Romney vs. Obama: Colorado

On style, Mitt Romney ran away with the debate. President Obama barely showed up, and seemed to be completely disengaged and bristly. Romney denied and attacked consistently and constantly, and Obama sort of repeated himself and backed off of capitalizing on huge entrees. 

Then again, debates don’t win elections – zingers and good performance don’t win debates. Dan Quayle defeated Lloyd Bentsen, you guys. George W. Bush was one of the least articulate candidates in history, with a superficial grasp of issues and he defeated Al Gore and John Kerry. 

But here’s the thing – Obama is weakest on the economy. This performance may have been a strategic choice. After all, we still don’t know how Romney will pay for his tax plan, do we? We still don’t know the details of what he’d replace Obamacare with. We don’t know how he’s going to get insurers to cover pre-existing conditions without Obamacare/Romneycare’s promise of more customers through a mandate. 

Instead, Romney started in with death panels again, and Obama meekly defended the Affordable Care Act’s advisory groups that would streamline care and make it more efficient for patients. Instead, Romney repeated the “take $716 BN from Medicare” lie. 

The Republicans are demonizing efficiency and cost-cutting. 

When Romney somehow tries to claim that Obamacare differs from Romneycare, he’s lying. When your lie is caught and you then devolve to a state’s rights argument – why should people in Iowa have worse access to care than people in Massachusetts?  If health insurance universality is worth doing, it’s worth doing universally. Obama’s failure was in not confronting Romney on his blatant lies

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale you’re talking about. I think we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I won’t reduce the share of tax paid by high-income people. … I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce revenues going to the government. My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that no tax cut that will add to the deficit.”

So who’s right?

Romney has run for months on a plan to lower everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent — an amount that independent analysts have concluded will reduce revenues by $5 trillion over 10 years.

Romney has also insisted that his plan will be deficit neutral and that it won’t increase taxes on the middle class. But according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and other analysts, Romney won’t be able to make good on both of those latter promises.

According to TPC, even if Romney closes all loopholes and deductions for high-income earners, that alone will not account for all the revenue he loses because of the rate cut. Thus, to make the overall plan deficit neutral he’d have to raise the tax burden on middle income Americans.

If Obama had the attack line on deck, responding to the lying denial should have been ready to go in the dugout. It never came to the plate. Obama got a few good lines in, delivered sleepily. Obama asked whether Romney was “keeping the details of his plan secret because they’re too good?” Under Obamacare, insurers will no longer get to “jerk you around”.  On substance, Romney seemed to pretend that the world began in 2008, and Obama did practically nothing to disabuse him of that notion. 

Obama said, “budgets reflect choices. If we ask for no revenue, we have to get rid of a lot of stuff…severe hardship for people, and  no growth.”  It was too wonky by half. The poor economy is most people’s central issue. Selling the successes and benefits of health insurance reform is critically important. Obama whiffed on all of them. He didn’t strongly defend his administration’s record, he didn’t strongly enough rebut Romney’s lies and promises, and he simply sleep-walked through the thing. 

On a side note – Jim Lehrer also barely showed up. I have never seen a less structured debate or a less forceful moderator. At times, he was simply trying to get a word in edgewise, saying, “um…hey….guys”. Perhaps someone slipped something in Obama’s and Lehrer’s drinks. 

Twice, Romney claimed that Obama wanted “trickle-down government”. Along with his tax claims and his health care obfuscation, I suspect that this is a line that will come back to haunt him.

It’s easy to be confident and outperform your debate opponent when you’re lying. Romney tried to remake himself last night as a champion for the middle class – this is the same guy who opposed the auto bailouts and denigrates 47% of the population as victim moochers. Time will tell how this will play out, but debates aren’t game-changers.  Coming up: 

Thursday, October 11 – Vice Presidential Debate

Tuesday, October 16 – Second Presidential Debate (Town Hall)

Monday, October 22 – Third Presidential Debate

Campaign Without End

The process to elect a nominee and President in the United States is ridiculous, expensive, ineffective, and flawed. Because the process now takes well over a year, the cost to run such a race is astronomically wasteful, and thanks to a lowest-common denominator mass media in America, it comes down to a horserace and Honey Boo-Boo politicking. 

Our neighbors in Canada follow the British parliamentary model. In federal elections, they vote for a member of parliament – the parties release their platforms through slick manifestos, and you elect people based on the policies they promote more than the personalities. The party that wins the most seats gets to name the Prime Minister, or head of government (the Queen, through her Governor-General, remains the head of state).  In the US, the head of state and of government are unified. 

Canada recently made a change whereby a particular government must submit to an election at least every four years (it used to be a maximum of five). PMs may ask the Governor-General to call a new federal election on demand. MPs may call for a no-confidence motion, and if successful, a new election is called. 

The minimum time for a federal election is 36 days. The longest one ever conducted was less than 80 days long. Spending on elections is strictly regulated by statute. 

As you watch the tightly scripted, wildly predictable debate tonight between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, think about how there just might be a better way to go about this. 

Buffalo Blogging

It occurred to me this morning that there are no bloggers in town anymore to argue policy and politics with. There’s no WNY-based Republican posting anything reasonable or thought-provoking about politics, and blogging in Buffalo is almost completely dominated by sports or personal content. Everything has now migrated to Twitter and Facebook, as far as I can tell. 

It’s a shame, that. We need more voices, not fewer. 

Maxed Out

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul

They brought in allies and operatives – many of them festooned with red armbands, without a hint of irony or historical perspective. They demanded that the vote be overseen by an outside observer – Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. They enlisted the assistance of Governor Cuomo, who used surrogates to cajole and persuade the members of the Erie County Democratic Committee to replace outgoing chairman Len Lenihan with Frank Max of Cheektowaga. 

Max’s support came not just from the governor’s arm-twisting, but from two breakaway party factions. City Hall told the governor that it could work with Max, but not with Lenihan #2, Jeremy Zellner. The Steve Pigeon faction has a reasonably consistent alliance with city hall, because they share an anti-Lenihan sentiment. 

How did it work? When a committeeman arrived at Saturday’s reorganization meeting at the Hearthstone Manor, she was handed a ballot upon check-in. The ballot was turned over after the committeeperson had shown an entrance card and ID, and then signed a receipt acknowledging its receipt. 

Before you hop on the “Democrats are hypocrites” with respect to voter ID, voting for the chairman of your regulated private club isn’t the same as voting for an elected official. The latter invokes constitutional rights, the former does not. 

Each ballot contained the committeeperson’s name at the top, and weighted vote at the bottom. The list of candidates was printed in the center. The attendees ripped the top off, removing their name from the ballot, ticked the desired box, and dropped the ballot in a container. Each container was being watched by Max and Zellner representatives to ensure that there was no ballot-box stuffing. 

The weighted vote is more complicated. It was all calculated based on the number of people within a given election district. Some suburban voters had weighted votes of under 200, while some city voters had weighted votes in excess of 900. 

 Max claims he won more ballots cast, that isn’t how the winner is calculated – Max and his faction knew this full well. One insider who was in the room tells me they didn’t even tally who received how many ballots cast in the counting room. Not only that, but they knew how the weighted votes were allocated and could have – but didn’t – file an objection of some sort in advance of the reorganization. The court case that’s being filed seems to center around the redistricting and reapportionment of the weighted vote in the Town of Amherst. Amherst’s town committee is led by Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward, who is a Lenihan/Zellner partisan. But it’s not clear whether the allegation is that Ward did something wrong. Even Max attorney Peter Reese acknowledged to the Buffalo News that, “[Ward] used an arcane provision of election law to redistrict in Amherst to his advantage.” Election Law section 2-104 is “arcane“? 

Even arcane statutory provisions are valid, though, aren’t they?

Ward rightly argues that the redistricting was done well in advance of the reorganization, and Max’s people had an equal opportunity to run people for new committee seats earlier this year, but didn’t.

The charges of ballot-stuffing are vague and don’t name names – the police were not called, no one is being haled into court over it, and in this smartphone age, no one took so much as a snapshot. By failing to pre-emptively challenge the Amherst redistricting, and by calling in the state party committee to don a blue helmet and oversee the process, the complaints from the losing side seem to be nothing more than soreness and sour grapes. 

In fact, Miner – whom Frank Max asked to attend and oversee the process – was in charge of the counting room. If she did not raise an objection (and there’s no report that she did), the count was fair on its face. If part of their strategy was to challenge the procedural legitimacy, it flew in the Max camp’s face. That explains why the allegations of counting improprieties are relegated to rumor and won’t be part of the litigation. 

It would be great if the Democratic party in Erie County could be unified, but any such unity is a three-way street. Conspicuous in their absence were any mouth-noises from the Pigeon or Brown camps about pledging to work with the ultimate winner. (Zellner and Max pledged to work with anyone, to their credit). To Pigeon and Brown, this is part of a decade-long effort to wrest control of the party apparatus back even though Lenihan found it in debt and utter disarray. Over ten years, almost always fighting a war on two fronts – against Republicans and breakaway Democratic factions, Lenihan navigated the party ship to a scandal-free path of successes that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. 

It would be great if the party could now unify behind Zellner, but no one’s holding their breath. Zellner is more pitbull to Lenihan’s likeable teddy bear, and has alienated many party stalwarts. The likelihood of these people shrugging off their personal bias in favor of party unity is slight. The Cuomo camp will have to reassess how wise it was to attempt to cajole and bully party loyalists to do something they couldn’t do in good conscience. The governor is alleged to have held up big civic issues such as the Bills lease over this idiotic party battle. If accurate, holding the entire community hostage over a party squabble is rank governmental malpractice. 

Party politics is by its very nature a massive battlefield of competing egos, and Erie County Democrats have proven time and again that these egos are most often unreconcilable. Maybe that conflicted status quo is better than the alternative. 

 

1 2 3 4