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September 17, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn With Hamish

Hard for johnson

We’re nearly there. The marathon that is the US Presidential race is entering the most exciting phase of the contest. With the conventions gone and running mates picked, there are only a few debates before the media’s attention turns to the sprint finish of Election Day.

The incumbent, President Obama, has been holding a slim lead over his main rival, Mitt Romney, with the percentage points between the two fluctuating. Percentage points don’t count for much in this battle though—the electoral college system means a handful of swing states is where the outcome of the election will be decided.

I’m not going to spend the column explaining how the electoral college system works, (see bit.ly/3hEa4M instead) but expect
to hear the likes of “Ohio”, “Florida” and “Virginia” coming up regularly over the next few months. The undecided states are where Romney and Obama will be campaigning, and where the media’s focus will be.

During the trimester break, Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate; the first “member” of Generation X to contest the Vice-Presidency for one of the major parties. Romney’s decision to select Ryan is down to two main reasons.

Romney has been labelled a “Massachusetts Moderate” (see bit.ly/PkBqT4) by (former-) rivals within his party. The Tea Party movement has seen the Republicans shift right, putting Romney at odds with conservatives. In such a tight election, the Republicans will need to make sure all their supporters come out and vote in the crucial swing states. The tip for Ryan therefore is aimed at ensuring tea partiers vote, rather than staying at home, which is as good as a vote for Obama when trying to overcome a deficit.

The addition of Ryan to the ticket seems to also be in hope of tapping into Ron Paul’s market of college students. The most libertarian of the Republican nominees, save for Gary Johnson, Ron Paul’s message of liberty resonated amongst white males in their early twenties and the reasoning seems to be that if Ryan is half Paul’s age, he must have a shot of winning over those voters. Ryan is no libertarian but he wants to cut things in the traditional tea party way, something which may have crossover.

In the days following the announcement of Ryan joining the campaign, he held media events at colleges in crucial states. It remains to be seen whether students can be energised behind this man though. Ryan is a Congressman from Wisconsin, one of those crucial swing states, and his place on the ticket hasn’t changed that. If he can’t turn his home state red, it’s unlikely he’ll bring in those college votes.

Gary Johnson, the former two-term, term- limited Republican Governor of New Mexico—a state that votes two-to-one Democrat—is relatively unknown, but may yet have an effect on the outcome of the election. New Mexico, while small, is undecided, along with neighbouring Colorado. Polling indicates that Johnson, who is running on the Libertarian Party ticket, is having a notable “spoiler effect” in there, “taking votes away” from Obama.

Johnson, as you may expect with his socially liberal policies, goes both ways, and is also taking votes off Romney in other crucial states. The Romney campaign has responded by waging a legal challenge against Johnson in an attempt to remove him from a ballot in Michigan, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Iowa and Ohio.

With his liberal immigration policies and opposition to tariffs, subsidies and other trade restrictions, Johnson’s policies are perhaps some of the most beneficial to New Zealanders, in terms of exporting. Could he be the Ross Perot or Ralph Nader of this election? I hope so, even if it is just to keep things spicy.

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