2012 Presidential Election

Numbers Look Grim for President Obama

Superstorm Sandy has largely passed my area by, and Pepco has been spared another round of calamitous outages. Luckily for you that means I get to write a post digging deep into presidential election statistics.

Though the election polls have produced differing results, a general consensus has seemingly emerged. Mitt Romney is, at worst, tied with President Obama, and has upwards of a five-point lead. The Real Clear average of polls puts Romney up by less than a point. On the other hand, RCP has Obama up 201-191 in the electoral college, with a 290-248 edge in the “no toss-up” scenario. Obama has held a consistent edge in the battleground state of Ohio, though Rasmussen’s most recent poll now has Romney up by two.

In general, I agree with Jim Geraghty that it appears almost certain that Mitt Romney will win the popular vote. It takes polls with rather generous Democrat advantages (in the range of D+7 and up) to even get Obama tied. I trust Gallup’s likely voter screen more than other polls, and Gallup has had Romney with a steady advantage of three-to-five points.

It’s certainly possible that Mitt Romney could win the popular vote and lose the electoral college. It has happened to several presidential candidates in our history, and we are all familiar with what took place in 2000. What is fairly unlikely, however, is for Mitt Romney to win the popular vote by a substantial margin and still lose the electoral college. If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote by more than even just a percentage point, than he will be the next President of the United States. Of course we can never be certain in politics, but it seems like a safe bet that the electoral and popular vote winner will the the same person.

One of the reasons that an Obama electoral college victory in the face of a popular vote defeat is unlikely is that massive swings in national vote totals are reflected in all states. President Obama won the popular vote by seven percent over John McCain in 2008. Assume for the moment that Mitt Romney wins by just one percent – that would signify an eight point swing in favor of the Republicans. Such a huge shift in the electorate is not going to be limited to a small number of states. And as history has shown, when the incumbent party loses support, it loses support everywhere.

I have taken a look at each presidential election since 1976. Since that election, the incumbent has lost twice, the incumbent party has lost two additional times, the incumbent has won three times, and one time the incumbent party has won once. In all but two of the elections since 1980 there has been a net shift of at least eight percent. Let’s take a closer look: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

So I Am Voting for Kodos After All

Jeff Goldstein left this comment on his own blog.

The wife and I reversed course and did in fact pull the trigger for Romney. But only as a stop gap to get Obama out.

Having voted for him, I now own part of him, should he win. And I’m going to be a very very very strict owner.

Beyond that, though, I think whatever the outcome of this election, the GOP establishment and the conservative / classical liberal / TEA Party base are going to engage in a huge existential battle. And I think the GOP is either going to have to get in line with us or head over to the Democrat side. Which won’t be terrible, because it’ll dilute the hard left with a lot of moderate mushiness and move it more toward the Democratic party of, say, JFK.

I agree with those of you who say enough is enough, and no more lesser of two evils. And I don’t begrudge you voting libertarian or writing someone else in. I really don’t. I just feel like we can not afford 4 more years of this guy without bringing the whole thing crashing down. And with two small kids, that literally terrifies me. In my state, every vote counts.

But it will be moot if we don’t also take the Senate and the House, and not with establicans, either. Any GOP office holder who has pimped for a Democrat instead of a TEA Party challenger should be primaried and cast out, whatever his or her voting record. There cannot be a permanent ruling class. And it’s time these entitled suited monkeys learned that.

We also need to change leadership — at least in the House. I think McConnell will, confronted with the reality of a bunch of new conservative / TEA Party Senators (should we get them; the GOP isn’t too terribly concerned with helping most of the serious ones, many of whom are in tight races), act in the interests of that particular trend. Boehner, on the other hand, needs to go. As does Cantor. Period. Full stop.

To me, it’s completely unacceptable that the GOP is allowing the Dems to beat up on Bachmann, King, and West — along with a number of very good constitutional conservative Senate candidates.

And that needs to be made clear as well, forcefully, once this election is over.

Ditto.

As I type this I am watching the third party debate on CSPAN. Yes, I am watching more of this than I did the debate that took place between Obama and Romney last night. Here’s the thing. While it’s nice to say that you are going to vote third party in protest, the people who are actually running for president on third party tickets are, shall we say, less than serious. Jay Anderson’s friend Virgil Goode seems like a decent man and the one third party candidate who is tethered to reality. On the other hand, the rest of the people on the stage seem more interested in vital issues like ending drug prohibition and combating climate change. Gary Johnson is under the impression that when he’s inaugurated he will wipe out the income tax and balance the budget, evidently as unicorns and mermaids dance around the maypole. The candidate of the Justice Party, Rocky Anderson, seems like he has gotten a head start on the end of prohibition. And then there’s Jill Stein of the Green Party, who makes one long for the seriousness of the Nader campaign.

All of the candidates for president – those polling in the 40s and those polling in the .40s alike – are simply not attractive. As is almost always the case we have to choose the least bad candidate. The least bad candidate of this election cycle happens to be Mitt Romney. It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but when the available protest candidates are even more revolting than the primary candidates (and my only options in this state are Johnson and Stein), then there is little choice.

That being said, I think that Goldstein’s points are going to be worth keeping in mind. Assuming that Mitt Romney is elected as the next president of the United States – and I believe he will be – that is but the first stage in what is going to be a long battle not just between Republicans and Democrats, but between Republicans and Republicans as well. (And presumably there will be the same serious soul searching internally for the Democrats.)  But that’s a post for another time.

As for now, I’m going to watch Larry King do a better job moderating the clown debate than anyone who moderated the “real” debates.

Is Intrade Really a Valuable Predictor?

Intrade is an online trading platform where participants actually place (legal) bets on the outcomes of certain events. For close to a decade political pundits have been using it as a reference to predict election outcomes. Indeed it seems to have a good record, correctly predicting the outcomes of the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, and getting all but two states correct in 2008. Currently, Intrade gives Barack Obama a 62.4% chance to win re-election.

So is Intrade a valuable resource that can be relied upon to accurately predict election outcomes? Not in the least.

This Business Insider article sums up several of the problems with Intrade, and hits upon the point that has bugged me the most about it, namely that all it does is distill current conventional wisdom. Take, for example, that 62.4% number above. Sure that looks good for Obama, but over a week ago that number was well over 80%. In other words, as Obama’s poll numbers moved down so did confidence by Intrade investors. As Joe Weisenthal put in when discussing the Republican primary:

So why ignore InTrade? Well, basically, because all it does is distill conventional wisdom. Seriously, what good is it to know that on InTrade Mitt Romney is far ahead, and that Hermain Cain doesn’t have a chance? All you have to do is read any DC-based political pundit, and they’ll tell you the exact same thing.

And when the conventional wisdom changes, so does the market.

Rick Perry is down in the dumps on InTrade now, but back in August — when everyone was talking about how he was the frontrunner — he was the frontrunner on InTrade as well.

Weisenthal then tracks Perry’s chances on InTrade, and notes how they basically just mirror Perry’s poll numbers.

Even the 2004 and 2008 results aren’t that impressive in retrospect. When people woke up on election day 2008, did anybody really doubt that Barack Obama would win, other than people who clung to fleeting hopes of a miracle McCain victory? And in 2004, Bush’s chances were just over 50% – meaning that the market as a collective was leaning the same way as most polls which, with a few exceptions, generally gave Bush a slight edge. In fact, if you look at Intrade activity on election day itself, Bush’s chances plummeted as early exit poll leaks suggested a Kerry victory, and then rose again as actual election results came in and a Bush victory became more apparent. In other words, Intrade just reflected the polls. And while the state predictions seem impressive, again, how many states were truly up for grabs? Intrade was therefore no more useful a guide than any reasonably informed individual with access to polling data.

Some fans of Intrade like to point out that participants literally have to put their money where their mouth is. I don’t really see how this makes the platform any more valuable as an index. Bookies all over the country would be the ones fearing having their legs broken if money induced wiser gambling behavior – and Intrade is, in essence, simply a gambling platform.

Long story short, Intrade offers no more insight into how the election will play out than some cranky guy writing on a blog who can look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls (which has Romney up by 1.3 percent, incidentally). So then why do pundits insist on citing it, and why do people continue to think it has any meaningful predictive value?

 

Santorum Suspends Campaign

Well, Mr. Inevitable is indeed inevitable now.

Kudos to Rick Santorum on a race well run.  It is amazing that he managed to accomplish what he did considering his financial resources and his standing at the outset of the race.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to overcome Mitt Romney’s considerable resources.  Santorum would have had to run a perfect campaign to win the nomination, and he didn’t.

It is unbelievable to me that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee.  After the remarkable victories in the 2010 mid-terms and the rise of the tea party movement, this is the best the Republicans can do.

Hollow Victories

There is some excitement that oral arguments are going well for opponents of Obamacare.  Though oral arguments are not perfectly indicative of how the Supreme Court will vote in the end, there is some cause for guarded optimism.  That being said, even if the Court completely strikes down Obamacare, it will be something of a hollow victory.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is no other correct course of action for the Court to take than to strike down the individual mandate and thus effectively kill Obamacare.  It is one of those remarkable monstrosities that happens to be both bad policy and unconstitutional.  The problem is that something this monumental is essentially being decided on the whims of a single Justice.  How did we reach the point where our basic liberties come down to what Anthony Kennedy may have had for breakfast one day?

I don’t mean to be flip, but it feels like we’ve taken a very wrong turn somewhere along the line.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Ballad of Jennifer Rubin

Jennifer Rubin sent a strong message today.  She wants Mitt Romney to know that she’s got his back every bit as much as Ann Coulter.

Rubin makes a lot of hay over the fact that Rick Santorum never visited Afghanistan, and has not said that he would go to Afghanistan were he the nominee, a promise that Mitt Romney made a few days ago.  Santorum made a pretty compelling case as to why:

And I’m not too sure making the trip Afghanistan is necessarily anything other than what it looks like: a show. And what I’m looking at is trying to, you know, make sure that we successfully win this nomination

Sounds right to me.  There is nothing to be gained for anyone by the candidates flying to Afghanistan for some pr stunt.  But that’s not how Rubin sees it. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Shenanigans in Michigan

Despite losing by three percentage points in Michigan on Tuesday night, Rick Santorum could claim a small moral victory.  Because Michigan awards its delegates proportionally, Santorum and Mitt Romney walked away with 15 delegates each.

Or so we all thought.

Well lo and behold the Michigan Republican establishment got together and made sure that didn’t happen.

On a 4-2 vote, the Michigan GOP’s credentials committee met Wednesday night and awarded both of the state’s at-large voting delegates to the party’s national convention to Romney — who won the popular vote 41%-38% over his chief rival, Rick Santorum.

Based on earlier explanations to reporters and the campaigns that the party’s rules said the at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally, it had been expected that each candidate would get one at-large delegate.

. . .

Saul Anuzis, one of six members of the credentials committee, said the credentials committee voted in early February to award both at-large delegates to the winner of the popular vote.

Republican Party spokesman Matt Frendewey said he didn’t do a good job explaining the rules to reporters.

“I just didn’t explain it clearly enough,” he said.

You see it was all just a big misunderstanding.  They always meant to award both at-large delegates to the winner of the popular vote.  Nothing to see here.  The native son won after all.  Have fun in Ohio.

Unfortunately for Anuzis (who at one point came close to heading the RNC), not all Romney supporters are this dishonest.

Not to former Attorney General Mike Cox, a member of the committee, who said the vote doesn’t pass the smell test.

“I have this crazy idea that you follow the rules,” Cox said. “I’d love to give the at-large delegates to Mitt Romney, but our rules provide for strict apportionment.”

Cox supported Romney and even acted as a surrogate for the candidate on several occasions during the last three weeks. He was one of two “no” votes Wednesday night — along with attorney Eric Doster. Voting for the distribution of delegates to Romney were party Chairman Bobby Schostak, Anuzis, party Co-chairwoman Sharon Wise and party official Bill Runco.

Cox figures the issue will become moot when Romney does well on Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold primaries and caucuses next week.

“But this niff-nawing over one delegate doesn’t help him,” Cox said.

He acknowledges that there was discussion of giving the popular-vote winner both at-large delegates, but that it didn’t get written into the rules.

Obviously Mr. Cox’s ears must have had a typo during that discussion.

So we have further proof that Mitt Romney is such an incredibly awesome hurricane of a candidate that party insiders have to change the rules post facto in order to give him a victory in his native state.

One would like to think that by now Romney and company have done enough to repel any Republican voter from even considering voting for Romney.  HA!  Romney now commands a 16-point lead according to Rasmussen, and has all but erased Rick Santorum’s lead in Ohio, and now leads in Washington state.

I don’t know what to say.  In light of the events that transpired yesterday I made a vow that I was no longer going to hector those whom I normally agree with about this election.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to try and do everything in my power to help Santorum get the nomination, but I’m done banging my head against the wall.  It is what it is.

 

Assessing Potential Supreme Court Vacancies

Supreme Court appointments have been a relatively muted issue during the campaign.  It might be worth taking a look at the Court and in order to see where we might be headed over the course of the next presidential term.  I will be listing Justices in order from least to most likely to retire over the next four years.  Letter in parentheses indicates party of the president under which they were appointed.

John Roberts (R), Samuel Alito (R), Sonia Sotomayor (D), Elana Kagan (D):  All recent appointments, and all relatively young.  None of these guys are going anywhere anytime soon barring a catastrophic health crisis.

Clarence Thomas (R): Even though he recently started his third decade on the Court, Thomas is still fairly young, as he won’t turn 70 until 2018.  He is the Justice most committed to completely overturning decades of bad precedents, and I have a hunch he’d like to be on the Court to help shape those future rulings.  There is a tiny sliver of a chance he could retire if a Republican wins the presidency, but it would be a fairly big surprise.

Antonin Scalia (R), Stephen Breyer (D): Scalia and Breyer are fairly close in age.  Scalia turns 80 at the end of the next presidential term, and Breyer is two years his junior.  Scalia would also be completing his 30th year on the Court in 2016.  Both are still vigorous and active.  Neither will retire if a member of the opposite party wins the forthcoming election, and I would put the odds of retirement at just under 50/50 if someone from their party wins.  I would imagine Scalia would share some of Thomas’s desire to be able to shape opinions, so he might hang on through the next term.

Anthony Kennedy (R):  The Court’s swing vote, he is just a few months younger than Scalia and has served just one less year on the Court.  His retirement would be the game changer, and whoever gets to pick his replacement could be altering the course of the Court for the next thirty years.  It doesn’t matter which party controls the White House, the confirmation fight over his replacement will be a bloodbath, and I would fully expect a filibuster effort.

Will he retire, and will he peg his retirement to whoever is in the White House?  He’s a moderate, but he was appointed by a Republican.  Ultimately Kennedy will probably decide upon his retirement in the same manner as he decides most of his votes: by flipping a coin.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (D): The only one of the eight clear ideoloigical justices who could retire during an administration of the opposite party.  She is the oldest member of the Court, and she has had some health problems in recent years.  I personally have seen her up close a couple of times, and she looked incredibly frail – and this was several years ago.  But she is still fairly vigorous, even travelling to Egpyt in order to tell the Egyptians how rotten our Constitution is.  She has evidently indicated a willingness to retire at 82, the same age as Louis Brandeis.  That would occur in 2015.

If Barack Obama wins re-election, I would put the odds at just about 100 percent that she will retire over the next four years.  Even if  a Republican wins the White House, health issues might force her hand.  If that happens, the confirmation battle will be just as intense, if not more so, than for whoever would replace Kennedy.

Ultimately the question we have to ask is which of the candidates is likely to go to the mats when it comes to a Supreme Court nomination battle?

It Takes A Family

I recently completed Rick Santorum’s It Takes A Family.  I quipped on Twitter that had I read this before the campaign started then Santorum would have been my top Rick pick before that other Rick entered the race (though I still maintain that Governor Perry would have been an outstanding nominee, but no need to go there).  At times Santorum slips into politician speak – you know, those occasions when politicians feel compelled to tell stories of individual people in order to justify some larger agenda.  And some of the book is a little plodding, especially when he gets into wonkish mode (which fortunately is not all that often).  Those quibbles asides, there are large chunks of this book that could very well have been written by yours truly.  That isn’t meant to be a commentary on my own genius, but rather a way of saying I agree with just about everything this man has to say.

The book title really says it all.  The heart of Rick Santorum’s political philosophy is the family, meaning that to him strong families are the heart of any functioning society.  The family has been undermined both by big government programs and by the culture at large.  Santorum mocks the “village elders” who view more government programs as the solution to all problems.  Santorum acknowledges that many of the problems we face don’t have quick and easy fixes, and often no legislative action can be taken.  Santorum offers a series of small policy proposals that are aimed at giving parents and individuals in tough economic circumstances some tools to help, but he also emphasizes the doctrine of subsidiarity.  Ultimately we must rely principally on local institutions, starting with the family.

Santorum understands what even some on the right fail to appreciate, and that is we can’t divorce social issues from economics.  The breakdown of the family coincides directly with economic hardship.  If we want a healthier economy, we need healthier families.  It’s a central tenet of conservatism that is somehow ignored by large swathes of the political right.

His approach to politics can be summarized in a passage on page 341 of the hardback edition: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Goldilocks Conservative

Rick Santorum has come under fire from right-wing critics for being not conservative enough on fiscal and economic issues, while simultaneously being too conservative on social issues.  In my mind, he’s just right.

On the matter of fiscal policy Santorum has been portrayed as some kind of big government statist.  As a Senator he did cast votes for raising the debt ceiling, for Medicare Part 2, No Child Left Behind, and other big spending programs.  He’s admitted erring on a couple of these votes.  Overall, though, Santorum’s record as judged by free market policy institutes is fairly solid.  The Weekly Standard ran a piece on the National Taxpayer Union’s grading of Santorum, and he compares very favorably to most of his colleagues.   →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Looks Like A Two-Man Race to Me

Rick Santorum has won two of the three election contests tonight, and as of the time I write this is dead even with Mitt Romney in a state that had been all but conceded to Romney before this weekend.  Santorum has now won three of the eight primaries/caucuses that have been held thus far, and possibly four.  That puts him about even with Romney, and comfortably ahead of Gingrich and Paul in states won.

Admittedly he will be behind Romney in the delegate count, especially considering that no delegates were up for grabs in Missouri.  But 200,000 people went to the polls in Missouri, and a majority of them voted for Santorum (and again, I’ll admit that Gingrich was not on the ballot there).  He drubbed Romney in Minnesota as well.

This primary season has been a wild one, and who knows what will happen in the coming weeks.  The Romney sleaze machine* is already out in full force hitting Santorum.  Santorum is radically underfunded compared to Romney and even Newt, although that makes his victories thus far that much more impressive.  Right now it is looking like a two-man race, but it’s not between Newt and Romney but rather Romney and Santorum.

*: I wrote a post a few weeks back in which I said that Newt was and perhaps still is a jerk.  For the record, Mitt is kind of a jerk, and over two election cycles has proven himself to be a rather despicable campaigner.  For those of you who would vote for Romney in the general election, I suppose the silver lining is that the man is willing to fight dirty.  So at least he’s got that going for him.  Which is nice.

Logic Fail

You want to know why Republicans are possibly going to lose the White House this year, despite an environment in which the GOP nominee should be all but guaranteed victory?  Republican voters have become incapable of comprehending the larger picture, and have swallowed media narratives hook, line, and sinker.  The perfect distillation of this is evidenced on this thread on the blog Legal Insurrection.  Professor William Jacobson is a Gingrich supporter, so he has reason to take down Ann Coulter’s idiotic “Three Cheers for Romneycare” column.  Of course Jacobson un-ironically accuses Coulter of deflection, a curious charge for someone who himself has twisted logic in order to boost Gingrich.  But that’s neither here nor there.

What really struck me was this exchange in the comment section.

Here is a Santorum supporter speaking up:

I admit that Mitt is sub-standard. What I dont get is (aside from the several here with clearly anti-Mormon bigotry) why sub-standard Newt should be the overwhelming favorite.

When I caucus next Tuesday (Colorado) – unless the Paulbots are out in force – I will vote for Santorum… because both Romney and Gingrich have huge non-conservative faults. This site has seemingly become dedicated to taking down Romney for the sake of Gingrich. I’ve yet to hear a persuasive argument why I should overlook Gingrich’s equally glaring faults.

A very good question.  Here is the response he received:

Oh for God’s sake, Bain, I like Santorum too, but look at the numbers. He’s just NOT going to rise.
Period.
This is the weaning, and Santorum doesn’t cut it.
Love the guy, but move on.
Please.
It’s like picking players on a team: You WEAN.

Well that’s a really convincing argument.  Shockingly, bains ain’t buying it.

Let me see if I have this right…

You want me to not vote for a candidate that I like… in favor of a candidate that I don’t like, so that the candidate that you hate will fail (well aside from Ron Paul).

The only argument in favor of Romney is his electability. His supporters really have nothing else to fall back on.  Well, Gingrich supporters are really not much better.  Their only argument is that Gingrich is the only person that can take down Romney.  They seem willing to concede that Santorum is the superior candidate – he just can’t win.  Well, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you deem that a candidate cannot win and refuse to vote for him, well guess what?  He can’t win.

It’s a strange game that GOP voters are playing.  They are basing their voting decisions not on who they deem to be the best candidate, but rather are voting for people who they think other people will be voting for.  So I actually have to take back a bit of my opening premise.  It’s not that Republican voters aren’t trying to look at the big picture, they’re just doing a terrible job of it.

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