Q+A: PANEL DISCUSSION, HOSTED BY SHANE TAURIMA, IN RESPONSE TO MIKE MOORE INTERVIEW
SHANE Let's meet our panel. Our political scientist this week is Dr Jennifer Curtin from Auckland University, who's here on a Fulbright Scholarship at Georgetown University and returns to the programme. Dr Peter Watson is the CEO of his own consultancy, the Dwight Group, but notably has served both Bush presidents and been a key link between New Zealand and America over many years. And Richard Adams is political correspondent for the Guardian here in DC. Welcome to you all. Peter Watson, you saw this coming for a while. Tell us why do you think Obama won and why were you so confident?
PETER WATSON, trade consultant Really, the maths of the Electoral College is very much in the favour of the Democratic Party presently. They do start with a very healthy Electoral College advantage with California being in their camp - 50 Electoral College votes right there. Then you count New York, and pretty quickly you've got a solid base from the Democratic side to work from. Therefore, conversely, if you are Republican contender, the critical path to 270 Electoral College votes in fact is far more difficult, and it's the challenging critical path for Republicans. Mr Obama did a pretty decent job in consolidating his base, as you know. While he only got over 50% of the popular vote, if you combine that fact with his advantage going in with the Electoral College and of course his incumbency, that pretty much put him-
SHANE So come down to the math, and, Jennifer, there's been a lot of talk about the math, but about the demographics. Is that what got him across the line - those minority groups? Women, young voters?
JENNIFER CURTIN, political scientist Yes, I think so, but I think also it's about the say in way in which the Obama campaign mobilised those voters. So not only was he seeking to re-engage with the ones who had voted with him before, but they were on the ground 18 months ago in the nine states that mattered, in the counties and cities that mattered, registering new voters from those same demographics so that they got them on the roll, out to the polling stations. They politicised amongst those voters, particularly amongst African American voters. The quite suppressive voter-ID laws that a lot of states had brought in, so they really got people quite angry and hot under the collar around that. And so I think that's partly why you see the same turnout, if not a higher turnout amongst that cohort of voters.
SHANE So from demographics to economics, Richard. Explain to us why did he win when we had record unemployment, the economy was doing everything against him. How did he get through?
RICHARD ADAMS, Guardian correspondent Well, he was helped by the fact that the Romney campaign did a terrible job. The fact that Obama could win in Florida and Nevada, which are two states in which the housing markets are flat on their back, unemployment is terribly high, they're in a very bad position, and the same in Colorado, and yet he won all three is quite extraordinary.
SHANE Why do you think that was?
RICHARD Well, there's two main reasons. Well, the Romney campaign did a bad job. That's one thing. The other two things - the Obama campaign realised that they had a lot more money early in the campaign. So before Mitt Romney was nominated, he ran out of money. He wasted a lot of money blitzing people like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in the primaries, and then he had no money left after that. The Obama campaign realised this, and they advertised heavily before the Republican Convention. For technical reasons, Romney couldn't use any money that he'd been given for the election campaign until after he'd been nominated, so there was a weak spot there. The Democrats saw it and they went for it. Also, similarly to 2008, Obama out-organised the Republicans in the same way that he out-organised Hillary Clinton. They realised by a quirk of the rules that early voting was going to be far more important. They put huge emphasis on early voting, and as a result, they massively defeated the Republicans in terms of the turnout in early voting, and those two things I think basically swung the election for him.
SHANE What about voters? Peter Watson, we've talked about the math, we've talked about the demography, if you like, and the economics. What was the attitude out there of voters? Was there more trust out there for Obama, do you think?
PETER In certain parts of the demographic, yes. I mean, it's a highly fractured 50% left beneath his popular vote. If you actually want to look at the fact that, yes, President Obama did of course get 50%, but think about the fact that in fact 50% of the country didn't vote for him, and it's highly fractured. Even within the 50 he got, some of those in fact were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt or were in critical states.
SHANE So quite a divided country and we will talk about that a little bit later in the programme.