Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Democrats and NAFTA.

The GOP candidates said a world of insane things in their debates. I was not kind to them in this space, and I don't take back a comma of what I wrote. The democrats were quite insane on the issue of NAFTA last night in what may be the last debate, and I'm going to tell you about it.

NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) apparently allows the US to pull out from the agreement with 6 months notice. On Tuesday the two big states voting are Texas (which borders Mexico, and has seen an economic boom in no small part because of increased trade with Mexico) and Ohio (which has lost a LOT of good-paying manufacturing jobs in the last 20-25 years, mostly NOT due to NAFTA, but some surely due to NAFTA). As the candidates pander to the voters of Ohio, both Obama and Clinton promised to renegotiate NAFTA to improve labor and environmental standards, and to pull out entirely if negotiations were unsuccessful.

They are lying through their teeth. They would do no such thing, and if they did, it would have precisely ZERO impact on manufacturing jobs in Ohio. Literally zip.

A) They won't actually pull out of NAFTA, no matter what happens. I can't prove it, or even logically back it up well, but that's my opinion. Even if they did it wouldn't save a single job in Ohio, as discussed below.

B) The proposed improvements in NAFTA have nothing to do with past or future job losses in manufacturing in Ohio (or anywhere else): Um, have these people ever heard of CHINA. To refresh, its in Asia, has 1.3 billion people, lots of new manufacturing in recent years, a rapidly growing economy, will host the Olympics this year..... They managed to discuss the impact of NAFTA as it effects manufacturing jobs in Ohio without mentioning CHINA. Well let me help them. Jobs moving to Mexico is the day before yesterday's news. Nowadays even China isn't the only destination; jobs are moving to Vietnam and Indonesia as well. But let's focus on China.

Let me back up. LOTS of manufacturing jobs HAVE left Ohio in the last 20 years. Why? Is it because of high taxes and oppressive regulation, like the GOP seems to say? Lawsuits? Because the owners hated America? Well, no. Its because wages in Mexico, China and elsewhere are FAR lower than here, and ESPECIALLY far lower than the high wages union workers receive. Think $50-60 an hour (counting benefits) in the US (higher for UAW workers), and maybe $4 an hour in Mexico (counting all costs associated with the worker, the individual worker gets well less than that) and maybe $2 an hour in China, if that. These differences are enormous, and REALLY add up. There are other advantages to manufacturing in Mexico or that tiny obscure Asian country called, oh, what is it called again? China, that's right. And yes, these include laxer labor and environmental laws. If we could somehow force Mexico to tighten up its labor and environmental laws that may be a positive outcome, but it will NOT save jobs. It won't bring Mexican labor costs anywhere remotely near those of the US (that will take decades) and, of course, will not address the even lower wages and welcoming economic climate of China. The savings from lower wages which result when jobs are moved to China or Mexico will absolutely overwhelm any additional tariffs required due to NAFTA's possible termination. It won't even be close. Even if NAFTA disappeared tomorrow jobs would still be moved overseas as economics and convenience allowed. Only ultra-drastic measures would stop this from happening.

In other words, Obama and Clinton were lying through their teeth, and saying something with about as much basis in reality as a flying pink unicorn. See any flying pink unicorns recently? I'll venture you've seen precisely as many flying pink unicorns in the last month as jobs which would be saved by the proposed changes in NAFTA or its elimination.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Goodbye Hillary. She's toast.

The democratic campaign effectively ended yesterday, in cold Wisconsin. In a very white middle class state, where demographics favored Clinton, Obama wiped the floor with her, winning among white men by 19 points and losing white women, CLINTON'S BASE, by only 2. This race is over, Obama has won. I am now 99.9% positive. Its pretty obvious really. Counting Wisconsin, Obama has now won 10 states in a row, and won them all BIG. The closest Hillary has come to a win since Super Duper Tuesday was yesterday in Wisconsin, which she lost by "only" 17 points. She's a political corpse. Its been obvious for a week, I should have seen it sooner. I'm sorry, I let you down a bit.

Why has Obama been cleaning her clock? Like Kerry and Gore before her, Hill doesn't wear well. The more you see of her the less you like her/more you dislike her. Obama does wear well. After Super Duper Tuesday, when it was clear that Obama might win, voters in states still to come took a careful look, liked what they saw, and easily said "NO," to voting for Hillary. In short, she has just no mass appeal, despite having a great deal going for her policy-wise and otherwise.

Here's what will happen next. Hillary will get more and more negative, to no good end. Bill will get back in the spotlight, making some wild charge or another. Obama will win Ohio decisively and Texas much less decisively (hispanics will be the last to flock to Obama) but he WILL win Texas. Calls will then mount for Hillary to drop out. She and Bill are nobody's quitters, so although I can't be sure when she'll drop out, after she loses both Ohio and Texas it will be clear to Hillary that she won't win. I now predict she will drop out by March 7. In addition, more and more superdelegates will either SWITCH their promised votes from her to Obama, or will change from undecided to Obama, as the results sink in. The risk of a protracted fight all the way to the convention has all but ended.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The democrats will win the presidency, and will do extremely well in the congressional elections. My much hoped for GOP wipeout will happen.

First the presidential. As you all know, I think McCain is an extremely strong candidate. I think in practically every election cycle since 1948 (perhaps literally every one except 1964 and 1996) McCain would win. But not in 2008. A combination of a recession and severe Bush fatigue has combined for a country raring and ready to elect Barney the Purple dinosaur if he were running as a democrat. This year, the GOP just can't win.

I'll write more soon about why the dems will do so very very well in 2008. In this post I'm going way out on a limb and predicting which states the dems will win. I hope I look back on this post in November and don't feel absolutely stupid. Here goes.

Start with the states Al Gore won in 2000. There are many web sites which tell you this, including Select 2000. Obama (or Clinton in the very unlikely event she is the nominee) will carry every state Gore carried). The democrat will also carry: Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and New Hampshire. This would give the democrat 364 electoral votes, way more than the 270 needed. This margin is solid enough that the democrat could lose BOTH Ohio and Florida and still win with room to spare. This map that I am projecting is similar to Bill Clinton's easy 1996 reelection win.

As for Congress, the dems will gain seats in both chambers. I couldn't guess at the number in the house, but it won't be tiny. There is a gigantic $$ and enthusiasm gap, and that will translate into D gains, especially with a large number of open seats.

As for the Senate, the GOP has TOUGH seats to defend. First, the GOP retirements. The Senate seats in Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico and Virginia are open due to GOP retirements. Mark Warner, a former Governor of Virginia, is nearly a sure thing to pick up that seat. Colorado also looks very good. New Mexico is possible, and Nebraska and Idaho will stay with the GOP unless 2008 is a wipeout for the GOP. I thus predict that the dems pick up Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico.

GOP incumbents in trouble include Susan Collins of Maine, Mitch McConell, the Senate Minority Leader, in Kentucky, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and possibly Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina (who has been a real disappointment). I could see a bunch of these losing on a good night for the democrats. As of now I pick the dems in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon. This is a total of a 6-seat gain for the democrats.

The only democratic held Senate seats that are seriously up for grabs are in South Dakota and Louisiana. In South Dakota, a very GOP state, Tim Johnson, who won very narrowly in 2002, suffered a serious stroke a few years back, and is recovering. I'm guessing he wins, but I have no confidence in this guess. I predict that Mary Landrieu loses in Louisiana, for the GOP's only pickup on what will be a disastrous night for them. So I predict the dems will pick up 5 Senate seats. Those seats, plus a bunch of house seats, plus 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be a big night indeed for the Dems. There'll be a lot of crying elephants.

It'll be fun to look back on this post after the election and see how I did.
Obama is the nominee. He will be the democratic nominee, and the next president. I will discuss his upcoming November election landslide over McCain in another post.

I'm not quite as certain as I was when I wrote on January 15th that McCain would be the GOP nominee, but close. The lead paragraph in an article in the most recent edition of the economist perfectly sums up why I think Obama will win the nomination:

ON SATURDAY February 9th an overflowing crowd of Virginians got a chance to see
the Democratic presidential candidates giving dueling speeches at the
Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Richmond. More interesting than anything the
candidates said, however, was the detritus afterwards. The crowds stripped the
place clean of Obama signs, tearing every last one off the walls. Hillary signs were abandoned on chairs and trampled under foot.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know about democratic enthusiasm for Obama. He is a phenomenon. Hillary is a candidate, an appealing one to some. I supported Gore for president, with Hillary my strong second choice. See my post on my support for Hillary analogizing to the prom. I always recognized that she left a lot to be desired as a candidate. And that her signs were left to be stomped on while Obama's were treated like $100 bills to be fought over tells you all you really need to know about the relative enthusiasm each generates among democrats. I can't tell you precisely how Obama will get the nomination. My best guess is that he wins Wisconsin today, solidly (5-10 points, maybe more), wins Ohio, is competitive in Texas and wins Pennsylvania. Under that scenario, there is every chance Hillary will actually drop out long before the convention, although "quitter," isn't a word that even her harshest enemies would toss her way. Many of the superdelegates supporting Hillary are apparently dying to jump ship and ride the winner's wave in Obama. But they don't want to piss of the Clintons, just in case. But as soon as they can, a goodly number of Clinton's delegates will move over to Obama. At some point the dam will burst, and a flood of them will move over to Obama. That's the most likely scenario. He's up in the national polls (for the first time) he has MUCH more money, he has MUCH more enthusiasm, and he's won a whole bunch of primaries and caucuses in a row, by a wide margin. He has more popular votes and more pledged delegates. It was a close competitive race, but Obama will prevail.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hillary's in trouble. At least that what it seems like, though during this campaign season many things which seemed to be true (Rooody the GOP front runner, Hillary inevitable) sure didn't turn out to be true.

Nevertheless, the margins of victory for Obama in yesterday's DC area (Obama got 60% of the vote in Maryland and a stunning 64% in Virginia, a state democrats have their eye on flipping in November, as well as an expected 75% of the vote in DC itself tells us that he is on a serious roll. Hillary's hoping to win in both Texas and Ohio on March 4, which would again make this a total toss up race. But if Obama wins both of those states (difficult but not impossible) the race will probably be over. Theoretically Hillary can do better with the superdelegates (important democrats like congressman, governors, etc, who can go with whoever they want regardless of the delegates voted by the states), and these could push her over the top, but if Obama wins noticeably more delegates than Clinton and the superdelegates flip the nomination to Clinton there would be holy hell to pay within the democratic party. Think the fiasco of 1968, which led to a narrow Nixon victory (and the 72 landslide that followed). An awful lot of people do NOT want to see that happen. Hill's not a quitter, to be damn sure, but I could forsee a scenario where Obama is up by enough of the pledged delegates (the ones won in the state primaries and caucuses) that a movement ensues among the superdelegates to ratify the voters' choice and nominate Obama.

Among pledged delegates (those won in state contests and NOT counting the superdelegates) Obama is now up about 1104-979. 2,025 are needed for nomination.

Hardly insurmountable, but it is a clear lead. There is also the matter of Michigan and Florida, which as of now will not be sending ANY delegates to the dem convention in Colorado. This is of course completely intolerable, and it is entirely possible that there will be fresh elections in both states, which should, in theory, favor Hillary strongly.

So its all a bit of a mess still. Dick Morris has predicted for nearly 4 years now that Hillary would be the nominee and next president. Yesterday for the first time he predicted Obama would win the nomination. Its easy to see why. He probably will. I sure as heck hope he's ready. A lot will depend on him if he's the nominee.

Friday, February 08, 2008

McCain is the strongest GOP candidate since Eisenhower. He really is. I know that sounds real strong, so let me back it up.

I'll begin with a few anecdotes. My late mother was a reliable democratic voter. She almost never voted for a Republican period (voted for Rooooooody both times if I recall, and voted for Pataki the first time). She never, not a once, voted for a Republican for President. Mom was also not political, and not at all politically knowledgeable. She told me in 2000 that if McCain was the GOP nominee, she would have voted for him.

Similarly, a few democrats have recently told me that they know die-hard democrats who say they will vote for McCain over Hillary at least. These people speak for an awful lot of others. I'll try and explain why.

John McCain is the son and grandson of Navy Admirals. He requested a combat assignment in Vietnam, and boy did he get one. As most or all of you know, he was flying a bombing mission when his plane was hit, he was forced to eject, and he was captured by the Vietnamese, spending more than 5 years as a POW, the first several under absolutely awful conditions. He was grieviously wounded in the initial shoot-down, and was often beaten senseless.

In the most famous incident of his POW-hood, he was offered early release when the Vietcong realized how powerful his father was. He refused, unless everyone taken prisoner before him was also released. His refusal is required by the Code of the US fighting force.

Still, I imagine a lot of people, having been seriously injured, and having been repeatedly tortured, would have leapt at the chance to accept early release, damn the code. One assumes the Vietnamese could have simply ignored his wishes and thrown him out of prison and told him he'd be shot if he didn't make his way back to US lines, but still, the courage he showed is almost unimaginable.

While in the Senate, McCain bucked his party by taking on big tobacco by, among other things, calling for increased cigarette taxes to reduce smoking, co-sponsoring the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law (more on that later), working with Bush on the only sensible measure of the entire Bush presidency, the immigration reform/amnesty bill that died last year, opposing both rounds of Bush tax cuts, saying of the first round, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." He has also supported certain gun control measures.

Most significantly perhaps, although McCain was a strong and valuable supporter of Bush's reelection in 2004 (a fact which Hill or Obama SHOULD make great hay out of in 2008), he was, virtually alone among Republicans (Chuck Hegal a notable exception), critical of the Bush war effort in Iraq, at times FIERCELY critical. As far back as 2004 (right after the election, note), McCain said he had "no confidence," in Rumsfeld.,2933,141374,00.html That may not sound impressive now, in 2008, but it was a radical position for a Republican then, with the Presidential etc. talking points being that Iraq was tough but going reasonably well. At that time he called for an additional 110,000 additional troops. (I note parenthetically that I was calling for huge #s of additional troops at the time as well. Given that what I know about the nitty gritty of fighting a ground war would fit inside of a thimble leaving plenty of room for your thumb, I give McCain little credit here). So although he's been properly branded as a supporter of the war effort in Iraq, the reality is quite a bit more complicated.

McCain has made his brand as a straight talker-- he calls his campaign bus the "straight talk express," and is, in my view, significantly more honest/less dishonest than any Republican has been in my lifetime, and is in fact more of a straight shooter than nearly anyone in our political class. In Iowa, each of the other GOP candidates pandered to local farming interests by supporting an enormous Ethanol subsidy. McCain didn't, either in 2000 or in 2008, and he did very poorly in Iowa, in part as a direct result.

Not to say that the Straight Talk Express hasn't come off the rails a time or two.

Campaigning for Bush in 2004 calling him a great leader in the war on terror, knowing what he knew THEN, constitutes at least the lead car of the straight talk express heading off the rails. Some of his other Iraq comments are a few more cars careening off of the tracks and down the valley.

Also, on the campaign trail this time around, McCain is claiming that he opposed the Bush tax cuts because there were no spending cuts along with them. This is directly at odds with what he said at the time, which was that the tax cuts were giveaways to the rich, and appears geared to winning over GOP primary voters' hearts. When you market yourself as the straight talk express, lies which in another candidate would be no big deal become somewhat glaring.

But to return to my original thesis-- Here's a Republican who is, imho, a genuine war hero, who is NOT wedded to tax cuts for the wealthy, took on tobacco, has a sensible position on immigration, and is significantly more honest than most politicians. Its no wonder he appeals so strongly to independents.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney quit today. McCain will be the GOP nominee.

I congratulate Romney for finally doing something right; he quit exactly at the time he should have-- after the results from Super Duper Tuesday showed everyone that McCain is the certain nominee. Its the first thing he's done right during his entire campaign.

Romney's departure reminds me of the old saying: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Romney leaves no discernible imprint on the Republican body politic. He stood for nothing at all of his own, merely adopting positions he thought would be pleasing to GOP primary voters. He repeatedly said, "Washington is broken," but couldn't bring himself to criticize George W. Bush, as though some democrat had been in Washington for the last 7 years, and the GOP hadn't controlled Congress for the vast majority of that time. He stood for no outside the box thinking, for no rethinking of conservative principles. He ran away from much that he believes in.

The REAL Mitt Romney, the moderate reasonably successful governor, the wildly successful businessman, the guy who rescued the Salt Lake City Olympics, would have been a very attractive candidate for president. The one that ran in the GOP primaries was nothing of the kind.

Mitt Romney had a lot to offer American voters (though maybe not GOP voters...) he spent a TON of money and left no footprint at all. Goodbye Mitt, and good riddance. You stood for nothing and you won't be missed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Well, it came and went.

On the GOP side, Romney is like another Mass. pretty boy, Tom Brady, the Patriots' Quarterback. John McCain went New York Giants on Romney, pounding him, sacking him, knocking him down, until by the end of the game, Romney felt like Tom Brady. He was lying on the ground, battered and bruised, looking out his earhole.

Sure, Romney completed a few short passes, winning his home states of Mass., and Utah, which is heavily Mormon, and a few caucus. But Romney is now fresh out of home states, and has yet to win a PRIMARY (as opposed to a caucus, in which money and organization matter more) in a state other than one of his 3 home states (Michigan, where his father was governor, and Utah, which is heavily mormon, are the others).

In the end, like the New York Giants, McCain won the big ones, winning the winner take all states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Missouri and his home state of Arizona, as well as decisively winning the biggest state of them all in American politics, California.

McCain will be the GOP nominee barring a heart attack or the like. I knew it, and you all out there knew it a few weeks ago, and everyone knows it now. Apparently neither Romney nor Huckabee will drop out right away, but Romney just doesn't have enough support to render effective opposition, and Huckabee probably won't win another state, except for perhaps Mississippi and maybe Louisiana. Its McCain.

The democratic side is MUCH more interesting. My girl Hillary did very well in some of the big states, winning huge in NY, winning stunningly big in California, (10 points), and winning convincingly in Mass (15 points), and New Jersey (10 points). She also won Tennessee and a few others. Obama had his strengths, to say the very least, destroying Hillary in his home state of Illinois (she was born and raised there, but like Al Gore long ago lost touch with her home state), Missouri (by the very slimmest of margins), and winning big in Georgia, the critical November state of Colorado (by an amazing 35 points) and a bunch of others.

In short, last night, for all of the action, was basically a tie, and settled precisely nothing. At the moment, Clinton apparently leads in delegates by about 80 with 2,025 needed for nomination, a microscopic lead.

The next several races favor Obama from what I have read, so we should be looking at pretty much a tie for a while. The big states of Texas (where I would expect Clinton to do extremely well due to the high latino population) and Ohio loom on March 4, the next BIG BIG day in the campaign for the democrats. A week from yesterday, the 12th, is what is being dubbed the Potomac primary, with Maryland, DC and Virginia all voting. Virginia is red state target # 2 (behind Colorado) in November, so a lot of the pundits will examine Virginia very closely.

Virginia barely matters. This is now a race for delegates, and a race that, worryingly, looks like it may go all the way to the Convention. The Convention begins on August 25th, and its possible that the race will be so close that neither concedes before then. One would imagine that this would be a nightmare for the democrats as the GOP unites behind the strong McCain.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Today's the big day. Not to mention parade day for the Giants here in Manhattan. WHAT A GAME!

As for the democrats today, I'm going to confidently predict what's going to happen: I have no idea. Hillary will win New York, big, but don't be fooled, New York is not representative of the national democratic party at the moment, and its not only because its Hillary's adopted home state.

The real surprise today on the democratic side would be if there's a very clear winner. Obama has virtually erased Hillary's national polling lead, which she's held nonstop since this process began. Like Hillary he has enormously passionate committed supporters. I handed out literature for the Clinton campaign last night and this morning, and more than a few people smirked at me, or even said, "Obama."

If we dems have a foodfight for another month or even two, that won't hurt us any-- lots of pubicity. But if it goes on into the Summer (unlikely, but not impossible), that could spell disaster in the Fall.

Finally, I want to address what I am calling McCain Panic. A few democrats I know are in mortal terror of McCain and think we can't possibly win in November, especially if Hill is the nominee. I have told them to calm down. If there were a snap election held next week Hill would clean his clock, because she's not a Republican. The country is fed up with the Bushies. Bush has well less than 10% support among democrats, and (I'm guessing) less than 20% among independents. Yes, some of these people would support McCain now, and some will in November. But as of this instant the country wants to elect a democrat by more than 10 points. This will of course close big time by November; I assess the chances of a democrat landslide as very low (last one LBJ 64, last one before that, sort of, 1944 (which was only 53/46, but was an electoral college landslide). But the idea that the dems can't beat McCain is silly. Yes, he's their best candidate by far. Yes he'll attract independents and some democrats. But here's a simple fact: Obama had a rally in Idaho yesterday. Idaho has almost no democrats. He attracted 15,000 people. That's more than voted in the Idaho democratic primaries in 2004. Clinton is also generating wild enthusiasm. If they are both on a ticket together, as I expect, they could generate enough enthusiasm and new voters to simply overwhelm McCain's ability to attract swing voters. I'm not predicting any of this, I don't begin to begin to know what will happen. But McCain Panic is not justified, at least not yet.

Monday, February 04, 2008

As you all surely know, tomorrow, Tuesday February 5, is Super Duper Tuesday. A ton of states vote, including New York, New Jersey and California. Other than Massachusetts, McCain will win ALL the big states, including California. And, I predict, none will be close. New York and New Jersey will be blowouts, and I doubt California will be all that close either, despite several close polls to the contary. New York, Missouri, Arizona, New Jersey and Connecticut are winner take all states. The winner gets ALL the delegates. McCain will win all of these barring a real surprise in Missouri. Romney will win Mass. and Utah, but is fighting over Montana and the like while McCain walks away with NY, NJ and Connecticut.

Romney will win some delegates, but the scope and margin of the McCain blowout tomorrow will be such that I expect Romney to drop out, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. He's not going to want to blow a zillion more dollars on a lost cause. Huckabee will drop out on Wednesday. Or he won't, no one really cares, except the Romney campaign, who thinks he is hurting them.