It’s Never Too Early: Two Contenders in 2016

I remember being frustrated at this time four years ago until Rick Santelli had his classic meltdown on CNBC and gave rise to the Tea Party movement.  Establishment Republicans, i.e. every elected official, were silent!  Mitt Romney was the conservative choice in 2008, and if he had even modestly joined Santelli in his frustration with the expansive view of Obama’s government then the result in 2012 may have been different.  But he was nowhere to be found.  The lesson is that the road to the 2016 nomination is being paved today.  And so far I see only two people who are walking down MY road: Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal

Chris Cristi has ripped up his road and might think he’s paving something else.  For everything that is good about Chris Cristi (and there are many things to admire, especially his ability to speak off-the-cuff), there is something bad about him.  I seem to remember hearing that there was a quid pro quo with Sandy relief and education funds.  If that’s true, then I’m much more upset at that than I am at his willingness to give Obama the appearance of “doing his job.”

Paul Ryan is also a curiosity.  He has a good, strong, and comforting voice when it comes to the extent of Washington over-reach.  I was thrilled when he was the selection by Mitt Romney for the Vice-President spot and nearly wet myself when he differentiated the strengths and weaknesses of Ayn Rand’s utilitarianism.  But where was he as Boehner was squirming and caving during the lame duck session?  He may have thought that it was not the right opportunity for leadership, but I think he was wrong.  Ryan proved that he could take the argument to Obama, but he apparently is not able to take it to Boehner.

Marco Rubio?  Maybe.  I’m not sure what it is, but he doesn’t make this initial short list.  Maybe because these other two have done so much more to actively and directly challenge the establishment.  And the establishment needs a DIRECT challenge, not some abstract attack on the Washington culture in general.  Hannity’s “BoomTown” the other night was eye-popping, and we need somebody who can put up that fight.  I’m not sure Rubio speaks that language, but I hope I’m wrong.

No other name that has been tossed out there actually comes to mind at the moment, which means they mistakenly think that they can get a pass for the next two years.  Like Romney (and Santorum and Gingrich to some extent), the question in 2016 is going to be where were you in 2013.  I’m sure there are other people who are perfectly content to be off the radar at this time only to come forward in 2015 as a surprise, underdog, one of the seven dwarf candidates.  John Kasich and Mike Pence have been on the national radar for over a decade.  Bob McDonnell and Rick Scott are both governors of swing states.  Maybe a former Senator like John Kyl will return for the top spot.  Any of these would be fine alternatives if they were to jump in the race.

But for now, my top two at the moment are Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal.  Paul most recently took both Hillary Clinton to task on her incompetence and by association the incompetence of the Obama administration, and also John Kerry to task on the flip-flopitty positions on the War Powers Act.  He also was one of the best questioners because he knows (and other Senators need to learn this) that he is not the most important person in the room.  His job is to ask a question and get out of the way.  Paul is also talking about a favorite topic of mine which is expanding the base.  I think Paul can get out the traditional base more than Romney or McCain could, and he is talking about challenging the Democrats on the east and west coasts.  Democrats have a plan to make Texas more competitive – that is called “doing it right!”  New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon… these could all be competitive if the GOP can get the right message and the right messenger.

Bobby Jindal was initially called an opportunist by coming out so quickly against Mitt Romney after election night.  He was a good cheerleader and passionate advocate for Romney during the election, and so was I!  After Romney lost so badly and against the anti-conventional wisdom we were being peddled on FoxNews, I was depressed and Jindal was right on the money in expressing my frustration.  Most recently he said that the GOP needs to go for 100% of the vote and stop acting like we don’t like Democrat voters.  Jindal has the wonkishness of Paul Ryan, but with guts and fire.  I’m not sure how you screen out candidates who might “say stupid things” when put in a corner.  I don’t think Akin was anybody’s first choice, but Richard Mourdock had a lot of good conservative press before his abortion statement.  Jindal had better worked out all of his responses to biased and leading questions, because he and Rand Paul are going to be tested starting…. NOW!

Republican Rebranding: The Original Abolitionists

I’ve been playing with this idea for about a year, and after the recent election loss and the opening of the movie “Lincoln,” I think it’s time to flesh it out.  We are all looking for the next Reagan who talked about the three legs of the conservative footstool: economic, military, and social conservatives.  We also appreciate the idea that people who agree with us 80% of the time can be considered allies.  But I don’t think that even the best of the Reagan legend can repair some of the current Republican rifts.

A definite split has been seen between the GOP establishment of Karl Rove and Tea Party voices like Mark Levin.  Another split can be found between those economic conservatives who want to simply dismiss social concerns (Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush) and those social conservatives who insist that issues of family and morality are foundational to conservatism (Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee).  And as people look ahead at the Senate races in 2014, those tired of the status quo are itching for primary fights with Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham.  Can’t we all get along?  Isn’t there an issue that can unify the party?

I think there is – the original issue of abolition.  Democrats feel that it is their right to command other people for their own self-interest.  They feel that the principles of the Declaration of Independence simply do not apply to everybody.  They have an instinctive distrust of the success of others.  Am I talking about the Democrat Party of the 19th century or the 21st century?  Exactly.

We should all get a copy of “Runaway Slave” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2205591/) and preach its message.   The dependent class are modern slaves with the government making them dance through hoops and doing everything it can to keep them answerable to the bureaucracy.  It puts a ceiling on their success prventing them from ever reaching their potential.  The conservatism that I know is about respect for the individual.  A limited government is set up to protect individual rights.  Government does NOT ensure equality of outcomes through redistribution.  These are things that ALL GOP members should agree to.

“Runaway Slave” is not for the GOP establishment as they bear some responsibility for the current state of urban affairs, and they should either acknowledge that or just move on.  And they may complain because going into the cities violates everything the establishment knows about getting out the base.  Well George W. Bush never got the base support that Barack Obama has received in either percentages or raw numbers, and there were complaints from the base about both John McCain and Mitt Romney.  I don’t want a Republican to win by only a couple of points, I want an Obama-2008-type win.  By leaving and then ignoring the cities, Republicans have allowed Democrats to groom generations of voters that have no trust whatsoever of the GOP.

I don’t know what this means for Tea Party targets in 2014, but this should be a unifying argument.  We cannot continue to allow a perpetual lower class and allow the modern equivalent of “appeasing the South.”  We need to compete for those unanimous Philadelphia and Cleveland districts.  Instead of rolling our eyes or shaking our heads at the cities, we need to work to change them.  That would change everything.

Ohio County Trends

OK, I decided to work on county data based on unofficial results.  Van Wert and Washington Counties may not all be in, but I don’t expect the numbers to change that much.  I hope that I have figured out a unique way to see what is going on in Ohio.  I live in Northeastern Ohio and I was most disappointed that I was unable to change the minds of Obama voters in my personal life.  Friends, coworkers, and my dad all voted for Obama in 2008, they all accepted my pleas for economic sanity, but none of them switched their vote.  They said they “didn’t want to vote for a theocracy” and wanted the GOP to give up its “medieval social views.”  So there you go.

Since this was a turnout election, I decided to look at raw vote totals instead of simple percentages.  And then I decided to compare the 2012 raw vote for Obama and for Romney, and then compare it to the average of the vote totals from 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.  So in addition to Republican or Democrat strength, it also happened to capture population shifts over the last 12 years.

For example:
1) Hamilton County (Cincinnati) has 208k votes for Obama and the four-election Dem average is 199k which is a 5% increase.  Also, 188k votes for Romney and a four-election Rep average is 203k gives us a 7% decrease.  The Dem increase and Rep decrease makes Hamilton Dark Blue.
2) Portage County (Ravenna, Kent) has 34k Romney votes with an average of 33k for a 3% increase.  Then a 38k vote for Obama with a 38k average for no increase.  This Rep increase is Medium Red.
3) Ross County (Chillicothe) had a 3% increase with 13.9k Obama votes, and a 7% decrease with 14.6k Romney votes.  Not a big Dem increase but a large Rep decrease making this county Light Blue.

The Democrats total state average for the this time preiod shows a 1.9% voter increase while Republicans show a 1.3% decrease.  That is why the 3% Republican increase in Portage is significant, but the 3% Democrat increase in Ross County is not.

Ohio County Trends MapDark Blue counties with Democrat increases AND Republican losses: Hamilton, Sandusky, Williams
Medium Blue counties with Democrat increases: Butler, Fairfield, Franklin, Fulton, Hancock, Hocking, Licking, Madison, Morrow, and Wood
Light Blue counties with Republican losses: Ashtabula, Athens, Cochocton, Crawford, Cuyahoga, Henry, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Morgan, Muskingum, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Seneca, and Wyandot
Light Red counties with Democrat losses: Carroll, Columbia, Gallia, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Noble, Paulding, Putman, and Richland
Medium Red counties with Republican gains: Geauga, Greene, Holmes, Loarin, and Portage
Deep Red counties with Republican gains AND Democrat losses: Auglaize, Bemont, Darke, Mercer, Miami, Monroe, Preble, and Shelby

Finally, there were seven counties in Purple that had increases in both Democrats and Republicans, which suggests a general increase in population or activism: Clermont, Deleware, Knox, Medina, Pickaway, Unoin, and Warren.

Phew, so now what?  Well Democrats made gains in the Cincinnati area, and were able to stretch their influence across the entire Columbus and Toledo regions.  Republicans are standing their ground along the west-central counties bordering Indiana, and are winning by attrition along the southeast border.  Looking at northeast Ohio, I can attest to the fact that the Portage County Tea Party has very passionate and active members.  Lorain County has an active Tea Party as well, and the Dayton Tea Party encompasses both Montgomery and Greene Counties.  The purple counties surrounding Columbus and Cincinnati show Republican activism, but they are unfortunately losing the race in the larger blue counties.

I stand by the thought that we need to expand our map into the inner cities.  I’ve seen posts and claims of voter fraud because certain Cleveland precincts are at or near 100% Obama support.  Well I know those precincts and I’m not surprised at all that the 500 voters in these neighborhoods unanimously support the Democrats.  We need to compete and get some good Republicans in these deep blue counties.

Exploiting and Resolving the GOP Split

I was looking at some Ohio turnout numbers and realized that the Secretary of State does not yet have official results.  As of this morning, the heavily Republican Van Wert County is only reporting at 26% which is not possible.  The absentee and provisional ballots that are coming in will not change the outcome, but it could change some percentages in the smaller counties so we’ll wait for a bit.

Nevertheless, we can talk about some stories of Democrat money going behind third party candidates.  In the Montana Senate race, Democrat John Tester beat the Republican Denny Rehberg by 20k votes with the Libertarian taking 31k votes.  There was a Libertarian running in Indiana that could have cut into a hypothetical Mourdock lead.  And then there’s the Ohio numbers: Brown 50.3%, Mandel 45.1%, Rupert 4.6%.   Scott Rupert (homepage, LibertyCandidates webpage)  ran as Ron Paul, constitutional, liberty candidate and he consistently got between 4-6% of the vote in each county with more support coming in red counties.  I have no idea if he got funding from Democrats and I’m not even sure that’s the important question.  But we need to address the tactic of third parties taking Republican votes.

By funding conservative third parties, what is exploited is a clear division in the Republican party between Tea Party libertarians and the GOP establishment while the “independent” voter who is worried about his or her ladyparts looks away and votes Democrat.  Whether or not third parties complete, I don’t want my candidate winning by a whisker.  I don’t want to win simply based on turnout.

When explaining polls to people who don’t follow politics on a consistent basis, I inevitably have the discussion of how all adults are more Democrat than registered voters who are more Democrat than likely voters.  “Why is that?” they ask.  I stumble around for an answer that includes how conservatism as a reason-based philosophy and how the media are much more favorable to Democrats.

But the truth is that the GOP has zero credibility in the inner city and zero influence over low-information voters.  I hate playing the demographic game because the conservative message applies to everybody regardless of race or class, yet when conservatives give up on certain demographics, it only serves to reinforce the steroetype of the GOP as soon-to-be-dead white guys.

Now the 2012 race was closer than the 2008 race, but the dominoes all fell for the Democrats.  With 23 Senate seats for the Democrats to defend, how do they come out with 25?  If we are to believe that this was a turnout election, then we can’t simply blame individual Senate candidates or third parties.  The big Democrat message of economic and social fairness beat out the the Republican message of self-responsibility.  The Tea Party and the establishment need to have a unified message when responding to the “fairness” argument or else we won’t have a national mandate any time in the future.

Ouch! The Day-After Ohio Catharsis

While I prepared for an Obama victory, I was honestly expecting Romney to win.  The 5:00 exit polls came in and showed a tight race, and that worried me.  Then we fell for Lucy’s football again as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were called for Obama at the same time that Florida and North Carolina were still undecided.  I think that’s when I believed that Nate Silver of the 538 blog was going to be right.

So I’ll go deeper into the counties as time goes on, and I think we’re going to really look at what happened with turnout.  Obama got 268,000 fewer votes in 2012 than he had in 2008, Romney got 107,000 fewer votes than McCain, and finally to rub salt in the wound, John McCain would have beaten this year’s Barack Obama by 6,000 votes (some votes still out, but you get the idea).  Where did these John McCain voters go?  Did Romney really move too conservatively, or was the Tea Party too loud?  Was it that he was the Massachusetts moderate who authored Romneycare? Did the economy-only campaign allow the lady parts argument to go unchallenged?  Could it really have been a Mormon issue?

I2012 County Election Results‘ll just show two maps and then continue to cry in my beer.  The first is the county win/loss map which shows a greater urban shift than was seen in 2008.  The Ohio River counties did not vote for the Democrat.  It was the larger cities throughout the state turned out for Obama, as well as smaller counties that have state universities.  If you watched FoxNews last night, you saw Karl Rove get upset that the call was made with Hamilton County (Cincinnati) only 25% counted.  Well those suburbs didn’t matter as this is apparently no longer a Republican county.  The cities stereotypically have more minorities, more service jobs, and more union members.  Jack Kemp was the last Republican that I can remember that would talk directly to urban residents and provide conservative solutions.

2012 Ohio County Election ShiftNext we have the “Shift” map from the New York Times.  They unfortunately use arrows instead of bubbles, but it is interesting to look at.  We see that while cities still gave much of their support to Obama, the Republican actually made gentle inroads.  Much of the map of Ohio and of the United States show red arrows as Obama generally underperformed his 2008 result, and the larger arrows on the east and west edges are nice.  But then there are the blue arrows.  What is going on in south-central Ohio?  Those counties gave Romney 52%-59% of their vote, but why the decrease from McCain?

A very disappointing election.  After we lost in 2008, I thought “OK, we have four years to make an argument.”  Well we made a strong argument based on constitutional principles and against the progressive agenda.  Now we have four more years of Obama.

After spending my youth as a liberal, I began to realize that my Democrats were simply not capable of delivering what they were promising.  I realized that arguments like “Republicans want dirty air” just didn’t make sense.  I first needed to accept the fact that I could be wrong before I decided that, in fact, I was wrong.  It was only then could I listen to Rush Limbaugh with new ears, and understand the bigotted treatment of Clarence Thomas with new eyes.  And only after using my mind to wrestle through these ideas could I consider voting for a Republican.

Best of luck to the Republican governors, who now hold 30 seats across the country.  We need to rethink how we address the national agenda either a conservative or a Republican perspective because as of right now, we’re lost.

Ohio Election Night: What to Watch and What Else to Watch

At the last weekend of the campaign, my confidence is not as high as I’d like it.  Four years ago, I was sure that Barack Obama would win but I also saw a path for McCain.  Then at 8:15 when they called Pennsylvania, I knew it was over.  Today they are many different iterations for a Romney win, but the bottom line RCP electoral map suggests that Obama is ahead and has an easier path to victory.  The current no-toss up map has Obama winning 290-248 which means Romney must win… as was true three months ago… Ohio plus one.

Before I talk about what to watch in Ohio on election night, I’ve been looking at a Romney path that does not include Ohio.  Ohio has lost population over the last number of years and the population that remains may include more Democrats.  Obama voters who see the impact of a struggling economy, and who otherwise would be ripe for a switch on Election Night, have been barraged with anti-Romney information.  Some don’t like the Bain Capital narrative and others are worried about the social conservative agenda.  Whatever the case, I think there have been very few undecided voters in Ohio and it will all depend on turnout.

So without Ohio, Pennsylvania plus one becomes the mantra.  Pennsylvania is very similar to Ohio where Philadelphia is the Cleveland / Northeast Ohio, the Pittsburgh area is the region from Youngstown and to the south, and the middle of PA is the middle and west of OH.  So if Romney wins Pennsylvania, he just needs New Hampshire or Iowa or Colorado.  Easy enough… if he wins Pennsylvania.

Another problem though might be Virginia.  I was thinking about which regions of the country would Obama’s enthusiasm level be greater now than in 2008, and I wonder about the DC area and the Virginia coast.  So it is somewhat unlikely, but Virginia has been a target of negative ads just like Ohio and Obama could win both states.  So now, Romney needs these “new battleground” states of Pennsylvania plus two if they include Wisconsin or Michigan.  It would be Pennsylvania plus three if you need NH, IA, and CO.  That could be doable, but much more challenging.

**Update.  A couple hours after I posted this, I saw an iteration chart from the New York Times.  It looks at each of the 512 iterations of the 9 swing states and finds that Obama has 431 different ways to win while Romney only has 76.  This contains the standard list of swing states which includes NC and does not include PA.  Still, a nice interactive website to visit.

Back to Ohio, I’ll be looking at different county numbers because (as any follower of Ohio elections knows) Cuyahoga is a big county, heavily Democratic, and notoriously late in producing its results.  Expect Romney to take an early lead, but only time will tell who the eventual winner will be.  For those looking toward a 2010 turnout, that election saw five House seats switch from Democrat to Republican.  (New York also saw five Democrats lose their seats, and four Democrats lost their seats in Florida, Illinois, and… Pennsylvania.)  But in this big Republican year, Ohio elected John Kasich as Governor in a very tight race at 49-47.  Here is that county map.

Ohio County Map for Kasich 2010As is typical, Democrats do very well in the north then the map stretches down the southeast edge.  What keeps this map from showing a Governor Strickland victory are the narrow Kasich victories in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Montgomery County (Dayton) and the decisive Kasich victories in the surrounding ones.  President Obama, who won Ohio 51-47, took these two larger counties in 2008.

Looking at the Presidential elections of 2004 and 2008, we can look at the big three I-71 counties:
Hamilton (Cincinnati) – Kerry 47%, Obama 52%
Franklin (Columbus) – Kerry 54%, Obama 59%
Cuyahoga (Cleveland) – Kerry 66.6%, Obama 68.5%

Other medium-large counties that are slightly Democrat-leaning but otherwise good barometers of the state are:
Montgomery (Dayton): Kerry 50.6%, Obama 51.8%
Stark (Canton): Kerry 50.6%, Obama 50.2%

And finally there are the next two largest Bush-to-Obama counties (Hamilton is the largest):
Lake (east of Cuyahoga): Kerry 48.5%, Obama 49.3%
Wood (south of Toledo): Kerry 46.4%, Obama 52.5%

I will also be watching two House races to gauge any coat-tail strength.  OH-16 pits incumbents Jim Renacci and Betty Sutton.  On paper, the map favors Renacci but Sutton has put up a good fight and this race is currently a toss-up.  Also OH-06 is a 2010 rematch between Tea Party freshman Bill Johnson and the former Blue Dog Charlie Wilson.  This race is fought in those Ohio River counties that supported Obama in 2008 and Ted Strickland in 2010.  Johnson is favored, but if Wilson makes it close then it may also show strength in this region for Barack Obama.

Finally we have a Senate race which has seen the young Treasurer Josh Mandel slowly… slowly… creep up in the polls.  He is a clear underdog.  There have been both positive and negative ads on both sides, but there is simply little Josh Mandel traction.  If he is winning this race, then a Romney victory is practically a sure thing.  Sherrod Brown has built enough strength to survive a Mitt Romney Ohio victory; the same cannot be said of Josh Mandel with an Obama victory.

So there we go.  I expect Ohio to be a frustrating state to watch on election night, but log onto the Secretary of State’s website and look at these county percentages to see where Ohio is going well before it is called.

What a Difference a Few Days Make

This week we were finally getting some state and national polls done completely after the first Presidential debate, and what a swing towards Romney.  In the RealClearPolitics average, Romney has swung from down 2+ points to being up by almost a point.  And with the Electoral Map, the Great Lakes states that I was worried about on Monday have now tipped to toss-up territory.  Even the 538 Blog with its secret formula has Obama’s chances of winning the election down to 61% and his chances of winning Ohio at 64%.

RCP October 12 MapThe Ohio-plus-one strategy is becoming an easier get for Romney, and there are also some combinations that don’t include either Ohio or Virginia.  The no-toss-up map has Romney winning North Carolina, Florida, and now Colorado giving him 244 votes.  Obama’s lead in Virginia and New Hampshire are both less than 1 percent which would bring his total to 261.  Two points separate Obama from Romney in both Nevada, which is only six votes, and Ohio, which would put Romney over the top.  Finally in order, we have Wisconsin, Iowa, and now Michigan and Pennsylvania also within five point toss-up territory.

So it is by no means over and we still have four weeks left but there is clearly a big shift towards Romney and away from Obama.  Last night was the Vice-Presidential debate where Biden laughed 82 times.  On election night, I hope that the laughing will be from the other side of the aisle.