Politics 2012: Campaigning edging closer to Election Day

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |  Aug. 5, 2012 at 4:05 AM
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So, how are you reading this sentence: "There are less than 100 days to go until Election Day."

Happy? Sad? So what?

Democrats and Republicans, President Obama and presumptive GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney are prepping for the party conventions -- the Republicans at the end of August in Tampa, Fla., and the Democrats just after Labor Day in Charlotte, N.C.

Airwaves are offering a buffet of ads ranging from candidate-bashing to policy-bashing with a few positive 30-second spots thrown in for good measure.

Both sides are seeking donations from average Joes via e-mail, using the 100-day mark as the hook to ask for a sawbuck.

But is enough enough for campaign-weary voters? Probably, given that several polls in recent months indicated the electorate thinks the campaign season is too long.

"Most citizens are probably exhausted by the endless campaign cycle and will only tune in when they have to do so. The campaigning has been going on for a very long time," said political commentator Steven Schier, a political science professor at Minnesota's Carleton College. "That is why the big opportunities of candidates to address a large popular audience are rare, and they include the convention acceptance speech and the debates."

Besides the convention, the big event during the dog days of August is Romney's naming his vice presidential choice. There's even an app for that -- download the free application for your smart phone and be among the first to know whom Romney selected.

Romney's choice of running mate and the GOP convention make August "an important month in the electoral calendar," Schier said. "Both are among the most important events of the election year."

The Obama campaign also is promoting a smart phone application, Fox News reported recently. Obama's re-election campaign recently rolled out the new "Obama 2012" app that the campaign characterized as a grassroots tool for organizing.

"We're building this campaign from the ground up, and the Obama 2012 app has all the tools you need to join the fight to move the country forward," the campaign said of its app that includes policy highlights, event info and breaking news.

Neither candidate has been able to move the needle much to his side, although a Quinnipiac University-CBS News-New York Times poll released last week indicated Obama leads Romney in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Nationwide polls conducted earlier in July indicated the race for the White House was a dead heat. RealClearPolitics.com's average of several polls last week indicated Obama had a 2 percentage point edge over Romney -- about where polls were several months ago.

The Economist said it wasn't clear whether the 100-day mark holds quite the same importance this year as it has in previous elections because of the tightness of the race and the stability of support for Obama and Romney.

As of July 29, the Gallup Daily Tracking poll indicated Obama and Romney drawing 46 percent support each among registered voters. The Gallup poll indicated neither has opened more than a 5 percentage point lead since Romney became the all-but-nominated Republican candidate in May.

There's another reason why the 100-day mark may not have the same impact, The Economist said. Polls indicate a huge chunk of likely voters -- perhaps as much as 90 percent -- have made up their minds about whom they'll support.

Then, there's early voting. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow voters to cast their ballot early and 27 states offer no-excuse absentee voting. The National Review noted 33 percent of voters cast early ballots in 2008 and election observers have said that percentage could increase to a whopping 40 percent of 2012 voters. Both campaigns recognize this and have begun flooding the airwaves with ads, particularly in battleground states.

"It's not clear that it [either early or absentee voting] advantages either party as a partisan thing per se," political scientist Christopher Mann of the University of Miami, a former Democratic consultant, told the National Review. "It advantages the party that is more organized and more committed to taking advantage of the alternative methods of voting available."

All these factors mean there are likely fewer "unsure" or "undecided" voters the candidates can reach from now until Election Day, which is why campaign events such as the party conventions and Romney's vice presidential choice and the debates could become more important.

"The selection of Romney's running mate will be the main event leading up to the conventions and it is a big event and will garner much media attention," political commentator Schier said. "The conventions are very important to each presidential candidate because they provide an opportunity for the candidate to speak directly to a large popular audience without the media 'filter' intervening. Those opportunities only occur during the conventions and debates."

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