While the economy dominates this presidential election, issues such as abortion, immigration, regulation, and—in a sudden and startling reversal of Democratic platform language—God and Israel, have added a dose of intrigue to the conventions.
Soon, as the campaign shifts into high gear, platform planks on these issues, and maybe others, are likely to be deployed in targeted ads by both parties in a bid to portray the other side as too extreme and win over key swing voters.
Under direct orders from President Obama, Democratic convention leaders on Wednesday adopted amendments to the platform to add the word “God” and state unequivocally that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. Republicans had seized on the omissions; a senior Obama reelection official said that when the president found out on Wednesday morning, he had the language put back in.
(SEE FULL PLATFORMS: Read the Complete Party Platform Texts)
The move was a quick acknowledgment that such issues might matter as both campaigns eye the undecided voters among single college-educated women, suburban married men and women, newly registered Hispanic voters, college-age men and women, and small-business owners, among others.
Democrats are just as sure to attack some elements of the GOP platform in an attempt to repel Mitt Romney’s efforts to woo swing voters, especially Hispanics. Romney needs at least 35 percent to 36 percent of the Hispanic vote but is currently running in the low 20s. To keep him down, Democrats will aggressively peddle words from the GOP platform that call for new layers of border fencing, “self-deportation”—a phrase Romney hasn’t used for months—and restrictive policies on federal student loans.
Democrats, for example, will likely zero in on this: “The double-layered fencing on the border that was enacted by Congress in 2006, but never completed, must finally be built.”
In his keynote remarks on Tuesday, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro took on much of the GOP agenda on immigration and its unwillingness to embrace a watered-down administrative action to protect children who grew up in the United States from deportation because they were brought across the border illegally. Castro will leave Charlotte on Friday to campaign in Iowa and Virginia, swing states where Hispanic votes could be crucial.
The GOP reference to the double fence along the border strikes Democrats as a bid to stave off negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform. Whether Romney endorses that policy fully, Democrats intend to use the language against Republicans this fall. Republicans see the fence issue as consistent with congressional intent and a mandatory precursor to any negotiations.
Republicans seek to use the Democrats’ abortion language in a similar way. They have already described the party’s abortion plank as radical and out of step with public opinion.
The platform language reads: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.”
Critics proclaim the platform language as an open door to abortion. “Even with 59 percent of Americans opposing the vast majority of abortions, and still more than 1.2 million abortions annually, the Democratic Party has never seen any limit on abortion they liked or any abortion they opposed,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
The issue of regulation—whether it deals with Wall Street or clean air and clean water—also illustrates a huge chasm both parties will use to tell swing voters the other side is hostile to their interests. Democrats embrace all of President Obama’s Wall Street reforms and his efforts to increase Environmental Protection Agency regulation of pollution.
Republicans staunchly oppose both and have carved out sections of their platforms for each subject. On the environment, Democrats see the EPA as a tool to combat global warming, which the platform describes as “one of the biggest threats of this generation.” The GOP approach couldn’t be more different. It accuses the agency of imposing since 2009 new regulations costing businesses “tens of billions” of dollars and stifling job growth.
This article appears in the September 6, 2012, edition of NJ Convention Daily.