Daily Archives: October 4, 2012

Is Romney’s debate victory a game-changer?

The consensus after the first US presidential debate last night was that Republican challenger Mitt Romney was the victor over president Barack Obama. But will this be enough to change an election in which Mr Romney has consistently trailed Mr Obama in the polls? Richard McGregor in Denver and John Gapper in London join Gideon Rachman.

Happier times? Syrian President Bashar al Assad, right, and his wife Asma, second left, with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine in Bodrum in August 2008

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time – just four years ago – when the leaders of Turkey and Syria could meet with their wives at a sunkissed beach resort, smile, share a meal, and discuss ‘regional peace efforts’. Things are different now. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament voted to authorise the deployment of troops in Syria; a response to the firing of a Syrian shell that killed five people in a Turkish border town. The incident in Akcakale brought to the surface months of simmering hostility between the two countries. While Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, insists he does not want to start a war, the situation is volatile, and even small moves in the coming weeks could reverberate across the region.

In the FT

  • In this analysis piece from September 24, the FT’s Turkey correspondent Daniel Dombey takes an in-depth look at how the turmoil in Syria has sent shockwaves through Turkey’s economy, domestic political scene and unsettled its relations with neighbours and allies. “The poison let loose by the fighting in Syria… has seeped across the countries’ 900km border.”
  • Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, famously declared he would pursue a “zero problems with the neighbours” policy – and for a while, this seemed to work. In this opinion piece from June, Gideon Rachman argues that the aspiration “has now been displaced by a real world in which Turkey in fact has awkward relations with most of its neighbours: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Israel – foremost among them.” In particular, Erdogan’s increasingly vocal criticism of Assad’s handling of the crisis has shaken Turkey’s already delicate relationship with Iran.

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Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran (Getty)

Whenever there has been talk of bombing Iran’s nuclear programme, the hawks have been urged to “give time for sanctions to work”. This appeal always had a slightly desperate sound since, for the past decade, there has been precious little sign that international pressure was capable of making the Iranian government re-think. But, finally, things may be changing.

Following the EU’s oil sanctions and America’s financial sanctions — as well as the various UN packages — the Iranian economy really seems to be buckling. Yesterday saw angry demonstrations on the streets of Tehran, amidst more or less open infighting among the top leadership. The official inflation rate in Iran is only 23.5 per cent. But this article argues convincingly that Iran is already suffering from hyper-inflation.  Read more

Notes from the Heartland

A crunch of an onion ring breaks the silence of the Democratic debate night party at the Diamond Bowl in Independence, Missouri. On each of the four big television screens affixed above 10 battered pins, Mitt Romney explains how he will concomitantly cut taxes and the deficit. “Lies, lies, lies!” comes the response from the end of the alleys – one that served the 40 local activists well throughout the night.

Independence is one of the holiest sites in Democratic politics. It is the hometown of Harry Truman, whose childhood house is situated five minutes from the Bowl, near my inn for the night, proud and freshly painted in sky blue. Its name could not be more apt for the Democratic approach to the state.

In Missouri, which voted for every president but two from 1904 to 2008, centrist “Truman Democrats” are the norm. The Democratic governor Jay Nixon is fiscally conservative, gun-friendly and not shy of populism. Claire McCaskill, the incumbent junior senator running against Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, has TV ads that say she is the “50th senator”, a reference to her moderate voting record in Washington. Read more

For human rights workers in Russia, living with death threats can be an everyday reality.

One has to be prudent, assigning some the category of “prank” while taking others more seriously.

On Thursday, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, one of the most prominent activists in Moscow, decided that the nine text messages she had received from an anonymous sender between Sept 28-30 fell into the latter category.

The author threatened her life and that of her unborn child, knew her unlisted address and had details about her private life known only to her and her close friends. Read more

Here’s what got us chatting this morning:

What are the potential implications of Turkey’s exchange of artillery fire with Syria over the last 24 hours?  Read more

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama duel during the first presidential debate

Photo: Getty

Good morning and welcome to the daily presidential election news coverage round-up. As the dust settles after last night’s opening debate between the candidates in Denver, the consensus is: first blood to Mitt Romney. The question is whether that will translate into helping the challenger narrow Barack Obama’s lead in the polls. That will take a day or two to emerge. But an immediate CNN poll gave the spoils emphatically to the Republican hopeful, with two-thirds of respondents deeming Romney the victor and only a quarter handing the bout to Obama.

After he came out aggressively in a debate that featured more sparring over economic policy detail than rhetorical pile-drivers, Politico.com concludes that:

What Romney definitely did was earn himself a second look from the slim pool of undecided and persuadable voters still considering their options, and give himself a tighter messaging framework to use, if he is able to, before the next debate in New York two weeks from now.

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Just 34 days before the election, the debate could be a crucial moment in the race for the White House, especially if Mr Romney is deemed to have done well after weeks of campaign missteps and discouraging polls numbers.

Anna Fifield, the FT’s US political correspondent, is covering the debate live with assistance from Arash Massoudi in New York and with additional comments from FT colleagues. All times are EST.

23.02 And with that, we’re signing off at the FT’s live election blog. Keep checking FT.com for news and analysis over the coming hours as we examine how this debate shapes the course of the campaign.

23.00 The question of which presidential candidate is more fiscally responsible is likely to come up repeatedly over the remaining days of the election.

Mr Obama said Mr Romney’s tax cuts would cost $5tn, portraying him as fiscally reckless. Mr Romney denied any such suggestion and railed against the president’s healthcare plan. We can expect this story line to endure.

22.57 Some commentators were pleasantly surprised by the level of detail in tonight’s debate, especially on taxes and Medicare, compared to previous campaign discussions.

22.55 After the debate, two of Mr Obama’s top campaign advisers, David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter, both conceded that Mr Romney won on style, even as they said the president won on substance. Read more