Romney’s Path to 270 Electoral Votes

October 13th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

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

October 9th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

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

October 7th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

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.

###

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

October 3rd, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

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?

October 1st, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

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.

WaPo Poll: Obama Up By 1

September 11th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

President ObamaI watched speakers from both conventions. And I’ve watched the main stream media narrative about the conventions. It’s interesting, to see the least. Apparently, Obama got a bounce in the polls. Romney did not. Both the Gallup and Rasmussen polls have shown momentum for the president. But the Obama bounce is already fading. This morning, the Washington Post trumpeted “Among likely voters, Obama-Romney close”. In the Post’s latest poll following the two conventions, they have Obama up by one with likely voters, 49-48. They go into great detail explaining how Obama leads on many of the issues.

Not once do they mention the sampling of the two parties in the poll.

One phenomenon I mentioned in my post “Can Obama Win?” is the over sampling of democrats in most of the polls. In 2008, Obama beat McCain by seven points, and democrats outvoted republicans by seven points in the election. But in 2010, an election that resulted in a republican tsunami into the House of Representatives, the two parties were equally represented in the election.

Why are these numbers important to understand? Because in the Post’s most recent poll, they have oversampled democrats by ten points (33-23) compared to republicans. And Obama is only up by one. (See poll results here.)

What should we expect in 2012? I won’t be surprised if the democrats outvote the republicans by a small margin, but there’s little chance that they’ll match their seven point advantage from the 2008 election. Let alone outvote republicans by ten points.

So why are these polls so heavily weighted towards democrats? I have a theory.

Republicans don’t want to be polled.

Assuming that the polls start from a truly representative base of people, either people are lying about their party affiliation, or republicans are refusing to be polled (hanging up on the polling company). I think it’s much more likely that the republicans are hanging up on the pollsters. Why?

I’ve always believed that liberals are much more likely to want to express their opinions than conservatives. They post on blogs. They post on Facebook. The put bumper stickers on their cars. They join politically active organizations. While about twice as many people self-identify as conservatives compared to liberals, it’s been my experience that liberals are much more likely to voice their opinions than conservatives. For the most part, conservatives would like to be left alone.

But I think there’s another issue at play. When conservatives express views in opposition to the president’s agenda, they’re often labeled as racists by liberals and some members of the media. Are there still racists in this country? Absolutely. But it’s incredibly insulting to suggest that fiscal conservatives are only voicing opposition to the administration’s policies because Barrack Obama is black. Some people don’t want to fight that fight.

And lastly, conservatives are skeptical and distrusting of the media. They likely view these polling companies as extensions of the media.

I’ve often made comparisons of this election to the 1980 election between incumbent Jimmy Carter and his challenger Ronald Reagan. As late as October 28th, Gallup had Carter ahead 45-42. And in Gallup’s final poll, they had Reagan with a slim lead of 47-44. Much like the current race, the media said that the Carter-Reagan race was too close to call.

Reagan ultimately won 51-41, with John Anderson getting about 6.6% of the vote. Not very close at all.

AFC West Predictions

September 7th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

Every year there are surprises in the NFL. A team that had struggled to a 5-11 record the year before goes 11-5 and wins their division. Teams lose key players to injury, like the Colts losing Peyton Manning, and end up with the number one overall pick in the draft. The league is unpredictable. Except that it’s not. While NFL fans always seem to have hope at the beginning of the season, most teams end up in that middle ground winning somewhere between 7-9 games. Bad teams typically remain bad teams. And despite all of the parity in the league, the best organizations, like the Steelers and the Patriots, seem to find ways to win year after year.

The AFC West appears to be an interesting division again this year. The division has a low ceiling, and a high floor. Whichever team wins the division, may be the worst division winner in the league. And whichever team ends up last, will probably be better than the last place team in every other division. Look at last year’s records: division winner Denver (8-8), San Diego (8-8), Oakland (8-8), and Kansas City (7-9). Nobody was really good. And nobody was really bad. I doubt it will be much different this year. Every team has a legitimate chance of winning the division. Though it’s not likely that they’ll all finish within one game of each other again.

Denver Quarterback Peyton ManningDenver Broncos: It pains me to write this, but the Broncos have the best head coach and the best quarterback in the division. They have a decent supporting cast. And they likely have the highest ceiling of any of the teams in the division. But they’ve also installed a new offensive system with Peyton Manning, and they’ve had to replace their defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen, who moved onto Oakland to become their head coach. If everything clicks quickly for the Broncos, they could win 12 games. If the team struggles and Manning isn’t quite the Manning of old, they could win six. I have a lot of faith in Manning’s ability to overcome adversity. Prediction: 10-6 and Peyton Manning starts all 16 games.

Kansas City Chiefs: On paper, the Chiefs have the most talent in the division. But I have big questions about this team that I wrote about a few days ago. Is Romeo Crennel a good head coach? I don’t know. Can offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hit the ground running? That’ tough. Most teams take some time to adjust to new coordinators. Can the Chiefs overcome Cassel’s weaknesses? If everything goes right, the Chiefs could win ten games. And last year, when just about everything went wrong, they still won seven. Prediction: 8-8 and that Brady Quinn starts at least two games.

San Diego Chargers: These are not Marty Schottenheimer’s San Diego Chargers. Marty had built a team that was deep and talented. Other than Phillip Rivers, the stars are gone from San Diego. And who is their head coach? Norv Turner. A fine man, and a very good offensive coordinator. But he’s not an effective head coach. They have issues with their offensive line. A running back and tight end who can’t stay healthy. They lost their best wide receiver. And have struggled to replace their best players on defense. The last two years, the Chargers have finished 9-7 and 8-8. I don’t see anything that leads me to believe that this team can get back to winning 10+ games. And I think it’s possible that this is the year they fall off the cliff, go 4-12, and fire Norv Turner. Prediction: 7-9 and they fire Norv Turner.

Oakland Raiders: I like the direction of the Raiders under new general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen. I’m not making any long-term predictions for how this team will develop over the next few years. But often a team has to take a step back before it can take two steps forward. The Raiders have some talent. If he can stay healthy, Darren McFadden has the potential to be one of the most dominating players in the league. If everything goes right they could win 8-9 games. It’s more likely they’ll have some struggles this year as they try to rebuild the franchise. Prediction: 6-10 and that Carson Palmer gets benched before the end of the season.

Five Questions on the Chiefs v2012

September 4th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

Kansas City Quarterback Matt CasselLet me first admit that I’m not only an NFL junkie, but that I even enjoy preseason football games. I typically watch every minute of every Chiefs’ preseason game. This year? Not so much. I have maybe watched five quarters of preseason football. And it doesn’t appear that the Chiefs have answered any of the questions I had coming into the season.

Matt Cassel: What exactly is Matt Cassel? Is he the solid quarterback who put up good numbers for the Patriots in 2008 (QB rating 89.4) and the Chiefs in 2010 (QB rating 93.0)? Or the guy who struggled in 2009 (QB rating 69.9) and 2011 (QB rating 76.6)? Can you win playoff games with Cassel? How about a Super Bowl? I’ve been slow to come around. For years I’ve held the belief that you could win a Super Bowl with a competent quarterback. We’ve seen guys like Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Doug Williams, Jim McMahon, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson win Super Bowls. And Matt’s struggles are not all his fault. He’s had a different offensive coordinator every year in Kansas City. His offensive line has been mediocre. And last year he lost running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki for the season.

It’s also important to understand that Cassel’s had limited time as a starting quarterback. If you combine college and the NFL, he’s still only got four years of experience as a starter. Matt has all of the intangibles you could want in a quarterback. His ability to read a defense will continue to improve. If given protection and a strong running game, Cassel can be an effective quarterback.

But is that enough? It appears to me that in today’s NFL you must have an elite quarterback (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees), or at least a quarterback capable of playing at an elite level (Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger), to win a Super Bowl. During the last 20 years, the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls who we can compare to Cassel are Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Smart players who can best be described as game managers. The odds are stacked heavily against the Chiefs ever winning a Super Bowl with Matt Cassel. And isn’t winning the Super Bowl the goal? (See list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks here.)

And having said all of that, what are the odds that Brady Quinn could eventually unseat Cassel? If the Chiefs start 3-6 or worse, would Crennel consider switching quarterbacks? Quinn was drafted by Crennel in Cleveland in the first round of the 2007 draft.

Romeo CrennelRomeo Crennel: Crennel seems like a great guy, and he’s been a fine defensive coordinator in the NFL. His only stint as a head coach came in Cleveland from 2005-08 where he compiled a record of 24-40. Was that his fault or is Cleveland just that bad of an organization? I’m not sure. But I will tell you this — at the age of 65, Crennel is not the long-term answer for the Chiefs. It seems to me that you should be looking for the next Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick or Andy Reid. A guy young enough to be your head coach for many years to come. The goal is not only to build a Super Bowl winning team, but to build stability within the organization in order to obtain long-term and continued success. Even if Crennel achieves some success with the Chiefs, how long will he be the head coach? And he’s stuck with a competent quarterback who will likely never get him to a Super Bowl. Seems like a short-sighted solution for a team without a Super Bowl caliber quarterback.

Brian Daboll: I don’t know a lot about Brian Daboll, but I do think that this is an interesting hire as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. He’s a high energy guy. He’s 37 years old, and has some experience as a coordinator — 2009-10 with Cleveland and 2011 with Miami. He got pretty good production out of quarterback Matt Moore last year. The Dolphins started the season 0-7 before going 6-3 over their last nine games. Their offensive production improved as the season went along. But as I mentioned before, the Chiefs have had a new offensive coordinator every year since Matt Cassel has been here. I think it’s a lot to expect for this offense to hit the ground running starting week one.

Scott Pioli: No matter what you feel about Todd Haley, the fact that he was fired midway through his third season in Kansas City means that Pioli made a poor decision when he hired his first head coach. And I’m not confident that he’ll be any more successful with his second head coach. Pioli also needs some of his draft choices to step up and produce. Eric Berry looks like a star. Kendrick Lewis has been solid. I like how Pioli’s been rebuilding the offensive line. But after that we’re left with a bunch of question marks. Will Jon Baldwin produce big plays? Can Dontari Poe become the force on the defensive line that the Chiefs have been missing? Will Pioli ever attempt to draft and develop a replacement for Matt Cassel? We’re now in year four of Pioli’s tenure and his drafts have been unspectacular at best.

Defense: While the offense has been under a lot of scrutiny by the fans, the Chiefs defense hasn’t been much better. We’ve been saying it for years, but the Chiefs have to get better play out of their defensive line. It all starts up front with the big guys. They were one of the better defenses in the league in the second half last year. Can they carry that success into this year? How much will they miss Brandon Carr? Will Justin Houstin become that second pass rusher they so desperately need?

The good news for the Chiefs is that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong last year. And they still finished the season 7-9. Romeo Crennel will certainly offer a steadier hand than Todd Haley. And you wouldn’t expect the team to have the same devastating injuries two years in a row. This team has big questions, but on paper this is probably the best collection of talent that they’ve had since the mid ’90s.

Can Obama Win?

August 11th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

Today we’re going to take a look at the upcoming presidential election from a different angle. We’re not going to talk about Paul Ryan, political agendas, fundraising or the campaigns. We’re not going to talk about personalities or character. We’re not even going to talk about the two candidates. Today, we’re just going to look at recent elections, supporting data and how understanding the past helps us to predict the future.

Reagan and Carter

Reagan vs Carter
We’re going to start with something a little more anecdotal. In the summer of 1980, the polls had President Carter beating challenger Ronald Reagan. These same polls showed ex-President Ford beating Carter. The republican establishment was concerned. They wanted Reagan to pick Ford as his vice president. Basically a co-president. Reagan declined and picked the first George Bush. Reagan ran on a platform of conservative values and American greatness. He went on to beat Carter. In hindsight, did Carter have a chance? The economy was bad. Unemployment was rising. Interest rates were high. People were concerned about the future. This is not the type of atmosphere where voters reward a president with four more years.

Unemployment
A friend asked me about a year ago if Obama had a chance at winning. My initial response was that it all depends on the unemployment numbers. An oversimplification, but still a valid point. Presidents don’t get reelected with high unemployment. I commented that if unemployment was above 8.5%, that Obama would lose. And if unemployment fell below 8%, he could make the case that his policies were working. Unemployment sits at about 8.25%. But that’s just the official number. Real unemployment is much higher — closer to 10.6%. Millions have been fleeing the workforce. The economy is flat. It’s been the movement from people leaving the workforce that has moved the official unemployment rate down from 10.2%. I wrote about this here. And you can read more about this from James Pethokoukis here.

Here’s a portion of James’ article:

Only in a world of lowered, New Normal expectations was the July jobs report anything less than another disaster for U.S. workers.

– This continues to be the longest stretch of 8% or higher unemployment since the Great Depression, 42 straight months.

– If the labor force participation rate was the same as when Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate would be 11.0%.

– Even if you take into account that the LFP should be declining as America ages, the unemployment rate would be 10.6%.

– If the labor force participation rate hadn’t declined since just last month, the unemployment rate would have risen to 8.4%.

– The broader U-6 unemployment rate, which includes “all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons,” ticked up to 15.0%.

Incumbents Lose the Undecided Vote
In presidential elections, the undecideds rarely vote for the incumbent. Why? Because if you haven’t made up your mind about the president after four years, you’re probably not going to vote for him. In elections where the incumbents have won (such as Reagan in 1984 or Clinton 1996) or when they’ve lost (such as Carter in 1976 or Bush in 1992), approximately 80% of the undecideds vote for the challenger. So if you see a poll that shows Romney and Obama each at 45%, what you really have is a Romney win of 53-47. Polls typically show 3-5% of people supporting “some other candidate”, but most will end up voting for one of the two primary candidates anyway. In the last two presidential elections, only about 1% of the vote has been cast for a third party candidate.

Likely Voters
One of the keys to look for in the polls are if they’ve polled likely voters. Some poll adults. Some poll registered votes. When polling adults or registered voters, the results tend to favor the democrats. But polling likely voters tends to be the most accurate predictor of elections. Rasmussen Reports polls likely voters, and as of today, they have Romney leading 47-43. And if you follow the 80% rule from above, then you’ve got a Romney win of 55-45.

Barone Table 2

Mid-Term House Elections Predict Presidential Elections
This is an interesting chart comparing mid-term elections in the House of Representatives to the following presidential elections and House elections. Notice how the House votes in 1998, 2002 and 2006 almost perfectly predict the results in 2000, 2004 and 2008. If this trend holds true, then Romney will beat Obama by something close to the seven-point margin that republicans beat democrats in the House in 2010.

Approval Rating
President’s don’t typically win reelection when their approval rating is below 50%. One exception was George W. Bush who had an approval rating of 48% with registered voters in 2004, but was above 50% with likely voters. As of today, Rasmussen has Obama’s approval/disapproval ratings at 45-53, and Gallup has them at 43-51.

Over Sampling of Democrats
This has been an interesting phenomenon this year. In 2008, Obama beat McCain by seven points, and democrats outvoted republicans by seven points. But as we’ve seen, the mid-term election is probably a better predictor of turnout than the past presidential election. And in 2010, republicans and democrats voted in fairly equal numbers. So you would think that pollsters would weight their polls according to expected participation. But they do not. Many of the national polls have been sampling democrats by anywhere from 6-19 points higher than republicans. And they’re not weighting the results. With democratic enthusiasm down, it’s unlikely that democrats will outvote republicans by a significant margin. If at all. These polls are not likely to be indicative of how people will actually vote.

This is also going on in the state polls. For instance, a recent CBS/NYT poll showed Obama with a six point lead over Romney in Florida. In 2008, democrats outvoted republicans by 3 points in Florida. In 2010, they were an even split. So what’s a realistic expectation for 2012? Probably a slight advantage for democrats — maybe a point or two. But the CBS/NYT’s poll oversampled democrats by nine points. And they still only have Obama up by six.

The Future’s Not Bright
In just about every poll, Americans are pessimistic about the future. Economic confidence is down. People are pessimistic about jobs. The majority feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Similar to what Carter faced in 1980, this is a difficult atmosphere for an incumbent president.

Pethokoulis And More Stats
If you really want to read some more, check out this article from James Pethokoukis. He explains five stats and how Obama stacks up. All five show Obama with a tough mountain to climb.

Parting Thoughts
My prediction at this point is that the presidential election will feel similar to the recent Wisconsin recall election. Polls will be close till the end. Exit polling will show the election too close to call. Then in the end, it won’t be very close at all. I’m predicting a Romney win 52-47.

Chiefs 2012 Draft

April 29th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

While I do enjoy Mel Kiper and many of the NFL analysts, giving out draft grades is just plain silly. Nobody knows yet how these kids will perform in the NFL. Many of them will never play a down outside of pre-season. There will be first round busts. There will be players from the middle rounds who may become Hall of Famers. And there will be at least a few undrafted free agents who become contributors if not outright stars in the league. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some thoughts about the Chiefs’ draft.

Nose Tackle Dontari PoeNose Tackle Dontari Poe (First Round): The “story” here is that this is a high risk high reward pick that fills the Chiefs biggest need. Sam Mellinger wrote such a story in the KC Star (read it here). Poe exploded onto the national scene with a great workout at the combine. (Athlon Sports said that Poe had the “best performance at the combine”. This is an awesome read if you want to get excited about Poe.) But as the analysts started breaking down his play, they saw a guy who didn’t impact the game despite his physical abilities. The experts say this is boom or bust, with many already predicting bust. But this is the easy story. Not necessarily the real story.

The Chiefs had rated Poe as the best nose tackle prospect in the draft before the combine (if you believe general manager Scott Pioli). They saw a kid who did everything he was asked to do by his coaches. Who played almost every snap on defense, rotating between several positions along the line. A kid who played as hard at the end of a blowout loss, which Memphis experienced on multiple occasions, as he did at the beginning of a game. High risk high reward? Boom or bust? What if Poe solidifies the middle of the Chiefs’ defensive line and is a six year starter but never makes a Pro Bowl? What is he then? A good solid pick.

I have no prediction here. There are few true nose tackles available in the draft. And virtually none of them EVER have Poe’s physical abilities. He’s got a VERY high ceiling. Let’s just hope he comes close to his full potential.

Offensive Guard Jeff Allen (Second Round): I like it that the Chiefs continue to beef up their offensive line. Allen played tackle in college, but projects as a guard in the pros. He’s played both left and right tackle, so he has experience with footwork from both sides of the line. I was always skeptical about the Chiefs undersized line with Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann in the middle. This year we’ll see Rodney Hudson (second round pick last year) take over for the retired Wiegmann. And with this as the final year on Lilja’s contract, I think we’ll likely see Allen starting at left guard next year. If not sooner.

Offensive Tackle Donald Stephenson (Third Round): The Chiefs needed a tackle who could backup on both sides of the line. He’s a bit of a project, but has the potential to eventually be a starter in the league.

Wide Receiver Devon WylieWide Receiver Devon Wylie (Fourth Round): Everybody is looking for the next Wes Welker. The Chiefs needed a receiver with speed who could stretch the field. Wylie’s fast, is built to play the slot, and has skills as a returner. My guess is that the Chiefs will move Dexter McCluster to the backfield full time and take him out of the mix as a wide receiver. Wylie will have a chance at earning some playing time this year.

Defensive Back DeQuan Menzie (Fifth Round): This is an interesting pick. He took over for Javier Arenas at Alabama a couple years ago. He played what Alabama calls the “star” position where he has to read and react. He’s smart, got cover skills, and will probably be asked to convert to safety for the Chiefs.

Running Back Cyrus Gray (Sixth Round): Similar in size to Jamaal Charles but maybe a little thicker. Decent speed and very productive at Texas A&M. Catches the ball well. Adds good depth at the position, which the Chiefs needed.

Defense Lineman Jerome Long (Seventh Round): Has the right build to play defensive end in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense, though will probably need to add a little bulk. A project. Unless he has a monster camp, hard to see him making the roster. More likely a developmental player on the practice squad.

Wide Receiver Junior Hemingway (Seventh Round): I like this pick. Didn’t put up great numbers in college, but that’s mostly because of Michigan’s offense. In recent years we’ve seen a number of wide receivers taken late in the draft become very effective players in the NFL. Will probably need to unseat special team’s contributor Terrance Copper to find a spot on the roster.

Overall I like the draft. When Scott Pioli got here, the weakest positions groups were the offensive  and defensive lines. I’m not sure if they’re fixed yet, but they continue to get better. The Chiefs will continue to look for some more depth through free agency and undrafted free agents. Expert the Chiefs to still fill a couple more holes in the back of their roster.