Post-Thanksgiving Leftovers — Some Musings and Questions and the Republican Presidential Primary

It is that time of year.  When folks have way too much leftover turkey and too many leftover visiting in-laws that seems like it will take forever to get rid of.  Both of which call to mind the Republican presidential candidates — still fourteen strong with two months to go to Iowa.  I have been playing around the last week with the Real Clear Politics tool on the race for delegates on the Republican side.  One big caveat on the tool, it is not too good on the states that allocate congressional district delegates by congressional districts.  In proportional states that allocate by congressional district (thirteen states), it tends to assume that the statewide allocation of congressional district delegates will mirror state-wide results.  It will not.  Depending on the state, either the top three candidates will get approximately one-third each (a close enough fourth placed candidate may steal some delegates on a district-by-district basis) or the top candidate will get approximately two-thirds of the delegates with the second-placed candidate getting one-third.  In winner-take-most states (six states), the tool assumes that the number of districts won will be proportional to the state-wide results.  Again, it will not.  The state-wide winner should win most of the congressional districts (unless there is a good reason to think that the state-wide winner will win their districts by a large margin and narrowly lose a lot of districts).  Having tried to adjust for the individual state rules, I still came to the conclusion that the Republican outcome will depend on the answer to a series of (not-quite twenty) questions.


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Fearing Fear Itself

Wanting to give a chance for the heat of the moment to pass, I did not post on this topic last week.  However, our wonderful politicians to paraphrase another statement, never miss an opportunity to make things worse by over-reacting to the crisis du jour.  While it is unclear that the current proposed legislation on refugees actually changes the screening process, the timing of this legislation and the specific requirement that the Administration give periodic reports to Congress is another blunder on the PR side of the war on terror — sending a clear message to the Muslim world that the U.S. sees Muslims as our enemy, even though that is not the case.  Several points need to be made (and hopefully will be made by those who want to be President and our other national leaders, but I am not optimistic).

First, and foremost, fundamentalism — whether Islamic or Christian or Jewish or Hindi or Buddhist — is an idea.  An idea can’t be defeated by military force.  In today’s world, all it takes is a computer (or smart phone) to communicate messages — both to recruit new participants and to coordinate plans — and to transfer the funds needed for operations.  While controlling a piece of territory (especially one rich in natural resources) can allow a training program and help with raising funds, it is not absolutely necessary.  Thus, if our only strategy is a military one, we face the modern day equivalent of a mythical Hydra — lop off one head (Al-Qaeda) and a new head (ISIS) emerges to take its place within a year or two.

Second, all religions have the potential for a fundamentalist streak, and most religions have some text that can be interpreted to support holy war (call it a jihad, a crusade, or whatever) against non-believers.  Most also have texts that can be read to support tolerance and non-violent attempts to convert by persuasion and demonstrating the goodness and truth of the religion.  Christians attempting to convince others that Islam is different should first closely examine their own history — even at this late time, we are only a couple of decades removed from the troubles in Northern Ireland and the war in Bosnia, much less the continued mistreatment of gays and lesbians on religious grounds by Christian leaders in Africa.  We also need to recognize that all religions have different sub-denominations.  If a Muslim tried to lump in Episcopalians with Southern Baptists, both groups would quickly respond about how different Episcopalian beliefs are from Southern Baptist beliefs — although both qualify as Christian and protestant.  Yet, in the U.S., we quickly gloss over the differences between Sunni and Shia and all of the divergent schools of belief that fit within each of those two broad categories.

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The Shame of America

Yesterday, the House passed HR 4038, a bill that expands background checks on certain refugees who wish asylum in the United States. It passed with bipartisan support 289-137. (Full list of who voted how is here.)

If you think this is okay, you could not be more wrong. The whole issue of refugees is bringing out the worst in far too many politicians and candidates, as well as “regular” Americans. And if you think it will stop with Syrians and Iraqis, you have no understanding of history. This is a blight on our collective soul as a country.

Reasons and rationale after the jump.

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Clinton holds huge superdelegate lead

If anybody is wondering why we’re not obsessing about superdelegates this cycle, here’s why:

The Associated Press contacted all 712 superdelegates in the past two weeks, and heard back from more than 80 percent. They were asked which candidate they plan to support at the convention next summer.

The results:

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Polling wrap-up: 01-15.2015

There has been a huge amount of polling in November, to say the least, so let’s get started.


Week 1:

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Supreme Court and Abortion Politics

Over the last two weeks, the United States Supreme Court has granted review in two sets of cases that will bring the abortion issue to the front and center of the opinions likely to be issued in May and June of 2016 and thus into the presidential campaign.  How the Supreme Court addresses these issues will determine who sees a need to win the election to protect their rights.

The first set of cases involve the Affordable Care Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  In 2014, the Supreme Court decided to view the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act from the perspective of the employer paying for coverage rather than from the employee deciding how to use that coverage.  Viewing the scope of coverage from the perspective of the employer, the Supreme Court decided that a mandate to purchase coverage which included benefits for contraceptives would substantially infringe on the religious freedom of corporation which had religious objections to such coverage.  (Many of these organizations express the religious belief that certain contraceptives are abortifacients, notwithstanding that from a medical perspective these items are not abortifacients.)  Because there were alternative ways to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, the Supreme Court found that the Affordable Care Act violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which applies a compelling interest/narrowly tailored test to federal laws that substantially infringe on religious beliefs).

Since the 2014 decision, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a form to allow employers to opt-out of paying for coverage.  The form, however, requires the employer to provide information about that employer’s insurance policy that allows the government to pay the additional premium to make contraceptive coverage for the employees of the company.  Several non-profit organizations with religious affiliations object to the form claiming that any cooperation with the government’s provision of such coverage makes the organization an accomplice to the provision of contraceptive coverage, thereby violating the organization’s religious beliefs.

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Republican Winnowing; Democratic Solidifying

We are coming up on the November debates — the Republicans on Fox Business Channel, the Democrats on CBS.  The sheer size of the Republican field (and the impossibility of being fair to all of the candidates) continues to drive everybody mad.  Arbitrary criteria lead to candidates being shuffled to the “JV” debate or excluded all together; and the shortness of time leads to candidates being upset about not getting a chance to make their points.  On the other hand, with only five candidates originally and three candidates left now, the time issues are not that pressing on the Democratic side.

For the upcoming Republican debates, three candidates have been excluded from the JV debates (Lindsay Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore).  Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum will take part in the JV debate.  The main event will feature Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul.

The number of Republicans running creates a potential paradox in the normal money primary.  At this point in the campaign, trailing candidates routinely find themselves in a catch-22 — they need more funds to become competitive but they need to become competitive to get more funds.  However, putting aside Carson and Trump (as most of the money folks seem to think that both will collapse), several of the candidates can point to a poll showing them within the margin of error of third place in at least one early state.  However, it is highly unlikely that 15 candidates will make it to Iowa.  I would not be surprised if Senator Graham decides that with Rand Paul not being a serious contender that he no longer is needed to assure that the Republican field takes an aggressive stand on foreign policy.  If Gilmore and Pataki were actually running expensive campaigns, I would not be surprised for them to call it a day soon.  Since they aren’t, they might just stick around.  Santorum, Huckabee, and Jindal are all competing for the same slot — currently occupied by Ben Carson.  At some point, the lack of funds will force one or all of them to drop out.  The November JV debate may be the last chance for one of these three to become the alternative to Carson.

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Pennsylvania Election Recap – A Personal Tale

So yesterday was the Pennsylvania election that saw good judges elected statewide, and a a Democrat elected as Montco DA for the first time in history. Across the board we won some, lost some, but the trend is good. (And better than Kentucky where 400,000 people will lose their health insurance because they didn’t get out and vote for the one person who would have saved that benefit).

Yesterday morning, under my windshield wiper was a flyer supporting a Catholic organization asking for money (envelope provided) to help kill gays. I saw a neighbor last night who said he wasn’t planning on voting yesterday, but did because he saw that flyer and felt an obligation to vote against the kind of people who put out those flyers.

I worked the polls and we had 5 BRAND NEW VOTERS including 2 who had recently become citizens. When a new voter approaches the check-in table, everything stops, the clerk yells “New Voter” and everyone applauds and we take their picture with a copy of a blank ballot. WHAT JOY!!!

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Tomorrow is General election day: 03.11.2015

There are some important marquee races going on for an off year, most importantly, the Kentucky Gubernatorial:


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Polling round-up aggregate links for 01-15.11.2015

Those links are up and running at my politics blog and are sure to fill-up quite fast: (more…)

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