Weekly Musing 12-18-15
I love Mitt…but Peggy Noonan Raises Some Good Points: Don’t Do It, Mr. Romney – He’d have been a better president than Obama. That’s not nearly enough.
the news this week was of Mitt Romney ‘s seriousness in considering running again for the nomination. I just spent two days at the Republican joint congressional retreat in Hershey, Pa., and can tell you there was exactly no Mitt-momentum. The talk, when it turned to 2016, was of others. Those in attendance seemed to be trying to get the possibility of Mitt Part 3 through their heads, because while they understand it on a personal level—no one who’s been in the game ever wants to leave the game—they could see no compelling political rationale.
Everyone this week came down on Mr. Romney. In major newspapers and on political websites they listed their reasons he shouldn’t run. He is yesterday, we need tomorrow. He is an example of what didn’t work, we have to turn the page. He is and always has been philosophically murky—it’s almost part of his charm—but it’s not what’s needed now. He ran a poor campaign in 2012 and will run a poor one in 2016. He was a gaffe machine—”47%”; “I have some great friends that are Nascar team owners”—and those gaffes played into the party’s brand problems.
In defense of Mr. Romney’s idea, and what must be the impulse behind it, is this. If every voter in America were today given a secret toggle switch and told, “If you tug the toggle to the left, Barack Obama will stay president until January, 2017; if you tug it to the right, Mitt Romney will become president,” about 60% of the American people would tug right.
It must be hard for him to know that, and make him want to give it another try. But it’s also true that America would, right now, choose your Uncle Ralph who spends his time knitting over the current incumbent.
I add two reasons Mr. Romney should not run.
This is a moment in history that demands superior political gifts from one who would govern. Mitt Romney does not have them. He never did. He’s good at life and good at business and good at faith. He is politically clunky, always was and always will be. His clunkiness is seen in the way he leaked his interest in running: to mega-millionaires and billionaires in New York. “Tell your friends.”
Second, Romney enthusiasts like to compare him with Ronald Reagan, who ran three times. This is technically true, though 1968 was sort of a half-run in which Reagan got in late and dropped out early, because he wasn’t ready for the presidency and knew it. But his 1976 run was serious, almost triumphant, and won for him the party’s heart.
The real Romney-Reagan difference is this: There was something known as Reaganism. It was a real movement within the party and then the nation. Reaganism had meaning. You knew what you were voting for. It was a philosophy that people understood. Philosophies are powerful. They carry you, and if they are right and pertinent to the moment they make you inevitable.
Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty
For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.
Maybe??? Here’s how Democrats win back the Senate in 2016. And it’s surprisingly simple.
The Senate map is Democrats’ friend in the 2016 cycle. They are defending only 10 seats while Republicans have two dozen of their own seats to hold. But wait, it gets better. Seven of those 24 Republican seats are in states that President Obama won not once but twice: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
To win the majority back, Democrats need to win five of those seven seats in November 2016. (If Hillary Clinton, or some other Democrat, wins the White House in 2016, then Senate Democrats need to win only four of those seven. That’s the exact path Republicans took to the Senate majority in 2014 when, needing a six-seat gain, they won all six of the states — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 and were represented by Democrats. (Republicans also won two states — Iowa and Colorado — that Obama carried twice and one, North Carolina, that Obama won in 2008 and Romney won in 2012.)
Of course, 2014 was a historically good year for Senate Republicans. The last time the party won more than nine seats in a midterm election was 1994 when they won 10. Prior to 1994, you have to go all the way back to 1946 when Republicans netted 12 seats.
And, while the map looks great for Democrats on paper, several of those seven races look less rosy in reality. Iowa is a very tough Democratic pickup unless Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) decides to retire, which he insists he isn’t going to do. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is a gifted politician and fundraiser while the Democratic bench in the state is decidedly thin. The Democratic fields in New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois are still quite muddled. And neither Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) nor Ron Johnson (Wis.) are political dead men walking.
Not yet, at least.
Good Summary & Right On – Finley: Nobody wants Dave Agema
The final straw for the GOP came after a New Year’s Day post by Agema of an article from an outfit called American Renaissance. I read the post before Agema scrubbed it from his page, and it was a pure segregationist rant straight out of the 1950s.
The author, who described himself as a public defender, derided blacks for their limited intellectual capacity, poor work ethic, cultural devolution and inability to follow the law. His thesis was that Americans should have a right to protect their culture against such miscreants.
Agema posted it with the endorsement: “Very interesting article by a public defender. We are in a cultural battle. Very enlightening for anyone who is concerned about crime in America …”
This was not a blunder. It is consistent with the tenor of Agema’s social network tripe.
Nor is it about free speech. Agema can say and think whatever he wants; party members likewise can decide they don’t want someone with those views representing them.
And it’s not about upholding Republican or Christian values, as Agema contends.
Racism, bigotry, sexism are not core values of either conservatives or Christians. Agema represents a narrow, hateful subset who have attached themselves to the Republican Party.
The party should scrape them off, starting with Agema.
Party rules apparently don’t allow the committee to eject a member short of a felony conviction. Who knows whether a narcissist like Agema will take the hint and step down, no matter how overwhelming the vote against him. If he won’t, the GOP should convene an emergency session to change its rules.
There’s some concern in the state party about making Agema a martyr in advance of its late February convention. But that’s as good a time as any to take a stand against hatemongers.
Call it Lack of Discipline, Filter or Misunderstanding – It’s An Unnecessary Distraction: GOP committee censures Agema over comments
The Republican National Party’s Executive Committee voted to censure embattled committeeman Dave Agema and is calling on the state Republican Party to explore ways to formally remove him from his post.
The vote came Wednesday during RNC’s annual winter meeting this week in San Diego. The move to censure him also demanded his resignation.
For more than a year, Agema — who has been blasted for a string of public and social media outbursts that critics have decried as racist and homophobic — has resisted resignation calls from top Republican leaders. Officials have said they don’t have the power to remove him, short of a felony conviction.
“It is clear that Michigan’s current Republican National Committeeman is not an effective party leader or representative, and has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to change his behavior,” Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak said in a statement Wednesday. “My position remains unchanged from a year ago, I hope Mr. Agema will voluntarily resign, but if he does not, the Michigan Republican Party will continue exploring all possibilities to address his actions.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus added: “Dave Agema’s history of harmful and offensive rhetoric has no place in our party, which is why the RNC Executive Committee acted in the swiftest way possible to avoid giving him a platform,” he said. “We have voted to censure him, and we are urging the Michigan GOP and their voters to explore options to discipline Agema for his actions. Today, we used all available tools to remove him from the committee.”
Rethinking the Electoral College
The other idea, which is actually moving forward, is an informal compact of the states – which Congress would not have to ratify – to change the laws governing the awarding of electors to insure those selected are the ones declared the winner of the popular vote. “This proposal would guarantee that every vote matters, every state is relevant, every town and community would have the same value to each candidate for president in every presidential election,” former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis says.
He has a point. Ever since 1988, the Republican candidate for president has either failed to target Michigan altogether or pulled out of the state before the race was over. In the electoral calculation, therefore, the state matters neither to the GOP, who expect to lose it despite having the governor and control of the state legislator, or to the Democrats, who expect to carry it easily and feel little need to do anything but make a few token campaign stops.
Anuzis says the idea is gaining steam, with 29 legislative chambers in 19 states having passed some legislation awarding presidential electors based on the outcome of the national popular vote. To critics who argue this proposal would only help the Democrats he counters that the GOP leaves millions of votes on the table ever year by not pursuing them in states like Utah and South Carolina – where victory comes easily – and in states like New York and California where it may not come at all. He argues the Republicans have more room for growth in their vote than the Democrats do in theirs.
Romney And The GOP’s Five-Ring Circus
What is Romney thinking? Candidates who lose general election campaigns don’t have a good track record when they’ve tried to run again. But as my colleague Harry Enten pointed out last week, Romney isn’t nuts to think he has a shot. The GOP field is historically divided, and Romney has more experience than anyone else in the party uniting (or at least placating) its constituencies. And Romney is vetted, skilled at raising money and starts out with near-universal name recognition.
But Romney also enters a crowded field. In the past, we’ve sometimes conceived of the GOP field with a Venn diagram that we call the “five-ring circus.” It portrays the major constituencies within the party — the establishment wing, the moderate wing, the tea party, libertarians and Christian conservatives — and how they overlap. Here’s how we think of things as shaping up so far for 2016:
George Will: Romney’s third presidential run would be no charm
The nation was mired in a disappointing recovery, upward mobility had stalled and the incumbent president’s signature achievement was unpopular and becoming more so. Barack Obama, far from being a formidable politician, was between the seismic repudiations of 2010 and 2014. Running against Romney, Obama became the first president to win a second term with smaller percentages of both the popular and electoral votes. He got 3.6 million fewer votes and a lower percentage of the electoral vote. Yet Romney lost all but one (North Carolina) of the 10 battleground states. He narrowly lost Florida, Virginia and Ohio, but even if he had carried all three, Obama still would have won with 272 electoral votes.
If it seemed likely that the Republican field of candidates for 2016 would be unimpressive, this would provide a rationale for Romney redux. But markets work, and the U.S. electoral system is a reasonably well-functioning political market, with low barriers to entry for new products.
Early 2016 moves by Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney spur other GOP contenders into action
A broad field of GOP candidates are ramping up preparations for presidential runs in the wake of early maneuvering by establishment favorites Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, kicking off the race for the 2016 Republican nomination at a breakneck speed.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is making a swing through New Hampshire on Wednesday, has tapped a campaign manager for his expected bid, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is quietly mobilizing the group of wealthy donors who would finance his effort.
Other possible contenders — such as former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former New York governor George Pataki — are holding meetings with party activists and donors, emphasizing their interest in running.
“Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both threw a very interesting wrench in the mix,” said GOP strategist Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. “I don’t think anybody expected them to come out so early or to come out so forcefully. If everybody stays in, it’s truly a wide-open ballgame.”
Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to use separate State of the State addresses Tuesday to lay out rationales for their anticipated GOP bids, underscoring how 2016 considerations are now driving state and national politics on the right.
How To Win The 2016 Elections: 6 Cutting-Edge Digital Tactics
The 2014 midterm elections demonstrated tremendous growth for digital campaigning, with digital ad spending jumping nearly 2,000% from the 2010 midterm spend. The 2016 elections will be won or lost on the digital battlefield, so it is more important than ever that political campaigns, party committees, and outside advocacy groups make use of the most cutting-edge strategies.
Based on my time inside the Beltway and in Silicon Valley, it’s quite clear that campaigns are startups of the political world, promoting politicians instead of products and acquiring voters instead of users. Campaigns looking to gain and maintain an edge over the competition should look to places like Silicon Valley for innovative approaches to digital marketing.
Some campaigns are already doing this, and they’re winning. Before he even started his job, the campaign manager for President Obama’s 2012 campaign met with executives from companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple in order to learn how the campaign could “exploit technology in ways that hadn’t been possible before.”
Having run digital for a winning campaign in one of the closest U.S. Senate elections of 2014, I believe that winning in 2016 will depend on whether or not campaigns adopt the following approaches to their digital marketing strategy:
This year, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers
This year, the “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the population projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The Gen X population (ages 35 to 50 in 2015) is projected to outnumber the Boomers by 2028.
The Millennial generation continues to grow as young immigrants expand their ranks. Boomers – a generation defined by the boom in U.S. births following World War II — are older and shrinking in size as the number of deaths exceed the number of older immigrants arriving in the country.
Too Late – But Interesting Discussion: Appease Putin and avert a second Cold War
A spectre once again haunts Europe. No, I don’t mean radical Islam, which once again reared its ugly head last week. I’m referring to a new Cold War, one that represents a far more dangerous threat to the continent.
Russia’s illegal incursion in Crimea and insurrection in eastern Ukraine has drawn the wrath of the West. In Russia, meanwhile, anti-Americanism has reached new highs, Barack Obama is widely despised and Russian supermarkets use US flags as doormats for customers to wipe their feet on.
It’s been a quarter of a century since the collapse of Soviet Communism. Yet here we are at the dawn of second Cold War between – let’s not forget – two nuclear giants. Why?
The conventional wisdom says Putin is a monster bent on reviving the Russian empire. Put the past year’s events in a broader historical context, however, and you’ll reach a more plausible conclusion.
According to foreign-policy realists (including this writer), Putin’s conduct has been understandable. It has been a reaction to the West’s attempts to pull Ukraine and other former Warsaw Pact satellite states away from Russia’s strategic orbit.
10 Least Tax-Friendly States for Retirees
These 10 states impose the highest taxes on retirees, according to Kiplinger’s 2014 analysis of state taxes. Five of them treat Social Security benefits just like Uncle Sam—taxing up to 85%. Exemptions for other types of retirement income are limited or nonexistent. (To see how retirement income is taxed by state, go to the Retiree Tax Map.)
This year, we also looked at states’ capital gains rates because the six-year-long bull market has left many retirees with larger taxable portfolios. While investors typically pay lower federal tax rates on long-term capital gains, most states treat capital gains like ordinary income, notes Kyle Pomerleau, an economist for the Tax Foundation. That can take an unexpected bite out of the investment income of retirees who live in states with high income tax rates. For example, the top combined federal and state capital gains tax rate in California is 33%, according to the Tax Foundation, almost 10 percentage points higher than the fed’s top 23.8% tax rate on such profits.
Most retirees keep a close watch on their expenses, and they tend to vote in large numbers. That may explain why lawmakers in several states have attempted to make their environs more welcoming for older residents. In the past year, Maine increased the amount of pension income that’s excluded from state taxes. Nebraska boosted its exemption for Social Security income, starting in 2015. And New York and Maryland moved to gradually increase their estate tax exemptions to match the federal exclusion (currently $5.34 million).
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