Archive for category Mitt Romney

Mitt in 2016?

mitt2016

The buzz is out there.  Mitt Romney is reportedly signaling to the GOP donor base that if he doesn’t face a difficult primary season and is, in a sense, anointed, he would consider running for President again in 2016.  Publicly he claims there is no way he would run, and I would be very surprised if he did.  Yet, is it possible?

A Romney run could only happen if Republican party (read: the main power brokers and donors) agree that they see Mitt as the best chance to unite the party and beat presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  There is a logic to that.   The Republicans will have a better shot if there is no bloody primary battle for the nomination.   Not only will there be more money in the campaign coffers for the fall, but a united party should fare better than a divided one.

Richard Nixon was the last Presidential loser to come back and win - and that was almost 50 years ago!

Richard Nixon was the last Presidential loser to come back and win – and that was almost 50 years ago!

Of course, the biggest argument against Mitt is that he’s a proven loser in the Presidential sweepstakes.   It’s a rare Presidential candidate that goes from being a loser to a winner.   Richard Nixon did it in 1968, but that was eight years after his loss.   Of course, Romney’s likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, lost a high stakes primary battle.  But that’s not the same – and that was in 2008.

Would conservatives accept Romney?   He was always seen by some as too northeastern or moderate.   If he were the candidate, they would – but I’d expect them not to forego having a true conservative run in the primaries.   While people like Cruz, Rubio, and Walker are probably un-electable, the tea party believes that somehow there is a secret conservative majority in the US that would come out and vote them into office.  Of course, they also believe Obama should be impeached (eyes rolling).

Things like Romneycare still evoke distrust amongst conservatives, so he'd need to early on choose a conservative running mate.

Things like Romneycare still evoke distrust among conservatives, so he’d need to early on choose a conservative running mate.

One way Romney could deflect conservative opposition is agree early to a tea party friendly VP candidate.   That would scare a lot of people (heartbeat away from the Presidency), but historically the VP choice has not been a game changer.   Only John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin seemed to actually hurt his chances, but that was less due to her views than the fact she proved herself not ready for prime time.

Romney would need to find someone who he could respect and trust – not a Cruz, perhaps Rubio (who has been a bit more careful about being too extreme) or maybe Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan (an interesting repeat performance), or Susanna Martinez.   Choosing a woman would be helpful to his cause, especially if he runs against Hillary.   There doesn’t seem to be an obvious black running mate in the GOP ready for the role, though neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson got a lot of conservative attention when he spoke at the 2013 prayer breakfast in proximity to President Obama.

Carson is smart and acceptable to conservatives, but as a non-politician he says stupid things, like "Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America since slavery."

Carson is smart and acceptable to conservatives, but as a non-politician he says stupid things, like “Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America since slavery.”

Carson was not over the top extreme, but some of his comments (e.g., seeming to compare bestiality with homosexuality) could come back to haunt him.   More damaging is his lack of political experience – would he have the discipline and ambition to run a national campaign?   Yet he is intelligent, black, and conservative – the right would love to embrace someone who is brilliant but does not believe in evolution.   Most arguments against evolution are inane and batty – but that’s mainly because of the people making those arguments.   Dr. Carson can make a cogent and intelligent argument for conservative positions usually seen as anti-rational.

Still, he’s a long shot, as is a Mitt reboot.  The only reason the possibility can be considered is that the GOP is fearful of a neophyte tea party type hijacking the primary process, yet worried about turning off conservatives already irked by Thad Cochran’s victory.  Mitt developed support among the right in the 2012 campaign and he might be the Republican’s best shot to have a chance in 2016.    Not likely, but….

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Why Obama Must Not Negotiate

obama

House Republicans are miffed that the President refuses to negotiate with them about the government shut down.   “He’s willing to talk with Iran, why not us,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bemoaned.   Yet the truth of the matter is that there is nothing to negotiate.  For the good of the political process, for the sake of future Presidents Republican and Democratic, and for the country, the President must remain resolute.

The Republicans are trying to gut or delay the Affordable Care Act, and using a threat to shut down the government as a means of doing so.  That is, a group of people do not like a law that was passed a few years ago, and are threatening the entire country’s economy and well being in order to try to stop that law.   That’s not how you do it.

In a Democratic Republic, if you don’t like a law you make the case to the public.   You get your people elected, and then you change or rescind the law.   You do it through a constitutional process whereby the House and Senate vote, confer, and then pass a bill.  The President can sign or veto it.  Congress can override the veto if they have the votes.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a key component of Romney's failed Presidential bid

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a key component of Romney’s failed Presidential bid

In this case, the 2012 election had Obamacare as a main component of the campaign.   Candidate Romney vowed to rescind or at least dramatically alter the act if elected, the President vowed to maintain it.   The votes were counted and the President won by a large margin.  The Democrats gained seats in the Senate.   And though Republicans took the majority in the House, more votes for the House went to Democrats than Republicans.

If it becomes possible for a minority to get their way and undercut laws simply by threatening to shut down the government, a horrible precedent will be set.   Rather than letting the democratic process operate, dangerous and destructive games of chicken will become common place.   Today it may be the GOP and the Affordable Care Act, but sometime in the future the Democrats might threaten to do the same to stop changes in Social Security.

It’s even worse than that.   If the Speaker of the House allowed a free vote on conscience, the government shutdown would be averted.  A number of Republicans disagree with the extremist approach being taken.  But they are being silenced by a large minority, which has not only stymied the legislative process, but put the world economy at risk.

Whatever one’s view on Obamacare, there should be agreement that blackmail and threats to the very fabric of our country are not the way to oppose it.   A case in point: on October 1, the first day that exchanges were up to sell insurance for Obamacare, lots of glitches and problems arose.  The GOP could use that in their favor to argue against Obamacare.  Instead those stories were under the radar as everyone focused on the shutdown.

I’m not saying the glitches are truly a reason to oppose Obamacare, only that the GOP should be focusing on substance to make their case before the 2014 election rather than playing Russian roulette with the economy and the jobs of nearly a million federal workers.

Every parent learns that giving into bad behavior means it will become more frequent

Every parent learns that giving into bad behavior means it will become more frequent

Today is a gorgeous day in Maine, and one of the most beautiful parks in the US, Acadia National Park, is closed thanks to the fact Congress can’t do its job.   When a young child wants to watch TV and a parent says no, often the child throws a tantrum.   If the parent gives in, then the child learns that tantrums work, and will more frequently and more vigor go ballistic to get his way.  If the parent holds firm and there are negative consequences for the tantrum, the child soon learns that tantrums don’t work and it’s better to follow the rules.

The tea party wing of the GOP is throwing a collective tantrum.  To give in would assure that shutdowns, crises and other threats to our stability become more frequent – the tactic will have worked.   The President cannot let that happen.

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Pragmatists vs. Jihadists in the GOP

No new taxes!

No new taxes!

The Republican party is congratulating itself for following through with the sequester and avoiding any new taxes — this time in the form of closing tax loopholes which most Republicans once favored — but the continuing crisis risks putting the country into a double dip recession while the American system appears dysfunctional.

The GOP wants to blame Obama for “not leading.”   That’s false.  We have a divided system of government and the President has never been able to lead Congress.   The President can and has over the decades negotiated with Congress, made compromises, and cut deals, but divided government means checks and balances.   When it works, extremes are avoided and pragmatic compromise is reached.   When it fails, gridlock ensues.

So what next?

The Republicans are internally divided, as everyone knows.    But that’s nothing new, in a two party system there will be vast divisions as a matter of course.     Usually parties gravitate to the center, where most voters are.   This isn’t happening with the Republicans, at least not yet.

The pragmatists want to move towards the center and relegate the “tea party” wing of the party to the sidelines.  They think the core problem for the GOP is that the far right has had too much a say over GOP policies and made compromise seem a bad word.    Symbolic is the way the far right torpedoed the effort by President Bush and John McCain to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in 2007.    If they had passed that, voting patterns today might be much more friendly to the Republicans.

The most insipid slogan from the far right is that “compromise is a violation of principle.”   To pragmatists, strict adherence to “principle” is mindless; context matters and compromise is a virtue.  They hope to attract candidates that are moderate, reasonable, likable and able to get things done.

The jihadists don’t want to compromise.   Bring on the sequester!   Hell, many wanted the US to default on our debt and would be happy to shut down the government.   Ted Cruz of Texas acts like a little McCarthy calling people “communist” (note to tea party:  calling people communist ceased to mean anything after the end of the Cold War).    Believing they represent what America “should be” they are waging a holy war to save the country.   They are convinced global warming is a fraud – and due to cherry picking of dubious claims some actually believe that evidence is on their side!  Some on this wing of the GOP wants to simply burn everything.   They’re holy warriors!

Though it appears that while the jihadists hold the House Republican caucus hostage for a moment, the pragmatists are gaining the upper hand, especially after the unexpected defeats of 2012.   Democrats gained in the Senate, kept the Presidency despite economic difficulties, and though the GOP held the house, Democrats got more votes overall.   But the pragmatists need to change too – they need to learn how to connect with all voters.

Blaming everyone but themselves, the Romneys show what's wrong with the GOP

Blaming everyone but themselves, the Romneys show what’s wrong with the GOP

The core problem of the Republican party was on display in the recent interview by Mitt and Ann Romney with Fox News.   While most of the time Romney was gracious and reasonable, when they talked about their defeat it was clear they don’t get it.   Mitt claimed that Obama appealed to minorities because of Obamacare — get it, that “minorities want free stuff, the government is bribing them” line.   That disdain and disrespect for a large chunk of Americans — the core of the 47% quote — is a mindset that destroys the GOP brand.    They want to think they are virtuous hard working self-reliant Americans while those Democrats and minorities are lazy moochers who want a handout.   That is not only wrong, it’s so idiotic that it borders on the delusional.

Of course, Ann wasn’t much better, blaming the media, acting as if it were self-evident that her husband was right for the job.  If anything their interview showed why the country dodged a bullet by not electing him – and how the GOP blame game prevents them from confronting real problems within their message and policy preferences.   And Romney is one of the pragmatists!

Obama must help the Republicans save themselves

Obama must help the Republicans save themselves

In an ideal world the Democrats would be coming to the debate demanding tax increases while trying to defend so-called entitlements and aid to those already suffering the most.    The Republicans would counter demanding spending cuts and deep entitlement reform.

After a process of negotiation the result would be a compromise.   Entitlement reform and spending cuts that piss off the left wing of the Democratic party alongside tax increases that piss off the right wing of the Republican party.   The idealists would be trumped by the pragmatists on both sides, that’s how our system is supposed to work.

But that won’t happen.   The jihadists have hijacked the Republican party and they won’t compromise.  It’s all spending cuts and deep entitlement reform or nothing.   And of course, with a demand like that they’ll get nothing.   The deficit will grow faster than if they compromised, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

So President Obama needs to make them an offer they can’t refuse.   He needs to offer them real cuts through a restructuring of programs that brings about significant savings, in exchange for a mix of tax reform to increase revenue and investments to have our economy competitive for the new century.

The President should be specific.   He should expect but not fear criticism from his own left flank.   He should tell the American people “these are the cuts and reforms the Republicans want, and we’re willing to compromise and give them that, but they won’t take yes for an answer because they’re protecting tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy fat cats.  They care more about protecting the rich than cutting the deficit and reforming wasteful programs.”

At that point, Republican pragmatists will realize that this is the best they can possibly achieve and will be good for the country.   They will be able to undermine the jihadists.    Without a compromise,  it becomes the big campaign issue of 2014.   To tea partiers thinking 2014 will be another 2010, think again.  The Democrats learned their lesson, they’re already targeting districts for a ground game more like a Presidential year than an off year election.

After all, if the GOP can’t compromise at all, well, all the President has is the bully pulpit and the powers of the executive branch.    Expect him to use both.

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No election rigging, please!

If electoral votes were awarded by district

If electoral votes were awarded by district

Many Republicans, including RNC Chair Reince Priebus, think that it would be a good idea to change the way we award electoral college votes.  A state is allocated electoral votes based on the number of Representatives and Senators they have.   So Maine, with two Congresspeople and two Senators, gets four votes.   In most states whoever wins the state gets all of that state’s electoral votes.

Republicans would like to change that to award electoral votes by district, which is currently the practice in Maine and Nebraska.   So in Maine one vote goes to the winner of the first district, and one to the winner of the second.   The final two go to whoever wins the most popular votes in the state.

However, there is a dark side to this idea.   While Maine and Nebraska choose their system in a bi-partisan manner, without one party wanting to use a change in rules to rig the election in their favor,  plans now are pushed only by the GOP with the specific goal of trying to improve their chance to win the Presidency, even if they lose the popular vote.

The real 2012 results

The real 2012 results

Simply, the purpose is to undermine the democratic will of the people so one party can get and hold on to power regardless of whether or not they have popular support.  That is the kind of plot one expects to see in third world states rather than a country that claims to be the world’s greatest democracy.

As the maps above shows, even though President Obama easily won the popular vote by a four point margin, with a hefty 332 electoral votes, awarding them by district would have given Mitt Romney the Presidency.   Democratic districts tend to be urban and overwhelmingly Democratic – sometimes over 90%, some precincts get no Republican votes!    Republican districts in the suburbs and rural areas have a significant number of Democrats, rarely below 30%.

Another problem has been gerrymandering.   That’s when the party in power redraws the districts with the intent of using district boundaries to make it easier for their party to win.     Consider: the Democrats got far more votes for their candidates for the House of Representatives than did the Republicans.   But the GOP easily maintained their majority of seats.

Virigina's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell nixed the plan - for now.

Virigina’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell nixed the plan – for now.

Virginia was the first state to seriously consider changing how it awards electoral votes after the 2012 election.   The Republican party there hatched a plan to not only award electoral votes by district, but to give the two extra votes each state has (based on two Senators) to the person who won the most districts rather than to however won the popular vote.   That would be different than the Nebraska and Maine systems, and mean that although President Obama won Virginia by 3%, he would have gotten only 4 electoral votes to Romney’s 9!   Again, that’s the kind of shenanigans you’d expect in some banana republic.

Wisconsin politics has already been poisoned by partisan scabbles

Wisconsin politics has already been poisoned by partisan scabbles

The Virginia plan appears dead for now, thanks to opposition from two Republican State Senators and the Governor, but many said they didn’t like the timing rather than the idea.   Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan are also considering such action – all of it very partisan and with intense opposition from the other side.  Those are also “blue” states in which awarding by district would give the Republicans a majority of electoral votes.

What would the ramifications of the change be?   If a few “blue” states changed their system then it would increase the chance for a Republican to win the Presidency in 2016, even if he or she fails to win the popular vote.   But just as the cuts in early voting led to a backlash against the Republicans in states like Florida, the unintended consequences of such a move could hurt the GOP.

Democrats would be forced to compete more intensively in areas they now cede to the Republicans.   That could ultimately expand the Democratic party and endanger currently safe Republican House members.   Beyond that, state politics would be injected with more anger and partisanship.

One can imagine that Democrats would undo the changes if they managed to get power, and the issue could make it harder for parties to cooperate in times where problem solving is necessary.   It is time for Republican leaders to say that changing the way we elect our President is a serious matter and should not be done on a partisan basis to try to use the rules to rig elections.

"We can't be the stupid party," Bobby Jindal pleaded

“We can’t be the stupid party,” Bobby Jindal pleaded

The Republicans should follow the lead of people like Bobby Jindal who recognize that the party needs to appeal to the majority, rather than looking to change the laws in order to grab power.   It is a sign of desperation that some Republicans would even consider trying to change the rules so they can win power even if they can’t win vote.   It is also an opening for people like Jindal to take the lead and recast the Republican party to be able to compete to win a majority of votes, not just electoral districts.   America needs two strong, competitive parties.

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A Far Right Freak Out

“We lost America” according to Limbaugh

The re-election of President Obama was not unexpected.   In fact, having followed the polls and Nate Silver’s modeling of the election it played out almost as if scripted, with no surprises.    In my predictions I got only two races wrong, and I knew each was a long shot (NC for Obama, Carmona for AZ Senate).    Usually elections hold surprises, this one did not.

At least, not for those of us who believed that the pollsters knew their business and someone with Nate Silver’s track record should be taken seriously.    On the far right there was shock, indignation and collective anger and dismay.   How could this happen?   (Note: I use the term “far right” to differentiate them from average, reasonable Republicans and Romney supporters.)

Many bemoaned the fact that the country “is no longer center-right,” and talked openly about the inevitable decline of the United States.   A few on the fringes hoped for a quick decline, with talk about “going Galt” and stocking up on ammo and supplies.  Glenn Beck urged people to buy farm land, get as far from the East coast as they could so they can be around “like minded” people and keep the kids away from public schools!   The country cannot survive an Obama victory, Beck prophesied.     After the heady high of 2010 many found the results of the 2012 election simply impossible to accept.

Many on the right took these “predictions” seriously!

Two things are happening.   Some on the far right are stuck in their own parallel universe.    They read each other’s blogs, watch FOX news and listen to talk radio, creating a sense that their own view is far more widespread than it is.   Groupthink of this sort isn’t rational, it’s more like a feeling, something “in the air.”

Moreover part of groupthink is to see your opponents as less intelligent, moral or rational than yourself.   That the left is “falling for Nate Silver’s statistical mumbo jumbo” or “believing obviously skewed state polls” becomes viewed as self-evidently true.   They reinforced each other’s certainty that the left was deluded.   Some even fantasized that the left would riot and burn cities if Obama wasn’t re-elected!

Liberalism is not about dependency but opportunity

That brings me to their second error : a caricatured and completely over the top misguided view of the left.    To them the left loves big government  and has a victim mentality that rationalizes taking from the rich.    The right, in this odd perspective, represents hard working Americans who take responsibility for their success and want personal initiative rewarded.   The right is steadfast, rational, ethical, and responsible.   The left is wobbly, emotional, greedy and jealous of success.

That explains the level of intense emotion and anger on the right. They have constructed a straw man adversary who represents the worst character traits humans have:  greedy, lazy, wanting to steal from others, irrational, unethical, and jealous of success.   To them the left is a group of slack jawed moochers relying government to rob from the job creators to give them their flat screen TVs, dependent on a sinister government who trades this ‘free stuff’ for votes.   If they truly believe all that it’s understandable how righteous rage, indignation and even resignation come from this election.

The reality is that virtually no one on the  left believes people should see themselves as victims.  Indeed the key to success in life is personal initiative, a willingness to work hard, and an acceptance that each individual is responsible for their own success in life.    The only sense of entitlement  is that military service entitles veterans to basic support when they come back, and that after a life of work the elderly are entitled to a basic standard of living and health care.

Moreover, the views of the left are rooted in a sense of liberty that can be traced back to thinkers like John Stuart Mill in Great Britain.    Mill noted in mid-19th Century Great Britain leaving the market to its own devices had led to horrific results.   The economy was growing, but the workers lived in squalor, working class children weren’t educated, health care depended on wealth, and that social status at birth determined life success, not hard work and personal initiative.

John Stuart Mill is in many ways the father of modern liberalism, recognizing the positive role the state needs to take to expand liberty

Capitalism and markets are good, but we can use the state to assure that all people have true opportunity.   In trying to make sure that people aren’t condemned by status at birth to a life of grueling labor and poverty, the goal is to expand liberty.    Create real opportunities for everyone to succeed.   Make sure that hard work and initiative determine success, not simply status at birth or how much you inherit.

The left in the US embraces the notion of wealth as a reward for success.   Why are so many millionaires Democrats?   They don’t hate success or think being wealthy is bad.   Rather, the goal is to make sure that if you’re poor you still have the opportunity to become wealthy –  that the deck isn’t stacked against you.   Again, that’s an expanse of liberty, in line with American values.

The debate should be about how to work towards real opportunity without stifling economic growth and development.   What role should government programs play, and are they effective?   How do we prioritize dealing with the debt and deficit, how do we restructure our economy to fit the changes of the 21st Century?

So with all due respect to those on the far right freaking out:  chill.   It’s OK.   Democrats don’t want to overturn capitalism, create a country of dependent moochers, or punish success.   Indeed no Democratic plan would even raise tax rates close to the levels they were under Reagan.   Democrats are open to making reforms of what isn’t working, they want government programs to create opportunity for people to help themselves, not build a dependent class.

While the media covered the anti-Obama riot at the University of Mississippi, more telling was the much larger “peace rally” held to counter the anti-Obama protest

It’s emotionally satisfying to imagine the other side as more menacing and less rational than they are — the left does that to the right as well.   But ultimately Americans come together and solve problems.   Americans recognize that disagreement is an essential aspect of our system — we learn by debating differences and exploring compromise.

Ideology can be comforting – many use it as a way to try to find certainty in an uncertain world – but it’s based on delusion.   No simplified model of reality can really capture the complexity of the economic and political realities we face; rather, we have to work to solve problems and be practical and patient.    As the President noted, what unites us is far stronger than what divides us.   As Governor Romney noted in his gracious acceptance speech, it’s time to put the partisan bitterness and division behind us.   Time to get to work!

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Prediction: Obama 347

See the map above for when polls close in the various states (note that some states have parts of the state close at different times). All times EST.

Yesterday I predicted Obama would win the election Tuesday, based on data from polls, early voting and voter turnout projections.  It does not appear likely that state pollsters were statistically biased or that voter turnout will go significantly below 2004 – 2008 levels.   Moreover, late polls seem to be breaking for the President.  It is still close, but the evidence points to an Obama win.

Caveat:  While the headline prediction looks excellent for the President, it’s based on four states that literally could go either way:  Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire.   If they go for Romney, then he’s within 16 votes of the Presidency — Ohio would give the election to Romney.   The data suggests to me that Obama is favored in each, but not heavily.   The election could still go either way.

Predicting which states he’ll win and what his electoral vote total will be is difficult.    I’ve been pouring over information about early voting stats in Florida and North Carolina (my two hardest calls), reading different prognostications and trying to figure out my own best guess.    So here goes.  First, a number of seats are not competitive:

SAFE  ROMNEY                                SAFE  OBAMA

Alabama  (9)                                   California (55)
Alaska (3)                                      Connecticut (7)
Arkansas  (6)                                  Delaware (3)
Georgia  (16)                                   District of Columbia (3)

Idaho  (4)                                        Hawaii  (4)
Kansas  (6)                                     Illinois (20)
Kentucky (8)                                   Maryland (10)
Louisiana  (8)                                  Massachusetts (11)
Mississippi (6)                                New Jersey (14)
Nebraska   (5)                                 New Mexico (5)
North Dakota (3)                              New York (29)
Oklahoma   (7)                                Oregon (7)
Tennessee (11)                                Rhode Island (4)
Texas  (38)                                      Vermont (3)
Utah (6)                                           Washington (12)
West Virginia  (5)
Wyoming  (3)

VALUE:  144 EV                            VALUE:  187 EV

A number of other states will only be competitive if there is some dramatic twist in the election.   I’ll just list these, giving electoral vote values.

Likely Romney:  Indiana (11), Montana (3), Missouri (10), South Carolina (9)  South Dakota (3)

Likely Obama:  Minnesota (10), Maine (3)* (Maine divides its EV by Congressional district and the 2nd district is only leans Obama)

Total safe and likely Romney EV:  180   Obama EV:  200

And now my state by state predictions for the rest, with explanation where warranted, in alphabetical order:

Arizona (11):  Romney:  Soon Arizona may join Nevada and New Mexico as swing states or even Democratic leaning if the Latino population in the US continues to predominately support Democrats.  It is possible that a surprising uptick in Latino votes could push Arizona into Obama’s column — that’s why it’s listed out here.   The polls suggest that strong white support for Romney will keep Arizonia with the Republicans.

Colorado (9):  Obama:  This was a hard state to call.  It’s been at times in the polls for Obama, and at times for Romney.  Republicans are doing well in early voting.  A strong Latino vote and late polls that leaned Obama cause me to award it to the President.   Also today reports are that the Romney camp is down on Colorado due to internal polling.

Florida (29):  Obama:   I thought as late as yesterday that I’d guess Romney on this one.  But the early voting was phenomenal given the shortened time period (near equal to 2008), and a backlash against attempts to limit early voting might work against Romney and the Republicans.   Also, I think polls might be underestimating Latino votes (note – as becomes clear, this may be an election Obama owes to Latinos).   I think voter turnout will be high, and Obama will pull it off.

Iowa (6):  Obama:   Obama hit this state hard at the end, and most polls showed him pulling away, though not to the extent they did in other swing states.   Still, this is where it started for him, he’s winning the early vote big time, and recent polls have looked strong.

Maine 2nd Dist. (1):  Obama:  I live here, and it’s definitely the rural/conservative portion of Maine.   Still, both polls I’ve seen suggest Obama has a decent lead, and I expect he’ll take the district.   I wouldn’t be shocked if Romney got this EV, but the election doesn’t seem to be trending this way.

Michigan (16):  Obama:  Pretty easy call, though some late ad buys and a couple close polls made it at least conceivable Romney could do well.   Most polls show an easy Obama win, especially given the auto bail out.

Nevada (6):  Obama:  This one is closer, but most polls show Obama with a decent lead of about 4%, and Romney stopped really competing for it in the last week.  This suggests that they consider it out of reach and in Obama’s camp.

New Hampshire (4):  Obama:  Polls have varied widely for New Hampshire, and this is a state that likes to defy expectations, whether in primaries or general elections.   It’s often forgotten that if New Hampshire had gone for Gore in 2000 Florida would have been irrelevant – Gore would have won.   I was very close to giving this to Romney, but some huge rallies, good late polls and lots of effort by Obama there towards the end suggests that they’ll have the momentum to pull it off. 

North Carolina (15):  Obama:  North Carolina is another that had me switching sides — first I thought Obama should take it, then new polls and the very narrow margin of 2008 made me lean Romney.   After all, nobody expects Obama to do as well in 2012 as in 2008, do they?   So I’ve been reading about early voting results, the mood in North Carolina, and watching what the campaigns are doing.   Since I think this election is breaking towards Obama, I decided, perhaps more from the heart than the head, to give this to Obama.   I was about to call it for Romney but when I saw that early voting increased over 2008 I decided to take a bet that this means very heavy turnout.   Still, I’m sticking my neck out here!

Ohio (18):  Obama:  Ohio has been polled more than any other state, it seems, and the polls are overwhelming in favor of Obama, some late polls by a solid margin.    Early voting has also been strong in Ohio, and I read reports that Republicans were alarmed by the level of early voting in Democratic counties over the final weekend (the weekend where the Legislature and Governor didn’t want anyone but military families to be able to vote early, until overruled by the courts).   So everything points to a clear Obama win here.    If Ohio is really close, that could be a sign that the Romney team’s assumptions about this race were accurate after all – an important state!

Pennsylvania (20): Obama:  Late ad buys and a final appearance by Romney cause many to think that the GOP considers Pennsylvania winnable.   John McCain made a similar effort in 2008.    Yet Obama has had pretty consistent leads in most polls (and those that show otherwise tended to be outliers or partisan).   With 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is a real prize.  If you have to gamble, this is the place to do it.   But Obama should win by at least 5.

Virginia (13):  Obama:  Until a few days ago I was leaning Romney on this one, but late polls seem to be breaking for Obama.   Virginia does not have no excuse early voting, which is one reason I thought Romney might pull it out, especially if Democratic enthusiasm is even a bit down.   Still, given the late polls I end up giving it to Obama.  Not as hard a call as North Carolina, but this could go either way.

Wisconsin (10):  Obama: Wisconsin was to be in play with the choice of Paul Ryan of Janesville as Romney’s VP candidate, but all signs are that Obama is finishing strong here.    On Monday Bruce Springsteen opened for Obama in Madison.  How many people can say that they’ve had Springsteen as their opening act?

So, add all these together and the result is:

OBAMA:  347 EV          ROMNEY:  191  EV

Other Predictions:

Popular Vote:   National polls have moved to give Obama a one or two point lead.   They now seem in line with the state polls.  I don’t expect Obama to win the electoral college and lose the popular vote, in part because the small states that go red tend to have smaller population to EV ratios.  I’ll predict Obama 50.8   Romney 48.2.

The House of Representatives:  I have not been following the House races closely enough to make an informed prediction.   In 2010 I paid more attention and the best I could do was to pick a range of Democratic loses from 29 to 69 – it’s hard to miss with that kind of range!    All I can do this year is say that I think the Democrats will gain at least ten.    If things really break their way they could take the House back, but from what I can tell even Democratic optimists doubt that.

Same Sex Marriage:   It looks very much like it should pass here in Maine — it was close in 2009, and that was an off year election which allowed the evangelicals of the state to have a stronger impact.   I’m not sure about Minnesota, Washington state and Maryland.    Polls in three of the states show about 52 – 45 in favor of same sex marriage (not sure about Washington state’s polling).   Polls tend to overstate support, so it will likely be much closer.   If it were to pass in all four states this would be a watershed, perhaps the most historic aspect of the 2012 election cycle.    Even if only one state supports same sex marriage this will mark its first success in a referendum, and that would be a big deal.

So it comes down to tomorrow!   However it turns out, this has definitely been one of the more topsy turvy and interesting general elections in recent history.   It’s been fun to watch!   Don’t forget to vote!

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Obama Will Win

Speaking in Dubuque, Iowa, Obama fires up the crowd as the campaign enters its final days

The election seems to breaking President Obama’s way.   A tweet from Nate Silver put it this way:  “Sample average of national polls released Thursday Obama +0.9,  Friday Obama +1.2, Saturday Obama +1.3, Today so far Obama +1.4″  

The veritable Pew Research Group, which had Romney up four after the first debate, found them even after the second, and on Sunday found Obama leading 50-47.   The national numbers finally seem in line with the state numbers.

Still, I’ve been struggling with this prediction.   The national polls remain close.   Team Romney wants to claim that this means the election will entail a razor thin victory which could go either way.    That sounds very plausible.  Yet the state polls have shown a convincing lead for Obama, though greater in breadth than depth.   Moreover Republicans have argued that the polls are wrong because they are making false assumptions about voter turn out or purposely skewed to support Obama.

Ridiculed by the right, Nate Silver’s 538 blog has shown the power of statistical analysis in elections and has made him one of the most important pundits of this election cycle

Whose assumptions are right — those expecting a close race and lower Democratic enthusiasm, or those believing Obama is on track to win?

Here are my assumptions:

1)  Voter turnout will be roughly in line with 2004 and 2008, with Latino vote increasing.

2)  While early voting won’t be dominated by the Democrats this time (after 2008 there was no way the GOP would punt on that the way McCain had), the increase of GOP voters doesn’t mean a large increase in Republican votes.  That’s because Republicans are very likely to vote anyway.  It just shows that both parties recognize the importance of early voting and are making it a priority.

3)  The polling this cycle is not off base or skewed.   Blaming the pollsters is common for the side that’s behind.

Dr. Michael McDonald predicts a turn out of 60-61%, and he specializes in making such calls.  That’s in line with 2004 and 2008.   Moreover, 2008 was not a year where voter turnout increased massively due to Obama’s “hope and change.”   To expect a decline in turnout in a hotly contested election in which billions were spent doesn’t make sense.  Finally, in surveys Latinos and blacks show intense enthusiasm for the election, even though Republicans claim their voter share will go down.

In many states efforts to pass voter ID laws and limit early voting may in fact be spurring on minority turnout.   It’s not just about President Obama, it’s personal.   “Governor Rick Scott would prefer I don’t vote,” one black man said.  “I’m not going to let him win.”  Indeed, the so-called “voter suppression efforts” of this election cycle may backfire.

Long lines showed voter enthusiasm on the last day of early voting in Florida

Going over the polls from each day over the last month, the election has followed a clear if often tumultuous path.

After the two conventions it seemed President Obama was on a roll.    The GOP convention had sounded bitter and pessimistic while the Democrats beat an optimistic drum.   Just when Obama’s convention bounce started to fade the “47%” tape came out.   Romney seemed a caricature and Obama supporters like myself started to think this could be a landslide.

Everything changed on October 3.  It wasn’t that Obama was so flat it was that Romney was so different than his image.   Rather than barking out a desire for massive tax and spending cuts with disdain for government, he came off as a reasonable moderate.  He was nothing like the Mitt Romney of the GOP primary season, nor did he sound like the plutocrat dissing the “47%.”  He was reasonable, clever and made the President look ordinary.

The President’s support had been soft, based on a strong negative view of Governor Romney.    Public perception of changed.   He caught up to Obama within days, and by the time of the second Presidential debate had opened up a 3 point lead.   The campaign was slipping away from the President.   He was still ahead in most swing state polls, but it was clear that the firewall he constructed in September was a Maginot line — a defense Romney could circumvent and overcome.

While Vice President Biden’s defeat of Paul Ryan energized Democrats, it was the second Presidential debate that stopped the bleeding for Obama.   He was perceived as having won the debate by putting Romney on the defense and turning potential problems (like Libya) into strengths.

The third Presidential debate saw an inverse of the first.   This time Governor Romney, believing momentum on his side, sat on the lead, hoping to look Presidential and undercut any image of him as a war monger.   He was docile, agreed with the President, and polls gave Obama a victory by about the same  proportion they gave it to Romney in debate one.

This Huffington Post image shows that the trend towards the finish started after the third debate – Sandy is not a major factor

Since then there has been a slow, steady drift back to the President   Moreover, Governor Romney never sealed the deal after the first debate.   He showed that he could be moderate and pragmatic but never gave people a true reason to vote for him.

Until the last few days I was not confident that Obama was going to pull this out.  It “felt” like Obama was winning, but intuition is a dangerous indicator.   Bias is driven by intuition and hunch.   If it “feels” like the race is going the way you want it to, it’s probably because you want it to!   Bias can blind people to the obvious.

I look over at right-leaning blogs and note that their belief Romney will win tends to be driven by conspiracy theories (the polls are purposely skewed in some vast left wing conspiracy to demoralize Republicans) or scenarios not justified by data (there will be very low turnout from minorities and Democrats or people are sick of Obama and will make up their minds late to make a change).

The evidence suggests Obama is heading towards victory.   Not a sure thing, but I think Nate Silver’s 85% odds are on track.

Monday I’ll post my predictions on how the states will go as well as some thoughts about the House and the three same sex marriage ballot initiatives which may end up making this an historic election.   Two more days!

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