Everything to play for



23 October 2012


The Glover Cottages, 124 Kent Street, Sydney

With less than a month to go before the United States presidential election, the result is anybody’s guess. Until the first presidential television debate early this month the election looked like Obama’s to lose.

But Mitt Romney’s commanding performance in that debate created a surge of enthusiasm for the challenger, coupled with a feeling that Obama’s repetitive and sometimes long-winded statements had been over-rehearsed in the days of preparation he’d spent in Las Vegas before flying to Denver.

The Republicans campaign chiefs are trying not to get too excited, and are playing down the momentum. Unemployment in America has fallen again, and that should help the president. But there is no doubt that Romney – by accident or design – has timed his run at the right time.

His party has millions more dollars to spend on television and billboard advertising in the final days of the campaign than the Democrats, and he has plenty of ‘shock-jocks’ on his side, none of them witless enough to make remarks so crass as to cause Romney embarrassment.

But, as The Economist newspaper has pointed out, whatever happens on November 6 America will emerge from this election an extremely divided country. Nearly two in three whites will vote for Romney; and four out of five non-whites will votes for Obama. There is a widening ideological divide, that makes the gap between Australian Labor and the Coalition seem puny.

Whoever wins will have to confront America’s record debt levels, an increasingly unstable Middle East, the economic challenge from Asia, and problems in Latin America, ranging from drug lords in Mexico to intransigent leaders like the newly-elected Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Plus, a feeling in the United States that the country is losing its power to win friends and influence people.

The Australian Institute of International Affairs NSW assembled a well-qualified panel to discuss the prospects for the US presidential election.


  • Tom Switzer
    Tom Switzer
    Presenter, ABC Radio National

    Tom Switzer was a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre until March 2017. He is a presenter on the ABC’s Radio National and a columnist at Fairfax publications.

  • Professor Brendon O'Connor
    Professor Brendon O'Connor
    Professor of US Politics and US Foreign Relations, United States Studies Centre (jointly appointed with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney)

    Brendon O'Connor is a Professor of US Politics and US Foreign Relations. He is jointly appointed between the United States Studies Centre and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (in the Discipline of Government and International Relations) at the University of Sydney. He is the editor of seven books on anti-Americanism and has also published articles and books on American welfare policy, presidential politics, US foreign policy, and Australian-American relations.

  • Jonathan Tasini

    Jonathan Tasini has been writing, lecturing and blogging about the American political and economic landscape for more than 25 years. He has worked in electoral and legislative campaigns and is himself a two-time candidate for Congress (the Senate in 2006 and the House in 2010). He has written extensively on...