Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Election 2012: Louisiana- A Battleground State Then, Not Now

Twenty years ago (!), I volunteered for my first presidential campaign, helping out then-President George H.W. Bush’s bid for re-election at the LSU College Republican table on weekdays (and inevitably during class time) and in New Orleans on weekends. 

At that time, Louisiana was a battleground state hotly contested by both major parties, despite having voted Republican by wide margins in 1980, 1984 and 1988. 

Part of the reason for the competitive nature of things in 1992 was Ross Perot’s self-funded populist independent candidacy, which ultimately bled more votes from the GOP column than the Democratic side of the political ledger.

The Bush campaign operated from a large office suite in Metairie and was led by former governor David Treen, who was not just chairman of the campaign but an active participate who took his duties seriously.  The Bush-Quayle headquarters was abuzz with activity, from yard sign assembling to phone banking. 

The main participants invested not only resources in Louisiana but face time as well. 

Tennessee US Senator Al Gore made an appearance before a large crowd in downtown Baton Rouge.  Future First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at gathering outside of the Superdome and closer to Election Day the Arkansas governor rolled his bus caravan through New Orleans and held a large rally on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Vice-President Dan Quayle appeared at a well-attended rally in Kenner and the president himself spoke at what would be his final campaign event as a candidate in a hanger in Baton Rouge’s airport on the eve of Election Day.

When voters went to the polls the next morning, neutral grounds across the state were flooded with paper signs pushing the Bush-Quayle and Clinton-Gore tickets.

Bill Clinton won a plurality of the vote in Louisiana, besting President Bush by just under five points.  Four years later, Clinton carried Louisiana with majority but by a landslide margin over Republican nominee Bob Dole and Perot.

Come 2000, the bottom fell out of the Louisiana’s Democratic presidential vote.

Texas governor George W. Bush returned the GOP to victory in Louisiana and nationally then, winning 52%, a slightly better share of the vote than Clinton’s state total four years prior.  Bush expanded his Pelican State majority to 57% in 2004. 

Arizona US Senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain raised the party’s share of the Louisiana presidential vote to 59% despite lacking W’s proximity advantage and spending little time or money in the state. 
As we enter the closing weeks of the presidential campaign, one would be hard pressed to find any sign of a major election happening in Louisiana. 

Mitt Romney’s majority in Louisiana, and there is little doubt he will receive one, might approach Ronald Reagan’s showing of 61% in 1984, the second highest vote share a Republican presidential candidate has ever received in the state.

Hence both sides have largely abandoned the state.  Romney has visited Louisiana a few times since locking up the GOP nod, but those were confined to some money runs and visiting an area that was flooded by Hurricane Isaac.

President Barack Obama, in addition to the obligatory disaster site inspection though to a different area from where Romney went, has also limited his political time in Louisiana to fundraising activities and speaking at the Urban League convention.

About a week ago Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan flew into New Orleans, though not to speak at a local GOP rally but to address the AARP conclave (in other words, tourists from other states).

The dozen or so undecided states are commanding almost all of the candidates’ time and money. 

In addition to the end of the national campaign strategy, tactics have significantly changed as well, as campaigns continue to drift away from retail politics and towards primarily electronic media. 

The yard signs, bumper stickers and campaign buttons that were so plentiful in Louisiana in 1992 now need to be ordered from online “campaign stores”. 

If you want to advertise your support for the Romney-Paul ticket in front your house, that privilege will cost you the princely sum of $15. 

Want to invite some knucklehead to key your car by sporting the “wrong” bumper sticker?  That’ll be a $3 donation. 

Perhaps residents of Wisconsin, Virginia and sacred Ohio receive such tchotchkes gratis though I wouldn’t trade my mild winters for their free t-shirts.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Election 2012: Hope for Conservatives

Attention conservatives and moderates who believe America needs a new president: the sky is NOT falling.

Admittedly this week has not been good for Mitt Romney.

To be honest, the Republican nominee hasn’t really had a good week since polishing off his intraparty rivals many months ago. 

Romney’s running mate announcement and the GOP convention provided a minimal bounce for the Republican ticket and the Bain Capital executive has spent more time in President Barack Obama’s rearview mirror than in front his windshield.

And the recent delayed released “gaffe” (the media’s interpretation of what Romney said and not my own) has not helped matters, not because he said anything offensive but because the networks have overplayed the story to distract from the true state of the American economy and the blatant Obama White House foreign policy bumbling.

Before writing the election off in despair or believing the media hype, here are a few things for Republicans to consider.

First, the polls are not nearly as bad as they seem.  While a perusal of the national and state polls on the Real Clear Politics site reveals far more blue text than red, there is something noteworthy in many of the numbers: in the states that are actually up for grabs, the president rarely breaks 50%, which is relevant.

When an incumbent seeks re-election, whether he is the President of the United States or town alderman, and polls at 50% or below, he’s typically in trouble when the ballot boxes open. 

And in the case of a presidential election, the challenger matters less in the outcome than the president as a bid for a second term is a referendum on the first term.  Which is why Obama and his allies have worked so hard to spin the 2012 election as a second referendum on George W. Bush’s last term in office.

This past week alone, polls have given Romney leads in the swing states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Florida.  And there have been polls this past week that have given the president a lead in those same states.

Polls in Nevada, Virginia and Michigan have the president under 50% and holding no more than a three-point lead over his Republican opponent.

Furthermore, in the national polls, Romney and Obama have either tied or traded leads pending on what day and which poll you look at.  Rasmussen has generally had the Republican nominee with a slight lead over the president while Gallup has given an edge to Obama.  And sometimes they flip.

The point is, the polls show a fluid race, which is not very reassuring for a sitting president at this juncture. 

Secondly, Romney has remained competitive despite the reality that the mainstream media and entertainment industry that attempts, and sometimes succeeds, to pass themselves off as news programs have acted as an offensive line for the Obama Administration, burying bad news on the president and hyperventilating the negative on Romney and the GOP. 

The producers and frontmen at ABC, the Daily Show and MSNBC cannot shill enough for Obama to convince someone who has been out of work for months that things are fine in the country, at least for everyone else. 

Third, and most importantly, are the October debates, which apparently will be the only time the president will actually have to defend his record in office with follow up questions. 

It will be within the confines of the University of Denver (October 2nd), Hofstra University (October 16th) and Lynn University in Boca Raton (October 22nd) where Romney will make his case for a change in government directly to the people while Obama will not be able to phone in Bill Clinton for a lifeline. 

The debates will mark the rare occasions where the American public, by this time engaged in the presidential election, can judge the candidates and their ideas without media interpretation. 

Though November 6th is not far away, there is plenty of time left on the clock for Romney to catch up as the president’s lead in the swing states is marginal and the gap has shifted on a daily basis. 

While Romney isn’t winning, the polls show that he can still win.

And that’s more hope than Bob Dole had on his best day in 1996.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obama's Libyan Red Herring Play

Eight years ago, a series of bombings rocked Spain’s passenger rail system killing 191 people and injuring over 2,000 more.

The explosions occured on the eve of Spain’s competitive national election and played a role in changing the government and that country’s foreign policy.

The governing conservatives, the Partido Popular, had positioned themselves as allies of then-US President George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq despite the fact that an overwhelming number of Spaniards opposed involvement including the Socialists, the leading opposition party.

Initially, the conservative government accused Basque separatists for the attack though it later became clear that north African Islamists with a professed affiliation with al-Qaeda were actually responsible. 

Spanish voters believed that the Partido Popular had manipulated the facts of the Atocha train station bombings to frame Basque terrorists (the usual suspects involved in domestic terror) so as to avoid creating a link between the attacks and Spain’s involvement in the unpopular Iraqi War and the party suffered for it at the polls. 

Not long after taking power, Spain’s new socialist government recalled the country’s forces from Iraq, though critics of the move argued that the withdrawal validated the terrorists’ actions as they accomplished their objective.

Fast-forward eight years to Benghazi, where an attack on the US consulate in Libya’s second largest city resulted in the murder (and allegations of other atrocities) of the US ambassador and three other Americans. 

Reacting to the deaths of American personnel in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement where she claimed the violence was related to a third-rate You Tube video that mocked Islam and its main mortal figure.  In fact one quarter of the release is dedicated to speaking out against intolerance, in effect blaming an internet clip and a crackpot pastor for the killing of our ambassador.

At the arrival ceremony of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty’s remains at Andrews Air Force Base, President Barack Obama railed against “voices of suspicion and mistrust” that seek to divide countries and cultures, a reference to Pastor Terry Jones, who attained more fame than he otherwise deserved for burning some Qur’ans, and has promoted the controversial movie “Innocence of Muslims”, which portrays Islam’s central prophet in a disrespectful light.  

And adding to the absurdity of it all, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff personally reached out to the rogue Florida minister to request that he end his association with the most controversial quasi-motion picture practically nobody has ever seen but thanks to the media and the US government, almost everyone has now heard of.

By their rhetoric and posturing, the president and his officials have attempted to publicly pin the anti-American violence in Libya and other corners of the Islamic world on a handful of nutcases and third-rate provocateurs.  

Pastor Jones makes a politically convenient scapegoat for the acts of Islamic rage and violence in a crass attempt to divert attention from the Obama Administration’s continued denial about militant Islamists’s war with the West and the White House’s failure to improve relations between the US and Arab governments, both old and new.

Now the White House is starting to backpedal a bit on the root of the evil visited upon our foreign service staff in Benghazi and the insult to our national dignity and violation of our embassy in Egypt and other locales. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney, while still maintaining that the online video disparaging the Prophet led to the protests, has conceded that armed “violent groups” may have exploited the furor to execute a preplanned attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Spain’s governing party misrepresented the true culprits of the 2004 Atocha bombings and was driven from office for it. 

If the Obama Administration did the same regarding the Benghazi assault, then Mitt Romney and objective journalists are right to question and criticize the deliberate misrepresentation of events and the White House and State Department’s mishandling of them. 

Even more so if intelligence provided by the Libyan government about an imminent assault on the anniversary on the September 11th hijackings was dismissed and that a decision was made to not engage in visible security strengthening of the consulate in Benghazi and in other predominantly Muslim regions to avoid upsetting the sensitivities of those who loathe us.

The amateurish “pin the blame on the pastor” debacle on the highest levels should invite a closer review of President Obama’s other foreign policy blunders that have been diplomatically swept under the rug by the mainstream media.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The General Election Begins

Summer vacation, Shark Week, Labor Day and the national conventions are over and the field of relevant national candidates is officially set.

And to my utter surprise, the voters will be treated to another vice-presidential debate featuring Joe Biden. 

As the general campaign opens, the incumbent White House leadership enters the fray with a bit of a boost in the polls, as should be expected.

The national convention is the Democratic Party’s specialty.  Think about it for a moment- Hollywood’s dominant party knows how to put together a masterful media production without fretting from challenge or fact check until the confetti is swept from the floor late into the evening. 

The Democratic National Convention was more about tearing Mitt Romney down than making the case for the president’s re-election. 

If Barack Obama could run on his record he would. 

I have no doubt that the president would like nothing more than to spend almost a billion dollars of other people’s money celebrating himself across all facets of the media.

But then again, the president would like extend his stay in the Oval Office.

Instead the Democratic convention served up not a shining record of the incumbent’s success but a crass attempt to frame the 2012 presidential election as a battle against a presidential administration once removed while hiding behind the rhetorical skills of a president who was elected twenty years ago. 

An Obama Administration that was not that good was explained away by saying that the previous administration was just that bad. 

Obama has to go on the attack because he has no defense for the current state of the country. 

Hence Obama’s wild-eyed gender demagoguery. 

If the president cannot appeal to the nation then he will appeal to its “parts”.  Rather than being president of the country, he will be the gay’s president, the woman’s president, the Latino’s president, etc. 

Victims all. 

Rather than appealing to our shared hopes, Obama is making a decidedly unstatesmanlike play for our personal selfishness. 

With the election a little less than two months away, I would like to make three predictions.

The first, that the popular vote and the electoral totals will be agonizingly close.  Judging by the even split of the country and the principals involved, I cannot fathom any other outcome. 

The president’s eloquence combined with his appeal to “America’s parts” assures him of a respectable showing.  Though he has clearly underperformed as a president, Obama will undoubtedly overperform as a candidate. 

After all Obama didn’t get to be president because of his resume or experience.

Conversely the Republican nominee is charismatically challenged with his biggest asset being the alternative to a politician who has presided over a steep decline in our quality of life. 

If things were really going so great in the country, Romney would not be this competitive. 

If Obama were not a silver-tongued celebrity politician, Democrats would be more focused on stanching the bleeding in the House and the Senate instead of having a realistic chance of holding on to the White House.

Secondly, that we will see a level of post-election ugliness, litigation and allegations of ballot box manipulation.  A close contest invites aggressive “counting” and creative “recounting”.

I am hoping the prevailing candidate wins by a decisive margin that will leave no question as to the mood of the nation and the validity of the results.  Ideally, Americans should go to bed on the evening of November 6th knowing who will be taking the oath of office in January.  Realistically, after November 7th I see lawyers.  Lots of them.

Thirdly and finally, the GOP is facing no worse than a split-decision.

 Republicans will retain control of the House, if not expand its holdings due to the retirement of personally popular Blue Dog moderate Democrats in districts that will overwhelmingly vote for Romney. 

The Republicans are also poised to take control of the US Senate as some of the political flotsam that entered Congress’ upper chamber as part of the post-Katrina mid-term elections will face the music for voting with their party for the last six years instead of their constituents. 

A great deal of the Obama agenda will either be repealed in 2013 or encased in political carbonite for two or four years, assuming the executive branch honors the constitutional separation of powers.

For the sake of America, let’s hope for a Romney landslide.