On the campaign trail, July 2012

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The following is the ninth 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 rules of third party candidate polling are examined, a third party activist causes four other parties to lose their place on the Illinois presidential ballot, and the new vice presidential nominee of the Justice Party speaks with Wikinews.


Like June, July began with poor economic news as the monthly Jobs Report showed slow economic growth with unemployment remaining above eight percent, precipitating a fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and President Barack Obama's re-election chances on Intrade. In response to the report, Obama proclaimed "It’s still tough out there". Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney responded that Obama's "policies have not worked" and said it's "time for Americans to choose whether they want more of the same." Romney also reacted to June's National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He explicitly referred to the individual mandate as a tax, mirroring the decision, despite comments from campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who deemed the individual mandate as a penalty, sharing the view of the Obama administration. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch criticized the Romney campaign, tweeting that it needed to hire political professionals and said it was doubtful Romney could win the election. After meeting with Romney early in July, Murdoch expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign's message and its lack of attacks on the "incompetent" Obama administration.

Romney speaks at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City for which he served as Organizing Committee CEO.
Image: Uncleweed.

Additionally, speculation about Romney's vice presidential selection intensified earlier in July as Romney's wife Ann revealed that her husband was considering choosing a woman for the ticket. This came out before Romney appeared at a Fourth of July parade with Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who had been mentioned as a potential pick. Other women discussed as possibilities included South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, New Mexico governor Susanna Martinez, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who took herself out of contention last month. Others receiving speculation in July included Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Also in early July, Romney spoke at an NAACP convention. Despite the fact that most African Americans supported Obama in 2008, Romney said, as president he "hope[s] to represent all Americans, of every race, creed or sexual orientation, from the poorest to the richest and everyone in between." During the address, after he mentioned his plan to repeal Obamacare, Romney was met with a chorus of boos. Nevertheless, he continued the speech and proclaimed that if elected, conditions would improve for African Americans. He received applause after arguing in favor of traditional marriage. The next day, vice president Joe Biden addressed the convention, and alluded to voter ID laws, asking the audience, "Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?" President Obama was unable to attend the convention, but sent a taped message instead. Also, in mid-July, physician Jill Stein, who previously challenged Romney for governor of Massachusetts, won the presidential nomination of the left-wing Green Party. She selected homelessness activist Cheri Honkala as her running mate.

Obama meets with a victim of the 2012 Aurora shooting
Image: Pete Souza.

Throughout the month, Obama continued his attacks on Romney for allegedly outsourcing jobs while at Bain Capital, releasing a new advertisement referring to Romney as an 'outsourcing pioneer.' However, the Romney campaign disputed the attacks as misleading. and Romney himself said that the alleged outsourcing took place during an absence from the company while focusing on the operation of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Obama heightened attacks on Romney's refusal to release all of his tax records, with one surrogate calling Romney's actions possibly "felonious." Romney described the comment as "beneath the dignity of the president" and asked Obama for an apology. Obama refused, suggesting, "Mr. Romney claims he's Mr. Fix-It for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely, legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience." Furthermore, Obama argued that entrepreneurs like Romney should not take all the credit for their successes since others chipped in: "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so then all the companies could make money off the internet." Romney highlighted the comments to go on the offensive against Obama; he referred to them as "insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America". Later, citing 100 Obama fundraisers versus zero meetings with his jobs council in the last six months, Romney delivered a fiery speech in the swing state of Ohio in which he suggested that Obama's "priority is not creating jobs for you [but]...trying to keep his own job. And that's why he's going to lose it."

Following the July 20 Aurora shooting, both Obama and Romney suspended campaign rhetoric out of respect to the victims. The next week, foreign policy came to the forefront as Romney embarked on an international tour to meet with foreign leaders. While in London, ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Romney suggested the city was not ready for the event, which prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to argue that London is "one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world" and that, as with Romney's 2002 Salt Lake City games, "it is easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere." After this, Romney visited Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and voiced his support for Israeli actions against Iran to prevent nuclear proliferation in that nation. Romney received some criticism after a meeting in Israel in which he argued that cultural differences impacted the economic disparity between Israel and its neighbors. He completed his trip in Poland, where he received a warm reception, and endorsed a missile defense system in the nation that President Obama scrapped in 2009. In response to the trip, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs argued that Romney "both offended our closest ally and triggered a troubling reaction in the most sensitive region of the world...He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander-in-chief test." The Obama campaign announced at the end of the month that former President Bill Clinton would be given a prime-time slot at September's Democratic National Convention, while San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was slated to deliver the keynote address. On July 31, Obama led Romney in the national RealClearPolitics average, 47.0 percent to 45.0 percent.

Polling rules restrict and fuel third party campaigns

Third party presidential candidates are often excluded from most presidential preference polls. However, because of the criteria of the Commission on Presidential Debates, strong showings in polls are critical for third party candidates to effectively communicate their message to voters. In addition to the constitutional requirements to be president and the attainment of enough ballot access to potentially win the election, the Commission requires a 15 percent average in five nationwide polls to participate in October's three presidential debates. Since these rules were adopted in 2000, no third party candidate has been invited to the debates due to the inability to meet the polling standard.

Gary Johnson speaks at the "Conservatives Against Unconstitutional Wars" rally in July.
Image: Gary Johnson campaign.

In early July, for the first time in this election cycle, Gallup released a national poll that included the three third party presidential nominees with the most ballot access. In addition to Romney and Obama, who registered 40 and 47 percent, respectively, the poll gauged three percent support for the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson; one percent for Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein; and less than half a percentage point for the Constitution Party presidential nominee, former Congressman Virgil Goode. According to Communication Specialist Alyssa Brown, the Gallup organization uses "editorial judgment...including assessments of news coverage of third party and independent candidates" to determine whether or not to include certain candidates. Brown says her firm also measures inclusion through the interpretation of "responses to open-ended vote preference questions...[and] name identification of third party candidates."

Two other polling firms have included just Johnson in their nationwide polls for a three-way race: an April Public Policy Polling survey showed him with six percent support, and a July JZ Analytics poll found a five percent backing. JZ Analytics Senior Analyst John Zogby says that third party candidates are included in polls usually to see how they affect the race between the two main candidates. His firm added Johnson because "libertarianism appears to be growing in support among young people...[and] we wonder if he can be a factor." Zogby says that additional candidates will likely be included as the election draws nearer. When asked why JZ Analytics does not simply include all ballot-qualified candidates on a state-by-state basis, he gave three reasons: expense from the time taken to read all the names; questions on how to deal with candidates that appear multiple times on the ballot; and the lack of any significant support for certain candidates, which provide no useful data when applying the view that "the value of a poll is not to predict but to create accurate results that can be interpreted." Wikinews attempted unsuccessfully to contact other firms about their inclusion criteria for third party candidates.

Gary Johnson supporters picket outside CNN headquarters in July to protest the lack of campaign coverage.
Image: Gary Johnson campaign.

Despite his inclusion in some polls, Johnson does not believe it is enough. He feels that because "only three polling organizations out of 18 are including my name," debate participation looks to be a nearly insurmountable task. However, he clings to the hope that if he can qualify for the debates, he can possibly win the election. Another kind of poll may assist that goal.

Statewide polls, which measure voter support in individual states, do not count toward the average for the presidential debate qualification; but polling high enough in them could significantly improve a third party candidate's chances. Russ Verney, who worked on the 1992 presidential campaign of the last third party candidate to appear at the presidential debates, industrialist Ross Perot, and who later served as the campaign manager for 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr, says the Barr campaign's ideal strategy was to utilize local media in western states that were already "predisposed to Libertarian viewpoints" to work to improve statewide polling above 20 percent. Though this was never implemented due to low campaign funds, Verney believes it could have created a national news story that would have boosted the campaign's national profile and exposure, perhaps improving the showings in national polls, and like Perot, leading to debate inclusion.

Though third party inclusion in statewide polls remains infrequent, such polls often reflect broader support. For example, in his homestate of Virginia, Virgil Goode has nine percent support in a July Public Policy Polling survey, substantially more than his national average. Jill Stein tripled her national standing with three percent in her homestate of Massachusetts in a late June Public Policy Polling poll. Nevertheless, no other third party candidate is faring as well as Johnson in multiple states: a July poll from Public Policy Polling showed him with 13 percent in his homestate of New Mexico (down from 23 percent in December); he stood at nine percent in Arizona in May; and had an eight percent backing in Montana during the same month. These showings in western states are significantly better than Johnson's national showings. Since his campaign, unlike the 2008 Barr campaign, has access to federal funding, Johnson could possibly employ the Verney strategy, and improve his chances.

Ballot access denied in Illinois

The state of Illinois, which accounts for 20 Electoral College votes, automatically grants ballot access to any presidential candidate that files a petition on time. However, if a petition is challenged and does not list 25,000 valid signatures, ballot access is denied. In 2008, an individual named John Joseph Polachek took advantage of this law and submitted a petition with no signatures. No one challenged this and so Polachek appeared on the ballot.

In this election cycle, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode; Justice Party nominee, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson; Socialist Party USA nominee Stewart Alexander; and candidate Michael W. Hawkins all submitted petitions with less than 25,000 signatures in hopes that they would not be contested. However, on July 2, Cook County Green Party chairman Rob Sherman filed a challenge to the four petitions, arguing the candidates did not put in the same amount of effort as the Green Party petitioners, who, along with the Libertarian Party, collected more than 25,000 signatures. He also reasoned that additional candidates would divert potential votes from the Green Party.

Virgil Goode collects signatures for his petition to appear on the Virginia ballot.
Image: Brian D. Hill.

Several third party activists and even some members of the Green Party condemned the actions, and asked that Sherman withdraw his challenges. He initially remained unwavering, but attempted to withdraw the challenges just ahead of the final court decision. The court would not allow Sherman to voice his change of heart, and proceeded to remove the four candidates from the ballot.

According to Sherman, Illinois Green Party counsel Andy Finko requested that he be the main objector. He further claims that before this, Finko contacted then-presumptive presidential nominee Jill Stein's campaign chairman Ben Manski, who purportedly labeled the challenge as a "decision for the Illinois Green Party and not one for the Stein campaign." However, Sherman says that both Manski and Stein personally contacted him a few days later, and asked that he withdraw the challenges. Sherman argued to them that he "had staked [his] national reputation on it" and that a withdrawal would hurt the Green Party ticket. He did not decide to withdraw the challenges until he felt the Stein campaign had completely deliberated over his arguments, which eventually came a couple of weeks later. Wikinews was unable to contact Manski or Stein to confirm that these conversations actually took place.

Virgil Goode offers a different perspective on the challenges. He says that Sherman, a self-identified atheist, offered to drop the Constitution Party petition challenge if Goode gave his support for the removal of "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency and "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. To this, Goode replied "no deal", explaining that he co-sponsored "legislation in the House to put 'In God We Trust' back on the face of the Presidential dollars so that it could be readily seen by the public." It is not known if the other candidates were given this same opportunity, but Rocky Anderson says that he personally was not. Sherman did not respond to inquiries concerning such a deal.

For Goode, the decision may have affected his ability to participate in the presidential debates. Without Illinois' 20 electoral votes, he may fall short of the Commission on Presidential Debates ballot access requirements. Goode currently has access in 18 states for a total of 169 electoral votes, over 100 less than the required 270. Nevertheless, the campaign is still working to get on the ballot in additional states. Furthermore, the removal may affect Green Party ballot access elsewhere. According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the party is currently a co-plaintiff with the Constitution Party in five states in cases where ballot access laws are being challenged. He says that "state attorneys...attack the plaintiff parties ...[using] the number of states in which each of the parties is on the ballot nationwide" as evidence of strength or lack thereof.

"It's tough enough to get on state ballots without other third parties undermining the efforts" says Anderson, whose Justice Party has thus far attained ballot access in Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Jersey, Anderson does not fault the entire Green Party for Sherman's "unfortunate behavior", but the events do affirm one thing for him: "In my view, third parties should all hang together in promoting ballot access."

Wikinews interviews newly-selected Justice Party VP nominee

Justice Party Vice presidential nominee Luis Rodriguez.
Image: Rocky Anderson campaign.

On July 17, Rocky Anderson announced his selection of Chicano writer and community activist Luis J. Rodriguez of California as his running mate on the Justice Party presidential ticket. Rodriguez is a published poet, columnist, and author of such books as the 1993 bestseller Always Running, which documents his youth and involvement in the street gangs of East Los Angeles.

As an advocate for urban social change, Rodriguez hosts readings and workshops, and frequently speaks at schools, prisons, churches, homeless shelters, and migrant camps. For his activism, he has received numerous awards including KCET-TV's "Local Hero of Community", and the "Unsung Heroes of Compassion" from the Dalai Lama.

Anderson described the vice presidential selection process as "arduous", but held that Rodriguez exceeded his personal expectations. He proclaimed that his running mate "brings with him a wealth of knowledge and real-life experience, inspirational personal growth, and proven commitment to social, economic, and environmental justice."

With Wikinews, Rodriguez discusses his initial reaction and reason for accepting the nomination, his responsibilities as the vice presidential nominee, and how he hopes to complement Anderson on the Justice Party ticket.

((WSS)) Why did you accept the Justice Party's vice presidential nomination, and how exactly did that nomination come about?

Luis Rodriguez: I was quite surprised by the invitation to be Rocky Anderson's running mate, and honored. I'm convinced that we need to have a strong voice in the political arena for justice in all its forms--in our social and civil relationships, in the environment, and in the economy. I see this ticket as an opportunity to express new ideas and new ways of organizing for concerns of mine such as urban peace, the arts, labor rights, and immigrant rights as well as those espoused by the Justice Party, which I agree with. As far as how my name came up, I'm sure it was from within Rocky's team, somebody who knew my work around the country and the many talks I do to open up a new vision for America. I'm convinced the two-party system we have today has pushed out too many voices and concerns of vital importance from the conversation and from actual policies.

((WSS)) What are your responsibilities as the Justice Party vice presidential nominee?

Luis Rodriguez: Being that the election is only a few months away, I see my main role as speaking out as articulately and rationally as I can on these very issues... in the mass media, the Internet, social media, and blogs. I'm also a published writer/essayist and speaker and will try to get our views as a ticket out in as many forms as possible.

((WSS)) How will you complement Rocky Anderson on the ticket?

Luis Rodriguez: America is a very diverse and vibrant country. This ticket is in the direction of encompassing how this country is actually made up while finding the unity-in-diversity necessary to move everyone forward toward true justice in all areas of our civic and political life. I think Rocky Anderson is brave and insightful to select someone like myself, not for celebrity or to cater to any "winnable" ticket, but one that is real, addresses what really matters, and actively works to bring in those constituencies often forgotten. Rocky as a former mayor of Salt Lake City will be complemented by someone who has never held political office yet has spent more than forty years in grassroots organizing and community building.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.