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.

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.

(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.

Video Credited to CSPAN.com

Today, the Supreme Court passed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in a favorable 5-4 vote, deeming the bill constitutional. As expected, liberal judges, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan voted for it, but it was conservative Justice John Roberts that tipped the scale towards reform.

It was the inclusion of the mandate requiring all Americans to pay into the health care system, or face a penalty, that inspired Justice Roberts’ vote, as it essentially falls within the government’s right to impose taxes on the people.

Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney joked before an audience that the White House would have some trouble getting to sleep that night; and if that was the case, President Obama wasn’t the only one.

There were a number of things at stake today, some of which had taken nearly immediate effect when Obama signed the act into law in 2010. Small things like affording health care to millions of young twenty-somethings by way of their parents’ insurance up until age 26. Unimportant things like insurance companies not being able to deny health coverage to those with preexisting conditions, young children especially.

Unfortunately, such things still hang in the balance, as Republicans are on a quest to defeat the bill and Obama come November, as if they needed another reason.

Conservative author and commentator Laura Ingraham dismissed the President’s remarks from today, as well as those of any Democrat explaining the bill to the American people as one giant “sob story.”

When a real American story is referenced to explain the real time implications of the bill- when a cancer survivor goes on television to talk about how this bill has provided her with care that was unavailable and unaffordable to her 3 years ago, to Ingraham, this is merely a “sob story,” a foolish attempt to “tug on your heartstrings.”

But if the truth is a sob story, then that’s all the more reason to change it.

No doubt, the Republicans have legitimate concerns when it comes to funding and sustainability.

As of now, the health care act will be funded by everyone paying into it, eliminating the costs of uninsured Americans accessing emergency rooms and passing those costs to taxpayers.

Republicans argue that this is going to result in an increase in healthcare costs while Democrats argue that it won’t since insured Americans have always paid for uninsured medical treatments.

Even President Obama admits that parts of this bill will need to be altered in the future and has no qualms with that. Just as education undergoes change, just as civil rights undergoes change, this country has a history of “learning as we go,” making changes when we need to.

Certainly, Republicans would get more attention from those who support the bill if they presented a bill of their own.

Wouldn’t it be nice to read less headlines Romney’s pledge to repeal healthcare and more headlines on what he’d do to replace it?

It’s all well and good to disagree with the president, but to offer no alternative leaves Romney’s counterargument completely empty.

In fact, there are many who support Obamacare who are equally interested in hearing what Romney’s approach will be, many who welcome something better than Obamacare, many who hope Mitt has something in mind like Romneycare in Massachusetts…

Many who will keep their fingers crossed.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pictured on the left, Mayor Tom Barrett on the right (Photo credited to the Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin)

The recall election in Wisconsin not only brought with it a victory for Governor Scott Walker but also the fierce realization that democracy as we’ve known it is vanishing.

This disappearing act is accredited to the power of money, and not in the small $10-$50 donations a typical American might contribute to a campaign, or even a $1 million donation from some wealthy donor.

The demise of democracy will be traced back to the imperious Super PACs, of which billionaires accumulate millions of dollars to a particular candidate running for any office. And while a cool few million bucks to a billionaire feels like $10 to the average American, the danger in this is too great to ignore.

As we saw in Wisconsin, Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett was outspent by Governor Walker 8:1, running on a $4.2 million campaign compared to that of Walker’s- valued at $30 million and heavily bolstered by outside, Super PAC fundraising.

They say that money can’t buy you everything, but in the case of tens of millions of dollars, in light of the Wisconsin race, I beg to differ.

Most recently, Mitt Romney acquired a nice sum as well from casino giant Sheldon Adelson in the amount of $10 million. It is the largest quantity single-handedly gifted to the Romney campaign thus far. With donations like this, he is set to outspend President Obama in the present election, and with the bottomless pockets of Adelson and the like, who can say by how much.

We are moving closer to a time where the presidency will carry a hefty price tag, filled with commas to the point of sheer redundancy and far beyond any budget of the 99%.

It will be up to the few billionaires of this country to decide as to which candidate will best serve their interests first and foremost. After all, these are businessmen making an investment, and will of course expect a swift return.

Mitt Romney jeopardizes the way this country will see him come November. For voters will see him, not as he presents himself on stages or in internet ads, but as the representative of the quiet, secretive money that hangs over his head, only burdened further with the high expectations of heavily decreased regulation, disregard for the general public, and who knows what else.

Yes, it looks like we’ve begun to admit to a dying democracy, with those subscribed to the Super PAC institution are only too happy to see it go.

When President Obama took office, Republicans relentlessly offered their vocal concern that this country was headed for socialism. But it seems they were fighting for something new entirely, a little less like democracy and a little more like tyranny.

Video credited to MSNBC.com

As if serving as president for the past three-odd years isn’t proof enough, it seems some Republicans are still interested in the Reverend Wright and William Ayers ties to President Obama.

Just to recap and make a short story shorter, Obama was a member of Reverend Wright’s church for 20 years, of which, the controversy lies in the sporadically racist and unpatriotic remarks of Pastor Wright.

William Ayers, a former member of the radical, left-winged 1970’s organization called Weather Underground had been linked to Obama in that they both served on not-for-profit committee boards in the past.

In 2008, Republicans attacked Obama’s judgment in choosing to sit under the leadership of Reverend Wright and accused him of “palling around with terrorists” for his minor associations with the reformed Bill Ayers.

For some reason unbeknown to anyone with any satisfactory level of intelligence, Sarah Palin has offered her uninspired opinion on the 2012 campaign. Her advice? Resurrect the controversies that riddled the ’08 election against Obama. And never mind the fact that they failed then, and will no doubt fail now.

Why anyone would ask the loser of the ’08 campaign as to how Romney can win in this election is beyond me, but not beyond Fox News.

Fox News anchor Sean Hannity recently had General Colin Powell (who endorsed Obama in 2008) on his show and tried desperately to get Powell to speak against the Bill Ayers and Wright associations. Needless to say, he failed.

Good old Donald Trump has chimed in as well, encouraging Romney to “go at it,” talking about the Reverend Wright attacks. And lest we forget, despite Trumps’ waltz around a possible run for president, he is not a politician. He’s a businessman and celebrity, so why his political advice is being entertained is another one for the cavemen to mull over.

But let’s entertain this argument for the briefest moment.

If Obama was an “empty vessel” as Palin puts it, and these ties have all the legitimacy that Republicans claimed back in 2008, what is that to say about Barack Obama exactly?

He’s racist against whites? He’s anti-American? He’s a terrorist himself or by way of association? What is the point of bringing up these attacks?

Because I can think of nothing more American than running for the presidential office, or giving the “OK” that initiated the demise of the leading world terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. And while Barack Obama is half black, he’s also half white, and is just as likely to be racist against blacks as he would be against whites.

But even if that’s not convincing enough, wouldn’t he have conducted an attack in his first term as president? I’ve never consulted with a terrorist, personally, but if BIn Laden were still alive, I’m sure he’d express some disappointment in an opportunity missed and consider the president terrible at being a terrorist.

Any serious political analyst will agree these sideshow issues could offer momentary advantage at best to Mitt Romney but are useless in the long run. These matter slept so soundly in their graves these past years, now it’s time to lay them to rest once and for all.