Spotlight Exclusives

An Insider Look: Poverty and Opportunity in the Presidential Campaigns

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Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, Spotlight and the wider anti-poverty community worked to lift up the reality facing low-income Americans. Through efforts such as #TalkPoverty on Twitter and requests for campaign statements, many pushed for a greater focus by the candidates on the issues of poverty and opportunity.


This week, Spotlight is excited to introduce two exclusive interviews with the Obama and Romney campaign policy directors. In these interviews, Obama policy director James Kvaal and Romney policy director Lanhee Chen weigh in on all aspects of how poverty figured in the race, and where the debate is headed as we move into the second Obama term.


Their insights were many and varied:


·         On the role of poverty in the campaign, Chen noted that “one of the crucial questions animating the election was which candidate would better provide for economic opportunity. Ultimately we saw the mandate to fight poverty through the lens of how to create opportunity for more Americans, grow the middle class and how to bring people from poverty to a working wage and eventually to the middle class. We felt those were important questions to address.”


·         On the policies around poverty and opportunity advocated in the campaign, Kvaal said “the questions of expanding access to early childhood education, improving the quality of those programs, reforming elementary and secondary schools, strengthening the teaching profession, making colleges more affordable, tying community college training programs to employers۪ needsall of those things are very important to the future of the middle class and also create opportunities for people currently living below the poverty line. And that۪s true for housing, child care, consumer protection, and many other issues. At the same time, we also need to make special efforts to include struggling families and communities.”


Speaking to how poverty could have played a bigger role in the campaign, Kvaal noted, “To be honest, I do think that the full difference in the vision between the two candidates was underappreciated,” while Chen stated, “I think we could have done a better job at articulating our belief structure in the importance of promoting a strong and healthy economyhow that would have helped people like the chronically unemployed or the chronically poor as well as those who fell into poverty.”


These excerpts, from part one of a two-part series, can be found in their entirety here. Stay tuned next week for the second half of this exclusive interview series.


UPDATE: Check out part two of the interviews, now posted here.

Posted by Sarah

Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or


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