In the last week or so, Mitt Romney has accused Barack Obama of focusing his campaign on “small things,” but let’s be honest—at this point, everybody is focused on small things. And these small things are unlikely to make much of a difference with so little time left. Which is why it was odd to see the Romney campaign stumble so badly with the Jeeps being built in China attack. How did they manage to take a criticism that would likely have just glanced off Obama anyway, and turn it into something that not only had everyone talking about Obama’s best case to Ohio voters (the auto bailout), but also made Romney look cynical and dishonest?
Here’s what I think happened. They heard the first, somewhat unclear report that Chrysler was going to be manufacturing Jeeps in China, without quite understanding what it meant, namely that they will be making them for the Chinese market (because of Chinese tarriffs, Chrysler would only be able to sell the Jeeps there if they make them there). By the time they figured out all the facts, Romney had already mentioned it on the stump, saying inaccurately that the company was “thinking of moving all production to China.” So the campaign probably figured, we can still use this to try to discredit the bailout, we’ll just be careful about the words we use.
And that’s where they didn’t quite grasp the implications of what they were doing. If you look at the ad they made, you’ll see that though it’s obviously meant to deceive people into thinking American jobs are being sent to China as a result of the bailout, the words are literally true. “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy,” the ad says, “and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps [pause for effect] in China.” The Romney campaign thought they could play by the ordinary campaign rules, which say that if you say something true but intentionally misleading, you will usually be judged not guilty. Reporters will discuss the issue in the he said/she said format, with you saying you’re telling the truth and your opponent saying you aren’t, and you can declare victory.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, Romney got a wave of negative coverage over the issue, with journalist after journalist saying forthrightly in their stories that the Romney attack is misleading or deceptive. This was particularly true in Michigan and Ohio, where the state of the auto industry is kind of important. Why did they do that? Two reasons, I think. The first and less important one is that after so many shamelessly false statements by Romney and his campaign, journalists’ tolerance for this stuff may have run out. But the more important reason is the car companies stepped up to act as third-party validators of the truth. The Chrysler CEO wrote an emphatic letter to the company’s employees assuring them no American jobs were moving to China, and a GM spokesperson criticized the ad as well.
Which, if the Romney campaign had been a bit more thoughtful, they might have expected. Don’t forget that Chrysler and GM have their own interest in maintaining support for the bailout. They got lots of help from American taxpayers, and they want those taxpayers to see the bailout as a success story, continue to feel good about American car companies, and continue to buy their cars. They might stay silent while Republicans criticize the bailout, but if you accuse them of a specific act that they aren’t guilty of, they’re going to speak up. Romney stepped over a line from attacking Barack Obama to attacking Chrysler, and he should have anticipated that Chrysler wouldn’t take it lying down. When Chrysler spoke up and explained the facts, that gave the press permission to step out of the he said/she said bind and report accurately that Romney was being misleading.
And that’s how, just a few days before the election, Romney shot himself in the foot in the one state he absolutely, positively can’t afford to lose.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 5, 2012
Yesterday in Springfield, Ohio, the crowd listening to Barack Obama booed when the President brought up Mitt Romney and the Republican Congress. That prompted Obama to say:
“No, no, no — don’t boo, vote. Vote! Voting is the best revenge.”
Romney promptly pretended to be very outraged by this. He told his supporters:
“Yesterday, the President said something you may have heard by now. That I think surprised a lot of people. Speaking to an audience, he said, ‘voting is the best revenge.’ He told his supporters — voting for revenge. Vote for revenge? Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you. Vote for love of country.”
“Did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge — for revenge…Instead, I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”
Of course, Obama was only encouraging people to vote. He was telling them that the real way to express opposition to GOP policies is to vote against them, rather than to merely boo them.
And guess what: You may have forgotten about this one, but this isn’t the first time Romney has attacked Obama for encouraging people to get more engaged in the political process. In September, Romney blasted Obama for saying that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” That September quote from Obama, however, also constituted urging people to get more involved in politics:
“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. And that’s how the big accomplishments, like health care, got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out…something that I’d really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people, so they can put pressure on Congress to move some of these issues forward.”
Romney pretended to be very outraged about that, too, just as he is doing with regard to Obama’s perfectly innocuous “revenge” quote.
The important thing to remember here is that the GOP argument for a Romney victory rests explicitly on the hope that those who turned out to vote for Obama last time won’t be quite as engaged this time around. Republicans are hoping the electorate is not as diverse as it was in 2008, and they are arguing that the GOP base’s enthusiasm is much higher than that of core Dem constituencies. The Romney camp seems to think it will help whip GOP base voters into a frenzy — and perhaps boost turnout — if Romney casts the way Obama is urging Democratic base voters to get more involved in the process as something sininster and threatening. This is beyond idiotic; it is insulting to people’s intelligence.
The Post editorial board, in a widely cited piece, has claimed that the one constant about the Romney campaign has been that it is driven by “contempt for the electorate.” To make this case, the editorial cites Romney’s nonstop flip flops, his evasions about his own proposals, his refusal to share basic information about his finances and bundlers, and his monumental Jeep falsehood and all his other big lies. It’s fitting that Romney’s closing argument rests heavily on one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate — one focused squarely on a call for more engagement in the political process, i.e., on something that is fundamental to democracy itself.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, November 4, 2012
Once again Husted is playing the voter suppression card, this time at the eleventh hour, in a controversial new directive concerning provisional ballots. In an order to election officials on Friday night, Husted shifted the burden of correctly filling out a provisional ballot from the poll worker to the voter, specifically pertaining to the recording of a voter’s form of ID, which was previously the poll worker’s responsibility. Any provisional ballot with incorrect information will not be counted, Husted maintains. This seemingly innocuous change has the potential to impact the counting of thousands of votes in Ohio and could swing the election in this closely contested battleground.
“Our secretary of state has created a situation, here in Ohio, where he will invalidate thousands and thousands of people’s votes,” Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgessOhio, said during a press conference at the board of elections in Cuyahoga County yesterday in downtown Cleveland. Added State Senator Nina Turner: “‘SoS’ used to stand for ‘secretary of state.’ But under the leadership of Jon Husted, ‘SoS’ stands for ‘secretary of suppression.’ ”
In 2008, 40,000 of the 207,000 provisional ballots cast in Ohio were rejected. The majority of the state’s provisional ballots were cast in Ohio’s five largest counties, which are strongly Democratic. Moreover, provisional ballots are more likely to be cast by poorer and more transient residents of the state, who are also less likely to vote Republican.
The number of discarded provisional ballots could rise significantly due to Husted’s directive. It’s also very likely that more provisional ballots will be cast in 2012 than in 2008, thanks to a wave of new voting restrictions in Ohio and nationwide. The Associated Press reported that 31 percent of the 2.1 million provisional ballots cast nationwide in 2008 were not counted, and called provisional ballots the “hanging chads of 2012.”
A series of missteps by the secretary of state and new rulings by the courts have increased the use of provisional ballots and could delay the outcome of the election and the legitimacy of the final vote.
In Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Franklin County (Columbus), voters who requested absentee ballots were wrongly told they were not registered to vote and should cast provisional ballots. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections quickly followed up with 865 such voters, but in Franklin County a sample of rejected absentee ballot requests found that 38 percent were mistakenly listed as “not registered,” according to an analysis by Norman Robbins of Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates. An untold number of would-be absentee voters could fall into this category in Ohio’s other eighty-six counties. “The deadline has passed to send these voters absentee ballots,” writes Robbins. “Therefore, there needs to be an immediate and broad public announcement that all voters who have been officially informed that they are ‘not registered’ and who believe they truly are registered, should definitely vote a provisional ballot so that their votes might be counted when better searches are done on their provisional ballots.” (A computer glitch by the secretary of state’s office also delayed the processing of 33,000 voter registration forms, which Husted just sent to local boards of elections this week).
Moreover, any voter who requested an absentee ballot but decides, for one reason or another, to vote in person must cast a provisional ballot. Of the 1.3 million absentee ballots sent to Ohio voters, 1.1 million have been returned, according to Husted’s office. But that still leaves up to 200,000 potential votes unaccounted for.
Recent court decisions will also impact the counting of provisional ballots. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that ballots cast in the “right church, wrong pew”—at the right polling place, wrong precinct—must be counted, despite Husted’s objections. But the court sided with Husted that ballots cast at the “wrong church, wrong pew”—at the wrong polling place and wrong precinct—won’t be counted, and that election officials are not required to tell voters that they’re at the wrong location.
A coalition of voting rights groups have filed an emergency injunction against Husted’s last-minute provisional ballot directive. Husted’s briefs are due in court by November 6. According to Ohio law, provisional ballots won’t be counted until ten days after the election. So, if the presidential election comes down to Ohio and the margin is razor-thin, as many are predicting, we won’t know the outcome until well after Election Day. And only then will we find out how many eligible voters were wrongly disenfranchised by the secretary of state.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, November 4, 2012
“Controlling The Access To Vote”: Volunteers For Voter Suppression Group Installed As Election Officials In Ohio
Conservative poll observers are gearing up for Election Day, when they will watch for possible instances of voter fraud and challenge voters they find suspicious. As ThinkProgress reported, many of these volunteers have been fed false or misleading information about voting rights by the Romney campaign and independent Tea Party groups like True the Vote. True the Vote encouragesits poll watchers to “build relationships with election administrators” because “they control the access to the vote.”
But one True the Vote affiliate, the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, is taking their election interference one step further. Ohio VIP has recruited and dispatched poll workers who will not be merely observing, but directly involved in the voting process in a crucial swing state. Hamilton County elections director Tim Burke told the Columbus Dispatch that VIP poll workers will represent the Republican Party:
We know that the Voter Integrity Project has recruited and through the (Hamilton) County Republican Party has placed some poll workers. I have discussed this with my Republican counterpart.
I accept the fact that he understands that the VIP pollworkers are working for the Board of Elections on Election Day and are subject to the board’s instructions, not the VIP instruction. Obviously both sides are going to have observers as well as poll workers. I, and others will spend the day responding to trouble calls.
Ohio VIP provides a 3 hour training for their poll workers, as required by the Board of Elections. The group is advertising these sessions, according to the Dispatch, “as going beyond what the secretary of state tells them.” Ohio VIP is one of the more zealous branches of the already extreme True the Vote national organization; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) opened a criminal investigation into True the Vote due to the Ohio group’s attempts to purge thousands of students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans from the voting rolls.
While in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare, overzealous poll workers could jeopardize legitimate votes by forcing them to use provisional ballots, which cannot be counted until November 17. Ohio’s provisional ballot mess is already threatening to disenfranchise thousands of legitimate voters — the bulk of whom live in urban, minority-heavy areas like Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati. In 2004, Ohio tossed out thousands of provisional ballots, concentrated in Hamilton and the state’s four other urban counties. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) lost Ohio by a narrow margin in 2004, allowing George W. Bush to win a second term.
By: Aviva Shen, Think Progress, November 2, 2012
“More Ohio Voting Problems”: Thousands Of Mail-In Ballot Applications May Have Been Unfairly Rejected
It’s no secret that the presidential race could come down to Ohio. The Buckeye State has loomed large for months, and word is, both Romney and Obama will be in Columbus on Election Night. According to Nate Silver, there’s a nearly 50-percent chance that the state will determine the election outcome. All eyes seem to be there—when WaPo’s The Fix shifted it from “leans Democratic” to “toss up” yesterday on the electoral map, half the internet seemed to respond with either cheers or jeers.
But while everyone’s been watching the polls and political rallies, the chances that the election will be mired in confusion and controversy increased this week. Thousands of requests for mail-in ballots across the state may have been unfairly rejected, thanks to a technical glitch in the data-sharing software between the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s office. The idea is that when a voter updates her address at the BMV, it also gets updated at the Secretary of State’s office. But for 65,000 registered voters, the updates weren’t made. About half of those voters submitted a separate update to the voting registrar. That left 33,000 people whose address on the voter rolls did not match their actual address. The information is now being updated, so that by Election Day, the rolls should be correct.
But there’s still a big problem for voters who chose to request mail-in ballots—an option Secretary of State Jon Husted has repeatedly encouraged. It’s hard to know how many of the 33,000 requested absentee ballots, but those who did were probably rejected for the address discrepancy. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has already found 865 requests for ballots have been unfairly rejected. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates (NOVA) estimates that if the same rate holds true across the state, 4,500 registered voters may have not have received the requested ballots, and another 6,000 provisional ballots might go uncounted. (Those who request absentee ballots and then choose to vote in person must vote provisionally.) This week, NOVA’s research director, Norman Robbins, sent a letter to Husted requesting that he order all counties to doublecheck whether requests had been wrongfully rejected.
Husted, who’s come under fire from voting-rights advocates for trying to limit early-voting hours, has bragged repeatedly in press releases about the state’s absentee voting program—just Tuesday, his office sent a press release boasting that “1.2 million Ohioans have already cast ballots.” But there’s been no press release on the address mix-up. Ostensibly, there was enough time to get the wrongly rejected voters their mail-in ballots, but with the election only days away, they’ll need to send them back at lightening speed. According to the Secretary of State’s website, the mail-in ballots must be received by Saturday.
Even then, the mail-in ballots won’t all be counted; as I wrote last week, a new study shows that once sent in, mail-in ballots have a higher rate of being unfairly tossed out than any other form of voting. Nobody can say how many Ohioans will have their votes—or their requests for ballots—wrongfully rejected. But no matter what, it will be far too many.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, November 2, 2012