Changing U.S. Electorate
Demographics have played nearly as large a role in this year’s presidential race as health care, war and the economy. The Democratic field has come down to an African American man dominating voting among blacks, the young and highly-educated voters and a white woman winning older voters, Hispanics and the white working class. Regardless of whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is the nominee, the Democratic candidate’s first order of business will be reuniting party supporters against Republican John McCain. Many trends favor Democrats, including increased support among Latinos and voters under 30. But states that have supported George W. Bush are gaining in population and will gain electoral votes by 2012. As the American electorate changes shape, the big question is which party stands to gain the most.
By Alan Greenblatt
The U.S. and the "New" Russia
When Russian voters elected a new president on March 2, the outcome was hardly in doubt. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, 42, is both genuinely popular and had the backing of the incumbent, Vladimir Putin. The Bush administration is hoping Medvedev will improve current U.S.-Russian tension. In 2001, Bush said he looked Putin in the eye and saw a man who was "straightforward and honest." But it was downhill from there. Relations between Washington and the Kremlin got steadily worse after Iraq, with some experts warning that further worsening could lead to a new Cold War. The contours of U.S.-Russian differences have emerged in disagreements over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, in diplomatic stand-offs over Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia (Russian neighbors who want to join NATO), in disputes over gas and oil pipelines and above all in the Bush administration’s plan to put an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe. Caught in the middle as usual is Europe, the historic battlefield of Russian expansionism. French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed the general concern — increasingly reflected in the polls — that "Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by playing its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality."
By Roland Flamini
Campaign Finance Reform
As the 2008 presidential contest approaches, the campaign-finance system is in upheaval. Six years after Congress passed the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act to help curb the influence of unregulated "soft" money in politics, the so-called McCain-Feingold law is facing court challenges and persistent claims that it infringes on free-speech rights. Meanwhile, the system of public funding for federal campaigns is teetering, and Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama is poised to be the first major-party presidential candidate to bypass it in a general election. The Federal Election Commission, charged with enforcing the nation’s campaign-finance laws, has been paralyzed because of partisan bickering. And spurred partly by the effects of McCain-Feingold and the shortcomings of the public-financing system, candidates have been turning more and more to small donors, who are responding in unprecedented ways.
By Thomas J. Billitteri