Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 23 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index for September dropped sharply to a very contractionary –7 from 4 in September.

In retail sales, Redbook reports a weak 1.3% year-on-year sales increase, as the trend continues to decline. ICSC-Goldman reports a decrease of –0.7% over last week, and a flat 2.9% over last year.

~
Dale Franks
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Polling, preference cascades, etc.

I wanted to make a quick point here. First this:

Mitt Romney has taken a narrow national lead, tightened the gender gap and expanded his edge over President Barack Obama on who would best grow the economy.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — taken from Sunday through Thursday of last week — shows Romney ahead of Obama by 2 percentage points, 49 percentage to 47 percent. That represents a 3-point swing in the GOP nominee’s direction from a week ago but is still within the margin of error. Obama led 49 percent to 48 percent the week before.

A lot of discussion on polls this time around. We talked about them extensively in the podcast. The thing to realize is regardless of how the polling concerns have set up their split among self-identified Republicans and Democrats, the one thing that has been fairly consistent in each of them is Romney trending up. So while they may all show different percentages and even an Obama lead, the fact remains that the challenger has continued to gain even while the incumbent was declared the winner of the last debate.

That, my friends, signifies, at least as far as I can tell, a preference cascade beginning to swell.

As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the most important debate this year was the first debate. In that debate, the challenger had to appear to be an acceptable alternative/replacement for the incumbent. Romney was able to exceed expectations in that department. That’s when the tide began to turn. The second debate, while somewhat important, but only if the challenger really goofed it up, just didn’t carry the weight of the first. And as hard as the left has tried to make the debates about Big Bird, binders of women and an alleged “Libya gaffe” (as I see it, there was no gaffe at all, we saw an incumbent President pretend/allege he said something he didn’t say). They’re not selling except among the partisan base.

We’ll see if this debate this evening adds momentum to the challengers upward trend or whether the incumbent is somehow able to slow or stop it. I’m not sure what the President could say or do that would accomplish that given his dismal foreign policy record (and his previous declaration that his lack of foreign policy experience just wasn’t a show stopper).

Like Dale says, I think, as far as Romney is concerned, we’re in “dead girl or live boy” territory.

~McQ

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 21 Oct 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the vice presidential debate and game the electoral college.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Has the preference cascade begun?

As I’ve been saying for months, the “atmospherics” which surrounded the Obama win in 2008 just don’t exist in 2012. They’re just not there.  The excitement has vanished, the “hope” has been dashed and the “change” – well, it’s not at all what those who hung their own meaning on the word thought they’d see.

In other words, the President is and has been in deep electoral trouble for some time.  The only thing that has really helped him and propped him up is the media.  Many in the media have spent an inordinate time trying to explain away or cover up very serious failings on the part of his administration.  The media has also constructed a strawman Mitt Romney which they used to “help’ Obama as well.

Two events have sort of tipped the scales against the incumbent, however.  The first debate (Romney unfiltered, Obama unenthused) and Benghazi.  It is those two events which have, in my opinion (note the word), started the preference cascade toward a Romney win.

Indicators?  Well there are quite a few.

One, for instance, is a newspaper endorsement from a very liberal paper.  That would be The Tennessean.  Why is that significant?  Well, as Glenn Reynolds points out, it provides “social permission” to deviate from the Democratic norm.  And that sort of permission is necessary to begin a preference cascade.  Today the Orlando Sentinal also endorsed Romney.  Expect to see more of these sorts of endorsements in the coming days.

Another is found in polls showing the unexpected.  For instance, Romney with a chance in PA? Really?  Well apparently, if this poll is to be believed, it’s more than a chance.  And that may have downstream effects if true.  Meanwhile, in MO, the odious Todd Aiken has gone ahead of equally odious Democrat Claire McCaskill (great choice you have there, MO).  That’s important for a very good reason – it has do with enthusiasm and which side appears to have it.

Additionally, both the Romney and Obama campaigns are pulling out of NC. Why?  Because it appears the state’s results are no longer in doubt.  It will not go to Obama this time and, apparently, that’s not even iffy.  Florida seems to be going that way as well and my guess is VA too.

In OH, coal miners are mad as hell.  While that may not put OH in total jeopardy, it doesn’t make a state that was comfortably Obama’s in 2008 the same in 2012.

Other indicators?  How about the defection of this one-time solidly Democratic demographic?

Romney’s surging poll numbers in the crucial state of Florida reflect his growing success with Bubbie Molly and her unemployed grandson Adam, who both thought their right hand would wither if it ever pulled the lever for a Republican.

The signs and portents are everywhere, beginning with the special election of a Republican in Anthony Weiner’s heavily Jewish, New York congressional district one year ago. Now a startling new poll even has Romney performing the ultimate miracle: the parting of the blue states, winning the Jewish vote by a healthy 44% to 40%!

Florida activist Alan Bergstein described his recent experience advocating for Romney in the Jewish stronghold of Delray Beach. “Of about 100 entering and leaving the Bagel Tree eatery in that plaza, we ran into only two Democrats and loads and loads of Romney supporters. They stopped to talk to us, to congratulate us and to support us with their views of the Ryan/Biden debate. They were militant and fearless.”

Why?  Well, for every effect there is a cause.  In this case, it’s pretty clear:

The Democratic Party booing God and Jerusalem: At their national convention, Democratic leaders attempted to do undo the political damage of stripping all mention of God and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from their party platform. But when they asked for a floor vote to add God and Jerusalem to the platform, the delegates loudly booed – three times. As the cameras revealed the hate-filled faces of the jeering delegates, some Jews felt frightened by the ugly scene.

Obama’s open contempt for Prime Minister Netanyahu: From the beginning of his presidency, Obama has seemed to enjoy humiliating Israel’s elected leader. He walked out on Netanyahu in the White House, claiming he had to eat dinner, and refused to pose for an official photograph with him. Now, as Iran races to complete a nuclear weapon, Obama rejected Netanyahu’s request for a meeting in New York, choosing to appear on The View instead. And when Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations, Obama instructed both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice not to attend.

Fawning over the Jewish people’s enemies: Obama bowed to the Saudi king, gave a high-profile speech in Cairo, apologizing to the Muslim world, and ordered NASA to make “Muslim outreach” its foremost priority. Over the objections of Congress, he gave at least $1.5 billion to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates for “holy jihad” against Israel. And when Muslim terrorists murdered our Libyan ambassador, Obama responded with a speech at the UN, in which he stated, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Appointment of anti-Semites to high government positions: Obama just appointed a Muslim leader who blames Israel for the 9/11 attacks to serve as US delegate to a Warsaw human rights conference. Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), openly supports Hizbollah and Hamas. Al-Marayati is only the latest of Obama officials hostile to Israel, including foreign policy advisor Samantha Power and UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

Obama’s long association with anti-Semites: Obama spent 20 years in the Chicago church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who maintains, “The state of Israel is an illegal, genocidal…place.” Obama’s biggest contributor is George Soros, who is a prime funder of anti-Israel NGOs. And Obama’s close association with Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi is still being kept under wraps by the Los Angeles Times, which refuses to release a video of a reportedly inflammatory toast to Khalidi by Obama at a 2003 dinner. Breitbart News is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with a copy of the tape.

Iran’s Growing Nuclear Capabilities: Obama has seemed more interested in deterring Israel from defending itself than in stopping Iran. His Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff explicitly stated he doesn’t want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran, implying such an attack would be criminal. Now counter-terrorism expert Reza Kahlili is reporting that Obama’s emissaries have struck a secret “October surprise” deal with Iran, in which Iran will announce a halt to their uranium enrichment, in order to enhance Obama’s presidential prospects. The deal reportedly was negotiated in Qatar with former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velyati, who’s wanted by Argentina for the Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people. If Obama has lost the trust of Jewish voters, they may not dismiss these reports as completely impossible.

That’s a very long and compelling list.  Long and compelling enough to see a usually reliable demographic begin to seriously question their support for the incumbent.

And other reliable demographics are either deserting Obama or just not very enthused about his re-election.

Indeed, what Obama is facing for the first time in his life is having to live up to his real performance.   No excuses.  No BS hype and pretending.  No Nobel prize his first day in office.  He is being judged on performance, merit and judgement.  He’s apparently being found less that adequate in all three by a huge part of America.

Add to that the fact that he seems to have no discernable plan to alter or correct his deficiencies or those of his administration and policies.  That’s probably because he doesn’t think he has any (remember, he thought he won the first debate).  How does one “change” if there’s nothing that needs changing?

So, all that being said, it is my opinion (again note the word) while reviewing the evidence at hand that the preference cascade we’ve talked about for months is beginning if not well underway.  Look for a lot of “whistling past the graveyard” as the Obama campaign and their surrogates downplay and ignore the gathering bad news.

But in the meantime, watch the indicators. At the least, they promise an excruciatingly tight vote.  And, if they say what I think they’re saying, Obama will be back in Chicago on January 21, 2013.

And what a mess the new president will inherit from him.

~McQ

How “unsustainable” does it have to get?

If you’re wondering what “unsustainable” looks like, here’s a great example.

In the wake of the Treasury Department’s newly released summary of federal spending for 2012, it’s now possible to detail just how profligate the Obama years have been. Here’s the upshot: Under Obama, for every $7 we’ve had, we’ve spent nearly $11 (or, to be more exact, $10.95). That’s like a family that makes $70,000 a year — and is already knee-deep in debt — blowing nearly $110,000 a year.

If you are further wondering why Democrats are so keen on raising taxes, this helps explain that.

In other unsustainable news:

The government spent approximately $1.03 trillion on 83 means-tested federal welfare programs in fiscal year 2011 alone — a price tag that makes welfare that year the government’s largest expenditure, according to new data released by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee.

The total sum taxpayers spent on federal welfare programs was derived from a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on federal welfare spending — which topped out at $745.84 billion for fiscal year 2011 — combined with an analysis from the Republican Senate Budget Committee staff of state spending on federal welfare programs (based on “The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance”), which reached $282.7 billion in fiscal year 2011.

Business as usual.

Oh, and the jobless numbers look lovely this week too.

~McQ

Economic Statistics for 18 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey improved to 5.7, up 8 points from last month’s –1.9.

After last week’s huge initially reported 30,000 drop, initial jobless claims rose 46,000 to 388,000, while the 4-week average rose 1000 to 365,500. Continuing claims fell 29,000 to 3.276 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1 point to –34.8.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators in September rose a sharp 0.6% for September.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 17 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Housing starts in September advanced to a 0.872 million unit pace, topping market expectations and up 34.8% on a year-ago basis. Housing permits rose 11.6% to a 0.894 million annualized pace, which is up 45.1% from a year-ago.

The MBA reports mortgage applications fell –4.2% last week, as purchases rose 1.0% and refinancings fell 5.0%.

~
Dale Franks
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How Obama’s claim (and Crowley’s intervention) will likely backfire

Why? Because it sets up a question to be answered which will give proof to the nonsense of both Obama and Crowley’s claim about Obama’s supposed Rose Garden acknowlegement that the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism:

If Obama knew it was terrorism on Day Two, then why did his administration continue to blame the video for days afterward?”

Answer?

Anyone?

~McQ

The 2nd debate: Who “won”?

Good question really.  I know who most media outlets have declared the winner, but frankly, my guess is that was written before the debate.  After all, given his last performance it’s hard to conceive how President Obama could have done worse.  And given the low expectations, exceeding them was going to look like a “win” or at least be portrayed like one.  The media loves “comeback kid” story lines.

Of course there was the usual grousing about the moderator, in this case, Candy Crowley.  Some is to be expected.  Some, in this case, was warranted.  What is the job of a moderator?  Well, what it isn’t is to provide “instant fact-checking”, especially when the fact check is incorrect.  Moderators should be like referees or umpires – all but invisible while they keep the debate to the rules.  However, when you pick people with large egos and biases to “moderate”, well, don’t be surprised when they make every attempt to insert themselves in things of which they have no business being a part.

However, to the main point.  Who ‘won’?

Well a CBS instapoll says Obama won.  Of course CBS was the only poll that said Joe Biden won so, yeah, not such a great endorsement.  And the “win” was marginal at best, even with CBS.

In a CBS News poll, 37 percent of 525 uncommitted voters who watched the debate declared Obama the winner, compared to 30 percent who said the same of Romney; 33 percent said it was a tie.

CNN’s instant poll also gave the “win” to Obama (46/39 – registered voters).

So, woohoo for Obama! Right?

Well, I guess,  unless you look at some of the other numbers in the polls.  And then, well, not so much:

Despite Obama’s slight edge overall, Romney was seen as better able to handle most issues.

The trend was most notable in the CNN poll: he had an 18-point edge among registered voters on the economy (58 percent to Obama’s  40 percent ); a 3-point edge on health care (49 percent to 46 percent); a 7-point edge on taxes (51 percent to 44 percent); and, largest of all, a 23-point edge on the deficit (59 percent to 36 percent).

Obama’s only lead in the CNN poll was a slim one on foreign policy: 2 percent more of the registered voters who watched the debate said he would handle the issue better (49 percent to 47 percent for Romney).

In the CBS poll, 65 percent of respondents also said Romney would handle the economy better after the debate (though that decreased from 71 percent before the debate). Only 34 percent said Obama would handle the economy better, but that was a jump of 7 percentage points.

Personal metrics were split a bit more evenly. Forty-nine percent of those in the CNN poll said Romney was the stronger leader, compared to 46 percent for Obama. The president still had a lead on likeability by a margin of 47 percent to 41 percent. He was also perceived as caring more about the audience by a margin of 4 points, but also as spending more time on the attack by a 14-points one.

Among uncommitted voters surveyed in the CBS poll, 56 percent said the president would do a better job of helping the middle class, compared to only 43 percent who said the same of Romney.

So wait … are we voting on who did better in a debate, or who would do a better job as President?

Oh, that’s right, this is about the job, isn’t it?

And finally:

The final word from the CNN respondents? Twenty-five percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney, and 25 percent said the same for Obama.

So who “won”?

Hmm … yes, if I was the Obama campaign brain-trust, I’d be worried too.

Oh, and in the third debate, Obama won’t have the benefit of low expectations working for him and, hopefully, we’ll see a debate where “moderation” means “referee”, not “instant but wrong fact checker“.

~McQ

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