The Greatest Debate Ever?

fireworksOn Monday, Hofstra University will host the first of this year’s three presidential debates.  Since 1992, the Commission on Presidential Debates has held three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate.  It is unclear how much impact the debates actually have on the general election.  While candidates who do “better” in a debate tend to have a bounce in the polls, that bounce tends to be temporary.

In most election cycles, a large number of voters are not that familiar with the candidates (particularly those who are running for President for the first time).  For swing voters, the debates (and the post-debate coverage of the “highlights”) can either confirm the negatives or the positives associated with a  candidate.  This year, the two candidates are probably better known than in most cycles (or at least the names are more familiar).  As such, it seems likely that it will be much more difficult for either candidate to change how voters see them.  However, the candidates will still try.

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Supreme Court Preview Part Four — Cases in the Pipeline

On Monday, the Supreme Court will meet in what is commonly called “The Long Conference” — reflecting the fact that its been three months since the Justices last met to consider petitions for review (officially petitions for a writ of certiorari) creating a long list of cases to consider.  Maybe Monday afternoon, maybe later in the week, the Supreme Court will announce which cases it will hear arguments on.  The following Monday (October 3), the new term officially begins and the Supreme Court will issue an order list which will, at the very least, contain a long list of the cases that it has decided not to review on the merits.

Predicting which cases the Supreme Court will actually take is almost impossible.  The Supreme Court receives almost 10,000 petitions per year but only grants full review on about 70-80 cases.  Of course, a lot of the petitions are clearly long shots — many written by the petitioners themselves — that simply assert error in the lower courts without giving any reason why the case matters to anybody other than the petitioner.  But even after eliminating the chaff, there are way more cases that raise significant issues than the Supreme Court will take.

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Supreme Court Preview Part Three — December (?) Arguments

As noted in Part One of this series, the Supreme Court has not yet announced its December argument schedule.  However, they have eleven cases that they have accepted for review and six argument dates in December.  While it is possible that the Supreme Court might postpone some of these cases to January, there are enough available argument slots in December to hear all of the cases currently on the argument docket.

Looking at the cases accepted, there are the three cases from last January that have been postponed to December (discussed more below).  In addition from the cases accepted in June, there are two re-districting cases, an intellectual property case, a bankruptcy case, a capital punishment case, an anti-trust case involving credit cards, an immigration case, and a federal criminal case.   The contentiousness of these eleven cases might result in some of these cases being pushed even further back in the hope that a ninth justice might arrive this term.

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Supreme Court Preview Part Two: October and November Arguments

Officially, the annual term of the Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October.  This year, due to Rosh Hashanah falling on that date, arguments for the year will begin on October 4.  Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court released the argument calendar for October (eight cases over three days) and November (ten arguments over six days).  As noted in Part One, the Supreme Court seems to be postponing the cases most likely to be decided 4-4 for as long as possible in the hopes of getting a ninth Justice soon.  That does not mean, however, that there are no cases of potential significance in these two months.

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Supreme Court Preview (Part One): Eight is Not Enough

Time for the annual Supreme Court preview.  When we last left the eight, they had punted several significant cases on a 4-4 tie or with very narrow decisions that avoided the main issue in the case.  They had also only granted review on twenty-nine cases for the fall.   The delay in filling the vacancy was clearly causing problems.

Summer at the Supreme Court tends to be quiet.  Most of the summer work is internal.  Parties file the briefs for the fall cases and petitions for review on new cases and responses to those petitions.  The justices and law clerks spend most of their time reading these materials with the clerks writing memorandums summarizing the petitions for the justices and discussing the cases to be heard in the fall with their own justice.  The big actions during the summer are decisions on stay applications and the release of the argument schedule for the fall.

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Strength in Leadership

332786783v3_225x225_FrontEarlier this week, Donald Trump — again — expressed his admiration for the strong leadership of Vladimir Putin as compared to the current leadership of the United States.  It is understandable why somebody who is the head of a closely-held family business would sympathize with the leadership style of Vladimir Putin.  There is a lot of similarity in the ability of such individuals to make decisions for their company or country between such a business and a police state.  The leader of a democracy, however, does not have the same ability.

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Labor Day: Trade and Immigration

minersOne of the basic concepts of economics is that the production of goods and services are a product of both capital (equipment) and labor (the work to turn raw material into finished goods or to provide the services).  Some industries are what economists call “capital intensive” — meaning that relatively speaking it takes a lot of capital to purchase the equipment needed to operate (think the automobile industry).  A capital intensive industry is difficult for new competitors to enter.    Other industries are labor intensive — meaning that it takes little to capital to purchase the basic equipment and labor is the main input (think almost any profession).  The only restrictions on entering these industries is any licensing requirement for workers.   The degree to which an industry is capital intense (and how much skill the labor requires) in turn has an impact on the degree to which it is vulnerable to foreign trade and immigration poses a threat to existing workers.

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Absentee Ballots vs. No-Excuse Early Voting

Vote by JessIn Missouri, we have an interesting case working it’s way through the system.  (The trial court issued its ruling yesterday; any appeal will have to be expedited.)  The basic facts of the case are:  1) about five hundred people cast absentee votes; 2) the incumbent state representative got just under 80% of the absentee vote (picking up a net of approximately three hundred votes); 3) the challenger got the most votes from votes cast on election day; and 4) the incumbent won by a total of ninety votes.  Given the small number of votes cast in primaries for state representative, the margin was significantly over the threshold for a recount, and the only option for the challenger was an election contest.  In this case, the election contest focused on the validity of absentee voting.  While there was some evidence of some improprieties by the incumbent in with some of the absentee votes, the evidence of such “fraud” impacted less than 20 ballots.  Instead, the case came down to whether the election authority properly followed the rules for absentee ballots., and the current ruling emphasizes the difference between a true early voting system and an absentee ballot.

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Senate Primaries: Arizona and Florida

US SenateIn the weeks since the nominating conventions, a lot has happened.  Trump royally blew the immediate post-convention period and re-shuffled his staff.  U.S. athletes, for the most part, had a strong showing at the Olympics.  And many states have held primary elections for state and federal offices.  There are about two more weeks of primaries left.  (Except for Louisiana which does not really have a primary election, and a special primary election for one district in New York, the last primaries will be held on September 13. )  This week, we have the Senate primaries in two states that are seen as potential Senate battlegrounds in November:  Arizona and Florida.

In Arizona, the Democratic candidate — Representative Ann Kirkpatrick — is running unopposed.  The potentially interesting primary is the Republican primary.  Senator John McCain is facing three opponents — one of whom has semi-withdrawn, urging voters to support whichever candidate is most likely to defeat McCain.

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The Trump Conundrum

oopsDonald Trump is an unusual presidential candidate.  By the time a normal politician reaches the level of running for president, they have a history in government.  There are bills that they have sponsored, bills that they have voted for, and things that they have done.  This history allows the opponent to run ads based on this past history.  Some of these ads will contrast the history to the candidate’s current pledges (e.g., this candidate supported policy X; you can’t believe them when they say that they oppose policy X).  Others will use past decisions to say that the candidate has bad judgment or supports bad policies.  For Trump, his history is not one of policies but of business practices.  (We saw some of this in 2012 when Mitt Romney had a much longer business record than political record, but Trump takes it to the next level.)

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