No respite from “Circus Trump” out here in California…

At lunch yesterday at Los Angeles’ classic Greenblatt’s Deli from the 1920s when Sunset Boulevard was still a dirt road, “Circus Trump” in Washington, DC was all that my fellow patrons at the other tables talked about: the scandalous speech earlier in the day by the president on Long Island in front of police officers, basically encouraging them to use force when they arrested people; the firing of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus; and, of course, the disastrous outcome in the Senate for the Republicans as they failed to kill Obamacare that they had vowed to do for seven years.

And that’s just in the last twenty-four hours…

The fall of Priebus was no surprise. He is yet another name in a long line of people fired or forced to resign in an administration that is still, remarkably, only six months old, but feels much older. But it is another ominous sign of a deeply dysfunctional White House. The fall of Priebus came shortly after his prime nemesis, Anthony Scaramucci, had taken him apart, using language full of expletives that chocked many. e is the new face of the Trump administ

As the new face of the Trump administration, “Little Donald” seems to want to be more Trump than Trump himself and, like his boss, he has no background and no expertise for his new role as the White House’s new communications director.  How long will “Little Donald” stay after the new chief of staff, John Kelly, walks into the White House on Monday?

In all, this has probably been Trump’s worst week since he became president, although it is really hard to say, because there have been so many disastrous weeks in this toxic and scandalous political environment that has followed the election of Donald Trump. The chaos in the White House has produced a crisis in American leadership as a whole.

Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column in conservative Wall Street Journal:

“The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity, skinny.”

Where is America heading and how long will America, and in particular the Republic Party and its leaders, tolerate this completely incompetent leadership of the world’s superpower? These questions have been posed for a while, but there is a new urgency in the comments as each week passes.

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

“The Court of Mad King Donald is not a presidency. It is an affliction, one that saps the life out of our democratic institutions, and it must be fiercely resisted if the nation as we know it is to survive.”

I recently, and temporarily, moved to Los Angeles. It’s not the first time I have gone west, but it still holds a special allure, in part because it is so far away from the rest of America, particularly from the Washington I had left. I looked forward to a bit of respite from the Trump circus.

If you follow the news, that has turned out to be impossible. Still, the political climate here is different. California, of course, is a Democratic stronghold, where the governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat working with large Democratic majorities in both the State Senate and Assembly. California is where Hillary Clinton captured 61.7 percent of the vote, or 8.75 million votes to Trump’s 4.83 million, in last year’s presidential election. No wonder President Trump has not visited California since his victory last November.

With its nearly 40 million inhabitants and a top-ten economy in the world, California is closer to a nation-state than any other U.S. state, and more and more you can hear talk about going it alone. There are also deep policy disagreements between California and the Trump administration, foremost of which is global warming. Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris Accord on climate change has met with fierce resistance here, led by Governor Brown, but with solid support from California’s residents, from both parties, as a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California clearly shows.

While over half of California voters approve of Brown and his agenda to fight global warming, only 25 percent approve of Trump, in general, and over 70 percent in the poll disapprove of is environmental policies as well as his withdrawal from the Paris accord on climate change. Here in California, over 80 percent of its residents think global warming is a serious or somewhat serious threat to California future economy and quality of life, and a clear majority wants the state to take the lad on this issue, regardless of what the federal government — in this case, the Trump administrations and the Republican majorities in the U.S. Congress, does or, rather, does not do.

So they favor more wind and solar power, more desalination plants, and they oppose more oil drilling oil off California’s coast. And over half in the poll states that they are willing to pay more for electricity and gasoline to help reduce global warming.

Remarkable numbers. No wonder Trump has stayed away.

 

 

The Republicans: a party stuck in the last century

Robert Draper’s article in today’s New York Times Magazine about the Republican Party and its future is a must read for anyone interested in American politics.

But it must be most depressing reading for all Republicans, because the party’s future seems very dark.

As a young Republican pollster puts it in the article:

“We’re not in the 21st century.”

And when female and male so-called ”swing voters”  in various focus groups respond to the question of what they think of when the word “Republican” is mentioned, they say:

”Corporate greed; Old; Middle-aged white men; Rich; Religious; Conservative; Hypocritical; Military retirees; Narrow-minded; Rigid; Not progressive; Polarizing; Stuck in their ways; Farmers; Racist; Out of touch; Hateful.”

And here is what the same “swing voters” say when asked about the word “Democrat:”

”Young people; Liberal; Diverse; Bill Clinton; Change; Open-minded; Spending; Handouts; Green; More science-based.”

And Marco Rubio, the new Republican star and the party’s savior in the next election, is dismissed rather mercilessly by president Obama’s campaign strategist David Plouffe, who says:

“The Hispanic voters in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio, the Tea Party Cuban-American from Florida. You know what? We won the Cuban vote! And it’s because younger Cubans are behaving differently than their parents. It’s probably my favorite stat of the whole campaign. So this notion that Marco Rubio is going to heal their problems — it’s not even sophomoric; it’s juvenile! And by the way: the bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.”

As I said, read it!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/magazine/can-the-republicans-be-saved-from-obsolescence.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

Victory for Obama…if all the polls are not wrong

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continue to stump frenetically to utilize every last hour of the remaining presidential election campaign, their most important message is about the importance of voting. And tomorrow, we will see how good the two campaign organizations really are in getting people to actually go to vote.

There is optimism in both camps, especially from the Obama campaign while the Romney’s campaign is “cautiously hopeful,” as Carl Cannon writes in RealClearPolitics today.

From the media, apart from Fox News, there is a steady message that Obama will win. Larry Sabato, the highly respected professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, joined this chorus today on his Crystal Ball blog. He predicted 290 electoral votes for Obama against 248 for Romney in that Obama would win in six of the nine swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin. So even if Romney would win in the other three, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, it will not enough to capture the necessary 270 electoral votes and win the election. Sabato also predicted continued Democratic majority in the Senate and continued Republican rule in the House of Representatives.

So if you believe all the polls and most of the pundits, president Obama will be reelected — if they are not all wrong, which is unlikely, but, perhaps, still possible.

Howard Kurtz, media critic at the Daily Beast:

“If Obama somehow manages to lose, it will be a stunning defeat for the nation’s first African-American president. But it will be overpriced a crushing blow for the punditocracy that headed into Election Day filled with confidence that Obama had it in the bag. And Fox News will not let the mainstream media hear the end of it.”

And Mike Allen at Politico in his daily email:

“And yet, enough is uncertain about the samples and the mood of the nation, that lots of people we respectfully would not be SHOCKED if Mitt Romney pulled it out. They’re not expecting it, or betting their own money on it – but it’s not impossible. Put another way: Most Democrats will be surprised if they lose; many top Republicans will be surprised if they win. And that’s what makes this such a delicious 36 hours for political junkies: The great political minds THINK they know where things are headed. But most of them realize they could be wrong.”

But let me remind you that not only the polls are on Obama’s side. History is also on his side, for it has proven extremely difficult to defeat a sitting president. That has only happened four times since 1912, when Woodrow Wilson defeated William Howard Taft, 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt beat Herbert Hoover, 1980, when Ronald Reagan won over Jimmy Carter and 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated George HW Bush. Should Romney win tomorrow it will be something of a historical sensation.

The last week of campaigning has gone well for Barack Obama. He was strengthened politically in the wake of the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, not least because Romney was forced to the sidelines, with no role, unable to conduct his election campaign. But Obama was also strengthened by the words of praise from Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as from the country perhaps leading independent voice, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The campaign somehow took a new direction and Obama got new wind in his sails. It may prove to be decisive tomorrow.

Here’s the situation in the campaign’s last frantic hours

Less than 48 hours before Election Day and the pace is frantic. The candidates jump from state to state in search of voters while new pieces of information about early voting, opinion polls, rumors, predictions, and speculation in the media are now sweeping across the country.

By Tuesday, the last chance to vote, around 60 percent or 130 million Americans are expected to have cast their ballots. Let’s look at the numbers in the final phase of the presidential contest, but also in the Senate elections, where 33 seats are at stake, the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are contested, and in the eleven governors races.

The President:

It’s very even, everyone says. Those who really keep track of all numbers and all the polls predict a decisive victory for Barack Obama, while the more traditional political pundits are more cautious. It remains to be seen who gets it right, but if the polls do not prove completely wrong, I am willing to put my money on political statisticians like Nate Silver and Simon Jackman.

Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight in the New York Times assesses President Obama’s victory chances to be 85 percent and for Obama to win 307 electoral votes — 270 are required for victory. In 2008, Obama won 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s 173.

Simon Jackman, professor at Stanford University and like Silver a political statistician, writes on his blog in the Huffington Post that the most likely scenario is that Obama gets 332 electoral votes. Jackman thinks that in seven of the nine battleground states — Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida – an Obama victory is likely, even very likely. In crucial Ohio, Obama’s victory chances are 90 percent, in Wisconsin nearly 99 percent, in Iowa and Nevada over 90 percent, in New Hampshire just under 90 percent, and in Colorado 70 percent. Florida is too close to call while North Carolina is likely going to Romney.

The Senate:

Only twelve of the 33 Senate seats are really contested. In the end, most think the Democrats will retain their majority, even increase it a bit from today’s majority of 51 with two independents voting with the Democrats, against 47 Republicans.

Arizona: Republican Jon Kyl retires and the battle to replace him is surprisingly even in this normally solid Republican state. Democrat Richard Carmona has a chance to beat Republican Jeff Flake. If so, it would be a huge upset.

Connecticut: Independent Joe Lieberman retires and Democrat Chris Murphy is favored to take his place against wrestling queen and millionaire Republican Linda McMahon, who has already failed once to become a Senator from this democratic state.

Indiana: Republican and veteran Senator Richard Lugar was upset in the Republican primary election by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock, who now seems to have to pay for his extremism on abortion and rape, as Democrat Joe Donnelly is favored to win. A sensational outcome in this solid Republican state, where Obama won in 2008 but where he has no chance to win this year.

Massachusetts: Democrat Elizabeth Warren is favored to defeat Republican Senator Scott Brown in one of the most Democratic states in the country. Brown won surprisingly a special election a couple of years ago after Ted Kennedy’s death, but with Obama on the ballot this year, Brown is heading for a probable defeat.

Missouri: Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is heading for a surprising re-election in this conservative state due to another Tea Party favorite Todd Akin’s many stupid statements about abortion and rape.

Montana: Extremely even race between Democratic Senator Jon Tester and his Republican challenger Danny Rehberg, although Romney is the clear favorite in this state.

Nevada: Republican Senator Dean Heller is expected to defeat Democrat Shelley Berkley, but if Obama wins big in Nevada, Berkley might squeeze out a victory.

North Dakota: Democrat Kent Conrad retires and Republican Rick Berg is expected to take his Senate seat by beating Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, but the race is very even.

Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown is expected to be re-elected.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Bob Casey is expected to be re-elected.

Virginia: Democrat Jim Webb retires and two ex-governors are fighting to replace him, with Democrat Tim Kaine a slight favorite over Republican George Allen. Obama and Romney are also involved in a tight race in this state.

Wisconsin: Democrat Herbert Kohl retires and his party colleague Tammy Baldwin is expected to beat Republican Tommy Thompson, albeit extremely narrowly.

The House of Representatives:

The Republicans are expected to retain their majority – 240 to 193 with 3 vacancies – among the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Although the Democrats are expected to pick up a few seats, it will not be enough, and Speaker John Boehner is expected to continue to lead the House for another two years.

The Governors:

There are elections for governor in eleven states. No matter what happens, the Republicans will continue to dominate on the state level, controlling at least 30 of the 50 governorships.

Talking about polls…what has happened to Gallup?

Talking about polling…what has happened to Gallup?

The question is put by Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight after Gallup’s tracking poll is showing very different numbers than all other polls with Mitt Romney leading big.

While all the other tracking polls show a very even race, today’s Gallup figures show that Romney has increased his lead over Obama from 6 to 7 percentage points.

Under the headline “Gallup vs. the World,” Silver argues that this is not the first time that Gallup differs considerably from the others.

“Its results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case.”

But that does not mean that Gallup should be ignored:

“You should consider it (Gallup) — but consider it in context. The context is that its most recent results differ substantially from the dozens of other state and national polls about the campaign. It’s much more likely that Gallup is wrong and everyone else is right than the other way around.”

Gallup’s numbers are included in Silver’s forecast which estimates Obama’s chances to win next month at 65.7 percent.

Making sense of the flood of campaign polls…

All of us following the U.S. presidential election campaign have the feeling, I’m sure, to be drowning in opinion polls. Every day, there are new polls, both nationally and state by state, and especially in the ten or so “battle ground states,” where the election will be decided.

And if you have followed my blog about America, you’ve probably also noticed that I keep close tabs on what Nate Silver writes on his political statistics blog in the New York Times called FiveThirtyEight — an excellent source of information during an election campaign where so much is about the polls and dthe importance of how these new, daily measurements are interpreted.

Last night, I went to listen to Professor Simon Jackman, political scientist and political statistician at Stanford University, who was in town to give a lecture.

“Obama wins in a squeaker,” predicted Jackman, but the situation is extremely even — “a game of inches:” 47 percent for Obama, 47 percent for Romney. According to Jackman’s model, Obama leads today with 267 electoral votes to 206 for Romney (270 needed to win). Five states with a total of 65 electoral votes are “toss ups”: Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, while Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania lean to Obama, and North Carolina to Romney.

This is not a forecast but a compilation of the 517 polls —  “poll averaging” — which Jackman describes in this interesting article in the Huffington Post. This method is necessary to really explore the political situation, and he warned of polls with only 800 or 1000 or 2000 respondents. They don’t tell the correct story.

Jackman also described in his lecture how it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce good and reliable polls. People don’t want participate. They don’t have time. Why should hey spend 15 to 30 minutes on the phone with someone they don’t know, and without getting paid? And he described the problem of reaching young voters, if the survey does not use cell phones and how the Internet is becoming increasingly important to the polls.

Jackman also spoke about political bias in the polling firms. None of them stand out as extra special, but they have their sympathies. Of the major polling firms, Pew is pro-Obama and Rasmussen pro-Romney. Gallup leans towards the Republicans, while the polls from Fox News, surprisingly to me at least, are close to the ideal political neutrality.

Still, Jackman writes, “it would be unreasonable to conclude that the polls are giving us a qualitatively incorrect impression of how the election is shaping up.”

Here is his article on the subject in the Huffington Post.

Good post-debate numbers for Obama but will it last?

The first quick polls after the debate last night pointed to a victory for of Barack Obama against Mitt Romney, 46 per cent to 39 in the CNN survey, 37 per cent to 30 of CBS’s survey and 48 per cent to 31 in the Google Consumer Surveys among registered voters.

It was a new Obama that showed up last night, compared to the Denver debate two weeks ago: tough, aggressive, committed, concentrated, eloquent. Unlike in Denver, Obama did not give way on a single point, constantly counterattacking and repeatedly stating that what Romney said was not true.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief among Democrats. It was a new ball game. The strangely absent president in Denver was a distant memory — “Obama was back!”

Romney was also clearly not as strong as in the first debate, forced on the defensive by Obama’s unwillingness to budge an inch. Several of his answers, on tax policy and women’s issues, but especially on Libya, were weak. On Libya, Romney had to stand corrected by the moderator as to what the president said after the deadly attack on the American consulate.

In addition to these first positive poll numbers for Obama, the fact that the media almost unanimously pointed to Obama’s strong debate will greatly influence public opinion in the next days.

Conclusion: Obama seems to have regained the initiative in the election campaign after the Denver debacle. The question is how much will the debate move the head-to-head polls between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama?

Nate Silver has a warning on his FiveThirtyEight blog:

“Actually, the instant reaction polls may not be very much help in answering that question. The relationship between the quick-reaction polls and their contingent effect on the horse-race polls has historically been very modest, and has sometimes even run in the opposite direction of what the initial polls suggested. Debates sometimes look different in the rear-view mirror, depending on news media coverage, YouTube and cable news highlights, word of mouth, and subsequent developments on the campaign trail. “

He continues:

“But if you want my best guess: Throughout this election cycle, you would have done very well by predicting that the polls would eventually settle in at an overall lead for Mr. Obama of about two percentage points.”

Silver now puts Obama’s chances to win the election at 64.8 per cent, while the betting site Intrade sets the number at 64.9 per cent, up from 61.7 before last night’s debate.

The third and final debate will take place next Monday. It will be on foreign policy — Obama’s strength and Romney’s weakness — both of which were underlined again in the Libya debate last night.  That speaks to Obama’s advantage, but much can still happen as the campaign moves to a final decision on Election Day.