All year long, polls upon polls have been conducted, taking the up-to-date temperature of the electorate, gauging its interests, its hopes, disappointments- measuring what’s most important.

This data largely impacts the focus of the presidential campaigns, dictating their long term focus, so if voters say their minds are overwhelmingly set on the economy, stupid, well then that is largely what you’ll hear and have heard from presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Not only have campaign surrogates been pushing the economic agendas of their respective candidates, there have been some, mostly on the Republican end, that have tended to belittle the importance of many other issues that are debatably of equal or greater importance, for example, abortion.

We like to determine what will be the issues to vote on in the coming election, that is, what will be the single most important issue that swings a vote one way or the other, despite any other possible incompatibilities one has with their chosen candidate. It is decidedly the economy, not something like abortion rights, but the question to ask isn’t whether you base your vote on who will better handle the economy, it’s should you base your vote on how you think a candidate will handle the economy.

The consensus among a philosophically non-partisan group of economists is that a president has little control over the ebbs and flows of our capitalist system.

Economist and former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, Austan Goolsbee, has said, “I think the world vests too much power — certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general — for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.”

In a nod to Goolsbee, the co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Stephen Dubner, explained in a March interview that the number one misunderstood function of government is its control over the economy.

Dubner noted former President Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as a potent one, but substantively lacking a grip on reality.

He explained, “Just once I’d love a presidential candidate to get up there on the stump and say: ‘My fellow Americans, I can’t control the U.S. economy. I’ve got a little bit of influence but mostly it does what it does. So if it gets worse on my watch, you shouldn’t blame me — and if it happens to get better, you probably shouldn’t give me too much credit either.'”

Despite the lack of real influence the POTUS has over the economy, it’s still number one in voters’ hearts. But some argue that it shouldn’t be. Some argue that reproductive rights, abortion rights in particular, are more critical, as they are matters the president actually has control over.

Often, abortion goes under the radar in an election season when there’s no immediate threat to abortion legislation like Roe v. Wade in the coming presidential term.

But this is not one of those elections.

Currently, there are two Democratic and two Republican judges who are over 74 years of age, making the idea of an open seat less of a theory and more of a looming reality.

It is likely that the next president of the United States will get to appoint a new Supreme Court Judge, which could either threaten or further secure Roe v. Wade.

But just a few short weeks ago, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson (R) played down the fragile status of abortion rights, saying, “[It’s simply] not an issue here… it doesn’t even move the radar at all.”

Republican Congressional Candidate John Koster agreed with Johnson’s sentiment as he dismissively referenced “the rape thing,” deeming it a non-issue as he continues to push for the outlaw of abortion without exceptions for rape and incest.

Regardless of your political stance on abortion, it would appear that voting on matters that are largely dismissed as “social issues,” and are therefore, secondary to what really counts in an election, actually make the most sense to base your vote on.

Everyone’s worried, waiting and watching as the economy soldiers on in its slow but steady recovery, from the father on the unemployment line to the small business owner to the single mom. But worrying, waiting and watching is arguably what the president does, as well.

It’s the fear of many that something really tangible- something like rolling back reproductive rights- will take a backseat and be set aside in this election, at least until the country is explicitly faced with the fateful vote to overturn Roe, but by then, it might be too late.

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Image credited to AP

Image credited to AP/Evan Vucci

Monday saw the illuminating leaks from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in which he was caught on film detailing his campaign strategies to a room full of big, private donors. The controversy, however, manifested in just how detailed and candid this video proved to be.

Romney issued his thoughts on why he wouldn’t be able to win over President Obama’s base. He explained, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them.” He later concluded that those voters are virtually untouchable, in that they simply cannot be convinced to take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

In between confronting the hard truths of the campaign and insulting American voters, Mitt offered some comic relief to the crowd, revealing that sometimes awkward but striking humor insiders of his campaign so often boast about. Mitt joked, “My dad… was born in Mexico … and uh, had he been born of uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico… I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

The content of these leaks have certainly agitated this news cycle, but I don’t find it particularly shocking or even remotely enlightening.

I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that many Americans have known for some time now that these are the kinds of things Romney really believes.

If we dive back into the primaries, we can recall those moments where Romney dismissed a supporter’s cookies on suspicion they were store-bought, asserted college students should look no further than their parents when seeking loans to start their new businesses, admitted he wasn’t concerned about the poor because they’re doing just fine these days. These “gaffes” were glimpses into Mitt Romney’s unedited perspective, merely marking moments throughout this election where he has felt comfortable and relaxed enough to let his true self shine.

What’s most fascinating about this video footage is the golden opportunity awarded to the viewer, to be able to sit in on one of the elite presentations given by a presidential nominee, to get a little more than just a glimpse.

We get to watch the video and feel as though we’re off somewhere, lounging on lush, antique seating while simultaneously sitting on millions of disposable income, asking Romney the tough questions and getting the uncensored, unrehearsed answers.

It’s fascinating to hear how relaxed he is with us, freely indulging our interests and notions about the electorate. We can talk like old friends, see the real Mitt who has loosened up enough to make a racially insensitive joke or two. This is the Mitt Romney the general public hears the campaign talk about but never sees — well, until now.

Much is unknown about the anonymous source of these videos, though the Romney campaign is surely scrambling to identify this individual.

But I only wonder why we, the electorate, can’t successfully infiltrate these high-brow, donor talks more often? And my only hope as it relates to these leaks is that we’ll get equally in-depth, uncut spycam footage on Obama, in the same class as his gross generalization of mid-western voters, clinging to their guns and their religion back in 2008. For what a novel idea it is to want to know what these candidates really think.

Ann Romney stands alongside husband Mitt Romney.

Credited to AP

With the Republican National Convention set to begin this week, Ann Romney’s speech was rescheduled for Tuesday. The change came when the Romney camp learned Monday’s proceedings, and most importantly, Ann’s original time slot would not be televised.

Mitt was disappointed in the restricted coverage, saying, “I know a number of the networks are looking to put money on the bottom line and they might not think that three hours or four hours of broadcasting a convention makes economic sense for them, but this is an important time for our nation.”

But cutting Ann Romney’s remarks isn’t the equivalent to cutting Mitt’s, or Paul Ryan’s, or even Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s. No one expects to miss out on any thought-provoking political philosophies by way of the First Lady Hopeful.

The Romney campaign seems to be under the impression that broadcasting Ann’s speech, making her more visible to the masses, will help Mitt close the gap among single women voters that has grown to a 29 point lead for Obama.

Apparently, he believes that with the appearance of Ann, coupled with his often derailed focus on talking about the economy, women will begin to come over to his side.

But what Mitt fails to realize is that it’s policy that speaks to women, motivates women, wins women over.

Of course, it’s about the economy, and whether they believe resorting to the indubitably failed policies of the past will brighten their economic future. But it’s also about a deeply rooted aversion to being spoken for and controlled by a majorly male government on women’s reproductive healthcare, of which, men know little about.

Still, the Romney campaign has continued to employ its strategy of the one-dimensional parade of minorities, hoping that voters will unintelligibly draw the conclusion that Mitt’s interests match their corresponding communities.

“Clearly, Romney supports Hispanics- look at Florida Senator Marco Rubio on the stage!”

“Surely Mitt shares the interests of the black community- he showed up to that NAACP convention this year, and you have to give him points for showing up!”

Mitt Romney will be conducting the same silly parade for this convention with a desperate rescheduling of Ann’s speech, as if to say, “You don’t believe I care about women? Well, you’re wrong. I married a woman.”

Newsflash: President Obama has a wife, too. In fact, he has two daughters as well, so if we’re in the business of tallying female family members, it looks like women have a 2:1 incentive to vote against the Massachussetts Governor.

It’s sad to see that Romney continues to use Ann as some kind of psuedo-running mate, throwing her out there whenever he needs a boost among the female demographic, then committing her to the background once he feels her point has been made. It’s sad to see that Mitt is still so disillusioned to think he can leave it up to her, and that by simply existing, Ann can help to close an arguably crucial gap among women that grows by the gaffe– no pressure Mrs. Romney.

Jason Reed/Reuters

Earlier today, Governor Romney announced that his pick for Vice President will be Wiisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who is relatively unknown to Americans on a national scale. A recent CNN poll cites that 46% of the country is familiar with Ryan via his famous or infamous budget plan.

No question, Ryan has a firm vision for the country and the Federal budget in particular. His plan proposes ominously ambiguous modifications to social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which millions of Americans, whether Democrat, Republican or other, have grown to depend on and look forward to.

Almost immediately, Romney attempted to distance himself from the controversial Ryan Budget, which is futile in light of the numerous occasions he advocated it. At a campaign event less than 6 months ago, Romney declared, “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier.”

But the controversy surrounding Ryan’s budget has Romney backing off, insisting that he will be coming up with a federal budget of his own. But can a candidate for president successfully distance himself from the ideologies of his own ticket? And furthermore, who among us will believe it?

It’s only a matter of time before the conservative pundits come forth to support Romney in a desperate appeal to Independents and elderly voters, perpetuating the idea that just because Ryan is the Vice President-to-be, doesn’t mean Romney has irrevocably given the “OK” to Ryan’s plan.

And it will come as no suprise if some of these pundits turn out to be the very voices that criticized President Obama for distancing himself from the likes of Reverend Wright and William Ayers. One could argue, at the very least, that between Obama distancing himself from his former pastor and Romney from his own Veep nominee, there isn’t much of a difference, aside from the fact that Obama wasn’t running for President with his object of aversion whereas Romney is.

Minus the starkly conservative budget proposal, Ryan’s political career is lacking in other areas, including minimal-to-non-existent foreign policy experience, the fact that he’s never ran for a statewide office before, and like Obama, he has little background in the private sector- a weakness that Romney has repeatedly asserted should be enough to disqualify an individual for presidency.

So while he seems to be an honorable husband, father, and dedicated Congressman, no offense to Ryan, but why pick him if not for his budget proposals?

Senator John McCain won’t say it, but the first premise of choosing Sarah Palin for VP back in 2008 was an attempt to shore up the Women’s vote, reaching out to a demographic that largely leaned towards Obama.

All Paul Ryan does is further energize a Republican base that may or may not have been fully sold on whether Romney is a true Conservative; if that was the point, then hats off to the Romney campaign. However, the anti-Obama sentiment is so prominent among said base, they really didn’t need any more convincing.

It’s the Independents, the Black, Latino, and Gay communities, and the Female vote that he should be appealing to, now more than ever, as time is running out. To win this election, Romney needs to present policies that speak to voters who are unlike him instead of those that further alienate them. Because no matter how far left some centrist voters perceive Barack Obama to be, the far right ticket that Romney is now offering is not their desired solution.

Image Credited to Gawker.com

In the somber wake of the Aurora, Colorado tragedy last Friday, the country struggles to stay united in a respectful memorial to the victims lost.

A new week has begun, and while those closest to the shooting sit still in mourning, the rest of the country grapples with the natural resolve to problem solve.

Why did this occur? Is there a pattern? How can we keep this from happening again?

It was during a midnight screening of the newly released film Batman: A Dark Knight Rises, that a gunman stormed the theater, shooting all that crossed his path.

He carried in his possession two glock handguns, one Remington Model 870 shotgun, one Smith and Wesson AR-15 Type Rifle, and 6,000 bullets- all of which were purchased legally.

Naturally, the conversation has begun to shift towards an evaluation of the current gun laws and the recently expired ban on assault rifles.

While the NRA and other advocates of a constitutional right of access to guns argue that a policy discussion at this time only politicizes this horror story and distracts from the victims, proponents of gun reform say that we can honor the dead while addressing policy reform in the same breath.

However, former Primary Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee (R) has completely bypassed the matter of gun control; in fact, it’s a non-issue in his eyes.

Huckabee weighed in on the massacre during his program on the Fox News Channel this weekend. He concluded, “Ultimately, we don’t have a crime problem or a gun problem, or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.”

He went on to say that the assault on religion in this country, specifically Christianity, is to blame for these reoccurring mass murders. He explained, “Since we’ve ordered God out of our schools, communities, the military and public conversations, you know, we really shouldn’t act so surprised when all hell breaks loose.”

But if there’s anything more inappropriate at this point in time, it’s not publicizing the gunman’s name, and it’s not “politicizing” the recent events by discussing whether stricter gun laws will hinder the frequency of similar events; it’s invoking an indubitably political assertion that religion is necessary to guide this country down the right, moral path on issues such as abortion, marriage equality and gun control.

As a Christian, I can definitively attest to the moral compass of too many atheists that I call my friends.

Some of the most good-hearted friends I’ve made live with zero influence of any God in their life, and amazingly, they somehow manage to resist the compulsion to commit such heinous crimes as those we witnessed in Colorado.

The Catholic Church has suffered through the plague of pedophilia, while churches in my own community have fallen victim to sexual exploitation, thievery, and a host of other sins that constantly fly under the radar.

The reality is no one is safe from the complexity of the human mind that can store and recollect memories from decades ago, or forget the most familiar faces and why they’re familiar in the first place.

A mind that is capable of processing powerful feelings of love but also grave notions of fear and loathing.

Whether you have God on your side or not, you can always be a victim, you can always get caught in the crossfire, you can always be hurt.

Instead of pushing some arbitrary, fundamentalist Christian agenda that offers zero intrinsic value in solving the grandest issue of where do we go from here, let’s remember the community of Aurora, the fragility of a moment, and look ahead in search of a true solution.

Watch Mitt Romney address the NAACP above [Video credited to NAACP]

Governor Mitt Romney was invited to speak before an audience of NAACP members at an annual convention on Wednesday, offering his plea for their support in November.

He was respectfully received and inspired polite, reassuring applause at first, but it was the pledge to repeal Obamacare that led to his swift demise.

The audience proceeded to “boo” him for 14 seconds, which I’m sure felt more like an eternity.

But the mere mention of Obamacare was not his only downfall- his controversial assertion that he would be the best president for the African-American community in light of the first black president earned mixed reviews.

NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn Brock gave a statement on the behalf of the organization, concluding, “Unfortunately, much of his agenda is at odds with that which the NAACP stands for, whether the issue is equal access to affordable health care, reforming our education system, or the path forward towards marriage equality.”

However, if you ask Romney, the hospitable standing ovation at the end of his speech, coupled with the support of an ambiguous group of “black leaders,” signify the start to growing his support among blacks.

There are conspiracy theories circulating that argue Romney wanted to get booed, spoke beyond his audience on purpose- that he was actually speaking to his conservative right base outside the room in order to show his policies won’t simply bend to the will of the black community.

But this theory is far-fetched, as he has no reason to rile up that base any longer- he’s got the nomination, so he’s got them already.

Mitt Romney clearly made attempts to portray himself as an inclusive candidate too often to validate such theories.

For instance, he implored the audience to “look into his heart,” to trust his good intentions for the country and for African Americans, specifically.

He explained, “I hope to represent all Americans of every race, creed and sexual orientation; from the poorest to the richest and everyone in between.”

He tried to talk to them and not beyond them and was successful for a time. But it was the hostile language of the word “Obamacare-” a derogatory term created by its opponents on the right that was an absent-minded, insensitive and personal dig at the president who most of the audience supported in 2008.

Had he stuck to the official title of the health care bill, continued on to say why it should be repealed and what bill would take its place, he would’ve garnered a much more positive response.

It was a matter of respect, not only to the president, but the representatives of a community that largely approve and benefit from the provisions implemented by the ACA.

Regardless of Romney’s language blunder, his speech left much to be desired.

In true Romney fashion, he stuck to vague generalities, leaving his speech empty of any specific policy details.

No details on how a replacement health care bill would function or how education in the impoverished communities would explicitly improve from his future administration.

Even so, at the very least, many would’ve appreciated some general comment on the subject of voter suppression in this country and how it’s disproportionately impacting black voters.

Or perhaps a vague mentioning that he’s aware of these voter purges going on in vital swing states across the country and has some half-hearted intention to put an end to it, despite the fact that such purges work greatly in his favor.

Maybe if he made this speech about respecting the black vote, no matter which way it goes, and not just about collecting it, it would’ve been a true success.

If the idea behind an NAACP appearance was to garner black votes, perhaps a brief discussion on their overtly challenged, constitutional right to cast a ballot is in order.

(Watch above as Mitt Romney explains the functionality of an individual mandate)

Video Credited to http://www.youtube.com/user/DemRapidResponse

A week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional, the Republican party found itself buried beneath a disjointed war of words over whether the consequence for failing to pay for health care is defined as a penalty or a tax.

President Obama used the term “penalty’ in a 2010 sell to Congress and the country, insisting it was not a new tax.

However, Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts surprisingly ruled the ACA mandate as constitutional under the tax code.

In the wake of this decision, Justice Roberts has taken tremendous heat from some of those in the right wing who feel betrayed, while others have zoned in on this new language defined by the courts, coveting the new phrase “Obamatax.”

Republicans now feel free to run on the talking point that Obama has in fact raised taxes on the middle class which he said he would not do as president.

But just as Romney’s representatives geared up to spread the wonderful news of “another broken promise” by Barack Obama, they were confronted with the counterargument rooted in the very language of their own beloved candidate.

In a 2008 debate, Romney defended his own tax penalties, arguing, “If people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way. Don’t be free riders and pass on the cost of your health care to everyone else,” explicitly mirroring Obama.

And so Romney campaign representatives were continuously confronted with the parallels they tried to brush aside; if the mandate is a tax under Obama, and he has indeed raised taxes on the middle class, the same can be said for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Romney’s Campaign Advisor Eric Fehrnstrom botched his party’s argument against Obama in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

Todd asked Fehrnstrom to clarify that Romney agrees with the president on the terms “penalty,” “fee,” or “fine”- not a tax- to which, Fehrnstrom replied, “That is correct.”

No doubt problems for Romney began at the court’s declaration of constitutionality, as his Plan A of attack banked on Obamacare’s unconstitutionality.

Romney admitted hours before the decision was made that if the courts ruled the law unconstitutional, it would signify the ultimate failure of President Obama’s landmark bill and was a complete waste of this country’s time, semi-side stepping the comparison to his own health care in Massachusetts,

That was supposed to be the plan.

But the SCOTUS ruling has left Romney with the inferior Plan B which hones in on the semantics of a tax, penalty, tax-penalty, what-have-you, whatever.

Unfortunately for Romney, Plan B is far more problematic, as it directly gives way to quotes in print and videotape of his same “penalty” distinction that Obama has made.

In fact, Romney not only agrees with the language of the President, he agrees with the ideology behind the mandate and the concept of personal responsibility.

True, Plan B invokes the powerful and emotional word, “tax,” that has an extremely negative impact on Americans at the mere mention of it. And the opportunity to tie such an emotional word to Obama has proved to be too great for Republicans to pass up, no matter how hypocritical, dangerous, disingenuous or biased they may sound.

This tangled web of words and partisan politics was foreshadowed by highly conservative Romney opponent, Rick Santorum, who back in the primary days, asserted that Mitt Romney would be the worst Republican period to go up against Obama on health care- an assertion that may very well be the most bipartisan conclusion ever reached by the Pennsylvania Senator.