Even the French socialists now supporting tax cuts and spending restrictions

January 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NY Times reports:

President François Hollande startled the usually staid world of European economic policy with proposals to take France in a centrist direction with tax cuts for companies, reductions in public spending and a business-friendly tone.

That’s a huge turn-around. His initial policies were to massively hike taxes and spending. They have been a disaster, and his popularity at an all time low. So good to see a retreat from them.

Mr. Hollande’s proposals include a cut in payroll taxes that he said would reduce the costs of business and independent workers by 30 billion euros ($41 billion) by eliminating the amount paid by companies and independent workers for the family allocation, a tax that finances an allowance for each child after the first as well as an array of other family benefits.

The family allocation and other benefits are core elements of France’s social programs and have been credited with contributing to it having one of the highest birthrates in Europe. The allowance is income blind, going to all French families.

Mr. Hollande also said he would cut spending by €50 billion but did not specify where.

30 billion of tax cuts and 50 billion of spending cuts. It’s a start.

The current policies have been a disaster. Quarterly economic growth for France for the last ten quarters is below and NZ is in brackets:

  1. 0% (0.8%)
  2. 0.2% (0.9%)
  3. 0.1% (0.7%)
  4. 0% (0.9%)
  5. -0.2% (0.2%)
  6. 0.2% (0.2%)
  7. -0.2% (1.3%)
  8. -0.1% (0.5%)
  9. 0.6% (0.3%)
  10. -0.1% (1.4%)

 

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Guest Post: Kiwi in America on the US elections results

November 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Kiwi in America:

As someone who helped run political campaigns at a national level in a previous life in New Zealand, I view the mechanics of political campaigns through the lens of some who once lived and breathed the nuts and bolts of getting your man elected daily. Because some on the centre right were shocked by the election result on Tuesday, here are some of my thoughts about what happened. Before I do so we need to be clear how VERY CLOSE this election was. Comparisons the 2004 election are most instructive:

  • Popular vote margin: Obama won by 2.4% and 3 million votes in 2012 – Bush won by an almost identical margin in 2004
  • Electoral College votes: Obama won the EC in 2012 by 126 votes versus Bush’s 34 EC votes in 2004 – this is because Obama spread his victory very thinly where it counted. Compare the 2012 winning margins in the 4 key swing states of OH, FL, VA and CO: Obama won these states by only 406,000 votes – it took Bush DOUBLE that margin to win the same key swing states in 2004 (by 861,000 votes). Had Romney won OH, FL, VA and CO he would’ve won EC vote 285 to 253!

Obama’s winning margin of  406,000 votes comprised less than 2% of votes cast in 4 states and 0.03% of all votes cast nationwide. Such is the electoral system that the Presidency hinges on such a tiny number of voters.

 Incumbents rarely lose

It’s true and so Romney had a much steeper hill to climb regardless of how favourable he thought the adverse economic conditions were to his candidacy. Since 1896 no incumbent President fighting in a normal two party race, under normal circumstance and not facing a primary challenger from his own party has lost. There have been 4 incumbents in that period who lost but each faced unique factors that Obama never faced. Hoover was in office when the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression began. He had also been the Commerce Secretary of the previous Coolidge Administration so he was not new to the Executive branch like Obama. Ford was not an incumbent in the usual sense – he had not been elected and only assumed the Presidency after Nixon’s pre-impeachment resignation – Ford’s pardoning of Nixon also tarred him with the Watergate scandal. Carter faced a bruising Primary with Ted Kennedy (for a sitting President a rare event) and one that ate into his campaign costs and split the Democrat party. The unresolved Iranian hostage crisis was a weeping sore at the end of his presidency that cost Carter dearly. GHW Bush (41) had been Vice President for 8 years prior to his election as President AND faced a substantial third party candidate in Ross Perot who siphoned off a large number of right leaning votes. The US electorate usually gives an incumbent President 2 terms. Obama is in fact the first sitting President to NOT INCREASE his share of the vote in his second term.

 2012 was more like 2008 than 2010

Much has been written about the dueling views on polls – on the left was Nate Silver (whose baseball modeling skills he brought to political polling) whose model essentially aggregated and then weighted most of the public opinion polls – on the right was the view that most polls (except Rasmussen and Gallup) were too heavily weighting in favor of Democrats and if you realigned those polls to what they thought was a more realistic level, Romney was level pegging or ahead. Democrats were +7 of the overall national vote in 2008 and this swung dramatically to R +2 in the 2010 mid-terms. For a point of reference the split was D + 3 in 2004. The left claimed that Obama’s presence on the ticket in 2012 would see a result close to 2008 and thus it was – polls that had around D+6 were pretty accurate on the day or in other words a drop of only 1% since 2008. Republicans took solace in the massive turnaround in voter sentiment in 2010 that saw the largest reversal in an incumbent party’s House of Representative hold in 74 years. That, combined with a historic sweep of State legislatures and governorships, gave the right good reason to think that 2008 represented a high tide mark in voter support for the Democrats and that 2012, whilst nowhere near as dramatic as the 2010 mid-terms, would see a reasonable retreat from what they saw as a record turnout for Obama. Thus a turnout model close to 2004 (D+3) was seen by many on the right to be a more accurate assessment of the partisan split.

 The truth was that Obama’s winning coalition comprised a combination of groups that historically have had relatively low voter turnout – blacks, the young and Hispanics. Blacks have a higher representation amongst lower socio-economic groups who tend to lack the traditions and engagement with the electoral system. Young voters are fickle, easily distracted, feel they have little impact on politics and are so transient that they are hard to keep track of. Hispanics share some of the same turnout issues as blacks. Black turnout over the 3 elections prior to 2008 averaged 9% of the electorate – in 2008 it was 11% and Obama got 93% of that vote. He managed to get the exact same percentage turnout in 2012 AND he got the same percentage of blacks to vote for him. In the two crucial swing state of VA and OH he actually INCREASED the numbers of blacks voting as a percentage of voters and of course got the same very high percentage of them to vote for him. Ditto for the under 30 vote – historically the under 30 vote is usually 15% of the electorate but in 2008 Obama pushed this up to 18% and he managed to win 68% of that vote. In 2012 Obama stunningly managed to replicate this turnout amongst the young even managing to slightly increase the percentage of young voters to 19% and again scoring a huge margin over Romney – 60/27. But he saved the best for the Hispanic vote. It had been creeping up from 9% of the electorate in 2004 to 10% in 2008 and then 11% in 2012. In 2008 Obama won Hispanics by 67% (Bush has been the most successful Republican ever winning 44% in 2004) but in 2012 Obama managed to INCREASE his share of the Hispanic vote to 71%.

  (more…)

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Nate Silver

November 15th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The political emperors have no clothes, stripped bare by a big-data wizard named Nate Silver who showed dispassionate maths was more reliable than pundit intuition and cherry-picked polls.

Silver, 34, a statistician who previously predicted the career trajectories of baseball players, accurately tipped 49 out of 50 US states (with the 50th, Florida, highly likely to be accurate as well as Obama is ahead with 97 per cent of the votes counted) and most Senate contests.

As right-wing pundits attacked him and his “voodoo statistics” for failing to see that the election was on a knife edge – and in the case of some conservative wingnuts, for being openly gay and “effeminate” – Silver held his nerve and for the entire election cycle maintained that the data always pointed to an easy Obama victory. …

Even after Obama’s dismal first debate performance, Silver’s probability of Obama winning never dipped below 61.1 per cent, rising to more than 90 per cent on election day.

I am a big fan of both Silver’s analytic skills, and his demeanour while under fire. He deserves a lot of credit.

It is worth pointing out though that all the major polling aggregation sites did very well as reported by Cnet:

But Silver wasn’t the only one to do exceptionally well in the prediction department. In fact, each of the five aggregators that CNET surveyed yesterday — FiveThirtyEight, TPM PollTracker, HuffPost Pollster, the RealClearPolitics Average, and the Princeton Election Consortium — successfully called the election for Obama, and save for TPM PollTracker and RealClearPolitics handing Florida to Romney, the aggregators were spot on across the board when it came to picking swing state victors.

So if you listened to the polls rather than the pundits, you were likely to be correct. Why then is Silver the new political celebrity rather than say Mark Blumenthal who does HuffPost Pollster?

I think it is partly because Silver was attacked by several prominent pundits before the election. Those attacks backfired by giving him not just accuracy but vindication.

The other reason is that Silver does a bit more than just aggregate and weight the polls. His extra tweeks may not make a huge difference but they are seen as useful by many.

In addition to picking the winner in all 50 states — besting his 49 out of 50 slate in 2008 — Silver was also the closest among the aggregators to picking the two candidates’ popular vote percentages. All told, he missed Obama’s total of 50.8 percent by just four-tenths of a percentage point (50.4) and Romney’s 48 percent by just three-tenths of a point (48.3) for an average miss of just 0.35 percentage points. HuffPo Pollster and RealClearPolitics tied for second with an average miss of 0.85 points.

This may change a bit as the final votes come in. It is worth noting also that Silver didn’t have a 100% accuracy rate with calling Senate races. Again this takes nothing away from his highly deserved reputation – just that even his model is not infallible  The strength of his model, as I see it, is that it learns from the past.

So what does Silver do to predict who wins. His exact methodology is secret (he has said he may reveal more over time) but he has detailed what he does for Senate races. My summary of it is:

  1. Average the polls for that state
  2. Give more recent polls a higher weight using an exponential decay formula
  3. Weight by sample size so larger sample polls have more weight
  4. Assign an accuracy rating to each pollster and weight those historically more accurate, higher. Exclude polls from very dodgy pollsters or polls released by parties. Note that many other polling aggregators also do steps 1 to 4. What is unique to Silver tends to be the later steps.
  5.  Adjust the result based on the national trend, so if nationwide one party has dropped say 5% in one week, assume it applies to that state also.
  6. Adjust the result based on observed “house effects” for pollsters. So if one pollster consistently has Democrats 2% higher than they get, then take 2% off their poll.
  7. Adjust polls of registered voters as if they were of likely voters, based on the normal difference between such polls (Republicans do better with likely voters).
  8. Do a regression analysis of the state based on their partisan voting index, their party identification, donations to candidates, incumbency status, approval ratings for incumbents, and previous offices a candidate has been elected to
  9. Add the results of the regression analysis to the weighted average of polls, as if it is a poll.
  10. Do an error calculation
  11. Stimulate the election and report how often one candidate beats the other over multiple simulations

So Silver has a very sophisticated model. I think for presidential elections he also uses economic data such as GDP growth and unemployment rates. Over time as more and more data is gathered, his model should remain accurate or become even more accurate.

There will be times when it will be wrong, just as the polls sometimes get it wrong. No model can compensate if the election is very volatile and large numbers of voters change their mind or are undecided in the final few days. Events will always matter.

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Why Romney lost

November 13th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Image from here.

To be fair to Romney he did get a majority of votes of white women also (by 14%) but overall lost the female vote by 11%. The margins for each gender and race demographic were:

  • White men – Romney +27%
  • White women – Romney +14%
  • Latino men – Obama +32%
  • Latino women – Obama +53%
  • Black men – Obama + 76%
  • Black women – Obama +93%

It will be difficult for a Republican to win any of the last four demographics 0 but they need to at least be a bit more competitive.

Michael Tanner at Cato notes:

The economy may have been showing feeble signs of life in the last couple of months, but it is hardly robust. No president had won reelection with unemployment above 7 percent since Franklin Roosevelt; it is now 7.9 percent. Three-quarters of voters thought the economy’s performance is poor or just fair. Throw in a health-care law that voters opposed 49 percent to 43, turmoil overseas, and assorted scandals, and an observer from Mars would have said that there was no way Romney could lose.

Yet Romney not only lost, he lost decisively.

There will be temptations to blame a poor candidate or a campaign that squandered several opportunities. And it is true that Romney was a flawed candidate, and his campaign’s strategy proved imperfect, too. He failed to press his advantage after the first debate, and seemed to switch positions at a whim.

But the Republican party’s problems go much deeper.

I don’t think Romney is why they lost. I think its is a wider issue also.

Much of the media will jump to the conclusion that the Tea Party is to blame for Republican losses. Yet tea-party candidates actually did well overall. In the House, fewer than five members of the Tea Party Caucus lost reelection.

On the Senate side, tea-party favorite Richard Mourdock went down to defeat in Indiana, a state Romney was carrying by a big margin. In Missouri, Todd Akin threw away one of the most winnable Senate seats in the country. But Akin, contrary to media wisdom, was never a tea-party candidate. During the primaries, most tea-party groups backed one of his opponents. Akin won because he had strong support from social conservatives while the other candidates split the more economically conservative vote. Meanwhile, Mourdock’s self-inflicted wounds were not a result of his tea-party background.

People often confuse the Tea Party and the moral conservatives. The Tea Party people are primarily fiscal conservatives. Some are also moral or social conservatives – but that is not what binds them together.

Asked if government does too much or should do more, exit polls showed that voters said “too much” by a margin of 51 percent to 44. Voters certainly seem receptive to a small-government message, at least in some respects, even when what appears to be somewhat more liberal and Democratic electorate is being polled.

So what went wrong? First, demographics. This election is testimony to the fact that Republicans cannot survive by being the party of old white men. The white share of the electorate has steadily declined for the last several elections, and this time around, whites accounted for just 72 percent of the vote.

As noted above.

Other demographic changes worked against Republicans as well. For example, single women now outnumber married women in the electorate, and they favored Obama by roughly 30 points. The gender gap overall was bigger this year than in 2008.

This is a huge challenge for the Republicans. In general terms, abortion is not as significant issue for married women, than single women. Single women see the Republican stance on abortion as akin to “Don’t have sex, and if you do then you must dedicate the next 19 years to raising a child should you become pregnant”.

Republicans must face up to the fact that their hard-line stance on immigration is disqualifying their candidates with Hispanics. Whereas George W. Bush once carried 44 percent of the Latino vote, Mitt Romney couldn’t crack 35 percent. To see why Romney appears to have essentially tied in Florida, for example, just look to Obama’s margin among non-Cuban Hispanics. Similarly, the growing Hispanic vote clearly cost Romney both Nevada and Colorado.

Again, I agree. No Government is going to throw out every illegal immigrant in the US. They do need stronger borders, but they also need a path to legal residency for those who are already in the US and are gainfully employed.

President Obama is likely to push immigration reform in his second term, and Republicans are going to have to find how to address the issue in a way that will not cost them the Latino vote for generations to come.

Hopefully. Obama failed to do anything in his first two years when he had a Democratic majority in both houses.

Second, social issues continue to hurt Republicans with women, young voters, and suburbanites. The problem is not just a matter of their stance on the issues, but their tone. It’s not just that Republicans oppose abortion or gay marriage, but that they often sound intolerant and self-righteous in doing so. Romney himself may not have put much emphasis on social issues, but the Republican brand was too easily associated with the words of Todd Akin.

Absolutely. There are ways you can express a view against abortion and gay marriage without offending people.

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US polling

November 10th, 2012 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

An interesting analysis on Daily Kos of the most accurate individual US pollsters. Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy stated:

For all the ridicule directed towards pre-election polling, the final poll estimates were not far off from the actual nationwide vote shares for the two candidates,” said Dr. Panagopoulos.

On average, pre-election polls from 28 public polling organizations projected a Democratic advantage of 1.07 percentage points on Election Day, which is only about 0.63 percentage points away from the current estimate of a 1.7-point Obama margin in the national popular vote. [...]

And the list of pollsters:

1. PPP (D)
1. Daily Kos/SEIU/PPP
3. YouGov
4. Ipsos/Reuters
5. Purple Strategies
6. NBC/WSJ
6. CBS/NYT
6. YouGov/Economist
9. UPI/CVOTER
10. IBD/TIPP
11. Angus-Reid
12. ABC/WP
13. Pew Research
13. Hartford Courant/UConn
15. CNN/ORC
15. Monmouth/SurveyUSA
15. Politico/GWU/Battleground
15. FOX News
15. Washington Times/JZ Analytics
15. Newsmax/JZ Analytics
15. American Research Group
15. Gravis Marketing
23. Democracy Corps (D)
24. Rasmussen
24. Gallup
26. NPR
27. National Journal
28. AP/GfK

But the commentary is very interesting:

Ha ha, look at Gallup way at the bottom, even below Rasmussen. But let’s focus on the positive—PPP took top honors with a two-way tie for first place. Both their tracking poll and their weekly poll for Daily Kos/SEIU ended up with the same 50-48 margin. The final result? Obama 51.1-48.9—a 2.2-point margin.

PPP is a robo-pollster that doesn’t call cell phones, which was supposedly a cardinal sin—particularly when their numbers weren’t looking so hot for Obama post-first debate. But there’s a reason we’ve worked with them the past year—because their track record is the best in the biz.

The cell phone issue is somewhat overhyped.

One last point—YouGov and Ipsos/Reuters were both internet polls. YouGov has now been pretty good two elections in a row. With cell phones becoming a bigger and bigger issue every year, it seems clear that the internet is the future of polling. I’m glad someone is figuring it out.

Internet panels are a big part of the future – if you do it right. If you do it wrong, they can be self-selecting junk.

But let’s be clear, you have to go down to number six on the list to get to someone who called cell phones. And Gallup called 50 percent cell phones and they were a laughingstock this cycle.

The final Gallup poll had Romney 48% and Obama 47%. Obama got 50.5% and Romney 48% so they were 3.5% out on Obama – just outside the margin of error for a 1,000 sample.

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How they voted

November 8th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The CNN exit poll has some interesting breakdowns of how people voted:

  • Men Romney +7%
  • Women Obama +11%
  • Under 30s Obama +23%
  • Over 65s Romney +12%
  • Urban Obama +26%
  • Suburban Romney +2%
  • Rural Romney +20%
  • Whites Romney +20%
  • African-Americans Obama +86%
  • Latinos Obama +44%
  • Liberals Obama +74%
  • Moderates Obama +15%
  • Conservatives Romney +65%
  • Independents Romney +5%
  • Under $50k income Obama +22%
  • $50k to $100k income Romney +6%
  • Over $100k Romney +10%
  • Protestants Romney +15%
  • Catholics Obama +2%

The urban vs suburban split is quite fascinating. Also that Catholics backed Obama.

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US election thoughts

November 8th, 2012 at 6:15 am by David Farrar

President

Obama looks set to win Florida also (he is 50,000 votes in front) which will give him an electoral college margin of 332 to 206. That’s down from 365 votes in 2008, but still very healthy.  Bush in 2004 got 286, Clinton in 1996 got 379, Reagan in 1984 got 525, Nixon in 1972 got 520 and Eisenhower in 1956 got 457.

Vindication for Nate Silver at 538 who called all 50 (51) states correctly. But to be fair so did Pollster at Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics got all but Florida correct. So a good vindication for polling and science!

On the popular vote it is 50% to 48% for Obama. Again 538 pretty close to this (they had Obama 51%) and RCP spot on and Pollster a bit out at 48% to 47% for Obama. Again all well within margin of error.

Obama’s second term will be interesting. Now he no longer needs to be re-elected will he veer to the left, or govern from the centre?

Best tweet of the day was the person who suggested he should start his re-election speech with “Allahu Akbar” :-)

Senate

A miserable day for the Republicans here. Two thirds of the Senate seats up for election were Democrats which meant the Republicans should have picked some up. They were hoping to get 54 seats or so this time, so in 2014 (when again two thirds are Democrats up for election) they could get a filibuster proof 60. That strategy is now dead.

The Dems and allies look to get 55 seats, up from 53. The lesson for the Republicans is not to elect candidates who will talk about rape in a way that would have been creepy even 100 years ago.

The polls were not so accurate for the Senate, as most were saying it would end up 533 to 47. However some seats are very close and may change.

House

The House is 232 to 192 with 14 races not called. In 2008 it was 242 to 193 so likely the Dems up slightly up – but the Republicans still with a solid majority.

The big challenge for Obama and Congress will be agreeing a Budget that doesn’t trigger the mandated across the board spending cuts in the Budget Control Act. However I can’t see the House agreeing to any tax increases (closing loopholes yes) so there could well be stalemate there as Dems and Obama will be most reluctant to do spending cuts only.

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US Election Results

November 7th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m a guest of the US Embassy this afternoon, so not sure how much blogging I’ll be able to do as we watch the results come in. So feel free to use this thread for updates and the like.

UPDATE: It’s 1540 and I am calling it for Obama and think he will get at least 300. I can not see anyway the lead in Ohio can be reversed.

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NZ media on reporting US politics

November 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A senior journalist pointed out to me that after the first presidential debate, Radio New Zealand reported that Obama’s performance in the first debate was “disappointing”.

ABC in Australia used the more accurate and non-partisan description that it was “widely panned” because of course Obama’s performance was only disappointing if you were a supporter of his.

Language can be quite powerful, in the way it can reinforce impressions. The journalists who pointed it out to me said he is a believer in not using partisan adjectives in news reports. This is especially the case for state owned media.

And we even see this a bit today, with a Stuff story which says “Could Mitt Romney really steal the White House from Barack Obama today?” – I don’t think the use of language in this (otherwise good) story is a huge issue. But I do think that the use of language in reporting can be quite powerful in affecting views.

 

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Obama and Romney

November 5th, 2012 at 2:52 pm by David Farrar

Not that I get a vote, but for the record if I was in the US, I would be voting Romney. Before I explain why, I want to touch on the record of both men.

Barack Obama

As President Barack Obama has performed pretty much as well as I expected – he had a total of two years experience as a junior senator before he started campaigning for President. It is no surprise at all with such a lack of experience, that he has failed to meet expectations of so many of his supporters.

That lack of experience is one of the reasons I said I preferred Hillary Clinton over Obama in 2008, and I note polls show she would win easily against Romney.

Now this isn’t to say that Obama has been a bad President, more somewhat lackluster.

On foreign policy, I think Obama has been fine. He saw the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq successfully (albeit on the timetable agreed to by Bush).  The surge in Afghanistan was the right strategy, and while (like Iraq) the country they will leave behind is imperfect – it will be a lot better than it was.

Obama’s intervention in Libya to protect civilians with a no fly zone, basically worked. Of course the later death of his Ambassador is a potential scandal that may claim some scalps.

And of course one has to give him credit for Osama bin Laden’s death. It was a high risk mission that could have destroyed his presidency if it ended up a shambles.  He trusted his military commanders and the special forces and his confidence was rewarded.

His decision to use a drone to kill to Anwar al-Aulaqi, a US citizen in Yemen, was controversial. It is the first ever extrajudicial execution of a US citizen ordered by a President.

With domestic policy the silly don’t ask, don’t tell policy ended and the world didn’t end. But he had done almost nothing sensible on immigration reform, and the health reform was in fact little more than requiring poor people to have private health insurance. he doesn’t have a very strong domestic legacy.  One many issues he has lets the polls decide for him. In 1996 he was for same-sex marriage. In 1998 he was undecided. In 2004 he was against same-sex marriage. In 2012 he was back to being for same-sex marriage.

On the economy, this is where he has failed, and in fact his policies are a danger to the US and world economy. The US deficit and debt must be reined in, and Obama’s policies of massively increasing spending are reckless. The Budget Control Act merely slows the rate of growth of debt, not reverses it. Federal spending is projected to continue to grow faster than the economy grows, and this is impossible to maintain. The US public debt grew by $1.9 trillion (think $6,300 per capita) in 2009 and $1.7 trillion in 2010.

So overall I think Obama has done pretty well on foreign policy, been average at best on domestic policy and bad on economic policy.

Mitt Romney

I thought Mitt Romney was a good Governor of Massachusetts, and he has a successful private sector career.

As Governor he passed health care legislation (not that different to Obama care), eliminated the state budget deficit and was pro-choice. Worth noting Romney got elected Governor by a 5% margin, despite every poll showing him behind the Democrat candidate.

As Governor he made many non-partisan appointments, and he also reduced the size of the state bureaucracy. He closed tax loopholes also. On the education side he funded the top 25% of high school students with tuition-free scholarships to public universities or colleges.

So I liked Governor Romney. Candidate Romney was a different case. He flip-flopped on so many issues.

He want from getting rid of ethanol subsidies, to supporting them in 2008 and then in 2012 against them. He went from supporting a cap and trade on carbon emissions to opposing them. he introduced individual health mandates, and then attacked Obama for them.

He did not support the Bush tax cuts, but now campaigns to keep them. His position on abortion has changed radically, as it has on stem cells.

For these reasons Romney was not my preferred candidate for the Republicans in 2008 or 2012. All politicians modify their positions to some degree. Obama certainly has. But Romney’s changes have been so many and dramatic you wonder what he really believes.

Obama v Romney

As I said I don’t think Obama has been a terrible President. For someone with just two years in the Senate (before near full-time campaigning) he has performed as about the level you’d expect. He’s made some good calls in quite a few areas. He’s failed to show leadership in quite a few also.

However his fiscal policy is dangerous and wrong. It is vital the US gets onto a path out of deficit. The deficit is massive. To break things down the US spends $121,000 a second. Of that $121,000 it borrows $52,000. This is so far living beyond the means, it is not funny.

Romney is a flip-flopper, and has said some silly things. but he does have a good proven record on financial management – both in government and the private sector. For that reason I would vote Romney. I seriously worry about the US economy with another four years of massive and growing deficits.

If Obama does get re-elected, his second-term performance on the economy will I believe form a large part of how history judges him.

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What happens if there is a tie?

November 1st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Real Clear Politics has the current Electoral College at 201 for Obama, 191 Romney and 146 tossups.  Romney has a 1% lead in the popular vote in the polls, but it is the Electoral College that counts. Each state has at least three electoral votes as they get one per Representative and one per Senator.

Now the tossups are:

  • Colorado 9
  • Florida 29
  • Iowa 6
  • Michigan 16
  • Nevada 6
  • New Hampshire 4
  • North Carolina 15
  • Ohio 18
  • Pennsylvania 20
  • Virgina 13
  • Wisconsin 10

Now lets say Obama wins Ohio 18, New Hampshire 4, Wisconsin 10, Michigan 16, and Pennsylvania 20. That takes him to 269 – the same as Romney would be with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Virgina and Wisconsin.

So what happens?

Well nothing at all until Monday the 17th of December when the Electoral College meets. Except they don’t meet. They meet in their 50(51) state capitals and cast their votes. It is theortically possible for an Electoral College delegate to not vote for the ticket they promised to. This has happened sometimes, but never in a way to change an outcome. The reality is that presidential candidates choose their most dedicated supporters to be the Electoral College nominees for them – so if the election delivered a 269-269 split, then almost certainly the Electoral College would vote 269-269.

Now only if a candidate gets an absolute majority (270) do they get elected. The formal count is done on Sunday 6 January 2013 by Congress in joint session, with the Vice-President presiding.  If the results of a state are disputed (as in 2000) then an objection signed by a Representive and a Senator will cause both bodies to individually consider the objection. Both the House and Senate would need to uphold the objection for it to be valid. This has not happened (upholding an objection) in modern history.

If no candidate has 270, then the House of Representatives is tasked with electing a President. They have done this in 1801 and 1825. However the voting is not a normal majority, but one vote per state delegation. So each state delegation would caucus to determine their vote. It would be the new House that votes and its composition is unknown. But the current House has Republicans in the majority in 33 delegations, the Democrats in 15 and two are tied. So safe to say the House would vote Romney as President easily.

However Ryan may not be Vice-President. The Senate would elect the Vice-President with one vote per Senator and 51 needed. And the Democrats are at 73 at Intrade to retain the Senate, Republicans 19% and 10% for a tie. If the Democrats kept the majority they could re-elect Joe Biden as Vice-President and you would have a Romney-Biden Administration. I suspect in reality the Democrats would vote for Ryan if the House clearly elected Romney, and Romney won the popular vote.

Now what if the House (most unlikely) or the Senate (possible) were also tied. Well if no President is elected by 20 January, the VP would be Acting President. If no President or VP elected, then then Speaker of the House would become the Acting President.

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The Des Moines Register endorses Mitt Romney

October 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney. Why is this news. The last time the Register endorsed a Republican for President was in 1972. They endorsed Jimmy Carter twice, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukasis, John Kerry etc. For them not to endorse Barack Obama, is momentous.

The Register is the daily newspaper of the largest city in Iowa, and it is a swing state – only six electoral votes, but not a state Obama will want to lose.Iowa has voted Democrat five of the last six presidential elections.

Why did they endorse a change:

American voters are deeply divided about this race. The Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement. Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge: pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands.

Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.

The former governor and business executive has a strong record of achievement in both the private and the public sectors. He was an accomplished governor in a liberal state. He founded and ran a successful business that turned around failing companies. He successfully managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority — and rightly so.

Romney wants this election to be about the economy.

He is still trailing in the electoral college vote, but slightly ahead in the popular vote. It is possible Obama could do a George W Bush and lose the popular vote, but still get elected.

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The final presidential debate

October 24th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Well I only followed it on Twitter, but the polls show Obama was judged better by a clear majority. This is not a surprise. His approval ratings for foreign policy have been consistently high, and in my opinion he does deserve credit for some of his work in this area. He did basically exit Iraq gracefully (on much the same timetable as Bush proposed though), and the surge in Afghanistan has worked (as it did in Iraq) and they are on track to leave there in the next term. And you have to give brownie points for killing Osama Bin Laden. The mission was risky, and could have ended in a Iran style Carter disaster effectively ending Obama’s presidency. It was a gutsy call to do it.

The killing of the US Ambassador to Libya is of course a low point – especially the misinformation from the US Government on why and how it happened, and the revelations that they were asked multiple times for more security. That issue is yet to be resolved.

The biggest reason not to vote for Obama on foreign policy grounds is probably the fact that John Kerry is his likely next Secretary of State. I think Hillary Clinton has generally done a good job, and I actually have a lot of respect for her. I have almost none for John Kerry. Think how close we came to a Kerry/Edwards presidency!

Too soon after the debate to know how it may have influenced the polls. Five Thirty Eight is projecting Obama 291 and Romney 247 – pretty close.  Real Clear Politics has Obama 281 and Romney 257. Pollster has Obama 254, Romney 191 and 94 tossups.

All the focus is now going on the key swing states – especially Ohio.

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The Al Smith Dinner

October 20th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Al Smith Dinner is a near-mandatory event in election years for presidential candidates. A white-tie fundraiser for Catholic charities in New York, the tone of the evening is light-hearted. Both Obama and Romney were in fine form.

Here Obama’s transcript. Some of my favourite lines:

 Everyone please take your seats otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them. …

This is the third time that Governor Romney have met recently. As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate.

Although it turns millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn’t focus in on the first debate and I happen to be one of them. I particularly want to apologize to Chris Matthews. Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg; this time around, I gave him a stroke.

Of course, there’s a lot of things I learned from that experience, for example, I learned that there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift.

Heh, killer line.

I’m still making the most of my time in the city. Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown.

Also heh.

And I have to admit, it can be a grind. Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever, but Paul Ryan assured me that we’ve only been running for two hours and fifty something minutes. …

Ultimately, though, tonight’s not about the disagreements Governor Romney and I may have. It’s what we have in common, beginning with our unusual names. Actually Mitt is his middle name, I wish I could use my middle name.

Classic.

Of course, world affairs are a challenge for every candidate. After — some of you guys remember — after my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I’m impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.

I love humourous attack lines.

And Romney:

Now Al, you were right, a campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. We — blue jeans in the morning perhaps, suits for a lunch fundraiser, sport coat for dinner, but it’s nice to finally relax and to wear what Ann and I wear around the house.

Superb – confronts the out of touch meme with humour.

Campaigns can be grueling, exhausting. President Obama and are each very lucky to have one person who is always in our corner, someone who we can lean on, and someone who is a comforting presence. Without whom, we wouldn’t be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife Ann, he has Bill Clinton.

Hilarious.

Of course the president has put his own stamp on relations with the church. There have been some awkward moments. Like when the president pulled Pope Benedict aside to share some advice on how to deal with his critics. He said, “Look Holy Father, whatever the problem is, just blame it on Pope John Paul II.”

Heh.

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Who do you side with?

October 15th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Another US politics quiz. You answer various questions, and it then analyses which presidential candidate you most side with. My results are:

  • Economy – Gary Johnson (libertarian)
  • Immigration – Mitt Romney
  • Foreign Policy – Barack Obama
  • Social – Gary Johnson
  • Science – Gary Johnson, Barack Obama and Jill Stein
  • Environment – Gary Johnson
  • Healthcare – Gary Johnson
  • Domestic Policy – Gary Johnson
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The big bird saga

October 11th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an embarrassment for Democrats, the creators of Big Bird ask the Obama campaign to scrap an anti-Romney ad featuring the popular TV children’s character.

Obama’s team had used Big Bird to attack Romney for vowing during the debate to cut funding for public television, but is now considering the request to pull the ad.

I think the Democrats are nuts for focusing on Big Bird. The US has a deficit in the hundreds of billions, and they are dying in a ditch over funding for a TV show that is in fact so commercially successful, it would do fine without a subsidy.

However, his supporters have grown increasingly distraught in recent days as Obama has largely stayed out of the public eye after his lackluster debate performance.

‘‘I’ve never seen a candidate self-destruct for no external reason this late in a campaign before,’’ pundit Andrew Sullivan wrote in The Daily Beast.

The polls have just got very tight. Huff Post reports

It is worth noting that the electoral college is what counts, not the popular vote. But of course they are linked. Will be a fascinating four weeks.

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The first debate

October 4th, 2012 at 6:07 pm by David Farrar

Well no one picked this. Not only did Romney do very well, but Obama failed to connect. Romney was relaxed and confident and talked about actual people to illustrate his points while Obama looked like he’d rather not be there.

Obama had obviously been told you’re the front runner so don’t mix it up too much – generally good advice, but he took it too far and came across to technical.

I don’t think the debate by itself will change the polls massively, but it will hearten the Republicans and help them with fundraising and getting activists out there. The challenge for Romney is to build on the momentum.

The next debate is the VP debate, and Biden could be anywhere from okay to awful, so the Democrats will be looking forward to the next presidential debate. Off memory it is on foreign policy where Obama should be stronger – and I suspect more aggressive.

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Romney and the 47%

September 19th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

An important rule in politics is to attack your opponent and their policies, but never to attack their voters. Mitt Romney broke this rule with his comments on how 47% of Americans will vote for Obama as they don’t pay income tax.

He is not the first major politician to say something at what he thought was a private meeting, and have it bite him. Obama himself in 2008 said that those who don’t support him tend to “cling to their guns or religion”. However his phrasing was not as harmful as Romney’s.

Romney always needed a strong campaign to win. He hasn’t had one and time is running out.

538 has Obama at 75% likely to win. Intrade now has him at 67%, which is a significant increase. For the first time also, the market has the Democrats favoured to retain control of the Senate.

It would be very hard for the Republicans to lose the House, so at this stage the most likely outcome is the status quo.

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It’s Ryan

August 12th, 2012 at 1:45 pm by David Farrar

Mitt Romney has selected Congressman Paul Ryan as his Vice-Presidential running mate, as expected.

Ryan is Chair of the House Budget Committee and his pick signifies the campaign will continue to be on economic management. Romney is a fair way behind Obama in the polls. The choice of Ryan will help him, and he will be a contrast to the bumbling Biden. However at the end of the day people vote for the P, not the VP.

The NY Times reports:

The decision instantly made the campaign seem bigger and more consequential, with the size and role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate. It was a choice intended to galvanize the Republican base and represented a clear tactical shift by Mr. Romney, who until now had been singularly focused on weak job growth since Mr. Obama took office.

“There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan,” Mr. Romney said in announcing his vice-presidential candidate. “I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t respect his character and judgment.”

When Mr. Ryan bounded onto the stage to join Mr. Romney, against a backdrop of the retired battleship Wisconsin, he carried a generational message; at 42, he is 23 years younger than Mr. Romney and is the same age as Mr. Romney’s oldest son. Neither man has military experience or much background in foreign policy.

If Romney and Ryan do not win, Ryan may be well placed in 2016. He may stand for the House again also, as allowed to under Wisconsin law.

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The US polls

April 15th, 2012 at 9:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has a piece by Jack Tame on the US presidential race. It makes it sound hopeless for Mitt Romney:

He’s a corporate Ned Flanders. Polished, handsome enough, religious and so very wholesome – the kind of guy you wouldn’t take to Vegas.

Many will say it’s what America needs, that in a time of economic insecurity, policy should triumph over personality. The problem for Romney is, that’s not how politics work.

A lot of Americans simply don’t like him. Women, African-Americans, Hispanics, even far-right Republicans and Evangelical Christians say they will struggle to support their party’s own nominee.

The female vote is of particular concern. An ABC poll this week had Romney 19 points behind Obama among female voters. He has been tarred by the controversial birth control policies of the ultra-right and many female voters say Obama has a better understanding of women’s issues.

Romney’s African-American support isn’t much better. Facing America’s first black President he wouldn’t realistically have expected a large percentage of the black vote, but he might have tried. There are no high-ranking African-American staff on his campaign, and he has had few endorsements from high-profile black politicians.

Support among Hispanics, who make up 10 per cent of eligible voters, is now almost as grim. By way of a particularly unscientific and completely unrepresentative poll, I popped into a Spanish Harlem laundromat on the day of Santorum’s withdrawal, and ended up chatting with the Mexican proprietor.

“Amigo!” he said.

“Amigo!” I said.

“So … Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? Who do you want to be president?” I asked.

“With Obama, nothing has become better,” he said, “but I’ll still vote for him.”

Among Latin voters, polls have Obama as much as five times more popular than his counterpart-to-be.

So what do the current polls show?

Pollster has Romney and Obama both tied at 45.2%. Not bad for someone no-one likes. Pollster (which averages all the public polls) finds Romney has 46.7% unfavourability, and Obama has 46.1% unfavourability. So where are the stories on how unpopular Obama is?

Now don’t get me wrong. Obama is the favourite to win at this stage, but this article suggests the gap is huge, and Romney is doing very badly.

Traditionally all republican candidates do worse amongst women. The historical average is around 12%, so the current gap of 19% is greater. And no Republican candidate has ever had significant African-American or even Hispanic support.

Romney leads Obama by 26% amongst white men. That is not enough to win, but helps counter the weaknesses in other areas. Obama and Romney are neck and neck amongst white women, and that is the likely battleground.

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Its Romney v Obama

April 11th, 2012 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential bid, which effectively confirms former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.

Romney has around 60% of the delegates he needs, but should comfortably win enough in the remaining primaries.

It will be interesting to see if the GOP is able to unite behind Romney. Obama is the favourite at this stage – 61% on Intrade, against 37% for Romney. However the Republicans should now start to target Obama rather than each other.

The Pollster average of the polls has Obama at 46.1% and Romney 44.5%, so the race is definitely competitive. Of course it is electoral college votes that count, not the popular vote, but the two are linked.

Also at this stage the Republicans are favoured to retain the House and gain a majority in the Senate, so if Romney can win, he will probably have a supportive Congress.

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The next stages for the Republicans

February 6th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Romney won Nevada easily with 48% of the vote. This is somewhat significant as conventional wisdom had been that he was having trouble getting out of the 30s, and hence when there is just one opponent left, they might beat him.

In the five primaries and caucuses to date Romney has averaged 41%, Gingrich 31%, Santorum 14% and Ron Paul 11%. Romney is estimated to have 97 delegates out of 131.  You need 1,144 to win.

The Maine caucuses are underway, but have only 24 delegates. Romney won then by 31% in 2008.

Colorado with 36 delegates is on the 7th. Romney won that by 42% in 2008 but the latest poll has him 14% ahead of Santorum. Minnesota with 37 delegates also on the 7th. Santorum is on 29%, Romney 27% and Gingrich 22% in latest polls there.

The third one on the 7th is Missouri. 36 delegates.

After that you have Arizona and Michigan on the 28th of February and Washington on 3rd of March. That is the last one before Super Tuesday on 6 March.

Arizona has Romney on 48% and Gingrich 24%. 29 delegates. Michigan has 30 delegates.Washington has 43.

Super Tuesday is not as big this year – down from 24 states to 10 states. However 437 delegates up for grabs. So you don’t need as much money as previously to stay in the race and buy advertising time.

 

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Will it be Romney v Paul

January 11th, 2012 at 4:13 pm by David Farrar

As expected Mitt Romney has won New Hampshire. This was very much expected as he was a neighbouring Governor. What is more interesting is the order of the others and what may happen in South Carolina, which votes next.

AP reports on 52% of the votes:

  1. Romney 37%
  2. Paul 23%
  3. Huntsman 17%
  4. Gingrich 10%
  5. Santorum 10%

Romney leads in the polls for South Caroline and Florida. But Gingrich is not far behind in Florida, and will be out for blood.

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PC on Ron Paul

January 10th, 2012 at 3:12 pm by David Farrar

Peter Cresswell blogs:

Ron Paul is not a libertarian. He

  • rejects the Jeffersonian principle of a “wall of separation” between religion and government;
  • is anti-immigration (“to the right of most Republicans” says Vodka Pundit Steve Green);
  • is anti-abortion (Paul describes “the rights of unborn people” [sic] as “the greatest moral issue of our time,” and “abortion on demand” as “the ultimate State tyranny”);
  • “plays footsie” with racists and kooks;
  • is a hypocritical supporter of pork-barrel earmarks for his own congressional district;
  • is opposed to free-trade agreements (like NAFTA); and
  • is appallingly “blame-America-first” on  foreign policy.

I don’t count his writings of 20 years ago too much against him, or even his foreign policy. I even understand his earmark rationale. And even libertarians disagree on abortion. The lack of commitment to religion and state being separate, the opposition to immigration and opposition to free trade agreements (he says note pure enough, but perfect is the enemy of good) is what I regard as the biggest marks against him.

PC says:

In short, then, and to repeat, he is not a libertarian: he is a “states-rights” religious conservative, with all the intellectual confusion that implies …

That he can masquerade as a friend to freedom at all demonstrates how far the intellectual battle for freedom still needs to travel.

Because the harsh fact about Ron Paul is that on the few occasions he takes off the tinfoil hat and talks Austrian he’s damn good. But when he’s wearing the tinfoil headwear, as he does the rest of the time, he’s rotten.

He is damn good on most economic issues. He is not a viable candidate for President in 2012 though, at the age of 77. I think it is good he flies the flag on many issues.

I was chatting to someone today about how it would be fun if the Republicans had no one get a majority and it was a brokered convention!

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