Saturday, April 28, 2012

State of the Race May 5, 2012

Another Saturday, another look at the weekly state of the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  No new national polls of note this week.

The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll has now been going on for about three weeks.  That provides us enough data points to make a chart of the numbers worthwhile.  The initial tracking polls showed Gov. Romney with a lead of between 1 and 5 percentage points, the situation flipped on April 21 as President Obama opened up a 3 percentage point lead.  As of the latest update on May 3 the race is back to a deadbeat.  Seems appropriate given this week is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby.  Here's the chart:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Budget Lies and Journalistic Disgrace

The Republican talking point machine is in high gear as we head into the silly season prior to the party conventions in late summer.  Economic growth is decent but not great.  The fictional 'war on women' is winding down leaving Republicans with little to talk about.  So why not resurrect the tired line about the president failing to pass a budget in three years, ignoring the fact that it is Congress' responsibility to pass a budget, not the president's.  They could even send Sarah Palin out to lecture about how President Obama is shirking his constitutional responsibility.  Wait, they did.  Of course, as Jon Bernstein notes, Palin doesn't even apparently understand the Constitution she so willingly accuses the president of violating.   In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox Palin says,
And the number one thing, Greta, that he is responsible for is -- he today violating Article I, Section [9], Clause 7 of the United States Constitution in not having a budget. Going on three years, over a thousand days with no budget, no blueprint to run our federal government!
Really?  As others have pointed out, the section Palin cited says NOTHING about a budget or a series of appropriations bills.  It simply says that when the government spends money it has to be authorized by law and it has to account for the expenditures.  Both of those things have happened...the Budget Control Act of November 18, 2011 established spending levels for FY 2012 and the executive branch produces expenditure reports regularly as required.  No violations here.  Just a lot of hot air emanating from Ms. Palin, as usual.

But that isn't what bothers me.  No, it is the sheer lack of journalistic integrity displayed by Greta Van Susteren that allowed Palin to get away with this nonsense.  Now, I understand that expecting an infotainment channel like Fox to actually explain to its viewers how the appropriations process works might qualify me for delusions even greater than the ones Gov. Palin apparently suffers from.  Expecting the media to actually educate Americans is a tall order, especially when they don't want to be educated.  Nevertheless, the media play a vital role in preserving a democratic society and if the best it can do is provide a platform for know nothings to spout disinformation for partisan political purposes perhaps democracy isn't worth preserving after all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

State of the 2012 Race for the White House

We've had a busy week in the world of presidential polling with three new polls released yesterday.  Each of them shows the president holding a lead over the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.  The leads vary from 12 points in the latest CNN poll to 4 points in the Reuters and Pew polls.  Now, those of you who know me understand that I don't put much stock in polls this far out from an election.  They are simply a snapshot of the electorate's mood at a given point in time.  That said, here's the latest picture of the polls.

Gallup has also begun reporting its daily tracking poll on the race between President Obama and Governor Romney.  Once we have enough data points I will post a graphic for that poll each week.  Currently, this poll has Mitt Romney leading President Obama by 5 points, 48-43.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hilary Rosen Dustup & New National Poll

Manufacturing Controversy

It is clear from the events of the last few days that America has finally solved all its problems.  At least that's what I'm tempted to think given all the conversation by the chattering class about what Hilary Rosen said a couple nights ago.  Mitt Romney has stated on several occasions that his wife Ann helps him to understand the issues that are important to women.  Hilary Rosen attempted to cast doubt on Ms. Romney's ability to understand the economic concerns of working class women by saying that Ann Romney 'never worked a day in her life.'  It was clearly a poor choice of words by Ms. Rosen that have been spun by the press and the GOP to make it sound as though Rosen was denigrating Ms. Romney for being a stay at home mom.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  Ms. Rosen was just sticking to the Democratic Party line that will be a large part of the fall general election campaign argument that the Romney's are part of the 1% and as such cannot identify with the struggles of the 99%.  It wasn't an attack on stay at home moms or Ann Romney.  But since all of our problems have been solved, the political elites have to manufacture controversy somewhere or we just might tune them out.  Perhaps we should do that anyway?

New Fox News Poll

A new national poll was released on Friday showing Mitt Romney with a 2 percentage point lead over President Barack Obama.  As a result I've updated the chart posted earlier this week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Away They Go!

Now that Rick Santorum has officially suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination the media is sure to turn its attention to the 'horse race' between President Obama and Mitt Romney.  While I certainly question the usefulness of polls conducted 7 or more months prior to election day, I also recognize that previous political science research indicates most voters have already decided for whom they will vote in November.  For voters who have made their decision, the issues no longer matter on a daily basis, thus why should the media cover them if their reporting is for the bulk of their audience?  In some ways it would be similar to a caller of a horse race announcing the past performances of the entrants in a race after the bettors have made their wagers and the horses have left the starting gate.  If the media are just providing an update on the status of the race to voters who have already made up their minds, the horse race coverage may make sense as Andrew Gelman argues.    To be sure, though, there are a small percentage of voters who will make up their minds later in the campaign, as the classic book The American Voter reported in 1960 (and has been confirmed by American National Election Studies every two years since).

All that is to say that the polls the media are reporting today won't tell us much about who will ultimately be elected president in November.  Polling conducted after Labor Day will give us a much better picture.  The polls do, however, provide us with a pretty good idea of the floor and ceiling of support for each of the party nominees.  Since 1932, the largest margin of victory for a presidential candidate was 24.3% (FDR's landslide reelection in 1936), while two others enjoyed victories by at least 20 percentage points (LBJ in 1964-22.6%; Richard Nixon in 1972-23.2%).  Most presidential elections are relatively close with margins of 5-8 percentage points.  This year is likely to be no different.  Having said that, today will be the first of an ongoing series of posts that will be updated whenever a new national poll by a reputable polling organization is released.  I will include results from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Pew, USA, and CNN (and each of their respective partners).

So, in the classic style of my favorite race caller the great Trevor Denman, 'away they go.'

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Free Speech? Not in Little Havana!

By now everybody has heard about Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen's remarks about how much he loves Fidel Castro.  You've probably also heard that he has now been suspended for five games as a result, even after apologizing and saying his comments were taken out of context.  You probably haven't heard many conservatives or liberals rushing to Guillen's defense, though I'm sure you've heard many from both sides criticizing Mr. Guillen.  Reactions from fans outside the Marlins new ballpark in Little Havana included the following:

"We don't need a guy like that teaching our children that kind of behavior. I won't allow my children, grandchildren, to watch the games if he stays."

Read more here:
“I don’t think we should forget the words he has already said,” Sandigo said. “This country is a country of convictions and values. We’re here for a cause.”
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't one of those values freedom of speech?  Even when we don't like what the person has to say.  It seems strange to me that we can be a country that insists spending money is a protected form of speech, that corporations are people, too, but the manager of a baseball team gets crucified for expressing what was on his mind.  I won't pretend to know what many Cuban-Americans have experienced at the hands of the Castro regime, either in person or through family members.  I don't deny that Castro is an evil man who has caused pain for millions of people.  I'm also pretty sure that people who disagreed with his regime were silenced.    Perhaps that makes Little Havana not all that much different from the real Havana.

Free speech?  Not in Little Havana.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Two Wars

It seems like America has always been at war.  For many kids growing up today all they have ever known is war.  The mass media, left and right, and our political chattering class has been talking a lot about war in recent weeks.  In fact, each side seems to have their own favorite war.  Of course, I'm talking about the twin wars on religion and women.  The only problem is that the two wars are a fiction of the imagination concocted wholly by the political elites.

First, the war on religion.  Republicans like to claim that President Obama and his administration have embarked on a 'war on religion.'  As evidence, they point to the recent requirement by the Department of Health & Human Services requiring ALL employers to provide birth control if they provide insurance to their employees.  Even though the directive specifically exempts religious institutions engaged in religious activities Republicans see a war on religion.  They are, of course, wrong.  It is not a 'war' in any sense of the word, merely a requirement that all organizations, whether religious or not, who are engaged in non-religious activities (i.e., commerce) abide by the same rules.  This requirement upholds the constitutional separation between church and state prohibiting Congress from either establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  There is nothing inherently religious about participating in the business world that should give religious entities an exception, thus allowing them a competitive advantage over secular entities.  The requirement neither inhibits nor promotes the advancement of religion, which squares with what the Supreme Court ruled in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).

Second, the so-called 'war on women' concocted by those on the political left is another example of political fiction.  Pundits and politicians from Candy Crowley to Nancy Pelosi have claimed that the GOP is engaged in a war on women by opposing the above regulation.  Then they proceed to invoke polls that show the war on women is harming Republicans.  Yet another figment of the political elites imagination.  It is a war that doesn't exist, just like the war on religion is a figment concocted somewhere in the bowels of the GOP.  Sure, some of the policies advocated by Republicans in recent months might shore up Democratic support among women but that really is nothing new.  It is simply a solidification of the gender gap that has been present for a very long time.  President Obama won the female vote by 13 percentage points over John McCain in 2008, up 10 points from John Kerry's result in 2004, but similar to Al Gore's margin over George W. Bush in 2000.

In the end, there is neither a war on religion nor a war on women going on.  No, the true war being waged by the politicians and the talking heads is on the intelligence of the American People.  We deserve better but we won't get it until we demand accountability from the press, from the politicians, and, ultimately, begin to think for ourselves and question the garbage being fed to us by the elites.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Intellectual Honesty? Dead!

When did intellectually honest conversation die?  Was it ever alive?  Or has American politics always been steeped in spin, talking points, and demagoguery?  I don't have a really good answer to this question but I can say that the current state of the political conversation in America is pitiful.  I've long thought the major media outlets (Fox, ABC, CBS, and the rest) were intellectually lazy.  No wonder average Americans have tuned out the political class and tuned in to Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, and the Hunger Games.

Case in point, while watching Morning Joe this morning, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) was asked about Mitt Romney's 'woman problem.'  She launched into a dialogue about how women are just like everybody else, concerned with rising gas prices and the debt, as if either of those were President Obama's fault.  Then she criticized the president over the price of gas and complained about how he has reduced drilling on federal lands and blocked the XL pipeline, neither of which has any relation to oil prices!  Oil is a market traded commodity whose price fluctuates based on world demand, not US demand.  Additionally, overall production in the U.S. is 8% higher than when President Obama took office...and it has had NO effect on oil prices.  If the XL project were to go forward it would be years before any oil began flowing from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Even then, the refineries would turn it into diesel and export it to Europe, which would not reduce prices in the U.S. at all.  All the drilling in the world isn't going to lower the price of oil as long as a cartel controls much of the supply and speculators can bid up the price to reap windfall profits.  President Bush wasn't responsible for high gas prices in 2008 and Barack Obama isn't responsible for them in 2012.

And her point about the debt?  Ridiculous.  The much touted Paul Ryan budget does nothing to eliminate the $16 trillion in debt we have.  Sure, it balances the budget in 28 years, assuming everything works perfectly for the next 28 years, which it won't.  But it also more than doubles the debt accrued during that span.  Of course, Republicans will keep insisting on more tax cuts for their wealthy benefactors, which will only exacerbate the debt problem further.  The president hasn't proposed a serious budget that will lead to fiscal sanity either.  We should all be honest about that.  But we won't be.

Intellectual honesty?  Nah, it's dead and buried in America.