Tag Archives: 2012 elections

Iowa Preview

Given how accurate Nate Silver was in predicting the primaries in 2008, my basic rule of thumb says: Whatever polls can tell you, Nate has already figured out. His Iowa model is here. Last I looked it had Mitt Romney as the favorite, narrowly ahead of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

So I start with Nate’s projections and then ask, “What can’t polls tell you?” In caucuses, a lot of factors are impossible to poll, like: Who’s going to show up? A caucus is a bigger time commitment than just voting — it’s an actual business meeting of the local party and takes all evening. So Republicans who are busy Tuesday night or aren’t that interested in politics aren’t going to turn out. On the other hand, all voters willing to change their registrations to Republican are eligible to vote at a Republican caucus, so a certain number of Independents and even Democrats (who nobody has been polling) are going to be there.

Since a caucus is a face-to-face event, a candidate’s supporters get one more chance to convince the undecided. Lots of people (41% in the final Des Moines Register poll) say they could still be convinced to change their minds — how do you poll for that?

So if you want to go beyond what’s in the polls, you need to ask: Who are these mercurial voters? What’s going to make them enthusiastic enough to give up an evening of their lives? And why might they change their minds at the last minute?

For weeks, reporters have been combing the plains of Iowa looking for the typical Republican caucus voter. To me, the one that sounds most authentic comes by way of TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro: Curtis Jacob is a religious-right social conservative who voted for Huckabee last time around and thought a few weeks ago that he would vote for Herman Cain.

Jacob describes a three-step process of deciding who to support. First comes the ideological hurdle — the candidate’s got to say the right things. This is a non-factor in this election, because (other than Ron Paul’s isolationism) it’s hard to tell the difference between the candidates’ positions.

Then there’s the authenticity hurdle: “ok, is this person real? — are they the same in person as opposed to the speeches they give?” Jacob eliminates Romney and Huntsman, apparently because he believes their hearts really aren’t in all the social conservative positions they’re taking (and maybe — he doesn’t say this — because they’re Mormons).

Finally he asks who can win.

And that’s why the yo-yo in the polls, because, ok, we think this is what we want, is electable then they get beat up and we think, ‘oh, maybe not.’ So then we go for the next one.

The candidates who have been yo-yoing are the ones he’s choosing among. (Romney has steadily polled around 25% while Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich have each had a boom/bust cycle.)

Of the candidates in Jacob’s acceptable pool, Paul and Santorum are having the final surges. Each has an additional advantage: Santorum’s surge has come so late that nobody is running negative ads against him, and Paul is going to pick up votes from unpolled Democrats who want to end the wars and repeal the Patriot Act.

If Jacob is really typical of undecided Iowa Republicans, you’d expect to see support bleed away from Bachmann, Perry, and Gingrich at the last minute and flow to Santorum or Paul. The final polls (showing Romney narrowly leading) probably accelerate that process. The most persuasive caucus-day message is going to say: If you’re not voting for Santorum or Paul, you’re handing the victory to Romney.

Any of the three could win, but if I had to bet, I’d say Santorum.

Where Occupy Goes Next and other short notes

With winter coming and mayors prepared to unleash the police as ruthlessly as they can get away with, debate has turned to where the Occupy movement goes next.

Partly this is about constructing an agenda. (Michael Moore’s seems fairly typical.) But Glenn Greenwald writes:

I disagree with the prevailing wisdom that OWS should begin formulating specific legislative demands and working to elect specific candidates. I have no doubt that many OWS protesters will ultimately vote and even work for certain candidates — and that makes sense — but the U.S. desperately needs a citizen movement devoted to working outside of political and legal institutions and that is designed to be a place of dissent against it.

while Julian Sanchez disagrees:

protest, however vital as a consciousness raising tool, can only be a preparation for the more humdrum enterprise of convincing your neighbors with sustained arguments (or being convinced yourself), electing candidates, and all the rest. To imagine protest not as prologue to politics, but as a substitute for it, suggests a denial of the reality of pluralism, and an unwillingness to find out what democracy actually looks like.

Some Democratic politicians would like Occupy to raise enthusiasm for them the way that the Tea Party has for the Republicans, but movement activists are wary of being co-opted. Van Jones is recruiting (presumably Democratic) candidates “to run under this 99% banner“, provoking Occupy DC’s Kevin Zeese to write “Van Jones Can’t Occupy Us“.

Cenk Uygur has announced Wolf-PAC as a vehicle for pushing not candidates but issues like a constitutional amendment against corporate involvement in politics.


Mitt Romney’s first ad of this cycle quotes President Obama as saying: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

The problem: Obama was quoting a John McCain aide in 2008, not talking about his own 2012 campaign.

A Rick Perry ad quotes Obama as saying, “We’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades.” Perry replies: “That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans have gotten lazy?”

And Romney piles on: “[Obama] said that Americans are lazy. I don’t think that describes Americans.”

The problem: Again, context. The fuller Obama quote makes it clear what he means: Previous administrations have been lazy about trying to attract overseas investment in the U.S., and he’s trying to correct that in his administration.

Well, if that’s how the game is played now, let’s play it. ThinkProgress assembles a collection of Mitt Romney “quotes”.


This speaks for itself:


And this (the world’s lightest material) is just cool:


Does it seem to you that conservatives have the advantage in the scurrilous-viral-email department? They do.


The U.C. Davis pepper-spraying cop has become an iconic image. A whole tumblr is devoted to photo-shopping him into all the other iconic images.


I’m becoming a fan of Noah Smith’s economic blog Noahpinion. This article raises an interesting thought: What if the values conservatives claim to love (hard work, individual responsibility, etc.) are promoted better by a liberal welfare state than by a conservative dog-eat-dog utopia?

A Primary Issues Guide

The old conventional wisdom was that competitive primaries are bad for the party. The best strategy was to unite early around a single candidate, so that a long negative campaign wouldn’t turn your nominee into damaged goods before the other party even took a shot.

2008 blew that up. The Obama/Clinton battle went on forever, but it did a lot of good things: registered voters, held the spotlight, and got John McCain out of the headlines from February to June. Any idea Obama and Clinton shared started to sound obvious.

There’s still a chance that the Republican 2012 candidates will tear each other to shreds, but it could also play out the other way: A long primary campaign could make their shared misinformation sound like common sense.

So here are some issues that are already coming up and being distorted. The Republican candidates are unlikely to vet each other on this stuff, so it’s important that Democrats not lose sight of the real story.

The South Carolina Boeing plant. South Carolina is an early primary state, so we’re going to hear a lot about his issue. The National Labor Relations Board is blocking Boeing from opening a 3,800-worker plant in SC. This Rick Perry quote is the standard Republican-candidate spin:

[President Obama] stacked the National Labor Relations Board with anti-business cronies who want to dictate to a private company, Boeing, where they can build a plant. No president, no president should kill jobs in South Carolina

Two facts are in danger of getting lost: First, this isn’t about creating jobs, it’s about moving jobs from one state to another, as states race to the bottom in worker protection. The Boeing jobs would otherwise be at their existing plant in Puget Sound, Washington.

Second, this is a rule-of-law issue. It’s illegal to move jobs purely to punish your current workers for unionizing or striking. Normally this is a hard rule to enforce, because businesses can fabricate hundreds of reasons why they want to manufacture here rather than there.

Unfortunately for Boeing, though, it is managed by idiots who admitted what they were doing in public. The NLRB’s complaint says Boeing CEO Jim McNerney:

made an extended statement regarding … moving the 787 Dreamliner work to South Carolina due to “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.”

and another Boeing official told a Seattle Times reporter:

The overriding factor was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.

A lawyer for the International Association of Machinists writes:

In a case where, as here, the employer has admitted its unlawful motive, the failure of the NLRB to issue a complaint would raise serious questions about the continued right of America’s workers to engage in collective activity.

Regulation moratorium. Perry’s “moratorium on regulations” is one of those ideas that sounds unobjectionable, but is actually a disaster. Why? Start at the beginning: Fundamentally, the government regulates business to prevent it from doing bad things — killings its workers or customers, poisoning waterways, adulterating the food supply, and so on.

Naturally — or at least it seems natural if you’re a sociopath — business resists this narrowing of its options. So it takes advantage of any loophole it can find (or its lobbyists can create) to keep doing profitable damage. The government then tries to plug those loopholes, business finds new ones, and they go round and round. That’s why regulations get so complicated.

A moratorium on regulations means that government surrenders this fight. Any loopholes business finds, it keeps. Good news for them. Bad news for workers, customers, the people downstream, and anybody who eats.

RomneyCare. The model for the Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare) was RomneyCare in Massachusetts. The basic structure — private health insurance that the government subsidizes and mandates — is a Republican idea that goes back the Heritage Foundation in the 90s.

Romney tries not to talk about his own greatest accomplishment, but all the other Republican candidates insist that RomneyCare has been a disaster. In fact, a recent poll showed 63% in Massachusetts support the law. When Scott Brown won his surprise Senate victory in 2009, he supported the law. You can’t get anywhere in Massachusetts by telling people you’re going to repeal RomneyCare.

Global warming. Mitt Romney used to take the side of science in this issue (even if he dragged his heels about doing anything), but even he is backing down, leaving Jon Huntsman as the only pro-science Republican candidate.

The rest compete to be the most vigorous climate-change denier. So far Rick Perry is winning with his McCarthy-like charge that “a substantial number of scientists” have “manipulated data”. (Name one, Rick.)

Fortunately, fact-checkers are showing some backbone here. (The Washington Post awarded Perry its lowest truth-rating of four pinocchios.) Even Fox News’ Clayon Morris admitted that Fox fact-checkers had found “Perry’s comments don’t seem to hold a lot of water” before going on to say “but it doesn’t matter.”

The stimulus. Republican candidates unite around the idea that the stimulus failed. But check out this chart of private-sector employment.

Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

What’s killing job growth is that we’ve lost government jobs: The federal stimulus was never big enough to counter-act job cuts by the states.

I’m sure I left a few issues out. If you think of them, add a comment.