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  Edition # 98  
San Francisco, 11-03-2012

Figure [1]: Sticker for the presidential elections in 2012 Photo: League of Women Voters of California

Angelika Upcoming November 6th is the big day, when we'll have elections from which a new President will emerge. Undoubtedly, by now you've heard that this final leg of the race is between the republican candidate Mitt Romney and the incumbent President, democrat Barack Obama. We've been following along the election campaigns for months and months now. Highlights in October were the public debates, a total of three between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and another one between the two potential future vice Presidents, Joe Biden und Paul Ryan.

Televised debates follow a strict format. The first exchange between Obama and Romney focused on domestic policy and happened at the University of Denver in Colorado, moderated by journalist Jim Lehrer of PBS, one of the last "public" TV stations. The debate went on for a total of six segments, each about 15 minutes long. Jim Lehrer openened each one with one of his questions, and each candidate had the opportunity to address it for a total of two minutes. All the potential topics, but not Lehrer's questions in particular, were published up front, so that both politicians could prepare their responses.

Figure [2]: Campaign bumper stickers seen on a parked car in San Francisco.

The second presidential debate happened in the state of New York, at Hostra University of Hempstead, and it resembled at public hearing. A group of 82 preselected voters had the opportunity to quiz the candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The questions were previously determined and known to the television station CNN, but not to the candidates. Again, both polititians had two minutes to address each question with the audience, and then another minute for a followup discussion. The third and final debate between Romney and Obama revolved around American foreign policy. The setting was identical with the first debate, except this time moderated by CBS reporter Bob Schieffer. It happened at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Vice presidents Ryan and Biden, on the other hand, argued about domestic and foreign policy at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Figure [3]: Some Obama posters in a window of someone's San Francisco home.

I've watched all the debates and have to say that they were somewhat disappointing. Obama and Romney kept reiterating the same arguments regarding the economic situation, taxes, tax breaks for the middle class, and Obamacare. Even when the topic changed to foreign policy, both steered the discussion back to the economic situation in the U.S. and the job market.

None of the topics was really being discussed thoroughly, and many issues were not even brought up in the first place, like climate change or the Euro crisis. It's safe to say that these debates have turned into promotional events, dominated by the most talented topic peddlers. Mitt Romney seems to apply marketing and sales tactics in his election campaign and is willing to offer anything the voters desire. In the primary elections, he was posing as a dogmatist stickler to draw the conservative party base onto his side, and now he's switched to get the more liberal voters on board, because he realized that he can't possibly win the election without them.

The debate about foreign politics then revealed that there's hardly any difference between Romney and Obama. It was surprising to see that Romney was quite eloquent, while Obama looked tired and passive, which he then overcompensated for in the second debate, where he appeared almost too aggressive. Obama is no longer pushing grand ideas, and it's quite evident that he's frustrated about not being able to change Washington and now having to play along in order to accomplish anything at all.

The most interesting part started when they accepted questions from voters. The audience asked Romney what distinguished him from Bush and wanted to know what Obama had accomplished in terms of stricter control of specific types of firearms. The debate between Ryan and Biden was quite entertaining. Biden is known for speaking his mind regardless of what his advisers tell him. He was blatantly rolling his eyes while listening to some of Ryan's statements, or interjected with comments like "that's a bizarre statement".

Figure [4]: Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Foto: Mark Mathosian

In any case, according to surveys, Romney and Obama will be running neck-to-neck, and neither side has enthusiastic supporters. Many democrats are disappointed by Obama, mainly because he abandoned many of his 2008 election promises, like closing Guantanamo Bay or initiating an overhaul to immigration law. We think he lost face in how he handled the Osama Bin Laden killing, ignoring international law, but we would still vote for him, because he delivered Obamacare, which Romney threatens to roll back. But, just as a reminder, as green card holders, we're not eligible to vote, although we'd be allowed to make donations benefiting political parties.

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