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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Edited By Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Introduction: An alieNATION of the U.S. Electorate: The Divide and Conquer Election of 2012




On the evening of November 6, 2012, just as Fox News awarded the state of Ohio, and the presidential election, to President Barack Obama, Republican strategist Karl Rove voiced his adamant disagreement with the call, asserting in a rather belligerent manner, “I think this is premature … we need to be careful about calling things when we have a … a quarter of the vote yet to count. I’d be very cautious about intruding in this process” (Weinger, 2012, para. 4). Rove’s rejection of Fox News’ prediction that Obama would be re-elected prompted Fox election co-anchor Megyn Kelly to walk through the studio with live camera in tow where she found two members of the Fox “decision team” and had them defend their projection: “We are actually quite comfortable with the call in Ohio. The largest thing that’s outstanding right now is the Cleveland area, is Cuyahoga … This is Democratic territory and we’re quite comfortable with the idea that Obama will carry Ohio” (Weinger, 2012, para. 11). Still, back at the Fox anchor desk, a doubting Rove continued to dispute the call—even as Fox’s on-screen graphic read “Barack Obama Re-elected President”—prompting election co-anchor Chris Wallace to instruct viewers, “Well, folks, so … maybe not so fast?” (Weinger, 2012, para. 6).

Meanwhile, in the presidential suite at Boston’s Westin hotel, Mitt Romney was huddled with top advisers, his wife Ann, their five sons and assorted family...

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