The BEST on the US ELECTIONS – A FIGHT SONG & SOME LAST THGTS — Les Miz Lives on… && Dallas Morning News Ex – Leubsdorf column & Juan Cole & THOMAS B. EDSALL and others.
From: Tex Harris <email@example.com>
Subject: The BEST on the US ELECTIONS – A FIGHT SONG & SOME LAST THGTS — Les Miz Lives on… && Dallas Morning News Ex – Leubsdorf column & Juan Cole & THOMAS B. EDSALL and others.
To: “Tex Harris – AFSA” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sunday, November 4, 2012, 8:11 PMGET INSIDE THESE US ELECTIONS>> fyi.. cheers Tex
Blog by Carl Leubsdorf — former Washington Bureau chief of The Dallas Morning NewsBoth Barack Obama and Mitt Romney say their candidacies in Tuesday’s election reject the past to provide a brighter future.More specifically, Romney rejects the course of the last four years, and Obama rejects a return to his predecessor’s policies. The president would essentially continue the path he has sought to follow in his first term, and his rival would pursue an economic approach resembling that of prior Republican administrations.But in a larger sense, Obama, his constituency and his basic philosophy embrace the country’s future, while Romney, his constituency and philosophy exemplify a return to its past.That statement is not meant to contend that one vision is innately superior to the other. But to an even greater degree than the 2008 contest, this election represents more than just a sharp difference in policies — rather a divide in which one side epitomizes a rapidly changing 21st century America, while the other resists that vision by invoking the thinking and images of the 20th.In a way, it’s hardly surprising that the nation’s first African-American president — who grew up partly abroad — reflects a country increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural. Likewise, he embraces the last half century’s enormous changes in social and sexual attitudes and seems more comfortable keeping government programs as a guarantor of domestic well-being while embracing international efforts dependent on accommodations with other, less powerful countries.His political support comes less from a diminishing white majority than from an increasing number of Hispanics, blacks and Asian Americans, less from the steadily smaller towns and rural areas and more from the increasingly more diverse urban and suburban areas. His support is weakest where anti-minority attitudes are strongest.By contrast, Romney represents — and openly yearns for — the simpler America of an earlier day. He and his party resist changing attitudes in social and sexual mores and seek a return to the day when Americans depended less on federal programs and pursued international leadership less reliant on other global players.His support is overwhelmingly white, in part due to Republican policies that have driven off millions of Hispanics, who represent the nation’s largest minority group. His base is most solid in those more homogenous, less populated towns and counties between the two coasts.Exemplifying this contrast is the fact that the last Democratic presidential battle involved an African-American man and a white woman and the president’s two most recent Supreme Court choices were women, one of them Hispanic. By contrast, the GOP’s last two presidential candidates — and its last two Supreme Court choices — were all white men.Four years ago, it appeared the country had turned decisively away from the America represented by John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. But Obama’s difficulties in overcoming the severe economic recession he inherited opened the way for a political comeback by that America, one that otherwise might have been unlikely.Whether that stems more from Obama’s policies, his politics or underlying economic factors, this election would surely have been less in doubt had Obama been more successful in restoring economic growth and reducing unemployment.By contrast, if the Republicans — and Romney in particular — had done more to build bridges to those expanding minorities, especially Hispanics, he might have been able to win even if the economy had rebounded more. George W. Bush’s more far-sighted advisers advised that course, and their advice remains valid today.This year’s conflicting circumstances mean that, with just days to go, either Obama or Romney can yet win. But given demographic trends, even a Republican success won’t change the fact that the GOP’s long-term future will increasingly depend on accommodating its positions and attitudes to an America far different from the one in which many of us — including Romney — grew up.
Click on the URL below and turn up the volume. Great Obama Campaign parody of Les Miz..
Paul Krugman Blog Post..
November 3, 2012, 4:15 pm 426 Comments
Reporting That Makes You Stupid
Today’s Financial Times bears a banner headline on p.1: “US election hangs on a knife edge”. Aside from everything else, surely this gets the cliche wrong: you rest on a knife edge, don’t you? If you try to hang on one, I think you just cut off your fingers.
More important, though, this headline deeply misleads readers about the state of the race — and in so doing, it echoes a lot of political reporting right now. Quite simply, many of the “analysis” articles being published in these final days leave readers worse informed than they were before reading.
As Nate Silver (who has lately attracted a remarkable amount of hate — welcome to my world, Nate!) clearly explains, state polling currently points overwhelmingly to an Obama victory. It’s possible that the polls are systematically biased — and this bias has to encompass almost all the polls, since even Rasmussen is now showing Ohio tied. So Romney might yet win. But a knife-edge this really isn’t, and any reporting suggesting that it is makes you stupider.
Worse yet, some reporting tells readers things the reporters have to know aren’t true. How many stories have you seen declaring that “both sides think they’re winning”? No, they don’t: the Romney campaign is visibly flailing, trying desperately to find new fronts on which to attack Obama. They clearly know that it will take a miracle — sorry, a last-minute surge — to prevail on Tuesday. It’s OK, I guess, to report campaign spin; but surely it’s not OK to report campaign spin as the truth, which is what these stories are doing.
Again, as Nate says, it’s definitely possible that the polls are systematically wrong. The obvious ways they could go wrong, cell phones and Latinos, favor Obama rather than Romney; but maybe pollsters are overcompensating for these factors, or maybe there’s a large Bradley effect distorting poll responses. Reporting about these possibilities would be interesting.
But reporting that suggests that this is a too-close-to-call race doesn’t get at any of this; it’s just lazy, and a disservice to readers.
Billionaires Going Rogue
- by THOMAS B. EDSALL
- Oct. 28, 2012
- Read Later
If there is one rule of thumb governing campaign finance regulation, or the lack thereof, it is that the consequences of any changes in the system are unpredictable.
In 2002, when Congress enacted the McCain-Feingold law barring large “soft money” contributions from corporations, unions and rich people to the political parties, many observers assumed that the Democrats would suffer more. The party had never fully cultivated a small donor base and had consistently been more dependent on mega-contributions than the Republican Party.
In less than two years, this assumption was proven wrong. First, in the 2004 election, small donors in droves gave their credit card numbers to the Democratic campaign of John Kerry, and Kerry was able to keep pace with George W. Bush, dollar for dollar. Four years later, the cash flow to Barack Obama swamped John McCain. The Internet, and with it the ability of campaigns to inexpensively reach millions of prospective donors, permanently transformed fundraising.
In 2010, campaign finance law was turned on its head. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and appeals court decisions such asSpeech Now v. F.E.C., opened the door to unlimited contributions to technically independent political action committees (super PACs) from corporations, unions and individuals.
The result has been a stupefying array of PACs, 501(c)4s and 501(c)6s that even professionals can barely keep track of. The future that Buckley v. Valeo set in motion almost 40 years ago has arrived, and the current multiplicity and multidirectionality of “reform” has overwhelmed both the people and the parties.
The virtually unanimous view throughout the course of four decades of revised regulation was that the Republican Party and its candidates would be the major beneficiaries, and, so far, that has been true.
The first chart, provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that outside spending tilted left in every year from 2000 to 2008, but that in 2010 — in the aftermath of deregulation — the balance skewed decisively to the right. In the current 2011-12 election cycle, it shifted overwhelmingly to the right:
The movement rightwards of almost half a billion dollars in this cycle alone — signified by the red bar on the graph representing Republican donations — is not, however, the pure gold that analysts on both sides expected.
While, the rapid growth of well-financed and autonomous competitors threatens all existing power structures, the bulk of the costs are likely to fall on the Republican Party. The right wing of the Republican Party has more disruptive potential than the left wing of the Democratic Party because it is more willing to go to extremes: see the billboards showing Obama bowing down before an Arab Sheik, or the ads and DVD claiming that Obama is the bastard son of the African American communist, Frank Marshall Davis.
There are, furthermore, structural and historical differences between the parties: the Republican Party and the conservative establishment is institutionally stronger than the Democratic Party, with an infrastructure that served as a bulwark through the 1960s and 70s – the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Olin Foundation, etc. — when Republicans appeared to be a permanent congressional minority. Its financial prowess enabled the party to enforce more discipline on its consultants and elected officials. The Republican establishment also exercises more authority over policy and candidate selection than does its Democratic counterpart.
In recent years, the Democratic Party organization has gained some strength and it plays a much more active role in campaigns at all levels than in the past, but as an institutional force capable of command and control, it remains light years behind the Republican Party.
Republicans, in contrast to Democrats, prefer hierarchical, well-ordered organizations, and are much more willing to cede authority to those in power. Democrats, despite the discipline of individual campaign efforts, tend more toward anarchy than hierarchy. Historically, one result of this partisan difference is that the Republican establishment has tightly managed candidate selection at the presidential level. With extraordinary consistency, the party has crushed insurgent candidates and selected the next in line. Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole, for example, both had to wait until it was their turn.
The Republican establishment has a full arsenal of weapons at its disposal, including endorsements, favored speaking engagements at key party gatherings, leverage over top consultants and a signaling process to show who has been anointed from on high.
The most powerful weapon of all was always the oversight exercised by party leaders over the flow of money to candidates. Every four years when the nomination process began, business leaders, Republican-leaning trade associations, top corporate law firms and investment bankers slowly formed a consensus behind a favored candidate.
The establishment snuffed out insurgencies, including candidates from the social right — Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer — and candidates from the economic right like Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes. None of these outsiders rose past marginal status, although their presence in primary contests often forced the mainstream candidate to make concessions that proved damaging in the general election.
Compare that history of unbroken authoritarian dominance to the 2012 Republican nomination fight.
Unleashed by Citizens United, a handful of renegade billionaires made life miserable for Mitt Romney, the establishment candidate. More importantly, it only took four men — Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas and Macao casino mogul; Harold Simmons, a Dallas-based leveraged buyout specialist; Foster Friess, a conservative Christian and a successful investor; and William Dore, a Louisiana energy company C.E.O. – to stun traditional party power brokers during the first four months of 2012.
The millions of dollars these men put into the super PACs associated with two clearly marginal candidates, Newt Gingrich and the former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, turned the primary process into an open contest, giving full voice to the more extreme wings dominated by the Tea Party and the evangelical right.
The newly empowered billionaires are positioned to challenge the Republican Party at its point of greatest vulnerability, during the primaries. The three major party organizations — the Republican National, Congressional and Senatorial Committees – cannot, except in unusual circumstances, intervene in primaries. Those are to be decided by voters, not the party.
The new class of financial bosses, equipped to legitimate primary candidates at all levels, has no such restriction over participation in primaries. Instead, the incentives are substantial to engage full force in the nomination process where the marginal value of each dollar is higher and more likely to influence the outcome than in the general election.
These new players, along with their super PACs, undermine the influence of the parties in another crucial way. Before Citizens United, the three major Republican Party committees exerted power because their financial preeminence gave them the final word on the award of contracts to pollsters, direct mail, voter contact, and media consultants – very few of whom were willing to alienate a key source of cash.
The ascendance of super PACs creates a separate and totally independent source of contracts for the community of political professionals. Super PACs and other independent groups already raise more than any of the political party committees and almost as much as either the Republican or Democratic Party committees raise in toto.
This chart shows the rapidity of the growth of independent spending:
CLICK TO ENLARGE
And this chart shows the amounts raised so far this year by the party committees:
Note: All the Numbers on this page are for the 2012 election cycle and based on Federal Election Commission data released on October 26, 2012.
Nathan Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School and a political scientist, made the point to me with a question: “Who is the Republican Party in the Citizens United age? If you had to point to the ‘Republican Party’ would you be more likely to point to Reince Preibus (and implicitly the R.N.C.) or Karl Rove (and Crossroads G.P.S.)? I think candidates might consider Rove more important.”
Preibus is the chairman of the R.N.C.; Karl Rove founded American Crossroads, a super PAC, and Crossroad GPS, a tax exempt independent expenditure organization that is not required to disclose donors. So far in the 2011-12 election cycle, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have spent $174.28 million, a sum two million dollars greater than the $172.2 million spent by the Republican Congressional and Senatorial Committees combined.
By now you may have the question in the back of your mind: who cares about the political parties? Aren’t they just agents of the status quo at a time when innovative thinking is needed? Maybe diminishing their role will help lessen polarization and open up the system?
There may be some truth to this and perhaps the benefits will outweigh the costs. Conversely, the diminishment of the parties means that the institutions with the single-minded goal of winning a majority will be weakened. When parties are influential, they can help keep some candidates and office holders from going off the ideological deep end. The emergence of independently financed super PACs give voice to those with the most extreme views. An ad like this is likely to alienate as many citizens as it motivates:
A billboard in Florida shows President Obama bowing to a Saudi king and blames him for soaring gasoline prices.
Predictions are notoriously dangerous, given the multitude of possible outcomes. If the parties are eviscerated, the political system could adjust itself and regain vitality. But I doubt it. For all their flaws, strong political parties are important to a healthy political system. The displacement of the parties by super rich men determined to flex their financial muscles is another giant step away from democracy.
Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book “The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics,” which was published earlier this year.
Lessons learned from 2012
Here are a few of the conclusions top tacticians are already drawing. | AP Photos
The 2012 election will be remembered by history for its smallness in a big, historic moment: The high drama of the first debate was a rare respite from months of petty rhetoric, egged on from start to finish by gobs of money from millionaires and billionaires.
But for top leaders and strategists in both parties, the race has yielded immediate, tangible lessons that will shape the nation’s politics in the months and years ahead, regardless of who wins on Tuesday. Here are a few of the conclusions top tacticians are already drawing:
The GOP has a big-time Senate problem
The presidential race sucks up all the attention and rightly so. But the rise of anti-establishment power is killing Republican chances of winning control of the Senate. In two consecutive elections, the party had a clear shot at a majority and blew it — blew it because the party bosses in Washington have lost control over nominating contests in swing states, and seem impotent in engineering the selection of the most electable candidates.
It’s mathematically possible for Republicans to pull out the majority – but it’s just as mathematically possible they don’t pick up a single seat. And a big reason has nothing to do with opportunity; it’s all about the candidates. Think about 2010: In Delaware, Republicans rejected a slam-dunk winner in former governor and Rep. Mike Castle for a candidate who bought an ad declaring she is not a witch. They nominated one of the few Republicans in Nevada who could not beat the wounded and unpopular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The reason was simple: The tea party activists didn’t give a hoot what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans thought about their nominees. They wanted ideological purists, not the same wishy-washy Republicans they blamed for runaway government, even under GOP control.
Now think about 2012. In Wisconsin, former Gov. Tommy Thompson might survive – narrowly, if he does. But the same forces that swept Gov. Scott Walker into office battered the once-popular Thompson in a brutal, expensive and damaging GOP primary. In Missouri and Indiana, two states that once seemed like sure-bet wins for Republicans, the party could now lose both because two old, white, Christian men thought it was fine to weigh in on why a raped woman need not have the legal right to an abortion. No one questions their faith or sincerity on the issue. But every Republican in Washington questions their political sanity.
Republican operatives tell POLITICO that after the election, top officials plan to enlist some of the influential outside groups representing conservative grassroots activists to see if they can help preempt the future selection of unelectable conservatives. The hitch: a lot of those groups couldn’t care less what the Wise Men of Washington want.
Democrats have a liberal problem
If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.
A broad mandate this is not.
The pressure on Obama to deliver for this liberal base will be powerful. Already, top left-wing groups are pressuring him not to buckle on a grand bargain that includes any entitlement cuts.
And if Obama wins, he will be dealing with a House Democratic caucus more liberal than he is. The past four years have decimated the once-strong bloc of conservative Southern Democrats, leaving behind a caucus more liberal than ever. By POLITICO’s count, there will likely be roughly 14 conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats in the next Congress, down from 50-plus only a few years ago.
Nancy Pelosi, who once predicted a possible Democratic takeover, is likely to find herself with small gains, if any. Pelosi might very well hang it up after the election and if she does, there will be a big fight for party leader and a big test of whether a liberal caucus will let itself be led by a moderate, Steny Hoyer, who has waited patiently for years to take over but who might very well find himself challenged by the dominant liberal wing.
The Senate races offer the perfect cautionary tale to this impulse. Democrats have a good shot in Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia and Indiana because they have moderate Democratic candidates and incumbents who often see the president — and the party back in Washington — as out of tune with a center-right country.
All white, mostly male won’t cut it
Even if Mitt Romney wins, the Republican Party has, at most, one more election it can compete in without addressing its gaping gap with Hispanics and women.
The demographic trends are brutal: With each passing election, the share of white voters shrinks, from 87 percent in 1992 to 83 percent in 1996 to 80 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2008 and likely smaller this time around.
Romney, if anything, set Republicans back in their efforts to win over Hispanics. His rhetoric during the primaries – foolishly aimed at putting him to the right of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the issue — was offensive to many Hispanics, especially first-generation voters. His absence of a plan for immigration reform until the bitter end did nothing to reverse the damage.
“If Romney loses,” said a top Republican operative, “it will be because he ran a 1992-style campaign that was aimed squarely at suburban white voters, while the president ran a campaign understanding the realities of a more diverse and far more polarized electorate. Demographic trends show we’re not far from Arizona becoming a swing state, and probably less than a generation away from Texas becoming a swing state.”
Republicans are in a box of their own making, after rejecting the advice of the George W. Bush crowd to find common ground on immigration reform. They desperately need a deal on this in the next four years so they can re-connect with a community that once was — and once again could be — open to an alliance on social and economic theology.
Obama, in seeking the endorsement of the editors of The Des Moines Register, made it clear how central the Latino vote is to his campaign. Speaking on a call that was later publicly released, he said: “[S]ince this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason … is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America.”
Republicans’ gender gap with women was renewed by the regrettable comments about rape by the party’s Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana. But Romney created some of his own problems with an antiquated view of women, in the view of some Republican critics.
GOP operatives said this problem is much easier to fix than the deficit with Hispanics, starting with less strident rhetoric and – most importantly – getting serious about nominating more female candidates. “We can turn this around as quickly as 2014,” said one longtime Republican strategist. For instance, the strategist said, GOP candidates should talk less about spending and debt as a financial issue, and more in terms of the next generation. “Romney is a technocrat, and that’s how he talks about these issues,” the strategist said. “It’s very male.”
For those who hate long campaigns, get over it.
The combination of increased early voting and unlimited money in politics means longer campaigns and earlier attacks.
The Obama campaign heavily front-loaded its advertising, seeking to undermine Romney’s biggest credential – his track record as a businessman and turnaround artist. Obama officials contend this was a gamble, because they were unsure that they would also be able to afford heavy media buys in September and October. It turned out that they could afford to do both.
“The early-definition strategy came from expecting that we were going to ultimately be outspent by a great deal,” an Obama adviser said. “If we were going to get this contrast drawn, and the lines of the narrative drawn, we figured that money spent in May, June, and July was going to be a lot more effective in getting that across to people, than waiting until September and October, when the debates and the conventions were dominating things.”
There’s nothing novel about defining an opponent before he or she defines themselves – but there is something novel about having essentially unlimited money to play hard earlier and late, and in between. Both parties now know they have that, at least until the courts step in and change the fundraising rules.
Precision matters, too
Win or lose, the Obama strategy in Ohio will be a case study in the politics of precision for years to come. They told us one year ago they would go nasty and narrow and could care less if people found the approach cold and calculating.
They pounded Romney early on his Bain record, to raise serious doubts about his job-creating credentials. And then they started dropping the auto-bailout bomb early, consistently and relentlessly.
They spent the vast majority of their resources targeting specific groups, but especially working-class whites in Ohio who benefited directly or indirectly from the auto bailout. As one top Obama official marveled, no one could have imagined when the president bailed out the auto industry it would not only work – but potentially win him the election.
Polls show Obama running even with working-class whites in Ohio – as much as 30 points higher than he is running in other swing states where the auto bailout is not the central focus of the campaign.
In a 50-50 nation, with technology making politics more precise by the year, this kind of micro-targeting is the new norm.
Romney has scrambled in the end to undo the auto-bailout damage.
Romney campaign sources tell us Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was chosen as Romney’s sparring partner for mock debates and became a close and trusted adviser, argued for weeks that the campaign should take on the issue in Ohio, pointing out that Romney had proposed an alternative plan. Top Romney officials refused, insisting that voters focused on that issue had already been lost. But Portman argued many of them were working-class voters who were concerned about the direction of the country, and that Romney should at least try to make the issue a wash with them.
It’s Hillary 2016
No name benefited more from the 2012 race than the Clintons.
This was the year the long, anguished restoration of Bill Clinton was officially complete. Obama went from tolerating Bill to wanting and ultimately needing him. It was Bill, not Barack, who stole the show at the Democratic convention, and it was Bill, not Barack, who starred in one of the most popular ads of the campaign season highlighting his convention speech. Bill Clinton went from feeling frozen out to feeling loved and essential, his friends say.
But this isn’t about Bill — it’s about Hillary. The Secretary of State claims she won’t run in 2016, but those closest to her don’t buy it. And given that the favorable rating for each Clinton is in the 60-plus range, she might stroll into the Democratic nomination in 2016 if she wants it. Hillary Clinton will leave State soon, write a memoir and speak for a fee industry experts predict will exceed what George W. Bush gets on the circuit. The trick will be to stay prominent and central for the next four years without public office. But that never seems hard for the Clintons.
Ryan more powerful than ever (but for how long?)
Paul Ryan has already been told that if Romney wins, he will take the lead in the upcoming budget fights, which will be in his wheelhouse — spending, taxes and entitlements. He was put on the ticket for the sole purpose of using clout and credibility with House conservatives to help navigate the war over the fiscal cliff, and the budget battles ahead. During the grand bargain talks of the past year, Speaker John Boehner would run every detail of the proposed plan by Ryan to get his blessing before sending any private signals to the president. The reason was simple: Even before he was the running mate, Ryan controlled more votes on budget matters than the leader of his own party.
If Romney loses, Ryan will take the fight from the campaign trail back to the House, where Boehner had made clear that Ryan could get a waiver from the six-year limit on chairmanships to run the Budget Committee again. That would make it Ryan v. Obama on the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling and entitlement reform. Some Republicans close to Boehner worry that if Ryan did return, he would be so focused on 2016 that he would be inclined to kill any deal that takes his central interest and calling card off the table. One top Republican told us that if Ryan sticks around, the chances of a grand bargain would be lower.
There is a chance that Ryan would leave the House to make money and perhaps teach, setting the stage for a 2016 presidential run of his own. He clearly enjoyed the national stage, and showed a natural ease on the stump. But he also showed his limitations, especially on foreign policy and other issues outside his comfort zone.
Ryan v. Rubio, 2016
If Romney loses, Ryan won’t be the only young conservative instantly getting talked up as the future of the party. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — age 41, son of Cuban immigrants who became naturalized citizens, and increasingly referred to by his groupies as the party’s greatest communicator since Ronald Reagan – has a biography and aura tailor-made to mitigate Republicans’ demographic dilemmas. When he talks about Medicare, he invokes his mom. When he brings up immigration, he starts by reminding audiences that these are human beings, often seeking a better life for their families.
“Marco has the gift to open ears,” said a top Republican consultant. “He’s the kind of Republican who can break through to a cynical electorate.” Imagine if Rubio’s Florida goes Republican and Ryan’s Wisconsin does not.
Either way, Republicans walked away from the GOP convention wishing Rubio had a bigger role in it – and in the 2012 election. Republicans close to Rubio said it’s virtually certain he will make an unambiguous play to lead the party heading in 2016 if Romney-Ryan fall short. Until then, remember McConnell is up for reelection in 2014 and is likely certain to want Rubio’s blessing for cutting any major deals, especially on a grand bargain.
After the Campaign: What We Know
As the political campaigns finally wind down, there is much we don’t know, including who the presidential winner will be.
However, there is much that we do know as this campaign ends. .
Here are some of the things we do know, not necessarily in order of importance:
1. Campaign spending is outrageously out of control. There are estimates that $1 billion could be spent for each of the major party presidential candidates. The combined expenditures of super PACs, shadow money organizations, and party committees surpassed $1 billion. Total campaign spending nationally for all campaigns will be in the $6 billion range.
2. The presidential campaigning, including primaries and pre-primaries, goes on far too long. We have completed two baseball world series while this campaign season has been underway. The permanent campaign has become even more permanent.
3. We need a better balance between campaigning and governance. The country becomes consumed by the spectacle of campaigns and not enough attention is given to setting policies and running the government
4. Battleground states get all the attention. President Obama has not visited Arkansas during his presidency, making it one of the “excluded eight” states. If any of “excluded eight” were highly competitive, then Obama would most certainly have visited, but these are states where Romney is expected to win easily. Romney has pursued a similar strategy, focusing on states where he is competitive. He did visit Arkansas for a few hours for a high-dollar fund-raiser with no public appearances.
5. “Binders full of women” and Big Bird may have symbolic significance but hardly rank as major issues at a time when the economy and the deficit are prime concerns.
6. Gaffes can be telling, but we sometimes give more attention to gaffes than to misinformed positions of candidates. Much worse and more frequent than gaffes are outright distortions in campaign rhetoric and advertising.
7. Contrary to what many experts said beforehand, the 2012 campaign proved that debates can have a definite impact on public opinion.
8. Unexpected developments – a hurricane, an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a video tape of off-the-cuff remarks – can affect the political climate.
9. Over-simplified assertions on foreign policy based much more on what the audience wants to hear rather than the realities of international relations are too readily accepted. Speaking honestly about America’s problems and limitations shouldn’t be taboo.
10. After lots of tough talk and criticism of Obama on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc., Romney seems to have acknowledged that there is little appetite for foreign military adventures. In that third debate he seemed to morph from a hawk to a dove right before our eyes.
11. Speaking of “tough,” we heard much about getting “tough” with China and accusations that the opposing candidate was “soft” on China. Although China is a convenient scapegoat, rhetoric is cheap and unraveling the extensive connections between our two economies would be costly
12. Sideshows get far too much attention, a good example being sideshow barker Donald Trump. Likewise, we hear far too much from conspiracy theorists, attention seekers, and badly misguided self-righteous souls, a discouraging number of whom seem to be serving as party spokesmen or are running for state legislatures or Congress. We should treat them like those nuts who make fools of themselves running onto football or baseball fields to gain attention. Years ago, decisions were made not to show these idiots on TV and perhaps we could do the same with some of the political nuts.
13. “Bailout” is not a bad word in some places.
14. Not enough attention is paid to congressional elections in the national media. Regardless of who is elected president, he will probably have to contend with a divided congress. The House Republican caucus and Speaker Boehner will remain key players in showdowns over tax and spending cuts.
15. Arguing about the past may have political benefits, but it is the future that needs attention.
16. Hypocrisy in politics is not hard to find.
17. Negative political advertising is not going to disappear even though most people say they don’t like it. Ads that ignore or distort facts are plentiful.
18. We need more pragmatism and less dogmatism in politics and government.
19. Religious and racial prejudice are, sadly, still factors in our society, but not too long ago a presidential race between a Mormon and an African American would have been unthinkable.
Hoyt Purvis is a journalism and international relations professor.
Politics Nov 3 2012, 11:01 PM ET
Blog by James Fallows – THE ATLANTIC..
Nobody knows what’s going to happen on Tuesday. (11pm Saturday update: But watching a completely-losing-his-voice Bill Clinton do a barnburner in his intro for Barack Obama in Virginia, I’m seeing an episode of Democratic “momentum.”) (And nice line in return from Obama just now: “The only Clinton workin’ harder than him is our Secretary of State.”)
But let’s do a thought experiment and assume that current probabilities hold. That would mean that Barack Obama is re-elected; the Romney-Ryan ticket is defeated; and even as the Republicans begin assessing their promising next tier of Christie-Rubio-Jindal-maybe Ryan-maybe Jeb-Bush candidates for 2016, they confront two discouraging realities. One is not having been able to beat a marginally popular president during a time of widespread economic distress. The other is seeing several big demographic blocs — Latinos, blacks, women — moving away from them.
What then? We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but as a distraction here are several messages from readers. First, from someone in the aviation world:
Presuming Mr. Obama does indeed win, I think the more interesting question is what will the Republican party do to regroup?…
The question in my mind is “is this the end of the Karl Rove Party?” He pioneered the strategy of shifting the party right to get an energized “base,” also shifting it toward the new Know-Nothings they’ve become. [JF note: Rove and GWB also were careful to try to include Latinos as part of a new GOP big tent. That worked for them in Texas but has not lasted with their Tea Party-era, Tancredo-toned successors, which could prove one of the party’s lasting vulnerabilities.]
It hasn’t won. Laura Ingraham’s “if the GOP can’t beat Obama with this economy, shut it down” strikes me as unintentionally prophetic. The economy is now improving, Obama will never run again, and demographic trends are certainly against the current Republican message. What will the Republicans do?
The existence of the Tea Party faction makes this a nasty problem — any attempt by Republicans to pivot toward the mainstream will cost them factional challenges, perhaps third-party rightist candidates on the ballot.
Extending the last argument, a reader in Pennsylvania writes:
I can’t pretend to know what motivates folks like Karl Rove, but I can say with certainty, as a Democratic committeeperson here in suburban Philly, that one thing that does motivate the Democratic ground game here in Pennsylvania is the sense that an Obama victory and some key US Senate victories for Democrats could lead to the splitting apart of the Republican Party, with a possible 3rd Party movement on the right getting legs.
As Democrats we see that possible development as an obvious opening for us to pick up more Democratic victories down ballot in the next two or three elections here in PA and also in some red states. This “long term” perspective is a very tangible motivator as we all participate in GOTV efforts here in PA over the next 3 days.
On a final note, in the midst of all the challenges facing America right now, any long drawn out effort to delegitimize Obama victory through Congress, in particular, will, in my humble opinion, only benefit Democrats in the mid-terms.
And from a reader in California:
As we come down to the wire, I sticking with my premise/intuition that 1972 will repeat in 2012.
The only doubt is whether the Dems can regain enough seats to take the house. [JF note: I am chary of predictions, but this seems very unlikely to me.] Otherwise, Obama wins well and the Senate holds, and gains a few, like Elizabeth Warren. [JF: pickups, like Warren over Brown, seem plausible at this point; net Democratic gains in the Senate a much longer shot.]
From all that I’ve read, the moderate middle (i.e. that which is not counted as the base) will mostly go to Obama. That may not include older white men, but women and minorities will more than make up for them. This despite Republican efforts to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible by jiggering state voting rules.
It’s not that I have some special knowledge that others don’t. But I’ve voted in every election but one since 1968, and what stands out strongly in my memory are what I call, for lack of better term, the extremist years, when one party leaned far much in one direction, which for the moderate middle was too far away from them.
Obviously, and unendurably, the “who looks good for the 2016 race???” speculation will rev up before we have even recovered from this cycle. I am explicitly not trying to get into next-candidate thinking on either side. But the next identity of the Republican party is what a lot of people will be wrestling with, no matter how things go in three days. (And now, back to checking out that Virginia rally.)
Political Polling Is No Longer Meaningful
Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama at a town hall style presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times) The truth is that we have no idea who is ahead in the presidential race. Opinion polling has entered uncharted territory as response rates have plummeted.
When you receive an unexpected call from a private number or 1-800 number, do you answer the phone? Most people don’t, and those who do are hardly a representative sample of the American population. Yet the results of all major political polls are based on the assumption that the 9 percent of us who answer the phone are perfectly representative of the 91 percent who don’t.
According to a report from the Pew Research Center, only about 9 percent of Americans answer the phone and respond to opinion polls. When response rates fall this low, polls tell us less about public opinion than about who answers the phone.
It gets worse. Do Democratic and Republican voters have, on average, the same numbers of phones? If Republicans have more phones than Democrats, they’re more likely to be represented in telephone polls (and, of course, vice versa).
To read more articles by Salvatore Babones and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.
Pew is a first-class nonprofit research organization that puts a premium on getting the numbers right. Most major political polls are quick-response jobs for impatient commercial organizations. Pew’s 9 percent response rate is likely better than that of any major political poll. No major political poll reports its non-response rate.
[PEW LAST POLL WAS OBAMA 50% AND ROMNEY 475]
The Politico/George Washington University poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group publishes 329 pages of detailed poll results without a single mention of non-response. The Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted by Abt SRBI provides somewhat less detail and still no mention of non-response. There’s also no mention of response rates in the detailed results released by the Public Policy Polling poll.
Other polls do no better. The Reuters poll conducted by polling firm IPSOS makes no mention of non-response, nor does the UPI poll conducted by CVoter. To its credit, at least Gallup acknowledges in its (literally) small print that “practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.” It gives no further explanation of the potential for non-response biases.
Many of these polls, including the Rasmussen poll, use – no kidding – computerized robo-callers to poll potential voters. That’s right. Many of the poll numbers you see quoted in the news are based on data collected by robo-callers.
The truth is that we have no idea who is ahead in the presidential race. Opinion polling has entered uncharted territory. In just the last 15 years, Pew’s response rates have dropped from 36 percent to 9 percent. Rumors are that commercial political polls sometimes have response rates that are less than 1 percent. The fact that no major political poll reports its response rate is not reassuring.
We’ve been here before. In 1936, the Literary Digest poll tipped Republican Alf Landon to win a landslide victory over Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. With 2.4 million respondents (compared to 1,200 for a typical poll today), the poll had essentially zero margin of error. Nonetheless, the poll was dead wrong, because its 2.4 million respondents were not a truly random sample of the US population.
A decade later, polling was much better developed, and the 1948 elections were covered by professional polling companies. National polls confidently predicted that Republican Thomas Dewey would handily defeat Democrat Harry Truman. In one of the most famous photos of the 20th century, Truman is seen holding aloft a newspaper bearing the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The problem: bad sampling, again.
In 2012, we’re right back where we were in 1936. In 1936, the problem with telephone polls was that Republicans were much more likely to have a phone than Democrats.
In 2012, it may be that Republicans have more phones than Democrats, or are more likely to answer the phone than Democrats. It beggars belief to suggest, as the polls do, that half of all Americans in 2012 are going to vote for a multimillionaire private equity executive for president. Either way, we’ll know next week.
Or maybe we won’t.
The only polls that have consistently high response rates are exit polls. These are the polls conducted outside voting stations immediately after people have voted. Exit polls are the gold standard of political polling.
The Washington Post has reported that the major news networks plan to cut back dramatically on exit polling in 2012. This is a problem because with many states moving to paper-free electronic voting, exit polls are the only way to detect errors and fraud. Without a paper trail and with no solid polling, there will be no way to know that the results reported by private voting machine operators are in fact correct.
Although not designed to catch errors and fraud, exit polls are well-suited to this purpose, as Jonathan Simon points out on BuzzFlash. Victoria Collier writes in Truthout that a lack of exit polls opens the door to vote-rigging, especially in an environment in which most voting technology companies are owned and operated by partisan (Republican) firms.
In a scenario eerily reminiscent of Jeb Bush’s role in delivering Florida to his brother in the 2000 election, it turns out that the Romney family are major investors in one of the nation’s leading voting-machine companies. Ownership is not itself evidence of an intention to commit fraud, but Republican domination of the voting-machine industrycombined with Republican advocacy of electronic voting certainly gives solid grounds for suspicion.
Exit polling provided strong statistical evidence of electronic vote fraud in Ohio that delivered the 2004 election to George Bush. Without strong exit polling, fraud (or even honest errors) will be impossible to detect in the future. Telephone polls just aren’t robust enough to provide a check on the integrity of our voting systems.
The lack of effective political polling is more than just a problem for political junkies in need of their daily news fixes. It skews our knowledge of the political process and ultimately undermines the confidence we can have in American democracy. Whether or not anyone has ever committed large-scale electronic vote fraud, if we don’t have the tools to detect it, eventually someone will.
Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s strategy worked
by Ezra Klein
I’ve spent the morning reading various endorsements of Mitt Romney for president, and they all say the same thing: Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s strategy worked.
(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
Okay, that’s not quite how they put it. But it’s precisely what they show. In endorsement after endorsement, the basic argument is that President Obama hasn’t been able to persuade House or Senate Republicans to work with him. If Obama is reelected, it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue to refuse to work with him. So vote Romney!
That’s not even a slight exaggeration. Take the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest and most influential paper. They endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008. But this year, they endorsed Romney.
Why? In the end, they said, it came down to a simple test. “Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.”
The paper goes on to note that “early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed.” The problem, they say, is that “since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened.” I’m not sure that’s an accurate read of the situation — Obama spent most of 2011 negotiating with John Boehner — but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that’s how the Register sees it, and it stands in contrast with Romney, who “succeeded as governor in Massachusetts where he faced Democratic majorities in the legislature.”
The Orlando Sentinel also endorsed Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012, and their reasoning is similar to the Register’s. “The next president is likely to be dealing with a Congress where at least one, if not both, chambers are controlled by Republicans,” they write. “It verges on magical thinking to expect Obama to get different results in the next four years.”
In the New York Times, David Brooks’s endorsement is titled “The Upside of Opportunism.” The opportunism he’s endorsing is Romney’s. But the opportunism that led to his endorsement is the House Republicans’.
Predicting a second Obama term, Brooks begins with the fiscal cliff. “Obama would first go to Republicans in the Senate and say, ‘Look, we’re stuck with each other. Let’s cut a deal for the sake of the country.’ He would easily find 10 Republican senators willing to go along with a version of a Grand Bargain. Then Obama would go to the House. He’d ask Eric Cantor, the majority leader, if there were votes for such a deal. The answer would probably be no.”
Romney, Brooks says, would also begin his term by heading to Congress and asking members of the other party for cooperation on a fiscal deal. The difference between him and Obama, Brooks thinks, is that Romney would get that cooperation. So vote Romney.
There’s nothing wrong with the logic of these endorsements. Congressional Republicans really have been implacably opposed to working with Obama and that’s meant Obama hasn’t been able to get much done since Boehner was sworn in as speaker. At times, it’s been even worse than gridlock. The Sentinel notes that “with Obama in charge, the federal government came perilously close to a default last year.”
It was, of course, the Republicans who pushed the country to the brink — Obama would’ve signed a clean debt-ceiling increase at any moment, and he ended up making more concessions than any president in history to sign the final debt-ceiling increase — but it’s true that congressional Republicans wouldn’t have done that if a Republican was occupying the White House. So vote Romney.
Obama ran for president promising to break the gridlock and overcome the partisanship that paralyzes Washington. But it wasn’t up to him. The minority won’t cooperate with the majority unless they see it’s in their interests. And the Republican minority didn’t see it that way.
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Mitch McConnell said. “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, head of the National Republican Campaign Committee.
These endorsements are proving Republicans right. As they show, the Republican strategy to deny the president any cooperation and make his Washington a depressing and dysfunctional place has done Obama enormous political damage. In that way, the endorsements get the situation backwards.
While it’s true that President Romney could expect more cooperation from congressional Republicans, in the long term, a vote against Obama on these grounds is a vote for more of this kind of gridlock. Politicians do what wins them elections. If this strategy wins Republicans the election, they’ll employ it next time they face a Democratic president, too, and congressional Democrats will use it against the next Republicans. Rewarding the minority for doing everything in their power to make the majority fail sets up disastrous incentives for the political system.
There are good reasons to endorse Mitt Romney for president. But if you want the political system to work more smoothly, endorsing McConnell and Boehner’s strategy over the last four years is folly.
Still Waiting for the Narrator in Chief
Presidents generally don’t like to admit mistakes, so it was interesting when Barack Obama owned up to one during an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS last summer. It was the job of the president, Obama said, to “tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism,” and it was on this score that he had fallen short. Conservatives gleefully mocked the president, saying that the country needed jobs more than it needed stories, and the remark did seem to hint at some genuine denial. After 40-plus months of high unemployment, a president who thinks his mistakes rest not in his policy choices but rather in his ability to articulate them is probably telling himself a story, if no one else.
And yet Obama’s admission resonated with his supporters, who can be forgiven for wondering why he hasn’t been better at promoting what is, by any standard, an impressive series of accomplishments. (As the comedian Chris Rock tweeted recently: “Only Pres Obama could prevent a depression, end a war, get bin Laden, bring unemployment below 8 percent, then be told he can’t run on his record.”) In books and speeches before he became president, Obama showed himself to be an evocative storyteller; even the controversy over his memoir, in which Obama condensed some characters into one, says something about his narrative sophistication, his novelistic instinct for developing themes and characters that make his point.
All of which makes it even more baffling that Obama’s presidential alter-ego, this grayer and more somber version of his literary self, spent the past four years immersed in legislative minutiae and marching out dull slogans — “an economy built to last,” “winning the future” and so on — while failing to advance any larger theory of the moment confronting the country and what it required. “They haven’t talked about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and move us forward from where we’ve been,” says Don Baer, who served as President Clinton’s communications director and now runs the public relations giant Burson-Marsteller. “It’s been random and unconnected.” David Gergen, who advised four presidents on communications, likens the larger story of an administration to a clothesline. “You adopt your clothesline, and then you hang all your policies from it,” he told me. “They’re missing the clothesline.”
If Obama somehow manages to lose an election that seemed well within his grasp a few months ago, this question of how he squandered his narrative mojo will pain Democrats for years to come. As with so much else about this presidency, the answers can probably be traced back to those first overwhelming months after the 2008 election. Remember that John McCain’s most effective line of attack against Obama during the campaign was that he was more of a motivational speaker than a leader. And so, having won the election and facing crises on several fronts, the president’s advisers were understandably wary of too much speechifying, which might have underscored the idea that Obama was going to orate his way through the presidency while leaving the business of governing to others. As a result, Obama spent much of his first months — the period when he might have been speaking directly to an anxious public, much as Franklin Roosevelt did in a less technological age — holed up with aides and members of Congress, rather than pushing any kind of overarching narrative.
Remember, too, that Obama and Joe Biden were the first president and vice president to be elected directly from the Senate since 1960, and most of the senior aides they brought with them came from Capitol Hill. This had real consequences. Congressional aides know a lot about how to slap around their opponents, but because they’re always either taking direction from a president or trying to thwart one, they think very little about how to build support for a governing agenda. A classic case here was the controversial stimulus measure passed in the early days of Obama’s presidency; the White House and its allies skillfully managed to win approval for nearly $800 billion in aid to states, long-term investment and tax cuts, but they gave almost no thought to whether the public understood the differences between these categories of spending or the economic reasoning behind them.
THE QUESTION IS NOT “WHO WINS?”; BUT, “CAN THE WINNER GOVERN?”