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Archive for August 2012

Will political conventions have to survive on only 3 days?

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Now that political conventions are merely a PR pep rally, will they permanently shrink to 3 days instead of 4?

The Republicans started this trend in 2008, shortening the coronation of John McCain and Sarah Palin to 3 days to honor those who suffered under Hurricane Gustav. The Democratic Party chose in 2012 to not work on Labor Day, a day the Republicans were going to work in 2008 until the adjustment for the hurricane. Now the Republicans aren’t going to work on Monday thanks to Hurricane Isaac.

Of course, the GOP also took Monday off because the major networks weren’t going to cover the RNC since they wanted to give equal time to both conventions. The Republicans wanted the broadcast networks to carry Ann Romney’s speech. So now the wife of the presidential nominee will speak on Tuesday.

This trend wouldn’t have started except the major parties wanted to run their conventions as late as possible. They want the momentum to run as late as possible as people finally pay attention to the presidential race.

One night for the presidential nominee, one night for the vice presidential nominee, one night for the keynote speaker and the rest.

The networks don’t really want to cover the conventions: 3-4 hours is all they want to do. The FCC licenses for public service be damned.

NBC won’t cover the second night of the Democratic convention for the kickoff to the NFL season. The NFL moved its debut game early for the Republicans in 2008 so as not to interrupt John McCain’s speech. The Dems moved Joe Biden’s speech to earlier on Thursday. NBC won’t show Bill Clinton’s speech at the convention. This would be a good time to remind TV stations of the ability to show more than one feed through the digital spectrum, but stations are under using that technology.

Another good reason for the parties to start thinking about earlier starts. If not for the hurricanes, think about the difficulty of competing against the NFL.

As we said during the Olympics, let the games begin!


Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin: same as it ever was

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The parallels between 2008 and 2012 ring true.

On the first day of my vacation in 2008, the GOP nominee chose his running mate. The nominee was a former moderate who moved to the right and had been denied the nomination in a previous attempt for the GOP nomination. The GOP nominee picked a relatively unknown, much younger politician who appealed more to the base than the independents needed for victory.

The only thing that really changed in 2012 was the location of my vacation (Buffalo — 2008, Lake Louise, AB, Canada — 2012).

Okay, Paul Ryan is visibly smarter than Sarah Palin, and he won’t use the word “lipstick” in his speech on Wednesday. In terms of the race, Ryan and Palin serve the same purpose.

Then again, the GOP has a long tradition of using the VP role to strengthen the base. Dick Cheney leaps to mind as does Dan Quayle, Spiro Agnew, and Richard Nixon. The GOP’s tradition is so strong that the last time any party forced out a sitting vice president was the Republicans in 1976 when they told Gerald Ford that Nelson Rockefeller was too liberal for them to support.

So does it matter that Paul Ryan is the VP nominee for the GOP in 2012?

In the initial days of the Palin pick, she was seen as a game changer, a Hail Mary selection that shook up the establishment. We found out later, yeah, not so much.

In the initial days of the Ryan pick, he was seen as a game changer, a Hail Mary selection that shook up the establishment. Other than rallying a few more Republicans to come out and vote, seeing Ryan’s advantage in the race is like viewing San Francisco when the fog rolls into the bay.

Todd Akin took his lumps for his “legitimate rape” comments but his views are shared by quite a few Republicans and Ryan’s views on abortion for rape and incest victims falls into Akin’s line and the GOP platform — no exceptions.

Under bills that Ryan co-sponsored in the House (H.B. 3), if you are a victim of rape or incest and you get pregnant, no abortion for you.

The unraveling of Sarah Palin was a fluke on numerous levels so a repeat of that is not likely. The questions Palin received from less than stellar journalists such as Charles Gibson and Katie Couric weren’t that hard. Only because the answers were so out there did we get that unraveling.

Though Paul Ryan is more known to the political pundits than Palin was in 2008, the general public still knows very little about the person who would become the next vice president of the United States.

One thing we do know about Paul Ryan is that he is a current House member, and House members don’t often get to be at the top of the ticket. James Garfield is one of three House members to run for the presidency and the only one to win. Henry Clay (1824) and John Anderson (1980) finish off the list; Clay was one of four major candidates while Anderson ended up being an independent after losing out in Republican primaries.

The last House member to make the VP slot in a major party ticket was Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. Ferraro’s pick was seen as bold, but ultimately made little impact.

Ryan and Palin have a similar generational age gap with their presidential nominee. John McCain was 71 while Palin was 44 in 2008; Mitt Romney is 65 while Ryan is 42. While Palin was the center of questions about her viability given McCain’s age, those same questions should be asked about Ryan given Romney’s age.

America can handle a relatively younger president. After all, Bill Clinton was 46 when elected in 1992 and Barack Obama was 47 when elected in 2008. Though, they did run at the top of the ticket and both were Democratic.

There is a certain appeal to having a Gen X candidate on a top ticket, though the president in the other party is also in Gen X. But Republicans haven’t learned that just because your candidate is young doesn’t mean young people will vote for you. This is about what you stand for, not your demographic info. Besides, that would be like picking Sarah Palin thinking women will vote for your ticket because you have a woman on the ticket. Oops.

Partisans will point out the relative inexperience of Obama in comparison to Ryan, and the fact that Romney is apparently in great shape for being 65. True, though Obama went with experience in his vice president in Joe Biden and Romney being healthy for his age isn’t as relevant because you never know what can happen. The vice president needs to be ready; Biden is ready, but is Ryan?

Picking someone younger and relatively inexperienced (Ryan has had only two sponsored bills passed in 12 years of Congress and one of those was to rename a post office) isn’t a bad thing if you feel like you’ve picked someone who is well-qualified for the role.

Paul Ryan wasn’t selected for that reason; neither was Sarah Palin. They weren’t picked because they could take over. Bill Clinton, himself 46, picked Al Gore, 44, as his running mate. Gore’s experience and background dwarfs Ryan’s record.

A presidential candidate’s first major decision is to select a running mate. The pick points to a leader’s character and credibility. What kind of leader will the candidate be? Picking a running mate speaks volumes to what they think of the role of the vice president. Bill Clinton wasn’t afraid to pick someone who could have overshadowed his record.

John McCain and Mitt Romney picked running mates to satisfy the base, thinking very little about their subsequent roles as a vice president and possible president. They saw George H.W. Bush get away with such a pick in Dan Quayle in 1988. Quayle’s experience was more balanced than Ryan, but when Quayle compared his length of service to John F. Kennedy, that is when Lloyd Bentsen said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

At the RNC Convention in 2008, Sarah Palin gave a better speech than John McCain, a very bad sign for a campaign even if it sounds good inside a convention hall. Paul Ryan will likely give a better speech than Mitt Romney, based on his response to the State of the Union address in 2011. As good a speaker as Joe Biden is (when he stays on script), Barack Obama will outdo Biden in Charlotte.

Ryan is a one-trick pony, a mouthpiece to sell the austerity and emphasis on defense spending at the expense of domestic spending. How Ryan would handle elements outside the budget will hopefully be addressed. Waiting until the Biden-Ryan debate will likely be too late.

Ryan will be the first VP nominee to run for two posts since Joe Lieberman in 2000. The senator from Connecticut ran for his Senate position as well as vice president. Rob Zerban is Ryan’s House opponent from the Democratic Party. Lieberman seemed to be more interested in his Senate post than in being vice president. If Paul Ryan becomes more distracted toward VP, Zerban has a shot at an upset.

Republicans like VP candidates with little experience; Democratic folk like VP candidates with experience. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin fit that role for the GOP, but the question is whether that will translate into votes in November.

What will the political impact be from the 2012 drought?

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Americans love complaining about food prices, and those complaints will get louder once the impact of the 2012 drought is felt in the pocketbooks. This being an election year — politicians will care more about Americans basic necessities than usual. Food is as basic as it gets.

The 2012 drought is hampered by the American policy of planting monocultures such as corn and soy. Put all your corn in one basket, and the corn crop is crap, then your basket isn’t that full. Combine that with a policy where we grow food for fuel (ethanol) and our food and fuel policies are messed up.

The Farm Bill would be a good way to fix food farm policy, but the Republican naysayers aren’t concerned about a Farm Bill that will address these issues.

For more on the food impact, check out this column from our sister blog,

Written by democracysoup

August 21, 2012 at 7:40 am

Montreal student protests may impact Quebec election

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For all that we’ve written about the student protests over the tuition hikes in Quebec, you almost feel like you have to see the story to the end. Jean Charest, Quebec’s premier, has launched a provincial election for September 4.

The student protests have been somewhat quiet this summer, but when I was in Montreal, so much of the concern against the government were specifically targeted at Charest.

The rise up against Charest is not just tied to the student protests. And Charest has been in office for three terms, two of them as a Liberal. So a fourth term doesn’t have strong odds of success.

Then again, the Parti Quebecois, the strongest chance to oust Charest and the Liberals, hasn’t been that strong. And Charest’s opposition hasn’t always been strongly unified.

For more analysis on this election cycle, check out this column from our sister blog,

Mitt Romney’s VP pick will either be VP or fall into obscurity

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Editor’s note: This does apply to Paul Ryan, selected as Mitt Romney’s VP pick over the weekend. We’ll have more on the Ryan pick later.

Would you have voted for Joe Biden as vice president? Dan Quayle? Dick Cheney?

We get to vote for president; the vice president comes along for the ride. You might have voted for Lloyd Bentsen instead of Dan Quayle. Could have picked Jack Kemp over Al Gore or Geraldine Ferraro over George H.W. Bush.

The last time a vice president became president was Gerald Ford in 1974, and Ford became vice president because Spiro Agnew had to resign for reasons that had nothing to do with Watergate. At some point, who we elect as vice president is going to make that difference once again.

Political junkies might care who the VP nominee but mostly, the American people have trusted that whomever the nominee picks, that person will be OK should the VP have to become president.

Until 2008.

More people paid attention to a VP pick for the first time since, well, maybe 1972. If you are too young to remember, Google Thomas Eagleton when you get a chance.

Sarah Palin changed the dynamic for how a VP nominee is chosen, and to be fair to the half-term former governor of Alaska, that wasn’t her fault. The one thing we can’t blame Palin for is choosing Palin in the first place.

True, Palin could have turned down the opportunity. And there are some potential 2012 VP nominees who may turn down Mitt Romney (if asked) because they don’t want to be seen as being on a potentially losing ticket.

The process has not been kind to those that accept the nomination — and lose. For every Joe Biden and Al Gore, we have had a Palin, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, and Jack Kemp (Edwards and Lieberman were on the side that likely had the most votes, but shenanigans prevented a fair outcome). None of those four had much of a political future on the national stage. Palin’s opportunity could have been 2016 if she had not accepted John McCain’s invitation. Now, we’ll never know.

You could argue that Al Gore, Joe Biden, Spiro Agnew, and Richard Nixon ran into those same concerns when they were the VP nominee. What happens if we don’t win? The problem is that voters aren’t really choosing who the vice president will be. Your vote for Obama won’t change because Biden (or in many rumors, Hillary Clinton) is the VP, and your Romney vote will stay pretty tight no matter how he picks. Well, maybe not if it’s Sarah Palin.

Tim Pawlenty would have no reason not to accept Romney’s invite, since his national future, um, well, he has no national future other than being a VP selection. Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal still have a shot of running for the top spot in the future. Nikki Haley is smart enough to know her time isn’t now.

But being the VP nominee of a major party, even one that may lose, is too good to pass up for most people. The allure, the fame, the recognition. Your spot in almanacs and encyclopedias for generations to come. Sarah Palin may not have much, but she does have that.

The last losing VP nominee to be nominated as a presidential candidate was Bob Dole in 1996. Dole had to wait 20 years and run from the most awkward position of Senate Majority Leader to pull that off. I don’t know Bob Dole, Bob Dole is not a friend of mine, but this wave of GOP contenders are no Bob Dole.

Someone will be Mitt Romney’s VP nominee, and that someone has a 50-50 to 40-60 shot of being the next vice president of the United States. If the recent trend continues, that person will either be the next VP or the answer to a trivia question. What’s worse is that the person will have little say in which way that goes.

Americans of all stripes have solutions to our problems, but does Mitt Romney?

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Ask anyone in an American bar after about 3-4 drinks about the state of the country and you will get a lot of response. Liberal, conservative, people who like chicken sandwiches and gay marriage. You will also get solutions to those problems, usually starting out with “if you ask me” even if they weren’t asked.

The key is that most people who complain are willing to back that up with what they would do about it if they were in charge.

Perhaps this isn’t fair to Mitt Romney, who doesn’t drink thanks to his Mormon religion. The people in the bars are less likely to share solutions to the world’s problems when they are sober. But they would still say more than Romney about the subject.

Romney has been running for president for 5 years now, and we know very little about what Romney wants to do about the United States. Vagueness hovers over him like a storm cloud over Charlie Brown.

Politicians get into trouble over giving specifics. But Romney hasn’t learned that giving specifics is like getting a shot. It will hurt, but not for long.

If you want to be president of the United States, and one assumes Romney wants to be president, you do have to present a plan, a motivation, a raison d’etre for why you want to live in the White House. To not be Barack Obama is still not enough.

Romney’s inability to absorb short-term pain extends to his refusal to submit past tax returns. As bad as things might be with those returns, you almost can’t imagine a scenario where Romney’s returns are as bad as people think they are based on his reluctance to turn them over.

As someone who has not been impressed with Harry Reid, I find his latest bravado has been sorely missing, especially in all of 2009 and 2010. The Senate Majority Leader was better off limiting his scope on Romney’s tax returns to his unidentified source. Reid is far enough on the plank that a simple tax returns release would have to shut him up. Romney can’t even pull that off. If Romney gets a cut and a bandage, does someone else rip it off of him.

Barack Obama really wanted to be president in 2008. Whatever you might think of some of his decisions, Obama definitely wants to be president again. Obama takes a lot of shots, some from his own side, and some odd clearly mendacious shots from Romney (e.g., welfare as we know it).

Reid isn’t winning on style points, though his tactics have been soundly criticized while similar approaches from the right are treated as harmless. Yet the only way Reid wins is that Romney doesn’t disclose his tax returns. That just might happen.

On the tax returns, Romney is borrowing a page from the Sarah Palin playbook. Palin ran out the clock while never disclosing her medical records. As far as the MSM was concerned, Palin got away with it. Candidates disclose their tax returns and medical records, but Palin and now Romney want to be exceptions, and feel perturbed if you think otherwise.

Romney has run this race with arrogance — more than even 2008. Too much humility is bad, but from an objective standpoint, Obama has a more comfortable balance between arrogance and humility.

When the GOP assembles in Tampa, Romney will have to give a speech on why Americans should elect him president. He should start by looking into his reflection and asking “why do I want to be president.” For his sake, he should tell himself and the rest of us really soon.

Ted Cruz, Dan Senor: GOP with Canadian ties

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Jennifer Granholm was a prominent politician with a Canadian connection: being born in Canada and serving as Michigan governor for two terms. But the political stream from Canada is heading in one direction: Republican.

The logic is pretty obvious. Even if Stephen Harper is in charge in Canada, the Great White North is a more liberal country than the United States. So as much as liberals would want to go to Canada, conservatives would want to come to the United States.

David Frum. Dan Senor. And now Ted Cruz.

Frum and Senor served under George W. Bush. And Senor is a significant part of the Mitt Romney campaign.

Ted Cruz is the wild card, since he was born in Canada, yet he is a teabagger/Republican running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the outgoing Kay Bailey Hutchison.

For more on this connection, check out this column from our sister blog,