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Blog - US Election Watch

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Romney claims Arizona and Michigan

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29 February 2012


Michigan Mitt

Romney wins Michigan! Mittpocaplyse averted! Now he doesn’t have to drop out of the race! As I mentioned previously, there was a fair amount of undue hysteria surrounding the Michigan primary. Romney narrowly losing a state where the delegates are divided proportionally would probably not have been the grave disaster people were making it out to be; especially when he was all but guaranteed to win Arizona on the same night.

While Romney didn’t need this win as desperately as many assumed, it was still an important night for the campaign. By winning both Arizona and Michigan, he keeps Santorum’s name out of the headlines, a noteworthy accomplishment given the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries. He also quells the doubts of those who had anointed Michigan the laboratory for testing Romney’s viability as a candidate. Even though the media was placing too much emphasis on the results of one state, you have to pay attention to the narrative they are drawing since it subsequently influences the perception of voters.

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The good news for Romney extends beyond Michigan. First, of course, there was his easy win in Arizona. Arizonans have to be feeling a bit spurned by the media, given how little attention was given to their primary. “The Grand Canyon State” is far from insignificant, it has the 16th largest population in the union and awards its delegates on a winner take all basis. Nate Silver notes that while Arizona is a “longtime member of the Republican coalition,” it’s also a state which “Democrats might have some hope of putting in play in November.” Today, Romney firmly asserted that he is the candidate best equipped to keep Arizona in the Republican column.

Romney also looks to be quietly narrowing the gap in Ohio. Santorum still holds a 8 point lead in the state, but he has to be feeling a little worried that polls had him 18 points ahead on February 15th. Ohio will probably be the biggest prize in the general election, and it would be huge for Romney to win there on Super Tuesday. I’ve criticized others for placing too much importance on individual states; but Ohio really is one worth obsessing over.

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Snowe will retire

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29 February 2012


Olympia Snowe

The moderate Republican was already a rare breed in Congress, and it just moved a step closer to extinction. In a move that caught everyone off guard, Olympia Snowe, the Republican Senator from Maine, announced today that she will not run for re-election 2012. Snowe is a moderate, who in 2010 was selected by Time Magazine as one of America’s 10 best Senators. She cited the hyper partisanship in Congress as her primary reason for not seeking a fourth term:

I do find it frustrating, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.

Snowe’s retirement has big implications for the 2012 elections. She would have almost certainly been re-elected, but now Democrats have a good chance of picking up her seat. Maine is politically moderate, but has also voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections. It’s high risk high reward for Democrats though, since the Republican nominee will be less of a centrist than Snowe was.

Maine Republican strategist Matthew Gagnon explains that Snowe’s announcement also has important ramifications for the other congressional races within the state:

Senator Snowe’s decision to not seek re-election is nothing short of a political earthquake that fundamentally changes the dynamic of every single federal race in Maine in 2012. Both Democratic House Members, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, will now be taking a look at a promotion to the Senate.

If Michaud jumps in, Senate President Kevin Raye will have a decision to make: as the strongest potential Republican who could potentially replace Snowe, will he take a chance on a competitive Senate race, or will he take an almost guaranteed House seat?


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A tune for the primaries

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28 February 2012


I’ve been looking for ways to discreetly sneak my nerdy love of music onto the Election Watch blog. I think we’ll start doing a song of the week feature over at the USSC blog; but, in the meantime, here’s a “Great Lake State” themed tune in honour of tomorrow’s primary. This is off of Sufjan Stevens’s 2003 album Michigan. The song’s namesake, Romulus, is "a suburban city of Metro Detroit " with a population of around 24,000.


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Michigan is not all it's cracked up to be

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27 February 2012


The media and the pundits are doing all they can to raise the stakes of the February 28th Michigan primary. A Fox News article surmises that the Michigan primary “is threatening to turn [Romney’s] campaign into turmoil” and Aaron Goldstein of the American Spectator speculates that a Santorum victory could "put a dagger through the heart of Romney's campaign.”

I agree that Michigan is quite important. Romney was born and raised there and his father served as governor; losing in a state where he has such a homefield advantage would be a setback for the campaign. Still, I can’t help but feel that people are overstating the importance of the Michigan primary.

A Romney win in Michigan would quiet his sceptics temporarily, but with Super Tuesday right around the corner, the results of February 28th could be forgotten quickly. It looks all but certain that Santorum will win Oklahoma and Ohio on Super Tuesday, and Gingrich could do well in the Southern states of Georgia and Tennessee. Romney winning a state that he was supposed to win probably won’t affect the momentum of the race too much.

 Obviously, Santorum winning Michigan would be the more consequential outcome, but it wouldn’t necessarily spell doom for the Romney campaign. Romney’s looking likely to win Arizona on the same night, which would soften the blow somewhat. Additionally, Michigan is a unique case in that Romney was an especially outspoken opponent of the auto bailout; a bailout that affected so many workers within the state of Michigan. As such, the primary is in part a referendum on an issue that doesn’t hold the same importance to national voters.

We keep hearing that each successive primary is going to be the turning point in the race. Gingrich’s win in South Carolina was going to propel him back into contention, that didn’t happen. Romney’s win in Florida was supposed to have all but clinched the nomination; then Santorum won three states in one night. This has been a crazy primary season, and there is good reason to be sceptical of those who believe they know what the next chapter holds in store.


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Obama does not hate religion

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24 February 2012


Christmas Tree Menorah

The Obama administration’s attempt to mandate that many religiously affiliated organisations offer birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans set off a wave of backlash amongst conservatives. The White House quickly backed away from this requirement, but the Republican candidates have capitalized on this controversy, seeking to portray President Obama and his administration as radical secularists who want to purge all traces of religion from public life. Rick Santorum remarked that it’s “pretty obvious that they don't think religious liberties are a particularly high priority," and Mitt Romney added that, "I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama."

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These may be good campaign sound bites, but they ignore what Obama has actually said about the complex relationship between politics, religion and public life. Consider these comments from a 2006 speech at the Call to Renewal Conference.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

[...]

But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause.

So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

And later in the same speech he explained how laws alone could not create social change.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway

[....]

I also think that we should give [children] the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

These hardly sound like the remarks of a hardened secularist, but maybe Obama just pays lip service to these ideals while ignoring them in practice. However, the evidence does not bear out this claim. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman explains that the Obama administration has actually been very accommodating on issues of religious freedom.

Most notably, Chapman points out that the administration has not repealed the Bush administration policy of allowing religious organisations who receive federal funding to “only hire people of their own faith.”

In this instance, Obama may be accused of ignoring the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which forbids government support of religion. But if so, it's because he has given too much deference to religious freedom rather than too little.

Chapman goes on to list numerous other instances in which the White House has sought to defend religious liberty.

His commitment is also on display in defending churches against municipal governments that would prefer to do without them. Under federal law, houses of worship are assured equitable treatment in land-use decisions. But mayors and community groups often tell churches to go to the devil.

When that happens, they often find themselves at odds with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Last year, it forced the town of Schodack, N.Y., to retreat after it barred an evangelical church from renting space in a commercial area where nonreligious meetings were allowed.

It filed a brief in support of a Hasidic Jewish congregation's lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, which had forbidden it to hold services in a private home. A federal court ordered the city to back off.

The administration has also intervened in cases where prisoners are denied religious literature. After a South Carolina sheriff prohibited inmates from getting devotional materials and other publications in the mail, the Justice Department sued. In the end, the county agreed to let inmates receive Bibles, Torahs, Qurans and related fare.

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Obama on these issues. I felt that the contraception mandate went too far in curtailing religious freedom. But to claim that the president is actively hostile towards religion is to be ignorant of his statements and actions.

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The myth of the thoughtful centrist

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23 February 2012


Jonathan Chait has a post up arguing that Rick Santorum might actually be more electable than Mitt Romney. His reasoning? Swing voters won't necessarily be turned off Santorum:

In fact, there are, very roughly speaking, two kinds of swing voters. One kind is economically conservative, socially liberal swing voters. This is the kind of voter you usually read about, because it’s the kind most familiar to political reporters – affluent and college educated. But there’s a second kind of voter at least as numerous – economically populist and socially conservative. Think of disaffected blue-collar workers, downscale white men who love guns, hate welfare, oppose free trade, and want higher taxes on the rich and corporations. Romney appeals to the former, but Santorum more to the latter.

Chait is half right. Political reporters love imagining swing voters to be economically conservative and socially liberal, and that's partly because it's a school of thought familiar to political reporters. (Ross Douthat characterises them as "pining for a dream ticket of Michael Bloomberg and Olympia Snowe.") I suspect it's also because economically conservative, socially liberal voters behave as ideal citizens in a democracy; they consider both parties judiciously and make a judgement based on who best represents their viewpoint at the time.

Of course, that's why it's comforting to believe that if there is another kind of swing voter, it's one who maintains the opposite stance: economic liberalism and social conservatism. This voter is also behaving as an ideal citizen in a democracy.

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The problem is that citizens aren't ideal and these imagined swing voters are just that — imaginary. I've discussed this before, but it's worth repeating. There are very few pure independents. They comprise seven to ten per cent of the electorate. Most people who say they are independent actually consistently vote for one party over the other. The people who are pure independents — swing voters — are exactly the opposite of highly informed. They are what is known as "low information" voters. What's more, they're much less likely to vote than more partisan citizens.

Add that all up, and you don't get two distinct strains of centrists defined by strong beliefs captured not by either party. You get a mass of people who don't pay close attention to government and don't have strong views about politics anyway. For a simple maxim, refer to Jonathan Bernstein: " Americans are not liberal, conservative, or moderate in their ideology, because most Americans aren't ideological at all."

So what of Chait's argument that Rick Santorum isn't that much more unelectable than Mitt Romney? It depends on what voters find out about him. At the moment, they're finding out — if they're paying attention at all — that he doesn't like contraception and has firmly traditional views on marriage. Forget ideology; that just doesn't square with the way most Americans live their lives. It's no wonder women voters, in particular, are turning away from him.

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Obama on the Supreme Court?

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22 February 2012


Obama Supreme Court

The current lull in the campaign gives one time to step back from the day to day details of the primary and think long term. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to throw out a possibility still many years down the road; Barack Obama as a member of the Supreme Court. Before you completely dismiss the idea, give me a chance to explain.

Obama clearly has an impressive legal background. He was president of the Harvard Law Review; and Laurence Tribe, the extremely influential professor of constitutional law, referred to Obama as the “best student I’ve ever had.” After graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for twelve years.

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It’s true that Obama hasn’t practised law in a long time, his law license has actually become inactive, but in some respects this could be an asset. There is a value in having justices with different life experiences who have seen firsthand how the law impacts the day to day lives of citizens. It’s become standard practice for Supreme Court justices to have extensive experience as judges, but things were not always this way. Thurgood Marshall gained notoriety as a civil rights attorney; William Rehnquist was working in the Justice Department at the time of his nomination. The court has become more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, but more homogenous as measured by the previous occupations of its members.

Obviously a justice should have an excellent understanding of legal theory, but it also helps to understand the perspective of the legislators that pass laws. Take the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v FEC declaring “the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.” Imagine the sort of impassioned dissent that Justice Obama could have written if he were on the court at the time.

Unlike the other justices, I have served in elected office. I’ve seen firsthand the role of money in politics; how large donations influence the workings of Congress. Today, the Court opens the door for unlimited corporate and union spending in elections without any real understanding of how this will impact the integrity of the electoral system and the democratic process.

Over the last twenty five years, the Supreme Court has moved increasingly further to the right. In response, liberals have been looking for a justice who can offer a coherent and emphatic alternative vision of constitutional law. Given his name recognition, Obama has the potential to be this sort of figure. Whenever he read an opinion or dissent from the bench, it would be sure to garner media attention.

Of course there are a lot of obstacles to this ever becoming a reality. It’s rare nowadays for a justice older than sixty to get appointed to the court. Obama is fifty now, so he’d probably need a Democratic president to be elected in 2016,or at the latest 2020, in order to receive the presidential nomination necessary for appointment. Further, Obama might have no interest whatsoever in being on the court. This is a very real possibility; however, he obviously has a strong interest in constitutional law and has also been described as professorial and aloof, two character traits that seems more fitting of a Supreme Court justice than an elected official. Obama ending up on the Supreme Court is a long shot, but it’s an option that Democrats should at least consider in the future.

Most importantly, I’m viewing this post as a variant on Pascal’s Wager. If none of this ever comes to fruition, no one will remember that I mentioned the idea in the first place. However, if President Obama does ever become Justice Obama, I can dig up this time capsule and brag about how I brought up the idea before anyone else.

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How a (Health Care Reform) Bill Becomes A Law (tl;dr)

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20 February 2012


School House Rock Bill

If you haven’t already noticed, the topic of health care comes up a lot on the campaign trail. Like, all the time; seriously you’re going to be so tired of hearing about it by November. Since this issue isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s worth devoting a little time to understanding The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or “Obamacare.”

In the first of a two part series, I’m going to review the bill’s long and eventful journey in becoming law. In the second part, I’ll go into detail as to what health care reform actually does. As Otto Von Bismarck famously proclaimed, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” If you agree with Bismarck’s sentiment, it’s best to stop reading now.

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Harry Truman was the first American president to formally propose a universal health care system and move the issue into the forefront of the American political debate. Although his plan gained little traction in 1945, Democrats have remained committed to comprehensive health care reform, and every Democratic president since Truman has expressed support for universal health care.

Both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton made universal health care a key issue in their 2008 presidential primary campaigns. Unlike Clinton, Obama was opposed to requiring individuals to purchase insurance as a means of broadening the risk pool and decreasing health insurance premiums, “well, if things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn't.” Ironically, the “individual mandate” ended up being the centre piece of the health care reform bill.

Upon taking office, Obama put health care reform at the top of his legislative agenda. The goal was to help curb the rising cost of health care, expand coverage to the uninsured, and prevent insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. Both Republicans and Democrats generally agreed that these issues eventually needed to be addressed, although there was wide disagreement over the best means of doing so.

With large majorities in both chambers of Congress and the support of President Obama, Democrats were optimistic that they could pass comprehensive health care reform. However, their plans hit an initial roadblock in February 2009 when former Senator Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination as secretary of health and human services amid revelations that he had not properly reported or paid his income taxes. Before the scandal, Daschle had been set to lead the Obama’s administration’s health care overhaul. 

Initially, Obama took a passive role in the health care reform process, outlining his broad goals but allowing Congress to try and work out the details of the plan. In May 2009, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed to have the bill signed into law by August. However, things didn’t go exactly according to plan for the Democrats. At town hall meetings across the country citizens protested against the proposed bill, and Republican lawmakers warned of the dangers of “socialised medicine” and “rationing health care.”

Democrats also had trouble convincing the more moderate members of their coalition to sign onto the legislation. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Democrats won a large number of seats in generally conservative congressional districts. While this was obviously good news for the party, many of these new members of Congress were very moderate. These “Blue Dog Democrats” were concerned about the costs of health care reform and were reluctant to endorse government rune insurance plans. Bills have to pass through relevant committees before they can proceed to the floor for a vote, and Democrats had to appease the demands of many House Blue Dogs in order to get the bill through committee. Democrats informed Obama that passage of the bill could take longer than anticipated.

There was also much controversy surrounding the issue of abortion. The 1976 Hyde amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, but there was dispute over what this should mean in the context of publicly subsidized health care. Eventually, House Democrats agreed to adopt the Stupak amendment, a proposal by Michigan congressman Bart Stupak stipulating that no federal funds be used to cover any part of a health care plan that covered abortion. Many pro-choice Democrats were upset at the compromise, but the amendment ultimately secured the necessary votes for the bill’s passage.

On November 7 2009, the Affordable Health Care for America Act was passed by the House of Representatives by a narrow margin of 220-215. Only one Republican voted in favour of the bill and 39 Democrats voted against it. The bill included a government run insurance plan, or public option, that would compete against the plans offered by private insurers. The bill mandated that all citizens buy insurance or a pay fee, and provided government subsidies to those who could not afford insurance on their own. The bill would cost $1 trillion dollars and would extend health insurance coverage to 36 million Americans.

Progress in the Senate was also very extremely slow. Senate rules required 60 votes to prevent Republicans from “filibustering”, blocking the bill from proceeding to the Senate floor for a vote. This meant that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid needed to get all 60 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to sign onto the bill. In order to appease moderate Democrats, various versions of the House bill needed to be modified. On December 24, the bill was finally passed along a strict party lines vote (60-39). It would cost $871 billion over ten years, and, notably, did not include a public option. The language regarding abortion was different as well. People receiving federal subsidies could buy health plans that covered abortion, but they had to write a separate monthly cheque for abortion coverage.

The final task was to merge the two bills into one. While there was still work to be done, it seemed fairly inevitable that the Affordable Care Act would become law. Then, the unthinkable happened. On 29 January 2010, Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate special election to fill the seat of the late liberal icon Ted Kennedy, who had died that past August. Democrats now lacked the 60 votes to override a filibuster, meaning they could not pass a modified version of the health care bill. Massachusetts had no Republican representatives in Congress, and hadn’t elected a Republican Senator since 1972. Ted Kennedy had called universal health care “the cause of his life,” but now reform appeared in jeopardy because Democrats couldn’t hold onto his seat in one of the most liberal states in the union. In the eyes of many, this was the end of the road for health care reform. Others Democrats wanted to abandon their ambition for sweeping reform, and instead try to pass much more moderate legislation.

However, key members of the party continued to explore other options for passing the bill. Obama also refused to back down on the issue, emphasizing that Democrats couldn’t give up now after coming so close to their goal.Eventually, Senate Democrats settled on a potential solution: “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is a process generally used to modify spending in bills for the purpose of deficit reduction, and requires a simple up or down vote instead of the 60 votes required to end a filibuster. The Senate couldn’t pass an entirely new bill through reconciliation, but they could make small budget related changes to the bill they had already passed in December.

In late February, Obama and Pelosi announced that they supported using reconciliation in order to get the bill through Congress. Democrats argued that they were justified in using the procedure because given that the bill was projected to reduce deficits, it could be considered a deficit reduction measure. They also pointed out that Republicans had previously used reconciliation to pass several major pieces of legislation. Republicans accused Democrats of using a loophole to get an unpopular piece of legislation through Congress.

Speaker Pelosi was clear that she did not have the votes to simply pass the Senate Bill in its exact current form, given that House members had concerns with some specific provisions. Most notable was a guarantee that Nebraska would not have to pay any of the costs associated with the health care bill’s expansion of Medicaid. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had offered this deal in order to convince Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska to vote for the legislation. Senate Democrats agreed to amend these provisions through reconciliation.

Still, there was much work to be done. Speaker Pelosi had gotten House Democrats to already sign off on one bill; now she had to persuade them to pass a bill nearly identical to the one that the Senate had already approved. Many liberal Democrats were frustrated that the Senate bill was less comprehensive than the one they had passed, but they realized that at this point it was their only option. The real difficulty for Pelosi was winning over moderate, and especially, pro-life Democrats. The Stupak amendment had been essential in getting the support of around 40 members of Congress the first time around, but there could be no such provision in the final bill. The White House and House leadership worked with these pro-life Democrats to try and find an acceptable compromise.

Then, on the evening of 21 March, Congressman Stupak and a number of other pro-life Democrats announced they had reached an agreement with the Obama administration. Obama would issue an executive order reaffirming the government’s commitment to the Hyde Amendment and also address some of the Stupak coalition’s other minor concerns, such as clear abortion restrictions on government sponsored community health clinics.

Later that evening, the House of Representatives passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a vote of 219-212. Every Republican and 34 Democrats voted against the bill. On 23 March, Obama signed the bill into law, proclaiming that health care reform reflects, “the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care." Attorney General’s in 13 states immediately filed lawsuits claiming that the bill’s individual health care mandate was an unconstitutional violation of federal powers. Two days later, the Senate passed the reconciliation bill to amend the health care legislation in accordance with the stated wishes of the House. The reconciliation bill passed the Senate by a vote of 56 to 43. Senator Nelson was amongst three Democrats who voted against the bill. The process had been a long and often frustrating one, but Democrats had finally achieved the goal that had so long eluded them.

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Dreams of a brokered convention

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15 February 2012


As the candidates trade victories in the 2012 Republican presidential primary contest and the race heads towards so-called “Super Tuesday” on March 6th, when a dozen states will conduct primaries, caucuses, or conventions, an intriguing possibility is emerging: what if nobody wins?

It’s a very big “what if.” But with new GOP rules awarding delegates in early states on a proportional rather than winner-take-all basis, and with the penalties for the states that voted in January,  it is possible that a protracted three or four-candidate contest will result in no candidate reaching the 1 144 votes he needs to win the nomination.

And that’s where we could just possibly see something we haven’t seen since the incumbent, appointed President Gerry Ford squeaked home over former California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1976: a brokered Republican National Convention.

What would that mean at the RNC in Tampa, Florida in late August?

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In the romantic imagination of we pundits, a brokered convention conjures up images of gravel-voiced party elders picking a future President in a smoke-filled back room, as idealistic delegates on the floor parade under red, white and blue signs wearing boater hats and ribbons.

A modern brokered convention is probably going to be smoke-free and involve a lot of hushed phone calls and texting on BlackBerrys, but the very uncertainty of it would be wonderful theatre (and scare the bejeezus out of the party establishment).

In short, nobody knows what could happen — but it could even see a “dark horse” candidate like Jeb Bush, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, or Mitch Daniels (who haven’t contested any of the primaries or caucuses) become the nominee.

The Republican delegations from the various states are bound to different rules, depending on whether they were elected in a primary or by a caucus, and state convention: some are “pledged” to support a particular candidate and some remain “unpledged” — and while they are expected to vote a certain way, that can change.

In a tight race, those “unpledged delegates” are effectively the GOP’s equivalent of the Democratic Party’s “super delegates.”

If, for the sake of this exercise the 2,286 delegates, including 488 unpledged delegates are allocated as follows:

Mitt Romney: 986
Rick Santorum: 614
Newt Gingrich: 408
Ron Paul: 275

No single candidate will have the 1 144 required votes on the first round of voting, and that’s when the games begin.

The same four candidates could stay in for several further rounds of voting and depending on the rules applying to various state delegations, there might be some movement — especially among unpledged delegates.

But then, what if Newt Gingrich took to the floor, and, in an impassioned speech, told his supporters he was dropping out and that they should throw their support behind Rick Santorum as the leading conservative candidate to stop Mitt Romney’s nomination?

The Tea Party movement, which lost its standard-bearers Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry now could emerge as king-makers.

Let’s say most, but not all, do give their vote to Santorum, while some decide to fall in behind Romney instead and just eight decide to vote for Ron Paul.

The new count would be this:

Romney: 1086
Santorum: 964
Paul: 283

Mitt Romney is close, but still 58 votes short of becoming the nominee. More rounds of voting are called and the numbers stay pretty much the same — it’s a deadlock.

Meetings are called behind the scenes in those now–smoke-free rooms; various party leaders and surrogates speak in support of Romney, Santorum and Paul, until, finally, a deal is done between Santorum and Paul to insert a plank in the GOP platform to establish a congressional committee to return the US to the gold standard.

Ron Paul is given special time to address delegates and withdraws from the next round of balloting. Despite his preference for Santorum, Paul doesn’t direct his supporters; some leave, unable to give their vote to either Santorum or Romney, party officials rush for the rule books and try to muster stand-by delegates — some of whom are as far away as Iowa.

It’s pandemonium!

Meanwhile, the party establishment, which has previously stood firmly behind Mitt Romney, sees the writing on the wall. A “Draft-Jeb” movement is formed by former George W. Bush staffer Karl Rove, who extracts a commitment for Romney to bow out in return for the vice presidential nomination.

The former governor of the state of Florida’s name is put forward in the next round of balloting as part of a moderate establishment “dream team.”

Another round of voting is finally called. Most Romney supporters, fearful Santorum would be just too conservative to beat Barack Obama, pledge their votes to Bush, even though many others stand by Romney out of fear Karl Rove has hijacked the nomination.

The votes are tallied:

Bush: 1162
Romney: 646
Santorum: 478

John Ellis “Jeb” Bush becomes the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, without standing in the primaries or even leaving the state of Florida.

Possible?

Sure, technically.

More likely in a brokered convention scenario is that a conservative “Stop Romney” movement could see Santorum or Gingrich emerge.

Much more likely still is that Mitt Romney will have the 1 144 votes he needs to become the nominee well before the convention.

But in this hiatus between primaries, it’s fun to ponder the possibilities.

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Election Watch Podcast #1: The primaries, Prop 8, and presidential ideology

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14 February 2012


Picture of a MicrophoneLast week Luke Freedman and I sat down and had a chat about the latest in election news and political current affairs. The result was the first of what we hope to make a weekly feature on the USSC blog: an Election Watch podcast. In our inaugural edition, we cover last week's primary results, the most recent unemployment figures, the Ninth Circuit Court's decision on California's Proposition 8, and a whole lot more. We also unveil our seriously awesome theme music.I'm talking to the Centre's tech folks about actually hosting the podcast on the Centre's website, but until we iron out some server difficulties, we'll be hosting the podcast on Soundcloud. Head over here to stream or download it, or use the widget device below. Hope y'all enjoy.

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