on issues ranging from tax reform, health insurance policy, diplomacy, and immigration laws. But they neglected to remind readers that Obama faces the same dilemma on Capitol Hill after re-election.
Some say the 2012 U.S. presidential election is a contest between a spokesman for the middle-class, and a corporate CEO. Obama comes from a modest background, but he has made it to the top of the heap. He is able to interact with voters. His election meant that even a black man can pursue the American Dream. His "Forward" slogan is not as resonant as it was four years ago. But according to a Washington Post/ABC poll, he has the support of 60% of all women voters. He has the support of black, Hispanic, and Asian voters. He is still favored to win. More importantly, most polls show the Democratic Party in control of more electoral votes in the 11 swing states.
By contrast, Romney is an entrepreneur who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is distant from the people. But the companies he took over either turned around or doubled their profits. Do American voters agree that the country is moving in the wrong direction and needs a course change? If they do, he still has a fighting chance. Polls show 60% of the white vote supporting Romney. But the situation in the 11 swing states is not optimistic.
Does that mean Obama is a shoo-in? Not necessarily. Even these numbers may not be enough. In fact, the closer we come to election day, the more conservative election analysts and pundits get. They are no longer willing to come right out and say who will win the election.
Also, if polls determined the winner, Obama and Romney would not have to keep spending so much on "AirLand Battle Strategy." The two have been engaging in an air war on the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, TV, and radio. They have also been engaging in a ground war, mobilizing volunteers to go door to door. The amount they have raised has exceeded two billion U.S. dollars.
Finally, and most importantly, these are swing states. These states have a record of swinging back and forth. States that have swung one way in the past, are likely to swing another way in the future.
American voters seldom pay much attention to foreign policy. But the rise of Mainland China has become inseparable from the U.S. economy. Therefore, whether Beijing is "playing by the rules" and whether the United States should label Mainland China a "currency manipulator" became a theme in the third debate. Beijing has responded in a low keyed manner. Through backdoor channels, it sent a message to the two candidates. It also sent a message through other governments with close economic and trade ties with Mainland China. As a result, Obama and Romney cooled their rhetoric during the third debate. The world breathed a sigh of relief. As we can see, Beijing's influence is definitely growing.
Now consider Taipei's perspective. It matters not whether Obama or Romney is elected president. Any new development in US-China relations is likely to pose a major challenge to the Ma Ying-jeou government. ROC Representative to the US King Pu-tsung, National Security Council Secretary General Yuan Chien-sheng, and Secretary General of the Office of the President Timothy Yang, stand on the front lines. They and others must work together. They must ensure that the "iron triangle" President Ma proposed remains intact over the coming years.
儘管外交政策議題向來不受美國選民重視，惟由於中國崛起已變成和美國經濟密不可分的重要因素；因此，北京是否「按規矩辦事」（play by rules） 與美國是否應宣布中國大陸為「匯率操控國」仍是第三場辯論的主軸之一。不過，一則北京低調以對，並透過管道傳話兩位候選人，二則北京也透過與大陸有密切經貿往來的國家與媒體發揮影響力，歐巴馬與羅姆尼在第三場辯論都降溫自制，讓全世界都鬆了一口氣。由此觀之，北京的影響力的確與日俱增。