Sunday, October 28, 2012

It is all about Independents now

Mitt Romney will win political independents by at least eight points (and probably a lot more) nationally but we simply don't know how much he'll capture that all important group.  It is clear that the late breaking undecided voters are clearly disillusioned with the President and are drifting slowly toward the GOP in the late stages.  This explains Democratic numbers collapsing in safe states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota and the GOP drawing even in Ohio and Wisconsin.  If Romney ends up winning indies by more than ten points he's going to end up winning nationally by five points so you'll see an Electoral College victory for the Republican of somewhere above 300 Electoral Votes.  If he does end up taking Pennsylvania he could max out at 321.  If somehow he takes Maine's 2nd Congressional District (that state parcels out its electors by district) and Minnesota that would bring it up to 332-something not seen for the GOP since 1988 when G.H.W. Bush got over 400 Electoral Votes in an eight point win over Michael Dukakis.


The Snitch

Look for a wipeout in Florida

In the latest tracks in Florida the President can't seem to crack 47%.  With latebreakers almost always voting in large numbers for the challenger I believe Mitt Romney will win the Sunshine State by at least five and as many as eight points.  In 2004 George Bush won by 5% and I believe Romney will win by a bigger margin.  It remains to be seen if Connie Mack, the Republican Senate candidate, can use that kind of momentum to beat the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson.

Looking at the early returns in places like Hillsborough County (near Tampa) will give us a great idea of what will happen on election night.  Bush won it in 2004 and Obama flipped it in 2008.  If Romney gets a big win there early we can expect a good night for the former Massachusetts governor.


The Snitch

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Couple of Final Thoughts

If I noticed anything from last night's debate it is that it seems to be that Obama almost seemed like the challenger.  It could be that he might have felt that a more aggressive performance was what he needed to best Romney in the debate.  However, I think there is a simpler reason: a tough Obama livens up his base.  He's busy fundraising with rappers and he's hanging out at a ton of college campuses in the last two weeks of the election which begs the question; why isn't he making speeches to independents?  Simply put, he must feel from his internals that his base isn't yet where he wants them to be to win the election and knows that without maximum support from these core constituencies he'll come up short.

It seems, for the most part, that Obama has given up on whole segments of political independents, especially white indpendents (right now he's getting less than 40% of the white vote, which is very dangerous for a Democrat in a national election), so he's going to spend most of the rest of his time trying to squeeze out every last vote from his base.  It is hard to imagine him getting the support from African Americans and college-age voters that he did in 2008 but he'll need them all to win.  If he doesn't get that massive turnout from these groups he'll probably lose the election.  That explains his aggressiveness and the last two weeks of his campaign schedule.


The Snitch

Down to Six States Now

It looks as if Romney is fairly secure in Florida and Virginia.  Certainly Obama could sneak a win in one or both of those states, and, if he did, he'd probably win.  Unless something drastic changes, however, I believe they are probably out of reach for the President.

On the other side, Michigan almost certainly seems out for Romney and probably Pennsylvania as well although if he could sneak a win in the Keystone State he'd cinch the election.  They don't have much early voting like many other states so a late push by Romney would make sense if he felt the numbers were right.  Paul Ryan visited Pittsburgh last weekend to a raucus reception.  We'll have to wait and see for about another four days if Romney's team will spend the time and resources there.

The current Electoral College Count is Romney 248, Obama 237 with Ohio (18), Wisconsin (10), Iowa  
(6), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (6) and Colorado (9) left to be decided.  Of all these states, Colorado will almost certainly fall into Romney's lap but I'm not ready to give it to him.  If Ohio falls with Colorado he'll win the election.  If the contest ended today I would say that Romney would win Ohio, Colorado and Iowa for a total of 285 EVs, 15 more than he'd need.  If he runs the table and sneaks Pennsylvania he'll get 321 but that's about his maximum ceiling right now.

Romney is certainly is good shape but two weeks is a very long time in politics.  We'll see if his surge, especially with political independents, will be enough to stop Obama's ground game, especially in Ohio.


The Snitch

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama is giving up on Florida and Virginia

Obama's path to victory has gotten smaller as his chief strategist David Plouffe in a recent comment left Virginia and Florida off the President's "firewall".  If we give those two states to Mitt Romney his total rises to 248 Electoral Votes while President Obama has 201.  The remaining states are:  Ohio (18), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Wisconsin (10), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (20) and Michigan (16).  Team Romney seems confident that Colorado will fall into their laps (they've got an overall registered voters advantage in the state and they feel strongly they are surging there) and that would push up their total to 257, 13 short of victory.

Obviously Ohio is the great prize; in the if the above states fall to Romney and he wins Ohio he'll become President.  With 20 days left Mitt's got the momentum and a slight lead, we'll see if he can cross the finish line.


The Snitch

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Only Two Numbers Matter Now

There are only two metrics that matter: One, the President's approval rating (somewhere around 48%) and who is leading among Independent voters (Romney by at least 10%).  In 2008 Obama got between 52-53% of the votes of Independents and ended up with about that much of the overall vote.  If he's not leading on Election Day with this key demographic he will almost certainly lose the election.

The other key is his approval rating.  In the modern American presidency most incumbents (in a two-man race) usually end up receiving an aggregate amount of the national vote that is about equal to his approval rating.  If this holds true in 2012 (and there is no reason to think it won't) Romney probably beats Obama by about five points.

If political Independents continue to break to Romney he has a chance of a very clear win (52-54% and around 320 EVs).  His huge win in the debate has turned the tide in the election, and, if it were held today, he would win.  We'll see if he can hold on until Election Day.


The Snitch

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Would a President Romney-Harry Reid Senate Look Like?

What would President Mitt Romney do as President if Harry Reid is still Majority Leader in January 2013?  What can he hope to get done if the Democrats still run the Upper Chamber when Romney is sworn in as the 45th President?  Will he be able to get any major tax, budget or health care reform accomplished or will his legislative agenda be stillborn in a heavily partisan atmosphere with little, if any, honeymoon phase for the new President?

Most reasonable people believe that whatever happens in the Presidential election and the various Senate contests around the country the House of Representatives will stay Republican in the next Congress and John Boehner will be able to shepherd (at least for a few months until the 2014 midterm elections begin to heat up) a budget, some kind of Obamacare repeal and tax reform through the Lower Chamber.  But what if the Democrats are still in charge of the Senate?  As close as this election season is not only at the national level but with so many Senate contests coming right down to the wire there are four scenarios that could happen in January 2013.  A reelected Obama could still have a Democratic Senate or he may have to deal with a Republican one.  President Romney could face a Harry Reid as Majority Leader, or, if he is a little lucky, may get to deal with Mitch McConnell if the GOP wins the Upper Chamber.  Republican candidates are trailing in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio and Florida and they need to gain three seats just to have a 50/50 split with Vice President Paul Ryan breaking the tie.  But what happens if the GOP loses most of those races and ends up with 48 or 49 seats?  It is certainly possible.  George Bush came into office in January 2001 with the Republicans just having lost five seats in the Senate and ended up losing shared control of the chamber after Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided to caucus with the Democrats in June.  Bush was able to pass education and some tax reform but (with the notable exception of 9/11 related legislation) was obstructed by Tom Daschle and his allies in the Democratic caucus.   Will this happen again?  It could, if Mitt wins and Harry ends up running the Senate.

The Big Problem-The Honorable Harry Reid
Based on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statements about Mitt Romney (saying he’s a potential felon, tax cheat, bad Mormon, etc.) it is very hard to imagine the senior Senator from Nevada granting the new President much of a political honeymoon.  After the last four (really most of the last twelve years) of extreme political polarization and all the water Harry Reid had to carry for President Obama he’s not about to, if still Majority Leader, allow legislation to come forward to roll back laws that he worked so hard (and Democrats paid such a steep political price) to pass.  With this probably being his last term (it seems fairly clear he won’t run again in 2016) he wouldn’t pay any real political price opposing a Republican president without a significant electoral mandate.  Able to stop President Romney at every turn, the new Administration would have a Sisyphean task to pass legislation reforming health care, the tax code or the appointment of federal judges to the bench. 

The Tea Party’s first priority in a Republican administration would be the repeal of the most controversial piece of domestic legislation in a generation.  If the GOP gets even a bare majority (perhaps 51 seats) they could probably ram through some kind of package that would repeal most, if not all of Obamacare.  Working with the House of Representatives the Senate GOP could probably reverse the mechanism (Reconciliation) the Democrats used in 2009.  It would be interesting to see if Senate Republicans would have the moxie to actually follow through if they had a majority.  If Harry Reid is still in charge, however, Obamacare would probably remain in place as most of the Democratic caucus (with the notable exception of a few vulnerable members up in 2014) would have no reason to see it changed and could use it as a cudgel to beat up the new Administration.  Perhaps the House and Senate could come up with a small compromise (eliminating the hated Independent Payment Advisory Board comes to mind) but, in the end, it would probably depend on what Senator Reid decides will come up on the calendar.  And, after the heartache the Democrats went through to get it passed in the first place it is hard to see how President Romney would be able to patch together a coalition to make changes acceptable enough to pass the Senate.  At the same time, Harry Reid will be able to sit back and criticize the process and make political capital against any changes that he could spin into sound bites against Republicans bent on denying Americans health care.  Democrats around the country could sit back and laugh if Republicans were not able to stop their great legislative achievement and then the resulting political blame the GOP would get as the law really begins its implementation in 2013-14.

Tax and Budget Reform
What will happen when we reach the “fiscal cliff” on January 1, 2013?  If there is no significant patch by the rump Congress that will meet for a few weeks after November 6 there is simply no telling how employers, individual taxpayers and investors will react as they prepare for a such a wide range of tax increases.  Combined with an eventual European reckoning that probably won’t have a good ending (Spain and Greece seem to already be in a death spiral) there is a very real chance that the economy will be in recession as President Romney starts his Presidency.  The possibility of rising unemployment as businesses, faced with large tax increases and health care changes from Obamacare, simply shuttering their door present a huge political danger for a new President as nervous Americans will demand quick action to forestall a significant economic downturn.  Moreover, if the economy does degenerate further, the federal deficit will continue to grow as more Americans seek relief and less tax revenue finds its way into the federal treasury.  In this scenario Harry Reid is in a particularly strong position as Mitt Romney would have to come to him, hat in hand, to wring out any kind of tax and budget arrangement that would stimulate the economy.  If that happens, Reid will make huge demands and will be extremely difficult for President Romney to fashion any kind of compromise that will be acceptable to the Majority Leader and the House GOP leadership.  Facing the prospect of getting pummeled in the 2014 midterms in an economy in recession, the GOP will be very weak against an invigorated Harry Reid who can make demand after demand and criticize the President for any action (or inaction) that he may make to save the struggling economy.  He was all over President Bush in 2007 and 2008 for a lack of leadership and his party went from 45 senators in 2005 to 60 in 2009.  That will always be in the back of his mind and he knows he’ll probably be the great beneficiary of any of the country’s economic set backs as voters will blame the President, not Congress for their woes.

The Judiciary
This issue has not generated much ink in the last few months but it certainly will become hot when President Romney begins to fill positions on the Federal Appeals courts around the country, and, perhaps, to the Supreme Court.  The political Left will simply not allow its Democratic supporters in the Senate to give a Republican president much leeway in who he appoints to the Federal bench and Harry Reid will slow walk any nominations to the floor for a vote.  This will be especially true if a really unreconstructed liberal like Ruth Bader Ginsburg ends up retiring and President Romney would be under a lot of pressure from the political Right to appoint a person who will tip the balance of a very divided Supreme Court to the conservatives.  Very simply, this could end up being an issue that could destroy the President’s credibility with the Right (and they may well abandon him) if he ends up appointing a David Souter-like moderate to the Court.  The problem, of course, is that this is probably the only type of person who could eventually make it through a Judiciary Committee packed with extreme liberals and a Majority Leader hell bent on continually embarrassing a President that he obviously doesn’t like personally and politically.  If anyone needs any indication of what this process will be like they simply have to go back to the maltreatment of Miguel Estrada, a first generation American and a star legal mind who had worked in the Clinton Administration and was appointed by President Bush in 2001 to the D.C. Court of Appeals.  With Tom Daschle in charge, Estrada, as capable and competent as any before or after never even got a vote on the floor and, after a waiting more than a year, simply withdrew his name from consideration.  There is simply no reason to believe that a much more liberal Democratic caucus will stomach conservative appointees and, as a result, seats on the various courts around the country will remain unfilled or will be stuffed full of compromise candidates that liberals can live with and conservatives will weep, gnash their teeth over and curse the President that they worked so hard to elect.

Wild Cards
Certainly all this can be avoided if Mitt Romney’s victory (if there is one) is strong enough to carry the Senate along with him.  Ronald Reagan was able to take twelve new GOP senators with him to DC in 1981 after delivering a ten point knockout to the hapless Jimmy Carter.  Unfortunately, 2012 is not 1980 and Barack Obama is not Jimmy Carter and will probably, even if he loses, keep this election very close.  If Mitt does win and the GOP does control the Senate, he’d have at least a few months to work through Congress legislation that he deems important.  If Romney wins and the Senate GOP remains in the minority, the new President would need a lot of luck to get anything through.  Perhaps the economy will recover or the new President rises to a national challenge as yet unseen (the first Gulf War or 9/11 come to mind) and can parlay that kind of leadership into political capital he may get legislation that he wants passed.  Even in that scenario, however, that kind of political honeymoon doesn’t last long and a political animal like Harry Reid will demand a high price.

If there’s an irony to this it is that there are at least fourteen Democrats in the Senate who are cheering for a Romney victory and I’ll tell you who they are: Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, Mark Udall, Tom Harkin, Mary Landrieu, Carl Levin, Al Franken, Max Baucus, Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Udall, Kay Hagan, Jeff Merkley, Tim Johnson, and Mark Warner.  They are all up for reelection in 2014 and most of the names mentioned above would be in terrible political jeopardy if President Obama is reelected.  Especially for those elected for the first time in the Democratic year of 2008, these folks will be particularly vulnerable in the sixth year of Obama’s presidency and would (probably) suffer accordingly.  Faced with defeat many would probably consider retirement (especially old bulls Levin, Harkin, Johnson and Baucus) rather than face a humiliating defeat.  But we’ll see; it is a geological ice age until the Presidential election and we simply don’t know what will happen.  We simply have to wait and find out what the American voters decide on November 6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Wait....

Polls, polls and more polls.  Always remember polls are simply snapshots of a very long and continually changing process.  Certainly they can give you a sense of a trend towards one candidate or another but they cannot tell you the outcome.  On Monday night during the Cowboys/Bears game if you would have only been exposed to thirty pictures of the contest you may have come up with the right answer but you could very well have been wrong too and that is the great danger in this year's Presidential contest.

There have been hundreds of national and state polls in this cycle, many more than in any previous contest.  People on both sides go crazy over a shift of a point or two when we're still about five weeks out from the election and that's simply unwise.  Certainly the President has some kind of small lead (perhaps two or three points) but that's not enough to call the election for him.  I would suggest that we all take a breather, wait until next Tuesday and then really start looking at the trend lines.  That way we can take in the polling after tonight's debate, let the holiday weekend go by and see if it had an impact (if any) on the election.  There are still about fifteen percent of voters who are truly undecided or who may switch their vote and that is enough to give the President or Mitt Romney a victory.

Right now I would say the President's maximum percentage he could get in this election is right around 50%; that's a point or two above his approval rating.  He's not going to come close to the 52.9% he received last time as political independents have shifted so clearly against him.  He can still eke out a victory against a weak Republican candidate but again we should wait until next week before we really start to size up the race.


The Snitch