Tonight’s 90-minute debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is supposed to be about international issues. But that won’t last long. Both candidates are keenly aware that most Americans care less about these issues than the economy, jobs or health care. So on just about every question, both candidates will find a way to bring the topic back home.
Even so the Florida debate will likely have the smallest audience. It competes with both Monday Night Football – the Detroit Lions versus the Chicago Bears – and the seventh game of baseball’s National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.
But at this point in the election cycle both candidates are looking for any edge. The polls show this election as pretty much tied and it’s now a contest of which team can turn out more of their voters.
Real Clear Politics survey of polls continues to show a Romney lead nationally and an Obama lead in key swing states, such as Ohio and Nevada.
But people who answer polls and those who actually vote might be a different set. And that’s why the contest is now entirely about who’s voting, when they vote, and what it will take to secure a state.
If foreign policy is not popular with most voters, consider this, most Americans are wrong about what the government does. Americans regularly say they would cut foreign aid in order to balance the budget. A CNN story said most Americans “regularly flunk” this issue as a test. On average Americans think that foreign aid accounts for 10 percent of federal spending, and one in five, CNN says, think it’s closer to 20 percent. The actual number is about one percent. Interest on the current debt is 6 percent of the budget and military spending is about 20 percent.
But that should be a debate topic tonight. Romney has said the military spending cuts under the Budget Control Act – so called Sequestration – would cripple both the economy and the military. Obama has said the cuts are not good, but neither are those that will be cut from the domestic side of the budget. Sequestration is set to begin January 1, unless Congress and the president reach an accord after the election.
One line that might show up tonight, “Romnesia.” Obama joining of his opponent’s name with amnesia was used all week on the campaign trail. It also was an instant hit on YouTube and Twitter. According to Mashable, the term was trending with some 18,000 mentions per hour, which is “unusual” for a political term.
Then for politicians even a catchy phrase doesn’t necessarily translate into votes. A number of popular catch phrases – such as Walter Mondale’s 1984 use of “Where’s the Beef?” – were part of eventually losing efforts.
Catch phrases or not, we’ll be tweeting live tonight. Look online for @indiancountry and the hashtag #ICTMNDebate. Instant commentary from me, Ken Polisse, politics editor, other editors and correspondents, and scores of readers.
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.