On the campaign trail, May 2012

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The following is the seventh in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month's biggest stories.

In this month's edition on the campaign trail, the leading candidates for the Americans Elect presidential nomination respond to a major announcement from that organization's board of directors, two presidential candidates in favor of same-sex marriage react to President Barack Obama's announcement of support for the practice, and Wikinews interviews the newly-selected Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee.

Summary

May began with the expected withdrawal of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who felt the continuation of his campaign to be fruitless. He endorsed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whom the press had already designated as the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee. Shortly thereafter, former candidate Rick Santorum also threw his support to Romney. Another former Republican candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, took a different path. He won the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party to continue his campaign into the general election. Congressman Ron Paul remained a candidate in the Republican race, but scaled back his campaign, announcing the suspension of active campaigning while still competing in state conventions to amass delegates.

Heavily circulated publicity photo of prison inmate Keith Russell Judd from March 15, 2008.
Image: Keith Russell Judd.

Romney swept the Republican primaries in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, but President Obama had some difficulty in the Democratic primaries in the first two states. 41 percent of Democrats in West Virginia favored prison inmate Keith Russell Judd over the president and 21 percent in North Carolina voted uncommitted over Obama. North Carolina voters also passed an amendment defining marriage as an institution between a man and woman despite vice president Joe Biden's vocal support for same-sex marriage prior to the vote. Biden's statement and the North Carolina result prompted Obama to make an announcement. During an ABC News interview with Robin Roberts, Obama explained that his views had "evolved" and that he now supports same-sex marriage. Romney countered, responding that "marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman."

Obama's primary difficulties continued later in May, as attorney John Wolfe, Jr. of Tennessee won 42 percent against him in the Arkansas primary, and as a similar margin of voters supported uncommitted over the president in Kentucky. Romney easily won the two states' Republican contests, but later faced potential troubles of his own. The Washington Post published a lengthy article alleging that Romney bullied a student while in high school. Romney said he did not remember the episode and apologized for the "dumb things" he did in school. Subsequently, the alleged victim's family disputed the story. Next, the Obama campaign attempted to make an issue of Romney's venture capital activities as CEO of Bain Capital. Cory Booker, the Democratic Mayor of Newark, criticized this attempt, arguing on Meet the Press that advertisements against the firm left him "uncomfortable." Booker later clarified that he supported and still intended to help re-elect Obama as president. In what Real Clear Politics described as an attempt to counter the attacks on Bain and highlight high unemployment as an issue, Romney predicted that if elected, unemployment would fall to six percent at the end of his first term. The Obama campaign and supporters said the announcement was nothing new since it simply mirrored the Congressional Budget Office's projections for 2016, regardless of who wins the election.

In late May, Romney won the endorsements of former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice's immediate predecessor, General Colin Powell, who endorsed Obama in 2008, withheld an official endorsement, but like Obama, announced his support for same-sex marriage. In the final primary of the month, both Obama and Romney each handily won their respective party's contest in Texas. As a result, Romney surpassed the required number of delegates to secure the Republican nomination and Obama faced his last contested primary on the Democratic side. However, the question of whether Obama's nomination would be unanimous remained unanswered as lawsuits from Judd and Wolfe disputed the party's decision to not award them delegates for which they qualified in the aforementioned West Virginia and Arkansas primaries.

Americans Elect makes major decision; leading candidates respond

Americans Elect, the non-profit organization that spent an estimated $35 million to attain ballot access in 29 states with hopes of nominating a bipartisan 2012 presidential ticket, decided in May to forego the 2012 presidential race. Via press release, the organization's board announced that none of its candidates had met the minimum threshold, which required the accumulation of 10,000 pledged supporters for "experienced" candidates, and 50,000 supporters for other candidates, prior to the May 15 deadline. Though this decision drew criticism, the board claimed its actions were to maintain the integrity of the organization's rules.

Americans Elect logo.
Image: Americans Elect.

As a result, candidates that actively sought the organization's nomination including former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, activist Michealene Risley, and economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff were forced to reassess how to continue their campaigns.

Roemer, who led all candidates with 6,293 supporters, called the decision disappointing and commented that "Americans Elect's procedure was ripe with difficulty related to access, validation and security." Though he simultaneously sought the Reform Party's nomination, Roemer ultimately decided that the party's ballot access in four states was not enough, and suspended his campaign at the end of May.

Anderson, who finished second in supporters with 3,390, referred to the Americans Elect process as "discriminatory", and announced his support for a movement within the organization, headed by delegate Andrew Evans, attempting to overturn the board's decision. Meanwhile, Anderson removed all references to Americans Elect from the front page of his campaign website, and has focused his energies on the Justice Party, which he founded last year. It currently has ballot access in Mississippi and Utah. Anderson is also a candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party, which will appear on the California ballot.

Risley, who came in third with 2,351 supporters, argued that "people feel really used and manipulated" by Americans Elect. In a letter to the board, she wrote that the organization "will be stigmatized as the latest example of third party failure", "Instead of being the prototype for high tech democracy". Like Anderson, she supports the actions of Evans, and has even opened a petition for it on change.org. Since Risley is not competing for another party's presidential nomination, this is now the crux of her campaign.

Kotlikoff, who finished fourth with 2,027 supporters, told Wikinews that he felt the Americans Elect board was more interested in attracting "big names" than focusing on the issues. He cited this as "the most disappointing aspect" of the decision, adding that "big names don't necessarily equate to big ideas or good ideas for moving the country ahead. And all big names start small." Like Roemer, Kotlikoff had decided to also seek the Reform Party nomination, and following the decision, choose to end his Reform Party bid and his presidential campaign as a whole. He opted instead to promote his "Purple Plan", which combines elements of Republican and Democratic solutions to resolve political issues.

Two candidates react to President Obama's same-sex marriage backing

After President Obama announced his personal support of same-sex marriage while maintaining it should be decided on a state-by-state basis, two candidates already supporting marriage equality reacted in two very different ways.

Republican Fred Karger, the first openly gay person to seek a major political party's presidential nomination, sent an e-mail to supporters praising Obama for the announcement, saying that "he will be a great advocate as we do battle [against marriage definition propositions] in four states this November." He added, "It's nice to have another presidential candidate on board for full equality."

File:Johnson Announcement 12-28-11 Intro.jpg
Gary Johnson in December 2011.
Image: Gary Johnson.
Fred Karger in August 2011.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, had an opposite interpretation of Obama's announcement. He commented, "while I commend [Obama] for supporting the concept of gay marriage equality, I am profoundly disappointed in the President." "Instead of insisting on equality as a U.S. Constitutional guarantee, the President has thrown this question back to the states." Johnson speculated that Obama cared more about not alienating voters in the swing states of Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia, than supporting change on a federal level.

When approached with this view, Karger argued, "sure, [I] would rather [Obama] came out for a federal marriage solution...[but]" "just his coming out for marriage equality is the key." Karger maintained that the issue would ultimately be decided in the courts rather than in Congress.

Karger is currently campaigning as an alternative to Mitt Romney in California ahead of that state's June 5 GOP primary, while Johnson, whom Karger has described as a friend, is hoping to achieve ballot access in all 50 states to challenge President Obama and the Republican nominee in the general election.

The Libertarian Party's newly-christened VP nominee discusses his role

After the Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson for president at May's Libertarian National Convention, upon Johnson's request, the party selected Judge Jim Gray of California for Vice President to complete the ticket.

Gray has worked as a judge since 1983 when Governor George Deukmejian appointed him to the Santa Ana Municipal Court in Orange County, California. Six years later he was appointed to the Superior Court of Orange County. His work in court earned him two "Judge of the Year" awards: first in 1992 from the Business Litigation Section of the Orange County Bar Association, and then in 1995 from the Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Judge Jim Gray.
Image: Jim Gray.

In addition to his work as a jurist, Gray has been involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and has advocated against the federal government's prosecution of the War on Drugs. Moreover, Gray's vice presidential campaign is not his first experience in politics. He ran for U.S. Congress as a Republican in 1998, and was the Libertarian Party's 2004 nominee for U.S. Senate in California.

Johnson described him as "not only a highly-respected jurist, but he is also a proven leader on issues of concern to Americans – from drug policy to civil liberties to ethics. I am proud he is joining me to offer America a real choice in this election, and excited that his forceful and extremely credible voice will be a vital part of our campaign. Judge Gray is a reformer with the track record and credentials to prove it".

Gray reserved some time to speak with Wikinews about his role as the Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee, what he adds to the Johnson ticket, and what Johnson-Gray can do to better than the 0.4 percent former Congressman Bob Barr and businessman Wayne Allyn Root won as the 2008 representatives of the Libertarian Party.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat are your responsibilities as the Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee?

Judge Gray: As the Vice Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, I am a team member under the leadership of our Presidential nominee, Governor Gary Johnson, as we campaign to restore Prosperity, Equal Opportunity and Liberty to the United States of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you complement Gary Johnson on the ticket?

Judge Gray: It is amazing. In 2010 I wrote a book entitled A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems (The Forum Press, 2010), which I never considered using in a political campaign. However, in looking at my documented views of our problems and solutions, they are almost completely consistent with those of Governor Johnson. But my background as a federal prosecutor, Navy JAG attorney, trial court judge and former Peace Corps Volunteer is quite different from Governor Johnson’s. Therefore I bring a balance and perspective to the ticket that no other vice presidential candidate will likely have.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you plan to achieve more electoral success than the 2008 Barr-Root campaign?

Judge Gray: Candidly, our strategy is to be polling at 15 percent or above at the end of this coming September. This will qualify us to be in the national presidential and vice presidential debates. If that occurs, all of the common wisdom will change. And during the convention ... in Nevada Governor Johnson was polling at 7 percent. Now he is polling at 8 percent. I deeply believe that when the American people see and understand what Governor Johnson and I not only stand for, but what he has actually done while a sitting two-term governor for eight years, they will rally in droves to our campaign, because they will see the truth that the Republican and the Democratic candidates are almost parallel in the important issues which have led us into financial ruin and despair, and Governor Johnson stands out in front for positive change.


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Sources

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