Friday, November 30, 2012

Some random thoughts about the year gone by

We know its only the last day of November and most writers wait until the end of December to reminisce about the year gone by, but here's some random highlights.

The GOP primaries

Buzz and I started our primary coverage up North in New Hampshire is early January. It was the first time Buzz and I took the VW Micro-bus into the Granite state for the Presidential Primary.  The nation's first primary was originally held on the second Tuesday in March, but has slowly crept forward in order to be the nation's first primary.  In 2012, it was held on January 10th.

Mitt Romney ended up winning New Hampshire this year, just a week after Rick Santorum's strong showing (and eventual win in Iowa.)  It was Jon Huntsman's first and last stand, and we got to meet former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer in a cigar shop and see fringe comic candidate Vermon Supreme get tackled by security outside a Santorum event.

New Hampshire is a great state for the first primary, because it is so small and most of the events are within a 20 mile radius of Manchester.  It is a political junkie's dream, because most major candidates are still on the ballot, the events are usually small enough that you can actually personally meet the candidates, and downtown Manchester is a virtual who's who of national news figures.  CBS's Bob Schieffer, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell, and NBC's David Gregory were among the many we bumped into in Manchester.

Santorum and Newt Gingrich were nightmares for Romney.  They both won primaries or caucuses while causing Romney to try to out conservative them.  Rick Perry provided some very comical moments, including his famous "ooops" moment at one of the hundreds of GOP debates.

2016 promises to be even more eventful, because not only will the GOP be fighting it out for the nomination, but there will be a contested Democratic primary.  Don't worry, Buzz and I will be there.  For a political junkie, once you've been to New Hampshire for primary season, you gotta go back.

PA's voter suppression law

In the early Spring of 2012, Pennsylvania's Republican controlled legislature decided to join a number other GOP legislatures across the country and attack the phantom problem of in person voter fraud.  They passed, and Governor Tom Corbett signed a voter photo ID law.

Despite it's lofty purpose of combating in person voter fraud, the true purpose behind this law was expressed by PA House Majority leader Mike Turzai in June, when he told a GOP State Committee gathering that the PA Voter ID law would guarantee a Romney victory in PA by stopping Democratic leaning voters from voting.

The challenges to the law were filed shortly after its passage, and Judge Robert Simpson got it right on the second try.  He stopped the law from going into effect for November, 2012.  A hearing on the future implementation has been scheduled for December.

What we found most telling was despite the fact that study after comprehensive study failed to find any in person voter fraud across the nation, GOPers insisted that in person voter fraud was rampant, especially in heavily Democratic areas like Philadelphia County.  It was also interesting that one third of the members of the PA Voter Hall of Fame (persons who voted in 50 consecutive general elections) didn't have the proper photo ID to vote, and would have been turned away from the polls on election day.

Democratic Sweep in PA

Despite having lost a US Senate seat in 2010, the governorship, and losing ground in both Houses of the PA legislature, Democrats rebounded in 2012, by winning all statewide contests.  Barack Obama, US Senator Bob Casey, and all three state row offices (including the first ever win for State Attorney General) all went handily to the Democrats.  The Democrats even won a majority of votes in the United States Congress races.  Only partisan gerrymandering allowed them to win 13 out of 18n seats in Congress.

Pennsylvania is no longer a swing state in national elections, unless the GOP reinvents itself down the road.  We are still in the words of James Carville, "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle."  The problem for the GOP statewide is that the margins in Democratic areas, particularly Philadelphia County and its suburbs are becoming almost insurmountable.  When the Dems come out of Philly alone with a 500,000 vote advantage, its almost game, set, and match.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seems old Warren is right --- Raise the capital gains tax rate

In 2008, Hilary Clinton spoke of the 3:00am phone call, last night Warren Buffett asked Jon Stewart about the 1:00am phone call.  Buffett asked Stewart if Buffett called Stewart at 1:00am with a spectacular money making idea would Stewart ask him what tax rate he'd have to pay on profits.

Stewart responded by saying, "why are you calling ME at 1:00am?," but the point was well taken.  When it comes to making money, isn't that the point?  Making money, not marginal tax rates.

The true significance of Mitt Romney's unsuccessful Presidential campaign may be in highlighting to Americans the ridiculously low federal tax rate he and many other multi-millionaires pay.  Romney's effective federal income tax rate was under 15 percent for the two years he released, and the reason 2011's rate was lower was that he didn't use all of his charitable deductions.

The reason Romney and other multi-millionaires pay such a low rate is that most of their income is generated by capital gains.  Capital gains or income on investments is taxed at only 15 percent, whereas regular earned income is taxed at 35 percent for the highest income brackets.

Individuals also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as high as the 15 percent self-employment tax on all income below about $108,000.  These taxes max out at that level.  That means that whereas an individual who earns $108,000 pays $16,200 or 15 percent in additional taxes, someone making $1 million a year also pays $16,200, but only an additional 1.62 percent.

The GOP has argued that the "job creators" (the term the GOP uses to describe the richest Americans) have to have low rates or they won't invest.  Buffett and a growing number of the "job creators" disagree as illustrated in Buffett's 1:00am phone call.

Buffet suggested a capital gains rate of 30 percent on all investment income over $1 million and 35 percent on all investment income over $10 million.  OVC whole-heartedly agrees.  The notion that a 15 percent capital gains tax rate is fair is totally misguided, and anyone who really believes that deficit reduction is important should agree.

We live in a nation where income tax rates are progressive, in that the more money one makes, the higher rate of taxes one should pay.  The two major reasons for a progressive tax rates is one of fundamental fairness that wealthier people have more money to contribute to the general welfare and one that wealthier people get more benefits from the federal government.

This second reason is sometimes very misunderstood.  GOPers tend to think that only the poor benefit from the federal government, but such is not the case.  Wealthy people may not get direct benefits as does someone collecting food stamps, for example.  However, wealthy individuals receive indirect benefits like roads, bridges, student loans and grants for employees, air traffic controllers, national defense, and other big budget items.

The time has come to make capital gains tax rates progressive.  Let's start at 10 percent and make some marginal rates up to 35 percent like Buffett suggested.

*Buzz did not participate in the writing of this post.  He has been on assignment in Colorado and Washington, since November 7th.  He did check in yesterday, but said it felt like he was only gone a few hours.*

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why Romney Lost, The Redux

Mitt Romney may have lost the election, because he was not a true Conservative. We had concluded last week that Romney lost because his Conservative message was rejected by the voters.  Now we feel compelled to offer caveat in "Why Romney Lost, The Redux."

Just to be perfectly clear, we do not believe a true conservative would have won, because the country has drifted away from their agenda.  We do not live in, as we are told by many, a "center right" country.  As a whole, the country is pretty much middle of the road, not drinking the kool-aid on either extreme of the political spectrum.

Die hard conservatives never really trusted Mittens, because we believe as they do, that deep down, Mittens is a moderate Republican.  The self-branded "severely conservative" governor tried his darndest to talk the conservative talk, but could never walk the conservative walk.  When it comes right down to it, you gotta be a true believer to spout off the bat-shit crazy conservative talking points with a straight face.

Evangelical Conservatives

The statistical post election analysis has shown us that 3,000,000 fewer evangelicals showed up in 2012 compared to 2008.  This is due to two interesting factors. 

First of all, there is a significant number of evangelicals who really do believe Mormonism is a cult.  Buzz and I were cornered by one such young, attractive evangelical on a 5 hour flight to Seattle this past summer.  She spent a good hour of the flight explaining to us why Mormonism is a cult. 

Buzz and I are not ones to use anecdotal evidence to prove a broad proposition, but we do believe if you find one Mediterranean Fruit Fly in a California avocado, there may be a million more lurking in the orchard. Romney never addressed his Mormonism ala John Kennedy's seminal speech on Catholicism in the 1960 Presidential campaign or Barack Obama's speech on race in 2008.  Romney never addressed the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Secondly, Romney was Pro-Choice in 1994 when he ran against Ted Kennedy.  The Anti-Choice (Pro-Life) movement doesn't take kindly to anyone over the age of 10 who hasn't recognized the "self evident fact" that all abortion is murder.

We are not naive enough to believe that this group would ever vote for Obama, but the evidence has shown, time and time again, that this group will stay home on election day.  It is sometimes easier to just turn a blind eye to something.  This group has been turning a blind eye to science for years, so turning a blind eye to the election is not that much of a stretch. 

It's the way you tell 'em

Romney's other problem is best illustrated by the following classic joke.

In prison for the first time, George was puzzled by a strange ritual that was carried out at night immediately after the lights were turned off. Someone from another cell called out "Thirty-seven" and the whole block burst out laughing.
A few moments later another distant voice called out "Sixty-one" and again everyone laughed.
"What do the numbers mean?" George asked his cellmate.
"Down in the prison library there's a big joke book. We've memorized all the jokes. So now when anybody wants to tell a joke, they just have to shout out the page number from the book."
George was intrigued and the next day he studied the joke book in the prison library, writing down the numbers of a few good jokes so that he could join in the fun that evening.
That night, George decided to take the initiative. Once the lights had gone off, he called out "Fifty-five." But instead of laughter there was silence. So he tried again. "Eighty-seven." Again there was an eerie silence.
He asked his cellmate: "Why is it that when I call out the numbers, nobody laughs?" 

His cellmate said: "It's the way you tell 'em."        

Romney just never was able to "tell 'em." Yeah, he memorized the lines, but even non-conservatives saw that there was something missing.

Vice Presidential nominee Congressman Paul Ryan was a different story.  He is a true believer.  Unlike Romney, Ryan was brought up in the Ronald Reagan era, when the moderate Republicans began their swan song. Ryan lives, eats, and breaths conservative dogma, so to him it just naturally rolls off his lips.

**** Buzz did not participate in this post.  He is on assignment in Colorado and Washington state.  His return date is unknown. ****  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2016 Election Preview

Sorry to cut to the chase, but Bill Clinton will be back in the White House as the First Man on January 20, 2017.  Hilary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2016 for President of the United States.  She will also be the prohibitive favorite to win the Presidency.

I can predict this without even Buzz and the Univac 3000.  (Remember, Buzz is on assignment in Colorado and Washington.  His return date, and that of the Univac 3000 is still unknown.)

We can give a little time to the Democratic nomination process.

Democratic Primaries 2016

Once Hillary announces, which will be sometime in the summer of 2015, all serious competition should evaporate.  The 2016 Democratic primary season will be almost as exciting as the 2012 Democratic primaries, although the incarcerated felon might not be on the ballot in West Virginia this time around.
All the serious contenders like Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the 55 or so incumbent Democratic Senators will sit this one out.  We may see a Dennis Kucinich type get his or her name on the ballot in a few states, but for all intents and purposes, the 2016 Democratic nomination process will basically be Hillary running as an incumbent.
With regards to Vice President Joe Biden, Democrats love Biden, but not as President.  Maybe he'll do another eight at VP.  I understand he loves the Naval Observatory.

GOP Primaries 2016
If you enjoyed 2012, the 2016 GOP primaries will be a blast.  We'll see some of the usual suspects, along with some fresh new faces who sat out 2012.
Former PA Senator Rick Santorum will be back for a curtain call.  Remember the GOP has a habit of nominating the first runner up in subsequent elections.  (Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012.)
Santorum is the GOP heir apparent, and aint nobody gonna tell him he aint. I understand that he has already bought a home  on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and has set up a deep fried butter and kool-aid stand.

Showman Donald Trump will again toy with the idea of seeking the GOP nomination, but will have to drop out when it is discovered he was not born in USA, but on the planet Oranganium.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will make another, but drop out before the Iowa straw poll this time.  He will also be on the VP short list, but will be passed over yet again.  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Texas Governor for life Rick Perry will not run for three reasons.  One, he can't find that Brokeback Mountain jacket he used in his TV commercials, two, poor debate performances, and three,...umh......ahhh...............Oooops.

Former House Speaker Newton Leroy Gingrich just doesn't have the Newtmentum this time around, and Sheldon Adelson might not make it to 2016 due to his health or an FBI investigation into a hit being placed on Karl Rove.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is still reeling from that almost comical State of the Union response a few years back.  I can just envision the commercials of him walking out of the shadows in that Southern mansion time and time again, set to some creepy Halloween music. 

But, on a serious note.  Watch Florida, but not for Senator Marco Rubio.  If his grand foreign policy speech of this past Fall is any indication of his foreign policy gravitas, he's "not ready for prime time."  
Former Florida Governor and brother of W., Jeb Bush has pushed the big tent theory especially with Hispanics, and he is George W. without the cowboy and an elevator that goes to the top floor.

Everybody says New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but unless the GOP makes a sharp turn to the middle, Christie will never make it through the GOP primary and caucus process. There's a large part of the GOP that will blame the 2012 loss on Mittens being a moderate and not conservative enough.  Christie will be seen as Mitt 2.0.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why Romney lost

Not to blow our own horn, but Buzz and I said it in our October 2nd post titled "Here's why Romney will lose in November.We wrote "The powers that be in the current Republican party do not understand a majority of the American people, in general, and the persuadable middle, in specific.  They are locked in a political bubble powered by talk radio and the conservative blogosphere."

The voters proved us right.

The particular issue which is dragging the Republicans towards the ash heap of history is their vitriolic rhetoric on immigration. Building electric fences, self deportation, and fighting any reasonable path to citizenship as espoused in the right wing bubble are not ways to endear yourself to Hispanic voters.

This election, as has been the case with at least the last four Presidential, is fought in the battleground states. In the nine battleground states, (Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin) where the vast majority of the money was spent, Obama beat Romney in everyone except North Carolina.

The voters in these states heard Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's messages, particularly with regards to immigration, and they rejected the Romney message.  The other 41 sates and the District of Columbia really didn't see much of a fight on either side, and their outcomes were determined a long time ago. 

Unfortunately for the Republicans, this battleground map is not expanding in their favor.   Since 1992, the Democratic Presidential candidate has not won fewer than 251 electoral votes, and the Republican candidate has not won more than 286 electoral votes.

One of the biggest problems for the Republicans is the fast growing Hispanic population.  Every month for the foreseeable future, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18.  That's 600,000 potential new voters a year, or 2.4 million in four year period.  Republicans cannot expect to win elections if they only win 30 percent of this voting block.

Nevada will not be a swing state in 2016, and neither will Colorado.  Hispanics will push Arizona into the swing state column in 2016 and Texas into the swing state column in 2020.  If Texas becomes a swing state, the Republicans will become extreme long shots in all national elections.

Supply side economics is also dogma within the right wing bubble.  It is argued by our conservative friends that you can't raise taxes on the "job creators."  Job creators is the term coined by the right for those in the highest income brackets.  To everyone else, this group is just known as the rich. "If we just let them keep more of their hard earned dollars, the job creators will create jobs" is the common refrain of conservatives.

The Republicans have always had an image problem with the middle class and poorer voters.  Their perception as the party of the rich was only amplified by Mitt Romney and his contempt for the "47 percent," and it's not because people who voted for Obama wanted "stuff," it's because the Republicans have fought tooth and nail to protect the interests of the job creators. 

If tax cuts to the top one percent create jobs, why didn't the Bush tax cuts create jobs.  Supply side economic policies which the GOP has been pushing for the past 30 years has not created the millions of jobs that were promised.  The decade following the Bush tax cuts have was the weakest decade for economic expansion on record.  This was a fact not lost on a majority of swing state voters.

The only time in this campaign where Buzz and I lost a little bit of confidence in an Obama victory was when "Moderate Mitt" showed up at the first debate.  The long anticipated "etch-a-sketch" moment came on the stage in Denver.  Romney surged in the polls, because the "severely conservative" Mitt of the GOP primaries didn't show up.

This move to the middle is the only chance the GOP has of staying relevant in the future.  The great Conservative experiment is dead, because Conservatism has gone far to the right and has been overtaken by those who control the right wing bubble.  Although the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs of the world believe they are carrying the torch Ronald Reagan, they have taken Conservatism so far right that Ronald Reagan would be a liberal today by their standards.

Conservatism has not evolved.  It has devolved into a modern day "Know Nothing" party.  It is anti-immigrant, anti-intellectual, anti-women, anti-minority, and anti-middle class.  This is a path to irrelevance, and until the GOP changes course, the 2012 Presidential election is not the nadir for the Republicans, but the zenith.

**** Buzz did not participate in this post.  He is on assignment in Colorado and Washington state.  His return date is unknown. ****

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Obama will be re-elected, so says the Univac 3000

After a 60 hour power loss caused by the second 100 year storm in the past two years, Buzz has the Univac 3000 up and running and we're ready to post the OVC Presidential election prediction.  It's Obama in a relatively close popular vote but a rather comfortable electoral win.

It looked a bit scary for Democrats after Barack Obama mailed in the first debate, but although Mitt Romney surged, he never quite overtook Obama.  Romney's "Mittmentum" has disappeared, and Super Storm Sandy pushed a good portion of the undecideds to Obama.  The Univac 3000 calculates that the Sandy factor may account for up to a percentage point gain, which in this election is a heckuva lot, for Obama.

There have been no great swings in this election cycle, and neither candidate has broken that 50 percent mark in national polls, but then again, neither candidate has fall below 45 percent either. Face it, we live in a polarized nation where up to 90 percent of the electorate falls into the unpersuadable category.  This has wreaked havoc on the aging circuits of the Univac 3000.

This may come as a shock to our Republican friends, but not everybody thinks Obama is a Communist or the anti-Christ or hates this country, maybe just 45 percent do.  It may also come as a shock to our Democratic friends that not everybody realizes that Romney is a snake oil salesman, hell bent on his latest business conquest - the Presidency.  Again, only 45 percent understand this.

With that said, let's move on to the predictions.

Safe Romney (191)

Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3).

Safe Obama (241)

California (55), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Connecticut (7), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3),
Washington (12).

The leaning Obama states put him at 271

This leaves 110 electoral votes up for grabs, but as we all can see Obama is much closer to the 270 prize.  Some of the remaining states are very, very close, but a few others are relatively certain.

North Carolina (15) will fall into the Romney column, bringing him to 206.  Likewise, Nevada (6), Wisconsin (10), and Ohio (18) have been consistently polling in favor of Obama, and there is no reason to think they will jump into the Romney column at the last minute.  This puts Obama at 271, which is more than enough, but we still have a few more states to discuss.

First, a few notes on the four we just pushed into their respective columns.

Hispanic Vote and the New South

This is the last election where Nevada will even arguably be a toss up state.  Until the GOP stops the vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric, they will continue to get swamped in the Hispanic vote. George W. Bush got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.  Romney (the self-deportation candidate) will be lucky to break 28 percent.

The Hispanic vote is the fastest growing minority vote in the nation, and the GOP is on the wrong side of this.  Not only will this knock out Nevada, but watch for Arizona to be in play in four years, and Texas to be competitive in eight. (Remember, the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 which passed in California in 1994, solidified the Hispanic vote in California and destroyed any chance the GOP had of capturing this electoral rich state.)

North Carolina is a state which is fighting to shed its Old South image.  The state which regularly elected Jesse Helms to the Senate is now competitive and will only become more competitive for Democrats as the population grows with an influx of Northern moderates and liberals.  Unfortunately for Obama, old habits die hard, and there is still a lot of the Old South in this state.

New Hampshire and Iowa

It is a bit ironic that the two states which start this whole insane process with the first caucus and first primary are still in the too close to call column.  You would think that they would have made up their mind much sooner, because the 2016 campaign begins November 7, 2012.

Iowa (6) has been consistently polling in Obama's favor, so we see no reason why it would unexpectedly shift to Romney. New Hampshire (4), location of one of the many Romney homes, has been all over the map, but recently has been polling in Obama's favor.  The Univac 3000 gives it to Obama.

Colorado and Virginia

Colorado (9) and Virginia (13) has been true toss up states.  They were solidly GOP until Obama snatched them in 2008, and the Univac 3000 puts them in the Obama column again.

Colorado is another state which has a quickly growing Hispanic population, and as we've mentioned before, this does not bode well for the GOP.  Romney pulled ahead in polling in this state after the first debate, but the growing Hispanic population will self-deport Colorado's 9 electoral votes out of the Romney column and right into Obama's lap.

Virginia is a battle of three states.  Northern Virginia (the DC suburbs) and a few other urban areas are solidly Obama, the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area is split, and the rest of the state is solidly Romney.

The Obama campaign is pushing for a big margin in its strongholds, as is Romney in his strongholds, so it comes down to the military friendly Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Hampton Road area.  Romney has pandered to this area to such a great degree that it has paled in comparison to his regular pandering.  We are surprised that Romney doesn't arrive in the Newport News shipyard in a battleship.

With all of this said, the Univac 3000 predicts Obama's margins in Northern Virginia will be too much for Admiral Romney to overcome.

Florida, Florida, Florida

It may be Florida, Florida, Florida, but it won't be decisive, decisive, decisive this year.  Florida is the battleground state, which despite its 29 electoral votes just doesn't matter anymore.  The Democrats and Obama have expanded the map so much that Florida will not play the pivotal role it played in 2000 when the Supreme Court awarded it to Bush and made him the 43rd President.

On a fair playing field, the Univac 3000 would award Florida to Obama, however, GOP Governor Rick Scott and the GOP apparatus in the legislature and State agencies have tilted the field in Romney's favor.  Voter purges, restrictive voter registration laws which pushed even the League of Women Voters out of the voter registration business in the state (overturned by the Courts, but too late,) and cutbacks on early voting have severely hurt Obama's chances in the Sunshine State.

The Univac 3000 gives Florida to Romney, not because he won the battle of ideas in the Sunshine State, but because the GOP was able to keep enough Democratic leaning voters away from the polls.

Obama 303, Romney 235

Our prediction is 303 for Obama and 235 for Romney.  The Univac 3000 puts the popular vote total at 50.5 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney.  1.5 percent will cast their ballots for a third party candidate.