Free Markets, Free People

Nate Silver

Handicapping the 2012 election

Two folks I respect and enjoy reading when it comes to election analysis are Nate Silver and Larry Sabato.  Both have a lot of experience, seem to have their heads on pretty straight and explain their methodology and reasoning fairly well.  Both are also a rare breed in that they don’t seem to let whatever political biases they have interfere with their analysis.

Recommended reading today from both of them.

Silver talks about how he has come to do his analysis of presidential races.  It’s a very interesting read for the political junkie and even for those who are less involved but want some way to do their own analysis of the goings on.  Probably the most controversial aspect of his analysis is what he calls the “the ideological positioning of the Republican candidate” (note: obviously, if it was a Republican in the White House, he would be talking about the ideological positioning of the Democratic candidate).  As he notes, it’s a bit of an intangible, but I think he has a point.  He also has “extreme” ratings for each of the current candidates and explains what that means in the big scheme of things.  

Interesting stuff which I’m sure will make for a good discussion.

Sabato, on the other hand, talks about how it is way too early to draw the curtain down on the GOP nominating process, even though (and I’m as guilty as anyone) many of us want to call it “over”.  Much of that is just wanting to get the process over with in what seems to be an eternal campaign.  But, as he points out, history says “not yet”.  The primaries are the crucible and surprises can and do happen.

Anyway, good stuff for political junkies.  A couple of sources for some fun discussion.  Don’t hesitate to weigh in.


Twitter: @McQandO

Gallup: Perry surges to lead the GOP pack

A new Gallup poll has Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas, comfortably in the lead over other GOP candidates for president.

Shortly after announcing his official candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as rank-and-file Republicans’ current favorite for their party’s 2012 presidential nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say they are most likely to support Perry, with Mitt Romney next, at 17%.

29% to 17% is a significant lead.  Ron Paul comes in 3rd at 13% and Michelle Bachman at 10%.  The rest of the field is in single digits, all under 5%.  “No preference” is at 17% but that’s dropped a point from July’s poll and 8 points since last May’s poll.  So Republican voters are beginning to make up their minds, even at this early date.

Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight offers the following analysis of Perry’s new numbers:

First, with these shiny new numbers will come higher expectations for Mr. Perry, particularly during the three Republican debates that will be held in September.

Second, Mr. Romney should have a fair amount of breathing room since the Republican field is heavily tilted toward very conservative candidates like Mr. Perry. Were Rudolph W. Giuliani or Chris Christie to enter the race, Mr. Romney might face a bit more pressure, as he would if Jon M. Huntsman Jr. were somehow to surge. Still, the conservative part of the Republican field is far more crowded, and will be even more so if Sarah Palin runs.

Third, Republican elites have not given Mr. Perry a warm welcome. Of course, the same can be said for Mr. Romney; that Republicans have been casting about for a candidate like Paul Ryan or Mr. Christie reflects poorly on him as well as Mr. Perry. But as Barack Obama looks more and more vulnerable, Republicans may begin to prioritize electability over ideological purity.

Finally, although national polls at this stage have a fair amount of predictive power, they are hardly foolproof. At this point in 2007, Rudy Giuliani had about 29 percent of the Republican vote, about where Mr. Perry is now.

So, as Silver points out, Perry’s entrance means “higher expectations” from the voters – he’s got to start articulating a platform and begin to put forward a vision.  It’s not going to be enough to be the “anti-Obama”.  Everyone in the field is that.   While Perry’s numbers are strong, as Silver notes, so were Rudy Giuliani in 2007 and he faded like a knackered race horse.

While feelings are certainly high against Mr. Obama on the right, voters are looking for some positive idea of how the economic crisis that has befallen the country will be handled and remedied.  This is truly an “it’s the economy, stupid” election.   Any side issues that can be used as a wedge should be avoided as the voters that must be won aren’t at all concerned about them at this time.  But they may see such a focus as a negative.

Americans want to get the economic ball rolling again.  Rick Perry has a success story to tell.   He should concentrate on telling it and not allow himself to get sidetracked.  Meanwhile, you can expect the left to concentrate on everything but the economy.  

Focus and a positive message are the keys to a win in this election.  Any wandering off on tangents will make winning less likely.   The election, as far as I see it from this 15 month distance is the GOP’s to lose.  Unfortunately, they’re quite capable of doing exactly that.


Twitter: @McQandO

GOP still clueless – it’s not about majorities, it’s about fundamental change

Nate Silver is someone I’ve come to enjoy reading when it comes to election analysis.  He knows his business.  But he too seems to have missed the significance of the New Hampshire and Delaware senatorial primaries, casting them only as elections – if they go to the “insurgent” Tea Party backed candidates – that could cost the GOP a majority in the Senate if the insurgents win.

Of course, that’s not the point, at least as I see them.  While Christine O’Donnell may not be the ideal candidate for the US Senate, she’s at least fiscally conservative.  Mike Castle, the GOP choice on the other hand, is described by Silver like this:

… Michael N. Castle, who has held elected office in Delaware for 30 years as its governor, lieutenant governor and lone United States representative. … Mr. Castle — a moderate who is unambiguously a member of the establishment …

Are any lights flashing and horns sounding in your head right now?  Silver describes Castle in terms that make him part of the problem, not part of the solution.  He’s a perfect plug-in to the Congress the country as a whole seems so unsatisfied with and is on the verge of changing.

Oh sure, he might nominally give the GOP another seat in the Senate – but to what end?  Voting with the Snowe/Collins Republicans and the Democrats on bills that expand government and spend more?

When is a seat not really a seat, or a majority not really a majority?  When you elect “moderates” of either party who are not averse to expanding the role of government. That’s part of the reason you see more and more polarization within the country.  Right now the left is having fun characterizing the right as “radical”.  But one only need look at the size of the liberal caucus in the House to know where the heart of leftist radicalism lies. 

I continue to harken back to polls which show the vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track – in numbers which haven’t changed much in the last 8 years or so.  In other words, the people as a whole are dissatisfied with both parties and their representation.  And again, I’ll point back to the Ned Lamont/Joe Lieberman race where the left tried precisely what is happening on the right in states such as AK, NH and DE at the moment.

These movements to effect change are indicators.  What is described as “radicalism” from “political activists” are the surface bubbles of a molten core of unrest among the majority of Americans.  They’re thrashing around for ways and means of changing something that seems never to change.  The Tea Party movement is one of those bubbles.  The Daily Kos left was another.  But nothing much has changed, has it?  And the “wrong track” numbers continue to remain at a constant level. And the frustration builds.

This isn’t  about majorities in the Senate.  It isn’t about the horserace in November.  It’s about fundamental change – and not many seem to understand that. The people in Alaska have said “enough” with the Joe Miller primary win.  The fact that the GOP primary races in both DE and NH are as close as they are should be sending unmistakable messages to the GOP leadership – one’s even they can’t miss – that establishment moderates aren’t who the people want in the Senate.  Naturally, it seems the Republicans are as tone deaf as everyone else.

If the GOP only wins 7 seats instead of 9 in the Senate, that’s fine, as long as the 7 are of the type that are committed to paring government down – reducing its sized influence and cost.  Those 7 are enough to keep the Snow/Collins branch of the GOP from pushing the numbers over to the Democratic side.  As it stands, in fact, not having a Senate majority is probably better for the GOP than achieving one right now – they’d just blow it and, as Mitch McConnell once said, being minority leader in the Senate is one of the most powerful positions in Congress.  And besides, we’d have to listen to Obama whine for 2 years about the “Republican Congress”.

Nope, the hand writing is on the wall if the GOP (and for that matter, the Democrats) would just pause long enough in the partisan bickering and bomb throwing to read it.  This isn’t about either of their parties, or them.  It’s about changing the direction of the country.  The party that first manages to absorb that message and then elect candidates that actually work toward that end is the party that is going to be in power for quite some time.  In principle, that should be the GOP.  But as usual, in their normal clueless way, they continue on the same road that put them in the minority two years ago believing instead that all this excitement about the midterms is actually because people are embracing their candidates over the Dems.  How they have missed the fact that the Tea Party insurgency indicates they couldn’t be more wrong still amazes me.

So continue on your merry blinkered way, GOP, and fight the movement and candidates who’re all but lighting the way with the platform you should be embracing.  Continue to put up your moderate establishment candidates and then wonder why, in two years time, you’re back on the other side of the wave as Democrats are again swept into office while you are pushed out.

It is the usual short term view that drives politics today and drives me crazy.  The belief that winning a majority is all that’s important because then the party can act on its agenda.  No – it can’t.  Not if those it has elected aren’t in tune with the principles of the platform.  Not if those elected are “moderates” who have no problem with big government, subsidies, entitlements and high taxes. 

If returning to the fundamentals of Constitutional government is “radical” then the GOP needs to become the radical party.  Until they absorb that, embraces that “radicalism” and runs candidates who believe in that fundamental principle, the wrong track numbers will continue to remain constant and the GOP will continue to be the clueless lesser of two evils, but not by much.



Nate Silver, FDR and Obama

Nate Silver, a guy I respect and enjoy reading, dances around the point of a Weekly Standard comparison of FDR and Obama.

The WS points out:

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt were president today […] liberal health care reform would have been enacted already. […]

Silver, a man of numbers (he was tweeting Olympic goalie shot blocking stats during the US/Canada gold medal hockey game for heaven sake), goes to them and wonders why FDR’s (and LBJ as a comparison) congressional majorities weren’t mentioned by the Standard.

Silver goes on to talk about the huge size of the majorities FDR enjoyed, the implication being that they made a significant difference.

But that wasn’t the Standard’s point as seen in these paragraphs that Silver also quotes:

The reason is tied to what is probably the greatest difference between FDR and Obama. Roosevelt took command of Washington. Obama hasn’t. “FDR became the father of the modern presidency by moving the Chief Executive to the center of the American political universe,” John Yoo writes in his new book on presidential power, Crisis and Command. “Roosevelt’s revolution radically shifted the balance of power among the three branches of government.” […]

FDR seized legislative authority. The bills that Congress passed in his first 100 days and beyond were produced by the Roosevelt administration and ratified reflexively by Congress.

Those three highlighted quotes are the reason for Obama’s problem – quite simply a lack of leadership. Where FDR was proactive, wrote the legislation and then twisted arms to get it passed in a majority Democratic congress, Obama has done none of that.  He outsourced it. He instead left it up to Congress to write the legislation (with predictable results) and squandered a majority by passing nothing of his big ticket agenda. He’s now reduced to parliamentary tricks to try to pass health care reform legislation.

Whether or not Obama’s majorities are as big as those of FDR or LBJ enjoyed isn’t the point – the point is he had majorities and he squandered them by sitting back, leaving it all to Congress and letting party infighting slow and then stall his agenda. Had he, as the Standard notes about FDR, taken “command of Washington” and the legislative process the outcome might have been very different.  Had he introduced legislation written by the administration, he had a very good chance of having health care done by last year.

He didn’t. So the point isn’t about the size of majorities. It isn’t clear Obama would have been in any better shape had he had FDR’s majorities. The point is Obama is no FDR because he lacks the leadership qualities, skills and abilities of FDR, not because he had a smaller majority in Congress.