If you are going to freak out – do it from informed position

So I posted this on Facebook but thought I would put it up here as well. Big thanks to Steve Schale the guru of Florida and Jon Ralston the guru of Nevada and Harry Enten of 538.

So for Brit friends who are freaking out over US election – I’ve done deep dive over past few days and some data points to keep in mind.

1) 538 odds are so different as they take into account systemic poll failure – so if polls are off in one state they are off in all states by same amount. Despite this every model has Clinton up across the board. If the NV EV is correct (see below) and the affect is systemic failure across the board in polling in every state, Clinton chances jump to 88%. If it is localized she gets a 2.8% bump.

2) With laws changing early voting (EV) is through the roof with perhaps as many as 40% of the vote in before Tuesday. In NV it appears the Dems has built a HUGE firewall that is impossible for GOP to overcome so can add that to HRC column. In addition CO EV 70% is in and things look good.

3) In FL the EV shows both sides neck and neck but record turnout from Hispanics who are making up 15% of electorate (up from 9% in 12). African Americans are at around 12.5% which means the FL electorate is less white then ever. It’s still tight but in the demographic charts far better to be Clinton then trump ATM. It appears that Miami-Dade county is 67% higher in turn out in EV then 2012. If they break for Clinton in same margin as they did for Obama – could be a blue wall of over 200k voters to run up the score. There is a chance that Miami-Dade could be the Clark County of Florida and the Hispanic vote could end the Trump run there.

4) The reason Clinton is finishing in Michigan and PA is because no early voting there. She is up 3-5 points but could be tight so makes sense to push there. She has built huge machines there and unlike in 08 when McCain pulled out of MI with four weeks to go or 12 when the auto bailout made it a lock for Obama it was always going to be tight. Trump decision to go to NV or weirder to Minnesota (to the most liberal district in the country) with 48 hours to go is bonkers.

None of this means it’s in the bag but taking NV off the table the Trump map gets harder and EV demographic data shows some good signs for Clinton in FL. Finally remember that even in states that Trump is ahead (OH, IA) he has to win, Clinton can afford to lose those. Trump has to have a perfect night, win every toss up and turn a big blue state – its a v hard thing to do.

The fact that he is on the ballot is already too close to be complacent but the one thing HRC does is plan and execute. So if you need to freak out so so from informed position (1 in 3 or 1 in 10 it’s still a chance) and know that we should have a clear picture early on if this is a blow out or will go to wire given the EV this year. As Sunday comes to close the polling averages shows a 3 point election for HRC as national base line.

Romney shows his worse side

Progress 10/17/2012

The one certainty it seems we can take from the past three debates is that the moderator improves every time. Candy Crowley delivered a masterful performance in the hardest of the debate formats, controlling two incredibly combative men.

The town hall format is the most restrictive, rule-laden and complicated of the debating formats. The ability to master the narrative, the moderator, the camera and the live studio audience simultaneously is incredibly hard. While neither candidate demonstrated a Clintonesque knack for it, the format deeply unsettled Mitt Romney.

It seems that the topic that Romney had at the top of his mind was that of the debating rules and time and time again he challenged the moderator for more time, pivoted to previous questions and was generally dismissive and disrespectful. In an election in which the female vote matters so much, Romney demonstrated his worse side, looking peevish and childish when he felt he was not getting his share of airtime.

While Romney talked down to the moderator, Obama tried to charm her and the audience, achieving laughs from the audience, who were under strict instructions not to show emotion all night. Indeed, the whole audience had to go through a rehearsal to practise how to act.

The chuckles clearly rattled Romney and he performed the majority of the night as if he was in enemy territory.

Both candidates were incredibly feeble and weak in dealing with a gun control question that was asked. Despite the spate of recent mass shootings over the past four years in the US, gun control has not been raised in this cycle. Obama ducked and weaved through the question around banning semi-automatic weapons. Romney decided to make the issue about single mothers raising kids, and the fact that two parents are needed to raise a child.

The unwillingness of either candidate to deal with this question demonstrates the tremendous power and reach of the National Rifle Association, by far the most powerful lobby in Washington today.

While the vast majority of the evening was on domestic issues, the pivotal moment came on the single foreign policy question surrounding Libya. After Obama accused Romney of playing politics with the attacks in Benghazi, Romney accused the Obama administration of playing politics with the death of an US ambassador. He then double-downed saying that the president going fundraising the day after was inappropriate.

With a deadly cold fury the president took to task the governor for accusing his administration of playing politics with national security and said that he was being offensive. Rather then back off, Romney came at Obama for not saying that the attack was a terrorist incident the day after. A furious Obama just started and demanded that Romney read the transcript of the speech that he made from the Rose Garden. At this point the rehearsed, neutral audience actually clapped for the president. They clapped again as the moderator stated from the transcript backed the president and Romney came out looking like he was scoring cheap political points on the death of a US ambassador.

Now to be fair, Obama does take every single opportunity to mention the death of Osama Bin Laden no matter what the question. Yet the almost personal nature of Romney’s attack on Obama over the Benghazi attack showed America a deadly focus and passion in the president that few knew was there.

Both Obama and Romney showed up for this one and it was Romney who showed his nasty side. His discomfort at the application of the carefully constructed rules led to his condescending manner and peevish attitude that lost him the audience and ultimately the debate itself.

Ignore the polls and look at the substance

Progress 10/12/12

The vice-presidential debate was a far more enjoyable affair then the presidential one a week ago. People actually enjoyed staying up through it, watching two engaging politicians going up against each other.  Perhaps it was the chairs, the low bar set by the previous debate, a great moderator or that VPs can say more; but it was far more watchable.

In addition to being watchable it will be seen (and this is a prediction) as a far more normal presidential debate then the one that preceded it last week. The polls will show that both parties feel that they won it but will not make big waves in the polls.

The Obama slaughter of the previous week created a stunning poll swing of 12 points to Romney. This debate will follow the traditional motto that while they make great theatre – presidential debates don’t really matter.

Yet despite the combative tone, the good put-downs and great zingers, the viewers actually got to see two heavyweight politicians argue against each other beyond soundbites. These debates are the rare times that the parties will go up against each other on stage; with no PMQs these offer the only chance for the leaders of the ideological camps of US politics to question each other.

The rareness of these moments was part of the reason for the outpouring of frustration at Barack Obama last week. While Joe Biden helped, the party will look to see if Obama can speak like a human, confident of his views and positions at the next debate.

Taking stock this VP debate gave us three truly remarkable things. First, the US public were privy to a bigger debate about the red lines on Iran then the Israelis will be in the run-up to their election on 22 January.

Secondly, Biden and Paul Ryan had the most informed public discussion about withdrawal from Afghanistan and what that means perhaps ever heard between two elected politicians.

Third, and perhaps most importantly for a British audience, the excellent late question about the candidate views on faith and abortion gave the world a chance to see the culture war that drives so much passion in the States. There was a lot of foreign policy, yet it is the social issues, particularly those to do with the abortion debate, that are in the mind of swing voters.

The moderation throughout was phenomenal, particularly around the faith and society segment and it allowed both campaigns to share with America what they feel deeply and what they will do with one of the most hotly contested issues in the country.

So despite the small effect it will have in the polls (a draw will be declared) the VP  debate made up for the waffle of the previous week and set a standard of clarity and communication that Romney and Obama will have to meet.

 

In search of momentum

Progress 7/12/12

Turning on to watch the new season of comedy series Louie I saw my first presidential election advert. Living in true blue Boston MA I figured the only reason the president must be spending money here is that he wants to annoy his opponent on his home turf. The ad boldly cast President Obama as the in-sourcer and Gov Romney as the out-sourcer. Replete with blue and red colours, pictures of closed mills and Romney’s company Bain Capital flashing ominously across the screen, it fitted nicely into the glut of superhero movies that Hollywood is churning out at the moment.

Having studied at the Kennedy School this year, I have seen my fair share of political ads and this one fitted into the standard compare-and-contrast to demonstrate the negatives of one’s opponent. With the employment figures stubbornly refusing to turn in the president’s favour it is little wonder the campaign chooses this spot above others.

Yet I could not help feeling disappointed that a few days after the president’s signature policy had passed through the Supreme Court in a surprise victory for the administration, the ad ignored it. Rather then seeing the airwaves dominated with the fact that every American can now be insured (regardless of birth defects or pre-conditions) the message did not shift.

The very absence of healthcare from the president’s pitch for his re-election demonstrates the phenomenal messaging job that the GOP has managed since it was tabled in the first two years of the administration. The policy is so radioactive to the public that even the fact that Judge Roberts crossing the aisle to save it will did not make a difference in its popular appeal. And the fact that the Republicans in Congress managed to stop the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act taking affect until 2014, handed them licence to bury it in 2010 and 2012.

Taking the president’s historic policy off the table, the GOP has managed to make this election about the economy alone. Foreign policy is but a distraction with the employment and economic challenges the USA faces, much to the annoyance of embassies and policy analysts around DC.

With little to talk about between the Department of Labor’s monthly job figures, process stories and small issues continue to dominate the political news cycle. One in particular that had me fearing for the Obama campaign was their latest fundraising idea.

June marked a month where Romney out-raised Obama by $20m. Never missing a beat, and recognising that the summer marked the beginning of the wedding season in the US, the Obama campaign emailed its supporters the option to switch out a gift registry for a donation to the Obama campaign. Instead of gifts to a newly wedded couple, give to the president’s reelection bid.

As someone who is getting married to a diehard fan of the president in a month, I can tell you that the best way to demotivate your young, poor, recent graduates is to steal their wedding gifts.

This odd idea is symptomatic of a campaign that assumes that the momentum is still there and all they need to do is ask. Yet as the election comes down to the wire, supporters are going to need to feel inspired again rather then just tapped for donations.

Will Orthodox Jews go against their economic interests to vote Republican?

Ha’aretz 06/25/12

Much has been made of the differences between Israel and her Diaspora in the U.S. over the past few years. However, the Jewish Community Study of New York 2011 released earlier this month shows a New York Jewish community that has the same demographic trends as its cousin in Israel.

Orthodox Jews make up around 40 percent of the community, with the Russian Jews making up 10 percent. A staggering 70 percent of children are Orthodox, with the hasidim making up 37 percent of the total of Jewish kids in the New York area.

The Orthodox trends in New York track at even greater rates than in Israel. The Metzilah Center projects that by 2028 a third of all Jewish children in Israel will be haredi; the hasidim have already exceeded that in New York.

There are many different lessons one can take from the 2011 community study. Yet in this crazy election season the question to focus on for now is this: Will the Orthodox Jewish vote go against the community’s economic interests and toward Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney due to his social conservatism?

The famous wealthy Jewish vote, with its unbreakable ties to the Democratic base, has always been an outlier when it came to economic voting. Though higher up in the socio-economic scale, the Jewish vote has been solidly Democratic, even if it would at times ask for them to pay more in tax and redistribute more of their wealth to welfare.

Though much has been made about the “Israel” factor in this election, polling of the Jewish vote shows that the majority of Jews in the U.S. still vote on domestic issues rather than on a single piece of foreign policy. The Orthodox world is no different, with many non- or anti-Zionist voices within it.

Though many of the Orthodox communities feel social affiliates with that of the modern day Republican party, their reliance on community programs that need government grants in order to run puts them at odds with the small government agenda. The Orthodox community has risen to make up 42 percent of the Jewish poor. Poverty has risen 86 percent in Jewish households since the last survey was done. Will they vote Republican even though all economic indicators should place them solidly in the Democratic base?

We will have to wait and see the results of the election. But as the Jewish vote is picked apart, remember not to see Israel as the only dominant factor in a community increasingly diverse in its make up.

140 characters does not make an electoral platform

Progress 6/21/12

With the selection of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee and the implosion of Americans Elect from the process, unable to find a candidate for their ticket, we know the full set up for the election in November. With the clearing of the field the polls have both candidates jockeying for position, each week being either slightly ahead or behind one another in the national polls. Yet, with what should be a big vision election, with all the economic questions America faces, we are seeing a small idea campaign.

Dominating news cycle after news cycle are the little things, a misspoken phrase in a press briefing, weird facts and conspiracies that will not die.  The speed with which something small can spread through social media and into the news networks is frightening. The pace and fury of this campaign is limiting the ability of the candidates to deal with any of the big policy issues as they bounce from gaffe to gaffe.

America needs to make a decision about its economic future and this election offers them an ability to do this; if the candidates can get past the distractions of dressage horses and celebrity fundraisers.

The lack of vision has been truly extraordinary. A big economic debate that has been playing out in Wisconsin has been seen as a surrogate for the national stage, yet the president chose not to get personally involved.

Unlike elections of the recent past, we are not faced with someone who is aloof vs. a man of the people. Both candidates struggle to connect to the everyman in their own way. There will be no ‘I feel your pain’ moments, nor feel good, beer drinking scenes that don’t smack of political theatre. With two intellectuals in the race one would assume that there would be much to discuss.

The GOP will keep on hoping that creating gridlock in DC and hoping for further economic gloom will be their big win in this race. The Democrats believe that Romney might die a death of a thousand embarrassments.  Neither of these strategies offers anything new to a population that is desperate for new ideas.  The lack of enthusiasm for either of these candidates is palpable despite tremendous efforts to make the campaigns movement-like.

Digital seems to be the great distraction from offering grand visions of what a better America could look like. Is this now the level of politics that we will have to expect in an instant news age?

Obama’s inside track on Israel

The Jewish Chronicle 3/30/12

In Peter Beinart’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism, Beinart tracks, the relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, whom he terms the first “Jewish President”. It’s not a reference to Obama being a crypto-Jew, but rather that the intellectual and moral milieu within which Obama made his meteoric rise was entirely Jewish.

Beinart was not the first to use the phrase, – it’s actually a quote from an Obama fundraiser in 2008. It highlights the remarkable comfort that the President has when speaking to Jewish audiences about Judaism. One only needs to read his speech to the Reform Biennial – the quotes about his daughters attending barmitzvahs, the quotes from the weekly Torah portion, the ease with which he says Hebrew phrases – to see that this is someone with a real affinity and connection.

Jeffrey Goldberg, unofficial dean of the Jewish press corps, confirms these feelings. After being granted an interview with the President on the eve his Aipac speech, Goldberg gave Obama the New American Haggadah to which he, Goldberg, had contributed. The president who hosts a White House Seder, quipped: “Does this mean I can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?” The Maxwell House Haggadah is given for free in the US when you buy a jar of Kosher for Passover coffee.

This level of immersion in the day-to-day life of American Jewry is far removed from political pandering and evangelical philo-semitism. Obama truly gets the Judaism of mainstream America, to such an extent that he can hock with the best of them. It is this comfort with Jewish America that explains, in part at least, the President’s much commented-on relationship with Israel.

They mean he shows the wrong sort of affinity

Whether it is the mismatch of a Likud government in Israel and a Democratic administration in DC, or the current toxic hyper-partisanship of modern US politics, Israel is now an electoral issue. Presidential candidates looking for the advantage in swing constituencies like Florida have latched on to it. An attempt to narrow the definition of “Pro-Israel” seeks to limit the supporters of Israel to those who support the policies of the current Israeli government.

The discussions remind me of our own community discussions on public criticism of the policies of Israel. Obama’s speeches are reminiscent of the discussions at Shabbat tables across the Jewish World. People who claim that the President lacks affinity for the Jewish people and the state of Israel misrepresent themselves. What they actually mean is that he shows the wrong sort of affinity.

As the leader of Israel’s most important strategic ally, Obama feels like he has the right to comment on what Israel does. The democratically elected government of Israel can do as it sees fit, but it does not automatically get the current level of American support based on its democratic nature alone.

Nothing Obama says or does cannot be heard in any Jewish community discussion about Israel anywhere. It would not surprise me if we learn one day that his opinions were formed at various Shabbat tables in Chicago. The discomfort of many of Obama’s Jewish political opponents is that it is not a lack of knowledge, or hatred, that is behind his stance on Israel, but merely a difference of opinion about what needs to be done.

The first Jewish President is feeling the effects of our internal community broiges. The recriminations are always more bitter within a closely knit community than with those with whom you have no affinity. The anger that many are feeling towards Obama on Israel is perhaps just a stand-in for how many in our community feel about each other.