The GOP’s new Senate map

Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” have reshaped the Senate map for the GOP.  For the immediate future the GOP does not believe it can win or should even invest resources in Missouri.  So where does that leave the party after losing one of its top pick-up opportunities for the cycle?

Surprisingly the party is not in bad shape.  The GOP is likely to win an open seat in Nebraska and still has golden opportunities in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Virginia and still to a lesser extent Missouri.  More different to categorize are the subsequent races the GOP hopes to make competitive.

In Florida polls have shown a tightening between Republican Congressman Connie Mack and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson.  Mack revamped his campaign after anemic second quarter fundraising numbers and his campaign has been on the attack ever since.  Both presidential campaigns are also heavily targeting this seat and could have an influence on turnout in the race.

Ohio is also on the GOP’s “hopeful” list.  State Treasurer and veteran Josh Mandel is challenging progressive freshman Sherrod Brown.  Until recently many assumed Brown was running away with the race.  But a flurry of new polls have shown Mandel is tied or within the margin of error against Brown.  Mandel has a boyish face and charm that should not be underestimated.  Brown has deep connections in the state through his time in the state legislature and as Congressman.

Without a doubt the GOP would love to make Michigan competitive.  Even if Democrats win the presidential and Senate races the fact they had to invest time and money in the state shows just how in trouble Democrats are. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra has gained ground on Senator Debbie Stabenow in new polls and it worries Democrats.  Democrats largely assumed Stabenow would be fine when Hoekstra stumbled out of the gate but he easily won his party’s primary and is on the attack.

Then there are the dark horse races.  For the GOP this comes down to one race, Connecticut.  Former WWF executive and 2010 Senate candidate Linda McHahon recently locked up her party’s nomination in the state.  Party officials were initially skeptical of her viability this year due to her loss in 2010.  But her campaign has been more disciplined, her attacks more direct, money has never been an issue and her opponent, freshman Congressman Chris Murphy, is no Richard Blumenthal.  Blumenthal was the state’s former Attorney General and beat McHahon in 2010.  A brand new Quinnipiac poll shows McHahon ahead 49%-46% among Likely Voters and her favorability numbers are far above her 2010 levels. The GOP still expects Democrats to hold this seat but they would love to make Democrats sweat and use precious resources to do so.

North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Virginia all offer the GOP hope.  The GOP was initially optimistic on North Dakota but quickly became concerned when freshman Congressman Rick Berg let former state AG Heidi Heitikamp (D) get even in the polls.  No new surveys have been conducted lately but recent articles suggest with national GOP help Berg has refined his message and has specific lines of attacks to launch against Heitikamp.  Virginia is a rematch of two former Governors.  George Allen and Tim Kaine are well-known to state voters and polls show the race neck and neck.  This race could be won on the coattails of the winning presidential candidate.

Wisconsin is looking more and more like a GOP pick-up.  Former four term GOP Governor Tommy Thompson won his party’s nomination and is set to face Congressman Tammy Baldwin.  Baldwin is gay and represented liberal Madison for her tenure in Congress.  Polls show both the candidates have about the same cash on hand but Thompson has better favorability ratings and leads in the polls.  Lastly, Montana offers the GOP their best chance to win a Senate seat in the Mountain West.  Congressman Denny Rehburg is running against freshman Senator Jon Tester.  Both candidates are well-known to state voters and this race could be won or lost on how well Rehburg can tie Tester to the Stimulus and Obamacare (he voted for both).

Even without Missouri all these opportunities make the GOP bullish.  This even as the GOP is protecting vulnerable incumbents in Nevada and Massachusetts and faces an uphill climb in Maine.  GOP strategists do concede the road to the majority, three seat gain if Romney wins or four seats if Obama does, was made harder with Akin’s comments and refusal to leave the race.  But GOP strategists easily see a road to the majority that goes through Nebraska, Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota or even Florida and Ohio.  Democrats scoff at this view as they see Nelson, Stabenow and Brown as fairly secure in their positions.  But with millions ready to be spent by GOP allied groups in the final 10 weeks of the campaign anything could change.

I purposely excluded New Mexico from the GOP list because as strong as former Congresswoman Heather Wilson may be as a candidate the current demographics of the state do not favor her.  Unless she can dramatically over-perform Romney’s performance in the state, particularly among Hispanics, she will not win (though Republicans argue otherwise).

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Romney’s Electoral path to the White House

If one studies polls until their eyes fall out or follows non-stop state by state election analysis this post should be just for you.  If not, well than read for fun or just go read a nice murder mystery.

There are dozens of election maps currently out and they all estimate about the same thing.  President Obama has a lock on more electoral votes than Mitt Romney.  The exact numbers depend on the maps whether they be offered by Fox News, Realclearpolitics, the Huffington Post or somebody else.  The individual states that are swing, a lock for Obama or for Romney also depend on the map creator.

But generally there is a consensus on the most likely battleground states of this election.  That consensus lists old attendees such as Ohio, Florida, NH and Iowa.  New additions such as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia also make the list.  Then there are the states that might or not be on some lists.  These states include Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and in a rare case or two Missouri.

For the purposes of this post I am going to assume that Realclearpolitics map is best.  RCP does an excellent job compiling polls and other data from the states to form its electoral map.  As it stands right now President Obama has 221 electorate votes (solid, likely or leaning Obama states) compared to Mitt Romney’s 181 votes (solid, likely, or leaning Romney).  The state’s RCP lists as toss-ups include CO, NV, IA, MO, WI, MI, OH, NH, VA, NC and FL.  In the map New Mexico leans Obama.

If we start with these numbers and assume nothing changes this gives Romney a floor of 181 electoral votes (more likely than not).  Missouri is likely to go Romney giving him 191 votes.  North Carolina is also likely to swing Romney’s way giving him 206 electoral votes.  The tricky part for Romney comes in the form of assembling a coalition of winning states to get from 270.  Romney could take traditionally red Virginia along with red leaning Florida, moderate New Hampshire, Iowa and Ohio.  This would give him 274 electoral votes.  Or he could focus on traditional swing states such as Ohio, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire and add a new state to his coalition such as Wisconsin or Michigan.  This would also put him over 270 electoral college votes.

But in each case Romney will need to over-perform to a certain extent among each state’s constituencies.  In states such as Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia, Romney would need solid support from moderate, suburban swing voters.  In Wisconsin or Michigan Romney would need the moderate, rural voters to come out for him strongly.  In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida he would need a combination of the above two.

I omit Romney from winning Nevada largely because I do not expect him to perform strongly among Hispanics.  Even if one assumes Mormons come out in mass for Romney this only off-sets his weakness with Hispanics.  Romney has yet to show he can appeal to left-leaning Clark County voters.

There are many variations of states Romney can win to get to 270 votes.  But speaking personally I really only see one or two.  Starting with the RCP map as a template Romney wins North Carolina and Missouri.  From there he proceeds to win Ohio and Florida.  This gets him to 253 electoral votes.  This is where my two scenarios diverge.  I see Romney winning CO, IA and NH in one to get him to 272 electorate votes.  I also see him winning either Wisconsin or Michigan along with Colorado to get him above 270.  CO, IA and NH have moderate suburbs Romney can court.  Wisconsin and Michigan are traditionally left but have advantages for the GOP.

These are of course just two simple plausible scenarios.  You may have one or a dozen others that are just as plausible.  Until election day however we will just have to content ourselves with these scenarios.

However, a few states may offer us clues to how election night will go.  If Romney wins Florida and Ohio it is more likely than not he will be the next president.  It is hard to see those state’s demographic voting groups not mimicking other swing state voting blocs.  Likewise, if Obama carries either Ohio or Florida it means he will win comfortably.  However, if he only wins Virginia early than we could be in for a long night as he would need either IA or another Western state to get him to 270 (assuming he does not lose WI, MI, or PA).  The way the map is shaping up we could know who the next president is before we cross the Mississippi.

Despite misstep Missouri is still Akin’s race to lose

By now the famous Todd Akin (R-MO) comment has been heard around the world, or at least the US.  In Missouri it has definitely been heard and seriously damaged Akin’s candidacy. Yet despite this Akin has to be considered a slim favorite to win the Senate race this fall.  His challenger, Senator Claire McCaskill (D) is literally despised by almost all the state’s GOP electorate and independents do not approve of her job performance. Her charisma is almost as bad as Akin’s and she appeals to the common man or women about as well as Elizabeth Warren (D) in Massachusetts does.

Still, Akin’s comments have seriously hurt him.  The national GOP has called him to quit the race.  The RNC and RNSC have threatened to but have yet to officially pull $5 million in advertising from the race.  Multiple GOP affiliated Super PACs and third-party groups have also said they will not spend in the race.  But somehow Akin still has a shot in the state. I am sure many voters and readers in other states must be asking how?

Simple.  It has to do with the political views of the state’s voters, demographic changes and the quality of Akin’s opponent.

Since 2000 it is hard not to hear political pundits mention that the state has moved towards the GOP.  Technically this is true as the state backed Bill Clinton both times he ran.  Yet Clinton was a Southerner and moderate Democrat much in the mold of the state’s current Governor, Jay Nixon.  In 2000 and 2004 the party ran stalwart liberals for president.  No wonder the state backed Bush.  Yet in 2008 when the GOP was demoralized and Democrats saw massive turnout in metro St. Louis and Kansas City they still could not win the state with a liberal at the top of the ticket.

Since 2008 the GOP has retained an open Senate seat in 2010, solidified control of the state legislature and with demographic changes been able to eliminate a Democratic metro St. Louis Congressional District.  Obama has not led in but one poll in the state against Romney and Akin was comfortably ahead of McCaskill before his “legitimate rape” comments.  None of this has changed except for Akin leading McCaskill in the polls.  The state has always had a GOP tilt, it is has just become more pronounced since 2008.

Demographic changes have not been kind to the Democratic faithful in the state.  The recession hit low-income metro St. Louis hard and drove many Democratic residents out-of-state.  Since 2008 (when the recession began) even white Democrats have flocked to St. Louis’s growing and prospering suburbs.  Whites are a solid majority in the state and to win statewide elections Democrats need substantial turnout among African-Americans to off-set GOP leads among whites.  That turnout is unlikely to materialize this year which means McCaskill, and by extension Governor Jay Nixon (D), will need white voters to carry them over the top.  Nixon has a much better rapport with these voters than McCaskill could ever hope for.

McCaskill as a candidate is also a major issue.  In 2006 when she was first elected she ran as a reformer and against the excesses and corruption of the Bush administration.  With GOP turnout depressed and independents hungry for change she won a three-point victory.  But in 2012 the dynamic is entirely different.  She has not been a reformer.  She has not been the moderate she promised to be.  And most of her voting record is a weapon waiting to be used by Akin to change the discussion in the race.

McCaskill supported the Stimulus, Obamacare and initially voiced support for a Cap and Trade system.  Since then she has tried to move back to the middle.  State voters have yet to buy it.  Her credibility and financial assets could also be in question as well.  In 2011 it was revealed she owned a private jet she had back taxes on.  She paid them but her damage control on the issue was atrocious.  Worse, McCaskill is personally wealthy at a time when Democrats are running against the rich.

I don’t even want to go into her retail politicking skills.  She comes off to voters as polished as tree bark.  Her explanations leave much to be desired on key issues and she often hedges or dodges on key questions.  The only thing she has going for her is she is not Todd Akin.  But even that might not be enough.

Polls since Akin’s statement have been mixed.  PPP (D) found Akin ahead in the race 44%-43% but Rasmussen found McCaskill ahead 51%-41%.  A new Mason Post survey found McCaskill ahead 50%-41%.  It is hard to gauge whether this accurately reflects voters sentiments when they head into the ballot booth in November.  By then things could easily have changed.

Akin is likely to stay put in the race.  And likely sooner rather than later the GOP will start indirectly funneling him resources, if not in money than staff, to help him with turnout.  It is also hard to see a significant chunk of Romney voters, even if they are independents, voting for McCaskill over Akin in the general.  Akin may be a stupid comment a minute candidate but he is not a bad campaigner.  Since winning his initial suburban St. Louis district in the state he has never won with less than 55% of the vote.  The district has a PVI (Partisan Value Index) of R+9 which means Akin consistently over-performs among the District’s voters.

Does this mean Akin cannot lose.  Of course not.  Rather it is to throw out a few doses of reality on those who now think the race is McCaskill’s to lose.

One last thought on this race.  November is a long way off as I have said above.  By the time the presidential debates roll around and the Conventions are through the economy will once again be the focus of voters attention (if the GP gets its way). McCaskill’s partisan affiliation means voters would have to overlook her party’s stewardship of the economy and support her if only in opposition to Akin.  It is possible they could but unlikely.  GOP turnout in the state is sure to be high, Democratic turnout likely so-so.

So despite Akin’s missteps one still have to consider Missouri Akin’s race to lose.

Is the GOP becoming the radical “Pro-Life” party?

One would think with the entire GOP establishment and prominent conservatives rallying around derailing Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s bid would get the media and Democrats to get the message to stop painting the GOP as extremist on abortion.  But it seems not.  Akin’s comments about “legitimate” rape have set off a firestorm it is unclear he can weather.  For Democrats, this seems like a godsend when the economy under their watch is struggling.

Since the 1990s Democrats have been attracting single women and college educated voters to their ranks through moderation on social policies.  By moderation I mean the party being pro-choice and unofficially until this year pro gay marriage.  In 2010 social issues were a non-issue and the GOP benefited from a national focus on the weak economy and Obamacare.  Since 2011 the national focus has shifted several times.  First it was on contraception, then gay marriage, back to the economy and now apparently back to abortion.  How long a focus on abortion lasts is the question.

Prominent Democrats and candidates are attempting to paint the entire GOP, not just Todd Akin, as being radical and out of step on abortion with the country.  Oh if only the answer was so simple.  It is true that true pro-life voters back Republicans and pro-choice voters back Democrats.  But independents have been more apt to say they are pro-life than pro-choice.  In a Gallup survey taken last year 50% of Americans identified as pro-life (a plurality did among independents) as opposed to 41% who were pro-choice.  However 52% of those sampled also said abortion should be allowed in some circumstances.

So it is obvious Akin is out of step with most people’s, even pro-life voters, views on the issue.  But what about the entire GOP at large?  The RNC recently adopted a no exceptions abortion ban to its platform which will be show-cased with pro-life speakers such as Mike Huckabee.  But the RNC will also feature two prominent pro-choice Republican Governors, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.  Rudy Guiliani is also slated to speak and he is yet another pro-choice believer.  So while the GOP may have in its platform a no abortion pledge it obviously is willing to let pro-choice speakers talk not to mention run in key races in the West.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan even disagree with the party plank.  Both Romney and Ryan have solid pro-life records and say they are.  That said, both agree that abortion should be allowed in the cases of rape, incest or o save the life of the mother.

Democrats are likely to face an uphill battle in trying to paint every GOP candidate as extreme on abortion.  Virtually every Republican, from Scott Brown (R-MA) to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to  Sarah Palin have denounced Akin’s comments and said rape is never legitimate.  Democrats obviously are rejoicing Akin may cost the GOP a Senate seat in the state but nationally it is likely not to be much of an issue.

Keep in mind Democrats are set to for the first time unveil a pro gay-marriage platform at the DNC.  This may play well with their base of college educated voters and single women but blue-collar men, traditionally Reagan Democrats, and African-Americans are uneasy about it.  Case in point.  Earlier this year when North Carolina (the site of the DNC) voted on a new Amendment to its Constitution to ban gay marriage every county minus Raleigh, Durham and Wake voted for it.  In other words the heavily African-American counties in the Southeast of the state opposed it as did college educated white counties, including Charlotte.

None of this is to say these platforms are right or wrong.  Rather it points out just how difficult it would be for Democrats to wage a campaign on social issues when the GOP and virtually every media pundit will be hitting on the economy.  At some point even the media would start to wonder about Democrats motivations.  It definitely does not help individual Democrats campaigns that American voters are used to a “candidate based” electoral system.  This makes it easier for Scott Brown in Massachusetts or Connie Mack in Florida to run away from Akin’s statement.

As for what the GOP is becoming there is no doubt the GOP has moved to the right on social issues.  Since 2010 many Republican controlled states have passed stricter laws on abortions.  In Virginia a law was recently passed requiring women who want an abortion to get an ultrasound before it is done (or the doctor cannot legally perform it).  In numerous other states Republicans have challenged the Federal law defining partial birth abortion as an abortion after six months.  Many states have passed new laws dropping it to five months.

However, it seems to have not hurt the party.  They are handily winning the voting groups they are expected to and are running competitively among swing groups such as college educated women and blue-collar whites.  Even college educated men gravitate towards the GOP despite this stance.  In a recent Washington Post survey a solid 66% of Republican women said abortion should be illegal or illegal most of the time.  Republican men backed these ideas with 62%.  Independent men and women were less willing to express these feelings but showed continuing anxieties on economic questions.

So even if the GOP has moved to the right on social issues Americans seem not to care, at least this election cycle.  The economy will be front and center and if Romney and Ryan can portray themselves as better stewards of the economy, social issues will not matter to any voters other than partisans.

The unsettled Senate election landscape

With less than 80 days to go until November 6th the only sure thing one can say about the Senate landscape is that it is unsettled.  GOP hopes of a sure takeover of the Senate have disappeared but Democratic hopes of keeping races in Florida and Ohio from becoming competitive have withered.

It seems yesterday the GOP’s Senate takeover hopes took a huge hit when MO Senate candidate Todd Akin said in an interview with TV Host Charles Jaco regarding whether abortion should be illegal in all cases, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”

This statement earned widespread condemnation not from the left but the Tea Party Express, Crossroads GPS, the RNC, the RNSC and the Romney/Ryan ticket.   The GOP is urging Akin to get out of the race before tonight so they can get another candidate on the ballot.  So far he has held firm.

Despite Akin’s statement he still has to be regarded as a slight favorite in the race.  Claire McCaskill’s vote for the Stimulus and Healthcare Reform drag her down and Akin represents a suburban district with many of the voters McCaskill needs to pull of a win.

Other high-profile races have fallen off the radar of polling but they remain close contests.  In North Dakota GOP Candidate Rick Berg is in a dogfight with former Secretary of State Susan Heitdekamp.  Sparse polling makes this race hard to gauge by the numbers but the state’s GOP tilt gives Berg the advantage.

In Nebraska, the GOP seems almost assured of winning the seat.  State Senator Deb Fischer has a commanding lead over former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey.  Democrats had hoped he could make the state competitive but not so.

In Montana Denny Rehburg is neck and neck with freshman Senator Jim Tester (D).  Tester has been pushing local issues while Rehburg has been hammering the freshman on his votes for the Stimulus and Healthcare.  Polls show Rehburg  has a narrow edge.

New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Virginia all show the makings of close races.  In Virginia two former Governors are duking it out and not one poll since January has shown one above the other beyond the pollsters margins of errors.  The presidential race results could pull one of the candidates across the finish line.

Nevada and Massachusetts feature two GOP freshman fighting for their political lives in left leaning states.  Adding to their woes are that their opponents are progressive champions sure to fire up the Democratic base.  Congresswomen Shelley Berkeley (D) has represented urban Las Vegas for several terms and she is trying to eat into Dean Heller’s (R) support in Reno.  Elizabeth Warren (D) is trying to win blue-collar traditionally Democratic voters in MA to combat Scott Brown’s (R) strength with suburban voters.  Both races are close according to polls.

New Mexico and Hawaii are both traditionally blue states but the GOP found strong challengers.  In New Mexico, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson is giving Democratic challenger Martin Heinrich a stiff test.  Former two term Governor Linda Lingle (R) promises to give Congresswoman Mazie Hirono a stiff test.

Then we get to Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio.  In Wisconsin a former four term GOP Governor Tommy Thompson is set to face liberal and lesbian congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the competitive state.  Thompson benefits from being well-known and also seeing the Romney campaign boosted among state voters by the selection of Ryan as his VP.  Baldwin however has the support of major liberal groups such as Emily’s List.

Florida features Congressman Connie Mack (R) facing off against two term Senator Bill Nelson (D).  Nelson has not made much of a name for himself in the state as many do not have an opinion of him.  Mack is sure to tie him to Obamacare and the Stimulus while Nelson will make Mack’s personal finances an issue in the campaign.

Lastly, in Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, is facing off against freshman Sherrod Brown (D).  Despite his progressive values Brown has a lead over the upstart Mandel that is built on his work in the Ohio House and Congress.  Mandel’s campaign has been slow to ramp up to the annoyance of many prominent Republicans.

Other races are on the radar.  Minnesota and Michigan could become competitive, though odds are of the two Michigan will.  Likewise, it is possible in Maine Independent candidate Angus King could find his GOP opponent a handful.

But the map remains unsettled.  The GOP needs three seats (with the VP slot) or 4 seats more to gain control of the Senate.  Odds are they lose Maine and NV and MA remain toss-ups.  Democrats are sure to lose NB and look likely to lose ND and before yesterday MO.  Many other states remain toss-ups.  On November 6th the 2012 Senate map will be settled but until then………

The Romney Ticket’s advantage in selecting Ryan

Democrats continue to express optimism that the Romney selection of Ryan as his VP will make the GOP vulnerable on Medicare.  But if recent polls are any indication their optimism does not appear well-founded.  And they have have forgotten something.  They are just as vulnerable, if not more so, on the Medicare issue courtesy of Obamacare.

Recent polls have shown the race getting closer in several battleground states as more voters tune into the election.  It is a dead heat in CO, VA, FL and OH according to a Purple Strategies poll.  The Gallup tracking poll shows Romney leading by two points for three days, his first consistent lead of the campaign.  And then of course there is the media coverage.  Even the left leaning media outlets have been championing aspects of Ryan that sound good.  A strong work ethic, young, ideal family man and more have been mentioned at least once.

It is safe to say Democrats did not expect this.  Ryan was the one who masterminded what they call “Throwing grandma over the cliff.”  They refer to Ryan’s budget plan that would by 2024 turn Medicare into a voucher system.  In other words if you are 54 today than the Medicare you know today will not be around in 11 years.  Democrats have jumped on this and argue Ryan is attempting to destroy America’s largest entitlement program.

This argument has not found traction because it is becoming more and more clear the Romney campaign had a message ready to deflect Democratic attacks on Ryan.  If Democrats argue that Ryan “Is changing Medicare as we know it,” the Romney campaign is ready to dish it right back.  Better yet, it brings back up into the election the issue of Obamacare.

Buried in the labyrinth of spending, cuts and regulations that make up Obamacare is something about Medicare Democrats do not want brought up.  Specifically, Obamacare would cut $716 billion from the program over the next 10 years to make it budget neutral and reallocate money to new programs created under the law.  Democrats contend that the cuts would only come from growth in the program but growth in the program comes from more people retiring and thus entering the system.  Either way, people in Medicare are affected by Obamacare.  Their quality of care changes and that effectively changes Medicare as we know it.

The changes Obamacare makes to Medicare are actually are actually far more fundamental than Ryan’s.  Under Obamacare, an independent board of unelected bureaucrats (Oh I am sorry, experts), the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), would have free rein to hold down the costs of the program.  Not accountable to voters, or even Congress, they would only answer to the HHS Secretary and be able to do things such as ration care.  Instead of putting people’s medical decisions in their own hands as Ryan’s plan would, the IPAB would be able to make arbitrary decisions about people’s care and be insulated from the consequences.  I would call that a significant change to Medicare.

In the last week Romney’s campaign has hit on this hard.  Over the weekend Ryan traveled to the Villages in Florida.  For those who do not know that massive retirement community has over 350,000 seniors.  The turnout for Ryan’s campaign event was estimated over 10,000.  Better yet for the optics of the event and make Ryan appear senior friendly, his mother, on Medicare, joined him on-stage and called the Democratic attacks shameful.  Ryan then spoke about the need for reform and echoed what his mother said about the attacks on his plan.  The crowd was abuzz.

It has become apparent that the Romney campaign does not expect to win on the issue of Medicare.  Traditionally Democrats have polled better on entitlement issues.  But if the GOP can fight Democrats to a draw on the issue and  at the same time bring back up in the campaign Obamacare they might have a winning hand.  In swing states such as Florida and Ohio the issue of Obamacare could hit hard.

A new poll out of Florida showed seniors are more worried about the impact of Obamacare on the country than Ryan’s budget plan.  Seniors make up a significant chunk of the electorate in Florida and they do vote.  If Romney wins them despite having Ryan on the ticket he is very likely to carry the state.

In Ohio Romney operatives see an opening on the Obamacare issue.  In 2011 the state overwhelmingly passed the Healthcare Freedom Amendment to the Ohio state Constitution.  The Amendment garnered well over 65% of the vote and saw some traditional Democratic counties, especially in the Southeast (coal country and blue-collar white) vote heavily for the Amendment.  Bringing back up Obamacare might make these independents and moderate Democrats turn to Romney to replace the bill.

All this allows the Romney campaign to actually get an advantage from selecting Ryan instead of a disadvantage as some first suggested.  Medicare as an issue in the campaign to this point was playing right into the Democrats hands.  But with Ryan’s selection Romney has turned the tables on them, at least for the first week.  Now the question is whether they can continue to hold the advantage on the issue until November.

 

The Danger of demagoguing Ryan

As the election heats up a face rises from the plethora of mud-slinging and accusations of cronyism and hate.  He comes offering ideas and plans to help the country.  He is charismatic and intelligent.  His origins are humble and his ideas a beginning.  But eventually the mudslinging and attacks turn against him and he is eventually dragged down.

Melodramatic I admit but sound nonetheless.  With the country facing a fiscal cliff it makes sense to allow ideas to flourish and get a fair debate.  To bad elections rarely work out that way.  Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his VP has put Paul’s policy ideas on Medicare and the budget front and center.  Good right?  I wish.

Democrats are absolutely giddy about the selection.  They plan to drag down Ryan as much as they can.  But in doing so they may do lasting damage to the country’s ability to deal with its impending fiscal apocalypse.

To illustrate this point let’s look at some stats here.  The national debt has now ticked over $16.5 trillion.  President Obama’s latest budget is projected to add $1.6 trillion to the debt.  And this year’s projected budget deficit was projected to tick up to $1.2 by the CBO.  Medicare is on the hook for an estimated $99 trillion in liabilities and Social Security will fail to pay out full benefits by 2018 or 2034 (depends on whose estimates you believe).  This makes getting our fiscal house in order that much more important.

Oh if only partisanship were not so blind.  While the President and his allies have suggested ways to tinker with Medicare and Social Security they lack any clear details on a long-term solution.  On the national debt they simply call for higher taxes on the rich.  Don’t tell them but even if we did what Obama proposed it would only equal $700 billion in new revenue over 10 years.  And this is assuming the projections are right (not like we don’t  avoid paying taxes).

Ryan has serious ideas for reforming Medicare and his latest plan, written in conjunction with liberal Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) could be called bipartisan.  Like that matters to Democrats.  They are all in to utterly destroy the man who reportedly “Wants to throw grandma off the cliff.”

But what if they do?  Then what?  Do they come up with serious policy ideas of their own or do they fall back on the old playbook of saying “We will fix it,” never doing it and hope partisan support keeps them in power in two or four years?

We live in a country that largely seems to not vote on the issues.  Instead, ideology and partisanship trump all.  Charisma and intelligence certainly account for something but they cannot trump either of these factors.  Even if one puts their faith in the wisdom of independents they will be disappointed.  Many have values and ideologies just as partisan as actual partisans.

Demagoguing Ryan may help Democrats win in November but it will not help the country.  Just as this country has known since the 70’s we need to be energy independent we have yet to make it happen.  We could repeat the same mistake as we have people with ideas on how to fix the system.  However they are being targeted for partisan gain.

Liberals don’t have to support the plan much as conservatives don’t have to like the President’s Healthcare Reform.  But at least give people credit for doing something if nothing else.  Democrats are set to destroy Ryan, and by extension Romney.  But ask yourself this no matter how you vote in November, no matter your partisan identification or ideology.

Is that really in the interest of the country?  One way or the other the country will decide in November.