US election

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.

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Here’s what got us chatting this morning:

Tom Burgis

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, 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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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 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