Mojo - November 2012

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 5, 2012

Mon Nov. 5, 2012 8:53 AM PST

Marines and sailors assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to board a CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 Reinforced, at LZ Falcon, during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 30, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher Q. Stone.

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What the 2012 Presidential Election Is Really About

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 4:23 AM PST

Hyperbole, false promises, and negative portrayals of one's opponent are all hallmarks of a presidential campaign. Both sides do it, though not always to the same degree. Of course, the stakes are high when it comes to deciding the next "leader of the free world" so it's no great surprise that half-truths and blatant falsehoods rule the day, or that discussion tends to generate more heat than light.

But what we're often told is at stake and what is actually at stake on November 6 are rarely the same thing. In the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, partisans on both sides tend to exaggerate emotionally charged issues while ignoring what the election is actually about.

Craziness at the Polls? Get the Evidence on Your Smartphone

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 4:13 AM PST

Judging from recent experience, close presidential elections tend to coincide with problems at the polls. Remember the 2000 election's butterfly ballots and dangling chads? Or, four years later, the 10-hour lines in Knox County, Ohio? Though civil rights groups worry that history will again repeat itself this year, at least one thing will be different: what's in our pockets. Anybody with a smartphone can now shoot video of polling irregularities and upload it to the internet. But someone must still curate all of this citizen journalism, and that's where a group called Video the Vote comes in.

A member of a network of voting rights groups known as the Election Protection Coalition, Video the Vote wants anybody who notices voting problems to document the situation and bring the footage to its attention. "In an era of partisan voter purges, onerous ID requirements, and organized intimidation, it's not enough for citizens to just cast their ballots," says Matt Pascarella, Video the Vote's campaign director. In addition to collecting citizen uploads, he'll field a national network of his own videographers to target swing-state hotspots.

You might end up seeing some of these videos on the Mother Jones website; I'll be embedded with Video the Vote office during much of Election Day. In addition, Mother Jones is encouraging readers to report any poll problems, voter intimidation, and vote suppression attempts you might encounter via our short Report Your Voting Problem form (available below). We're tracking problems at our interactive map and mega-guide to election problems.

For more on how to work with Video the Vote, check out the group's promotional video:

You can help Mother Jones track voter suppression and poll problems around the country—report your problem using this short form:

Every Single Political Game-Changer of the 2012 Election

| Sun Nov. 4, 2012 3:08 AM PDT

A few months back, the New York Times' statistics guru Nate Silver made an observation: "The phrase 'game changer' has been used 2,870 times in news outlets over the past 30 days." That was in July, before the debates, 47 percent, and about three dozen-over-caffeinated Drudge Report headlines. When I did the same search on Thursday, I found 19,600 results, which, all things considered, seems a bit low. Since the phrase entered the Pantheon of Political Cliches™ four years ago, the term has become so ubiquitous a crutch for political pundits that it officially entered the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary earlier this year.

Here is a list of every event in the last 10 months that has been labeled a game-changer in the presidential race:

CarsSandy's arrival. Chris Christie. President Obama's divorce papers. Donald Trump's challenge to Obama. The first debate. Fox News report on CIA's request for military backup in Benghazi. Pennsylvania. Romney's tax plan. Arizona's birther law. The revelation that President Obama is not very good at basketball. Lindsay Lohan's Romney endorsement. The second debate. Paul Ryan. Those Sarah Silverman GOTV videos. Jobs. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. That Daily Caller video. DHS immigration directive. A hypothetical Romney pledge to only serve one term. Romney's VMI speech. Dreams From My Real Father. A hypothetical joint US–Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. A hypothetical debate question about why Obama didn't dispatch F-16s to Benghazi. The youth vote. Conservative turnout in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Ohio. The entire election. The Osama Bin Laden raid. A book about the Osama Bin Laden raid. A hypothetical McCain vice presidency. The Benghazi cover-up. A new book from WorldNetDaily. A hypothetical question about Simpson–Bowles. First-time Puerto Rican voters. Latinos. Asian-Americans. The 47 percent tape. Paul Ryan's "makers and takers" riff. Suburban women. October jobs report. September jobs report. Democrats' ground game. Obama's tech operation. James O'Keefe's voter fraud sting. Gallup early voting poll. October 27 Gallup tracking poll. Gloria Allred. The Walker recall. Paul Ryan's interview with WJRT-TV, Flint. January jobs report. The Des Moines Register endorsement. Ann Romney's RNC speech. Paul Ryan's VP speech. Mitt Romney's RNC speech. Dick Morris' television ad (as reported by Dick Morris). Middle East chaos. Todd Akin. Bill Clinton's DNC speech. Obama's gay marriage endorsement. Ladies. Virgil Goode. Obama's voter registration figures. Dinesh D'Souza's movie. 1998 video of Obama making case for progressivism. Boston Globe's Bain story. Hypothetical release of Romney tax returns from hackers who demanded ransom payment in Bitcoins. The status quo.

Not everything can be a game-changer, though. In some cases, pundits have concluded that an event that might have become a game-changer was not, in fact, a game-changer. Note that some events appear in both categories:

The first debate. The second debate. The third debate. The vice presidential debate. Fisher v. University of Texas. Yawning. October jobs report. Richard Mourdock's rape comment. Colorado's marijuana initiative. Celebrity endorsers. Colin Powell. Ann Romney's RNC speech. Benghazi. Ross Perot. Paul Ryan. The Osama Bin Laden raid. Roseanne Barr's television ad. Obama's DNC speech. Michael Bloomberg. Dinesh D'Souza's movie. That Daily Caller video.

The moral of the story is that we're still really bad at predicting the future. 

Will Darkened Polling Stations Impact Key Vote in Pennsylvania?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 10:08 AM PDT

Hurricane Sandy left large swaths of Pennsylvania without power this week, and heading into Tuesday's election as many as 300 polling stations were still in the dark on Friday afternoon. Many of those stations are reportedly in critical Bucks County. Once a Republican stronghold, the county went for Obama in 2008, and it has become increasingly Democratic. But in an indication of its key role in the election, GOP challenger Mitt Romney has decided to make a last-minute visit to Bucks County on Sunday, suggesting that he believes he can possibly win the rich trove of electoral college votes of a state long considered solidly blue. To win Pennsylvania, Romney has to win Bucks County.

News of Romney's visit—and the $12 million worth of ads that the GOP has aired in the state in the past several days—comes at a time when many people in the county have remained without power, as many as 50,000 as of Friday afternoon. There've been varying reports about the number of polling stations that are affected and vague plans from elections officials as to how they'll handle those outages come Tuesday. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has made restoring power to voting precincts a high priority behind hospitals and other critical infrastrure. The state has extended absentee ballot deadlines in many places, including Bucks County, to give voters more time. And state officials have said they don't expect any voting problems: Voting machines apparently can run on batteries for at least a few hours, and FEMA has reportedly offered to supply generators to run voting machines.

Voting Problem? Report It to Mother Jones.

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 3:03 AM PDT

Help us track voter suppression and poll problems around the country—report your problem using the short form below.

Also see our guide to voting hotspots and shenanigans, including our interactive map, updating now through Election Day.

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What Would a Romney Victory Mean for Reproductive Rights?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 3:03 AM PDT

With Election Day now upon us, it's worth weighing the impacts of a Mitt Romney win on reproductive rights and health care. In general, Romney seems likely to cater to the extreme anti-choice faction of his party. Here's a sneak preview of possible scenarios:

1. The Supreme Court gets more anti-choice. All of the abortion-related decisions on the court in recent history have been a 5-4 (or 4-5) split, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. The court has four justices in their 70s right now, which means that the next president could have one or more opportunities to appoint new members. Romney has made it clear that he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices that feel that way, too. Even if those appointees don't get to throw out Roe (at least, not right away), they could still make important decisions on state laws currently caught up in the court system, like laws requiring a sonogram before an abortion and other laws that ban abortions after 20 weeks. A Supreme Court ruling upholding those laws could set new precedents for the burdens states are allowed to impose on women seeking an abortion.

2. Planned Parenthood loses federal funding. One of the first things a new president gets to do is write a budget, and Romney has pledged to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood providers immediately. "It will not be part of my budget," he has said. And it's not just Planned Parenthood. A Romney-Ryan administration would take away Title X family planning funds from any health care provider that also provides abortions.

3. Health care reform gets overturned. Romney says he wants to toss out "Obamacare"—except for the parts that people like, such as making it illegal to deny coverage to someone because of a preexisting condition. The problem is, the parts Romney doesn't like are required to make the other parts work. There are a lot of provisions in health care reform that are particularly helpful for women. For one, I've known women who were told that heavy periods or cramps qualified as a "pre-existing condition," which the reform bill would outlaw. More broadly, under Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer charge you more just because you're a woman—a practice known as "gender rating." Birth control and other preventative care are now available without a co-payment. You can stay on your parents' health care until you're 26, which is particularly useful for women, who go to the doctor more often than men.

4. There's no more co-pay-free birth control. Even if Romney doesn't succeed in overturning health care reform, he has singled out the requirement that insurers cover contraception as an "assault on religion" that "will end" if he becomes president. Paul Ryan has promised that the birth control mandate "will be gone" on "day one" of their administration.

5. There are stricter limits on federal funding for abortions. Last year, GOP House members—including Paul Ryan—tried to pass a law that would have redefined rape as only including "forcible rape"—which would likely exclude statutory rape and possibly date/drugged/drunk rape. This is important, because federal laws dealing with the use of government funds for abortions have typically included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act also includes other new limits, like barring tax credits for employers who choose to offer a health plan that covers abortion and making it illegal to use your own tax-exempt health savings account to pay for an abortion.

6. The Global Gag Rule returns. Romney has said he will reinstate this rule, also known as the "Mexico City Policy," that bars any US-funded organization working abroad not only from providing abortions, but from offering referrals or even discussing abortion as an option.

7. Parental consent laws are federalized. In 2005, 2007, and 2011, Paul Ryan cosponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, a bill that would make it illegal to take a minor to another state to avoid parental notification and consent laws for an abortion in her home state. Under the bill, a minor's parents must be notified in writing at least 24 hours before she can have an abortion.

8. Hospitals are allowed to deny women access to abortion, even if their lives are in danger. Under current law, any hospital accepting Medicare or Medicaid and affiliated with a religious institution that refuses to provide abortion care under any circumstance is legally required to transfer a woman who needs a live-saving abortion to a hospital that will. But last year, the House passed another bill that Ryan cosponsored, the Protect Life Act, which, if passed, would allow hospitals to refuse to "participate in" or "provide referrals" for abortions.


Corn on Hardball: The Last Days of the Election

Fri Nov. 2, 2012 5:51 PM PDT

The election's winding down, and things are looking good for Obama. Should he be sitting pretty? Our DC bureau chief David Corn look back on the campaign with Joy Reid and Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Scott Walker: The GOP's Recall Turnout Machine Will Deliver Wisconsin for Romney

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 1:10 PM PDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

This post has been updated.

The tens of millions of dollars that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker raised for his June recall election weren't the only reason Walker won. He was also buoyed by a massive get-out-the-vote operation run by state Republicans, the Republican Governors Association, and outside players like Americans for Prosperity. Together, these right-wing groups reached millions of voters.

Now, Walker says that the political machine built by Republicans for the recall will boost the Romney-Ryan ticket in Wisconsin, potentially delivering the state's 10 electoral votes. "You take all the work that was done earlier this year, when we made four-and-a-half million voter contacts in a state of 5.7 million," Walker said on Fox News on Friday morning. "We had tens of thousands of volunteers help us in my election earlier this year. That excitement continues on."

Is Washington State the New California?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 12:25 PM PDT

The old truism, "As goes California, so goes the nation," might be due for a rewrite. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

If you believe the polls…then Washington voters are poised to legalize two things Californians haven't: same-sex marriage and marijuana.

That's right, the home of the Castro and the Emerald Triangle is about to get upstaged by a state best known for its banana slugs. What happened?

Well, first off, all the crazy hippies got priced out of San Francisco and opened up yoga retreats, third-wave espresso shops, and organic farms in and around Seattle and Portland. I exaggerate only slightly.

Second, and more important, Washington state has fewer churchgoers than California, and especially fewer conservative ones. When the Catholic Church supported Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban, it could count on its message being heard by the 29 percent of Californians who are Catholic. Catholics account for less than 12 percent of Washingtonians.

And then there's the reefer. California has lots of it, perhaps a surfeit. In 2008, majorities of voters in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, rejected Prop 19, not because they didn't like tokers, but because they worried that legal weed would decrease margins for the area's pot farmers.

In the case of both ballot issues, Washington has learned from California's mistakes. Gay-rights advocates have framed marriage as a universal family value rather than just a civil right. And pot activists have neutralized opposition from law enforcement by including a provision that bans driving with high blood levels of THC, a rule absent from California's Prop. 19.

So has Washington stolen California's thunder? Maybe, but at least it's not raining down here.