Canadian perspective on the U.S. election

With the U.S. election race too hard to call, who will be best for Canada when the chips finally fall?

With the U.S. election race too hard to call, who will be best for Canada when the chips finally fall?

For sure, President Barack Obama has found the past four years a tough row to hoe. Jobs, the economy, and the debt plague his administration. But given the mess he inherited from the Bush reign, no one should have expected a one-size-fits-all quick fix.

The Democrats know too well, perhaps to their peril, the effects of the grindingly slow economic recovery with the national debt weighing in at $16 trillion. This is all delicious stuff for the Republicans who have made jobs and the economy a central part of their platform to get Americans to vote Mitt Romney for President.

On the up side, the Obama administration has passed health care reform, a stimulus act and reformed Wall Street to tighten those light fingers. The war in Iraq ended, as did the life of Osama Bin Laden, and Obama set about improving America’s image abroad which had been royally battered during the Bush years.

As Prime Minister Harper pointed out when Obama was elected, “The United States remains Canada’s most important ally, closest friend and largest trading partner.”  But that was before the sticky issue of the Keystone XL pipeline debacle when Obama threw the deferment factor into the mix, forcing Harper to re-think markets for our oil. That led to our own debacle of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and shipping bitumen to Asian markets.

Pondering who is better for Canada, reporter Basil Waugh with UBC Reports enlisted political scientists Richard Johnston and Paul Quirk for their take on the campaign so far.

“The race is very close, but it might not matter,” said both Johnston and Quirk. “The best polls available put Barack Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by two to four percent. But this slim margin is enough that the best forecaster in the U.S. – Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog – currently puts Obama’s likelihood of re-election at 75 per cent. This is because there are so few undecided voters.”

Granted, the UBC interview was done before the first Presidential Debate a few weeks ago and we all know where that ended. Romney came out swinging while Obama totally off his game. With that nasty wake-up call, Obama got his act together for round two last week. He made enough of a showing that he joked about it at the Alfred Smith Memorial Dinner, a ritual political fundraiser during election campaigns when candidates take time out for some lighthearted comedic one-liners.

“Some of you may have noticed I had a lot more energy in our second debate,” said Obama. “I felt really rested after the nice, long nap I had in the first debate.”

Johnston thinks this election could have really mixed results with Obama winning the presidency, the Republicans winning the House and the Senate up for grabs. With votes inconclusive, the political system could remain divided with neither side getting what it wants. It’s like Canadians voting in a minority government. Each side holds the other’s feet to the fire but as for forward movement, forget it.

Canadians, Quirk said, generally prefer the social policies of the Democrats. “But the Republicans, who are better on energy and trade, would actually likely be better for Canada economically.”

The next president, though, has got to fix the U.S. economy and nail that break-over point when the debt’s coming down and employment numbers are going up. And that’ll be good for both countries.

So, to paraphrase Mitt Romney’s one-liner and in the spirit of Sesame Street, this editorial is brought to you by the letter O and the number 16 trillion.

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