Notes from the Heartland
Dennis Bute is a noun guy. Riding shotgun in his pick-up, cornfields melting into liquid gold, I listen to the 64 year-old farmer itemise West Point, his home town in western Nebraska. “This be combines”, he says, grammatically resuscitating the harvesters. “This be a cow”, he continues, an adjective as rare as a raindrop.
The Butes have farmed 160 acres of corn and soyabean for 130 years. The third oldest of eight brothers and sisters, Dennis will probably end the family run. His siblings, aside from one sister, live out of town and there is no heir to inherit the land. “Here’s my farm, it looks like any other farm”, he says, without decelerating.
I ask Mr Bute how the last years have been. He affords himself a rare smile, “prices gone up, double, triple, last three years.” Times are so good that he is mulling retirement from his second job – midnight watchman at the soyabean processing plant. “If we’d had these prices, we’d have seen more people”, he adds. Read more
In his latest dispatch from the US, John McDermott tells of an unfortunate automobile accident – and a fortunate meeting. Read more
In his latest Note from the Heartland, John McDermott meets Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a strident campaigner against illegal immigration. Read more
Here are some pieces to chew over today:
Birds have become flashpoints in politics worldwide — today’s reads on our feathered friends and others:
Welcome to the round-up of news coverage of the US presidential election. There is a noticeable spring in the step of election pundits in the wake of the first presidential debate.
Yes, while political rune-readers and campaign commentators had been showing a rather lacklustre performance in recent days, the surprisingly interesting Denver dialogue has invigorated not just the campaign of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but his backers in the newspaper columns too.
With no major polls taken since the debate, we are still in the kingdom of analysis, where the likes of George Will hold court. In the Washington Post, Will ripped into President Barack Obama for failing to prepare properly:
His vanity — remember, he gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod whose menu included two of his speeches — perhaps blinds him to the need to prepare. And to the fact that it is not lese-majeste to require him to defend his campaign ads’ dubious assertions with explanations longer than the ads. And to the ample evidence, such as his futile advocacy for Democratic candidates and Obamacare, that his supposed rhetorical gifts are figments of acolytes’ imagination.
Here’s what got us chatting this morning:
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.
Notes from the Heartland
I’m in Springfield, Missouri, the second stop on my tour through the American heartland. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the headquarters of the local Republican party, trying to understand what its members think about the upcoming election and about the future of the country. In advance of the first presidential debate, which takes place tonight in Denver, one thing in particular struck me amid the electoral regalia and kind-hearted atmosphere of this Christian, conservative and friendly town.
The idea that America is polarised is a given across the political spectrum. There is a lot of truth in this, but often it gives rise to caricature. Read more
Here’s today’s menu for you:
Good morning and welcome to the round up of news coverage of the US presidential election and today’s campaign calendar from Politico.com just about says it all. It’s all about the debate, and the debate is: do debates make any difference?
A dress rehearsal, featuring students, is held in Denver for Wednesday's presidential debate (Getty Images)
Received wisdom is that debates rarely win an election, but they can lose one. For every candidate’s bull’s-eye, such as the great Ronald Reagan “There you go again”, there are a dozen awkward moments or barely-avoided catastrophes.
At the weekend, the New York Times told us that Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger was in possession of “a series of zingers that he has memorised and has been practising on aides since August”, but on Wednesday Dana Millbank in the Washington Post points out that a Zinger is in real life an item of confectionery stacked high in trans-fatty acids and other ingredients guaranteed to clog the arteries.
In an article making reference to “sugar rushes” and lack of fibre, Millbank writes:
At a time when even his fondest supporters are pleading for more substance, Mitt Romney is giving them the political equivalent of junk food. His has been the Zinger candidacy — all sugary platitudes, no protein.
In the Chicago Sun Times, Steve Huntley says President Barack Obama is open to being exposed as an emperor with no clothes in the Denver debate on Wednesday night. Read more
Today’s serving of news stories, blogs and opinion pieces to chew on:
Welcome to the US Election 2012 round-up and with 35 days to go until polling day, there is a sudden lull in events. That isn’t because everyone just got bored of 24-hour-a-day politics – although perhaps we shouldn’t rule that out – but because tomorrow is the first presidential debate.
Say what you will about the US general election system, but it consistently throws up contests between two men whose camps are certain that the debate will change everything in favour of their guy (or, very occasionally, gal). Many US papers have pointed out in their Tuesday editions that there is little evidence that debates do actually make a difference, but to campaign teams that spend millions on advice, polls and statistical microscopy, that doesn’t seem to make a penny’s worth of difference to the amount of effort they put in.
So, today, neither candidate is on the road, but locked away with advisers, preparing their devastating one-liners and their most sincere looks into camera. Meanwhile, as Politico’s campaign calendar reveals, the vice-presidential candidates are in swing states, with Vice President Joe Biden in North Carolina and Paul Ryan, the man picked by Mitt Romney to oust Mr Biden, in Iowa.
With the RealClearPolitics.com poll average showing President Barack Obama’s lead slipping slightly to 3.5 points across all 50 states, the New York Times’ specialist polling site FiveThirtyEight says it has run computer simulations which have in some models shown a statistical tie in the electoral college vote is possible at 269 for each candidate — but fortunately it is only a 0.6 per cent probability.
Those stories not concentrating on the debates look at the state of that race in the so-called battleground states. The National Journal has done some interesting burrowing on where the Democrats are having success: Read more
Notes from the Heartland
In Denver tomorrow, the first presidential debate will see the candidates discuss the role of government in the economy. Some Republican commentators argue that Barack Obama’s healthcare and tax policies make him a “socialist”. About half of Americans believe the term “socialist” applies well or very well to Barack Obama.
Obama meets campaign staff in Nevada. Photo AFP
In the primaries Mitt Romney admirably declined to play this game. Obama may be a “big government liberal” (a phrase oxymoronic to British observers) but he isn’t a socialist. But don’t take Romney’s word for it. The US branch of the Workers International League agrees with him. Read more
Welcome to the FT’s morning summary of US election news
The crowd at a Romney rally on Tuesday. Photo AP
If it’s Wednesday, it must be Ohio…again.
On a day the Washington Post published a poll showing him eight points ahead in the critical state, President Barack Obama made his 29th visit to Ohio since the 2008 election. Citizens may or may not be weary of his visits, but there are benefits, the Post reports, as presidential boons are raining down on their state.
It cites one example of this downpour of federal grants and business loans, which the president himself mentioned on Tuesday, after he turned his back on the opportunity to hob-nob with world leaders at the UN general assembly in order to shake hands with Buckeye State voters: Read more
Welcome to a new round-up of US coverage of the 2012 presidential election.
With just 41 days of campaigning left – and no new national polls to set the campaigns into nail-biting mode – foreign policy is set to make an impact on the campaign on Tuesday as President Barack Obama addresses the UN general assembly on the Middle East and Mitt Romney is expected to hit back with accusations that the incumbent has failed in his policies there.
Most papers report that the White House is presenting this as a “real moment for the US to assert its values and leadership in this period of transition”.
But CBS News queries why, after making the trip to New York, the president is spending little time at UN headquarters. Unlike last year, he has scheduled no bilateral meetings with world leaders.
Simply put, the White House is prioritizing the president’s reelection effort. Most heads of state will be here all week, but the president will be in New York less than 24 hours, and even then will spend most of his time away from this conference.
It has been a fun ride for journalists covering Mitt Romney’s US presidential campaign. They have been treated to a smorgasbord of gaffes from the Republican nominee – about-turns on policy, questionable facts to base his arguments on, ill-received comments such as his response to the killing of the US ambassador to Libya last week or his scepticism over London’s readiness to host the Olympics. Read more
Here’s what we’ve been chatting about after the weekend:
By Ruona Agbroko
Today’s selection of interesting articles from around the web:
Under normal circumstances, an American president running for re-election would do his utmost to avoid a row with the Israeli prime minister. But I wonder whether President Obama really will be damaged by his semi-public clash with Benjamin Netanyahu?
The conventional argument is that the Jewish vote is very important in two vital swing states, Florida and Ohio. The major American-Jewish organisations are passionate in their support for Israel and their concerns about Iran. So being perceived to be tough on Israel and weak on Iran is dangerous for Obama. Read more