Oct 26, 2012

Choices Are Clear But the Polls Remain Muddy. Fortunately, the Fundamentals of this Election Haven't Changed

In a couple weeks, we'll know the master of the universe, well, not really, because there's this pesky thingy--the filibuster.

However, the presidential race has tighten as many polls indicate. I won't tire in saying it's all about turnout, and I feel confident that the Democratic base is energized enough--or at least as much as the Republican one--to make the difference on Nov. 6th. In the critical state of Ohio, the Dems have a 3-1 advantage on field operations.

I've been engaged in all sorts of discussions, from the academia to the street, and I've heard almost every argument. Basically it mostly comes down to people's wishful thinking and their rationalizing of that view. Very few are conflicted about their choice and may change their minds based on last-minute impressions, or, most likely, not vote at all. 

It's easy to get lost in one meandering argument, but the fundamentals are rather simple: what creates jobs, wealth distribution, social safety net, personal choice, quality of life. Both candidates aren't willing to shake the system too much, but the direction matters, because even if it's a few degrees of difference now, the destination will be very different years from now. Meanwhile we're dealing with human lives, from hungry children and poverty, to the uninsured and health care, to environment, and education. We should help safeguard and create new opportunitiesies that allow people to engage in their own pursuit of happiness.

Both candidates are specializing in generalities, especially Romney who has a ..plan to fix everything without offering any specifics or when he does, the math does not add up. Meanwhile the president could have been more forceful in attacking Romney, but what's new?  My analogy would be the smashed up car, courtesy of conservative economics--the type Romney and his party advocate. The process of repairing the mess is slower and every time the mechanic (the prez) asks for a tool, the Congressional Repubs say "no".... I wish Obama would keep saying that their aim was to destroy his presidency not to help the country, and that's why BO should be asking for a Democratic Congress too!

Extremism of the Dark Ages, Today's GOP

These times offer a good opportunity to debate the role of government, and a host of other social issues. When I asked my students to read the platforms of the two parties as approved by the conventions, it was an eye opener! Even Republicans were surprised to see such extreme views there. Yeap, that's the medieval GOP still competing in the 21st century!

 Potential Romney Treasury Secretary: “the Rich Are Taxed Enough”

Fortunately, there are several Repubs running for public office who express those anachronistic views, like pregnancy from rape is a gift from God! But, still the American public is not aware of GOP extremism.

Inequality Doesn’t Matter Because Poor People Have Appliances?
Top adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign denied the nation’s income inequality gap in a Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday, brushing off the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy by arguing that lower-income Americans are buying more consumer goods.
In the debates Romney became a reasonable centrist, notwithstanding changing his views dramatically since the Republican primaries. Even if I were a Repub (brrrr), I'd be wondering where is this guy going to land if he wins the election. Would my dislike for Obama suffice to vote for a liar? I guess it would if I believed what Bullshit Mountain (Fox News) has been spewing.

 Who are the "irresponsible takers"?

I was disappointed that nobody brought up the neoconservative view during the last debate. Romney's rhetoric of a "more forceful" US policy, and "restoring America's superiority abroad" is a big red flag for me. Where is he going to draw his policy advisers and policy staff from? Likely from the last bunch of neoconservative chicken hawks adventurers who like to engage in bloody conflicts to prove that the US can act unilaterally in the effort to shape the world according to some backward worldview. Tsk.

Anyway, I know there are lots of polls showing everything anyone would like to hear. My take is that Ohio, Virginia, NH, Colorodo, Nevada and the other 2008 blue states will remain so. Romney will pick up Indiana and North Carolina for sure. Florida I think it's tied and go either way. Yet, even with FL (29 EV) on the GOP column, BO would win 303 Electoral Votes of the 270 needed. If FL goes Dem, it'll be a landlslide. 

Another drubbing at the polls may make the Republican party reevaluate its extremism and love affair with the tea party. The Dems, by the way, should thank the tea partiers for keeping the US Senate in Dem hands in 2010 and this year!

Oct 19, 2012

In a Nutshell...

I'm an awesome humble executive who cares!
Trust me. I have a great plan for America. You don't need the specifics right now, but I know what I'm doing.
Trust me.  Why, I know I've said what I need to say, even contradictory statements, but I had to get here... in a position to help you!
Once you elect me president of the US of A, you'll see how great it's going to be! 
Trust me. 

That's Romney's presidential campaign message in a nutshell.


Finally, I tracked down Romney's detailed plan. Check it out here:Romney's America

Oct 18, 2012

Obama Scores With the Independents and the so-called Undecideds in the Second Debate.

The prize for the most-improved candidate went to president Obama in the second debate. I think Romney did well enough for his own political base. But, the polls indicate that the "undecided voters" and "independents" also gave Obama the nod.

Now some polls already showing a bump for Obama and I'm wondering why? Seriously, if we are to believe that there are many undecideds out there, is this how they make up their minds?! Don't they know the big differences between these two guys? Is the delivery of the message that counts more in shifting the poll numbers? That's not very encouraging for our democracy.

A political education is a long process, it doesn't happen in a couple weeks, that is, assuming someone has a clue of what the issues are and what are some of the general views of the political parties. Yes, both support elements of the status quo, but, yes, there are important differences. My ideal candidate is not running though--I doubt he/she ever does. Yet, I do know that a Romney presidency (as a GW Bush one) will be different than a second Obama term. The Supreme Court, deficits [Republicans create bigger ones], health care, tax rates, public goods & services, reproductive choice, education, science, military spending, and a host of all other aspects will be different depending on who wins in November.
It's very important to watch the two candidates and the political parties over a long period, because that's the proper way to learn about their ideas and policy proposals, not during a "debate" where a candidate can say whatever to appeal to the broadest bloc of voters as possible. Romney did very well, and established himself as a credible presidential candidate because he moved to the center during the first (and second) debate! He lied of course, and moved far from the positions he had taken during the Republican primary earlier this year. He flipped a couple days later on Faux News and other conservative media.

Link: Romney's 31 Lies in 41 Minutes

Does this matter? Do the swing voters follow up the post-debate news analyses? Or, the debate impressions stick? I have my doubts whether this group of voters pays much attention to the ..details. The polls do show bumps after big media moments--like conventions, debates, and other political events. Such movements most likely indicate levels of excitement, and the oscillation of the "floaters." The floaters are very low information voters, highly impressionable, and unpredictable. Most don't vote but are counted in the polls.

Some national polls look very good for Romney. Indeed he has really huge advantage in the very red states, much bigger than what Obama has in the blue states. But, the Electoral Vote count is still heavily in Obama's favor. I'm keeping my prediction that BO will be reelected very comfortably in the EC.


Oct 12, 2012

Joe Biden Takes the Fight to the Republicans and Delivers!

Are you serious congressman? Stop lying.. (Mr. Prez are you watching this?)
The first and only VP debate of 2012 is over and Biden did what Obama should have done last week, so I chalk this one for the Dems. Ryan did well enough too. But, let me explain how I see this election shaping up.

The two campaigns are not trying to convince the "undecideds" or convert new followers. Instead, they're trying to appeal to their political base and excite it to come out and vote. Yes, it's about turnout and the more energized base usually wins the election. The so-called independents that are already registered to vote [note that the "likely voters" are not necessarily actual voters] have already picked their pony. Only something major event, really big, will make them change their minds, and even so, many will simply not vote instead of voting for the other ticket.

We like to believe that voters are acting on good information and rational choices, but this is not the case. If someone is undecided at this stage, they are either very uninformed about the candidates or seriously confused. 

What these debates actually do is to motivate the troops, and in this regard I thought both candidates delivered. As a general impression, I thought Biden clearly won the match by not conceding any points, appearing in command of the facts, and as one who could step into the presidency if need be. Ryan didn't come across like that, but it hardly matters.

About Polls and Polling

All of us have been aware of the narrative after the first presidential debate, that is, how the polls showed a big Romney surge and how some key states became more competitive for the red team, while national polls showed Romney either ahead or tying Obama. I have had my doubts about how this new narrative is being dished out. Even though no one can claim to be a total agnostic without a shred of bias, I'm trying not to rely on wishful thinking in order to feel good.

It's been very, very rare that a candidate wins the electoral vote and loses the national. Even in 2000, Gore should have won Florida easily. He would have if the recount had continued or some other voting problems had been remedied before the election. The battleground states barely moved [well, depends who's doing the polling. Russmussen polls are especially biased], and that's why I'm suspicious of the national numbers. Levels of excitement or disappointment affect the polls. After all, not everyone answers their phone!

Polling is as much as art as science. There are a lot of assumptions, and corrective measures, and techniques, and, yes, insufficient data upon which to design a poll. Many (it's a dirty secret) pollsters buy into the consensus narrative and tweak their numbers to reflect that.

Again, performances during the debates help motivate the two parties' political base and may create the sense of inevitability--that's why Obama's failure to close the curtain on Romney pissed most of us off.  At any rate, the second presidential debate is next Tuesday. We'll be watching. Hopefully Obama will be much better and regain the narrative.

The best we can hope for is that the majority (as it did before the debates) thinks Obama is going to be reelected, this way turnout will be higher among his political base and maybe this will help win back the House. The Senate seems safe for the Dems, but the president needs to make the case for a Democratic Congress since the Republican House, and the minority in the Senate, have been obstructionists and nothing more.

You've got to love Joe. He took the fight to Ryan and not only. Maybe he can coach his boss, we only hope...

Oct 4, 2012

Obama Loses First Presidential Debate of 2012, But Hold Your Parties or Funerals. Most People Have Already Picked Their Ponies

The first presidential debate of 2012 is in the history book, though it'll probably go into the pages no one reads in the future. The general consensus is that Romney beat Obama by a big margin and that the latter missed a dozen opportunities to deliver. So, is this a game-changer?

Not so fast. Obama disappointed many of his supporters. He showed that he is not a forceful leader by nature, that he becomes professorial and almost "above the fray" when he needs to show strong commitment and when he's expected to clearly demonstrate that he's in the fight to win it. As in many games, playing it safe against an inferior team often leads to defeat.

As I've already said, 2012 looks much like 2004 in the reverse. Kerry won all debates against president Bush but he lost the general election. Romney won last night but not convincingly. He earned a few points among Independents, but I hardly think that this will turn the tide. Let's see how the polls move in the next few days. If the gap, especially in the swing states remains in Obama's favor, this election will be already decided.

What debates like that one do is to energize the base of the candidate that does well, and this, indeed, has an effect. Much of the result in all elections depends on turnout when the margin of popular support is within a few points. Again, if the post-debate polls maintain the 4-5 point difference (in battleground states), there's no path to victory for Romney. I do not see this Obama advantage melting away in the next 4 weeks. However a more energized Romney base may make a big difference in Senate and House races because of turnout. This, however, is still to be decided. We're just entered fourth quarter. If the losing team begins to believe the game is lost, it gives up and the ultimate gap becomes bigger as the "players" (voters) don't show up on election day.

Both candidates tried to send specific messages to their political bases. They know turnout is crucial. I'm not sure if they believe that there are many undecided voters up for grabs; the polls show that there aren't many, and of those it's a big question whether they'll actually show up on November 6th.

The debates measure what exactly? How the two candidates deliver, communicate their message, their temperament and quick wit. Most people who tune in are doing so to crystallize their views, confirm their decision. In my view, very few actually tune it with a totally available mind to be convinced one way or another. We know this. We know that most of those who say the candidate they preferred before the debate but lost is also the candidate they'll end up voting for! I know my horse hobbles horribly, but will I change my pony?....

When I raised this point during my interview with WABC radio, someone observed that politics is not like sports, because it's not the emotional side but other needs that take precedent. Well, yes and no. Choosing positions--philosophical or political--is a long term process. It's also emotional, more so that people are willing to admit. Politics like religion runs in families. The environment plays a role, but it's not during a few autumnal weeks prior to an election. Investing in a team, an idea, an identity is logical and emotional. The longer a person does this the harder to change his/her views. Then it's picking ponies of similar colors. Occasionally some people may confuse a mule for a pony, but in their minds they're picking a pony.

Predictions is a risky business, but, what the heck, I'm making an educated guess that Obama will win at least 320 Electoral Votes, possibly 332, while Romney around 200, a little more or less. I cannot see how Ohio, Florida can go Romney's way. The states he can win is Indiana, for sure, possibly North Carolina, and maybe, at best, one or two smaller states. Not enough to land in or surpass the 270 box.