Tom Periello was a distinguished key speaker of the conference organized by Patriotism and Progress Public Policy Foundation on 13th June 2012. Mr Periello, besides having been the youngest member ever elected to the US Congress between 2008 and 2010, is now the Chairman of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He was asked by the chairman of the conference, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Balázs to share his views and experience on three topics, namely the US presidential campaign, the anticipated results and the foreseen US foreign policy, all of which then were discussed.
Mr Periello emphasized that above all, several issues are at stake, only part of which bear truly political nature i.e. deciding on the composition of the Supreme Court and gaining the majority of seats in both the Senate and the Congress in the elections. The other aspect is rather ideological and bearing in mind the high level of volatility in both domestic and foreign policies the latter one may have the greatest impact on the final outcome. Regarding the upcoming problems in the yet unforeseen future, the voters might only support the policy to which they attribute the capability of providing the right answers and solutions to a possibly emerging crisis. The third aspect is that the elections will also determine which of the two main but completely different policy lines will have the decisive power to carry out the financial and structural reforms at the end of the year with an estimated cost of about 4-5000 trillion USD.
Since issues about the economy are traditionally considered to be one of the most important campaign topics by the American voters it is foreseen to provide a challenging battlefield for the two presidential candidates. While the republicans insist on supporting the large corporations and investors as a way out of the crisis the democrats aim to ease the burdens on the middle class an the poor. The possible budget related decisions in the House of Representatives before the elections might heavily influence their final outcome. Mr. Periello noted that in the past months there seem to have been a change in recent tendencies and after a long period of unpopularity, greater number of voters have turned again towards Mr. Obama. Meanwhile the traditional white, middle class republican core voters still show reservations towards Mr. Romney who being a new candidate has not yet been convincing enough for them.
In addition to this the support from female voters again seem to lean towards the Democratic Party. Mr. Obama still appears to be more popular than his rival among the young voters under 30 but while their willingness to vote is still more significant than we have been used to, it may not reach the record level of 2012. The indigenous people who represent a significant number in several states and the Latin Americans are also expected to tilt towards the Democratic Party.
Addressing the issue of gay marriage the lecturer explained that while Obama had explicitly argued for the moral basis of the institution, Romney had expressed his opposition detouring strictly to political level.
Concerning the prospects for the ’Occopy’ movement that has recently gained sigificance Mr. Perriello underlined that its foundations were attributed rather to social than political level.
As for foreign policy Mr. Perriello was rather hesitant about predicting its possible direction in the future. Nevertheless he noted that while Mr. Romney said he would not back unnecessary budgetary expanditures, he would certainly double the spendings on defense in case he should be elected.
Regarding the expected odds Mr. Perriello explained that an intense and exciting campaign is foreseen in a changing socio-economic environment and it might have unexpected surprises. Considering the financial issues of the campaign he called the attention to the foreseen and profound increase of corporate donations adding that it is very likely that Mr. Romney will recieve a significantly higher sum than Mr. Obama. Furthermore the attitude of the donors have also been changing, in particular the ideology based one is going to be replaced by a more pragmatic business like approach in sponsorship. Overall considering the chances Mr. Romney is currently ahead, but the recent increase of Mr. Obama’s popularity keeps the Democratic candidate in competition according to the lecturer. The passion and activity of his voters may form a counterweight against the broader financial base of the Republicans. A crucial factor will also be to gain the support of the dissatisfied voters, who live under precarious conditions, especially in sensitive and divisive issues. However, the campaign is now in its initial phase and in the meantime it is very likely that new, uneforeseen issues will arise that might influence the final outcome greatly.