Saturday, December 29, 2007
And, to ensure that she stays on track with her tone deaf campaign management, it now appears that Hillary's campaign is using sock-puppetry to try and generate support and interest on the Internet. Wow - talk about dumb!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Hillary continues her tone deaf campaign by not taking any questions at her campaign stops in Iowa. Does the woman not get it, or is she simply believing her own press releases? The whole point of the early caucus in Iowa and the early primary in New Hampshire is that the candidates make themselves accessible to the public in ways that they cannot do later in the campaign. Accessibility means answering questions not brushing people off. And given how seriously folks here in Iowa (and, I have heard, in New Hampshire too!) take their responsibility in the caucuses, brushing them off like this will only result in pissing them off. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It is no wonder that Theo Caldwell of the National Post in Canada (h/t Captain Ed) states quite bluntly that the only possible choice for President is a Republican - in fact, almost any of the current crop of Republican candidates:
An obvious choice can be unnerving. When the apparent perfection of one option or the unspeakable awfulness of another makes a decision seem too easy, it is human nature to become suspicious.
This instinct intensifies as the stakes of the given choice are raised. American voters know no greater responsibility to their country and to the world than to select their president wisely. While we do not yet know who the Democrat and Republican nominees will be, any combination of the leading candidates from either party will make for the most obvious choice put to American voters in a generation. To wit, none of the Democrats has any business being president.
And that's from Canada, eh! Will it hold true in Iowa? Who knows...
Monday, December 24, 2007
While driving around on errands today, which I was glad to do since it got me out of the house, and Kath was glad for me to do for exactly the same reason, I heard adverts for Hillary a number of times. All were the same, and the theme was how marvelous she was because the Des Moines Register endorsed her. Frankly, that is lame in a major way. Fine, if you let the Register do all your thinking for you, then this endorsement means something. But most folks here in Iowa don't. The Register serves primarily as a paper for people to complain about. The advert will have done nothing to encourage undecided voters to support Hillary, and at this stage, she needs those folks pretty seriously.
And that was not the only error of hers that I learned of today. Apparently, the campaign has been handing out supporter cards with a caucus date of January 14th on them - major oops! That is an act of supreme incompetence for a campaign. If it were the only such act, that would be one thing, but the campaign has made a number of these errors of late. Why? Well, perhaps they believed their own press releases that Hillary was the inevitable candidate, and forgot to actual work at making that happen. Contributing to that may have been the media tendency to give those they favor a pass when it comes to the hard questions. That means the media favorites are not battle tested, and so in the real fight, they come up short. A similar thing may be happening to Mike Huckabee, as we get from his campaign a daily dose of bad news. The latest bad news for him, and this is I think fatal in terms of his candidacy, is that he has received significant speaking fees ($35K) from Novo Nordisk "one of the world's largest embryonic stem cell researchers." As noted in the link, the MSM seem to be burying this one, which in the long run will only serve to weaken Huckabee (just as Kerry was weakened because the press did not ask him more detailed questions about his experiences in Vietnam - had they done so, and had his campaign responded appropriately, there would have been nothing for the Swift Boat Veterans to say. But, they didn't and the rest is history).
Given all of which, a further reminder that the polls are basically rubbish for things like caucuses is served up here. The only polls that matter are the numbers that come out of the caucuses, not those going in!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
How all this will affect the caucuses is unclear. If the caucuses had been last night, would I have attended? Yes, absolutely. Would everyone who plans to attend on January 3? Who knows - caucus goers are a pretty dedicated bunch. So, who will win if the weather is bad? Probably the same person as will win regardless! Probably naive of me, but there you go.
So, what to consider on a day like today, which first of all is a pre-Christmas family day, and second is cold, snowy, windy, and full of driveways to be plowed? How about considering immigration!
Of my four remaining possible choices (Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain) this is probably an issue in which Thompson is strongest. His proposal for dealing with this is clear, and in many ways similar to the others (enforce the laws, reform the current system so it works efficiently, and then, and only then, consider making changes). As an approach it is eminently sensible, and as noted, the four candidates all pretty much agree on this, so why does Thompson have an edge?
Put simply, the issue is credibility. Both Giuliani and Romney have incidents in their past in which their commitment to the enforcement of the immigration laws were less than stellar. While both are currently talking the talk, and both sound credible in what they say, there is a question that can fairly be lodged against both candidates about their past practices. With McCain, this issue is magnified. Earlier this year McCain was strongly in favor of a bill that essentially granted amnesty, in all but name, to illegal immigrants. He claims he has "heard the people speak" and will thus change his approach in the future, but...
So, on the issue of immigration, the award clearly goes to Thompson. Not that the others could not do a good job if they actually do what they say they will do, but he has a much better record than any of them on this issue.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
So, what do these on-line polls mean? Traditionally, the answer has been not very much, and indeed that may well be the case today, but...
Maybe on-line polls are not much less accurate than traditional phone polls. The phone polls today face a number of challenges (e.g. people not having land lines, multiple candidates and small sample sizes, etc.) and we know that the folks who take the on-line polls are likely reading about issues relating to the race on the blogs where they vote. Of course, the on-line polls can be deliberately skewed if a single candidate's campaign gets a bunch of people to go to the blog and do Chicago style voting (early and often) and there is some evidence that the Paul campaign has done this in the past. However, I think in this case the on-line polling may be hooking into a strong phenomenon of growing support for Thompson. I think he will get a very pleasant surprise come early January!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Bob Krumm explains who he has endorsed, and why, at this post. He uses an excellent system of analysis for this, but I have to admit to skepticism, if only because of this quote of his:
Depending on how you look at it, I am either blessed or cursed with an analytical mind. So when making big decisions I’ve long attempted to quantify the relative merits of the choices available to me. One simple tool I have found useful is the decision matrix. Even my wife has become a convert to its utility. We’ve used decision matrices to buy three different cars, select a dog breed, and choose our vacation destinations. And so, I have again turned to a decision matrix to help determine who I support for President.
I have bolded the sentence I find particularly troublesome. If, indeed, he has persuaded his wife to use decision matrices, he owes it to all other males on the planet to share his methods for doing so!
Tancredo has dropped out and endorsed Romney, which is a little bit surprising. Tancredo's main concern is, and has been consistently for a number of years, illegal immigration. I am not sure that Romney is the one I would choose as being the strongest on illegal immigration, but then again, the endorsement is Tancredo's to give, not mine!
And I am thankful to learn that I am not the only one who was deeply troubled by the Hillary Christmas Ad. Ann Althouse has put it splendidly (ht: Instapundit):
Isn't this like when you get presents from family members and you know they charged it on your credit card?
Exactly! After all, it IS our money that is paying for all those gifts Hillary is wrapping - not hers...
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I am shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that
Anyway, I went to the Thompson event in Coralville yesterday, a Town Hall type meeting on one of the local radio stations (KCJJ) and was suitably impressed. Thompson gave very thoughtful and complete answers to his questioners, but most impressive of all was when he was asked a question by a member of the Meskwaki tribe about relations between Native American Tribes and the Federal Government. Thompson said he did not know enough about the particular issue to respond, but he would find out so that he could act appropriately. In other words, he was willing to say that he did not know - a huge and potentially dangerous admission for a politician to make, but also absolutely the right thing to do. This is I think part of what makes him a very impressive candidate, plus, as others have noted, his wife is indeed extremely cute (not, of course, that that should make any difference :)). Oh, and I do know the photo is not exactly the best in the world. Getting a clear shot was almost impossible - the traditional media photographers were like piranhas with a crippled cow for lunch.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Given that, it begins to look like Fred Thompson may be surging at the right time. He began his bus tour of Iowa yesterday in Dubuque, and tomorrow will be in this neck of the woods, so I will try to hear him. There is a little bit of a buzz that he might well be on the rise, but is it real? Time will tell.
This ties in with a sense that the momentum for Huckabee may be stalling (but as noted in the link all it shows is that his support is not increasing, rather than that it is decreasing). I remain confident in my predictions, but given my track record on such things, I would strongly suggest that nobody puts any money on said predictions!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
We are now less than three weeks until caucus night, and the race seems as interesting as ever. Right now, it looks like Huckabee is leading, Romney is second, Thompson and Guiliani are pretty close for third place, with McCain running in fifth, at least in part because he, commendably, insists on telling us here in Iowa that subsidies for ethanol are a bad idea. Good policy, but probably less good for his chances in the caucuses!
However, I do not expect the race to finish this way. I think that Huckabee will begin to fade fairly rapidly from here on in. His conservative credentials are lacking in some important areas and the scrutiny he is receiving is beginning to demonstrate these. What I think we will see happening, and I am not alone, is Thompson beginning to get a lot of interest and support. In part this will come from his bus tour across Iowa, but I think it will also come as support drains away from Huckabee to Thompson. Obviously, a lot can change in this time, but I will stick my neck out and predict Thompson wins Iowa, with Romney second, and Guiliani and Huckabee pretty close together in third place. Likely I am totally wrong, but remember, you saw it here first!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I think that at this time, if one of my five potential choices is to be dropped, it should be Mike Huckabee. While he has the executive experience of running the State of Arkansas as governor, the record would suggest that from the point of view of fiscal policy, he was not particularly conservative. I am also concerned that he seems overly committed to a "nanny state." So, given that, I am now down to four candidates, and I shall see how my thinking develops on them over the next three weeks.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics.
Those are a lot tougher to overcome.
It was revealing, too, when Hart pushed them to envision these senators as leaders of the country or, as he put it, their ``boss.'' Obama, they say, would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary.
Now in some ways, this is unfair. A scary leader may not be a bad leader, but there is unfortunately more bade news for Senator Clinton:
Candor and authenticity were repeatedly cited. ``I don't feel like I look at her and see someone who's telling me the whole truth,'' says Allison Lowrey, a 30-year-old human- resources consultant. ``I'd like to see her approach a problem without the polls'' helping her make her decision, says Andrew Alebergo, a 39-year-old tanning-salon operator.
Even strong Hillary supporters acknowledge the electorate's deep-seated concerns. ``She is walking a fine tightrope now, because she is such a divisive personality,'' says Lynda Connelly, a thoughtful 58-year-old Red Cross manager. She plans to vote for Clinton while fearing that, if elected, ``the right- wing noise machine is going to do everything it can to derail her.''
This isn't an anti-Hillary crowd. She gets high marks for her experience, intelligence and toughness; these qualities, they suspect, are what voters demand.
Their hopes and dreams, though, are with Obama, 46. If he can dispel misgivings about his electability or experience, the formidable Clinton forces may be powerless.
This is one reason why I was so impressed by Obama speaking out about social security. That was the mark of a leader - someone willing to tackle difficult issues even if they know that what they say will not be popular. If you are poll driven, then you will never have the courage to speak out like that.
In the long run, I think that leadership is what counts. There is a lot of discussion, for example, on right wing blogs about the stance that Bush took on embryonic stem cell research. Some agreed with him, and some did not, but as far as I could tell everyone thought that he did well to speak about it.
So, which of the Republican five have the most leadership quality in this regard. I think Fred Thompson has shown a willingness to tackle awkward topics well and has demonstrated leadership by doing so. I think Rudy has shown this by his forthright manner of addressing the differences he has with some on topics of abortion. McCain has shown leadership by the stance he has taken on immigration and campaign finance reform (although I think he is wrong on both counts). McCain may well be the one who shows the limitations on such leadership. People will follow a leader up to the point when that leader's views on critical issues diverge from their own too much. How much is too much? A very personal issue that each one of us has to decide! Sorry, but on that score there are no easy answers.
My apologies too for the rather cryptic title to this post. A major ice storm is forecast to start in about three hours, and will likely close down much of eastern Iowa, including Iowa City. I may or may not get to blog tomorrow - I know, the suspense is killing you!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Leadership is one of those things that are difficult to define, but obvious when seen. It is sometimes confused with good management, yet the two are fundamentally different. In a discussion over Thanksgiving (and a good malt whisky) a good friend of mine and I decided that leadership is to management as vision is to strategy. This, while no doubt very profound (as such deep thoughts, spawned in a good malt, so often are) is still less than illuminating.
So, given this tricky issue, what sort of leadership do I see in the five Republican candidates that I am considering? Clearly Huckabee, Romney, and Guiliani all have governmental executive experience, having been either governor or mayor themselves. This is no small thing. In the last 40 years, only President George H. W. Bush (Bush the elder) has been elected President without having been a governor, and he had executive experience running the CIA. The fact that Guiliani has only been a mayor rather than a governor is irrelevant, given that he was mayor of New York, which has significantly more residents than either Arkansas or Massachusetts.
However, not having been a governor (or big city mayor) need not be a barrier to the Presidency (in spite of recent history). Clearly, the Democrats do not think so, since their last two Presidential nominees have not been governors, nor do any of their current front runners have gubernatorial experience. And certainly, John McCain's experience in the Hanoi Hilton was clear evidence of significant leadership under the most appalling conditions. Whether Fred Thompson has that leadership experience is less clear.
And yet, in these words I am making the same confusion between managerial skill and leadership as I warned against above. Leadership is something more than running a large organization, whether that be a state, one of the world's great cities, a major government bureaucracy, or a corporation. It is the ability to inspire people under the worst possible conditions. And that is why both McCain and Guiliani are such formidable candidates, because both have shown that ability to lead. McCain's demonstration was in the darkest of days, and was conducted under almost invisible conditions. Guiliani's leadership took place on the world stage, under the spotlight, and was singularly effective. Those who are now trying to attack Guiliani for his role as mayor in the aftermath of 9/11 are doing so because they recognize, whether explicitly or not, just how important and appealing the leadership he showed then is to the presidential race.
Clearly leadership is not the only desirable quality in a presidential candidate, nor do I wish to diminish the possible leadership qualities of Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson, but McCain and Guiliani are both very clearly leaders. Next November, that could be critical.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Of course, what goes up, must come down, both in gravitational fields and in politics. And with more than three weeks to go before caucus night it maybe that this rise is too soon. With good numbers come increased scrutiny, and the scrutiny has not been kind so far. News has come out that he supported an AIDS quarantine, in 1992, and is also on record as saying that homosexuality is sinful (again, in 1992 - by which I mean that he said it in 1992, not that homosexuality was sinful, according to Huckabee, only in 1992 - clearly my grammar needs work!). Various other issues are being raised, such as his role in paroling a rapist who subsequently raped and killed someone, his fiscal actions while governor of Arkansas, and his tendency toward "Nanny Statism" with regard to health care. None of these may hurt him with his base here in Iowa, but they may limit his ability to grow beyond his base.
A ripple effect of the surge of Huckabee is that it may make life a little easier for Romney. Romney did very well with his speech on Thursday (see here for some quotes) and will likely see a bump in the polls as a result. The Sunday morning news shows tomorrow will likely focus on this a lot, along with another recent development, which is...
That Fred Thompson has decided to roll the dice in Iowa in a major way (hat tip to the Corner). He will be in the State, traveling around by bus, every day between now and the caucuses except for Christmas day. I, and others, have been waiting, with increasing impatience, for Fred to get moving. His policy statements are great, his ideas are excellent and exciting, but he needs to close the deal. Perhaps, by bus, he can do it! His Senatorial campaign succeeded on the basis of a state tour in a red pickup - maybe the bus will do the same for him.
So, lots of excitement in the coming weeks here in Iowa. And on the home front, I got a visit this evening from a couple who are the precinct captains for Obama. Very friendly and pleasant, and if this is indicative of the level of organization of the Obama team, a good sign for him. It should be noted that while I am a registered Republican, my daughter, who is living at home at present, is a registered Democrat, and it was her they were coming to see!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
On the Democratic side it looks to me as if the wheels are falling off the Hillary campaign. She still has time to fix the problems, although Iowa may have slipped beyond her grasp, but her response to her falling poll numbers has been incredibly incompetent to date. Attacking Obama because he wrote an essay about wanting to be President in kindergarten is pathetic. The only reason she has not been buried already is that her opponents have been slow to hammer her. I can only speculate that Obama in particular is waiting for a particularly heinous example of Hillary panic, and he will then strike - the closer the caucuses get, the more payoff this might give him, but it is a somewhat risky project.
In terms of the yard sign watch, the number is still small. The only new one I have seen lately is for Biden, so things are just as uncertain as before.
The big news on the Republican side is the surge of Huckabee in Iowa, and nationally. It is quite clear that he has suddenly hit the prime time. The good side of this for him is obvious, but the drawback will be the attention his ideas now receive. I say this not as an implied criticism of Huckabee, but more as a general comment. Jim Geraghty examines his foreign policy, noting where it particularly differs from the conservative mainstream. In contrast with Huckabee's rise, there is the apparent disappearance of team Fred from the radar screen, almost totally. About the only thing I have seen about Fred recently is a quote from Rush Limbaugh, that Jim Geraghty thought was pretty close to a non-endorsement endorsement by Rush. If Thompson wants to do well enough in Iowa, he needs to start being more "present" in the news, regardless of his pollster's valid comments.
Romney is due to give his big "religion" talk tomorrow. Whether this helps him in Iowa remains to be seen, but it will likely give him a boost nationally. Guiliani has taken some hits of late, and McCain does not seem to be moving much in either direction.
In short, on both sides, the race is extremely volatile, so the excitement continues to build.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Republican voters believe Hillary will be the nominee and that she will be extraordinarily tough to beat.So, track and see whether or not he is correct...
They also know it will require an enormous amount of money and energy to beat her.
The vast majority of them know this political context limits their choices to one of two candidates: Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
There isn't going to a stampede to Huckabee or a Fred Revival, period. If Romney can deliver three or four early wins and back it up with the cash he has amassed plus much of his own on February 5, he will be the nominee.
If he can't, Rudy will be the nominee.
Fred Thompson has been making a bit of a splash today, first of all with the release of his plan for income taxes, which is pretty interesting. It offers a simple option, with very limited deductions (for example, no deduction for mortgage interest payments) and only two rates (10% up to $100,000 for couples filing jointly, and 25% above that). The personal deductions and those for children are such that a family of four would pay no tax at all on earnings up to $39,000. Feasible? Who knows, but it is a plan, and serves as a good point of discussion. As might be expected, some folk are already saying that the country cannot afford it (see the comments on this site). This is a legitimate area for discussion, but it should be remembered that Fred has given us something concrete to discuss, and that should be considered good.
Another issue with Fred Thompson has been the charge that he is lazy when campaigning. It would appear that this is not the case. I wonder who might spread such tales, and why? In addition to that, Fred was on Fox News Sunday today. Some said he did well, others thought he did poorly. I think he is playing the game a different way, and that carries both risks and rewards. For Fred, he has to make it to South Carolina, win there, and still have enough momentum (or cash - the two may be effectively equivalent) to do well in the Southern States on February 5. Watch this space...
The pace will pick up relentlessly between now and Christmas, so I will leave tomorrow for Europe, to see what they are saying about the race over there (if anything!). With luck, and a certain degree of electronic cooperation, I shall be able to post while over there.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
According to some, the focus for the Democrats is now going to be all Iowa, all the time, until January 3. I think that may overstate things, but it does seem as if the Iowa Caucuses will be far more important for the Dems than for the Republicans. Whichever of the big three Dems gets a win here will be given a big boost, whereas there seems to be much less likelihood of a bounce on the Republican side. If Romney wins, well he should, given all the money he has spent here. If he loses, he will be hurt for that same reason, but it is unlikely to be a deadly blow. McCain has not put much effort into the state, apparently because his stance on things like corn subsidies make it a very hard win for him (see this Washington Post article, which includes a quote from one of my colleagues - I do love to bask in reflected fame!). Huckabee needs a win or a second place in Iowa or he will wither on the vine, but he is a long shot at present anyway. Rudy is fighting here, but seems more invested in New Hampshire. And Fred is also here, but not much, and is more invested in South Carolina. So, much less fireworks likely on January 3 on the GOP side than on the Dems.
The uneasiness about Hillary in some quarters continues. The sense that she is trying to manage the press and avoid any embarrassing (or, perhaps more accurately, any worthwhile and pointed) questions is captured here. She has also put together an advert that, according to Howard Kurtz is meant to protect her, or as the "Divine Ms. Althouse" puts it: "How dare you questions her!" A more direct approach against Hillary is taken by Grover Norquist, who is promoting an anti-nepotism amendment to the constitution, specifically to neuter political dynasties.
Of interest in all this is an excellent report in the Telegraph (based in England). Two reporters crossed the USA from Portland Maine to San Diego, and then again from Seattle to Florida, doing a lot of listening on the way, and spending a lot of time in flyover country. Their findings are interesting. Of Hillary, they note:
While we found many people who hated Mrs Clinton, those who loved her were few and far between. Certainly, many said they would vote for her, but the reasons cited tended to be her status as the top Democrat, the fact that she was battle-tested against Republicans and - for some women - the fact that she would be the first female president.
Such support might register in the opinion polls, but could melt away should the former First Lady lose in Iowa. And the frequently expressed nightmare for Democrats is that she will win their party's nomination but lose to a Republican next November when most Americans decide they don't much like her.
"I'm always amazed how we can screw things up," said Steve Ayers, a coffee-shop owner in Hannibal. "Maybe the way we screw it up this time is by nominating Hillary - across the Midwest that would be the only way of unifying Republicans."
The interesting thing here is that this report is probably about as objective as you can get at this point in time. These folks do not have a horse in this race, yet they seem to be indicating that the story in the media is seriously incorrect. They also seem to be saying that this year, as perhaps never before, the field is wide open. That is a continuing theme, and will likely have a great deal more importance than any other factor at this time. Here in Iowa, a lot of folk will be going to the caucuses without their final decisions having been made.
And just to further confound conventional wisdom, there is now a report out that the Democrats, and not the GOP, are the party of the rich. What impact, if any, this will have is unknown...
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
There has been some political response to the news today. Not surprisingly, there was a very upbeat comment from the White House. To my mind, a critical quote from that is the following:
The President believes medical problems can be solved without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life. We will continue to encourage scientists to expand the frontiers of stem cell research and continue to advance the understanding of human biology in an ethically responsible way.
We need to consider the ethical implications of scientific advances more than we typically do, and I hope that the stem cell issue will prove to be a good case study for this. Romney can claim a certain prescience on this issue because of his remarks on this topic in June of this year. Fred Thompson had a comment on this topic, and he noted, quite correctly, that adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells have far more successes to their name than do embryonic stem cells:
There is exciting news for patients today. In yet another breakthrough for adult cell research, scientists have made normal human skin cells take on the relevant properties of embryonic stem cells. That is in addition to 73 breakthroughs for adult and cord blood research to date. There are still no embryonic stem cell breakthroughs.
Anyway, regardless of who makes political hay on this topic, it is good news, and once again congratulations to those scientists who made the breakthrough happen.
In other daily dose news, Hillary took a swing at Obama today on his supposed experience from living overseas. So much for her not being negative... It is not impossible that this is in response to the latest poll numbers from Iowa, which show her losing her lead there. Some folks are suggesting that it might be best for her to finish third there, which does not sound so good to me, but who knows? Mickey Kaus paints a not-unreasonable scenario that would have Hillary pulling out of Iowa in about three weeks time if she is not moving back into the lead by then. He makes a good argument, so I guess we should keep watching that one.
Monday, November 19, 2007
That said, not all went well for Mike Hukabee today. The National Review Online had a lead article on his candidacy, and labeled him as offering:
a mixture of populism and big-government liberalism
Clearly in their view anyway, he is not a good candidate. Hmmm!
In other news today, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle about some rather unpleasant push polling in New Hampshire. I do not think we have got to the bottom of this yet, but it sounds as if someone is doing some phone polling to attack Romney on the basis of his religious affiliation (he is, if you did not know it, a Mormon). A good article by Mark Hemingway digs into this further with some potentially surprising results! Oh what fun and games...
Talking of fun and games, Mitt Romney is attacking Rudy for his past actions on immigration. Specifically, Mitt claims that Rudy supported sanctuary cities, and it is true that you can find quotes from some years ago (pre 9/11) by Rudy to that effect. The extent to which these attacks on Rudy will stick remains to be seen. It seems to me to be an attempt to label Rudy with the "flip flop" label. Given that Mitt has had that label thrown at him a lot, I am not sure it is a wise strategy on his part to draw attention to anyone doing any flip-flopping.
Hillary cannot be pleased by a recent poll in Iowa, reported today by the Washington Post, which has Obama ahead of her, 30% to 26%. I remain unconvinced over the value of these various polls some 45 days out, but certainly the trend here (toward Obama and away from Hillary) cannot be pleasing to the junior Senator from New York.
Another poll in New Hampshire reported by CNN shows Romney gaining ground and both Guiliani and Thompson losing ground. Again, I am a bit skeptical about these polls, and I think the most important thing noted in this poll report was the final paragraph, to whit:
But the poll suggests the GOP race remains fluid with about two months left before the New Hampshire primary, the official date of which remains unsettled. Only 14 percent of those surveyed said they had definitely decided on a candidate, while 29 percent said they were leaning toward one — and 56 percent were still trying to decide.
In short, the race on both sides is still wide open!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Does tonight's debate matter? Normally they don't but I think this one matters a lot. If Hillary does not do well, then the "taste" of the last debate (which was a disaster for her) sticks around. If she is as bad as last time out, then the wheels come off totally. If she is somewhere in between (most likely outcome) then she will continue to lose her lead, but it will still be reversible. We shall see...So, in light of that, what do I think happened? Well, the initial result seemed to be pretty good for Hillary. The crowd was with her, and she managed to avoid any pitfalls in her responses. Also, Wolf Blitzer was a total wimp and asked no hard questions at all, and when handed the chance on a plate to follow up to her replies, failed to do so.
But now it turns out that the deck in Vegas was stacked for Hillary. Given that, it is no wonder she did so well. So, what does this mean? First, the Vegas debate does nothing good for Hillary in terms of overcoming her previous debate performance. Her relatively reasonable performance is meaningless in light of all the help she had. But more importantly, this appears to continue the theme of Hillary - that she never answered a question she didn't plant. The debate was planted, her meetings in Iowa are full of planted questions, and the one time she gets asked a mildly difficult question that wasn't planted, she lost it. This sends the message, if people wish to hear it, that she is not ready for prime time. And the Iowa voters may well hear that message loud and clear. As of now (and there are still 47 days to go) I do not think Hillary will win in Iowa.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
What do I like about him? The first thing is that he is putting out specific ideas or policies that he would pursue (or that he says he would pursue) if elected. As others have noted, he is putting out clear ideas on social security, immigration, and the size of the military.
Of the three things he has touched on in detail so far, two of them (social security and immigration) are topics that I think are extremely important. His ideas on social security seem, at the very least, like a good starting point. Clearly, in going from his proposal to a change in the current system would involve a lot of horse trading, and the final result would no doubt be different from what he has proposed, but I think I could live with his proposal, and more importantly, I think my children could too. Under the current system, I will likely get something from social security, but my children would not (it will be bankrupt long before they get to retire). Fred's proposals address this. Yes, they include the big left wing bogeyman of Personal Retirement Accounts but any feasible solution will likely have to do that. He includes some good charts that clearly show the fiscal benefits of his program compared with the current one, although some will no doubt argue with his assumption of a 23% cut in benefits in 2041 if no changes are made. In short, there is enough detail in his plan to make it debatable (by which I mean, you can actually discuss the plan on its merits!) and that serves us all.
His ideas on immigration are also very clear and thorough. I particularly like that he is suggesting a fairly simple approach initially (basically, enforce existing laws). The ideas he suggest seem fair. In fact, they are a great deal fairer than Mexico is in its immigration law! He also makes it clear that he is firmly against any amnesty program (well, it didn't exactly work as promised last time, did it?) and firmly behind requiring employers to verify the legality of their employees. He takes that one a step further and proposes denying employers of illegal aliens tax deductions for wages paid to those illegal aliens. Finally, he has some good ideas for improving and streamlining (which it desperately needs) the current legal immigration process. I am sure there will be some debate about the English as the official language proposal that he has, but it seems to me that proposal is a suitable topic for discussion. There are pros and cons to it, and we should, as a society, discuss them. It would be unfortunate indeed if such a discussion were hampered by overemotional and unfounded charges of xenophobia and bigotry.
I am less familiar with Fred's stance on the military, but again, I welcome the fact that he has made a clear stance. There is lots in his program that will generate some heated discussion. He calls for a strong missile defense program, and for what I understand to be some significant changes (increases) in force levels. He also stresses the need to stay strong in space (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, anyone?) and the need for strong intelligence and cybersecurity abilities. In doing all this, he does not shy away from the issue of cost, attaching a target spending goal of 4.5% of GDP to meet his goals. That is a significant boost from current levels, but he feels it is needed, and spells out in detail why it is needed. Again, the final form of this program would not be exactly what he is suggesting, but as the old saying goes, if you don't know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.
Fred also has position papers up on his site on Israel and on Traditional American Values. The values white paper is less detailed than others, but the Israel paper covers a lot of ground and is fairly specific. The value of these two papers, as with the others above, is that they create a space within which a well-reasoned discussion can take place.
In addition to the white papers, Fred has a number of shorter statements on a variety of issues (e.g. tax reform, healthcare, education). While these statements do not include the details of the white papers, they clearly are a first step in framing a discussion on these issues. I like that!
In fact, the willingness of Fred Thompson to be so specific and forthright in his views and ideas, and thereby to frame a whole number of discussions is a clear sign of leadership on Fred's part. He has made a point of being "different" in his approach to the campaign, and while some would no doubt term this merely a gimmick, I like it. Politics as usual has not been terribly successful, after all! I think the first sign I got of this unique aspect of Fred's approach was when he did his famous video rebuttal to Michael Moore on the issue of health care in Cuba - if you haven't seen it, make sure you do - it is a thirty eight second classic.
Anyway, I am currently very impressed with Fred, and as noted above I think if the caucus were tonight, he would get my vote. A week is of course a long time in politics, and we are seven weeks away, but nonetheless...
What will Wolf ask? I would think that the Chinese fundraising issue might be a good topic, or the money donated by people that Bill pardoned. Either one deserves an answer. Perhaps some other topic will come up, or maybe he will go back to the immigration issue. James Pinkerton thinks that Hillary is now mortally wounded on this - we shall see.
Does tonight's debate matter? Normally they don't but I think this one matters a lot. If Hillary does not do well, then the "taste" of the last debate (which was a disaster for her) sticks around. If she is as bad as last time out, then the wheels come off totally. If she is somewhere in between (most likely outcome) then she will continue to lose her lead, but it will still be reversible. We shall see...
Some interesting thoughts by Brian Pickrell on the race in Iowa. He indicates that most folk have not decided yet, and I think that is probably correct. I know I haven't and while anecdotes have limited value, it is worth noting that on my walk into and back home from work (about two miles through residential Iowa City) there are very few yard signs out yet. Put simply, the poll numbers in Iowa, for both parties, are very soft right now. I think that any of five people on each side could win here, and it will come down to the wire. With only seven or so weeks to go, this is getting rather exciting! Oh, and no political adverts during "House" this week, either - wonder why not?
Rather sad to find that there are those on the left wing who are attacking Obama for raising the issue of social security. Kind of suggests they would rather not talk specifics at all, lest some find their ideas repugnant...
Thursday, November 8, 2007
In terms of local information, I get my news from one of our local papers, the Cedar Rapids Gazette. They are maintaining a site specifically for the caucuses, called Iowa Caucuses. That primarily covers the local news. I should add that I was one of about 30 people who took part in a couple of discussion sessions with editors and reporters from the Gazette last week on the topic of the caucuses. The session I went to was very interesting, with a wide diversity of interests and a very broad political representation in the room. I would say that maybe 5 of the fifteen folk had firmly made up their minds to back a particular candidate, while the rest of us, myself included, were firmly undecided!
Going further afield, I have a number of sites I visit fairly regularly. The first of these is the site maintained by Professor Glenn Reynolds - Instapundit.com Next up on my daily visit list is Captain's Quarters, run by Ed Morrissey. In addition to providing excellent commentary, he also has the wonderful "Day by Day" cartoon by Chris Muir. I also regularly check a couple of blogs at the National Review Online. The first, the Campaign Spot, is run by Jim Geraghty, and includes all news related to the campaigns. The second is the Corner, which includes a veritable host of posters, including such notables as Mark Steyn and Jonah Goldberg. There are others that I visit, but these make up the ones I visit most every day. Hope this is of help.
In other news, Barack Obama was late for a speech at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, because his plane had landed in Des Moines instead of Cedar Rapids. I can understand that sort of error if you are coming from a long way away, but he was coming from Chicago, for heaven's sake! Someone in his campaign needs to get on top of this Iowa geography stuff if he is going to be successful here.
Other than that, a relatively quiet day in Iowa, so far...
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
International: the war on terror (or whatever your personal choice for the name might be) is clearly a major issue, with its current components in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possible future components who knows where. The need to express a consistent approach in this is paramount. This also includes dealing with all the fun stuff like North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and of course, the whole West Bank, Gaza, Palestine mess. Oh yippee.
The Economy: Which, by the way, seems to be doing very well, although the current value of the dollar (which is resulting, at least in part, in high oil and gold prices) is a bit troubling. This is an interesting issue, since by and large there is not a lot a president can do about it, except for one area, to whit:
Taxes: I want a President who will make the Bush tax cuts permanent, get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and ideally reform the whole damn tax code so that one single person of reasonable intelligence can understand all of it with less than one hour of study. That should not be impossible to achieve, and if achieved would do a great deal to stamp out corruption in congress. Which raises another issue:
Pork: I want a President who will veto bills that are sent to him (or her) laden with pork. If President Bush had done this consistently from the start of his administration we would for sure have less of a deficit than we do right now, and we might even have a Republican congress and senate - sigh. But I'm not done on economic issues, because there is always:
Social Security: and let's not forget Medicare, but for now we can focus on Social Security. And kudos, by the way, to Senator Obama for being willing to raise this issue. We have to address this and the sooner we do so, the better. I'm willing to consider any plan, as long as it is clear and honest. I would prefer not raising taxes, and my own preference would be (in the absence of some sort of personal account system) to delay the age at which people can start to take benefits, and also to choose a more suitable index for the annual inflationary adjustments. But, I need to see a plan.
Immigration: I think that this is going to be a really crucial issue in the election next year. I will likely be proved wrong, because a week is a long time in politics, never mind a year, but there does seem to be a genuine need for a change in the current way that we are dealing (or rather, not dealing) with illegal immigration. It is no surprise that states like Arizona are taking draconian measures, and I expect to see more such local actions. First step has to be enforcement. And that has to include holding employers responsible (as they are right now - every employee must produce an I-9) for the people they hire. Yes, there are problems with however this is done, so some sort of appeal process would be needed, but we have to start enforcing the law here. In the long term, it would be good to consider why it is that so many people from Mexico (which seems to provide the lion's share of illegal immigrants, although I could be mistaken) want to come to the US. What is Mexico doing wrong? Mexico is a country blessed with amazing natural resources - they should be as wealthy, on a per capita basis, as the US (or at the very least, as wealthy as Canada). Are there systemic issues that hold people in Mexico in a position of poverty? Don't know, but this may be one of those questions that never get asked because it is somehow not right to ask them... Anyway, immigration or more specifically illegal immigration, is a key issue.
I do have some other issues (and some of you might say I have a whole host of them, but that's your problem not mine!). Those would include health care, education, the environment, maintaining and improving the crumbling infrastructure of the nation, and one that will not be on most people's radar screens but is definitely on mine, namely the technological singularity! I will muse on these on another day!
The good news is that in only one year (give or take) this round of Presidential electioneering will be done! Can we survive the next 366 days? Who can tell? We'll just have to live it and see...
Monday, November 5, 2007
What is the purpose of this blog? Well, this is simply my journey up to the caucuses. That needs a bit of context, so here goes.
I am an immigrant to the United States. I came here, from the United Kingdom, with my wife and some of my children, in 1984, originally intending to stay for one year while I did a post-doctorate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. That one year turned into three years at Dartmouth, followed by a move to Iowa in 1987, where I have been ever since, working as a professor of civil engineering at the University of Iowa. My wife and I became citizens in 2001 (it is a long and not particularly easy process, but one that we are very glad we took) and the first day we had a chance to vote was 9/11/2001 - not a day we will forget any time soon.
I did attend the caucuses in 2004, but because I am registered as a republican, there was no choosing of candidates at that caucus. Of course, this time around is different! And, I want to both record and share my thoughts as I go through this process.
What will I record in this blog? Well, it will be primarily my thoughts on the various republican candidates as I make my selection of who to support on January 3. I will comment, I am sure, from time to time on the democratic selection process, but since I do not have a dog in that hunt, I will leave that side of the race to others!
I will include my thoughts on what I think the major issues are for the election (and why!) and will try to examine the candidates in terms of those major issues. I should state now that my choices are between only five of the republican candidates at this time: Guiliani, Huckabee, McCain, Romney, and Thompson. I know there are other candidates (Brownback, Cox, Hunter, and Paul) , and I know that other folks support those candidates very strongly but I cannot imagine myself supporting them.
So, that is the site - welcome. I hope that you enjoy making this journey with me. Comments etc. and links are most welcome. Oh, and if you are eligible to vote, please make sure that you have registered, then get informed and vote. Lots of people in the world do not have the privilege of voting - those of us who do should use it!