LIBG Forum on US presidential election, with Karin Robinson, vice-chair Democrats Abroad UK

31 Oct 2012

LIBG's Forum on the US presidential election 2012 with Karin Robinson, vice-chair of Democrats Aboard UK, heard that female voters could be crucial to the outcome.

Ms Robinson said that with only a handful of states in real contention in a heavily polarised electorate, differential turnout between men and women could be vital.

She said that President Obama's legislative record included the Fair Pay Act and the defence of abortion rights, whereas Mitt Romney had said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would reverse the relevant legislation on abortion, and believed that life began at the moment of conception. He had had also refused to commit himself on equal pay.

Obama had also strongly supported gay and lesbian rights, while Romney has said he would make gay marriage illegal.

Ms Robinson said the Obama's greatest achievement had been enacting healthcare legislation, a goal that had for decades eluded other presidents.

Provisions that require insurers to cover people aged under 26 on their parents' plan have taken effect, as have those that require refunds to policy holders if insurers' administrative costs exceed 80% of premium income.

But the main legislation would come into operation only in 2014 and Romney has said he would repeal it, despite it being closely modelled on healthcare insurance that he himself introduced when he was governor of Massachusetts.

She said Romney had also threatened the hugely popular Medicare programme for retired people and Medicaid, used by those with long-term conditions.

Healthcare was the clearest divide she had found between the US and UK, "the most fundamentally different experience in how life is lived", and much the hostility to Obama's reforms in America came from those who were simply attached to the status quo. However, almost half of American voters were conservative and would treat the idea with suspicion.

The economy is though likely to determine the outcome. "Obama clearly has to face the most difficult economic circumstances any US president has had to face," she said.

"There was huge hope and optimism 2008 but the economy was in free fall and while it has outperformed Europe it is still struggling."

This had left Obama without the strong enthusiasm shown among his supporters in 2008. But Ms Robinson said that while it would not be possible to recapture that feeling after four years in office, the Democratic party still had the data accumulated from 2008 and was using it in vast 'ground war' operation to get voters out.

"In 2008 there was groundswell of enthusiasm," she said. "The Bush administration was deeply unpopular, Sarah Palin provoked people and Obama was the first African American candidate. It could not feel like that again."

She described Dashboard, a digital tool developed by the Democrats that means volunteers need not travel to party offices to canvass, but can just be given sheets for their area and then report results electronically.

Early voting attracted publicity when President Obama himself voted this way in early October.

Ms Robinson said the rules on who could vote early and when differ from state to state, even between different polling places, but with these often closing before working people get home, early voting had become important for the Democrats.

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