Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Independent Variables: Failing to Control for the “O” Factor in 2014

Do you remember the 2006 midterms? If not, it's not really your fault. All the news coverage in the last weeks leading up to the 2014 midterms was about the impending doom for Democrats and the coming surge for Republicans. If you watch Fox News then this cycle was about putting “American Liberalism on Trial” by showing Democrats the door. I have yet to hear a coherent explanation of what “American Liberalism” actually means, but Megan Kelly was pretty confident about it. If you watch MSNBC these Mid Terms are the result of the base not being passionate enough about important issues and corporate money buying results, and whatever Al Sharpton is talking about.

The money thing has a ring of truth to it, but also happens both ways so it doesn't explain a sweeping result, it's just a factor. If you watch CNN these midterms were about the Empire State Building, I think. If you watch ESPN these midterms were about LeBron James and the 4 team NCAA Football playoff.1 The coverage on ESPN was probably the better of the four. But, I digress.

Back to my first question. Do you remember the 2006 midterms? By now you've had time to think about (google) the results. If you didn't recall the outcome (use the right search terms) then let me fill you in. In 2006 it looked almost the same as it did in 2014. Republicans controlled both houses, and in a wave of unpopular sentiment for the current administration the Democrats took over. Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the House. Democrats took 6 new seats in the Senate. The people had spoken!

Mirror Images
Fast forward to 2014. Same thing. The President's popularity is low (though still higher at this point than his predecessor) and people still have problems. Sure, the economy is humming along and the stock market is up. Sure, gas prices are lower now than they've been in a LONG time. Sure, Mitt Romney said the President has direct control of gas prices, by which logic the current prices are 100% the result of something President Obama did. Sure, unemployment is lower now than it was when President W. Bush left office. That isn't enough.

Instead of talking about jobs and economic growth, Democrats spent all that time and money trying to prove they either weren't Obama, or that their Republican challenger was going to deport everyone and repeal the 19th Amendment. For some, it may actually be accurate, but for many it was a necessity. The "O" factor was the independent variable that threw the whole equation out of whack, and sunk the Democratic ship. For Greg Orman it was the death nail in Kansas.

President Obama was dealing with transparent political calculation on immigration reform, taking a beating on Ebola (which you aren't going to get so just stop it already)2 and whatever the hell is happening in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Russia has somehow fallen off the map of things to be concerned about and the only thing the US has done to deal with them, at all, is Chelsea Handler taking a topless picture to punk Putin.3 Not to mention North Korea doing who knows what. Which Kim Jong are we on now? But Obama's failure, yes I'll say that word again, his failure to deal with the big issues has allowed the little issues to fester into real problems.

The new car smell wore off after the 2012 elections and the other Democrats realized too late they were following a guy with no GPS and hey, I've seen that Chipotle once already... we're lost!

That's what the 2014 midterms were about. They were the result of a party's leadership failing (just like 2006) and the resulting slide to the other direction. It's cyclical. It's natural, and it's not actually that big of a deal. It may have just a little something to do with gerrymandering and voter suppression, but I think we need to see the numbers in more than one election to know that.

Moving Forward
Right now all signs point to Christi v. Clinton in 2016, and a Christi win would solidify Republican control of all three branches (including the Supreme Court) for at least 2 years. It could make things interesting. What we know for sure is that from here to 2016 we will see some GOP in-fighting as the leadership changes/emerges.

Obviously the ACA (Obamacare for the FoxNews crowd, Mana From Heaven for the MSNBC crowd) is first up. Followed by huge immigration overhaul, or reform, whichever.

Then we have the Ted Cruz agenda. I don't know which civil right he'll attack first, but my guess is he'll go after marriage. Ted Cruz sponsoring a U.S. Constitutional amendment to exclude all persons of the same sex (or as I'm sure he'd prefer, “The Gays”) from enjoying the same basic rights as “The Straights” will happen soon.5

The GOP members are looking back and reminiscing to a time when women were women (and not CEO's or Presidential candidates) and men were men (and didn't have to worry about being caught with pictures of the genitals in text messages) and “The Gays” didn't bother people with their claims for “equality” and “rights.” We (white men) didn't have to censor ourselves (were allowed to pretty well do and say anything with no real repercussion) and it was just so much better.

Yes, it was like that but despite the GOP's best efforts, which is what 2014-2018 will be, it's unlikely things will ever regress that badly. For those of us under 65 we need only to endure and remember that progress, though inevitable, is not instant. Heck, no one in my own generation is even old enough to run for the Senate yet. Who knows that will happen in 2020 and beyond?  I doubt we see any flying cars (less than a year Doc Brown...) but maybe we'll see full recognition of our basic human rights. After all, there's always hope. At least that's what they told me in 2008.

1.   For the record, I'll take Fl. State, Auburn, Oregon, and Miss. State.
2.  Seriously, get out your calculator and divide 2/300,000,000 and hit enter. It's .000000006%. That is the current statistical chance of an American citizen getting Ebola. Chill out.
3.  Wouldn't that be a great show, Punkin' Putin? And no, I didn't provide a link to the picture.
4.  I'd also like to see the percentage of voter turnout that are within 5 years of the national average for life expectancy... just saying.
5. I'm not sure people have been paying full attention to what the likely GOP agenda is, because it's mostly an agenda of tradition driven policies as a ridiculous attempt to legislate our country back to the 1950's. For those who have been paying attention they're either being disingenuous or are just as appalled as this author.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Romney 2012... er... Hillary 2016: The Weight of Inevitability - Part 2

In Part 1 I explained why I think Hillary is likely the 2016 Democratic Nominee for President, and why I think she could lose. Part 2 is dedicated to how I think the “Ready for Hillary” express picks up 270 electoral votes.

First, it's time to start doing the “I'm not in this administration and I don't agree with them” shuffle. Obama's numbers speak loudly, and the message is to stay away from him right now. Obama looks a lot like Dubbya did in 2007-2008. Old, worn out, and just sort of done. We know that's part of the Presidency, especially the looking old aspect, but the idea that the outgoing President is basically poison for the campaign trail may not be specific to these two, but instead a sort of "new normal" in American Presidential politics. Plus, anyone still openly in support of Obama is already likely to vote Hillary any way, so his upside is very limited.

Second, Hillary should begin vetting and prepping Missouri's Governor, Jay Nixon, to be her VP nominee. (I saw you roll your eyes.) I'm as serious as Al Gore giving a climate talk, but probably more accurate. So, let's answer the question: Why Jay Nixon?

It's all about that magical number of 270, and the method matters little compared to the results.

Why Nixon?
Missouri has 10 electoral votes (it was 11, Missouri lost people so it went down, for more on this and other electoral college issues, see my 2012 series) and since 2000 has gone from fairly purple to a deep crimson red. Yet, the major population centers routinely vote blue and only 20 years ago the state went for Clinton. In fact, until 2008 Missouri had voted for the winner in every Presidential election for a very long time, and was a leading bell weather state.

Jay Nixon is not wildly popular in Missouri, but he also isn't wildly unpopular either. His handling of the situation in Ferguson was less than inspiring, not Presidential, and sadly amateurish for such a seasoned politician. Yet, the conversation on Ferguson is an easy pivot to police brutality, police militarization, and racial profiling. It becomes more of a set up in a stump speech than a great attack point because in order for Republicans to attack Nixon on the topic they have to admit that the underlying action was at least questionable, and they will NOT want to do that. 

Nixon may not flip Missouri from red to blue, but he would force the Republicans to spend money and time in a State that got almost zero national attention in 2012 and not much more in 2008. Putting Missouri in play diverts money and time from states like New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, and Ohio. Those are all states the GOP candidate would need (except maybe Colorado) to win in 2016, especially Ohio. 

Nixon isn't the only VP choice that can have this type of effect, but I do think he's the only one that genuinely puts a foregone conclusion type red state into the contested column. That's a powerful tool as a VP candidate. 

Nixon also adds to the political theater necessary to win the high office. Fair or not, Hillary will face additional scrutiny that a male candidate would not face. Nixon is a tall, farm boy type male and totally balances out the visual. Plus, some people will look to the man to lead, or step in and speak but Nixon just isn't that guy. Biden is. Bill Clinton is. Jay Nixon isn't. He'd be perfect at appearing Presidential while Hillary leads and sets the tone, while he simply backs her up like a good VP. Instead of "shouldn't HE just be the President" it becomes about how Nixon appears Presidential without usurping the candidate. It's very similar to how Biden interacted with Obama. 

I think of Nixon as the exact opposite pick as Palin. It's safe, won't shock any one, and he most likely won't feel the need to create his own party during the campaign. Plus, I'm fairly certain he can name a supreme court case, or even two. 

With or Without, 270 Is Probable
Here are the states I already put in Clinton's camp, regardless of VP pick (from West to East): Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and D.C.

That's 261 electoral votes. I've left out Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, and Virginia. Just by taking Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, or Indiana the race would be over. Plus, do I really have to explain why Arkansas is a toss up state for Hillary?

Notice what state I haven't even mentioned? Any body? Florida. The Republicans can win Florida by 10% and it won't matter. Which lessens Rubio's value for them, but that's for another day.

Nixon balances the ticket with a moderate, blue dog style Democrat from the midwest and puts a state in play that could, all by itself, win the election for Hillary. He probably wont' say anything great, but he's also less likely to pull a Biden and he's been constant on all women's issues which is important for Hillary to keep her main base excited. Plus, with the right handlers (any one but the people he has now basically) Nixon can be an asset, exactly the opposite of what Palin was in 2008. When I fill in the map of Hillary against any of the current Republican's in the field Christie has the best outcome and I predict him losing 313 to 225, even giving him New Jersey. It's a numbers game, and right now the edge goes to Hillary across the board.

I'm being less conservative with my predictions in 2016 than I was in 2012. I had Obama winning the whole time, but I predicted a much closer electoral map.