Archive for category 2012 Presidential Race

Q3 and QE3

The Democrats-with-a-byline who populate the MSM are no doubt going to point with glee at the performance of the markets over the last quarter.  A good Q3 in an election year usually means re-election for a sitting president, and with the Dow Industrials up 6.6%, the S&P 500 up 8.4%, and the NASDAQ gaining 9.4%, the champagne will be out at the Tiffany Network tonight.  (Maybe Jay-Z and Beyonce have some left over for them.)

But perhaps we ought to look at some other indicators, as well.  Since QE3, the third, unlimited round of the Fed’s pump-priming inflationary stimulus, was announced on September 13th, the markets are down.  The Dow is off 0.5%, the S&P off 1.3%, and the NASDAQ has also given back 1.3%.  These are shorter-term moves, to be sure, but they also mean that the little boost from the QE3 announcement has faded, and the grim reality of a stagnant job market, collapsing durable goods orders, rising foreclosures, and downward revisions in company guidance as a result of rising costs.  All the money printing in the world can’t actually reverse business fundamentals.

It’s also worth looking at the Dow Transportation Index over the same period.  Over the last quarter, that index is down 3.4%, and down 5.8% since the QE3 announcement.  Clearly, the truckers and trains aren’t feeling the love.  This is important as an indicator in its own right – road and rail are expecting to have less stuff to move, and their fuel and personnel costs are rising.

But it’s also a contra-indicator according to classic Dow Theory, which says that you only get a confirmation of a market move if both the Transports and the Industrials move in the same direction.  That’s because a lot of what rail moves is related to industrial production.  Three months of divergence, in Dow Theory, is roughly an eternity.  I don’t know if it’s unprecedented, but it’s a very long time.  Sooner or later, one or the other will have to move in the other direction. (It’s possible that they both will, in which case we’ll have the same problem for a while longer, just different winners and losers.)

The political effect may well be real and enduring (although a pretty good Q3 in 2010 wasn’t enough to save Nancy Pelosi’s sorry hide).  People may look at a good quarter for their 401(k)s and their pension plans (although the government employees were probably voting for their subsidizer, anyway), and conclude that the worst is over.  That would be both a financial and an electoral mistake.

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Still catching up from the New England trip.  Today was the Ceremonial Marking of the Maps.  It’s something I enjoy doing tremendously, marking out the routes that we took.  I usually end up doing it twice – once on the large US map, and once on the individual AAA maps.  If you like driving, the roads you’ve driven are sort of an archive unto themselves.  2001: the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon coast.  1997, and then 1999 again: The Loneliest Road in America across Nevada.  2011: A helluva lot of Nebraska.  2012: The Grand Tour of New England.  You can’t really get to know a place by driving through it once, which it why great photographers often make a career out of one state.  But you can get a little sense of the lay of the land, see what you missed, and plan the next trip.

As for the photographs, I’m still working on those.  Posted a bunch of them to Facebook, but a two-week excursion into the Far Northeast deserves a section on The Site, not just a Facebook album.  Of course, you could say the same thing about Nebraska.

In the meantime, maybe someone needs to get the working press a map to what happened in Benghazi, and then perhaps they can politely ask for their manhood back from whatever jar Jay Carney is keeping it in.  I realize that what we used to affectionately call the MSM thinks that this time, they really show us who’s boss.  They thought they had done that during Katrina, when they finally got their revenge for being thwarted in the 2004 election.  (You remember 2004, don’t you?  The year that the Tiffany Network teamed up with 42nd Street to foist a false-document hoax on the public to unseat a sitting President?)  It must be tiring for them, having to do this over and over again.

I have a very old friend, a White House reporter for a newspaper you’ve probably heard of.  He wrote a piece a few days after the September 11 attacks this year, parroting the administration line about the whole thing being, as Mark Steyn put it, film criticism that got out of hand.  I wrote him a brief email, asking him how he could write this as fact, when it was clear, even then, that at a minimum, the attack in Libya didn’t have anything to do with the video, and that the video’s connection to the rest of what was going on was word-of-mouth and tenuous at best.  He replied that “the intel guys didn’t have indications of premeditation.”  Um, the intel guys were lying to you, my friend.  Now that is a story in its own right.  Count on it to be written sometime after January 21, 2017.

But just in case anyone in the briefing room wants to turn in their claim check on the family jewels, Bill Hobbs has helpfully put together a road map of the administration’s handling of this year’s September 11:

Fact: The Obama administration required our ambassador in Libya to be “protected” by “security” people who had no bullets in their guns.

Fact: The Obama administration was forewarned of the possibility of a terrorist attack against the U.S. in Libya days before 9/11/12. Fact: The Obama administration made zero changes to the security measures taken to protect our ambassador and defend our embassy and consulate.

Fact: the terrorist attack the Obama administration was warned was likely did in fact happen.

Fact: Our ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Fact: For two weeks, the Obama administration continued to insist that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was a spontaneous riot of a mob angry about a YouTube video – when it KNEW that American intelligence services had determined within 24 hours that the attack was clearly a pre-planned, sophisticated terrorist attack.

Fact: Obama went to sleep the night of the attack while the ambassador was missing – and a four-hour terrorist assault was underway.

Fact: The morning after the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/01, attack, Obama went to Las Vegas to campaign.

Fact: There NEVER WAS an angry mob rioting outside the Benghazi consulate.

Fact: The Obama administration sent our UN Ambassador onto FIVE different news programs last Sunday to lie and claim the attack on the embassy was an out of control mob – when the administration already knew it was a terrorist attack.

Fact: While the Obama administration claims the attack is “under investigation,” 16 days after the attack, FBI agents have not even gone to Benghazi.

Fact: The most significant piece of information found at the scene of the attack – Ambassador Stevens’ diary – was found by a CNN news crew.

Fact: Entries in that diary strongly suggest that Stevens had been warned he was the target of an impending attack.

Fact: The Obama administration, confronted with the contents of Stevens’ diary, chose instead to talk about whether CNN violated journalistic ethics by reporting from the diary.

Fact: In his UN speech yesterday, Obama continued to pretend that outrage over a YouTube video is what caused the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans at the Benghazi consulate

As much as I would like to have the luxury of this just being about media bias, there’s an election coming up, and the primary victims of journalistic malfeasance are going to be the voters, who will be confronted at some point with the fact that their government is taking them for fools, who probably already know that, but will never actually have that knowledge confirmed by so much as an editorial in their newspapers.  Somewhere down the line, the official story will change from “riots over a video,” to “terrorist attack,” and by then it will already be old news, so the change will go unnoticed, and Oceania will always have been at war with East Asia.  Which is what happens when an administration can conduct neither defense nor diplomacy.

It can’t do it because its thinking is a muddle, and its moral compass always seems to be operating near Iron Mountain.

As usual, it is left to Benjamin Netanyahu to provide both a conscience and clarity.  That bomb chart with the red line was simply brilliant, mostly because it was brilliant in its simplicity.  Naturally, the wags have been all over it, using the bomb’s blank interior as a canvas.  Here’s my favorite:

Anything that simplifies can be mocked. But it will mostly be mocked in Israel, where an open society can always make fun of its leaders, and nobody actually can afford to take the threat lightly. Netanyahu’s a big boy with a thick skin, and can take such lampooning easily, knowing he reached his target audience with clarity, two things Obama seems incapable of.

When we were kids, we used to try to make up different planets, and then game out world conquest.  But at one point, a friend of mine, I think the same one who’s the White House correspondent, said that they new maps were superfluous, because earth already had so many strategic choke points and such interesting terrain.  Right now, we’re worried about Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz.  But consider what happens when the Suez Canal is no longer a sure thing, and the Mediterranean coast of Africa starts bristling with anti-ship missiles with the names of our carriers on them.

These are deeply serious times, and we have a deeply unserious administration governing, and a deeply unserious press not covering them, but covering for them.


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June 1998 Video of Obama on Political Coalitions and the Working Poor

The Daily Caller has posted the unedited audio of then-State Senator Barack Obama at a Loyola College forum, where he discusses the importance of uniting the working poor with welfare recipients as a political coalition.

Turns out this wasn’t a one-off, or a cool idea that occurred to him in the middle of the forum, but something he had been thinking about for a while.  Here’s C-SPAN video of him at a Brookings Institute forum on the State of the Cities four months earlier, on June 14, 1998:

Why is this problematic?  Traditionally, the working poor haven’t identified with welfare recipients, but with the middle class, just as the middle class tends to identify with the rich.  They tend to see themselves as hopeful and upwardly-mobile.  By getting the working poor to see themselves as having more in common with recent welfare recipients, Obama is hoping to get them to believe that they need/want/are entitled to government help that they might not have sought otherwise, and to form a voting bloc in favor of expanded government redistribution.


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Forward! To The 1870s!

A lot’s been made in the last few days about the new Obama campaign “flag,” which replaces the 50 stars with the Obama campaign symbol.  (After all, who need 50 stars when you can get by with The One?)  As a counterpoint, some on the left have taken to posting Lincoln campaign flags, and a few of my friends on the left haven’t been above calling conservatives names over their outrage.  It turns out it wasn’t just Lincoln who did this – it was a fairly common, almost standard campaign motif from about 1840 to William McKinley.  I’ve collected a slideshow (although those of you reading this in email will need to go to the site to see it):

Then, starting in the very late 1800s, around about the same time that we started to take our place on the world stage, our attitude about the flag started to change as well.  In 1898, the poem, “Hats Off!” was published.  It was still current as late as the 1960s, when it was being republished in a book I read as a kid.  The Pledge of Allegiance was published in 1892, as well.  (Ironically, Francis Bellamy was  a Christian socialist, but nowadays it’s the “right-wingers” who open meetings with it.  It was written in the days when American socialism was more nationalist, and less Internationale, I suppose.  Good thing they dropped the salute, though.)  And in 1924, the Code of Conduct for the Flag was finally enacted, about a generation after the flag’s started to become a more venerated symbol.  By that time, of course, putting your picture on the flag had long gone out of fashion.

Does this mean that the Obama campaign flag is much ado about nothing?  I don’t think so.  I was never outraged by the appropriation of the flag, but I did consider it to be just another example of the creepy cult of personality that Obama seems way too comfortable with, and which is completely inappropriate for a sitting president of a democratic republic.  Harsanyi missed this year’s DNC logo, a stylized Obama campaign “O.”  I looked back at convention logos of both parties from 1980 onward, and didn’t see anything remotely like that for either party.  He also didn’t mention the other weird stuff, like making an “O” with your hands in 2008, and the Obama Campaign Wedding Registry.

We’ve lionized presidents before, but usually after they’ve left office.  Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan come to mind.  Three of them died in office, three led us through decisive moments in major struggles.  (JFK’s persists to this day.  I was looking at a poster of presidential portraits in DAT this morning, and while almost all were the official presidential portrait, Kennedy’s was of his standing with his hand on his desk, head bowed, in a golden haze, which struck me as a little over-the-top.  Fifty years on, that sort of thing isn’t doing anything to encourage serious appraisals of his time in office, is it?)  But I can’t remember anything like this for a living President, and Obama’s the eighth one I’ve been conscious of.

Certainly the way that Obama did this is different from what came before.  In some ways, the redesign does more violence to the flag than the portraits did.  The Obama “O” is a paler shade of blue, cyan really.  And the previous presidents and campaigns at least kept the stars there, rather than replacing them entirely.  But I’m sure that if he had put his portrait, or a stylized, dark blue monochrome of the Sheperd Fairey poster there, and kept the stars, it would still have been weird.  It’s not just about the design elements.

My friend State Senator Shawn Mitchell put his finger on it when he said that campaign symbols, indeed any political symbols, are created in a particular time and a particular environment.  In the 1870s, people were used to seeing this sort of thing.  Now they’re not.

The claim that this is just reviving an old tradition of flag redesign doesn’t ring true, not in today’s context.   A lot’s changed since the late 19th Century, and how we think about the flag is only part of it.  Maybe it was more acceptable when the Republic was younger.  Maybe there was a recognition that the presidency was itself, in some way, a national symbol, and that in the days before the federal government has usurped so much of the states’ powers, there was less danger in any one individual who occupied the office.

So how about a deal.  We’ll stop complaining about Obama “desecrating” the flag, if they’ll pare back the Federal Government to the scope it had in 1876.


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Swing States & National Elections

In my comment yesterday, I noted that in my experience, campaigns that find themselves behind in the national polls, but believe they can win by targeting only swing states, are generally losing campaigns.  You might be able to pull that off if the difference is less than 1%, but nobody is going to win the Electoral College while losing the mythical national popular vote by 3%, as Rasmussen has consistently had Romney leading Obama by.

Comes this from Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard, quoting an election-savvy friend of his:

“The national numbers aren’t changing much because Romney is actually gaining in the states that are not being bombarded with media. Yesterday’s Connecticut poll has Obama by only 8 for example. And red states seem to be getting even redder. This is happening because the daily news is about the economy, Washington problems, etc. and that is the main message getting through. So, polls in these states reflect how voters who only see national news and national advertising (to the degree there is any) respond.

“One can draw a lot of different conclusions here—but doesn’t it seem likely that the Obama attack on Romney is working where it is deployed in full measure? I think many analysts have erroneously concluded that because the national tracking has not moved, the Obama attack on Romney’s wealth, Bain, taxes, etc. is not effective. The results in these states suggest otherwise.”

Hidden in here is the reason that, barring something that shakes up the race, it’s a losing strategy for Obama.  If the overall national trend is in favor of Romney, light blue states will tend to move to toss-up, while he consolidates his hold on the toss-up and lean-Romney states that Obama isn’t advertising in.

Faced with having raised less money, Obama is staying in the game only by virtue of outspending Romney in key states.  This puts him in a position similar to that of McCain four years ago, who was practically invisible on the air towards the end of the campaign.  Obama won’t be invisible, but he’ll be at a money disadvantage.

So Obama will find himself having to play defense in more and more states, with less and less money to do so.  That’s why campaigns that go tactical this early in the process tend to lose.

It’s certainly possible that the national media will pick up on and repeat the Obama campaign message in the newscasts, but to be honest, I’m not sure how that really changes the nature of their coverage from where it is now.

Usual caveats apply, but it certainly looks as though this is a re-election campaign that knows it’s in trouble.

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Capitals and Embassies

This evening, the Romney campaign hosted a conference call for Jewish supporters, with the featured speaker being Dan Senor, author of “Startup Nation,” about Israel’s economy.  Senor accompanied Gov. Romney on his recent foreign trip, and spoke about some of the highlights.

During the Q&A, I asked him specifically about his recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv.  A 1995 law provides for that, but also allows the President to waive that action for 6 months.  Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama have all repeatedly put off moving the embassy to Jerusalem.  President Obama recently took this equivocation to new heights, when his spokesman refused to identify Israel’s capital:

The followed the BBC’s failure to identify any city as Israel’s capital on its Olympics site, while readily identifying Jerusalem as the capital of the as-yet non-existent country of Palestine. While the Obama administration is hardly responsible for the BBC, its failure to support Israel generally – beyond the security cooperation – no doubt contributes to an atmosphere where the Beeb can perpetrate such insults.

While I don’t think anyone can reasonably question Romney’s affection for and support for Israel, Obama’s supporters have taken to pointing out that President Bush, while also identifying Israel’s capital as Jerusalem, repeated waived moving the embassy.

Senor, I think, aptly separated the two issues.  Moving the embassy isn’t necessary to recognizing a country’s capital.  Likewise, it should be a no-brainer to recognize that Israel’s national governmental institutions reside in a part of Jerusalem whose position as a part of Israel has never seriously been questioned.  Doing that in no way pre-judges the final status negotiations, which may take place sometime in our lifetimes.

In other words, doing so should have no immediate practical implications vis-a-vis the Palestinians, except insofar as they and other Arabs choose to be rejectionist of even minimal Israeli demands.  It would, however, be of significant symbolic importance, making it clear that the US supports Israel as a normal country within the nation state system.

That the Obama administration is incapable of even that tells you all you need to know about the difference between Romney and Obama on this matter.

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About That Battleground States Poll

The MSM is making much of this morning’s Quinnipiac/NY Times/CBS poll allegedly showing President Obama moving ahead in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  This poll should carry more weight, since it is a poll of likely voters, probably identified by whether or not they voted last time, and whether or not they voted in the primary.  But as is often the case with MSM polls, the internals belie the conclusions.

The poll shows President Obama leading Governor Romney 50-44 in Ohio, 53-42 in Pennsylvania, and 51-45 in Florida.

Obama actually won these states 51-47, 54-44, and 51-48, respectively.  That in itself should raise some suspicion.  I don’t know of any other significant polls that show Obama running ahead of where he did in 2008.  Nationally, he won by 7 points, and Rasmussen’s daily likely-voter poll has shown only occasional movement from a 47-44 Romney advantage.  I suppose it’s possible that concentrated saturation-bombing could move polls in individual states, but I’ve seen such tactical strategies in the past, and they almost always come from losing campaigns.

The other odd number is how people claim to have voted in 2008.  These are, respectively, 53-38, 54-40, and 53-40, or +11, +4, and +10 vs. how those states actually went.  Even assuming people moved around, the numbers for Ohio and Florida are huge, and the number for Pennsylvania is still significant.  While people are more likely to remember themselves as having voted either for a winner, or for their current preference, even if they voted the other way, it’s hard to believe these are representative of the people likely to vote in this election.

Lord knows, I’ve been wrong about polls before.  Tomorrow morning at Denver’s First Thursday Breakfast, pollster Floyd Ciruli – a Democrat, but you’d never know his party affiliation from his commentaries – will be speaking.  I’ll ask him about these conjectures then, and report what he has to say.

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Romney’s New Ad Disappointing

One of the reasons I had – and still have – considerably more hope for the Romney campaign than I ever really did for the McCain campaign is that Romney has shown an ability to counter-punch, especially in the early, sparring rounds.  But the Romney response to Obama’s discredited claims about outsourcing fall falt.

Let’s stipulate that a Democrat getting Four Pinnochios from the Washington Post on an ad is as close to metaphysical certainty that the ad is untrue as it’s possible to get in this lifetime.  That still doesn’t make Romney’s response effective.

I’m unsure why featuring noted non-Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton doing the same thing that Mitt’s doing – telling Obama to cut it out – is supposed to help.  To me, it just illustrates the tactic’s futility.   It’s a little like Bob Dole futilely imploring George H.W. Bush to, “stop lying about my record.”

People expect their politicians to lie.  People don’t expect their Presidents to lie, which is why Obama’s ad, explicitly saying that “What a President believes matters,” is so much more effective, even though the criticism would work better on him.

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The Kochs Respond

As President Obama’s campaign sees fit to attack private citizens for voicing their opinions, those private citizens have seen fit to respond.  Please read the whole thing.

Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear Mr. Messina:

Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.

For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.

Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we have stated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.

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This Chart Still Needs a Campaign To Speak For It

A few weeks ago, AEI linked to this Wall Street Journal chart:

The post was titled, “Romney’s Economic Case In One Chart,” and it should be. But charts don’t speak for themselves; they need to be explained.  In an age where pollsters routinely judge presidential prospects by the responses to the question, “Understands the problems of ordinary Americans,” it’s not enough to talk in abstract terms about getting the economy moving again, or screaming “Liberty!” at increasingly shrill pitches.  It’s not even enough to say that the ever-growing gap between the dark red line and the light red line represents wealth.  People need to be reminded why charts like this matter to them.

Like this:

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

But it is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out.

Eighty years of wealth accumulation later, we are not anywhere near so desperate.  But a large portion of this still applies, and it wouldn’t be too hard to translate it into modern terms.

That gap represents houses unbought, vacations untaken, memories not made.  It represents retirements not taken, or undertaken with too little money.  It represents families living closer to the edge of disaster, and thus closer to the trap of government assistance, since they can save less.  It represents education and training not gotten, success not earned.

Stasis is not starvation, but it is no less empty for all that, and it will, as Europe has shown, accelerate over time.  In a country when men and women pride themselves on being masters of their own destiny, it should be possible to explain what being at the mercy of hostile forces means.

The good news is that we know it’s possible, and that the man who made it work was one of the rare 20th Century patrician Presidents.

The bad news is that those words were spoken at his Second Inaugural, as he prepared to deepen and strengthen all the wrong solutions.

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