Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney's Rope-a-dope

President Obama is a huge fan of basketball but he doesn't seem to be much of a fan of boxing. If he was then he would recognize the "rope-a-dope" strategy used by Muhammad Ali. In his fight against George Foreman, Ali braced himself against the ropes and assumed a protective stance while Foreman rained blows down on him. Eventually Foreman tired himself out and the fresher Ali went on to win the match.

Over the Summer the Romney campaign has braced itself while the Obama campaign hit it with everything they had. Now, with the actual campaign starting, Romney has started to fight back against an opponent who has tired himself out.

Instead of actual blows, the Obama campaign has been burning through campaign cash trying to define Romney before he can define himself. The results have been questionable and the attacks have lowered Obama's likability rating. They have also blunted Obama's attacks. Obama's most effective attacks have been against Bain Capitol but those ads have been running so long that they are fading into the background noise. Unless the Obama people have a whole new line of attack they are stuck.

At the Republican convention the Republicans rolled out two new lines of attack. The first is to paint Obama as a faded leader who has not lived up to his promises. They have specific examples like the Janesville plant that Obama promised to save. They also have more general attacks. Ryan's best line was "College Graduates Should Not Have to Live Out Their 20s in Their Childhood Bedrooms, Staring Up at Fading Obama Posters". Romney's best line was "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him." This is his version of Reagan's, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

In 2008, Obama's acceptance speech was an event. It was too big for the convention hall so he moved it to a stadium complete with Greek columns. In 2012 Obama is just another politician trying for reelection during a stalled recovery. The contrast is inarguable and it gives Romney a great opening for attacking without being excessively negative.

The other line of attack is to show the real Romney. Most people know that he went on vacation with his dog strapped to the car roof (in a specially-built carrier). How many people know that in 1979 he befriended a dying 14-year-old from his church? Or that he closed the Bain Capitol offices so that the staff could help search for the missing daughter of a co-worker? Or that he twice pulled boaters out of a lake after their boats capsized? Stories like these show Romney as someone who goes out of his way to help people but they will be most effective close to the election before voters tire of hearing about them.

Obama has nothing similar in his background. If he did it he would have used it years ago.

To return to my boxing analogy, Obama is tiring while Romney is fresh and full of energy (campaign funds).

Fact checkers and the facts

Paul Ryan really hit a nerve with his story about the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Everyone on the left is insisting that he told a major lie. Here is how Eugene Robinson describes it:

The whopper with which those pesky fact-checkers had such a field day Thursday was Ryan's attempt to blame President Obama for the shutdown of a huge General Motors plant in Ryan's home town of Janesville, Wis. Ryan's point of reference was a visit Obama made to the plant during the 2008 campaign.

"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant," Ryan said. "Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you . . . this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that's how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight."

In other words, Obama promised to help those workers by keeping the plant open but failed to deliver. This is a baldfaced lie.

As Glenn Kessler, author of The Post's Fact Checker column, has noted, Obama visited the Janesville plant in February 2008. GM announced the plant's shutdown in June 2008 — five months before Obama was elected and seven months before he took office. Ryan should be blaming George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

And technically, the plant isn't even closed. It's on "standby," according to GM, and can be reactivated if the demand for production rises sufficiently.

Ryan was careful with his words. He didn't specify who was president when the plant was ordered to cease production. He described it as "locked up and empty," rather than "closed." But by any reasonable standard, Ryan was being deceptive. He wanted his listeners to believe something that simply is not true.

Note that Robinson does not contradict a single thing that Ryan said but Robinson still called Ryan a liar. There are some serious omissions with Robinson's account. To be fair, he got his facts from the fact-checkers. I made the same mistake yesterday. The fact-checkers only covered half the story.

It turns out that Obama made not one but two visits to the Janesville plant in 2008. In the second one he promised to fight to keep the plant open.

The plant hosted not one but two production lines. The first was shut down December, 2008 (under the Bush administration). The other one was not shut down until April, 2009 (under the Obama administration). GM considered three plants for retooling and reopening. The Janesville plant was one of these but was passed over. Apparently Obama did not fight very hard to keep the plant open.

Why is the left jumping on Ryan so hard over this? Because it destroys the Obama campaign's most effective ads, the ones with the plants closed by Bain. If plants that Obama promised to save were still closed then he can't complain about Romney closing plants (or plants that Romney was once associated with being closed years after he left Bain).

The Left sees the danger to Obama and is trying to defend him by hysterically attacking Ryan. It will not work because they are quibbling over details when Ryan's real point is that the plant remains closed because the Obama recovery has been so pathetic. There is no answer for that.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What the Left doesn't get about government

Clint Eastwood addressed the Republican National Convention on Thursday. This meant that the Left had to trash him by showing how he benefited from government tax breaks. A post at Huffington goes into detail. Here is a portion of it:

Film director Clint Eastwood will be cheering on Mitt Romney and his party's "you didn't build that!" message during Thursday night's Republican National Convention festivities.

But there's one small problem: Clint Eastwood didn't build that.

Just like the small business owners who spoke on previous nights at the convention in Tampa, Fla., Eastwood, a hugely successful independent filmmaker, has benefited from generous tax credits to produce his movies all over the world -- the same kinds of film tax credits that Romney signed into law as governor.

Eastwood received a 42 percent tax credit in 2008 after shifting the setting of his movie "Gran Torino" from Minneapolis to Detroit, a city dubbed by The New York Times as "the home of 42 percent tax credits for films made there."

It continues on from there. You get the idea.

So, why do you think that these cities gave such generous tax breaks? Were they falling over themselves to give money to Eastwood (if we define "giving" as "taking a smaller share")? Hardly.

These tax credits exist to attract movie companies. They amount to legal bribes. The reason for this is that movie productions spend a lot of money. They are good for the local economy and they generate more taxes than the credits.

By filming in your city or state, Eastwood is doing you a favor. By spending money and generating taxes he is helping to build the infrastructure that the Left is so proud of.

That is where President Obama got it backwards. He tells successful people, "You didn't build that!" meaning that they took advantage of the infrastructure but that infrastructure didn't just happen. Successful people had to pay taxes to pay for it. Rather than telling them that they are not paying their fair share and taxing them in the name of fairness, he needs to be looking at ways of of making them more productive, even if it means lowering their taxes.

The just don't get this.


What to make of Polifact, one of the fact-checking sites that has sprung up in the last few years? It claims to be fair and non-partisan but conservatives insist that it has a liberal slant. Liberals are not happy with it since it declared that claims that Ryan's plan to reform Medicare would end Medicare to be the lie of the year for 2011.

Part of the problem is Politifact's structure. A group of researchers will investigate an issue then an editorial rates the result on a scale ranging from "true" to "pants on fire". More recently, Politifact has added state affiliates which may or may not adhere to the same standard.

Here is an example of one claim recently rated by Politifact. During his speech, Paul Ryan referred to an auto plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. He said that Obama pledged to keep the plant open during a campaign stop in 2008 but the plant is now closed.

This is what Obama said:

And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it's where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that's the future I'll fight for as your president.

GM had already warned that the plant might close because of sagging SUV sales. Does this sound like a promise to use government funds to retool the plant to produce "clean energy" cars? It kinds of sounds like it to me.

The plant closed December 23, 2008, less than a month before Obama took office. Does that let him off the hook for keeping it open or was he still obligated to reopen and retool the plant at government expense?

Considering that the stimulus included funds for just such projects and Obama was personally involved in deciding which plants would close and which ones would stay open or reopen, the Janesville workers would seem to have a reasonable expectation that their plant would reopen. It didn't happen.

None of this is in dispute. Most of these details came from Politifact. This is where the editorial board come in. Did Obama make a promise that he should be held to or was he just making a broad statement of belief that had nothing to do with the future of that actual plant? The editorial board went with the latter.

So, did Obama break his promise? Not according to Politifact. Because Obama gave the impression that he would keep the plant open instead of using the words, "I pinky-swear that this plant will not close," Politifact let him off the hook and rated Ryan's statement false.

This is where conservatives get upset with Politifact. A different editor might have noted that Obama purposely left the workers with the impression that he would personally do everything he could to keep the plant open and further note that the stimulus and the GM bankruptcy gave Obama direct influence over which plants would stay open. By that standard, Ryan's statement would have been rated "mostly true".

On many rulings there is no question about the truth. For example, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter claimed that the Obama economy created more jobs than the Reagan economy. It doesn't matter how you twist the figures this just isn't so and Cutter earned a "false" rating. Even there, they would have been justified in giving her a "pants on fire" rating. As their analysis mentions, when you take the size of the economy into account then Reagan increased the workforce by 11% compared to Obama's 4% during the comparable period. If you figuring it from the end of the recession instead of the low point of employment then Reagan's gains were 13% and Obama's 3%.

The subjectiveness of the ratings is what drive conservatives crazy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Auto Mileage

Question - if you want to buy a car that gets good gas mileage, do you think that:

A) You should buy the highest mileage car that you can find (or afford).

B) The government should force all cars to have higher mileage (regardless of cost).

This is not a trick question. It is the future of government policy. The Obama administration announced that it has set 54.5 MPG (Miles Per Gallon) as the fleet standard for 2025. Currently the standard is 21 MPG but it rises to 35.5 by 2016. This requirement has the twin goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and foreign oil imports.

This sounds great assuming that the auto industry has a magic MPG wand that it can wave. The reality is that 54.5 MPG is a tough standard. For that matter, so is 35.5.

To put things in perspective, the tiny Smart Car gets 38 MPG on the highway. The tiny Fiat 500 gets the same mileage (and has a little more room). There is a model of the Chevy Cruze that also gets 38 MPG highway and a hybrid version that gets 42. Chevy also has the Sonic which gets 40 MPG highway and compares in size to the Fiat. Even the Volt only gets 40 MPG once the batteries run down (around 30 miles).

The Toyota Camry gets 39 MPG highway. The Prius gets better city mileage than highway mileage and is rated at 50 combined (51/48). The Yaris, another tiny car, gets 38 MPG.

Honda has a Civic hybrid that gets 44 MPG while other models are in the high 30s. Ford has a few hybrid models that near or break 40 MPG but most of their vehicles are below 30.

There are only a few ways to increase mileage. The easiest is to cut weight, either by reducing the amount of metal in the car (and making it less safe) or by switching to more exotic/expensive materials. The other way is to change the drive train by adding a turbocharger or making the car a hybrid. All of these choices are expensive. Some, like the technology that goes into the Volt, can more than double the cost of the car.

So, some cars can reach the 35.5 goal but not most. Since this is a fleet measure, high-mileage and low-mileage cars are averaged together so big pick-ups will not be totally outlawed. The problem is that a company like Ford makes more money selling big, heavy pickups than tiny, light cars and a lot of customers prefer more space. Many of the smaller cars are totally unsuitable for families.

GM got into trouble a few years ago because of the current standard. Customers did not want to buy the smaller, more efficient cars so they essentially sold them at cost just to get their fleet averages up. When gas prices rose, people stopped buying the more profitable SUVs and trucks and GM went bankrupt.

In order to meet the new goals, the car companies will have to make more expensive cars. The government estimates that this cost will be recovered by lower fuel costs but, if they really do reduce demand then the demand for oil will drop, lowering the cost.

The 35.5 goal is achievable but will be difficult. 54.5 seems unlikely. No car currently in production gets that mileage without cheating (supplementing gas power with plug-in batteries). This is important for a number of reasons. It either assumes that the automotive industry can increase mileage over 12 years (the 2025 models will be out in 2024) enough that the average for all cars will be higher than the current top-end for any car or it assumes that most cars will be plug-in hybrids within 12 years.

Legislation based on future advances in science seldom work. We are supposed to be producing millions of gallons of celluloid alcohol by now but the technology still does not exist. We are similarly unlikely to see a 100+% increase in the efficiency of internal combustion engines.

That leaves plug-in hybrid. I called this "cheating" because it does not account for the cost of generating the electricity. Generating, transmitting, and storing electricity it not particularly efficient. This will also place a huge strain on the nation's power grid which will show up as higher prices for electricity.

This is a microcosm of the current election. One one hand we have freedom of choice which includes the choice of a cheaper or larger vehicle that does not get high mileage. On the other hand we have the government deciding priorities and making the choice for everyone. This is the world that President Obama is creating, one in which the government sets the priorities and makes the "right" choices for you. 


Update - my wife pointed out that this is the same thing that happened with light bulbs. The government is making a product much more expensive with the promise that you will save in the long run.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What to look for in the conventions

It used to be that the conventions actually chose the candidate. The last time the nominee was in doubt at the beginning of a convention was 1972 when McGovern and Humphrey argued about California's winner-take-all rule. If the convention voted to change the rule then Humphrey would be the nominee. McGovern's side won.

For a while the convention continued to have a little suspense. The candidate did not announce his running-mate until after he was nominated. In 1980, Reagan was still negotiating with Ford to be his running mate. That collapsed during the convention and he chose Bush instead.

These days the convention mainly serves as an infomercial, allowing the party to introduce the candidates. There is still a little drama. In 2008 this was the first real look that most people had of Sarah Palin. For Barack Obama, the sense of history was so great that he rented a stadium for his acceptance speech. The convention wasn't big enough for the moment.

This year will be less exciting but it will still be the first time that most people get to hear more than a soundbite from Romney or Ryan.

Romney will certainly get a bounce in the polls from the convention. Obama is a well-known commodity so he will get much less of a bounce.

The big question is how big and long-lasting each candidate's bounce is. There are three possible outcomes:

1) Romney takes the lead and holds it until the election. Neither candidate has broken 50% yet. The undecideds know Obama but have not made up their minds about Romney. If he can connect with a substantial number of them then he will win the election.

2) Obama takes the leas and holds it until the election. Obama will need to remind people of the inspiring candidate that he was instead of the political hack that he became. If he can reconnect with the independent voters again then he will win.

3) Neither candidate's bounce lasts. With the candidates polling within the margin of error, the election will hinge on who makes a major slip. This could happen in the debates or a major foreign crisis could come up (Israel attacking Iran is the most likely). Romney has an edge in the debates since he won several of them during the primaries. Obama has not debated since 2008 and may be rusty. If a foreign crisis erupts then it is out of Romney's hands. Obama will succeed or fail on his own performance.

We will know which of these possibilities will determine the election by mid-September. If a post-convention bounce is going to fade it will do it by then.

A Model for the Romney Campaign

In modern times, three sitting presidents, Ford, Carter, and Bush (41) have been defeated. What does this tell the Romney campaign?

One thing is the similarity of the three presidents. All three saw their high approval ratings drop as the economy worsened and all three lost to a candidate with a tightly-run campaign. This spells trouble for President Obama. Don't think for a second that this lesson has been missed by either campaign.

Ford was a special case. He was the only man appointed to be vice-president who went on to become president. He inherited a lot of ill-will because of his association with Nixon and for pardoning Nixon. The circumstances are too different to offer any advice for Romney.

The 1992 Bush/Clinton race is more important to Obama as an example of what not to do. Bush wanted to run a gentlemanly race and did not take Clinton seriously until sometime in October. He just did not believe that a sitting president would be turned out for someone with Clinton's scandalous past. Bush cancelled coordinated attacks on Clinton's record because he thought that they were too harsh. When he finally did begin campaigning hard he closed most of the gap in the polls in a couple of weeks. Bush insiders are sure that he could have won if he had begun seriously campaigning a week or two earlier.

The Obama Campaign is aware of that and began planning their strategy against Romney last year. They began running anti-Romney ads before he even had the nomination sewn up. If Obama loses, it will not be because he did not take Romney seriously.

That leaves the 1980 Carter/Reagan match. There are a lot of similarities between Carter and Obama. Both were Washington outsiders who could not get along with Congress. Both struggled with the economy for most of their term and seemed unable to fix it.

One of the things that people remember from the 1980 campaign was Reagan's question in one of the debates, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Romney's campaign has been following the Reagan model, attacking on the economy and offering an economic program based on flattening the tax rates and removing tax breaks. Will this be enough?

Carter's problems extended beyond the economy. The Cold War was still going strong and the Soviet Union had taken advantage of the Carter years to begin expanding, sending Cuban troops to overthrow African and South American governments. The Shaw of Iran, a US ally, had been deposed and the elected government Carter helped set up only lasted a few weeks before the country became an Islamic theocracy. A few months later Iran overran the US embassy and took the staff hostage. Not only was inflation rampant but oil prices were rising much faster than overall inflation.

Reagan not only attacked Carter on the economy, he also painted him as weak on defense. In contrast, Romney has barely said a word about Obama's foreign relations (except for his three-nation trip).

Reagan was also a more gifted orator than Romney. Reagan spent years as a motivational speaker and used this time to hone his message.

While Reagan's campaign offers some lessons for Romney it is an incomplete model. Obama has not made any spectacular foreign relations blunders (or if he has, they have not caught up with him, yet) so Romney can only attack Obama on the economy where Reagan could attack Carter on two fronts. This may be enough. The message of the Clinton 1992 campaign was "It's the economy, stupid!" meaning that voters cared more about economic issues than foreign wars.

Ironically, the Obama campaign seems to be following Carter's 1980 playbook by trying to vilify their opponent as an ultra-conservative boogie man.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The "Birther" Joke

Last week in his home state of Michigan, Mitt Romney joked that everyone there knew him and no one ever asked for his birth certificate. The press and the left affected shock that Romney would even make an oblique reference to theories that President Obama was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii. Ironically, their shock and outrage blinded them to just how cutting ROmney's joke really is.

Romney was probably responding to numerous allegations by the Obama campaign that he is out of touch or just "strange". He was saying "I grew up here." and "I'm one of you."

The cutting part is his implication of why the birther conspiracies are still around. He was reminding us that Obama is exotic. His father is from a different country and he was raised in Indonesia. Romney was saying "I'm like you. It's Obama who is the outsider."

There probably would have been a much greater outcry if people had caught that meaning. It could easily have been critisized as being racists. Instead they stopped listening when he mentioned the birth certificate. By repeating the joke, Romney's critics are spreading his message.

Models for the Obama Campaign

In recent history, two candidates from Massachusetts ran for president. Ironically, both ran against members of the Bush family. The Obama campaign is using these as its model for running against a third candidate from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

In 1988, George H. W. Bush ran against Michael Dukakis who was the current governor of Massachusetts. It was an open election (no incumbent) but Bush ran as a third term of the Reagan administration.

Dukakas won the primary largely on the basis of the "Massachusetts Miracle" meaning his state's economic performance. Unfortunately, this collapsed between the end of the primaries and the Democratic National Convention, robbing Dukakis of his strongest point.

Bush ran a campaign emphasizing that Dukakis did not share the values of regular Americans. Two examples where requiring school children to say the Pledge of Allegiance daily and early parole for violent criminals. They gave Willie Horton as an example. Horton was given early parole and used it to rape and kill someone. They also ran ads attacking Dukakis on the water quality of Massachusetts Bay which the EPA had rated poor. Finally, Bush suggested that Dukakis was weak on defense.

Dukakis's campaign never really developed a coherent message for why he should be elected and the candidate made several missteps. One was appearing in a tank to try to appear stronger. This image was so laughable that it was still a punchline on a Futurama episode 14 years later. Dukakis stumbled when asked if he would parole someone who had raped his wife. And the Massachusetts Miracle turned into the Massachusetts Nightmare (ironically, one of Romney's qualifications is that he cleaned up the budgetary mess that Dukakis left behind).

The Bush/Dukakis campaign figured prominently in the book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" which held that Republicans exploited wedge issues such as the Pledge of Allegiance to entice voters into voting against their economic interests (meaning Democrats).

In 2004, George W. Bush ran against John Kerry. This time, Bush was the incumbent. Kerry won the primaries on the basis of his military service in Viet Nam. His message was that we needed a war hero in the White House while the country was at war.

As with Dukakis, Kerry's biggest qualification blew up in his face when it came out that his war service had only been for three months and he was better known for being a war protestor.

The Bush campaign attacked Kerry as being a rich, out-of-touch liberal. They ran ads from his testimony before Congress where he accused everyone stationed in Viet Nam of committing horrific war crimes every day. Kerry came close to winning an Electoral College victory but lost the popular vote by a decisive margin.

Considering the state of the economy, the Obama campaign can be seen as using wedge issues to get voters to vote against their economic interests. At the least it can be said that Obama is not running on his record. His campaign is attacking Romney as a rich and out-of-touch and has tried to turn one of his strongest points, his time at Bain Capital, against him.

How successful will this strategy be, even if it is based on two winning campaigns? There are significant differences between the present election and the ones in 1988 and 2004.

First, the Bushes attacked their opponents as Massachusetts Tax-and-Spend Liberals. This formulation was invented by Ronald Reagan and was so successful that the 2008 candidates insisted that they were "progressive" rather than "liberal". Obama is trying to attack Romney as the most conservative person to ever run for president. It is hard to believe that voters will believe that Massachusetts would elect such a man. The Obama campaign originally planned to discredit Romney's term as governor but only ran one add early in the campaign (which fact-checkers tore apart). The dissonance between "conservative" and "governor of Massachusetts" may be why they backed off from these attacks. It is best not to remind voters of his term as governor.

Both Dukakis and Kerry had the issue that they won the primaries on turned against them. This will not be the case with Romey. Newt Gingrich started attacking Bane early in the primaries and Romney won anyway. By election day voters will be sick of hearing about Bane.

Romney is harder to attack as being an out-of-touch rich guy than Kerry was. Kerry was the son of an ambassador and grew up as a member of the rich and powerful elite (although his family's wealth was at the low end). During his college days he hobnobbed with the Kennedys He eventually married one of the world's wealthiest women who, in turn, inherited her considerable wealth.

Romney was not born rich. His father worked his way up the corporate ladder and the family did not have any real money until Mitt was in high school. During his time as a missionary in France he was living on a meager allowance equivalent to $7,000/year in today's money. While Romney is quite rich, he earned his wealth himself. By the time his father died, Romney's personal fortune was so great that he used his father's inheritance to fund a scholarship fund.

The biggest problem for the Obama campaign is that the background is different today than in the other election. In 1988, there were no overriding issues. The country was at peace and the economy was doing well. In 2004, Bush still had a store of good-will left from his response to the 9/11 attacks. The insurgency in Iraq was just starting and most people counted the war in Afghanistan as being won.

In contrast, Obama has a poor economy to answer for and his biggest aaccomplishment, Obamacare, is a divisive issue.

Obama has been counting on the "likability" factor. While his overall approval rating is down as is his handling of the economy, most voters still say that they find him more likable. Romney has a good chance of turning this around. The Obama people have been emphasizing how "strange" Romney is. While it is true that Romney can come across as a 1950s sitcom father, this may not hurt him as voters see more of him.

So, even by basing his campaign on previously successful campaigns, Obama faces a number of problems in winning reelection.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Voting in Ohio

A couple of days ago one witness after another testified that changes to Ohio voting procedures amounted to imposition of Jim Crow laws (laws meant to keep minorities from voting). What is going on?

Eight years ago voting on Ohio was limited to one day - election day. The only way around this was to use an absentee ballot and this required the voter to swear that he would be out of the state or otherwise physically unable to vote on election day. It is important to keep this in mind since this represents the base-line that was in effect for decades.

Because of the long lines in 2004, Ohio along with most other states changed its voting procedures. The new procedures allowed for early voting and for anyone to vote absentee. As originally implemented, the new procedures were exceptionally liberal. They allowed each county to set its own hours. There was an overlap between the voter registration cutoff and the beginning of early voting that allowed someone to register and vote in one operation and these ballots were mixed in with the others so there was no way to recall them if it turned out that the voter was ineligible.

Most of these procedures were set by Democrats who had taken over the state in the 2006 election. The Republicans won the 2010 election and made their own changes. This culminated with the changes that have caused so much controversy. One of these changes separated the end of the registration period and the beginning of early voting.

The changes that are most controversial involve standardization of early voting hours. Ohio's Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled that every county will have the same hours - 8-5 Monday through Friday and that early voting will end three days before election day. His reasoning is that many counties cannot afford the overtime expenses needed to support evening and weekend hours and that the entire state should be uniform. He also wanted to give enough time for the boards of election to notify precincts who had already voted so that people could not vote twice. In addition, he is mailing application for absentee ballots to every registered voter so that everyone can vote from home.

So why the firestorm? Because this interferes with many Democrat get-out-the-vote efforts. These centered around gathering large groups of people and busing them to the polls. Many of these were aimed at black congregations. the boards of election in heavily Democrat counties had aided this by setting early voting hours to be convenient for these drives. All of this is aimed at groups that are less likely to vote absentee.

So, what is fair? Are extended hours to accommodate get-out-the-vote drives when some counties fair when only some counties can afford to do this?

One gets the impression that most of the outrage about the change is for show. This is only the second presidential election that allows extended hours so no age-old traditions have been violated. Get-out-the-vote drives can still target at black congregations. Rather than bus people to the board of elections where they will have lines, they can fill out their absentee ballots as a group then mail them as a group.

The whole reason for the outrage is the knowledge that they are depending on voters who are not particularly motivated. They want the rules to favor their efforts. If that makes it more convenient to vote in Cleveland than a rural county, so much the better since the rural voters are more likely to vote Republican, anyway.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Will Obama use force to hold onto power?

An article in American Thinker speculates that President Obama will stage a military coup if he is not reelected. The proof of this is mainly the amount of ammunition that non-military governmental organizations such as Social Security and NOAA have recently purchased. The rest of it comes from the call over the last three years to suspend elections or the rule of law for a period of time due to the national financial emergency so that Obama and (the Democrats in) Congress can fix the country.

Should we start worrying?


It turns out that large governmental organizations have their own security forces (i.e. guards) who burn up a lot of ammunition at the qualifying range. That is where most of the ammunition is going.

There is also a catch-22 about the type of ammunition used. Hollow-point rounds are commonly used by police because they are less likely to pierce walls and hurt innocents. Full jacket rounds are required for the military by international law because the wounds they create are more survivable. If an agency buys hollow-point rounds it is seen as sinister because they are more lethal. If jacketed rounds are bought then it is sinister because they are "military-style" rounds.

But none of this answers the question, "Who will be firing these rounds?" Does anyone seriously think that guards armed with handguns are going to take over the country?

Any real coup would require the assistance of the military. They are the ones with the big guns and they are not big supporters of the President. At one point Obama had to relieve the general in charge of Afghanistan after it got out that he allowed his staff to be openly contemptuous of the President. I can't see the military supporting an overthrow of the Constitution for this president.

With the exception of Thomas Friedman who is enamored with Chinese-style dictatorship, most of the calls for Obama to take personal charge of the government faded as soon as it became clear that he is just another politicians instead of a Jedi Knight or a Worker in Light. Other calls to scale back our level of democracy have fallen flat.

A little historic perspective will help evaluate the Obama/coup fears. George H. W. Bush once used the term "new world order". He meant a world in which powerful countries could not invade and absorb weaker neighbors as Iraq tried to do with. Many people felt that this was a code for an expanded UN government.

During the Clinton years there were persistent rumors that black helicopters were circling the major US cities. At a signal from President Clinton, they were going to land and disgorge UN troops who would conduct house-to-house searches to disarm the citizenry. The US would then become ruled by the UN.

The Left was just as susceptible to these theories. The mildest of these was that the Republicans had taken control of all of the machines used to tabulate elections and used these to give themselves an edge. The wilder theories insisted that George W. Bush had already instituted a fascist government and would never surrender control to a Democrat when Bush's term ended.

When his time comes, either in January of 1213 or 1217, Obama will peacefully relinquish power. He will do it with poor grace but he will do it. He doesn't really have a choice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akin's gift to the Democrats

In a radio interview, Representative and Senatorial candidate Tod Akins was asked about abortion in cases of rape. He replied:

It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

There are a number of subtle and sensitive issues involved but Akins stomped on all of them with jackboots. Even if we assume that he meant "violent rape" instead of "legitimate rape" he is still wrong. There are no biological mechanisms that prevent pregnancy in these cases. It is true that pregnancy from rape is rare but it does happen.

There are three basic camps in the abortion debate. There are the pro-abortion people led by the feminist movement. To them, all unplanned pregnancies should be terminated immediately as well as any planned pregnancies where the mother has any doubts. As far as this group is concerned, a fetus is not a person and has no rights until it is born.

The middle ground is populated be people who think that abortion should be legal but recognize that there is more to the procedure than removing an unwanted growth. This group is uncomfortable with abortion and sees no problem with things such as a waiting period or requiring parental permission (with allowances for judicial override) for minors.

The third group is against abortion period. Many will make an exception for incest or rape but some would allow no exceptions, ever. Obviously Akins is in this last group. His assertion about rape is an attempt to justify an extreme position and puts the extra stigma on rape victims that if they got pregnant then they weren't really raped. Akins's critics are justified in calling this medieval thinking.

Mitt Romney is against abortion although he allows exceptions. He used to be in the middle group and his change gave rise to complaints of him being a flip-flopper on major issues.

During the primaries, Rick Santorum's extreme views on birth control allowed Democrats to declare that the Republicans have waged a "war on women". Akins has allowed them to revive this slogan and to try to link it with Romney.

Romney has denounced Akins, beating President Obama to it by several hours.

Akins still does not seem to realize what he did and how much trouble he caused for all Republicans. So far he has mainly apologized for the use of the word "legitimate". The party has cut him off from all funding and is urging him to withdraw from the race. Akins vows to continue the race and the deadline for withdrawing is today.

Akins should withdraw. His presence hurts all Republicans.

Sidenote, the definition of rape has become a politically charged topic all on its own. Feminists have diluted the term so that it includes acts that were consensual at the time but the woman later has "buyer's remorse". College campuses have instituted rules that almost require consenting students to sign release forms with witnesses.

But that is a subject for a different post.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Examining the Obama Campaign

In order to understand the Obama reelection campaign you have to keep in mind that it is taking its cues from President Obama himself. There are several traits that the President has that have manifested themselves in the campaign.

First, Barrack Obama is a jerk. Insider accounts such as The Obamas say that he is ultra competitive. It is possible that Obama is only running for reelection because leaving when he could run again would seem like losing. According to numerous accounts, he loves the privileges of the presidency but he and his wife hate the actual job.

Obama is a poor loser. He sulks. He pouts. Worse, he is a poor winner. When he wins he gloats. He rubs in in peoples' faces.

Obama also is a bit of a bully, at least verbally. Just listen to his speeches. Remember the "car in a ditch" speech? He loves to reduce his opposition to an easily-mocked caricature.

Obama has an unparalleled appreciation for his own talents and abilities. When Obama was interviewing people for cabinet positions he told at least two applicants that his big problem was that he could do everyone's job better than anyone he could appoint. He really does thing that he is the smartest person in Washington and that he has special insights that no one else shares. He doesn't even try to understand other viewpoints because he already knows that they are wrong. When the Tea Party started opposing Obama's policies the left declared that they could not possibly have a valid point of view so it must be racism. Obama never publicly said this but insider accounts indicate that he shared that view.

Because Obama is so convinced in his own innate superiority, it does not occur to him that people let him win basketball games. For his 50th birthday, he put together a mini-tournament of politicians and professional basketball players. He personally chose the teams (giving himself an edge). People who were there indicated that he seemed to think that a 50-year-old amateur could match a professional ball player.

This goes hand in hand with Obama's dislike of politics and compromise. When they moved to DC, the Obamas decided that they would not make any new friends because everyone in DC has an agenda so they couldn't trust any new friends. Where LBJ used games of golf as an opportunity to lobby the opposition, Obama only golfs with staffers so that he can get away from politics.

Obama is ideological. When he was in college he was a dedicated Marxist. At some point he moderated his views but he still has a Marxist tinge to his world-view. That is why he looks at current earnings instead of wealth when defining the rich and why he has so consistently insisted that raising taxes on the rich is justified in the name of fairness.

Finally, Obama hates Mitt Romney on a personal level. I've seen some speculation on why. It might be his dislike for the rich. He might the fact that Romney was brought up in a traditional family while Obama's mother divorced his father and step father and finally sent him to live with his grandparents.

Put it all together and you have a someone who will do anything to win and who hates his competition. Is it any wonder that his campaign staff is willing to throw any and all dirt? They probably don't even see it because they are so convinced of the rightness of their cause.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Remember when Romney said that he was concerned because of stories about problems with Olympic security in London? Even though he had run the Salt Lake City Olympics he was derided for not appreciating the differences between having the games in a small town in the middle of nowhere and in a great city.

Now that the London Olympics are finished, one of Britain's top military officials says that it will take the military two years to recover from having the deployment.

Wing Commander Peter Daulby also told The Guardian that the need to send 18,000 troops to Olympic venues after security shortfalls by private contractor G4S proved that Britain "needs a military for more than war fighting."

He said that the deployment took troops away from normal duties and highlighted the danger of "pulling the military down."

[...] It will take two years to recover from this, to get back to normal, to get everything back into kilter. You can't expect them to go back to normal routine very easily
So, maybe there was cause for concern and, just maybe, Romney commented on an uncomfortable situation instead of making a gaffe?

Contrast this with Biden's campaign speech yesterday. In a fake southern accent he told a largely black audience:

Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street, they're going to put y'all back in chains.

Biden later claimed that he was using the Republicans' own words against them since Romney has talked about unshackling the US economy.

Does this count as a gaffe? It probably would have if Romney had said something similar but this was just harsh campaign rhetoric. Despite Biden's insistence that he was just using Romney's own terms, telling a group of blacks that they the other side was going to put them back in chains can only be taken as a reference to slavery. That seems a bit over the top.

But the real gaffe was barely noted. He closed the speech saying:

With you, we can win North Carolina again, and if we do, we win the election if we win with you.

The only problem was that he was in Virginia. That is a gaffe. NBCNews buried this at the bottom of the column and gave excuses:

Appearing in Virginia, just a few miles from the North Carolina border, Biden won cheers despite mixing up the hard fought battlegrounds where he's stopping on his three-day swing this week.

"With you, we can win North Carolina again, and if we do, we win the election if we win with you," he said to applause.

Biden campaigned in North Carolina yesterday. He has two campaign events in Virginia today.

Again, would the press have been so generous to Romney or Ryan (or Sarah Palin) if they got confused about which state they were in?

You can get an idea of how hard the press works to create Romney gaffes from the statement he made in Israel about culture. He did not say anything that Obama has not said and that has not appeared in UN reports. It became a gaffe after a reporter took two unrelated sentences from the speech and asked a Palestinian official for a response.

Nothing is going to change the press's unequal treatment of Democrats and Republicans. Many of them don't even realize that they are doing it. But people need to keep this in mind when reading about how Gaffe-prone Romney is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Choice

With the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has defined himself and the race. The question is no longer "Who can best manage the economy?", it is now "What direction do we want for government?" The answer to this will determine how the economy is managed as well as a host of other issues.

President Obama is a proponent of big government. He sees government as a mediating factor in every aspect of life. This is explicitly shown in the web site "The life of Julia" as well in his general outlook. The government's job is to equalize outcomes. People should not have to be poor and should not be allowed to be rich. Two years ago he said,
"I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned.  I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money."

Obama sees government as superior to business. In his 20s he felt like an enemy agent when working for a company that provided investment advice. He also passes moral judgement on businesses and entire industries. During the BP oil spill, he was reluctant to contact the head of BP directly. He explained it this way:

I have not spoken to him directly – and here's the reason: because my experience is when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's going to say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words, I'm interested in action.  And we are communicating to him every single day, exactly what we expect of him and what we expect of that administration.

He thinks nothing of calling bank and investment officials "fat cats".

Obama believes that the government should pick winners and losers. Many times he personally picks the losers as he did in the GM bankruptcy. Unions were the winners with a controlling stake in the company and assured pensions. Salaried workers for the subsidiary Delphi lost their pensions.

Obama is willing to sacrifice economic growth for increased fairness. He has also stated his willingness to raise taxes on the rich, even if they would reduce less revenue.

Obama has flirted with determining individual outcomes. He supports legislation that would eliminate pay differences between genders even though that would mean having the government setting all wages.

Obama believes in expanding presidential powers. He rewrote immigration law by executive order. His EPA has increased its authority over coal-fired power plants and auto mileage. His Department of Health and Human Resources notified states that they could ask for waivers on the Welfare work requirement even though that section of the law was written to preclude waivers. He has engaged in wars in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula without Congressional approval.

Obama picks and chooses targets for drone warfare - the ultimate in picking and choosing. His drone strikes have been free of collateral damage because his state department defined terrorists as anyone within the blast radius of a missile strike.

Romney is harder to define since we only have his promises to go on. He is for smaller, limited government. He is in favor of flattening the tax rate which would bring it down to levels comparable to the Reagan years. He believes that the government should not pick and choose winners. He was against the GM bailout, believing that a traditional bankruptcy would result is a stronger GM.

Where Obama avoids talking about looming crises with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, Romney has proposals for long-term fixes.

Under Romney, you will not have as much government assistance. It is up to the individual to succeed or fail. Romney's goal is growth of the economy in general in the hopes that it would help everyone.

As governor of Massachusetts Romney tackled a deficit without raising taxes. He did this through a combination of cuts and minor increases in fees.

Romney has said little about his foreign policy goals. Hopefully he will back away from the drone wars that are making the US hated among the Arab world. The main goals that he has expressed have involved closer ties to traditional allies.

Romney's America is a continuation of the current one. Obama's is a transformation into a European social democracy. Pick your sides. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan was no surprise. He had been in the top three likely candidates for weeks.

Traditionally a vice-president is selected to "balance the ticket". Often this is geographically-based. A candidate who is running poorly in a certain state or area will pick someone who is stronger to share the ticket. Jimmy Carter who was a moderate southern governor chose Mondale who was a liberal northern congressman. Other times they choose their strongest primary challenger. That is why Kennedy chose Johnson and Reagan chose Bush.

A desperate candidate will choose someone to add excitement to the ticket. Mondale and McCain both chose inexperienced women. Gore chose a Jewish running mate.

A few candidates choose as if the election was a formality. They choose someone who (supposedly) will help them govern. The last two vice-presidents (Cheney and Biden) fall into that category. Both were supposed to help a new president adjust to governing in Washington.

Ryan is a variation of the traditional pick. Romney needs strong support from his base so he chose someone whose credentials as a fiscal conservative are impeccable. This will fire up the primary voters who went for ABR (anyone but Romney). Ryan is also a stronger choice than any of Romney's primary challengers. All of them were deeply flawed. Gingrich is probably the only one who might be an asset and I doubt that he wants the job.

Ryan's biggest strength is also his biggest weakness. He is the embodiment of the House budget. Democrats already won a special election with an ad showing a Ryan-lookalike literally throwing someone in a wheelchair over a cliff. The Democrats will charge that Romney and Ryan are trying to eliminate Medicare as we know it. This is a dishonest attack since Medicare as we know it has to be reformed in the near future before it runs out of money. The Democrats know this but consider it a winning issue to pretend that there is no looming crisis and claim that they will save it.

Romney's defense against these attacks should be to point out that Medicare cannot survive without major changes and to challenge the Democrats to identify how they plan to save it. They need to hit Obama hard for "kicking the can down the road".

In the next few months we will see variations on the "granny over the cliff" ad. Romney and Ryan need to be ready to hit back hard on this issue. Romney needs to say something like, "What I paid in taxes is meaningless compared to the impending crisis in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. President Obama needs to tell the American people how he will addresses these issues instead of distracting the voters with class warfare."

With a strong running mate and a strong attack, Romney has a good shot at winning. If he does not have his attack prepared then he will loose.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Hope, Change, and Dirt

What a change from four years ago. Back then, the Obama campaign was mainly positive about how great their candidate was going to be. Even then there was a lot of dirty work going on in the background. Multiple slanders were spread about Sarah Palin and the Obama campaign even used the Blackberry as an example of McCain being too old and out of touch (Obama had a Blackberry, McCain did not) until it was pointed out to them that McCain could not use a Blackberry because of his injuries while a POW.

Go back another four years. There were four ads attacking Kerry's history. One of them questioned the validity of his war injuries (and was backed with reams of data). The others were based on Kerry's public record, especially his anti-war activities. These were fair game since his status as a decorated veteran was his best qualification for being president when the nation was at war. Other ads used statements such as "I was for the bill before I was against it."

The current campaign goes way beyond these examples. I have written about this before but the list has gotten longer.

First there is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's charge that Romney has not paid any taxes in the last ten years. Reid originally said that a Bain investor gave him this information. Now he says that multiple people have told him the same thing. The fact-checkers have jumped all over this one. We know that Romney paid two years taxes because he released those returns. Multiple tax experts say that, for the type of income that Romney has, there is no way that he could have zero liability. At most he might have had a loss in one year that he carried over into the next year. Since these claims are unlikely and Reid will not give any details about who gave him this information or how that person would know what was in Romney's returns, the claims have been rated false.

The reason for Reid's accusation is to force ROmney to release a decade's worth of returns. Democrats are sure that there is something that they can use against Romney but that remains speculation unless he releases the returns. Even without additional returns, the Democrats are alleging that Romney must be doing something wrong or he would not have accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. Reid's strategy is to make up the worst reason possible why Romney has not released his returns. If Romney does not release them then that "proves" Reid's charges and if he does then the Democrats will find hard proof of something, no matter how innocuous.

Next there is the attack on Romney's tax proposal. He wants to lower the tax rates and make up the difference by eliminating many popular deductions. He has not given specifics. This is justifiable since every deduction has its defenders and, in general, the more specific a platform proposal is the less likely that it will be passed without changes (in 2008 Obama proposed a health care reform that did not include an individual mandate). Because Romney gave outcomes instead of specifics, outside organizations have announced that he cannot eliminate enough deductions to offset the rate cuts. In order to cut the top rates, taxes on lower-earners would have to be raised. Obama is calling this a "reverse Robin Hood or a Romney Hood".

The main analysis being considered comes from the Tax Policy Institute. It is officially non-partisan but, between its staff (including a former White House adviser) and its affiliations (Brookings Institute) the analysis is suspect. Other analysts have said that Romney's proposal is eminently doable.

The majority of attacks on Romney have focused on his tenure at Bain. These are the equivalent of the Swift Boat attacks that upset liberals eight years ago. Romney's strongest asset is his resume. He founded Bain and turned around numerous troubled companies then left it to save the 2002 Olympics and finally was governor of Massachusetts during a financial crisis. The Obama campaign is trying to undercurt Romney's qualifications by attacking his time at Bain. Some of these have featured people who were laid off blaming Romney for the layoff. Others talk about operations being sent to China. When it was pointed out that Romney had left Bain before these incidents occurred, the Obama campaign has suggested that he committed a felony by misrepresenting his involvement with Bain after he left to run the Olympics. President Obama was given a chance to distance himself from these accusations and refused.

In an attack that is about to run, Joe Soptic,a former steel worker accuses Romney of killing his wife. As presented in the ad, Bain bought the steel mill then closed it. After that Soptic's wife was diagnosed with cancer and died shortly afterwards. Soptic blambs Romney because his pension was underfunded and did not include health care coverage for his wife whose cancer might have been detected in time if she had health coverage.

This ad has been criticized by multiple sources. Among other things, it compresses the timeline to exaggerate Romney's involvement. Romney left Bain two years before the steel mill closed. The head of Bain when the plant closed is a major Obama supporter. The wife, who never worked for the steel mill, had her own coverage for another year under her own job. Further, the plant was in danger of closing before Bain got involved or they would never have bought it. This is just a guess but the pension was probably underfunded well before Bain got involved. Since there is no way to know if the wife would have gone to a doctor at a time that the cancer was detectable and curable, the entire premise of the ad is faulty.

The ad is so bad that the Obama campaign is trying to distance itself from it. CNN has shown that the Obama campaign has a history with Soptic. Regardless that created the ad, the super-pac Priorities USA, plans on running it in five swing states.

Why is the Obama campaign engaging in such dirty tricks? One reason is that they don't have much to run on. In the one positive ad that features President Obama, he talks about how he is going to change things in the future instead of relating his accomplishments. When a politician has to resort to attacks on a challenger instead of running on his record it shows how weak his record actually is.

Another factor is Obama himself. According to insiders, he really hated Mitt Romney on a personal level. This may be manifesting itself in the campaign as a desire to not only win but to crush Romney personally - the politics of personal destruction.

There are dangers in this course. It sets a lousy precedent for future elections. The immediate problem for Obama is that his greatest asset is his likability. Michael Medved recently wrote a column pointing out that the more likeable candidate usually wins. Until now Romney has come across as stiff. After Obama's "you didn't build that" gaff, Romney seems more relaxed and likable. At the same time, Obama is acting like a bully. The entire point of attacking Romney on a personal level was to make him unlikeable but this strategy might boomerang. The old saying is that you can't throw mud without getting dirty.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Little Bit More

In a current TV ad, President Obama contrasts Romney's proposals with his own:

Or President Obama's plan? A balanced approach, $4 trillion in deficit reduction, millionaires pay a little more.

Politifact figured out what he means by "a little bit more". It comes to 8.8%. They quote Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, as saying, "For my part, I would grant that this is more than 'a little.'"

But fair is fair, right? After listening to Obama's entire "You didn't build this" speech or Elizabeth Warren's speech, we know that the rich are freeloading on the rest of us. They get rich by using the infrastructure that the rest of us pay for and they need to "give back" by paying higher taxes.

So, what proportion of the taxes do the rich actually pay? The top 5% pay 40% of all federal taxes.

So what is fair? There is no objective standard. I've seen calls for returning the tax rate to the pre-Reagan rates or even the pre-JFK rates (92%). Others want them returned to the Reagan-era low (24%).

Many calls for higher taxes assume that this can combat income disparity - sort of a Robin Hood except Robin Hood stole from a corrupt government (the Sheriff of Nottingham was the chief tax collector). One suspects that their definition of "fair share" is one that makes sure that eliminated millionaires and billionaires of their millions and billions.

Can Romney Win?

The Left is already talking about an Obama landslide. The Right is talking about 1980. Which scenario is more likely?

There are some parallels with 1980. Carter came into office with a groundswell of good will after the Nixon/Ford years. He promised to shake up Washington but was unable to work with a Democrat-controlled Congress. The economy was never good under Carter, swinging from recession to high inflation and back to recession. Like Carter, the economy under Obama has been poor and he does not get along well with Congress.

In 1980, Reagan did not have widespread support. The election was considered too close to call right up through election day. Many people considered it a choice between two bad candidates. Several political cartoons had jokes about coins being tossed.

There are differences. Carter was seen as weak on defense. The staff of the Iranian Embassy had been taken hostage and he seemed powerless to free them. Carter was widely seen as a nice man who was in over his head. Obama may also be in over his head but that is not a widespread belief.

There was also an independent on the ballot, John Anderson who ran as the last liberal Republican. It is unclear who he hurt more. He might have siphoned some of the anti-Carter vote from Reagan or he might have received a lot of anti-Carter protest votes.

Romney is no Reagan. Reagan created the new Republican coalition, people who voted against Romney in the primaries.

Obama is much more liberal than Carter was and has more accomplishments under his belt. Carter's only real success was the Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt. Obama has Obamacare (which may hurt him) and can claim credit for "getting" bin Laudin.

Romney is much more of a centrist than Reagan and is nowhere near as good a public speaker.

Still, there are several things that could go wrong for Obama between now and the election. Many of these involve Israel. It is also possible that the economy will continue to slow. The more things go wrong the more Obama will look like Carter.

What about the possible Obama landslide? Right now polls show Obama with a commanding lead of 332 to 206 with no states tied. That's where talk of an Obama landslide come from. What will it take for Romney to win?

There are five states that barely lean Obama (Florida (29), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), and New Hampshire (4)). Let's assume that Romney can pick up all of these. That would give him an additional 65 electoral votes, 271 total with 270 needed to win. That hardly justifies the skepticism the left is showing.

There are no states that are barely for Romney. There are six that are classified as "likely Romney" and nine that are "likely Obama". Both candidates will need to hold onto all of these states.

Romney has been making a play for three of the "likely Obama" states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. The most recent polls show Obama gaining in these states but things get complicated here. The most recent poll in all three states was from Quinnipiac and they over-sampled Democrats by up to ten points. That means that Obama might be slightly behind in Ohio rather than ahead by six points. If Romney could pick up Ohio or Pennsylvania he could still lose any of the other close states except Florida.

Polling in general is becoming more complicated. Traditionally the most accurate polls are done by phone surveys to land-lines. An increasing number of people only have cell phones. Pollsters such as Rasmussen are prohibited from calling cell phones and have to supplement their normal polling. This may or may not be sufficient.

Regardless, summer polls are seldom accurate. Both candidates will get a boost from their party's convention. What will determine the election is how big a boost they get and how lasting it is. Romney has the most to gain. A lot of voters still know little about him. He has been polling close to Obama for weeks. A good impression at the convention and a solid performance in the debates will give him the election. A stumble and he will lose.

Friday, August 03, 2012


The Obama Campaign is in trouble. The country's big issue is the economy and things are not doing well there. Unemployment rose to 8.3%. Only half of college graduates can find a job that requires a college degree and a quarter of them cannot find any job. Economic growth dropped between the first and second quarter of 2012 and we are now in the red zone for entering a new recession.

GM had been one of Obama's biggest success stories. Wile Romney argued that it should be allowed to go bankrupt, Obama (and Bush) stepped in to save it. Its debt was restructured and it received nearly $100 billion in debt relief and new money from the government and private investors. By 2011 it was showing a profit and had regained its title as the world's largest car maker.

Things at GM no longer look so rosy. Sales are down and it is back to losing money. Its stock has lost a third of its value. It now looks like GM's recovery was based on natural disasters in Japan temporarily crippling Toyota. Now that Toyota is recovering GM's sales are down. At the same time, Romney is running ads reminding people that part of Obama's bailout included aggressively closing dealerships which resulted in tens of thousands losing their jobs.

With all of this going on, the Obama strategy is to throw dirt at Romney. That is why they are so desperate for additional tax returns. They are hoping to find something that they can use (it is possible that they already have the tax returns but cannot use the information in them because they were obtained illegally).

With just the information they have they have accused Romney of hiding money in offshore accounts in Switzerland and the Caymans. To cover all bases, they implied that even if he had done nothing wrong he was being less than patriotic by not using American banks. They also made this argument over Romney's overseas earnings (he invested money overseas when he could have been investing here and creating American jobs). They have accused him of "forgetting" about overseas accounts and, again, implied that these are being used to funnel money to tax shelters. They complain that his tax rate was too low (it is based on capital gains) and that he earns more in one day than most Americans earn in two years.

In addition, they have accused Romney of outsourcing jobs. When it was pointed out that he was no longer at Bain when the outsourcing took place they asserted that he had committed a felony on Bain's SEC forms.

All of that came from the two years of returns (one complete, one partial) that Romney has released. Undoubtedly they will find lots more if they get additional returns.

Enter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who says that a Bain investor (not an officer) told him that Romney has not paid any taxes for the last ten years (apparently not counting the two years that Romney did release returns for). In order for this accusation to be true Romney would have to be bragging about his tax shelters to his former partners who, in turn, would have to be sharing that information with investors.

Keep in mind that Romney left Bain in 1999 and severed all ties with it in 2002 so he would have little opportunity to be swaping stories about tax returns with people from Bain and would have no reason to be meeting with Bain investors.

When asked to give a name, Reid refused. Instead he claimed that other people had made similar charges.

Note that Reid is not accusing Romney of cheating on his taxes. He is just accusing Romney of taking advantage of tax loopholes. (This demolishes Obama's claim that Romney wants to lower his own taxes while raising taxes on the middle class.)

The point of this is to put Romney in a bind. If he does not release his returns it looks like Reid is correct but if he does then he opens himself to more nitpicking from Obama's people.

Reid has admitted that he has no idea if his charges are true. This did not stop him from taking to the Senate floor and saying that Mitt's late father George must be ashamed. Reid has not confided how he communicates with the dead.

Keep in mind that Reid has not released any of his own tax records. He is a multimillionaire who spent most of his career in elected office and much of it representing Los Vegas casinos. Elected office does not pay that well so Reid either received illicit money from gambling concerns or benefited from insider trading. Either way he should not be making accusations about anyone else.

Normally, even if it was true, politicians would not resort to "I don't know if it is true but someone told me..." attacks. At the least they would try to substantiate the charges before making them public. But with the economy tanking Reid's main hope for clinging to his title as majority leader rests with Obama's coattails.

It is all about throwing dirt.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Various Thoughts

It isn't free speech if I don't have the right to say something that you disagree with.

I saw a post floating around Facebook asking why a fast food chain has a policy on gay marriage. They don't. Their president has expressed his personal preference.

If we are going to boycott every institution that is against gay marriage then remember that California voters were against it by a decent margin. The same is true for people patronizing institutions because of their stance on gay marriage. Regardless, somehow I can't see conservatives suddenly embracing California or liberals rejecting it.

Romney is rich and donates millions to charity. Does it really matter that he has an expensive horse? Is anyone actually going to vote against him because of this?

For the Senate Majority Leader to announce that an unnamed person told him that Romney hasn't paid any taxes for ten years is up there with, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

A new poll showed Obama suddenly gaining in three key races. This is actually good news for Romney. The poll oversampled Obama supporters so his actual support is much lower than the poll shows. Many polls try to adjust for sample bias but this one does not seem to have. In 2004 polls taken over the weekend tended to favor Bush while polls taken during weekdays favored Kerry.

New York Mayor Bloomberg is the face of the future. He knows what is best for you and is going to keep you away from temptation. Guns, trans-fats, large soft drinks, and now baby food are on his list of things that people cannot be trusted to have unlimited access to. Like speech, people need to be able to make the "wrong" choice of they aren't really free.

We pay taxes on income, property, and fuel. There are sales taxes, capitol gains taxes, state taxes, payroll taxes. Just keeping track of those taxes is a big industry. Nearly every facet of modern life is taxed somehow but President Obama and Elizabeth Warren think that those who are successful somehow got a free ride and need to "pay forward" or "give back".

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I don't have a dog in this fight. I have never eaten at Chick-fil-A and I don't care much for chicken sandwiches so I'm not likely to. Accordingly, their attitude on gay marriage is not going to affect my eating habits.

That said, too much is being made about the subject.

First, one of the founders was asked during an interview about his views on gay marriage. He gave his personal opinion and indicated that the other founders agreed. He came across as a bit smug but what he said was nearly identical to what Barack Obama said in 2008 - that he supported the traditional family.

Later Chick-fil-A clarified that this is their personal opinion and that it has no bearing on how they run their business. They stressed that all are welcome to their restaurants. Another wrinkle in the issue is that most new Chick-fil-A restaurants are franchises where the owners pay a licensing fee for the name but are only loosely associated with the main corporation.

That's a pretty weak position to base a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on but it has not stopped several prominent conservatives from proposing one. It also caused Henson's Muppet Workshop to cancel future joint projects.

Ok, freedom means that you can support or boycott anyone you want for any cause.

Then things got a little scary. The mayors of Boston and Chicago announced that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their cities. There are all sorts of problems here. The biggest one is having powerful elected officials deciding what businesses are and are not welcome based on the ideology of the people running the company. A second problem is the selectiveness of their outrage. Both cities have prominent Muslims who are aggressively anti-gay, not just anti-gay marriage but outright anti-gay. Elected officials are supposed to represent all of the people, not pick and choose.

And what criteria is being used to judge? Is it ok to be anti-gay marriage if you are a Democrat or a Muslim but not if you are a self-identified Christian?

I don't see any reason to be helping or hindering a corporation based on the private beliefs of its owners. Both sides should back off.