Posted by Erik W on Feb 3, 2008 3:11 PM
Start by turning off the TV. The speeches are carefully calculated in every state just to make everyone happy, and the debates are a joke. Thinking of going to a political debate by the student organizations on campus? Just grab the pizza and leave before the politically uninformed start shouting at each other.
So what do you do? I'll start with this statement: Actions and money speak louder than words.
Look at their past voting records.
With the dropping out of Giuliani, all the major candidates are or were either a Senator, Representative, or Governor.
If a candidate was or is in Congress, tracking their voting history is easy to do. GovTrack and Open Congress both take the raw data from the library of congress and sort, organize, and compile bill and voting information: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Ron Paul.
As for governors, it's a little more difficult. Every state government is run differently, and they have different requirements for storing and presenting voting and veto information. The folks over at the Open House Project compiled a list of states with easily accessible information... or links where to find it. Unfortunately neither Massachusetts (Mitt Romney) or Arkansas (Mike Huckabee) have good web sites. You'll have to search for a topic you're interested in, then see what bills the former governors vetoed or signed.
This can be a lot of work, but also very rewarding. If you don't have the time, and trust a 3rd party to compile this data without bias, you can visit websites like Vote Smart Project and On the Issues.
Something to consider while going through this data is the date an individual voted on a piece of legislation: Do you want a candidate that adjusts his votes based on what the public want? based on new information? Then just look at recent voting data. Or do you want a candidate that stays by his convictions, no matter what public opinion says? Compare their voting history from when they started their position to today.
See where the money is coming from.
The website that is considered the end-all of contribution trackers is Open Secrets. They break down the top industries, sectors, and individuals contributing to each candidate. Start by clicking on one of the candidates on the above page to get to their summary page, then click on the appropriate link under "2008 Campaign Profile" on the left side.
So start clicking around and learn something about the candidates. I wanted to leave this a neutral post, so I'm not going to give any examples where voting history or campaign contributions directly contradict statements given in the debates... but look for such a post in the coming months!