Election 2012

Republican Dream Map Dashed

Texas congressional hopefuls will begin filing the paper work for their House campaigns today after an eventful holiday weekend. On Saturday, a federal court in San Antonio court approved a new congressional map that overturned the one drawn up by the state's Republican legislature earlier this year, granting Democrats and the state's burgeoning Hispanic population a significantly better chance of picking up seats next year. Texas Republicans had a golden opportunity after the party increased on its already substantial legislative majority in the 2010 midterm elections. Results from the U.S. Census granted the state four new seats in the US House, and Texas Republicans used their majority to draw a new congressional map that would likely have made three of those seats a sure-win for Republicans. Of course, the 20.6 percent increase in population over the past decade didn't come from a swell in likely GOP voters. Minorities have accounted for 87 percent of the population growth over...

Mitt vs. Mitt

The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad targeting Mitt Romney for his ideological…flexibility. The 30 second clip will run on cable and broadcast stations in several swing states – Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania – as well as Wisconsin. Here it is: There is a longer, 4-minute web-only version that’s equally devastating in outlining Romney’s willingness to change positions for narrow political gain. Given the extent to which the “flip-flopper” image harmed both Al Gore and John Kerry, I don’t think that you can say that these efforts are useless , especially if the media opts to define Romney in these terms as well. But – as with all things in presidential campaigns – the utility of this strategy depends on the economy; under poor economic conditions, few people will care that Romney is devoid of core political convictions.

Foxes and Hedgehogs on the Campaign Trail

I'm not sure how conservatives are talking amongst themselves about the rise of Newt Gingrich, but among liberals, the dominant reaction is amazement. Newt may not be as purely radical as someone like Michele Bachmann, but he is so tremendously unlikeable that it's almost impossible to see him winning a presidential election, no matter how much national conditions like the economy favor his party. Even apart from how personally repellent he is, always ready with a self-important comment and an arrogant sneer, he offers what you might call a target-rich environment for attacks. Let's say you try criticizing him for the fact that he cheated on and then dumped two wives, trading them in for younger women. That doesn't work? How about his high-flying lifestyle, with six-figure credit lines at Tiffany's, private jets, and limousines ("The tab for private chauffeurs, primarily to ferry Gingrich and his wife, reached $200,000 to $300,000 per year", says the Washington Post )? That doesn't...

God Help Us

Will Rick Perry’s blend of Christian-right, small-government, and pro-corporate fervor land him in the White House?

I n April, Rick Perry traveled to North Texas for a taping of televangelist James Robison’s TV show, Life Today . For six months, starting as soon as he was re-elected Texas governor in November 2010, Perry had been crisscrossing the country to promote his second book, Fed Up! , while testing the presidential waters with potential donors and conservative activists. His visit with Robison, a hellfire-breathing pastor known as “God’s hit man” (for “giving ’em so much hell nobody will ever want to go there”), had the potential to pay serious dividends. Robison had led the Christian-right campaign that helped lift Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980, and he was re-emerging as the chief instigator of a national effort to mobilize evangelicals to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. With former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee—who left divinity school in 1976 to work for Robison—having forgone the race, the pastor was searching for a candidate the resurgent evangelical right could anoint. Perry...

Manning Up

Rick Perry, the man George W. Bush pretended to be, personifies the allure of Texastosterone.

John Cuneo I I n Master of the Senate , the third volume of his massive, still-unfinished biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro devotes a memorable paragraph to the great man’s fondness for exhibiting his sexual equipment, which, with characteristic humility, he called “Jumbo.” If he was urinating in a bathroom of the House Office Building and a colleague came in, Johnson, finishing, would sometimes turn to him with his penis in his hand. Without putting it back in his pants, he would begin a conversation, still holding it, “and shaking it, as if he was showing off,” says one man with whom he did this. He asked another man, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?” Now, I don’t know the slightest thing about Governor Rick Perry’s endowment or whether he’s endowed it with a nickname, but when he entered the Republican presidential race in mid-August, he did so in the same spirit as a Method actor auditioning for the lead in Hung . Flaunting his broad shoulders and the...

A Big Endorsement for Gingrich

(AP Photo/Erik Kellar) Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich signs a copy of his book "A Nation Like No Other" as he and his wife Callista Gingrich greet supporters during a book signing event at Books-A-Million in Naples, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. This weekend’s big election news comes by way of New Hampshire, where the Manchester Union Leader , the state’s largest and most widely-read newspaper, endorsed Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination. This is great news for the former House Speaker, who has been catapaulted to the front of the pack by the GOP’s large cohort of anti-Romney voters. Because of its large influence—and New Hampshire’s distinction of holding the first Republican primary in the nation—the Union Leader ’s endorsement is coveted by GOP presidential candidates. Between now and the primary, it’s safe to say that the Union Leader will devote its time to boosting Gingrich and tearing down his competitors. On the face of it, this nod...

Behold the Majesty of GloboNewtCorp

When you think about the Republicans' businessman-candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are the ones who come to mind. But credit has to be given to the man who managed to build a unique family of enterprises I like to call GloboNewtCorp. There may be no politician in recent years, not even Sarah Palin, who has turned his or her political celebrity into as lucrative a money machine as Newt Gingrich. Politico has some details : During his decade on the political sidelines, Newt Gingrich got rich by building a network of companies and think tanks that pulled in more than $115 million in contributions and fees from powerful corporations and individuals... Now, though, months after Gingrich stepped away from his businesses and groups to run for president, some of his enterprises have struggled: one major group folded, another is on the brink and a third is reportedly considering a sale. The story of Gingrich's network, and the way in which it has been partly absorbed in his campaign, is...

John Thune Endorses Romney

Mitt Romney is slowly becoming the consensus candidate for Republicans that took a pass at making their own 2012 runs. He's already been endorsed by former candidate Tim Pawlenty and and the much-hyped Chris Christie. Now South Dakota senator John Thune has thrown his support behind Romney as well. Thune—who looks like the Hollywood caricature of a president—had been contemplating a presidential run but ruled it out in February. At The New York Times , former Iowa reporter Jeff Zeleny speculates that Thune could prove to be an influential get for Romney success in Iowa. "While it remains an open question whether Mr. Thune’s endorsement will carry significant weight in Iowa, the northwest corner of the state that borders South Dakota is a critical area for Republican presidential candidates and Mr. Thune has strong name recognition there," Zeleny wrote this morning . I'm not so sure. It's true that the western edge of the state is the center of Iowa Republican politics, but geography...

Revenge of the Neocons

As much as Hope and Change defined Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, his success was a clear rebuke of the policies in the George W. Bush presidency. Bush's approval rating hung at 25 percent on the day Obama was elected, and John McCain did everything he could to distance himself from the incumbent Republican president. Bush's legacy was tarnished for a number of reasons, but none more so than his foolhardy foreign-policy agenda. When the Democratic candidate who rose to fame for his early opposition to Iraq won the presidency, it appeared the neo-con age had come to a close. Three years later, it's clear that wasn't the case. The Heritage Foundation and AEI cohosted the presidential debate last night; in addition to CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, audience members from the two conservative think tanks had the chance to quiz the roster of candidates. The list of attendees read like an all-star neo-conservatives from the Bush White House. Paul Wolfowitz served as a deputy Secretary of Defense...

For Gingrich, a Glimmer of Hope

As far as substance is concerned, last night’s Republican presidential debate on national security was terrible. With few exceptions, the candidates had little to say on America's withdrawal from Iraq, the prospects for preventing a nuclear Iran, the defense cuts in the Super Committee “trigger,” and the nation’s relationship with China. Likewise, CNN failed to ask the candidates about the ongoing collapse of the European economy or our detainee policies. As for less glamorous but equally important issues like the effort to reduce our nuclear arsenal, or the medium-term status of the North Korean regime? Absolutely nothing. What was worth noting about this debate—the 13th this year—came toward the end of the night, when Newt Gingrich put himself to the left of Mitt Romney on immigration. As has been the case in nearly every debate, Romney scared off the “amnesty” straw man and offered a hard-right approach to immigration reform, proposing a system in which anyone who came to the...

A Rare Glimpse of Sanity

Yesterday's Republican presidential debate in Washington focused on national security, so of course the candidates readily took the opportunity to dive into the dangers of illegal immigration. "An insecure border is a national security threat… we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico," Herman Cain said. "As the President of the United States," Rick Perry said, making a now outlandish proposition, "I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure." It was all the same tried and not-so-true language from the previous debates, but then things took an unexpected turn when the question was directed at Newt Gingrich, who departed the conservative safe space for a rare moment of humanity. "If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. Period," he said. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and...

The Huntsman Dilemma

After spending $800,000-plus on media over the last several months, Our Destiny PAC, the pro-Jon Huntsman political action committee, plans to spend an additional $650,000 on new television ads for the New Hampshire primary. If Huntsman were a viable contender, this might make sense. As it stands, it seems like a huge waste of cash for a candidate with little shot of catching on. With that in mind, if I were Jon Huntsman, I would be furious with the current dynamics of the Republican primary. Compared to the likely nominee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Huntsman is a far more reliable conservative. In addition to serving as the conservative governor of one of the nation’s most conservative states, Utah, Huntsman has been consistently conservative on most major issues. His heterodoxies, on climate change and civil unions, are far less egregious than Romney’s, and he doesn’t have Romney’s history of casually switching positions for narrow political gain. To borrow a line...

Can Gingrich Win?

Writing for The Weekly Standard , Jeffrey Anderson wonders if Newt Gingrich is just as electable as Mitt Romney: Across five Rasmussen polls of likely voters over the past six months (fewer polls have been taken of Gingrich versus Obama than of Romney versus Obama), Obama has always been within a 6-point range versus Gingrich — between 44 and 50 percent. However, Gingrich’s own numbers have moved up steadily, and considerably — from 30 percent, to 34, to 38, to 38 (again), and now to 40. As a result, while Gringrich trailed Obama by 18 points six months ago (48 to 30 percent), he now trails him by only 6 points (46 to 40 percent). Yes, the former House speaker has seen a rapid rise in the polls, but there doesn’t seem to be anything that distinguishes this bubble from the ones that elevated Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry. With a little more than a month before the Iowa caucuses, the smart thing to do –- as far as political analysis is concerned -– is to...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

Forecasting Elections with Real-Time Economic Data

This post is jointly written with Anton Strezhnev , a very bright Georgetown undergraduate. One of the challenges in forecasting elections is that economic data are often inaccurate when first released. Some of the adjustments are substantial. Just to illustrate this point, the image below ( source ) shows the change from original issue to current estimate in a composite index of economic performance: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI). The magnitude of some of these adjustments could potentially affect forecasts in what the models predict to be a close election . Moreover, there is serial correlation in the direction of the errors. So, if you are rooting for Obama you may think that the more recent positive adjustments mean that Obama has a slightly better chance than the models predict. If you are a forecaster, the serial correlation may allow you to better predict adjusted values. Economists have long recognized that the use of real-time versus ex post adjusted values...

Pages