Sunday, September 27, 2015

Planned Parenthood and Government Funding

With the debate over Planned Parenthood intensifying in Congress, I decided to look into the data on government funding and women's health programs. Debate over the funding has become more tense since the release of undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress. The videos show officials of Planned Parenthood discussing the sales of body parts from aborted babies. Pro-life activist David Daleiden has been behind the videos that have been released (he has 300 hours of footage and more videos are expected to be uploaded), which he says show the "non-profit" organization clearly profiting.

Democrats in the Senate have blocked a Republican bill that would stop taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. The bill would have provided short-term funding for the federal government up to December 11. Republican leaders hoped that the bill would avoid a government shutdown on October 1. The only Democrat to vote for the bill was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia while some Republicans did break ranks because they criticized the bill only provided short-term funding. Political conflict in Congress has also led Speaker of the House John Boehner to resign.

The argument many Democrats make against removing $540 million in funding for Planned Parenthood is that the organization provides important services for women who need medical assistance that cannot receive it elsewhere, but their argument is highly exaggerated. Take Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's statement as an example. He said Planned Parenthood "is the health care backbone for American women during their lives. In fact, it's the only health care that a significant number of women get. About 30 percent of women, that's their health care."

A report from PolitiFact ruled his statement as "Pants on Fire" because the real data for medical service are drastically low. Only 2.7 million women went to Planned Parenthood in 2013, but Reid believed that the number of patients was 39 million. That's simply way too high. Those women who receive care from Planned Parenthood could easily go to other organizations that provide identical service. Kelsey Harkness of The Daily Signal looked into the numbers and found that there were 13,540 clinics that provide comprehensive healthcare for women across the United States. There are only 665 Planned Parenthood locations, so defunding Planned Parenthood does not create a disastrous situation for women.

Since there are plenty of other clinics for women to be treated, continuing to send taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood is unnecessary. There's also the fiscal argument against funding Planned Parenthood. The U.S. federal deficit returned to a pre-recession level last year, but it was still $483.35 billion. The government cannot continue to borrow money it does not have or else the American credit rating will continue to be damaged. An overhaul of every federal program is needed. Even though Planned Parenthood funding is pennies compared to the deficit, that doesn't justify the continuation of funding. The government has to reduce spending across-the-board to balance the budget. When large surpluses become the norm, taxes can be cut so women have more money that they can spend on healthcare. This is the route our country will need as we move into a dangerous fiscal future.

Bernie Sanders hasn't Solved the Demographic Problem

Sanders in Seattle - The Wall Street Journal
Back in May, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for president. In my post, I argued that one of his biggest problems was his appeal to African-Americans and Hispanics. Those problems still exist in September. His campaign is very successful in New Hampshire and has had some success in Iowa, but after that his support quickly falls away. The Nevada caucus is next in the race for the Democratic nomination. I cannot say for sure how Sanders is doing there at the moment because there has been no recent polling. The polling we do have from Gravis Marketing shows Hillary Clinton with a big lead (the last poll was in July). After that caucus is the South Carolina primary, which isn't any better.

Sanders' campaign has been attacked by Black Lives Matter movement since they interrupted a speech in Seattle months ago. Sanders and his campaign advisers probably know that things aren't going well, so they are making the effort to broaden their appeal. We don't know if it will work yet. If we had the Iowa caucus today, then there's a very good chance that Sanders would win it. New Hampshire is guaranteed to go for him at the moment, but the question of momentum is raised after the first two states. While those two states have white liberals that heavily support Sanders, most states do not.

Income inequality is Sanders' issue and his cure for that is democratic socialism, but that doesn't solve the issue of racial inequality. Many liberals believe structural racism is still very real, but they don't believe it is an economic issue. When Sanders hears that argument, he will usually point to youth unemployment and say that jobs programs will solve the matter. This is why many African-Americans and Hispanics are turned off by Sanders. They see the issue as more than just a jobs issue.

Vermont (the state where Sanders is a senator) is 94 percent white and has few immigrants. It is one of the most liberal states in the union. Sanders has never had to build a coalition of voting groups to win an election and he has never needed to compete for independents. That Vermont campaign style shows in his national campaign. In order for him to be in a stronger position, Sanders has to increase his poll numbers among minorities. He obviously hopes that momentum from winning New Hampshire will do something, but that's taking a big risk. I'm not sure Sanders can improve without diversifying his voter base.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Donald Trump is Starting to Slip

Trump in Dallas, Texas - International Business Times
According to the recent polls on the RealClearPolitics average for the Republican nomination, Trump has lost a lot of ground. He's still got a nice lead, but problems are starting to arise. In the middle of this month, he was leading with 30.5 percent. Now he's leading with 24 percent while gains are made by Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. Ben Carson, on the other hand, is sputtering at the moment. Carson was at 20 percent around the same time Trump peaked, but now he is at 16.3 percent. Anyone who has common sense in politics knows where to point: the debate.

I didn't give Trump a good rating at the debate. With my Fox News Election Headquarters app, he got a 0. I liked his comments three times, disliked them twice, and I gave him a dodge for one comment. The only candidate who gets a worse rating is Mike Huckabee, who I gave no pluses or negatives (probably because he wasn't on much). It seems that other candidates did do damage to Trump during the debate. Carly Fiorina's response to Trump's comment about her face was gold, so to was Jeb Bush's response to him on George W. Bush's foreign policy. Scott Walker may have dropped out, but he called out Trump for bogus attacks on the Wisconsin budget.

For months, Trump has been in a conflict with Fox News that seems to go on and off, but that conflict has just reached a boiling point. The Donald has announced that he will no longer do interviews with Fox News because he was treated "very unfairly" by their coverage. His constant war against one of America's most important news networks is very childish. He has continued to attack TV show host Megyn Kelly even after his issue with her questions during the first debate was settled. His latest tirade is against Bill O'Reilly for not showing polls that Trump is doing well in after the debate (I can only find one respected poll, so there aren't many to go around). 

Trump can always bounce back and right now I'm only focused on the national polls even if those in Iowa and New Hampshire are more valuable. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to think that he wasn't hurt from the last debate. Trump is starting to face setbacks and unless he doesn't do something about it, then he will be in trouble when voting begins.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scott Walker Drops Out

Walker - Breitbart
If you know me personally, then you know that one of my favorite presidents is Calvin Coolidge. One of the most distinct characteristics about Coolidge was that he wasn't charismatic. His nickname was "Silent Cal" for how laconic he was. Despite his lack of populism, Coolidge was one of most successful presidents in terms of passing an agenda. Even so, one of the most important things to remember about Coolidge was that he never became president through an election. He ran as the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket in 1920. The presidential candidate was Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio, who did have rhetorical gifts. Harding won the election, but he died in 1923 and Coolidge became president.

In terms of rhetoric and governance, Scott Walker reminds me of Coolidge. Walker wasn't exactly silent (you can't be anymore if you're in politics), but he wasn't the most exciting of candidates. Most Wisconsin politicians aren't and maybe that's why few run for president. Sure, we have Paul Ryan and Tommy Thompson, but those are only some of the few colorful figures we have. A historian has to stretch all the way back to Robert La Follette to find someone just as charismatic. Walker is a very normal person, but being a normal person didn't really catch-on with Republicans when you have Donald Trump running for president. That's why the Wisconsin governor dropped out on Monday. The speech is here:

In many ways, being normal can work to your advantage, but you have to excite people if you want to be president. Scott Walker's debate performances didn't do that. In fact, Walker got the least amount of time to speak at the two debates of any major Republican candidate. That's a problem with the networks. Originally, I thought Walker would be the ideal Republican candidate because he broadened his support with moderates and conservatives. Then Trump stole the show and many Republicans rallied to him for support. In some ways, the Donald has actually broadened support between moderates and conservatives since no one knows what he truly stands for. His bombastic speeches destroyed the Walker campaign, which some people argue peaked in the polls too early. Walker ended up satisfying neither side.

Walker went from being a front-runner nationally to a minor presidential candidate. The obvious decision would be to put all available resources into Iowa, but the money was starting to dry up and he had no choice but to drop out. Walker is another Midwestern Republican who failed to significantly keep a base of support. The same happened with Tim Pawlenty in 2012 (although his reason was for wasting resources on the straw poll). In the last speech of his campaign, Walker attacked Trump while requesting that more Republican presidential candidates drop out in order to unite the party. I think Walker has a future, but it doesn't seem to be in this election. At least he's still an awesome governor.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The GOP and Demographics

One of the Republican Party's biggest problems in the 2012 presidential election was their lack of appeal to minorities. The GOP always wins white voters, but in 2012 they only won 6 percent of blacks, 26 percent of Asians, and 27 percent of Hispanics. Compare that to 2004, when President George W. Bush won 11 percent of blacks, 43 percent of Asians, and 44 percent of Hispanics. President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns were successful because they developed a coalition of Hispanics, African-Americans, young people, and single women. The next Democratic nominee wants to repeat this while the next Republican nominee wants the coalition to fall apart.

Some political experts argue that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 because he failed to extend his support to different racial groups. If he picked Marco Rubio, who was talked about as a VP candidate in 2012, then Romney would have improved among Hispanic voters. In the end, he picked Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan was move conservative than Romney, so he could rally the Republican base. The plan didn't work and Obama won a second term. In fact, there was a decrease of 6.5 million white voters in 2012 (they didn't win the swing state of Wisconsin either). These voters could have been conservatives who didn't like Romney.

The loss of white voters is the most important demographic change in 2012. The Republicans do have options. They can go after these voters to win in 2016, but they can also increase their appeal among Hispanics and African-Americans. They don't need to win black voters, but a simple increase of 5 percent to return to Bush's numbers will help them a lot. They should also want to get back to the support they had with Hispanics in 2004. I think it is important for the presidential nominee or the VP nominee to be of a different race to broaden the ticket. Sociological voting matters.

RealClearPolitics has now set up a cool simulation that can help people figure out how many voters the Republican Party needs. I'm going to use this simulation to find a pathway to victory for Republicans in 2016. The only problem with it is that third parties are not a factor (but the number of votes that will go Libertarian, Green, Constitution, or to other minor parties is always unpredictable). I decided to keep turnout as it was in 2012 (64.1 of whites, 66.2 percent of African-Americans, 48 percent of Hispanics, and 49.3 percent of Asians voted in the election).

Same Turnout as 2012

First, I decided to increase the GOP's share of the black vote from 6.1 percent to 9.5 percent, which is roughly the average for what Republican candidates win. Next, I decided to increase the share of Latino votes for Republicans by 10 percent (from 27.6 to 37.6 percent). I also did this with Asians, so the GOP share with that group increased from 31.6 percent to 41.6 percent. Finally I increased the share of white voters just 1 percent (from 60.2 percent to 61.2 percent). I got this:

Those changes shifted four battleground states to the Republican side. These were Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado. That's 275 electoral votes for the Republican and 263 electoral votes for the Democrat. The Republican won 50.6 percent of the popular vote while the Democrat won 49.4 percent. Remember, third parties are not accounted for.

We can't say that a Republican victory in 2016 is going to look exactly like this. I'm only assuming that it will be close right now, but catastrophes do occur. If Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee, maybe he would like to focus his efforts on his home state of Pennsylvania (a swing state) rather than somewhere else. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush probably wouldn't have to worry about Florida like other Republicans who aren't from there would, so they can can spend more campaign time in other states. Before he dropped out, Scott Walker probably would have focused on Wisconsin and Iowa if he was the nominee.

Adjusting Turnout

One criticism I predict in receiving is that I did not adjust turnout among the groups. Some political commentators argue that white turnout is going to decline while turnout among the other three groups will increase. In response to that criticism, I decided to run the simulation again and decreased white turnout from 64.1 percent to 62.1 percent. I increased African-American turnout from 66.2 percent to 68.2 percent, increased Hispanic turnout from 48 percent to 50 percent, and increased Asian turnout from 49.3 percent to 51.3 percent. Under this simulation, I kept the Republican share of voters the same as I did with the first simulation. This happened:

Now the Democratic candidate wins with 294 electoral votes to the Republican's 244 electoral votes. It's a nail-biter though, with both candidates winning 50 percent (roughly 65.3 million for the Democrat and 65.2 million for the Republican to be precise). If turnout grows, demographics will hurt the Republican Party unless they extend their message to other racial groups.

Adjusted Turnout with a Republican Victory

The Republicans need more votes to win Ohio and Virginia, which is their path to victory. I increased the black vote to 10 percent, increased the Hispanic vote to 40 percent, and increased the Asian vote to 42 percent. I did nothing with the white vote. Under that simulation, the GOP is back to 275 electoral votes with 50.4 percent of the popular vote. It looks like this:

Reaching these numbers isn't that hard for Republicans. They are less than what Bush won in 2004. In fact, this same simulation can be run if the Republican candidate wins an additional 1 percent of whites while doing nothing with other groups (that means the GOP vote share for whites is 62.2 percent).

Adjusted Turnout with 2004

The last time Republicans won a presidential election was in 2004. I decided to use Bush's numbers in that election with my simulation. I find this simulation very interesting because Bush won less whites than Romney did and it hurts Republican chances today:

The Republicans improve, but they only win in Florida. 

From looking at these simulations, it is clear that the GOP does need to expand support among minorities, but white voters still matter. If they improve by 1-2 percent with white voters, if they improve by at least 2 percent with blacks, if they improve by over 10 percent with Hispanics, and if they improve by over 10 percent with Asians, then the Republican presidential candidate will be in good shape. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Don't Be Fooled in 2016

Jeb Bush and Donald Trump during the CNN debate. - Star Tribune
The latest batch of presidential debates are over and people are being questioned by pollsters. By the end of next week, we will have enough polls to conclude who won this presidential debate. The media is going to make the changes seem really exciting as if the presidential election is on September 30. Once again, it should be reaffirmed that we are too far away from the Iowa caucus (over 130 days) for this debate to make a major impact.

That isn't to say every debate matters. They do, but the importance of the debates increases over time. Just because a candidate leads right now doesn't mean he or she will win the nomination. Polls at this moment only help the media organize debate stages and gives the two parties details of what is currently going on. It does help to know how a party (or a certain percentage of voters in a party) is thinking.

Donald Trump can keep his lead, but he won't win anything after it. Carly Fiorina or Ben Carson could be the front-runners, but the rest of the month is going to be about building momentum. Truth is that I would vote for any Republican nominee in the end, but there are historical and political trends to follow. When's the last time someone who held no political office was a party nominee? 1956. Dwight Eisenhower was nominated by the GOP to run for a second term and did so successfully. Trump is a very successful businessman. Fiorina's business record is debatable, but she became CEO just as a stock market crash was about to hit. Carson has made great contributions to the medical world. We can agree that each of these three people achieved success in their lives, but the idea that any of them will be the GOP nominee is difficult for me to believe. They can do it, but it is very hard for them to pull this off.

The Tea Party is mad at the Republican establishment, but that doesn't mean they will continue to throw weight behind Carson or Trump. There are plenty of Republicans who won elections in 2010 or since (when the Tea Party became a real political force). Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio are two senators that have pushed for conservative reforms in Congress. They're Senate experience gives them credibility on legislation and foreign policy. Scott Walker and John Kasich became governors in 2010. All of these candidates are more likely to rise to the top of the polls and win than the three political outsiders. To be fair, conservatives more likely to back Cruz and Walker rather than Paul and Kasich. They aren't going to support Jeb Bush.

The Democratic Party doesn't have any political outsider candidates, which makes their nominee easy to predict. At the moment, it's going to be either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden (if he does become a candidate). Bernie Sanders has a Super Tuesday problem with demographics that appears impossible to fight, Martin O'Malley is too similar to Clinton, Jim Webb is looking for a Democratic Party that doesn't exist, and Lincoln Chafee was a Republican until 2007. Chafee, in this specific way, is Donald Trump even if he does not have Trump's money and style. It's easy to see why Clinton is still the favorite to win the Democratic nomination right now.

If the Republicans held all their primaries and caucuses on this day in 2008, Rudy Giuliani would have been the nominee. In that same situation for the Democrats, Clinton would have been the 2008 nominee. There's a lot of time left, so I wouldn't make a big fuss out of the current political situation and neither should you.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Who Won the CNN Debate on September 16?

The Nation
First off, I felt this debate was too long. I love politics, but three hours was too long. Secondly, I enjoyed listening to the eleven presidential candidates, but this hurt more candidates than it helped. This can be proven through a cool graph made by FiveThirtyEight:

Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker were only asked three questions each. John Kasich and Marco Rubio were only asked four questions each. On the other end, Donald Trump was asked thirteen questions during this debate. That's a big problem during the CNN debate and it needs a cure. 

Trump was in the center of this debate, but I thought he didn't do well. Trump can have some good lines, but he failed to show major depth on issues. On his website right now, there is only a specific policy plan about immigration. Trump was also disrespectful in many ways to Rand Paul and Jeb Bush. He lied about Walker's budget policy in Wisconsin and did a full retreat against Carly Fiorina regarding his face comments in Rolling Stone.

Ben Carson played the normal and calm individual that he usually is. I'm torn on this strategy. Carson is doing well because of how he is. He wasn't exciting at all and wasn't that different than Trump when it came to specifics. Carson was who he needed to me, but I don't know if that style particularly works. We will just have to see what the polls shows, but his performance wasn't memorable.

Jeb Bush had more energy in this debate and I thought that he seemed more fun and human. He attacked Trump, but I didn't think Bush stood out heavily. Right now, the former Florida governor is probably more interested in keeping his support with moderates, which is under threat from John Kasch in New Hampshire. Bush didn't hurt himself, but he didn't help himself either. I think he did win points when he defended his brother in an argument with Trump. George W. Bush is popular in the Republican Party, so the Donald's attacks on him were a mistake. 

Walker, like Bush, confronted Trump at times. He had a few great statements at the start while attacking Trump and I think Walker helped himself from continuing to fall in the polls. I think his poll numbers will stop collapsing, but at the same time I do not think he will rise back to second place after this debate. Kasich also wasn't exciting, but I thought he did what he wanted to do and that his poll numbers will stay exactly where they are. Kasich's current position is to win in New Hampshire and to remove the support Bush is receiving from the center-right. He could have been more exciting, but he wasn't.

Rand Paul decided to attack Trump during the debate, but I don't think his appeal will expand from the libertarian base that he has. Marco Rubio was impressive, but I think his poll numbers will continue to remain stagnant or increase just a bit. Ted Cruz, who I believe is appealing to the same base that Trump is, will not expand that much either. These three senators have carved out their own support, but they haven't improved. Huckabee also didn't stand out (but he couldn't with the number of questions he got).

Chris Christie had a good night and was certainly the authentic New Jersey governor that the nation knows. He is another moderate in the Republican Party, but I think he wants to reach broad support by talking about everyday people and not himself. At the start of the debate when candidates made opening statements, Christie stood out the most by having the camera focus on the audience and not himself. I think he could see a small bump in the polls after this debate.

Fiorina won the debate. Her points on Planned Parenthood and drug legalization were very passionate. Her confrontation with Trump over the Rolling Stone interview was terrific. She handled controversy over her business career well, but I think there is still much to be talked about. Fiorina and Trump will probably battle over their businesses in future debates. She was also more specific and appeared competent during the debate.

Finally, I don't think any candidate stood out during the JV debate. Lindsey Graham was the most memorable, but not in the way that Fiorina was when she attended the Fox News debate. I think the next candidates to drop out will be among the four who were part of it. After this debate, I believe Fiorina will make the biggest impact in the polls. She has been getting more press coverage and attention from the debate last month and I think she will get more next month. The next debate will be on October 28 hosted by CNBC at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

CNN Reagan Library Debate Tomorrow

The Reagan Library - Orange County Register
This month's Republican presidential debate will be held tomorrow at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The Cable News Network (CNN), Salem Media Group, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation are the hosts. Eleven candidates will be on the stage. While there were some clashes during the first debate (mostly instigated by Rand Paul), I think this debate will have more. With the exception of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, all the other Republican candidates are in single digits. The most recent poll from CBS and The New York Times shows Trump's lead narrowing. He has 27 percent and Carson has 23 percent. They all want attention and they all need more support.

The weeks building up to this debate were all about New York real estate mogul and the retired neurosurgeon. Carson and Trump have started to criticize each other before the debate. I can't see why the CNN moderators wouldn't try to create conflict on the stage. Trump infamously attacked Carly Fiorina, essentially calling her ugly. Fiorina, who was added to the debate because she was rising in the polls, has a good opportunity to fight back.

Trump will have to be prepared for the attacks that come his way. Since he is the front-runner, criticisms from other candidates are inevitable. He has been vulnerable lately on foreign policy questions following a gaffe while being interviewing by Hugh Hewitt on a radio show. Hewitt is actually a debate moderator, so he could bring up more foreign policy questions that the Donald needs to be prepared for. Aside from that, his style seemed to work last debate (or it didn't matter even though I felt he didn't do well), so I guess he should keep it up.

Carson's calm and positive rhetoric helped him last debate, but now he could be on the defensive. It is his task to deflect any concerns about him having no political experience. He hasn't made any gaffes like Trump has lately, but that doesn't mean he will be pressed. Carson should be as articulate as he was last time, but also provide more details and be able to adequately defend himself.

This will be the first time Fiorina is on the big stage. She won against CNN over their decision on what polls to use and now I think she will use her same charisma from her last debate in this one. If she does that, then I think she could be a front-runner. While Fiorina is rising in the polls, I don't think other Republicans are going to attack her. She isn't at the top of the polls right now. Many voters who heard of her win at the last debate will be seeing her for the first time now. She might be the one, more than any other Republican, who can match Trump.

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker were once the leaders of the Republican race for the nomination. A lot of air has been sucked out by Trump and Carson, even though Bush and Walker have strong executive experience. Bush is still the favorite of the moderate establishment and it is clear that most GOP voters aren't satisfied after moderate Republicans in 2008 and 2012 lost. He needs to show his conservatism and have more compassion. When Trump attacks, he should fight back hard. Walker is far more conservative than Bush and he wants to be the one who can achieve support from both wings of the party. Walker, like Bush, needs more compassion and has to look strong. Trump has called Wisconsin a disaster under Walker, so the governor has a chance to respond. Walker wants to get back to the basics that made him popular with a fiscally conservative message against public sector unions.

The big three of the United States Senate (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul) aren't doing so well either. Cruz has received more media attention than the other two with his strong protests of the Iran nuclear agreement. Cruz can expand on that during the debate. Being a Tea Party conservative, Cruz has lost a lot of support from the rise of Trump. He should continue the rhetoric he used in the last debate. Unlike others, I don't think it is for Cruz to attack the Donald. He invited Trump to his protest and attacking him could look like a betrayal. Rubio also had a good performance, but his polls have stagnated. Rubio, like Cruz, should use foreign policy experience to his advantage since most candidates don't have that. Paul, the leader of the libertarian movement, will probably attack Trump again. He is unique in that he is an isolationist, which Republicans are usually against. During previous debates, his father Ron Paul got booed for his isolationist rhetoric. Paul will want a stronger message for the libertarian argument that his father couldn't give.

Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, and Chris Christie will be the last in attendance. Huckabee usually gets appeal from social conservatives, but others have eaten that support up. The former Arkansas governor wants to excite social conservatives more than any other candidate does during this debate. He has recently tried that by pushing to free county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses for homosexual couples. Kasich is gathered large support in New Hampshire. It is his opportunity more than ever to capture support among moderates if Bush can't do it. He shouldn't be confrontational and should want to talk more about himself. Finally, Christie should just be himself. He is in the same position as many other Republicans, but he should use his experience as an attorney who has prosecuted terrorists to his advantage.

The last four presidential candidates will be at another JV debate. Those candidates are Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki. Those four want to really breakout and excite the Republican field. Fiorina has proven that enough voters do watch the early debate to make an impact. If none of them do so, then I think they will all go the same road that Rick Perry has. Finally, I want to point out something Christie said before the debate. We are still months away from Iowa and there are more debates on the way. Christie isn't worried because of how far it is. This debate will make an impact, but it might not be decisive in the grand scheme of things. The election isn't a week from now.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Joe Biden is Catching Fire

Biden in Pittsburgh - Newsweek
Vice President Joe Biden has been talked about as a candidate before since Hillary Clinton isn't doing so well in the polls for the Democratic nomination, but now his support is starting to grow in the polls. This is a recent phenomenon, but it is at the expense of Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. In the RealClearPolitics national average for Democrats, Clinton is at 44.2 percent (down from 62.8 percent on July 13) and Sanders is at 22.6 percent (down from 27.7 percent on August 26). Biden was at 11 percent as recently as August 16, but now he is at 20.3 percent. He is still behind Clinton and Sanders, but he is climbing even though he isn't a candidate.

The vice president's increase in the polls shows how Democrats feel. Clinton's campaign is under stress from the email scandal, which she has finally apologized for. Clinton, who has preferred to defend herself and go on a counteroffensive when attacked, knows she is losing heavy support. She may have thought the email scandal was hyped, but now the Pentagon is releasing batches of emails and some contain classified information. Voters are continuing to question her credibility. The situation is even worse for her when you look at her polls against Trump. She is now in a statistical tie with the Republican front-runner. In July, I examined his electability by looking at the RCP average. He was down by double-digits, but now he has 44.2 percent and Clinton has 45 percent. Clinton's plunge is all from her campaign failures.

I honestly think Clinton would have be done right now if there was another Democrat who has broad support in the election. Instead, many Democrats find the other four candidates seriously lacking. It's important to remember that Sanders is a socialist, which is a quick turn off for many moderate Democrats and some liberals. Support for Sanders is uniquely among white liberals, which actually works well in Iowa and New Hampshire. His home state of Vermont is also very white in the demographics, but the Democratic Party is very racially diverse. His appeal can't only be with white liberals if we wants to lock the nomination early. In the Nevada caucus, which is the third state to vote for Democrats, Sanders has very weak campaign infrastructure. I'm not going to even mention the other three Democratic candidates because they don't matter.

Biden is playing the 2016 presidential election very smartly. The more media attention he gets adds to how long until he makes a decision on his candidacy. As the sitting vice president, he can easily exploit the gap between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters. Clinton could be brought down further from problems we don't know yet and if she drops out then Biden could easily become the favorite of most Democrats. However, if that very unlikely event happens soon, then you could see many Democrats start to think about their own candidacies. Some Democrats decided to not run for president since Clinton seemed to be the inevitable nominee (in some ways, she still is). Former Vice President Al Gore and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both been talked about recently.

If Clinton does stay in the race, I still think she has the best chance to win. That task just becomes more difficult with Biden since he is a larger threat than Sanders. If he does run, it shows that many donors and party establishment leaders in the Democratic Party aren't as satisfied with Clinton as believed despite her many endorsements (Sanders has none). It is possible, as RCP elections analyst Sean Trende describes, that Biden's entry could help Clinton by making her become more competitive. Clinton hasn't been holding many big speeches or campaigning vigorously because Sanders isn't believed to be a threat (like I post about Trump folks, we are still over 100 days away from Iowa). We haven't even seen a debate yet, which could change everything. In the end I think that if Biden enters, we have a very divided road to the Democratic nomination. If he doesn't it's still Clinton's to lose.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rick Perry Lost 2016 in 2012

Former Governor Perry - CBS
Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, is the first candidate to drop out of the 2016 presidential election. He did so on Friday. This comes as no surprise to me. He was already running out of funds and wasn't gaining any traction in the polls. He attacked Donald Trump several times during the campaign, but it didn't help him. Even though Opportunity and Freedom PAC had endorsed Perry and still had funds, the former governor's campaign could not longer pay staff. He had no choice, but to drop out. In truth, I didn't think Perry's campaign had that great a chance to win.

One of the problems I thought that Perry had was from people who remembered his 2012 campaign and I believed that his chances of winning in 2016 were smaller compared to 2012. His candidacy in the last presidential election was legendarily bad. Those debate performances, which many Republicans remember, are a permanent stain on Perry. He never recovered from those debates and that is clear four years later with his 2016 run. At one point in 2012, he once led the entire Republican pack. When his polls numbers fell, he lost his only chance to be president.

Although Perry had an impressive record with the Texas economy and heavy credibility on border security issues, the voters weren't interested in him this time. New blood, post-Tea Party midterm victories in 2010, is what many Republicans have on their minds. Those candidates are Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and others.

In our world of modern American politics, where people can jog their memories from the internet, all the mistakes Perry made in 2012 can be found. The infamous "oops" moment has been watched thousands of times. Some of those viewers are Republican voters, who didn't even give Perry a look when he announced for a second run. His candidacy is over because people never forget. His campaign suspension shows just how difficult a second chance is. Some people think it's sad that one moment can define someone's political career, but that's just how it is today.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Watch Scott Walker

Walker at the Citadel - USA Today
When he first announced his candidacy, Walker was on fire in the polls. In most national polls, he was in second place until he attended the Fox News debate at the start of August. Walker made many positive points during the debate, but his performance wasn't exciting to the audience or people at home. As a result, he quickly dropped in the polls. He was once leading in Iowa, but now Donald Trump and Ben Carson are ahead of him.

Walker has had some problems with answering questions regarding birthright citizenship and immigration policy. Trump has captured the issue and all the other Republican candidates have been forced to respond to it. Walker's answers weren't consistent, which hurts him even if he has a straight answer now. After that controversy, Walker gave his first major foreign policy speech at the Citadel in South Carolina, but that has been overshadowed by an answer Walker gave on MSNBC's Meet the Press about the Canadian border. Many liberals have attacked Walker for arguing that he wanted a wall on the border with Canada. The fact is Walker didn't say he was open to building a wall on the Canadian border. He said some voters raised legitimate concerns about border security with Canada while he was campaigning in New Hampshire.

While these are some slips that raise concerns over Walker's candidacy, I think the primary reason he is falling in the polls is because other candidates are more charismatic and were able to shine brightly on the debate stage. The Wisconsin governor likes to campaign on how normal he is. That increases his appeal to middle class voters, but after the first debate people like to go for the candidate who they felt gave the best ideas with perfect rhetoric. Walker was not one of them, so his campaign is moving on to work on the next debates.

I think it is very important to remember the history of American presidential elections. The candidates who have been leading around this same time in the past rarely become party nominees. Just ask Herman Cain and Rudy Giuliani. As time goes on, voters either get tired of a candidate because his or her weaknesses are exposed. Meanwhile, candidates who are second or third choices rise in the polls. Walker is a second choice for many Republicans now, but if too many candidates start to carry too much baggage, then Walker could easily surge back to the lead. It has happened before and it could happen in the future.

In 2012, Tim Pawlenty ran for the Republican nomination. He was the former governor of Minnesota and was viewed as too boring. Pawlenty decided to put heavy resources into the Iowa straw poll. It was a mistake, he lost, and then had to drop out. Some people believe this was a mistake. By the time the Iowa caucus rolled around, he could have been the front-runner because he didn't have problems with conservatives or moderates. The problem was that he wasn't exciting and he foolishly spent money on a straw poll that has historically not mattered (and is now dead).

Walker isn't in the lead now, but it could be said that he has an advantage. This also goes for candidates like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. Every voter should keep an eye on these candidates because they have heavy potential. Let others blow up all the media attention, then watch as they fall. Eventually, voters do rally to someone they like and who they feel can win. Walker has presented himself as one of those candidates, so he can return to win Iowa when the time comes to vote.

There are several presidential candidates who could drop out before the first voting takes place. It doesn't look like Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, and George Pataki are getting a lot of attention. If it stays that way then it is likely that they won't make it to Iowa. The media hails every single poll that comes out as if it is big news. Polling is always useful, but not at predicting what will happen this far out from voting. If we are a week away from the Iowa caucus, then it is very useful. It is typical for the media to get excited over polls to attract viewers, but their coverage strays away from the point of how far we are from the Iowa caucus. While some candidates are exciting Republican voters, those who are slightly under radar have their own strategies to win. They will become important to watch as we get closer to voting.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ben Carson vs. Donald Trump?

Carson at the 2015 Iowa State Fair - BuzzFeed
Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is the only African-American presidential candidate in the 2016 election, is starting to surge in the polls. Following his amazing debate performance on August 6, Carson rose in the polls to second place, but now he is tied with Donald Trump for first place in Iowa with 23 percent. Carly Fiorina is in second with 10 percent, followed by Ted Cruz with 9 percent, and Scott Walker with 7 percent. The top three candidates in the poll, which was conducted by Monmouth University, shows just how big the anti-establishment wave is in the Republican Party. To show you where the candidates stand ideologically, look at this graph from FiveThirtyEight:

This graph is meant to identify where each candidate seems to be ideologically at the moment. Notice that Carson, Cruz, Trump, and Walker are all place in the Tea Party circle. Trump is firmly in that circle (probably because of his rhetoric) while the three others have support over two. Fiorina is actually placed in the establishment, which is what I find the most interesting. Even if she is in that circle, she still has a big boost in the polls because she isn't a politician.

Carson's surge in the polls is very important because it puts two anti-establishment candidates with two very different personalities against each other. I did not think Trump won that debate, but I think Carson was one of the winners because of his humor and positive attitude. Trump is the candidate who attacks opponents after they attack him. His tweets show his strategy, which is to attack the Republicans who are known the most. Jeb Bush has attacked Trump six times through tweets and Walker has attacked him once. The Donald has attacked Bush forty-right times and Walker thirteen times on Twitter. Trump's strategy has helped him get to the top, but it might be wearing out on people.

Carson as the Donald's main challenger will be an important test. Trump is eating up all the media attention, but Carson has second place in most polls with almost none. You might see a speech or interview here and there on the cable news networks and the Sunday talk shows, but otherwise he's not seen. I think Carson's surge is completely because of his debate performance and his campaigning in Iowa. Since Carson is very conservative, he has little hope of winning the moderate Republicans in New Hampshire. The Iowa Republicans are more conservative and that's why he's gunning for them. Carson could have an additional boost if he wins in South Carolina, another very conservative primary.

If Carson does take Trump's top spot, then I feel that we might enter a pattern. Before the Iowa caucus in 2012, the Republicans were going through a monthly cycle of Tea Party candidates who opposed Mitt Romney. The first was Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, and finally Newt Gingrich. Each candidate crashed for different reasons. Bachmann's campaign didn't get much traction even though she won the Iowa straw poll. Perry was hopeless at debating and crashed after a few poor performances. Cain had to drop out from sexual harassment allegations. Gingrich was outspent in the Florida primary and was depicted by the Romney campaign as someone who wasn't sufficiently conservative. When Rick Santorum became Romney's final Tea Party opponent, the former Massachusetts governor used his massive war chest against his opponent to prove that he wasn't that conservative either. 

Many Republican presidential candidates were called "flavors of the month" because of how quickly they rose and how quickly they crashed. Trump held his ground for most of the summer, but we are now approaching the fall. There will be a debate each month, including one in my home state of Wisconsin! At the start of the next season, it looks like a battle is heating up between the loud billionaire and the calm doctor.