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Blank Palin

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s (ghostwritten) autobiography is due for release next month, and has already shot to the top of the bestseller charts.

Say the Guardian:
“News of the autobiography’s release has already prompted a string of jokes by the late night talkshow hosts reminding the wider public about Palin’s shortcomings.

“Critics say that it starts out okay, it gets really exciting and then confusing, and then the last 100 pages are blank,” said comedian Jimmy Fallon.”

USA: who runs government?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I’ve been like a child with a new toy today, spending hours browsing on the Washington Post’s “Who runs gov?” pages.

The site contains up to date and interesting to read profiles of the people pulling the strings of American government.  A great resource for students and teachers of American Politics.

I’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most influential politicians in the USA, some of which you will have heard of and some you won’t.

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Book review value

A quick posting to say that the book review pages are often a good source of political info, even for cash and time poor students with no intention of making a purchase.  Details of a new publication on Clinton were in the Sunday Times at the weekend and contained some fascinating nuggets.

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Pick of the papers

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the UK front the papers seem to be dominated by analysis of the party political debate on tax and spending.  For instance the Observer carries a front page story suggesting that the Tory attacks on Labour spending plans may backfire.

Here a Sunday Times editorial welcomes the development of a more open debate on the issue.

When it comes to American politics, coverage of the debate about Obama and racism dominates with acres of newsprint given over to this story.

Here Paul Harris reports from South Carolina, a state at the heart of the race row.

Keith Richburg, in an editorial piece, argues that Obama’s election victory is not proof of a post racial America.

Andrew Sullivan takes an in depth look at the race debate and outlines its significance for the Republicans.

Is opposition to Obama racist?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Former President (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter is the most senior Democrat to comment publicly that the venomous nature of the opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms can only be explained by racist undertones.

Racism continues to be the most divisive social problem in the United States, an issue that is never far beneath the surface when African Americans are the subject of political discourse.  This is partly explained by the legacy of slavery and segregation - both of which were outlawed much later in the USA than other comparable democracies.  You may recall, for instance, Muhammed Ali’s visit to the UK recently when the TV news channels broadcasted mini biographies of the boxer’s life, including Ali discussing how he was refised service at a lunch counter despite having won his country the gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the previous Olympics.  This was, of course, as recently as the 1960s.

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Obama health care speech reaction

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An energised and passionate President Obama delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress.  Will it be enough?

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Focus on US health care

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Watch this report by Lyndsey Hilsum from Wednesday’s Channel 4 news.

Hope for health care

The President needs Congress

The significance of the separation of powers is to be highlighted in perfect Technicolor later today when President Obama appears before a joint session of Congress to make a speech that he hopes will save his healthcare reform proposals (well, promises since he hasn’t actually been very specific about what he wants).

Most people expect Obama to be happy with some sort of healthcare package passing, even if it doesn’t include a government backed plan to insure Americans currently without coverage.

Bronwen Maddox in the Times takes up the story:

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Obama’s Waterloo?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

This year is a great one to be studying American politics (ditto on this side of the Atlantic given that we have a general election on the horizon that looks odds on to deliver a change in government), as we watch Obama try to transfer the electricity and excitement he generated during his election campaign into doemstic polciy success.  Now that the congressional recess is over after the summer, Obama must seek to win approval from sufficient numbers of the House and Senate to bring insurance coverage to over 40 million American citizens currently without it.

There’s a very good piece here outlining the challange Obama faces in trying to reconcile differences between Democrats and Republicans.  As the adviser to his predecessor as President points out, failure on healthcare reform could be Obama’s Waterloo.  This is why Obama is placing all his cards on the table by making a speech to Congress on Wednesday.  Watch out for that!!

After Ted: more Kennedys for Massachusetts?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Big Question runs a feature on the rather complex dynamics of choosing a replacement for his vacant Senate seat, which has been controlled by his family for over 50 years.

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Obama and racism

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do you think that the Obama presidency means that race is no longer a problem in America?

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In case you didn’t already know

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State!

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Media Monday in absentia

Saturday, August 01, 2009

There are obviously no lessons at the minute since we are bang in the middle of the summer break, but I thought I’d draw your attention to a piece that would be surefire favourite for the Media Monday sessions.  It is packed full of detail and analysis on the factors that determine the success of a presidency.  I intend to put it to one side until it comes to teaching this topic later in the year.

Keeping up with Obama

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I’m posting a couple of details for those who are looking to keep up tp date with the Obama presidency.

There’s a good feature on Obama’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in the Guardian.

But Lexington argues that Obama is only likely to disappoint his supporters.

Obama and the race row

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That race relations continues to be America’s most intractable social problem was brought to the surface again this week.

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Less advice and consent?

Sometimes when assesing the US Constitution we should be careful that we are addressing the contents of the document and not actions by politicians who claim to be acting out their constitutional role.  One such example is the process by which federal judges are confirmed.

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Obama effect?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Politics in the US continus to be dominated by health care and the Sotomayor nomination.  But I came across this little cut and keep nugget on voter turnout.

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Can Obama meet the health care challenge?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I know there seems to be a lot of emphasis on the blog at the moment on the Obama Presidency, but a new White House incumbent gives us the chance to analyse the intricate workings of politics inside the beltway.

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Obama health check

Monday, July 20, 2009

President Obama’s campaign pledge to widen health coverage to as many of the non insured as possible is stumbling amid partisan wrangling

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Whither support for war on terror?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

There’s a fine piece of writing by Tim Garton Ash in Thursday’s Guardian on how the war on the faltering economy has put thoughts about the so called war on terror to the back of many peoples’ minds.

“The first thing I see every time I come to New York is something that is not there. That soaring absence of the twin towers on the skyline of Manhattan remains this city’s most haunting presence. A landmark of air. But the shadow cast by the absent twin towers is no longer the defining feature of world politics in the way that the shadow cast by the Berlin Wall was for nearly 30 years. Most people don’t any more feel that we live in a “war on terror” in the way that we did feel that we lived in a cold war. Not across the world. Not in America. Not even in New York.”

Sotomayor and being sleepless in Seattle

A combination of reverse jetlag and too many visits to Seattle’s many and varied coffeehouses has resulted in being glued to the late night news shows.  The consensus amongst the talking heads, even those on Fox’s far right broadcasts, is that the hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have been a straightforward proces, lacking any real controversy.

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Obama and race

The discussion about Barack Obama’s African heritage has obviously moved on from discussion about whether the USA was ready for a black President.  This week Obama shifted the debate onto discussion about how black America could write its own destiny.

This should provide a good point of discussion for students examining racial politics in the USA.

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Obama lacking leadership?

So claims one of the leading commentators on US politics in a recent column in Time Magazine.

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Obama and Africa

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

As if Barack Obama didn’t have enough on his plate as American President, he has taken time to forge a new direction in US foreign policy on Africa. Last week he made a bold speech where he argued that the continent could no longer apportion the blame on the effects of colonialism.

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Checking out?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What do a couple of the most powerful men in the world get up to at international summits?

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Who’s Roe in Roe v Wade?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

There’s a great feature on the woman who was at the centre in one of the most famous and controversial Supreme Court judgments in American history.  Quite how did this woman switch from being the poster girl of the pro-choice movement to fulfilling the same role for the anti-abortionists?  Those readers possessing the vaguest familiarity with American politics and society will not be shocked when they discover the answer.

Read the article here.

Obama and Russia

Monday, July 06, 2009

As if the 44th President didn’t have enough on his plate, he is expected to reset the relationship between the USA and Russia.  Rupert Cornwell brings you up to speed.

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Palin’s greatest hits

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why some people were concerned back in the autumn that this individual would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Palin for President?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate dropped a bizarre bombshell on the eve of Independence Day by announcing that she was stepping down as Alaksa’s governor.

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Can America get out of its economic crisis?

Friday, July 03, 2009

A twin set of stories from today’s Independent on America’s economic troubles.

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Obama and the magic of 60

This week we have been discussing the implications of the news that Al Franken will become the 60th Senator to vote with the Democrats.

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US foreign policy milestone

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today marks one of the most significant points in recent US history, and an event that has largely been overlooked due to the current economic crisis.

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US politics: pick of the UK papers

Monday, June 29, 2009

There were a number of great features on Obama’s successes and failures in yesterday’s paper.  Here are details.

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“Gay exorcism” in the USA

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For fans of the classic comedy series “The Day Today”, you may think that this is the work of another set of comedians of a similarly twisted disposition.

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Opposition is no laughing matter.  Or is it?

I have been holed up in various less than salubrious locations in London this week on examining duties, but light relief has been provided by a number of stories emanating from across the Atlantic.

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Book for the beach

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I picked up a copy of Justin Webb’s “Have a Nice Day” at the weekend, which lays out a forceful and intense case for what can be considered positives about the modern USA.

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Change to come in America?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I have come across a useful page on the BBC containing a series of short videos on the challenges facing Obama as President.

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US revision: comparing civil liberties

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone looking at synoptic questions about the ability of the UK and US political systems to uphold civil liberties may wish to consider this story.

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US revision: Obama’s health care reform

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In an echo of the MPs’ expenses scandal I have been swamped with requests by students about how reports about Obama’s health care plans can be rolled into US politics exam answers.

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Useful Obama links

I’ve put together a list of resources on President Obama.  This could be accessed by students or teachers for a host of purposes.

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US revision: Obama’s executive office

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It is well known that the executive office of the president (EOP or EXOP) is more important and powerful than the Cabinet.  What evidence is there of this being the case in the current administration?

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American starter: US quick quiz

Friday, June 12, 2009

A few quick questions to work on for students starting a US Politics course

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25 years behind bars for stealing a pizza?

This week our students have been given a general introduction to its people and politics.  During discussion I mentioned the use of three strikes laws in some US states.  As chance would have it there is a feature on this in this week’s Economist.

Useful for discussion of the use of direct democracy, how laws vary by state due to the federal structure, what such tough law and order measures might say about where we could place American parties on the political spectrum compared to UK parties.

The article is here.

American politics: summer reading

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book review: an entertaining insight into life in America’s heartland

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US revision: Obama and federalism

Monday, June 08, 2009

What is the new White House incumbent’s position on states’ rights?

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US revision: American Cabinet

Thursday, June 04, 2009

One of the modern features of American cabinets is its role in reaching out to the people and representing the diversity evident in the USA.  Here are some notes on Obama’s.

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Post AS: A2 American delivery

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Here are details of an idea about getting something interesting and productive done once students come back after the AS exams.  If you are one of the lucky institutions that doesn’t welcome back students after AS exams are over, then this could work equally well as a bit of summer homework.

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US Politics update: Supreme Court nominations

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How helpful of Barack Obama to nominate his first Supreme Court appointee and thereby dominating the US political news agenda at a time when so many students on this of the Atlantic are likely to be revising the topic for their exams.

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American Politics revision: separation of powers

Friday, May 22, 2009

Barack Obama’s worst defeat so far as President is a perfect illustration of the separation of powers and checks and balances in action.

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Is there an Obama doctrine?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By my calculation Obama’s 100 days will occur next Wednesday.  In the run up a number of publications are analysing his policies.  In today’s Independent Rupert Cornwell (arguably one of the most informed sources on US politics writing for a UK source) takes a lokk at his foreign policy.  Lots of useful content for students and teachers covering presidents and foreign policy for the summer.

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Obama and Cuba

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The possibility of the USA formally softening its stance with the Caribbean island raises some interesting questions in terms of international relations.

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More on guns

Self defence, anyone?
If your eyes glaze over when reading more about the intricate detail of Westminster sleaze, read this instead.  You don’t have to be a US Politics student to find America’s relationship with the gun fascinating.

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Paris, parties and partisanship

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Many students write that American parties are catch-all or umbrella organisations

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US elections revision

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I’ve come across this useful primer from the New York Times on the race for the presidency

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Reality strikes for Obama?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There is great briefing in this week’s Economist on the new President

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The West Wing way in

Monday, March 30, 2009

How one of this blogger’s favourite TV shows may help with revision

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The politics of nudge

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Professor Richard Thaler was on great form last night during his lecture at the LSE

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Obama: first and last

Saturday, March 21, 2009

President Obama’s appearance on the Jay Leno show did not quite turn out as he hoped.

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Obamawatch continues

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The US President’s powers are notoriously limited in the legislative sphere, so how does he get Congress to do his bidding?

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

There’s a short report in the Evening Standard tonight about Gordon Brown giving his stamp of authority to proposals the Labour Party is considering which are designed to usher in a new era of party politics.  With party membership in long term decline (although there has been a slight blip upwards for the Tories since David Cameron became leader) parties are considering new ways of connecting to supporters who may help out with campaigning.

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Larry Sabato

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I attended an absolutely excellent lecture last night by Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.

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Party renewal in the USA

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Students quite frequently write that American parties are loose groupings and largely free of coherent ideology.  But this analysis ignores the steep rise in partisanship evident in the USA in recent decades.

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Obama the politician?

Friday, February 13, 2009

I wrote in a previous article that an American politician once said that campaigns were in poetry and government was in prose.  This is a theme picked up in the Guardian:

‘You campaign in poetry, but you must govern in prose. That favoured phrase of New York’s former governor Mario Cuomo now applies with even more force to another progressive Democrat. Soaring rhetoric and a moving memoir combined to create the Barack Obama phenomenon and lift him from obscurity to the heights of the White House. Once installed, however, his main concern has been gritty negotiations over the minutiae of an economic recovery package. After protracted haggling, Congress has all but signed off on his fiscal stimulus plan, and yet the prosaic work remains far from complete.’

Read more of this neat editorial piece on the expectations gap here


Saturday, February 07, 2009

The presidency is usually the favoured topic for students of American Politics on the government of the USA module, so they would be well advised to follow in detail the path taken by Obama.  Many have questioned when Obama the prophet, the campaigner who has talked in grand themes, who would become Obama the president, bogged down in the dim realities of everyday politics.  An American politician once said that campigns are in poetry, government is in prose.  Never was this more true than in Obama’s case.

To keep up to date on a regular basis, students need to look no further than the Economist’s US section.

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First past the post

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, has been posted on the site. 

Given the importance of the recent American elections, there is a bit of a US slant, but there are great articles covering UK politics, the EU, UK issues, as well as political ideologies.

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Advice and consent

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I’m sure I won’t be the first to paraphrase Oscar Wilde in saying that Obama’s loss of one Cabinet nominee may be regarded as misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness.

Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, has withdrawn from the nomination to head Health and Human Services.  Daschle has apparently failed to pay $130,000 in taxes.  This comes weeks after Bill Richardson withdrew from the Commerce post.  What does this say about the administration that Obama is running?  It is probably to early to question the President’s ability to judge character given that Daschle, who is a multi-millionaire, had been guilty of at most making an error. 

Had Daschle not been due to play a key role in guiding through important healthcare reforms, then it is likely Daschle would have ridden the media storm.  For more on the withdrawal and the vetting process view an excellent transcript of an online interview with Larry Sabato in the Washington Post.

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Dealing with the Senate

Monday, February 02, 2009

This is a great time for American Politics students to be studying anything from the governing part of the course involving the separation of powers, checks and balances, the Presidency or Congress.

The United States is facing its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the American electorate expect one man to put it right: President Obama.

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An early own goal for Obama


An article provoking a lot of comment on the Guardian’s comment is free site is a feature by Gary Younge on President Obama’s attempt to woo congressional Republicans on the fiscal stimulus package.

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What now for the GOP?

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I have penned an article for the forthcoming of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, on the future of the Republican Party.  There has been, as is often the case when parties lose elections, some navel gazing going on at the heart of the GOP.  Essentially the party seems torn between deciding that it has been too conservative, while others believe it is not conservative enough.

In the short term the party seems determined to focus resolutely on tax cuts and government spending.  In my article I write that this alone will not be enough to restore the party’s credibility.  Anyway, an article by Paul Harris in today’s Observer picks up on some of the latest developments in the world of the GOP.

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Obama’s first weekly address

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On YouTubeimage

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Electing the president

Thursday, January 15, 2009


One might be inclined to think that after one of the most exciting elections in living memory, which ended with an historic outcome, that electoral reform campaigners in the USA would have lost heart.

Not so.  Check out the Presidential Elections Reform Program of the FairVote website, which carries a host of useful stuff on reform of the primaries and the electoral college—the latter is particularly helpful if you are trying to dress up what can be quite a dry topic.

US presure groups: revolving door

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have been doing some legwork for a forthcoming article for first past the post on campaign finance in the USA. Browsing the Open Secrets site I have been fascinated by their feature on the revolving door.

As the site states:

"Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers. While members of the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money."

On the site you can track movement between congressional and executive offices and lobbying firms.  The scale and degree of activity is quite staggering. 

This is an excellent site for consolidating knowledge on this much discussed, but often misunderstood phenomenon.  Note for instance, that lobby firms seek to attract those with agency/executive experience as well as congressional staffers, not just ex-congressmen.>

First past the post looks at the 2008 election

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital magazine, has just been posted on the website.


There a number of excellent articles in it on a host of topical areas: the UK police force, multiculturalism, the US Supreme Court, the impact of Boris Johnson as London Mayor, a comparative analysis of the representativeness of the UK and US legislatures, the effect of the economic downturn on UK political parties, and look at the ‘what ifs’ of the US election.

I have also written one looking at the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.  This topic will inevitably crop up on the American papers of whatever syllabus you are following in the upcoming months.

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How much is a Senate seat worth?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We had Michael Crick, Newsnight’s political editor, in school yesterday to speak to the Politics Society on ‘Could politicians ever be trusted?’.  One of the points made was that despite appearances to the contrary, British politics is pretty clean, and probably less corrupt than countries such as France, Germany, and the United States.


As if in support of his case, this report has come out of Illinois:

‘The governor of Illinois brazenly put up for sale his appointment of Barack Obama’s successor in the United States Senate.

In recorded conversations with advisers, the governor, Rod R. Blagojevich, seemed alternately boastful, flip and spiteful about the Senate choice, which he crassly likened at one point to that of a sports agent shopping around a free agent for the steepest price, a federal affidavit showed. At times, he even weighed aloud appointing himself to the job, the prosecutors said.’  Source: the New York Times

Obama’s Cabinet roundup

Monday, December 08, 2008


It’s getting to that time of year when this blogger starts looking for material for the end of term Politics quiz.  This year big prizes are on offer: Supreme Court gavel pencils, diaries, Obama stickers (yahoo!).  So I thought I’d do a quick scan to see who Obama’s latest Cabinet pickes were.

This page on the New York Times site does a good overview of the new - and potential - team.

It’s a shame that Arnie seems to have disappeared from the reckoning, but at least there is a ripple of excitement to be had in consdireing the exotically named Cassandra Quin Butts.

Friday focus

Friday, December 05, 2008


As chance would have it, all my A level groups are doing a mock today and our weekly Friday focus sessions will not take place.  But I thought I’d share a couple of articles that would make excellent discussion pieces on two of the most popular Politics topics. 

First up is an excellent feature on the impact Peter Mandelson has had on Gordon Brown’s premiership.  Students will be familiar about the debate on PM power and that it is more or less common knowledge that the PM is more intimate with some Ministers than others.  Scholars have variously referred to this phenomenon as a kitchen Cabinet, or spheres of influence.  The article in today’s Independent suggests that Peter Mandelson has penetrated Gordon Brown’s inner circle and he carries as much weight as either Alistair Darling or Ed Balls.  Interesting

Over in the Economist there is great piece on Barack Obama and race relations.  Racial inequality and the debate over measures used to try to overcome it always stimulate student interest.  The key thing is to develop an intelligent appreciation of arguments on both sides.  I think this article will help students in this respect.

Where now for the Republicans?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There was an excellent documentary at the weekend on the possibly declining influence of the religious right.  You can access for the next 29 days on Channel 4’s catch up site

I can’t find any way to download it permanently, so if there are any technophiles out there who know how…!

I have also included the first part here from YouTube

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Obama has a crush on Hillary?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hardly.  If he did, he would have chosen her as his running mate.  So why does he seem set to appoint her as the USA’s top diplomat, especially since most of the running in this courtship seems to be by the Clinton camp?

Andrew Sullivan (yes, I know I have been plugging his columns endlessly, but you really must appreciate their infinite beauty) comes up with a few ideas in today’s Sunday Times.  Read it hereimage

Is Europe too racist?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

As a follow up to an article in first past the post about the extent to which blacks have achieved political equality now that they have elected their first ever black president, I was going to do a further one about the self congratulatory state America has got itself in.  How many times have we heard that only in America can any child grow up believing that they could one day be in the White House?  Or that Britain could never have a black Prime Minister any time soon.

But Matt Frei, the BBC American correspondent, has done an excellent overview of the issues on the BBC blog.

Before going on to read it, I would ask readers to consider a couple of points.  First, Britain elected a female premier in 1979.  Second, how many African Americans will there be in the Senate after Obama is sworn in as president?

Read Frei’s article here   image

Great introductory article on the Chief of Staff

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It is unlikely that news that Rahm Emanuel has been chosen as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff has escaped the attention of blog readers.

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Schott’s presidential almanac

How many presidents were over 6ft tall?  Which have had their faces on bank notes?

Find out via this jpg file, which would make a handy wall display:


Obama speech in full

I can’t seem to find the victory speech by Obama in Grant Park in full on YouTube, but this is the link to the BBC version:

Obama Chicago

‘Free’ poster

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A quick heads up for students and teachers.  This weekend watch out for a US elections 2008 poster in the Independent on Sunday.  If recent graphics in the sister paper are anything to go by, the elections outcome map may contain a few statistical errors, but at least they are promising a picture portrait of the president elect on the other side.

“One triumphant example won’t solve the chronic failure of blacks”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So says Matthew Syed in The Times. 

With wall to wall coverage of the election results possibly weighing us all down, I thought I’d point out this excellent article on race and ethnic politics in the USA – it’s gone straight into my folder of teaching notes for the topic.

Get it here

Black and blue

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In an intelligent article, Gideon Rachman in the FT points out that Barack Obama will not only be the first ever black President if elected today, he will also be the first Democrat elected to the White House on nearly half a century that does not hail from a southern state.

He writes:

“We are on the brink of history. On Tuesday the US could elect its first ever blue president.

The fact that Barack Obama would also be the first black president has obscured the significance of his political colouring. If he wins, he will be the first northern, urban liberal to win the presidency since the culture wars broke out in the US in the 1960s.”

See the rest of the article here

Independent resources

The Independent today contains a feast of politics for students and teachers.

First off is their Great American Quiz  The same links takes you to the answers.  Teachers should be able to plunder this for many end of terms to come!

Some entertaining presidential trivia here

Why The Economist came out for Obama

Away from the US elections, here’s a good feature for UK issues coverage on the allegedly increasingly fluid nature of social mobility in the UK in the Big Question

Are you staying up for Obama?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

If you are planning on staying up till the wee hours on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning here is a guide to what to expect.

For what it’s worth, I suspect it will be a lot closer than many polls are predicting and that we won’t be confident of the final result until sunrise on Wednesday.

See the guide from The Times here

US elections programming: heads up

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday More 4 at 7.05pm The story of Barack Obama and John McCain

As America prepares to go to the polls this Tuesday in what many consider to one of the most historical presidential elections in decades, Jon Snow narrates The Choice , a one-off documentary special which presents the story of Barack Obama and John McCain, and asks what do these two very unlikely presidential contenders say about the state of America at this crux moment in time?

Then at 11:20 pm on the same channel, Dispatches: Jon Snow’s American Journey

As Obama and McCain’s gladiatorial showdown enters its final week, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow goes in search of the new America. Starting at the border with Mexico, Snow takes a road trip up the Pacific highway linking San Diego to Seattle, travelling though areas of great affluence, deprivation, innovation and tradition to find out about the new Americans, new economy and new directions that are shaping the next America.

On Channel 4 at 9.05 pm: Recount

Austin Powers director Jay Roach investigates the Florida voting scandal of 2000. Made-for-TV drama starring Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson

US elections: the electoral college

Thursday, October 30, 2008

As I write this it is 4 days and 17 hours until polling opens.  This is just enough time for readers new to American Politics to get their head round the way US voters elect their President.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

With 16 days until Election Day: A selection of campaign related news items from the week that wouldn’t necessarily warrant a post of their own but may still be of interest to political observers.

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The TV debates

Friday, October 17, 2008

A quick discussion about the presidential debates this morning revealed that students (a hat tip to Ben Winders here) thought that McCain seemed to spend more time attacking Obama rather than saying what he would do himself.  Now it turns out that “Joe the plumber” doesn’t even exist

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Colin Powell dancing to hip hop speculation

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The former Secretary of State danced with Olu Maintain, a Nigerian hip hop outfit and the news has been picked up by Fox News in the US that this signifies his intention to endorse Obama

The Young Turks show tackle this surreal notion

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Obama in the money

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whilst news of financial crisis intensifies, it appears that Barack Obama is bucking the trend and continues to smash fundraising records.  Here the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports

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Panorama: US elections

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A heads up on the Panorama programme covering the American presidential election on BBC1, Monday 13th October at 8.30pm.  From the BBC website:

‘Our reporter travels to two very different Americas - Obama’s political home in South Chicago, and the crucial battleground state of Ohio - to see how the different versions of America offered by the Obama-Biden team and the McCain-Palin team are playing out.

He examines the astonishing trajectory of Mr Obama’s political career, which has seen him go from his first public office to presidential candidate in just 12 years.

And he tries to find out who the real Barack Obama is:

Is he, as some in the programme say, a neophyte, with nothing on his CV which qualifies him for the role as president?

Is he a scheming careerist, whose choices of friends, mentors and even which church to attend all come down to climbing the political ladder?

Or is he the real deal and America’s best hope in a troubled time?

The programme also examines the way in which Mr Obama and his supporters have broken the political mould, recruiting new voters from parts of the electorate previously thought unreachable and smashing all fund-raising records.’

US elections: classic campaign ads

Friday, October 10, 2008

The current US presidential campaign is getting nastier by the minute, largely as a result of John McCain’s desperation.  He has been reported as being behind by double digits nationwide and also lagging in some key states.  His camp have flirted with linking Barack Obama to a radical soialist who committed bombings in the 1970s but haven’t made much of it.  This reminded me of the 1988 campaign when George Bush Sr launched an attack ad on his Democrat opponent, Michael Dukakis. 

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Down and dirty in Tennessee: the end of evolution?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

According to a top geneticist, Steve Jones at UCL, evolution is nearly over or has even stopped.  But over in the US, it appears that the candidates have actually regressed as the campaign has turned ugly

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Race for the White House: changing electoral landscape

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I have written an article for first past the post on the factors which may determine the outcome of the presidential election, and it should be out shortly.  Meanwhile I would draw your attention to details of an article which popped up in my email inbox this morning from the New York Times.  It covers news that the economy has had a huge impact on the contest.  It starts:

“The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states.”

The article also contains some great links to multimedia maps: a useful teaching resource if you are covering voting behaviour.

Read the rest here

Economist special report on the US elections

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Economist has published a 21 page analysis of the forthcoming ballot on the presidency. users can download a copy of the pdf from their website.  Print subscribers, of course, can look forward to receiving their copy soon.

The pdf link is here

Why did the bailout collapse?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Here is a great article on the fine detail of events in Congress this week, and is an excellent insight into who the main players are.

From the Washington Post here

Presidential debates: round one

Monday, September 29, 2008

What the papers said about the first contest between McCain and Obama

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Friday Focus

Friday, September 26, 2008

Links to a couple of Economist articles with some accompanying questions.  I used these today for my American Politics classes.  A useful exercise for understanding the US election

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The age card

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

With the first presidential debates nearly upon us, I wonder if any of the candidates will play the right card.  Watch this YouTube clip

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Tweedledum or Tweedledumber

Monday, September 22, 2008

Already a clear favourite has emerged for my Friday Focus US Politics lesson.  Andrew Sullivan is amongst my favourite commentators and he is on scintillating form in this week’s Sunday Times

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US elections: crisis, what crisis?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As Obama’s campaign went negative this week, the McCain camp continued to dominate the news cycle with a quick response to the news about economic meltdown

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Quality, not quantity

Monday, September 15, 2008

Students, as we all know, are busy people.  Here, this posting brings you a couple of the best articles in the UK press in recent days

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US politics documentary heads up

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday 9.00 pm BBC4 is showing ‘How to Be a Good President: Time Shift’.  The blurb from their website states:

‘In a whistle-stop tour through the history of the US presidency, journalist and author Jonathan Freedland asks what qualities make a great president and what we can learn from the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, JFK or even Richard Nixon about what it takes to make a mark in the White House.

Freedland is helped by distinguished contributors including James Naughtie, Shirley Williams, Douglas Hurd, Simon Hoggart and Bonnie Greer, who give frank assessments of some of America’s greatest presidents.’

A hat tip to Jack Barnes on this one.

A clip from the BBC of Nixon campaigning in 1972

Joe Sixpack

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In an election as close as this, character could prove decisive

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Focus on Friday - integrating wider reading into class

Sunday, September 07, 2008

In a previous posting I have written about how important it is for students to develop habits that will pay long term dividends in terms of extending their knowledge and understanding of British politics.  I have double periods scheduled with my Upper Sixths every Friday and they offer the ideal opportunity to include sessions similar to the ‘Media Monday’ ones I do with my Lower Sixth groups - ideally with a bit of YouTube thrown in

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The Democrats and race

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

One of the most challenging aspects of the US Politics course is the changing nature of support for the Democrats.  The journey from the Civil War through to the New Deal coalition, the solid south, and the civil rights backlash is a twisting and confusing journey for many students, but well worth the effort.  I have come across an excellent article in The Times which will help texture and variety to delivery of this part of the course. 

Here are a couple of nuggets on the old Democrats:

‘If you want to understand what is happening in this presidential election, start here: Governor Ross Barnett, who believed that God made men black to punish them and who came to court to shake the hand of the man who, in 1963, murdered the civil rights hero Medgar Evers - Democrat. Governor George Wallace, who stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from entering a “whites only” college - Democrat. Senator James Eastland, who dismissed the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi as a publicity stunt by African-Americans and who personally blocked more than 100 civil rights measures in the Senate - Democrat.’

Read the rest here

It’s the economy (again), stupid

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sixteen years after Bill Clinton’s chief election strategist, James Carville (nicknamed the ‘Ragin Cajun’), coined the phrase that defined the 1992 election, the 2008 contest promises to be dominated by debate about which candidate can most positively impact on voters’ pockets

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Comment on the Obama nomination

Saturday, August 30, 2008

With wall to wall coverage of the party conventions, the Politics blog may not need to bring you news of the latest on the US elections.

In case you missed it, John McCain chose Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin as his running mate.  See the New York Times report here.

And Barack Obama’s acceptance speech appears to have gone down well.

But I thought I’d bring your attention to some quality on the significance of the Obama nomination, each penned by historians.

Simon Schama writes in today’s Guardian, and Tristram Hunt comments in the Times.



US elections 2008: Economist keeps swinging

Friday, August 29, 2008

The latest state to be featured in the series running in The Economist on swing states 2008 is Missouri.  Partly for my future reference, I have created hyperlinks to all printer friendly editions of articles on states covered so far on my subject site on the school intranet.  I thought it might also be useful to post them here.  I find them fascinating since they provide so much rich detail not simply on the politics of the states but also the economy, culture, demography, and – sometimes – the religious characteristics of each state.

North Carolina
New Mexico and Nevada

Obama’s problem

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why the Democratic nominee is struggling in the polls

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US politics: lobbyists

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A great deal of media coverage will focus on the National Party Conventions for the Democrats and Republicans, and students should look out for examples of what role these summer events perform.  Do they give the candidates a bounce in the polls? Do they help to unify the parties?

But I thought I’d use this post to highlight a story I came across about the influence peddlers that are said to be such a corrupting force in US politics: lobbyists and corporations.

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US elections 2008: voting behaviour and race

Sunday, August 24, 2008

You must have been resident on the moon over the previous 48 hours not to have noted that Barack Obama has settled on Joe Biden as his choice of running mate.  See the video of the announcement here
But the focus of this posting is the issue of race.  Two words that every US Politics student will be wise to include in their essays on voting behaviour are ‘Bradley effect’.  I have found that Barack Obama’s race is something that black Americans have been far more willing to talk about than whites.  A number of articles in today’s papers look at the issue in depth.

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Running mate heading your way

Friday, August 22, 2008

By the time you read this you may already know who Barack Obama has chosen as his running mate - particularly if you are one of the many of his supporters to have received the news by text.  I don’t know why I have bought into the feverish speculation, since VPs don’t win elections.  Perhaps I should get a life.  Anyway, the hot money is still on Tim Kaine, but I have nailed my colours to the mast by backing Kathleen Sebelius.  Time will tell.

Matt Frei in America

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The BBC’s Washington correspondent has, he says, just returned from his extended summer break.  Coincidentally I have just finished reading his book Only in America.  In his online diary he turns his attention to the importance of that A level American Politics staple, the vice presidency.
This post considers Frei’s book and highlights his take on the veep’s office

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Veepweek madness

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A reporter for the Washington Post hit the nail on the head when they said that speculation about who the presidential running mates were going to be had reached the point of insanity.  Across the pond there is even fierce speculation about when the running mates will be announced

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US elections update: religion

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This week the two main contenders for the White House met for the first time as they both sought to appeal to the religious right

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Do the Democrats understand the South?

Monday, August 18, 2008

There is a fascinating interview with a Democrat party strategist in today’s Times.  Dave “Mudcat” (yes, really) Saunders argues that Barack Obama will lose heavily in the South and rural areas unless he tries to connect with redneck concerns.

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US elections: swift boat to swift kids?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whilst the US election gets more base by the minute, it’s unlikely to have reached its nadir.  A raft of anti-Obama books have been released recently, with echoes of the anti-Kerry moves in 2004.  But perhaps McCain was right when he said that you need to retain a sense of humour.  Obama better watch out that he isn’t swift kidded

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Hablas espanol?: the changing face of America

Friday, August 15, 2008

A new US Census Bureau report predicts that whites will be an ethnic minority by 2042.  This shift will undoubtedly have important political implications

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US election: ad war intensifies

The Economist this week features an article on the increasing importance of electronic media in election campaigns.

The latest in the White House air wars comes from Barack Obama

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Pick of the papers

Sunday, August 10, 2008

If you want to partake in something more satisfying than staring at pictures of the early rounds of the Olympics tiddlywinks, then you could browse through any of multiple Barack Obama articles in today’s papers

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US election: fancy a beer?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

If you have not been looking at the developments in the race for the White House in microscopic detail over the summer break, today’s Guardian news section contains a useful overview of the post primary campaign.  And there’s a bit of analysis from me in this post as well

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US elections focus

Friday, August 08, 2008

As I’ve said before on this blog, it is almost inevitable that all US A2 exams will carry a question or two on the 2008 race for the presidency, and for this reason alone students should keep abreast of the latest developments stateside.

But the race for the White House can also be fun to follow purely for the intrinsic benefits of learning more about the motivations of American voters.  Here I draw your attention to a twin set of articles in this week’s Economist

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Thin and nasty

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An aspect of the science of psephology I have hitherto been unfamiliar with is the salience attached to the body mass index of candidates.  But according to a report in today’s paper, Barack Obama might be too fit to appeal to an obese nation

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The importance of swinging

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New series of articles starts this week in the Economist focusing on the states that may detrmine the outcome of this year’s race for the White House

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Offensive?  Possibly.  Ludicras?  Most definitely

Friday, August 01, 2008

One of the features of the US campaign this year is the massive spread of internet based material - and exposure to it by voters - produced by individuals and teams seemingly completely independent of the candidate or party teams.  This song by rap artist Ludicras attacking McCain has kicked up a storm in America due to the extreme nature of the lyrics.  Even Obama has denounced its contents as ‘outrageously offensive’

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US election turns negative

As many pundits have predicted, the campaign has got personal as the two presidential candidates struggle to win support with their positions on the major issues

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John McCain’s ‘celeb’ ad

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barack Obama comes under fire in a new campaign commercial from his Republican opponent for being a celebrity rather than someone who is ‘ready to lead’

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The importance of the vice-presidency

Monday, July 28, 2008

Essential reading in the Times newspaper on the running mate and the office

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Democrat scandal: potential Obama VP nominee out of the running over alleged love child

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mainstream media organisations have picked up on a story the National Enquirer has been running for some months.  It is alleged that John Edwards, whose wife is dying of cancer, has a mistress and has fathered a love child

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Obama’s foreign mistake?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

When one of my students told me that Barack Obama was planning a foreign tour during the summer of election year I thought I’d misheard him.  American presidents rarely visit Europe, never mind presidential candidates.  But the exercise designed to make him look more presidential may prove to be a tactical error

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Running mate profiles

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Further to my posting about the possibility that McCain will release news of who his running mate is going to be, I have come across a great guide in the New York Times to potential running mates

Find it here

McCain’s Hispanic difficulty

Friday, July 18, 2008

Earlier this summer I wrote an article for tutor2u’s first past the post magazine entitled ‘Raw Hispanic Power?’ which spotlighted the potential role Hispanics could play in this year’s presidential contest. This week’s Economist contains a story which updates us on how John McCain and Barack Obama are doing in courting the Hispanic vote

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USA: a nation divided by wealth

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whilst scanning the Guardian site for updates on the American election I came across a couple of fascinating reports that I think will be of interest to those who want to understand what America is

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American politics update

Undoubtedly one of the best exercises to get into American politics is to watch the campaign for the election 2008 unfold

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American Politics “homework”

Monday, July 07, 2008

Following the US elections closely over the summer should be an exercise that will bear fruit for students of US Politics

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What are the Democrats for?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

There is an excellent review of Paul Krugman’s new book “The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America from the Right” by Eyal Press in the London Review of Books.

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The election (of) race

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Barack Obama’s race was a non-issue it seemed until about March time.  What role will it play in the election?

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Obama’s number two

Friday, June 06, 2008

A brief look at the main contenders for the VP spot on this year’s Democratic ticket - including this writer’s prediction

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Stimulus package

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Another video from the barely political gang

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Clinton claims victory

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Too late to make the morning papers is the story of Hillary’s important win in the Pennsylvania primary

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Pennsylvania or bust?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This week attention turns to the Keystone State, as the Democrats gear up for a potential showdown in the last big primary

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John He Is

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whatever Barack can do John McCain do better? Perhaps not!

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Yes We Can!

Here is the original Barack Obama promotional video on You Tube which has attracted so much attention

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