The Strategic Failure of the Obama campaign

We are one week into Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan. A number of polls are coming out telling a variety of stories about what it means. But one thing is clear: Barack Obama’s campaign has had several significant strategic failures this summer. And they failed to define Paul Ryan out of the gate with their Mediscare tactics. And they failed to define Mitt Romney this summer with a huge campaign spend.

The Obama campaign hoped to use the summer to define Mitt Romney. They spent $25 million in May ads. Obama spent $58m in June. What effect did it have? At the end of July, Purple Strategies, a bipartisan polling firm, found (PDF) that Romney has pulled ahead of Obama, even as Obama’s favorability ticked up slightly. Obama’s out of control campaign spending yielded nothing, just like his out of control government spending yielded nothing.  Politico even described that poll as giving the Ryan pick a small bump for the Romney campaign.

But then the bombshell came. After a week of Mediscare attacks on Paul Ryan, they were not able to dislodge seniors in Florida. According to a poll, reported by the Palm Beach Post:

But two Florida polls conducted since Ryan’s selection suggest that voters who are 65 and older support Ryan and his budget plan more than younger voters do. A third Florida poll released this week doesn’t include an age breakdown, but finds the state’s voters agreeing more with Ryan’s description of his budget and Medicare plan than with Democratic criticisms that it would “end Medicare as we know it.”

The challenge for the Obama campaign is that if they can’t scare older voters away from Republicans with dishonest attacks on Paul Ryan’s proposal to save Medicare, then they are trapped. Paul Ryan turns out to be a big win. He is a candidate who is deeply connected to the industrial midwest which will be the swing region of the country this election. The Purple Strategies poll found that he helps most in Ohio. He will also help with young voters disenchanted and under-employed by the failure of the Obama economy.

So the Obama campaign has failed in the two main tests. They hugely overspent Romney to disqualify him. They failed. And they have tried for three years to attack Republicans with the Ryan budget. And the polls in Florida, the place that should be most vulnerable to attacks, show that that failed.

Chicago, you have an emergency.

Another businessman for the Senate: Tom Smith

One upside of President Obama’s hostility to business is that business leaders like Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin have come forward to share their experience. Tom Smith, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania is one of them. He is endorsed by Pat Toomey. He is up against Bobby Casey, a career politician son of a career politician. But at least his dad was willing to stand up to his own party …

Consider helping Tom Smith and sending another businessman to the Senate to replace the son of a politician.

Looking downballot in Massachusetts: Tom Keyes

For the next several months, we are going to be focusing, naturally, on the Presidential race, Senate races, House races, and governor’s races. However, what happens down ballot is important too. And there is a lot of hope down ballot when we look around the country. Over the next several months, I hope to highlight races in unexpected places where Republicans can put points on the board.

Let me give you one example in the most unlikely of places, Massachusetts, where Republican Tom Keyes has a good shot to take out Senate President Therese Murray. This won’t happen the same way that the previous three Massachusetts Speakers lost their jobs, through indictment, but through the ballot box. But don’t be surprised if a little corruption is in the mix here too.

So the first question is, why do we think it is possible? The answer is simple. In 2010, Keyes got 48% of the vote while being outspent 10-1, and that is before we count the independent expenditures from the Democratic party at the last minute to bail out one of their leaders. Normally, I would analyze that a Republican would under-perform 2010, but Massachusetts in 2012 could be different. Why? Because Mitt Romney and Scott Brown are on the top of the ticket.  Furthermore, this district has historically been a Republican district. It is represented by three Republican State Representatives, a Republican County Sheriff and a Republican District Attorney. So the math makes it possible.

Then there are core bread and butter issues. Simply put, a 20-year incumbent has gotten a little arrogant in driving the liberal agenda. During the debate on the budget, she ruled that tax cuts amendments were not in order because a $32 billion budget bill wasn’t a “money bill,” breaking long-standing precedent. In her world, $32 billion is not money, and Republican ideas don’t even deserve to get debated. She even said it was “her duty” to not allow Republican tax amendments. This combines a broader tax record of raising sales taxes, alcohol taxes, etc.

That sort of arrogance matches the way that she has run the Senate, turning a blind eye to corruption and violence in her caucus. The most astonishing was the case of a committee Chairman who had been indicted of sexual assault and sexual accosting. He eventually plead guilty and left the Senate. She refused to strip him of his committee chairmanship — and the bonus he gets with it — , even though he didn’t enter the state house  after his indictment. she said, “….” And he is only one of three Democratic state Senators to go to prison under her leadership, along with Dianne Wilkerson (bribery) and Anthony Galluccio (hit and run accident under the influence).

Did I mention a straight-forward corruption scandal? She’s got that too: the Probation Department scandal.  Right after the 2010 elections, a report was released about how legislators were getting their friends hired by the Probation Department.  Two months ago the U.S. Attorney indicted three Probation Department officials.  Murray was repeatedly mentioned within the indictments. Here’s how Commonwealth Magazine described it:

Murray, who took over as Senate president in mid-2007, is referred to in four instances in the indictment, with references to supporting candidates for probation jobs. The indictment says Murray had her hand in the hiring of Patrick Lawton, a politically connected member of a prominent South Shore family whose father and grandfather were judges, as a probation officer in Plymouth Family and Probate Court; the hiring and later promotion of Antonio Mataragas, a probation officer in Peabody District Court who made campaign donations to Sen. Fred Berry; and two probation officers in Plymouth District Court, including Melissa Melia, whom the indictment describes as “an acquaintance” of Barnstable District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.

Being true to form and as arrogant as possible, she defended the patronage scandal by saying  “that’s part of what we do.”

One of the lessons of the last couple of years is that the American people want to show these kind of arrogant, self-dealing political leaders the door. Help Tom Keyes show this one the door.


Obama sells out American values and interests in Russia

I applaud House Speaker John Boehner for his letter to President Barack Obama on Russia. I also applaud him for holding fire on Obama while he was abroad at an important security summit. It much more clearly articulated Obama’s shocking behavior with respect to Russia than any other criticism to date:

The Russian government has not lived up to its obligations to support the world community in reining in the rogue nations of Iran, Syria, and North Korea.  On the contrary, Russia has at times offered support for these dangerous regimes.  And it is increasingly evident that Russia is intent on expanding its boundaries and power through hostile acts – including invading a neighboring American ally.

But there’s a broader point here. When Obama told Medvedev to be patient until after the election, he was abandoning our Ambassador and Obama’s friend, our national security and that of our allies, human rights in Syria, and our respect for democratic values. Indeed, he was abandoning his own dignity and that of our country.

What do I mean?

A month ago, two things happened with respect to Russia that should force us to fundamentally reevaluate our relationship with the country. Just a month ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Russia “despicable” for defending the butcher of civilians in Syria at the UN Security Council. And the state run media compared our ambassador, Obama’s long-time ally, to a pedophile.

This ambassador isn’t just some diplomat. McFaul was an Obama advisor during his campaign and a member of the National Security Council. This was a personal insult to our Ambassador, the President of the United States, and the United States itself. Instead of defending his own friend and Ambassador, Obama goes supine and offers Russia concessions.

In fact Putin’s whole election campaign was a nationalist attack on the United States. The attack on McFaul was part of a strategy. So after months of attacking the United States and our ambassador, to win an election, Obama offers concessions.

These weren’t just any elections. These are to a government whose end is in sight after astounding levels of fraud. In the December elections, Putin’s party, United Russia engaged in “ frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including several serious indications of ballot-box stuffing,” according to the OSCE. Hundreds of thousands of protesters entered the streets to object to the debasement of democracy. About Putin’s own election, the OSCE said, “There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.”

Obama’s offer of “flexibility” was made in spite of personal insults,  insults to our country, and insults to our values. Hopefully Americans will realize the consequences of this foreign policy that takes neither ourselves nor our allies seriously.

Time to end caucuses for President

The discussion of Republican Party rules reform is beginning in the aftermath of the catastrophe of the new rules that were created by the RNC leadership in 2010. Many people attribute the lengthening process to just the new rules, but I would argue that there are several other factors. Some of the obvious ones are the weakness of the candidate field and new campaign finance structures. It is hard to imagine how Newt Gingrich would have been able to compete in South Carolina or Rick Santorum pretty much anywhere without SuperPAC support. Their campaigns would have run out of money in previous years, and their shows would have been up.  Blaming the “proportional” rules misses the point somewhat, as none of the states that have gone yet other than Florida previously operated under winner-take-all rules.

The real disaster of this cycle has been the presidential preference caucus. In Iowa, Nevada, and Maine, we have had disastrous voting procedures, with results unknown or in flux for days. In Iowa, this led to the resignation of the state party chair Matt Strawn. In Nevada, the state party’s failed efforts to run a caucus have been widely panned, although the state party chair had already announced that she was stepping down, so there hasn’t been the same kind of accountability. In Maine, I am hearing that state party Chairman Charlie Webster, who I quite like personally, is coming under tremendous pressure from county party chairs, elected officials and the party executive committee to step down.

But the problem with caucuses is not that they are hard to run, although some party leaders have called for improving those processes. After all, they are run by political parties which are notoriously incompetent and corrupt. I suspect that they could be run well.

The reason that we shouldn’t have a caucus is that it gives voters the illusion of participation while transferring power to party insiders or hyper-activists. What a binding presidential primary does is it subordinates the party insiders to the will of the voters. Do you want an illusion or accountability?

This is a process which makes Ron Paul a serious contender in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and Maine, where he is not even relevant in any state with a primary. Only in a process that deliberately restricts the number of participants could someone like Ron Paul stand a chance or use the silly process as a basis to build a strategy on.

How bad is this restriction? My friend Matt Gagnon reviewed the turnout in the last primary in Maine and compared it to the caucus, and this is what he found:

In 1996, more than 67,000 Republicans voted in their primary. In 2000, more than 64,000 Democrats and 96,000 Republicans voted.

This year, a little over 5,000 Mainers participated in the much ballyhooed and now very much disputed Romney vs. Paul death match.

I would note that the 2010 gubernatorial primary attracted over 120,000 Republican voters and 110,000 Democratic voters. And this primary resulted in the election of Paul Le Page, the most conservative serious candidate, who went on to win the general election in a blue-to-purple state. How can over a 95% drop in participation that results in “a death match” between Ron Paul activists and party insiders be good for our party?

The answer is that it is not. But let’s get in the weeds to see why. If you voted in a caucus, did you realize that to have your vote actually matter, you have to stay to become a delegate to a county, district, or state convention? If not, your vote doesn’t count at all. You just wasted your evening. Really.

Just ask the Ron Paul campaign, which explained how they got all the delegates from three counties they lost:

In one precinct in Larimer County, the straw poll vote was 23 for Santorum, 13 for Paul, 5 for Romney, 2 for Gingrich.  There were 13 delegate slots, and Ron Paul got ALL 13.

In a precinct in Delta County the vote was 22 for Santorum, 12 for Romney, 8 for Paul, 7 for Gingrich. There were 5 delegate slots, and ALL 5 went to Ron Paul.

In a Pueblo County precinct, the vote was 16 for Santorum, 11 for Romney, 3 for Gingrich and 2 for Paul. There were 2 delegate slots filled, and both were filled by Ron Paul supporters.

In these counties, Ron Paul came in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (last), but they got ALL of the delegates from these counties. In the county that Paul came in last, both of his voters became the only delegates, in spite of the fact that all the other candidates got 15-times more votes. When there aren’t well organized activists like the Ron Paul campaign, what happens? The actual Republican voters leave, and process is left to party insiders who give us people like Dede Scozzafava.

None of these states actually pick nominees for Governor or Senate or anything like that via caucuses. They only use the caucus to magnify their power when it comes to picking President. is that right?

One of the reasons that Redstate has urged readers to participate in local party organizations is to give an escape from these options. We can fix the party by beating the establishment and stopping it from being captured by people like Ron Paul supporters. And we can force it to be accountability to the will of voters by using a primary.

I should also add that there is another very serious problem with caucuses. It is very hard in a caucus system to create a method for allowing active duty, deployed soldiers from participating. Captain Sam Wright of the Service Members Law Center discusses said:

Those who serve our nation in uniform, and those who accompany spouses or parents who serve, should be given the opportunity to participate in the nomination as well as the election of candidates for president and other offices.  After all, were it not for their sacrifices, none of us would have the opportunity to vote in free elections.

So why do we have a process that excludes soldiers and transfers power to party insiders when we could have one that includes everyone and forces the party insiders to be accountable?

Because people don’t fight for it.

Never let it be said that Obama takes governing seriously

Last night President Barack Obama spoke at two “star-studded” Hollywood fundraisers. And, according to Politco, he noted to a group of people who make their quite nice livings in theatrics that “people … like … poetry” rather than the “prose” of governing.

Mentioning former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s quip that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose, Obama said he’s written more of the latter than the former in his first three years in office. ”We’ve been slogging through prose for the last three years,” he said. “People, they like the poetry.”

Monday night, I did a radio show opposite a Democrat. The Democrat made very clear that he viewed the budget that the President released on Monday as an entirely political document. It made no claim to solving any long-term problems faced by the country. According to this consultant, the primary purpose of the budget was to make an argument about “fairness” and “who should pay.”

We are in the midst of poetry, I fear. And, as President Obama once said, it is all “just words.”

White House advises Senate to not lead in an election year

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked Ben Bernanke at the recent Senate Budget Committee if the lack of Presidential leadership was hurting the US economy. He asked, “I’m afraid President Obama has just been phoning it in here the last couple years in terms of our debt and deficit issue. … Can you speak to how harmful that is in terms of economic growth?”

Now Bernanke can’t answer these sorts of things straight away. But he basically got there. Here’s what he said:

Well Senator, I’m not going to comment on parliamentary maneuverings, but Senator Wyden made exactly the same question. You know, is uncertainty about the future of the tax code, government programs, and so on a negative for growth? I think it is because firms like to have certainty, like to be able to plan. And again I would take on the same responsibility as a regulator, that we need to make regulations as clear and as effective as possible.

So he’s saying that firms like to have certainty and that as a regulator, Bernanke wants things to be clear and effective. Today Jake Tapper asked Jay Carney about this. Should Senate pass a budget? Does the President have an opinion on this? Turns out that the answer is no

TAPPER: The White House has no opinion about whether or not the Senate should pass a budget? The president’s going to introduce one. The Fed chair says not having one is bad for growth. But the White House has no opinion about whether –

CARNEY: I have no opinion — the White House has no opinion on Chairman Bernanke’s assessment of how the Senate ought to do its business.

I think it is worth recalling why the Senate stopped passing budgets. Because they are politically difficult, and being accountable is hard in an election year. The Senate last passed a budget on April 29, 2009. They didn’t work on a budget in 2010. Why? Because a budget requires taking responsibility for the fiscal state of our country. And it was clear that the 2010 election was going to be rough for Democrats. So what did they do? They ducked. They dodged all responsibility. Republicans were willing to do it in the House, but the Senate was not. They didn’t even bring a serious budget to the floor and haven’t since.

And since the Republicans have been able to put their ideas up for inspection by the American people. See the Ryan Budget. Republicans are willing to fight an election on ideas and tell the American people what sacrifices will need to be made to address our fiscal crisis.

But now, not only is the Senate failing the American people, but President Obama is helping the Senate in dodging this responsibility. The fact is that he has no opinion on running the country like an adult. He has “no opinion” about giving business certainty.

Thank you Ron Johnson for asking the question and getting the clarity on this from Chairman Bernanke. And thank you to Jake Tapper for asking the White House if they are interested in leading.

They aren’t.


Corrupt Dem legislator makes racist attack on Susana Martinez

There’s an interesting scandal right now in New Mexico right now. You see, the New Mexico constitution tries to stop corruption, a real problem in the  state as the Economist recently noted, by requiring that state legislators cannot draw a salary from other sources during the legislative session. But Channel KRQE has reported that there is a set of legislators who do not abide by this constitutional requirement: teachers, and in particular teachers union members. One of the state legislators has come under particular scrutiny, Rep. Cheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democrat from Albuquerque:

The issue became salient after reports on KRQE-TV about APS paying House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, her salary while she was in Santa Fe on legislative business. According to a Journal analysis, she was paid more than $63,000 in salary during the past three years while she was away from her administrative job as coordinator of vocational education.

Stapleton’s paid leave was approved by supervisors even though it wasn’t allowed under district policy. That policy said all nonteachers who served in the Legislature should take unpaid leave while in Santa Fe.

So recently, in discussions with her fellow member of the state House’s education committee, Nora Espinoza (R), Whip Stapleton decided to share her perspective on attempts to resolve and understand this complicated legal and constitutional issue. You see, she said that Espinoza was “carrying the Mexican’s water on the fourth floor.” This was a reference to Governor Susanna Martinez, whose office is on the fourth floor of the Capital building.  So the Democratic Whip in the most Latino state in the country is referring to the first Latina Governor in the country as “the Mexican.” I wonder if the Democrats will try to hold her accountable for this kind of speech? Probably not. After all, Harry Reid said that doesn’t know how any Hispanic could be a Republican.

Now, cleaning up the state is something that the teachers unions have long been opposed to. They funded a nasty attack ad against Martinez that backfired when it turned out that Martinez had convicted the husband of the woman the teachers union put in the ad to attack Martinez:

But maybe they are just trying to stop the person trying to take away their gravy train?

Absentee ballots and campaign shakedowns in Miami

So, I confess, I had to look up who Luther Campbell was, aside from a guy who came in fourth in a race for county mayor in Miami-Dade County. He was a somewhat high-profile music promoter, fronting for groups like 2 Live Crew. But it is his electoral experience, as described in his column in the Miami New Times, that draws our attention today. He describes some of the more ugly experiences that someone like him has when trying to put together a campaign in Miami and the strange offers he gets:

The only way to get that many absentee ballots is by hiring brokers who charge candidates thousands of dollars to deliver bundles to the county elections department. The brokers are the ones responsible for dead people voting in the ’80s and ’90s. Now they go around strong-arming the elderly residents at assisted living facilities or fooling them with free breakfast at the local IHOP. The brokers also pay off preachers so they can set up shop inside houses of worship to sign up absentee voters.

I saw it firsthand when I ran in the recent county mayoral race. One guy, who I won’t name, guaranteed he could deliver thousands of absentee ballots in North Miami and North Miami Beach for $3,000. I took a pass. It showed on Election Day. I had more early and Election Day ballots than absentee votes.

Sure would be neat if he said more about this. We know that this problem isn’t necessarily unique to south Florida, as there were a bunch of arrests in more rural north Florida earlier this month. One wonders if these are the sorts of “manufacturing ballots” stories that former Rep. Artur Davis was talking about in neighboring Alabama.

NYT Editorial Page Editor struggles to examine the record on voter fraud (UPDATED)

For a number of reasons, I tend to avoid claims of media bias, as I am often reminded of Silberman’s Law, from Rumsfeld’s Rules, that notes that we often overstate “conspiracy,” while “underestimat[ing] incompetency and fortuity.” However, I have trouble explaining this one any other way. The New York Times editorial page editor, Andy Rosenthal, says, “A half-dozen times or so I’ve asked followers of my Twitter feed for examples of voter fraud – particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters. Haven’t gotten any.” Now, this was the first that I had heard of it because, well, I don’t follow Mr. Rosenthal. However, I am not convinced that I will start following him, as he seems unequipped with the basic tools of research.

Now, like Mr. Rosenthal, I do get frustrated with discussions of election fraud that don’t detail specific convictions. And while I believe that ACORN-style registration fraud is a real problem, I try to avoid discussing it. After all, we should lead with our strongest argument.

So let’s review some recent convictions, just to remind ourselves that election fraud happens, it is well documented, and it sways elections:

  • My favorite example is the 2003 East Chicago (Indiana) Democratic mayoral primary. There were 32 convictions. The election results were also thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court. Note that that last link is to a story in the Chicago Tribune, my home-town paper, that discusses the conviction of the “reform” candidate in that election, with the splendid sentence, “On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced former Mayor George Pabey to five years in prison, the third consecutive East Chicago mayor to come to grief in a federal courtroom.” This case galvanized support for a voter ID law in Indiana that was eventually argued in the US Supreme Court, where the opinion upholding the law was written by former Justice Stevens. Some noted at the time that Justice Stevens, who was normally a reliable liberal vote, grew up in Chicago.
  • Then there’s another favorite case, that of Ophelia Ford. Mrs. Ford is the sister of former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Sr., sister of former State Rep. John Form, now serving time in federal prison for bribery, and the aunt of former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., now a New York resident, and, undoubtedly, a subscriber to the New York Times. In this case, Mrs. Ford, a Democrat, defeated an incumbent Republican by 13 votes. The local newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, smelled something and dug. In the end, the State Senate vacated the election on a vote of 26-6, and three people plead guilty to felonies. In that case, the judge noted that the guilty plea actually prevented a full record of the fraud from being documented. But the guilty pleas did involve both dead and moved people voting.
  • Closer in both time and space to the New York Times, there is the ongoing investigation of the Troy City Council race from 2009, which I have written about in the past. The city clerk has plead guilty.
  • I also noted a series of convictions in Alabama that may have triggered the recent op-ed by former Alabama Representative Artur Davis backing voter ID laws.
I hope that Mr. Rosenthal looks through these records, all reported in the local newspapers. I think that it is fair to say that you can only deny that voter fraud exists if you willfully ignore it. Like the New York Times editorial page did when it wrote up all the new voter ID laws, but conspicuously ignored the case of Rhode Island, where the Democratic African-American Speaker and the only African-American in the State Senate were the co-sponsors of the new voter ID bill.
UPDATE: Mr. Rosenthal has said on twitter that he will respond. I look forward to the discussion.