The Current Electoral College State of Play

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections

Two weeks before Election Day, all signs point to this being a very tight election.  Romney clearly seized the momentum with his debate win two weeks ago – one which Obama failed to stop with his stronger performance last week.  Most national polls show Romney with a 2-3 point lead; however, the state polls show an even tighter race.

One thing has not changed in terms of the Electoral College; the election will still boil down to Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.  However, there is one major development over the past two weeks that has strengthened Romney’s hand in the Electoral College.  The national surge in support for Romney has created such strong momentum in Florida, Virginia, and Colorado – both in the top line numbers and internal numbers – that it’s hard to see him losing any of those states.

So who cares?  Well, once we allow for the assumption that Romney wins those three states, it is absolutely impossible – not just improbable – for Obama to win the election without Ohio.  Even if he were to run the table in the rest of the battleground states (NH, IA, NV, and WI), he would still come up short.  Take a look at how that would work.

Perforce, Obama cannot win without Ohio.

On the other hand, although it is still unlikely that Romney will win without Ohio, he is beginning to open up a legitimate alternative to 270.  Many polls show Romney leading in New Hampshire, a reflection of his surge in support from white voters.  Moreover, he has the momentum in Wisconsin and Iowa.  Unfortunately, he appears to have stalled out in Nevada, polling about 2-3 points behind Obama.  Any realistic alternative to 270 bypassing Ohio must include a victory in Wisconsin.  Once he wins Wisconsin (from his base of 257), he has 267 votes, and needs to win either N.H.

or Iowa.

Of course, this is predicated on the assumption that Obama keeps Nevada, which is a likely result in the event that he wins Wisconsin and Iowa.

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The Great Big Fat Tax Lie

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Taxes

Anyone descending to Earth from Mars to view last night’s presidential debate would come away with the impression that rich people are free loaders and swindlers who pay no taxes, while the poor/middle-class shoulder the lion’s share of the tax burden.  Obama incessantly repeated the fallacy that the rich don’t play by the rules.  Anyone who lives on planet Earth should be asking, “what planet do you live on, Mr. Obama?”

Unfortunately, instead of uprooting the entire premise related to the demographic share of the tax burden, Romney played defense and swore profusely that he would never cut taxes on the rich.  That’s not exactly something conservatives would like to hear.

The problem with the tax issue is that there is a wide bifurcation between the public perception of the tax burden and the reality of who pays taxes.  Our system of withholdings is distorting the public perception on the entire tax issue.  Withholdings give many people the perception that they pay taxes, even when they don’t.  In fact, they often enjoy a negative tax liability.  For example, a tax filer might have $6,000 taken out of his pay check throughout the year, but receive a $10,000 check in refundable tax credits at the end of the year.  That person actually makes $4,000 from the system and still receives full Social Security benefits (despite the fact that the refundable credits zeroed out that contribution), yet he would think that he pays taxes.

On the other hand, many people who pay a significant amount in taxes don’t appreciate how much they pay.  They never factor in gross pay, and are often ignorant of how much they would earn sans Uncle Sam.  If we would abolish the withholdings process and have everyone pay taxes once a year, we would be looking at a different electorate.  The person in our first example would see that he paid no taxes and actually got a $4,000 check.  The person in the latter example would have to write one big fat check at the end of the year.  Withholdings truly is a game changer.

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Debate Night: The Calculus of the Election Stays the Same

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections

Whenever we analyze the content of presidential debates, we must observe the event with two distinct lenses; one with the lens of a political horserace analyst and another with the lens of a conservative.

In terms of the horserace, this one is real simple.  The debate was somewhat of a draw and will not fundamentally alter the current trajectory of the race (which currently favors Romney).

Most debates do not result in one candidate surging in the polls.  Both candidates usually stick to their talking points in tight two-minute sound bites.  Most of the details of their responses only serve as fodder for political junkies, not the average voter.  The first presidential debate was different because Romney scored a knockout punch.  It moved the polls and fundamentally altered the course of the race.  Obama needed to put in a similar performance to change the dynamic.  While he came across as more aggressive than in the last debate, Romney was just as aggressive in responding.  Any perceived draw will benefit the current leader in the race, which is Romney.

Moreover, I believe that the superlative and decisive moment came at the end of the debate.  The last question was a gift to Romney (in a debate when most of them were gifts to Obama), and Romney delivered.  It played into the entire dynamic of the race.

As everyone has already observed, this race should be unwinnable for Obama.  He has totally failed, the economy is languishing under a record protracted period of stagnation, and there is no hope and change in the air.  No president has ever won reelection with this record.  What has kept Obama virtually tied in this race is his successful character assassination of Romney.  The last voter in the audience asked the candidates to name one misconception about themselves that they would like to dispel. This question allowed Romney to speak directly to the voters in a very human demeanor.  It came off very well.  Meanwhile Obama said that he is mischaracterized as a lover of big government when in fact he appreciates free enterprise.  Does anyone think that a single voter will buy that?

The bottom line is that Romney needed to come across as steady and likeable, and he largely succeeded.  Obama needed to make the case for a second term.  Instead, Romney reminded voters of the disasters from his first term.

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Obama Needs Ohio More Than Romney

Monday, October 15th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections

The media has been pushing an indelible narrative concerning the electoral math of the political map.  They’ve asserted that Romney cannot win the election without Ohio.  However, the reality is that Obama is the one who cannot win without Ohio.

To be clear, in all likelihood, the one who wins Ohio’s 18 electoral votes will win the election.  Ohio is probably the state that is most directly in the center of the 538 electoral map, traversing the magical 270 mark.  However, to the extent that one candidate can win without Ohio, it is more likely to be Mitt Romney, thanks in large part to his surge in some of the eastern battleground states.

Unless the trajectory of the race changes, Romney is on his way to winning Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Once we allow for that assumption, it is absolutely impossible for Obama to win without Ohio.  Take a look at Obama’s map below:

As you can see, we give Romney FL, NC, and VA, and we place Ohio on the side.  In such a scenario, even if Obama completely runs the table on every outstanding battleground state except for New Hampshire – NV, CO, IA, WIS – he comes up at 268, just short of a majority.  Only the 4 electoral votes from NH along with everything else will get him over the top.  Remember that Colorado and Iowa have been trending towards Romney, especially as the voter registration numbers favor Republicans this cycle.  Recent polls have shown Romney ahead or tied in New Hampshire; tied or just behind in Nevada, and a few points behind in Wisconsin.  With the current dynamic of the race, it’s highly improbable that he would run the table in those states.  Even if he does, it’s still game over without Ohio.

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Politico/Battleground Poll: Romney Closes Likability Gap

Monday, October 15th, 2012 and is filed under Elections, News

With the economy enduring a record period of stagnation and with Obama’s approval rating underwater, his reelection bid was always an uphill climb.  However, he had one factor working in his favor – one which was accentuated by Obama’s effective negative TV campaign barrage.  He was much more likable as a person than Mitt Romney.  Now, after Romney’s knockout punch at the debate, not only has he surged to a two-point lead in the latest poll of 10 battleground states, his likability numbers have gone up:

POLITICO considers the 10 competitive battlegrounds to be Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Obama’s enduring personal popularity has been a key reason for his political resiliency. But Obama and Romney are now essentially tied on likability: 53 percent of those surveyed have a positive impression of Obama personally, and 45 percent do not. The same number view both Romney and Obama strongly favorably as view them strongly unfavorably.

The Obama campaign outspent Romney on TV through the summer in an effort to define the challenger as a heartless corporate raider. The president’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action, even tried to link a woman’s death to Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital in one memorable attack ad that Romney hotly disputed.

To make matters worse for Obama, the enthusiasm gap might lead to him underperforming his poll numbers:

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The Petulant Circus Clown Drowns Out any Substance

Friday, October 12th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Family Values, Foreign Policy

Was Joe Biden on drugs or did he use Al Gore for his debate prep?

That’s the question anyone viewing the debate on TV should be asking.

Biden’s appalling petulant behavior, in conjunction with the moderator’s refusal to moderate the debate instead of debate the debate, allowed Biden to get out of control and make a clown of himself.  That is all anyone will remember.  The laughing, flailing, sighing, interrupting, smug and condescending demeanor, etc.  Taken as a whole, it’s hard to imagine that after weeks of practice he was unable to control his disposition for 90 minutes.

There’s a difference between passion and petulant anger, and Biden clearly exhibited the latter.  That is what will be remembered by the average voter.  Unfortunately, the lack of a coherent debate format, along with so much time spent on foreign policy, probably caused most voters to tune out the substance.  With Biden interrupting Ryan 86 times, and Martha Raddatz jumping in during the rest of his time, Ryan only had a few opportunities to shine, unlike Obama who actually spoke for more time during last week’s debate, despite Romney’s domination.  As such, he didn’t have an opportunity to win the debate outright.  But that won’t matter.  The rest of the analysis is just for the politicos.

In terms of substance, here are some observations:

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Romney Must Take Note of Lara Logan’s Foreign Policy Speech

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Foreign Policy

After 4 years of unchallenged odious leadership, Obama was finally treated to a complete admonition and indictment of his economic policies during last week’s debate with Mitt Romney.  For many Americans, that was the first time they witnessed anyone ridiculing Obama in a cogent fashion to his face.

During the next two debates, foreign policy will play a more central role.  It’s high time someone take him to task for his dangerous, flaccid, and perverse foreign policy.  Amazingly, Obama still enjoys a favorable view from a majority of voters regarding his foreign policy – no doubt a result of the killing of Osama bin Laden.  However, as we can all see, bin Laden might be dead, but Al Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger than ever thanks to Obama’s support of the Arab Spring, opposition to strong allies in the region, and weak-kneed politically correct war in Afghanistan.

Thus far, not a single major Republican figure, including Mitt Romney, has offered a riveting indictment of Obama’s foreign policy and immolation of our troops in Afghanistan.  Yet, in one of the most shocking and altruistic speeches ever given by a mainstream media figure, CBS chief foreign affairs correspondent, Lara Logan, lampooned Obama for his naive and dangerous foreign policy.  Undoubtedly, she must have gained a lot of insight into the danger of the Arab Spring from the horrific attack she endured at the hands of the “freedom fighters” in Cairo.

If you only watch one political speech this year, consider this your must see video.  Hopefully, Mitt Romney is taking notes.

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Preparing for the Next Battle

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Foreign Policy

One of the more surprising and uncanny elements of this campaign season is the degree to which tea partiers are supporting Mitt Romney.  Despite the constant impugning from RINOs who accuse us of being intransigent ideologues, we have actually shown a pragmatic disposition in offering our full support for Mitt Romney.  Unlike the RINOs, we genuinely sense the impending disaster that will ensue following Obama’s reelection.  We intuitively understand that we must support the one man who can rid us of Obama, irrespective of that man’s ideological vices.

However, even as we work indefatigably to get out the vote for Mitt Romney, we must concurrently prepare for the next battle – the battle that will commence the day after the election.  We must be prepared to fight a president from our own party when necessary.

Every time Romney exhibits a fighting spirit in his rudderless campaign, as he did during the debate last week, he tends to follow that performance with an encore of milquetoast liberal positions.  That’s why we must be prepared to fight him from day one on his liberal policy positions.

Consider several positions Romney has taken on some policy issues over the past week.

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Obama’s Tax Deduction Lie

Friday, October 5th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Taxes

Obama thinks the American people are stupid.  Throughout the debate, Obama regurgitated his talking points about a balanced solution to the debt crisis.  In the process he insulted the intelligence of every voter by intimating that the budget can be balanced by eliminating a few tax credits.  No, he didn’t commit to tackling the tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities to Medicare and Social Security.  He declined to confront the ballooning cost of all the welfare programs.  The only thing he wanted to discuss was eliminating a few tax credits for oil companies and corporate jets.

In May 2011, the Senate took up a bill to eliminate $2 billion worth of tax credits for the gas and oil industry.  Let’s overlook their fallacious charges that these are unique handouts to the industry – and treat them as if they are expenditures.  We are slated to spend over $3.6 trillion this year, yet Obama is obsessing over $2 billion in tax credits.  Here are some of the major expenditures for last fiscal year, including the so-called handouts to big oil (in billions):

Yes, these tax credits barely register among our major ‘expenses.’

Using a 10-year budget frame, we are expected to spend another $46 trillion.  Democrats claim that their plan to cut the oil tax deductions would save us $21 billion over 10 years.  That amounts to .00045% of our estimated outlays.

What about the much beleaguered corporate jet tax deduction?  That would save $3 billion over ten years – $300 million per year.

Mitt Romney rightfully lambasted Obama for overlooking the $90 billion in subsidies for green energy while focusing on a few billion in deductions he feels he could demagogue.

But there’s more to the story than just the dollar figure comparison.  For Obama, a universal tax deduction to those who already pay a lot of taxes is a handout, while a parochial handout to a sectarian interest that pays no taxes is a tax cut.  And the fact is that green energy companies have no tax liability.  Perforce, their tax credits are nothing more than refundable handouts.

The green energy sector is even more parasitic when scrutinized by performance.  Consider this chart detailing our energy usage by source for 2009; solar, wind, and biomass are barely on the map, even though they are almost completely subsidized.  Here is a chart from the Institute for Energy Research comparing federal subsidies per unit of production of different energy sources:

As you can see, Solar is being subsidized by over 1200 times more than fossil fuels, while Wind enjoys over 80 times more in taxpayer cash.  The reality is that no amount of subsidy can compensate for the impotence of green energy.

Moreover, while most of the government’s investments in green energy are in the form of direct subsidies, Oil and Gas companies don’t receive subsidies; they enjoy universal credits and deductions that are afforded to all businesses.    Additionally, oil and gas companies pay an effective corporate tax rate about 55% higher than that of most other industries.  All the while, the renewable-energy sector is ostensibly kept afloat by the taxpayer, offering nothing in terms of revenue.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal laid out the facts about who pays taxes and who doesn’t.

The federal Energy Information Administration reports that the industry paid some $35.7 billion in corporate income taxes in 2009, the latest year for which data are available. That alone is about 10% of non-defense discretionary spending—and it would cover a lot of Solyndras. That figure also doesn’t count excise taxes, state taxes and rents, royalties, fees and bonus payments. All told, the government rakes in $86 million from oil and gas every day—far more than from any other business. […]

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, says that in the five years prior to 2010 it paid about $59 billion in total U.S. taxes, while it earned . . . $40.5 billion domestically. Another way of putting it is that for every dollar of net U.S. profits between 2006 and 2010, the company incurred $1.45 in taxes. Exxon’s 2010 tax bill was three times larger than its domestic profits. The company can stay in business because it operates globally and earned a total net income after tax of $30.5 billion in 2010 on revenues of $370.1 billion.

Now let’s contrast that with green energy companies:

For comparison, nuclear power comes in at minus-99.5%, wind at minus-163.8% and solar thermal at minus-244.7%—and that’s before the 2009 Obama-Pelosi stimulus. In other words, the taxpayer loses more the more each of these power sources produces.

If Obama wants his green-energy campaign donors to be on equal footing with oil companies, maybe they should begin producing something useful and actually incur a tax liability before they receive tax credits.

Beating an Empty Chair

Thursday, October 4th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections

We’ve all been critical of Mitt Romney from the beginning of the primary and throughout the general election for his lack of core principles, pale-pastel ideas, flaccid attacks on Obama, and lack of specifics.  I have not shied away from pointing out that the Romney convention along with his acceptance speech was a disaster.

So what about his debate performance?

To paraphrase Michele Obama, this is the first time I’m genuinely proud of Mitt Romney.  Romney was sharp, prepared, fact-oriented, devastatingly focused, and specific enough for the target audience.  He was armed with the facts of Obama’s unprecedented period of stagnation and rising costs and had scathing and cogent answers for everything Obama said.  Most importantly, he dominated.

No, Romney did not come with sharp bold colors like Ronald Reagan.  He never was an articulate defender of unfettered free markets and limited government.  He never will be.  And five weeks before the election in the midst of the debate was never going to be the time to change.  He came with his pale pastel marker.  However, here is the difference.  This time, Romney pressed down with his pale pastel marker so hard that there was indeed a bold contrast to Obama.

Romney hit on many of the themes we’ve pushed for so long; incomes down, prices up; health insurance premiums skyrocketing.

Obama, on the other hand, embodied the empty chair of Clint Eastwood.  He rambled incoherently about the same talking points he’s been using for the past few years.  While Romney offered new pungent attacks on Obama’s tenure with devastating focus and facts; while Romney finally broke new ground on his policy positions, Obama resorted to his tired lines of investing in math and science teachers.  Romney sounded like he was using his own words; Obama sounded like he was channeling Stephanie Cutter.  The only difference between him and the empty chair is that Obama appeared to be genuinely irritated.  Contrast that to Romney who managed to eviscerate Obama while still appearing quite amicable.

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