Sunday, July 29, 2012

100 Days to go...

Time for a quick assessment of the presidential race with exactly 100 days until November 6, 2012. Please pardon my quoting of Donald Rumsfeld, but I think it is very appropriate.

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don't know."

Things for watch for in the next few weeks...

The Polls: 

Disclaimer: Be aware that the worth of polls is not as meaningful in terms of a head to head race as they will be in October.  The campaigns although well underway, have not hit full stride yet and many potential swing voters have not formed a complete assessment of the race yet.  In other words - a lot can still change!

Polling is showing a national race that is basically tied, therefore...wait, we do not have a national vote for the presidency (remember it is 51 independent state elections that determine the outcome), so my main interest are the swing state polls.

What I am looking for are likely-voter poll models and consistency in the results of separate polling organizations.  Right now these generally show a small advantage for Team Obama, but Romney is withing striking distance in most swing states.  The majority of each campaign's time and resources will be expended on the 15 or so swing states.  In most of them, the shift of a few points either way will determine the November 6 outcome. 

The National Party Conventions:

In a month each party will have nearly a week of FREE media coverage.  During this week they hope to craft a carefully coordinated coronation (the four Cs) to highlight why their candidate is the only one who can save the nation and the opponent as the next coming of Sauron - please excuse the Tolkien reference, but I can't resist!

All of this is contingent upon there being no major candidate (or candidate staff) gaffes that the media will run with and distract from the party message.  Additionally, watch to see if Ron Paul's delegates (yes he is still lurking about) create any mischief for Romney in Tampa.

Romney's VP Selection:

See my previous post  - expect a selection in the next two weeks, probably after the conclusion of the Summer Olympics. I still think Jindal or Portman is most likely, but time will tell...

Other What Ifs...
  • Candidate Gaffes - President Obama's "You didn't build that" and Mitt Romney's criticism of the UK on the eve of the Olympics are the gifts that keep on giving.  In the Age of Twitter, expect to see more of these.
  • The Presidential Debates in the fall - probably the most important game changer/game breaker remaining.
  • Congressional gridlock - the looming "debt cliff" may well impact voter perceptions of the parties - and probably not in a good way.
  • The July Employment Report and other continuing economic indicators - the latest economic news is hurting the Administration.  If things continue to be weak, Obama's reelection becomes increasingly difficult. If they turn around, he will be the clear favorite.
  • New policy/initiatives:  Does President Obama announce new major initiatives similar to the immigration and same sex marriage actions?
  • Foreign Policy crisis:  Iran, Syria, European economic meltdown, pick your poison.

Look for this space to be updated on an increasing basis in the near future.  This may be a good time to peek in on the Massachusetts Senate race.


The Prof

Saturday, July 21, 2012

VPstakes 2012 - do no harm

Just like the Hippocratic Oath - I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

In the next few weeks, Republican candidate Mitt Romney will be making the first public executive decision as a presidential candidate with the VP selection. Saying that this is critical is a bit of an understatement.

Historically, the VP has been selected to foster party unity (Bush 1980), please a certain constituency (Johnson 1960), shake up the race (Palin 2008), adding experience where a candidate is lacking (Biden 2008), or regional appeal (Edwards 2004).

Of course the VP should be someone the president is comfortable with (depending on how involved in the administration the VP will ultimately be), be free of major scandals/gaffes/background issues (note that Thomas Eagleton was dropped from McGovern's ticket in 1972 for a prior history of psychiatric issues), and not alienate any key group that the candidate hopes to appeal to.

This year Romney can go with several individuals all with assets and liabilities. In no particular order...

Kelly Ayotte - Senator from NH:
Pros:  Female, loyal Romney supporter, tea party conservative, could help in NH
Cons:  Limited national experience,  uncomfortable speaker, may remind people of Palin
Likelihood: Low

Marco Rubio - Senator from Florida
Pros: Hispanic, tea party favorite, could help in FL, good personal story
Cons: Potential ethics issues, limited national experience, could overshadow Romney
Likelihood: High

Rob Portman - Senator from Ohio
Pros: Very experienced, could help in OH, Foreign Policy credentials, safe pick
Cons:  As boring as Romney, served in the Bush Administration
Likelihood: High 

Chris Christie - Governor of New Jersey
Pros: Tea Party favorite, passionate, appeal to independents
Cons:  Would definitely overshadow Romney, very gaffe-prone, won't help in NJ
Likelihood: Medium

Bobby Jindal - Governor of Louisiana
Pros: Indian-American, tea party favorite, policy wonk, good personal story
Cons: Boring speaking style, endorsed Rick Perry in primaries, allegedly involved in an exorcism when in college
Likelihood: High

Tim Pawlenty - Former Governor of Minnesota
Pros: Policy wonk, gets along with Romney, "Minnesota-nice", safe pick
Cons: Boring speaking style, criticized Romney when running last year, ran a terrible presidential campaign
Likelihood: High

Paul Ryan - Representative from Wisconsin
Pros: Policy wonk, may help in WI, budget expertise
Cons: Lightening rod for Democrats over budget proposals, not well known
Likelihood: Medium

Bob McDonnell - Governor of Virginia
Pros: Tea party favorite, could help bring in VA
Cons: Limited national experience,very conservative on social issues
Likelihood: Low to Medium

Long-shots: ...No, it won't be Condi Rice!
Nicki Haley - Governor of South Carolina
Susan Martinez - Governor of New Mexico
John Thune - Former Senator from South Dakota

Very long-shot: Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida 

Decision Points for Romney:
  • Does he stay safe but boring (Portman, Pawlenty) or go high risk/high reward? (Christie)
  • Does he need to please the tea party wing of the GOP? (Rubio, Ayotte, Ryan)
  • Need to appeal to specific voting groups? (Rubio, Ayotte, Jindal)
Romney is an analytical person by nature and background and not prone to make "Hail Mary" passes (like John McCain in 2008).   I think he will stay safe overall, but try to go slightly out on a limb as he needs to energize his campaign and create positive buzz with his selection.

Professor Brad's prediction (drum roll please!)
I think he goes with Bobby Jindal for the following reasons:
  • He is experienced as a Governor and Congressman
  • Rhodes Scholar background, has some academic chops
  • Limited negatives compared to other contenders
  • Generally viewed as a successful governor won't overshadow Romney, but has appeal as an Indian-American Catholic
  • Will help solidify movement conservatives who are concerned about Romney being too moderate
Of course, if I am wrong...

Runner-ups: Portman (safe pick) Pawlenty (safe pick)
Long-shot: Rubio

All this being said, very few people foresaw Sarah Palin in 2008 or Dan Quayle in 1988.  We all will know in the next few weeks.


The Prof

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The "Bain" of the Campaign...

Hi all,

Lots happening during the summer doldrums...
  • Another poor jobs report - advantage Romney
  • Supreme Court essentially upholds the Affordable Care Act - advantage both Obama and Romney
  • Focus on Bain Capital - advantage Obama
  • Condi Rice floated as potential VP - advantage Obama (but it won't happen)
If this election is about Mr. Obama's stewardship of the economy, he will be in serious trouble as the economy is usually THE driving issue of any presidential election.  The economic recovery has been unusually weak and more importantly, the public perception is that we remain mired in recession.

This being the case, if I was advising the president, he would be conducting the campaign exactly as he is. He has to make this a choice, not a referendum.  Since the middle of June several strategic decisions have been implemented to these ends.
  • The executive order on allowing illegal immigrants meeting certain criteria to stay has bolstered the president's support among Hispanic voters and may help with turnout in essential states such as CO, NM, NV, and NC.
  • Endorsing same-sex marriage helps with the liberal base and fundraising.
  • The recent statement on allowing the tax rates on those earning over $250k to increase to 2001 levels is a clear shot at Romney and helps with the narrative that Romney is wealthy and out of touch. 
  • And to top things off, the recent story that Romney was listed on Bain Capital's SEC documents after he left the company in 1999.  This also supports the assertion that Romney oversaw job outsourcing resulting from Bain's M&A activities.
All in all a good month for President Obama. The conversation is mainly about Romney and not on the tepid economic numbers.  One of the top rules in a campaign is to define your opponent.  Romney is in danger of being defined in the most unflattering of terms.

The president's team has been impressive in creating a picture of Romney morphing into Gordon Gecko.  There have been huge ad spends in swing states focused on Bain Capital's outsourcing of jobs.  This message may resonate among working class whites who otherwise may be Romney supporters.  It also undermines Romney's main argument - that he is a businessman and knows how to promote economic growth.  Romney is on defense and playing constant defense in a campaign means that you are not winning.

However, overall polling numbers remain close, although Romney's negatives are ticking up somewhat.  Several news organizations have concluded although Romney remained Bain CEO on paper, that he was not part of any management decisions and was focused on the 2002 Winter Olympics. That can be difficult to explain though and does not neatly fit into a 30 second ad.

This week Romney has (finally) got out there in the media to make his case.  He needs to make his case and shift focus back to the economy and soon. Additionally he needs to shape his own definition - waiting until the Republican Convention in six weeks may be too late.

The danger for the president is that he can be painted as a negative campaigner and trying to do anything possible to distract from the economy.  If Romney can get this message out, he may be able to parley the past several bad weeks into an advantage going forward.

Next post - VPOTUS (Vice President of the United States) picks and prediction.


The Prof