Friday, 29 February 2008

HUU Elections - the results

Voting day three was very interesting. As expected, there was a much bigger campaign presence on the Hull campus. We also saw sightings of people dressed up in costumes (one being an oversized Elmo!). This was a return to the great levels of activity that have been shown in previous years at election time.

voting day 3 campaigning

According to a source on the Scarborough campus, the campaigning had slowed down over there. That may have been because people had to make travel arrangements so that they could be at Hull for the results. It could also be because people were tired of the hard work involved in campaigning.

Results time
The results party started at about 8pm and there were plenty of people from the start. However, at just after 9pm it was absolutely packed becuase it was time for the results (that part of the evening would have started earlier, but there was a technical problem with the new setup - any new system is open to that sort of thing).

The announcement was done differently this year in an effort to keep up the levels of excitement. In previous years the tension was built up because it took time to count the ballot papers. This year, we had karaoke and then the results of the first round of voting for all positions. This carried on until we reached the final round of voting in the presidential race. As usual, the announcements were made by the General Manager, Paul Tatton who was in the role of Returning Officer.

Anyway, here are the results:

Position: President
Helen Gibson6026111

Position: Union Secretary & Treasurer
Alexander Hamilton426577

Position: Vice-President (Academic Representation)
Richard Jacksonn/a2n/a

Position: Vice-President (Welfare & Equality)
Coralie Tringham4142n/a

Position: Vice-President (Media & Volunteering)
Wayne Buisst392311

Position: Vice-President (Sport & Leisure)
Laura Bennett434435

Position: Vice-President (Scarborough Campus)
Mark Alcornn/a3n/a

Position: Chair Campaigns
Barry Nason3121n/a

Position: Chair HUSSO
Abby Lester elected unopposed

Position: Chair ISA
Jan Zahuta elected unopposed

N.B. - Candidates who were elected unopposed were against RON (re-open nominations), but I have ignored that as RON is not a real person (apologies if I've just offended anyone who is called Ron!)

You'll notice that some parts of the results tables are marked 'n/a'. That's simply because I didn't have enough time to make the relevant notes. If anyone can fill in the gaps for me, that would be great.

In the elections for some of the other positions, the current Vice-President (Academic Representation) (Daniel Harrison), was elected as the Men's Officer, Senate rep for the Faculty of Science and the Chair of the Postgraduate Committee. Isi Genn-Bash was elected as Women's Officer. Emma Sharp was re-elected as the Postgraduate Senate rep and became the student union's Training Officer for the second time. To see the complete set of results, go to this page.Congratulations to everyone who won and I hope you have a great 2008/2009! As there are some vacancies, there will be a second election period in week 8 of this semester.

The voter turnout for the elections was 1712 - that is a 25% increase on the previous year. It definitely shows the benefits of e-voting. There were over 1000 voters in the AU election and the Scarborough campus had roughly 700 voters, which are excellent results. Hopefully these figures will carry on increasing year after year. It will take a long time to kill off the dreaded 'student apathy™' though.

As the Sanctuary was packed, you'd expect plenty of noise. However, I didn't expect the amount of noise that could be heard during the announcements for each round of the Presidential election. Every time Helen Gibson's name was mentioned, there was a few cheers and a chorus of boos. Whenever you heard Chris Webb (the runner-up) mentioned, there was huge amounts of cheers. So, when the final result was announced, you can guess what it was like.

I've heard rumours of negative campaigning in the race to be President, which can't have helped matters. If that's true, then I'm disappointed in whoever did it. Candidates should concentrate on their own policies and their own camapaign. If I remember rightly, you are not allowed to comment on other candidates. Fortunately, there are proper ways to make a complaint and hopefully that process will solve any problems. There is already a group on Facebook where the members want to challenge the results of this particular election.

After each result was revealed, there were a number of candidates who were (understanbly) distraught. However, those people worked very hard and should be proud of getting that far. I hope they do well in whatever they decide to do in the future.

Once again, congratulations to the winners. I hope you all get on well together and are able to do what's best for the union in your roles. There will be some incredibly stressful times, but please remember that you will have some great experiences throughout the year. If you do disagree, I think it's important that you resolve any issues and then present a united front. If the students frequently see arguments between the people running the union, they may feel that their vote won't benefit anything and voter apathy will increase.

Technorati tags: Student Unions, Students, Election, Politics

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

HUU Elections - voting day 2

It seems that there was more of a campaign presence on the Hull campus today. This is possibly because it's getting closer to the end of the voting period, so the candidates have to everything they can to persuade people to vote for them.

campaign pic

However, I still think that more of the candidates should have been doing this straight away. As I said in my last post, it would get you noticed and increase the chances of people putting you as their first choice in the relevant election.

I also saw some people around the library, which was a refreshing change. In previous years there have been huge numbers of people there. Whether the library is a polling area or not (technically, it still is because of the computers), it's a place where many students go, so you should be there for as long as possible.

Once again, I didn't hear a huge amount of noise from the campaign teams. Some students would cosider this a good thing, but only because it's often accompanied by people shoving flyers in your face. However, you can still make a noise without resorting to those practices. Without it, there isn't much of an atmosphere and some students may fail to realise the importance of the event.

Anyway, that's all about the Hull campus - what about Scarborough? For those who aren't familiar with the University of Hull, it might seem strange to have a campus in an area that isn't Hull. However, it's quite common to have multiple campuses in different areas - it's something that has happened for years. For instance, before 1954, the University of Hull was actually a college that was part of the University of London.

According to a comment that was left on my last post (presumably by a campaigner), the candidates for the position of Vice-President (Scarborough Campus) were out in force and I'm guessing the people running for other positions were out there too. I say 'other positions' because this year is a rareity - we have Scarborough based candidates for more than just one exec position. This is in addition to the positions available on the Scarborough Executive Committee. I think this is really good news and I hope the same happens in future years.

So, what about the possibility of the dreaded 'student apathy™'? Yes, you read that correctly. Once again I've mentioned that phrase that makes the sky go dark, makes babies cry and also makes executive officers so stressed their heads explode. Well, it could happen. No matter how hard unions across the country have tried over the years, voter turnout has been consistently low.

At Hull, we've had highly visible themes relating to such things as Superman (last year) and Heroes (this year). These themes are an attempt to engage the student by using something that relates to them, instead of making it dry and verbose.

After talking to a reliable source (the President), voter turnout was at about 700 (this was at lunchtime today). I expect a lot of people will leave voting until the last minute, so there could be a sharp increase and this would mean the individual turnouts of the previous three years would be beaten - a great result. Apparently, there is a target of roughly 2000. Last year, around 1600 people voted, which is roughly 10%. 2000 would be a big achievement.

There are a couple of things in Hull University Union elections which make them different from those which take place in some other unions. The first is that HUU does not allow 'slates'. A slate means that multiple candidates would be campaigning as a cohesive unit. I have always had a big problem with them because firstly, it can only increase factionalisation - which also increases the chances of there being an unrepresentative exec. Secondly, there could be potential problems if only part of the slate is elected. It could lead to a divisive exec and disjointed decision making. I am glad that slates are not allowed.

In some unions they are perfectly legitimate. For instance, at the 2007 NUS Annual Conference, Student RESPECT had a slate that had four people running for different positions (Rob Owen for President, Assed Baig for National Secretary, Clare Solomon for VP (Welfare) and Siobhan Brown for VP (Further Education)).

The second difference between HUU elections and those in some other unions is that the full-time executive officers can only stay for a single one year term. In many other unions across the country, officers can campaign for a second year, which is the maximum that is allowed.

This HUU policy is something that I have consistently disagreed with. Although you can make numerous changes in one year, you could make even more of a difference and implement more long term policies if you had two years. This can be especially crucial when dealing with a university, as their hierarchies are typically much slower to respond.

However, there is a way around this problem. 2007/2008 was the first academic year where there were part-time officers on the union's executive committee. You could get elected into one of those positions and then be elected as a full-time Vice-President (or the President) for the following year. Even though that is case, you could still have a situation where the majority (or all) of the executive changes every year.

So, who is the person on the exec that is responsible for the elections? At HUU, it's the job of the Union Secretary & Treasurer (currently Jay Webster). Unfortunately, Jay is currently suspended from his duties, which means more work for the President and other exec members. Hopefully, the problem that lead to his suspension will be resolved quickly as it has a potential impact on the handover for his successor (among other things).

I must also respond to an anonymous person who commented on my previous post (about the first voting day). It is true that the sabbatical team should be able to encourage students to vote and therefore increase turnout year on year. I must also thank him for mentioning my awe-inspiring victory last year. However, I must disagree with him on one point - I think the 2006/2007 sabbatical team were much more attractive (especially the person that was responsible for Academic Representation!).

The next post will have news of day three and the results.

Technorati tags: Election, Politics, Student Unions, Students

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

HUU Elections - voting day 1

It's that time of the year again where you see all the colours in the rainbow, plenty of catchy/cheesy slogans and people in costumes - yes, it's the week 5 elections in Hull University Union. What will happen? Will the changes make a difference to the voter turnout? Will there be rule-breaking and arguments? Will there be more student apathy? I guess we'll find out for sure after the count, which happens on the evening of the 28th.

So, what are the 'changes' that I mentioned? Well, for the first time there is a fully-functioning e-voting system in place on the student union's website and that is the replacement for the old paper-based system used in previous years. There was an e-voting system when I was a sabbatical officer at HUU, but it wasn't reliable enough - especially for something this important. The website changed at the beginning of the 2007/2008 academic year and it's much better (go to this Wayback machine page to see what the site used to look like). There's also 'assisted polling' in various locations, so people can have help with the new system if they need it. E-voting is definitely a good thing because it means students don't have to travel all the way to their campus to vote.

Another major change is that the elections that have previously happened in week 7, now happen in this period. I can see the benefit in this, because it means that the election period doesn't go on for too long, which could annoy some students. HUU doesn't normally see publicity for the (what used to be) week 7 elections, but the possiblity for that was always there. After looking at some of the posters that are around the union, I can see that the possibility has become a reality.

Candidates are now allowed an internet presence. In my year (and the years before that), you weren't allowed to have a website because it was felt that with varying levels of IT skills, some candidates could gain an unfair advantage. I don't agree with this because it's really easy for anyone to get something up on the 'net. It seems the current executive had the same view. There do seem to be some restrictions though. For instance, if you have a Facebook group setup, you cannot accept membership requests.

So, what positions are up for grabs?

Full-time UEC member (one year term, cannot go for re-election)
  • President
  • Union Secretary & Treasurer
  • Vice-President (Academic Representation)
  • Vice-President (Welfare & Equality)
  • Vice-President (Sport & Leisure)/Athletic Union President
  • Vice-President (Media & Volunteering)
  • Vice-President (Scarborough Campus)
Part-time UEC member (one year term, option to get elected as a full-time officer in a future year)
  • Chair Campaigns
  • Chair HUSSO
  • Chair ISA
Other positions (one year, voluntary, can be re-elected)
  • Union Councillor (16 positions)
  • NUS Conference Delegates (9 positions + current President as delegation leader)
  • Finance Committee (8 positions)
  • Scarborough Executive Committee (7 positions)
  • Societies Officer
  • Training Officer
  • Chair RAG
  • Chair Postgraduate Committee
  • Women's Officer
  • Men's Officer
  • Cultural Diversity Officer
  • Health Officer
  • Disabled Students Officer
  • Chair LGBT Committee
  • Chair Mature Students Committee
  • Environmental Issues Officer
  • Scarborough Finance Committee
  • Senate Reps
  • Delegates for the conferences of various NUS campaigns
So, there are definitely plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in the running of their union. You can see the nomination formas of the people who have gone for the positions listed above by clicking here. You can find out about some of the jobs that are available here

What about the famed 'student apathy'™, the great democracy killer? Well, it's true that most student unions have low voter turnout and the occasional uncontested election. The days of 24/7 protests are long gone. However, unions still do a lot. Who gets the food and drink in the union shop that students go to frequently? Well, it's the union dealing with groups like NUSSL. More importantly, they stand up for your rights in the areas of academia (remember, you went to university to get a degree and you want to have a fair chance) and welfare (e.g. dealing with the perennial problem of troublesome landlords™). They give you a wide variety of entertainments and the opportunities to indulge in a personal interest.

How is that kept at a high standard? Well, you need to ensure that you vote. I would like to see a bigger voter turnout compared to previous years (around 10-12% recently).If everyone votes then it's likely you'll get the best team for the job. If that doesn't happen the executive could be dominated by e.g. an unrepresentative faction that has their own agenda, instead of listening to the students that are members of their union.

If you're wondering who I think the best candidates are, then I'm afraid I can't tell you because I don't want to be giving anyone an unfair advantage. I'm also university staff, so it could be seen as a conflict of interest. What I will say is that there seems to be plenty of good candidates who have experience and policies.

Another thing that I have noticed is that there's a big difference in the actual campaign presence. Today I hardly saw anyone outside the union handing out flyers and talking to students. There were only a few people who were inside the union. This is possibly the effect of online voting. I still think that there should be a strong physical presence though - it gets you noticed and people are more likely to go to the computers and vote for you.

There will be more news tomorrow. If you are a student at Hull uni, please vote. If not, I hope you have found this post about HUU elections interesting.

Technorati tags: Student Unions, Election, Politics, Students

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Texas - did we need the debate?

I started watching the Texas Democrat debate on YouTube (one which, like many of the others before, ignored Mike Gravel) and I started wondering if this was going to give information about the candidates that I haven't heard before in the other debates.

The opening statements from Obama and Clinton were interesting. It didn't take long for the former First Lady to mention her successes with healthcare for kids. This is almost getting like Giuliani's 9/11 tourettes! She mentions an old policy numerous times and fails to talk about anything that could be considered recent. She also namechecked two Texans - a former governor (Ann Richards) and Barbara Jordan, who was an ex-President of the Texas state legislature and an ex-US congresswoman:
"And among the people whom I got to know, who became not only friends, but heroes, were Barbara Jordan, who taught me a lot about courage, and today would actually be her birthday. I remember all the time about how she got up every single morning, facing almost insurmountable odds, to do what she did. And another was my great friend Ann Richards, who taught me so much about determination. Ann was a great champion for the people of Texas. She also reminded us that every so often it is good to have a laugh about what it is we're engaged in."
Sure, these two women were clearly great people, but if they were important figures in Clinton's life, why has she only started talking about them now? It's a clear attempt to get applause from the audience. However, I think it would have been better if she talked about policies that would benefit Texas and the whole country.

Obama made a slightly different statement. He concentrated on policy and didn't bother namechecking people. He didn't mention anything that was as old as Hillary's healthcare policy. This made is speech the better one of the two.

One of the first topics that was dicussed was possible negotiations with Cuba. This was raised because of Fidel Castro's recent announcement that he would not be continuing with his job as President of the country. Yes, this was new - but only because Castro's announcement was recent.

It's an interesting subject because it's well-known that the USA have consistently believed that the Cuban people are oppressed. Obama and Clinton agree with that notion, but now that the leadership is going to change, they mentioned negotiations. Hillary wanted talks with Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and heir - but only if they show signs that they want to shift to a democracy. Obama wants unconditional talks. They both agree that there has to be a lot of preparation before any talks happen though and human rights would have to be at the top of any agenda. Obama made the point that the United States should have diplomatic relations with both their enemies and allies. This is a good point because you don't make any progress by only talking to your friends. For this reason, I thought that Obama won that part of the debate.

Despite all that it's important to remember that Cuba is not part of the United States - it is a completely separate country. Why does the US think they should be the ones implementing regime change in a place that they do not control? Also, Castro ended the corrupt second term of Fulgencio Batista that was supported by the United States for six years. Castro has also decided to step down when he is ill, instead of foolishly trying to hold on to something that requires a good level of health. The travel embargo was enforced by the United States, not Cuba. If that wasn't in place, innocent people would still be free to move. Yes, Cuba is under Communist leadership, but it's not exactly the same as the situation in the former Soviet Union.

The next topic was immigration. I can understand it being mentioned because Texas has a border with another country (Mexico) and there is a high number of illegal immigrants getting through. Both felt that there needed to be a significant policy change. They felt that legalisation needed to be an option that was available to all and that there needed to be an end to the hate crime that hispanics suffer from. They both felt that the United States should help it's neighbour improve it's employment opportunities aswell. It was hard to see the differences, so I thought it was a draw.

The economy was discussed (yet again) and that was added to the list of topics that have be mentioned ad nauseum. What is the point of having all these debates if we are just going to hear the same old material? The only people that benefit from them at the moment are some of the audience at the venue, because they will probably only go to one of them. The TV and internet audience have this pushed down their throats repeatedly.

There are two possible solutions. One would be to have a single debate. Another idea would be to have multiple debates, with each one having a different focus. The advantage of the former is that the whole process would be shorter. The benefit of the latter is that there is a reason for people to view all the debates. The first option could be difficult though - television networks would be constantly battling for the chance to host the debate.

It will be interesting to see what happens after the Democrat and GOP conventions. There will be debates featuring candidates from both major parties. The same subjects will probably be discussed, but there will be a different dynamic. I can only hope that there won't be as many debates at that stage.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: USA, Politics, Election, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton

Monday, 18 February 2008

Making Democracy work

The dictionary definition of Democracy is:
"Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system"
In Britain, we elect our MPs on a regular basis to represent us in Parliament and the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the most MPs. In the United States, Representatives and Senators are elected to generate national policy in Congress and the President is also an elected official. In both countries, the leader selects a 'cabinet' and each member has a clearly defined role. Although they are selected, the theory is that the people trust the leader to pick the right people for the job. Other countries have the same or similar systems.

What happens if the population of a country are apathetic?
If the people who elect the officials are not interested politics, there is a risk of an unrepresentative government being created. Once that happens, all sorts of policies could be passed that could negatively affect the future of a number of people (e.g. the apathetic majority).

In countries that have a system like the United Kingdom, it could be a number of years before a party loses power. For example, between 1905 and 1922 the UK was run by the Liberal party (the leaders were Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George). If any party had power for that length of time based on the votes of a minority, there is a strong chance of the government losing touch with the people and not taking the country in the direction that the people want.

In the United States, the situation is very different. Although the people vote for the person they want to be President, their votes don't actually have any weight as that particular official is elected using delegates. Although the delegates are supposed to be loyal, there is always the possibility of them changing their minds and voting for someone else. This could mean that there is always an unrepresentative leadership, even if the majority aren't apathetic.

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush got elected because of the Electoral College, which means the US had (and still have) a leader who does not represent the views of the people. This is confirmed in recent polls which show that Bush's approval rating is 30%.

What if the public cannot decide who they prefer?
If the population of a country cannot decide which party (or candidate) they prefer, there cannot be a situation where no government is elected. A democratic system demands a government and anything else would possibly lead to Anarchy.

If there are multiple parties with the same number of votes (unlikely in a 'First Past The Post' electoral system) or there is a situation where the majority of votes is not large enough, another election could be called or there would be a coalition (the leader of that group would then become Prime Minister and a cabinet could be formed).

If the majority vote and the parties forming the coalition have similar policies, this might not necessarily be a problem. However, if the parties have substantially different views then the leadership would be divisive and decisions would be harder to make. If it is harder to decide when to e.g. initiate an election, a divisive leadership could negatively affect the country for many years (especially if the majority of the population are apathetic).

In recent times, Holland had a coalition government, which was a combination of the Christian Democrats, the CDA, the VVD and the LPF. The coalition eventually collapsed due to major disagreements.

What if the majority are wrong?
In a situation where the majority of the population vote, it's possible for them to not know what is good for the country and a reason for that could simply be lack of appropriate education. You could then have a representative leadership that has a negative effect on the country. This is a problem with Democracy. Elections can theoretically prevent this from being a permanent problem, but the people could consistently be wrong.

In reality, no political system is perfect. To give Democracy the best chance of working, the majority have to be well-informed and have to vote. To be well informed, they need to use a variety of sources (doing this can create a more balanced view). If the people complain about the government not doing the right thing and then mention that they didn't vote in the election, you can only say to them that it's at least partly their fault. In theory, one vote can be the decision maker.

It's no good if you keep informed at one election and then ignore everything. That would mean you run the risk of a party staying in power for too long and possibly losing touch with the views of the people (which would make them unrepresentative).

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Democracy, Politics

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Potomac primaries

Barack Obama is building up a lot of momentum, especially after his successes in the Potomac primaries. John McCain solidified his lead by winning in all three of the states that were voting (this happened on February 12th). The tables below are the results.

StateCandidateVote %Delegates
ColumbiaBarack Obama759
Hillary Clinton242
MarylandBarack Obama6011
Hillary Clinton375
VirginiaBarack Obama6450
Hillary Clinton3526

StateCandidateVote %Delegates
ColumbiaJohn McCain6816
Mike Huckabee170
Ron Paul80
MarylandJohn McCain5513
Mike Huckabee290
Ron Paul60
VirginiaJohn McCain5060
Mike Huckabee410
Ron Paul50
N.B. - Mitt Romney was on the ballot papers and received some vote (strange). However, I've not included him in these tables as he is out of the race.

For the Republicans, Maryland was the smallest of the three primaries, but Ron Paul must have been unhappy with his result there because he finished below Mitt Romney (in terms of vote percentage) and Romney isn't even in the race! However, there is no chance of Paul getting the nomination anyway. It's more about making a statement and raising important issues now. Any profiling he does will help him if he wants to run as an independent.

Mike Huckabee didn't get any delegates, but that's because the GOP have a system where all the delegates go to the winner. The important thing for him will be the vote percentage and, unfortunately, that doesn't look too good. I'm not sure if Huckabee will stay in the race until the end now. After 'Super Tuesday' I thought he would, but these results have made things more difficult for him. He's still a possible VP pick though.

This is what John McCain had to say after the results were announced:
"We do not yet know for certain who will have the honor of being the Democratic Party's nominee for president. But we know where either of their candidates will lead this country, and we dare not let them. They will promise a new approach to governing but offer only the policies of a political orthodoxy that insists the solution to government's failures is to simply make it bigger."
He also said:
"I seek the presidency with the humility of a man who cannot forget that my country saved me"
I think it's interesting that most of McCain's quotes are either inspirational or negative. In a victory speech, making inspirational statements is fine - in fact, it's almost expected. However, I would have mentioned something about the next primaries/caucuses and (possibly) something brief about policies (instead of criticising candidates). That sort of behaviour has occurred since the start of the process though.

On the Democrat side, Barack Obama improved his position, although there weren't too many delegates up for grabs. However, his momentum will mean he is more likely to gain large amounts of delegates from the remaining states. This is what Obama had to say:
"Today the change we seek swept through the Chesapeake and over the Potomac. We won the state of Maryland. We won the commonwealth of Virginia. And though we won in Washington, D.C., this movement won't stop until there's change in Washington, D.C., and tonight we're on our way. Tonight we're on our way, but we know how much further we have to go. We know it takes more than one night or even one election to overcome decades of money and the influence, the bitter partisanship and petty bickering that shut you out, let you down, told you to settle."
This was a typical Obama speech - plenty of inspiration and calls for the arguments to stop. Some people say his policies aren't detailed enough, but he included plenty of detail in the debates (see 'Obama vs. Clinton - the CNN debate' and 'South Carolina - not on topic, not much detail').

For Hillary Clinton, her losses in the Potomac primaries weren't the only problems. Her deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, has resigned. He was expected to leave because the person who recruited him - Patti Solis Doyle - also stepped down recently. Some of the US public will see this as a loss of faith in Hillary and her chances of winning.

According to this article, Clinton now sees herself as the 'underdog', which is a huge change for her. ever since the early stages of her campaign, she has mentioned how she has the advantage in terms of experience and policy detail. If she's losing confidence then it confirms that there's a serious problem.

CNN's total delegate estimate is:
  1. Obama - 1215
  2. Clinton - 1190
  3. McCain - 812
  4. Huckabee - 217
  5. Paul - 16
It's interesting how Clinton (second place for the Democrats) has more delegates than the combined total of all the remaining GOP candidates.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: USA, Election, Potomac, Primaries

Friday, 8 February 2008

Mitt Romney drops out of the race

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massechusetts, dropped out of the race to be the GOP nomination for the presidency yesterday. I'm surprised he didn't stay until the end of the race, even though it looked even more likely that John McCain would win. He said this on the night of Super Tuesday:
"We're going to battle, go all the way to the convention, win this thing, and get to the White House"
So you can understand why I'm surprised!

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, he made the following statement:
"This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters – many of you right here in this room – have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.

I will continue to stand for conservative principles. I will fight alongside you for all the things we believe in. And one of those things is that we cannot allow the next President of the United States to retreat in the face evil extremism."
So, he will continue to be active in campaigning for what he thinks is right - fair enough. This could mean that he goes for another term as governor of Massechusetts. He might even end up trying to get a place at Capitol Hill (either the House of Representatives or the Senate).

What is interesting is that he didn't explicitly endorse anyone. At the moment, the remaining GOP candidates are John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. It's clear that he won't support McCain (see my last post), so it's likely that if he were to actively support someone, it would be Huckabee (there's an evangelical connection). Romney's endorsement could be a big boost for the campaign.

Romney's performance in the primaries
StatePlaceVote %Delegates
New York2280
New Jersey2280
South Carolina4150
New Hampshire2324

Romney's performance in the caucuses
StatePlaceVote %Delegates
North Dakota1368
West Virginia2470
As you can tell, he did do well (especially in the caucuses) and won in some areas where there are a substantial number of delegates available. The reason he is so far behind John McCain is because he didn't win in the states where it was possible to get 50 or more.

So, why didn't he do better? One reason is that some people found it difficult to believe him as some of his stances have changed over the years. People said that he was only doing this to attract 'social conservatives'. The other candidates called him 'inconsistent':
"Romney, in his appeals to voters, never overcame charges that he had flip-flopped his way through his political career -- on abortion, gay rights and other issues of importance to those he was hoping to win over."
A lot of people didn't like his negative campaigning either:

I've always thought you should focus on your policies, why they would be good for the country and also why they would improve the current situation. If a candidate is asked to comment on the differences between him/her and any others in the running, that should be the only time where you go negative.

Anyway, now that he's out of the picture, the winner of the Republican nomination will be in a stronger position. That can only be a good thing for them at general election time.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Mitt Romney, Election, USA, Politics

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Super Tuesday

This is possibly the biggest event in the races to decide the GOP and Democrat nominations for the presidency. Twenty four states have been holding primaries or caucuses (a lot have had these for both parties).

The table below shows the winners and the delegates they gained:
New JerseyClinton(51)McCain(52)
New Mexicorp**n/a
New YorkClinton(127)McCain(101)
North DakotaObama(8)Romney(8)
West Virginian/aHuckabee(18)
* - This means that the primary/caucus hasn't happened yet in that state for that party.
** - This means that the results were still being processed while this blog post was being typed.

I didn't include the voting percentages this time because it would make the table too cumbersome. If you're interested in those details, you can go here.

The Delegates
I noticed a few strange things when looking at the results. The first is the amount of delegates that New York got from both parties (the Democrats had 214, the GOP had 101). Those are - by far - the biggest numbers in a state. It's strange because California has a larger population, larger voter turnout and is physically bigger (in terms of square miles). Under the current US system, I would have thought there'd be more delegates for the bigger states. Clinton won New York with 57% of the vote (Barack Obama got 40%), which was to be expected as it was her home state. You could almost say the large number of NY delegates gave Clinton an unfair advantage.

Alabama and Missouri also had strange results. Despite finishing second in Alabama, Hillary Clinton got one more delegate (she was 14% behind Obama too). I thought the Democrats distributed delegates based on vote percentages. In Missouri, both Clinton and Obama got 30 delegates, even though Obama won by 1%. Those two results make no sense at all!

In other non-standard news, California, Illinois, Georgia and Massachusetts were the only states where the Republicans didn't operate a winner-takes-all-the-delegates system. I think it would be better if all states used the same system and it would be even better if that system was used by both parties. It would make the results much easier to analyse.

The candidates - Democrats
While it's true that Hillary Clinton got more delegates than Barack Obama on Super Tuesday (just under 60 more - this doesn't include New Mexico as the final results haven't been processed), there are still many states left and her overall total could be overtaken. Obama has to be pleased with the fact that he won more states.

The candidates - Republicans
John McCain is getting further ahead of the competition after winning nine states. Even though Mike Huckabee won five, his chances of getting the GOP nomination are getting even more distant. Mitt Romney did well winning seven. However, as we all should know by now, it's delegates that are the most important thing and John McCain managed to win in the states where there were the most delegates. It's not impossible for Romney to win, but it's unlikely that it'll happen.

Vice-presidential choices
Ever since John Edwards dropped out, I felt that he would be the VP pick for either Clinton or Obama. In my previous post about the CNN debate, I noted that they both constantly mentioned the former Senator's policies and congratulated him on agood campaign.

There are many people who think that Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton would be the best for the Democrats. It's true that some of their policies are similar and their combined support would be tremendous, but could they ever work together? There have been a number of occasions where they have had lengthy arguments. Obama did recently say that Clinton would be an asset for anyone and Clinton replied with a similar statement, but that could just be for the media and may not be what they actually think.

It's even more dificult to think who the pick would be for the Republicans. If John McCain was the GOP pick, I can see him choosing Rudy Giuliani because the former Mayor of New York dropped out of the race, he gave McCain a glowing reference. The Arizona Senator could also choose Mike Huckabee because it would mean he's more likely to attract the large evangelical section of the US population.

One certainty is that he wouldn't pick Mitt Romney, even though for former Massechusetts governor is currently in second place overall. This is because McCain has accused him of changing his stance on a number of issues and has also been critical of Romney's negative ad campaigns (he should be critical - Romney should be focusing on his own policies).

If Romney, made a late surge and won the nomination, I can see him picking Mike Huckabee to attract the religious vote.

Ron Paul
It's certain that he won't be the GOP nomination for the presidency. It's also unlikely he'll be the VP pick for any of the top three because only has 16 delegates and has a comparitively minimal number of votes. He also hasn't won a state yet. So, what is he going to do? Will he drop out before the GOP convention? It's becoming more likely, although I can't be 100% certain.

According to this article, 29% of US voters believe that he will run as an independent candidate. It's theoretically possible because some of his views don't match with the majority of the Republican party. The same article states the 15% of those voters would vote for either him or Michael Bloomberg (another independent possiblity). With a percentage like that, Paul wouldn't become President, but he could influence the result (something that Ralph Nader did in 2000). However, Paul has said in the past it's either the GOP nomination or nothing at all.

Mike Gravel
Remember him? When the Florida primary results were announced, I noticed Gravel wasn't mentioned on CNN, however he was still on the results page on a Florida local government site (remember that candidates can still be on ballot papers after they withdraw because of reprinting costs). Apparently he's still going and there's a possiblity of him being an independent candidate. However, if he did go down that route I doubt he'd make an impact - have a look at his results in the primaries and caucuses so far.

It was a big day in the US and for the Democrats, it didn't really make it any easier to predict who would finish with the most delegates. For the Republicans, things became a lot clearer and McCain's momentum has grown substantially.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: USA, Election, Super Tuesday, Democrats, Republicans

Friday, 1 February 2008

Obama vs Clinton - the CNN debate

You can see the first part of the debate here. There are links to the other parts here.

The has to have been the tightest debate I've seen so far. There were so many of the topics where both of the candidates were even, but I think Obama was the overall winner. He won more of the topic discussions and also appeared more natural. Hillary did well, but everything seemed rehearsed and not from the heart. I think it's important that the leader of a country should know what they are saying and also believe in it.

It's also important to note that, early on, both of the candidates made frequent references to John Edwards in terms of campaign strategy and policies. Both of them saying things like that makes me think that it's even more likely that he'll be a VP pick. If he isn't (some people think a good VP pick would be Bill Richardson because of the hispanic vote), then I think he'll have a place on the cabinet - possibly in a role where he can work on his central issue - poverty.

One of the first topics that was discussed was the policy differences between Clinton and Obama. It's an important question because if none of the voters can tell the difference, they won't know who's best for the job. There's no guarantee that both people will be involved with the cabinet.

One of the differences is on healthcare. Clinton wants to introduce caps on healthcare premiums so that it can become more affordable for everyone. She also wants a tailor-made system where those who are satisfied with their healthcare aren't affected, but the people who benefit are those who aren't happy. After that she went on to talk about her past achievements (neatly moving past her failures and focusing on how she got her kids healthcare proposal approved).

Obama disputes a well-used statistic about there being 15m people who don't want healthcare. He thinks that the 15m are actually people who can't afford it. Obama also disputes Hillary's details about healthcare subsidies. He thinks that they do work, but doesn't explain why.

I think Obama won this section because cuts on premiums will appeal to a lot of people and he also offered more statistical analysis. I think that Hillary's approach to universal healthcare is flawed because she wants to provide for illegal immigrants - they aren't legitimate citizens and they don't pay anything. Why should they benefit?

Obama answered first and said that the USA needs to control it's borders (obvious statement, but I guess it needed to be mentioned). Obama also felt that there needs to be a crackdown on those employers who exploit the immigrants and don't charge them the minimum wage. A lot of these people won't necessarily have the confidence to speak up for themselves, so it's definitely a positive statement. He also suggested that there should be opportunities for them to become US citizens and learn English. These ideas have been suggested/implemented in Britain and providing they are properly implemented, they are good policies.

When Hillary answered this question she offered nothing new. In other parts of this debate she has said she agrees with Obama if there's no difference between the two. However, this time she said the same things with a different word order - therefore trying to make people think it's something better. This was a bad move in my opinion, but unfortunately I don't think everybody will notice what she did.

I think this part of the debate was won by Obama.

'Tax and spend Democrats'
This wasn't exactly a tough question to answer. Under the Bush administration, the US economy has gone down the toilet - partially because of the huge amounts of spending on the war in Iraq. John McCain said in the past that it was irresponsible to cut taxes when going into war (although now he approves of Bush's extensions to those tax cuts). Both of them took full advantage of the opportunity, so I think that this round was even.

The War in Iraq
It has been clear from the beginning that they both want to withdraw the troops. However, you'll notice that in a previous blog post I mentioned that Obama has offered more specific details (going into timelines about e.g. removing brigades). All Clinton has done is say that she wants the troops out quickly and she will start that process within the first 60 days of her term in office.

In this particular debate, we finally heard some more details about her plans. She also felt that it had to be planned properly. This statement would go towards explaining why she hasn't been specific in the past. However, Iraq and the war on terror is such a hot topic, so I would have thought it'd be better to sort out your plans early on.

There was a point about her initially approving the President's decision to go into Iraq without Congressional approval. She was asked if she felt that was a naiive decision. It's stupid to ask that - Hillary would never say that she was naiive on national TV. She said she was acting on all the information that she had at the time.

However, I feel that Congress is there for a reason. Without Congress there would be a dictatorship. Such a major decision should always go through a body like Congress. Obama seems to feel that way because he repeatedly said he has been consistent from the beginning on this issue (he disapproved of the invasion both then and now).

Due to him highlighting his consistency and Hillary trying to avoid questions, I feel that Obama won this round.

Other issues
The above issues have been covered in many of the previous debates, so it was refreshing to hear a new question - it was about the levels of sex and violence in Hollywood. Obama won this round because he was the only one to answer. He felt that censorship was partly the responsibility of the parents and he also said that adverts for things like horror films should not be shown in the middle of family programming (this was basically a swipe at the television networks that allow this to happen).

As I said earlier, it was one of the closest debates, but I felt that Obama won.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: USA, Election, Politics, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama