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"Americans Elect" May Change Face of 2012 Election

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Americans Elect is destined to have a major impact on the presidential election despite the fact that it currently has no candidates or platform and is even reluctant to call itself a political party. It will match or may even exceed the impact of Ross Perot on the 1992 election when he was chosen by almost 20 million Americans and received close to 19% of the popular vote. They are not going to win but Americans Elect will decide who does.

Americans Elect seeks to have nation-wide internet voting at their virtual convention instead of the current voting by state delegations. At the same time, Americans Elect plans on vetting each candidate to make sure they are "certified" and "considered someone of similar stature to our previous presidents." The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the group dates back for at least 16 months, operating “under the radar” but are now actively seeking publicity — and they're getting it. The LA Times followed with an op-ed the next day and that evening, the group's COO, Elliott Ackerman, was interviewed on Hardball and has since appeared on The Colbert Report. For now, Americans Elect is focused on the presidential election but has plans to campaign with a full legislative field in future elections.

It will achieve these results because the timing is right, something Americans Elect's backers would be eager to acknowledge. It will also succeed for a reason that they are unlikely to admit but that I believe is behind the movement — it is aimed squarely at President Barack Obama. Apart from the target demographics this is obvious to me by a simple process of elimination.

First, the GOP candidates, while not yet a football squad, could certainly aspire to field a soccer team. Also, to put it politely, they offer a wide diversity of choice. Another candidate into this mix who emerges late in the campaign and with a platform that, while aspiring to be "best-of-breed" is more likely to be the “lowest common denominator,” would garner slim pickings. In contrast Obama is likely to run unopposed so even if Americans Elect only attracts a small portion of his support, this would be significant. Finally, as I said earlier, I believe acting as a spoiler against Obama is the principle, if covert, objective of Americans Elect.

The other reason I feel Americans Elect will succeed is because Obama is vulnerable. His oratorical skill that was the strength of his first campaign is now a liability. To many of his supporters, his speeches now have the impact of elevator music and they're looking to him for action, not words. The window within which he can act, however, is rapidly closing and the upcoming issues where he could make a difference are rehashes of ones where he has already committed himself to outcomes that disappointed a lot of his base. Looking ahead, his options are to try to defend decisions that have already lowered his ratings and to "go negative" — which has already been acknowledged as a campaign tactic — neither of which are themes that will give economically beleaguered Americans much comfort.

Photo Credit: Tony O'Doherty

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