Friday, October 05, 2007

Is this just a "single issue" campaign?

In my most recent post, gurufrisbee asserted that this wasn't a one-issue campaign in 2008. r.johnson then notes that Democrats only voting for the "most electable in a general campaign" are in fact themselves one-issue voters.

It got me wondering, will 2008 be a "one-issue" election? Here is the most recent polling I could find about issues that are important to voters. These are not party specific and the poll was with "a random national sample of 1,002 adults." However, it does give us a starting point to begin the conversation.

September 9, 2007

Iraq/War in Iraq35
Health Care13
Terrorism/national security6
Ethics/honesty/corruption in gov't6
Immigration/illegal immigration5
Morals/family values2
Federal Budget Deficit1
Social Security1
Now, given those numbers, let's look at the top 4 candidates (according to the polls) and where they stand on the issue. This is a simple, back-of-the-napkin, sort of reasoning. If we want to get into specifics, we'll do that in the margins.

Iraq War
As has already been covered, everyone but Bill Richardson sees a US military engagement in Iraq for the next 5 years. Major differences

Health Care
Virtually all the candidates have the same plan. A plan that works like worker's compensation and/or auto insurance. Each has mandates for coverage and then tax breaks and/or cheaper federal plans to buy into. No real difference here.

Economy and Jobs

There is some differences here. And the devil is in the details, but a quick overview is: Populist John Edwards has put a real focus on poverty and has a plan to reduce it. He'd raise the minimum wage, make organizing labor easier and create a rural jobs program. Clinton, Richardson and Obama have plans similar to Edwards only without the rural jobs program. Some difference, but simply over the level of federal spending to help the poor

Terrorism/National Security

Obama says that America should protect its chemical plants and round up spent nuclear fuel. Edwards agrees and wants to improve human intelligence in the CIA. Richardson is all in favor of those ideas and proposes additional spending for first responders. I'd imagine all the other candidates would agree. Hillary's site has nothing about this on the issues tab, but I think she generally supports the idea put forth by the other candidates. Some differences, but nothing major.

Ethics/honesty/corruption in gov't

Richardson's website is silent on this issue. Obama has a plan. Edwards has the talk. Clinton has a short video that all say virtually the same thing. There is too much money in politics and its influence should be reduced. No real differences here.

Immigration/illegal immigration

Obama lays out the argument for the comprehensive Senate bill. Richardson has the most complete information about immigration of the 4. He differs from the Senate bill because he wants harsher fines for employers of illegals and doesn't like splitting families up by sending folks home for the visa. Hillary's website is without anything on this issue, but she supported the comprehensive Senate bill this year. Edwards is also lacking information, but I believe he supports a general "earned citizenship" path like the one that was outlined in the Senate. Slight differences, but very similar

Morals/Family Values

I don't know what to say on this. They are all in favor of morals and family values. If that is simply PC talk for anti-gay rhetoric, all 4 candidates are in the exact same place - no gay marriage, but yes to civil unions. Absolutely no differences


Every single candidate would radically alter NCLB or toss it out altogether. No differences


All 4 candidates have a "energy/environment/climate change" tab in their issues sections. The details are different, but all agree on less oil and more renewable resources. Some focus on immediate changes and others on longer term solutions. However, all 4 agree that less oil is needed and more fuel efficiency is required. Limited differences that focus mostly on priorities and less on philosophy


Safe legal and rare for all 4. Xerox positions for all 4

Federal Budget Deficit

All want fiscal sanity restored in Washington, although none have offered a budget with how they would pay for their new spending plans. Richardson wants a balanced-budget amendment and line-item veto. The others oppose that. Minor differences here

Social Security

Hillary won't talk about it. Richardson believes the economy can grow its way out of the projected deficit. Edwards would raise the cap on income. Obama would also raise the cap, just not as far as Edwards. Major differences

So what have we learned? Well that the Democratic candidates have virtually the same position on all the issues, bar Iraq and Social Security.

Which leads me to answer my own question, "Will 2008 be a 'single issue' campaign?". In one sense, most certainly yes. Iraq dominates the poll and is one of two major issues with genuine disagreement. This election will be about the future of America in Iraq. In another sense, no. All the issues above matter to voters. Iraq is still not the most important thing to 2/3s of America.

If the Democratic candidates are nearly identical on the issues, but one, why wouldn't a Democratic voter support the candidate they felt had the best plan for Iraq? Electability you might say.

I have three thoughts on this. The first is that maybe the Democratic voters don't think voters at large are ready to leave Iraq, so we have to put our "guy" in charge of the Iraq mess because that will be better (somehow). The second is that the candidate is really just lying to us, so they can avoid charges in the general election of "cutting and running." That's highly cynical and it concerns me that we might be making a deal with the devil similar to the one Republicans made when they elected Bush. Finally, maybe the concern isn't policies at all. Maybe it is style over substance. "Hillary looks presidential." "Obama speaks so well." "Edwards is so warm and confident." Sure those may be true, but is that the best matrix by which to decide a president? It certainly makes me uncomfortable.

With Richardson you get out of Iraq AND all of Hillary/Obama/Edwards plans. With the other 3, you just get Richardson's plans without the withdrawal from Iraq. Which America do you want have in the future?