Archive for October, 2012

Romney’s Path to 270 Electoral Votes

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

It’s interesting to watch the political winds change. A year ago, experts discussed that the election would come down to 12 swing states. For months, the mainstream media and liberal pundits have talked about Obama’s path to victory, and that there was little chance of Romney making the electoral math work in his favor. Two months ago I wrote a post titled “Can Obama Win?” where I discussed the headwinds President Obama would face in the upcoming election. From studying past elections and current factors, I predicted that Romney would win the popular vote 52-47. I wasn’t overly concerned about the electoral math. It would be nearly impossible to win 52% of the vote and not win the electoral college.

Real Clear Politics is one of my favorite sites. They list the top political stories of the day, but they also track all of the major polls and provide an average of the polls. This week they show 12 states in the “toss up” column between the two candidates. The same 12 states that the experts had said would be the swing states that would decide the election. So despite the ebb and flow of the campaigns, we are exactly where we thought we’d be.

Real Clear Politics - Electoral College

As of today, with leaners, Real Clear Politics has Obama winning 201 electoral votes, and Romney winning 181 electoral votes. I don’t see any of these states changing sides. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the election, and there are 156 up for grabs in the 12 swing states. This is the closest I’ve seen the electoral map since the election began — typically they’ve shown the President with a fairly commanding lead.

The 12 states that make up the swing states are (with their number of electoral votes): Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Missouri (10), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10).

I’m going to chop off two states for each side. All along the numbers have looked good for Obama in Pennsylvania and Michigan. And Missouri and North Carolina have been widely considered states that would end up in the Romney column. That puts Obama ahead 237-206.

This week, David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said that they were going to stop polling Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. “In places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red. We’re not polling any of those states again,” he said. “We’re focusing on the remaining states.”

So let’s add the electoral votes from Virginia and Florida to the Romney side of the ledger. That puts Romney ahead 248-237.

The polls show Ohio as very close. RCP shows Obama with a slight lead, though that’s largely because of one outlier — the NBC/WSJ poll has Obama up by 6. It will be close, but I’m predicting a Romney win in Ohio. That puts Romney up 266-237 with Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin still undecided. Romney only has to win one of these states to hit 270 and win the election. In other words, if Romney wins Ohio, Obama must sweep the remaining five states. We’ve discussed before that the undecided voters break heavily for the challenger. Here’s the current breakdown of these five states according to RCP:

Colorado: Romney up 47.7 to 47.0
Iowa: Obama up 48.6 to 45.4
Nevada: Obama up 48.2 to 46.6
New Hampshire: Obama up 48 to 47.3
Wisconsin: Obama up 50 to 47.7

Romney will win at least one of these, and win the election.

The Big Lies

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

I don’t want to spend much time discussing the recent presidential debate. It’s been analyzed to death. Though the analysis has been entertaining. And mostly it’s been skewed by misconceptions. Before the debate, polls showed a large majority of voters believed that President Obama would win the debate. The theme had been that Romney is not a very good politician, and that Obama is bright and articulate. How could Obama not win the debate handily?

Obama gives a great speech, and he’s good on the stump. That doesn’t make him a great debater. Romney delivers a decent speech, and is not inspiring on the stump. That doesn’t make him a bad debater. Matter of fact, Romney is a smart debater. He navigated through the minefields of the republican debates intelligently. I agree that Obama was not at his best, and that Romney won the debate. I just think the analysis is tainted by pre-debate conceptions that Obama would win big. And when he didn’t, the press couldn’t help themselves by overreacting and over-analyzing the Romney win.

Overall, I thought the two candidates presented their different visions to the country effectively. They each had their share of misstatements and distortions. Most of them relatively minor. I’ve read through the fact checkers, and this piece from the AP does a pretty good job of breaking down the inaccurate statements. But there were two outright lies that bothered me the most.

Mitt RomneyThe Romney Lie
I have been a proponent for healthcare reform for 20 years. I have also been highly critical of Obamacare. I’m in agreement with repeal and replace. My problem is that Romney does not have a good plan to replace it. And during the debate, Romney claimed: “Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” When pressed on this by Obama, Romney went on to say, “In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan.”

But his plan (from his website) only says people “should be guaranteed the ability to retain coverage” if they have “maintained continuous health insurance coverage.” This does not extend to people who do not currently have health insurance. PolitiFact details it here, and rates Romney’s claim as mostly false. I’d call it a lie.

To their credit, the Romney campaign came out right after the debate and clarified their plan. From CNN (read full story here):

Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide to Mitt Romney, suggested in a Thursday interview with CNN that the GOP presidential candidate’s health plan may achieve his goal of covering individuals with pre-existing conditions through “state initiatives and money.”

At least they didn’t double down on the lie. Unlike the Obama campaign.

President ObamaThe Obama Lie
President Obama came into the debate with one central point to pin on Romney — that his tax reform plan will add $5 trillion to the deficit, and necessitate income tax increases on the middle class. Obama returned to this point repeatedly during the debate. But he’s wrong, and he knows it. Romney’s plan calls for lowering tax rates for everybody, and eliminating deductions and loopholes in the code. Romney claims that his plan is revenue neutral. There’s room to debate whether or not the plan is deficit neutral, but it’s a lie to say that it will add $5 trillion to the deficit.

Take this exchange as an example. This is between CNN’s Erin Burnett and Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager:

Erin Burnett, CNN host: So you’re saying if you lower them (tax rates) by 20% you get a $5 trillion tab, right?

Stephanie Cutter: It’s a $5 trillion tab.

Burnett: But then when you close deductions it’s not going to be anywhere near $5 trillion, that’s our analysis.

Cutter: Well, okay, stipulated. It won’t be near $5 trillion but it’s also not going to be the sum of $5 trillion in the loopholes that he’s going to close.

I added the bold for emphasis. Cutter has just openly admitted that their central point is a complete lie. It will not add $5 trillion to the deficit. But the President has continued with this line of attack all week in his stump speeches. And there’s ample evidence that it’s possible to reduce rates by 20%, eliminate deductions, and end up with deficit neutral tax policy, though it does require a small increase in GDP to get there. Princeton economics professor Harvey Rosen has written a paper detailing how it’s possible. I’ve read it. I’m guessing that Stephanie Cutter has not. From Rosen:

The main conclusion is that under plausible assumptions, a proposal along the lines suggested by Governor Romney can both be revenue neutral and keep the net tax burden on high-income individuals about the same. That is, an increase in the tax burden on lower and middle income individuals is not required in order to make the overall plan revenue neutral.

The Results
Polls are showing surges for Romney nationally and in the swing states. And yes, some polls are still oversampling democrats. Don’t live and die with the polls. And don’t read too much into articles that proclaim “if the election were hold today”. The election is not today. It’s in a month. The race is a marathon, and reminds me of the old story about the tortoise and the hare. And yes, Romeny is the tortoise who will win in the end.

Chiefs and AFC West Update 10-7-2012

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

My plan had been to write quarterly updates on the AFC West this year. Games start shortly, so here goes!

Denver Broncos
Prediction 10-6 / Record 2-2

I still expect the Broncos to win the division. They’ve beaten the Steelers (who have not been very good) and the Raiders (who are bad). And they’ve lost to two very good teams in the Falcons and the Texans. The Broncos’ defense has shown signs of dominance. And the offense will only get better as Manning develops chemistry with his backs and receivers. They are the best team in the West.

Kansas City Chiefs
Prediction 8-8 / Record 1-3

How bad are the Chiefs? We’ll probably find out today against the Ravens. But they’re still only one game behind the pace that I expected, even if they lose today. The turnovers from the offense, and the lack of turnovers from the defense, has exasperated the rest of the teams’ problems. They aren’t as bad as they’ve looked. But I’m not sure you can expect things to get much better. If the Chiefs can flip the turnover numbers, they’ll win some games. More on the Chiefs later in this post.

San Diego Chargers
Prediction 7-9 / Record 3-1

I’m still not sold on this team. They’ve beaten three teams with a cumulative record of 3-9. The only good team they’ve played are the Falcons, who dominated them in San Diego 27-3. Who is the head coach? Norv Turner. Sell high.

Oakland Raiders
Prediction 6-10 / Record 1-3

I guess they’re about what I expected. The only team they’ve beaten is the Steelers, who do not look like the Steelers of old. Carson Palmer has not been very good. Will be interesting to see how long they stay with him at quarterback. They gave up a lot to get him last year, but they’ve got the youngster Terrelle Pryor sitting on the bench. By mid-season, it might be time to see if he can play.

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So what’s up with the Chiefs? If you’ve read my blog over the years, you know that I’m not very reactionary. I think fans and the media often react too quickly to what has happened, instead of understanding the bigger picture. When the team wins, we’re going to the Super Bowl. When we lose, start firing people!

But I’m almost to the end of my rope. I think this team has some good talent, but some significant problems at quarterback, head coach and general manager. Only the three most important positions in a team. I would play Matt Cassel the next two games against the Ravens and the Bucs. If the team gets crushed, it’s time to make changes during the bye week. At a minimum I would sit Cassel and let Brady Quinn finish out the season. Though I would be tempted to fire general manager Scott Pioli during the bye week as well. I would replace Romeo Crennel at the end of the season. And I would do whatever I had to do to draft Matt Barkley or Geno Smith as our next quarterback.

5 Questions I’d Ask President Obama

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

President ObamaThe debates are about to begin. I wish I could ask the President the questions the media will refuse to ask.

Q1: The size of the government is typically stated as a share of the economy. In modern history, the size of the federal government has averaged approximately 20% of GDP. What is your vision for the right size of government over the next five, ten and twenty years?

Q2: You have not released a federal budget since 2010, and it’s been even longer since democrats in the Senate have released a budget. What is your specific budget plan for the next ten years? (UPDATE: I provided misinformation here. See note at the bottom of the post.)

Q3: You have passed a series of short-term tax cuts that are about to expire. The Bush-era tax cuts are ready to expire. What is your long-term tax plan?

Q4: Medicare and Social Security are on a path towards insolvency. You have said that Medicare is “unsustainable”. What is your plan to reform Medicare and Social Security?

Q5: In what year do your plans achieve a balanced budget?

You’ll notice a theme among these questions. Many, including myself, have accused the administration of not having plans to deal with our most significant structural problems. Even the President’s treasury secretary Tim Geithner said to Paul Ryan and Congress: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term [debt] problem. What we do know is that we don’t like yours.”

But to say that the President doesn’t have a plan is probably incorrect. He just hasn’t shared it with the American people.

Size of Government
As far as I know, the President has never said what the size of government should be. Not only is this a fair question, but it gets directly to the point of the President’s vision for the country, and the role of government. Paul Ryan passed a budget in the House that restrained government spending to the traditional average of 20% of GDP and was labeled a radical by the left. The Simpson-Bowles debt commission recommended restraining government to 21% of GDP and was ignored by the President.

So what does the President believe? Larry Summers, who was the Director of the President’s Economic Council, has released a series of articles and comments that last couple of years about the size of government. He believes that the government will need to be bigger. Significantly bigger. Here’s his article in the Washington Post from August of this year (click here). And here’s an excerpt from it:

But there is a widespread view in both parties that it is feasible and desirable that in the future the federal government should be no larger as a share of the overall economy than it has been historically. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be achieved. For structural reasons, even preserving the amount of government functions that predated the financial crisis will require substantial increases in the share of the U.S. economy devoted to the public sector.

I added the bold for emphasis. He goes on to say:

But for the next three decades the United States will confront the reality that major structural changes in its economy will compel an increase in the public sector’s fraction of the total economy…

What are “substantial increases” in the size of government? Does the President agree with this? We deserve to know.

Federal Budget
It is appalling to me that the President has not presented a budget since 2010, and that the democrats in the Senate have not presented a budget in more than three years. The last time the President released a budget it was basically laughed out of Washington as un-serious. Why has he not presented a budget? Because he has no intention of restraining government spending. (UPDATE: I provided misinformation here. See note at the bottom of the post.)

Tax Reform
I’ve been on the tax reform bandwagon for decades. Seriously. Decades. Our tax code is a complete mess. I have visited the President’s website. His ONLY mention of tax reform is the Buffet Rule. But the Buffet Rule is only a drop in the bucket. From Forbes:

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) says that the Buffett Rule as proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT) would increase revenues by $47 billion over the coming decade, assuming that the 2001-2010 tax cuts (on the rich) expire as scheduled.

We’re running trillion dollar yearly deficits, and the President’s solution is to generate an additional $4.7 billion per year from the Buffet Rule. We need real and significant tax reform in this country. And we need it now.

But the real reason the President hasn’t presented a tax plan? If your intent is to “significantly increase” the size of government, eventually you will also have to significantly increase tax revenues. And it’s impossible to tax the rich enough to make up the difference. Taxes are going up on the middle class, and probably significantly. When? Obama’s planning for that to be the next President’s problem. He just wants to push us down the path towards a significantly larger federal government.

Entitlements
It’s impossible to achieve long-term financial stability, and eventually balanced budgets, without tackling our toughest problems — Medicare and Social Security. The President has put forth no plan to fix either of these programs. Why? Because I don’t believe he has any interest in changing the programs. If left as they are today, they will soon make the federal government significantly larger.

Balanced Budgets
All of these issues tie together. Our country spends more money every year that it collects in revenues. Even the Clinton surpluses were illusory, and created by payroll tax revenues that exceeded expenditures on Medicare and Social Security. I think you probably know my thoughts on this one. The President has no intention of putting together a plan to get us to balanced budgets. He’s counting on a significantly larger government necessitating significant tax increases in the future.

So where does the President stand on these issues? I think I know. I’d just like to hear him say it.

UPDATE: Just saw this in the USA Today of all places. Seems like we’re pretty much on the same page, though the President has already answered the first question on multiple occasions, stating that the situation was much worse than they expected. Read it here.

UPDATE 2: Made a mistake on this one. The President DID propose a budget this year. You can read it here. I had it in my mind that it was just a budget framework, but it is an actual, scorable budget. It should be noted that it was voted on in the House, and lost 414-0. And it was voted on in the Senate, and lost 99-0. Not a single democrat voted for it.

Are The Polls Skewed?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Just a quick post today. I’ve said for nearly a couple months that I believe many of the polls to be skewed. That democrats are getting oversampled compared to republicans, especially in some of the recent state polls. It’s become a big enough story in recent weeks that virtually all of the pollsters have been posting columns detailing why their polls are not skewed.

For instance, read this article from Frank Martin of Gallup. The defenders of the polls make several insightful points. That doesn’t make them right.

Some on the right, such as Dick Morris, have gone so far as to accuse the pollsters of distorting their polls on purpose to dampen republican enthusiasm. I don’t believe this. I do believe that much of the media is rooting for President Obama to win a second term, and are happy to report that the polls are showing Obama with a clear advantage in many of the swing states. And are just as happy to ignore the potential oversampling of democrats in the polls.

I made two points a few weeks ago about why the polls might be distorted. One, I believe that liberals are more inclined to share their opinions than conservatives. This has only been a personal belief, and not one that I’ve researched. And two, that it’s likely that republicans are declining poll requests as they are suspicious of the pollsters and the media.

This morning I happened upon an article by Michael Barone on AEI’s website. You should read the full article. Here are a few excerpts:

In addition, it’s getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it’s getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That’s compared with 36 percent in 1997… Are those 9 percent representative of the larger population? As that percentage declines, it seems increasingly possible that the sample is unrepresentative of the much larger voting public. One thing a poll can’t tell us is the opinion of people who refuse to be polled.

While this doesn’t specifically back my point that republicans are refusing to be polled, it’s an interesting stat. And if you’re a reader of my blog, you know I love stats.

Barone went on to explain:

It may be that we’re seeing the phenomenon we’ve seen for years in exit polls, which have consistently skewed Democratic (and toward Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries). Part of that is interviewer error: Exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky found the biggest discrepancies between exit polls and actual results were in precincts where the interviewers were female graduate students. But he also found that Democrats were simply more willing to fill out the exit poll. Which raises the question: Are we seeing the same thing in this month’s polls?

Which would seem to support my point that liberals are more likely to share their point of view than conservatives. Especially if there’s a female grad student asking the questions. :)

And I wish I had saved it, and now I can’t find it, but last night I saw a poll that showed a majority of republicans (I believe the number was 66%) believe that the polls are intentionally skewed to favor democrats. Conservatives don’t trust the media, and apparently don’t trust pollsters either.