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Presidential Campaign 2012

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Elections: It’s the subject on everyone’s mind. And with how the past few years have been shaping up, the upcoming primaries could arguably be the start of one of the most important presidential elections to date. Although elections aren’t until November 2012, the hype has grown exponentially in the past few months as we continue to find out who plans on running for office, as well as the continued economic hardship the country faces. So what’s in store over the next year? Keep reading.

“This is one of the most important elections I’ve covered starting from the Kennedy/Nixon Election in 1960,” states Dan Jones, political science professor. After joining two wars, overspending in the U.S. and Europe, the trade deficit rising, unemployment resting around 9%, and the problems with Fanny Mae, it’s easy to see why.

The debt situation is undoubtedly one of the many concerns potential voters have when it comes to this next election. According to Kirk Jowers, Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, the single biggest issue for everyone running in this election is the current debt situation. “Programs and priorities are hindered by the debt issue which is seen as the biggest issue by voters and by the international countries,” he says, “And a lot of the debt problems are very solvable. It will just take some deviation from basic principles to get to that point.”

Citizens tend to look at the current president and assess his productivity while in office, especially when elections are near. In assessing President Barack Obama from the 2008 election till now, Jowers says, “Obama ran one of the best campaigns in the history of the U.S. He perfectly captured our need for an outsider of hope and change. He took on difficult speeches and knocked them out of the park.” But when it comes down to how he is currently faring, many believe he could be doing better. Jowers adds, “He inherited a difficult situation, yet he hasn’t lived up to his own standards and the promises he made. Because of this, he will be held accountable in 2012.”

Jones explains, “I’m not sure how much of it is racial. And it’s really too bad that he hasn’t been able to convince the far right Americans that he was born in the United States. He is very articulate and seems to give excellent talks that are motivational but they don’t seem to lead to action.” He also attributes that the reason Obama perhaps hasn’t been as successful in his current office term may not be completely his fault, but perhaps the result of the election of 2010 that created a divided government that has led to gridlock.

At a current approval rating of 44%, the opinions of Obama’s successful run at re-election are mixed. Jones explains, “Most people believe that a person cannot win a re-election with the unemployment rate as high as 9.3%. However, Obama still has charisma and credibility.” Jowers includes, “Americans like Obama and they want to see him succeed. They may give him the benefit of the doubt to try and turn things around.”

There are a few things up front that might help Obama’s chances of re-election. Jones starts, “He needs to get the unemployment rate down under 8.5% and cut down the surplus of trade as well as work on the issue of immigration.” Jowers follows up by saying, “Instead of sitting back and watching things unfold, he needs to jump in and lead. There’s a saying: ‘Great leaders have to acknowledge the chance that they might fail.’ Obama has been trying so hard not to fail that he hasn’t given himself the opportunity to succeed.”

Obama will be sharing the campaign trail with many others who hope to oppose him in the election. The candidates are coming full force including Republicans Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman Jr., and Michele Bachmann. A few Socialists and Libertarian candidates including Stewart Alexander, Carl Person, R. Lee Wrights, and Roger Gary have also thrown their hat into the race.

As everyone knows, it’s one thing to run for office. It’s quite another to gather enough support to make that run a success. Unfortunately, not all candidates receive publicity and support needed to accomplish that task. Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah Governor, is one of the candidates “whose flavor didn’t catch on,” according to Jowers. And although Jones is unsure of why Huntsman hasn’t done better in the polls, he believes that he would be the best candidate for foreign policy because of his experience in China and Singapore and work with the trade commission. Jowers points out that could be the reason why Huntsman hasn’t done better. “While Mitt Romney has been running since 2008, Huntsman was in China and didn’t have a chance to lay the groundwork needed for his campaign.”

The polls support Jones and Jowers’ theory of Mitt Romney doing better at running a successful campaign. Jowers feels, “Mitt Romney is the exact right candidate for this election—he’s running a great campaign, knows how to turn deficit into surplus and he knows what companies need to create jobs. He has a great history of turnaround, and is well known in Utah and the 2002 Olympics for being the leader who made it happen.”

In 2008, Romney was most known by his religious affiliation. Therefore many question whether or not it will stand in his way of getting votes. Jowers doesn’t believe it will and says, “It was the main course, whereas now, it is a spice on the main course. Romney will not win or lose because of his religion. He will sink or swim on his own merits this time.” Though Jones isn’t as confident about religion not being an issue for Romney, he agrees that it shouldn’t be a test for office. Both Jones and Jowers also point out Mike Huckabee’s statement on the matter. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who ran one of the most religious election campaigns, said he could easily vote for a Mormon and that it shouldn’t be a factor when voting. This could be a crucial sentiment for Romney, because it was previously shown that many of Huckabee’s followers were prone to have a negative opinion of Mormons.

For weeks it looked as though it would ultimately come down to Mitt Romney against Rick Perry. However, Jowers and Jones strongly believe that this is Romney’s election to lose. “For awhile, Perry looked like he was going to make it a far more interesting campaign than he has so far. With his recent debate performances and hunting club, he continually blows his own foot off. He was the ‘forbidden fruit’ that Republicans have since spat out,” exclaims Jowers. Jones pleads the importance of debates and how they can make it or break it for a candidate. Though it’s unclear whom Jones supports, he speaks highly of Romney’s ability to be articulate—which he points out is no easy feat on the campaign trail. “The debates have made someone like Herman Cain a contender, whereas it can be the demise for someone like Michele Bachmann. Unfortunately for Perry, he has a difficult time debating,” he expresses.

Jowers and Jones agree that a lot weighs on who wins the primaries. “Romney has to win New Hampshire. If they upset Romney in New Hampshire, then the race could really become jumbled of who will win the Republican nomination,” says Jones. Jowers predicts, “If Romney is on the ticket, my guess is that Utah will have a historically high turnout which could mean a bloodbath for Democrats. If he isn’t on the ticket, there could be a massive backlash against Republicans and Democrats could win races that as of now, no one would predict they’d win.” In that case, people are even more anxious to find out what is going to happen in the primaries. And now thanks to recent date changes, the answer could come as soon as March 1st, 2012.

According to Jowers and Jones, the question on everyone’s minds shouldn’t be “Who’s going to win the Presidential election?” But instead be, “What’s best for America?” So what does that mean for potential candidates and their hopes of being elected? “It comes down to who is best prepared to change the country’s course,” explains Jowers, “They should create more jobs and help people regain confidence in the American economy.”

There’s still a lot that could happen over the next year, but for now it seems as though the stage could very well be set. “No matter what happens, Utah should be proud. Utah’s favorite son, Jon Huntsman threw his hat into the race and although he didn’t get a chance to lay the groundwork, he still did well. And Romney, the adopted favorite son because of his help with the Olympics as well as other factors, has a very nice shot of becoming the next President of the United States,” concludes Jowers.