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.


Olympics, NBC and tragedies in America

Progress 8/7/12

As a Brit in the USA, watching the Olympics has been a chore. The much-maligned NBC coverage that misses moments of silence for 7/7 does not care for any team but the USA and refusing to broadcast live coverage except for ad-heavy live streaming is appalling.

One can understand the economic argument for NBC who paid so much for the rights and want to make sure that those who work in the USA can watch the highlights when they get home. But even on weekends, Americans had to wait till 11pm on Sunday night to see Usain Bolt run, and we never got a chance to celebrate with Mo Farah.

Yet with a constant eye on the BBC live ticker I am attempting to get excited along with everyone else with Team GB’s epic achievements.

While the world watches London, the world continues to turn, Romney’s world tour continues to embarrass, and Syrian descent into madness quickens. But even for a foreign policy junkie such as myself, the two recent shootings in the States have punctuated my consciousness like no other news story.

The Aurora shooting a week before the opening ceremony was terrifying in a way that no other public shooting had been for me before. Maybe it was my fiancée’s unease at seeing The Dark Knight Rises on the Sunday of opening weekend for fear of copycats or the weeks of political silence about gun control that followed, but I felt more uncomfortable in my surroundings then normal.

This discomfort was magnified over this past weekend with the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. As a British citizen I am just not used to this level of violence and the political inaction that has followed it. I freely admit that I do not understand the second amendment, having no analogous experience to which to relate, yet the lack of debate around gun control is dangerous.

It’s not the lack of gun control that I find so worrying, but the lack of debate after these shootings that scares me. Yes I know it’s an election year and that the NRA is powerful. Yet these back-to-back tragedies merit some discussion by lawmakers. Even if nothing changes legislatively, the absence of the discussion on a national level makes me feel all the more foreign in America.

Much has been said about anonymous money and super PACs in this election cycle. Yet it is the lobbies which are clear, visible and have a mass membership that exert the greatest effect on US politics, as the deafening silence on Capitol Hill demonstrates.

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.

Is Congress Broken

Progress 9/8/11

Watching the US Congress operate, British MPs might have the right to feel a little jealous. Here is a system in which members of the lower and upper house have real power. Yet with great power should come great responsibility, a responsibility that has been sorely lacking from the men and women trusted with governing the worlds most important economy.

Though the game of chicken with the world’s economy is now over, the crisis has been replaced with what could be the start of a global double dip recession. Since the US has raised the debt ceiling and slashed $2.4 trillion off spending the Dow Jones index has dropped more then 500 points. Congressional disapproval stands at an all-time high of 82%.

The US stand-off for the past three weeks was not the only cause of this crash, but it certainly was not the steadfast, politically grown-up and responsible action one expects of lawmakers at the helm of a superpower.

Reading through the barrels of ink split over the vote, a question that consistently comes up is whether, when up to the wire, Congress will really deliver? Must there be a crisis of epic proportions in order to get congressional figures on either side to work together? From the details of the debt-ceiling bill, the answer seems to be yes.

The way that the bill is structured is such that, while a trillion dollars was cut at its passing, Congress voted to establish a ‘Super Committee’ whose job it will be to find the additional trillion and change to cut and present their finding to Congress for an up and down vote. This vote must happen and there are no amendments orfilibusters allowed. If for whatever reason the committee cannot agree or the vote fails to pass there are two triggers built in. The $1.2 trillion dollar cuts will fall evenly between the Pentagon and Medicare. By mutually assured (political) destruction the parties have agreed to hold a gun to their heads to motivate them to act.

Apart from the fact that the bill suggests that Democrats only care about entitlement programmes and Republicans about the military, what does this indicate about the most powerful democratic country in the world? That it needs to threaten itself with domestic Armageddon in order to work out its fiscal situation. How would you feel if you were a senior or a member of the US armed forces that your financial future is being used as collateral to make the parities actually govern together?

Congress has not always been like this, so what broke the most important political system in the world? Since the Obama election and the rise of the Tea Party, partisan politics have reached new heights in the US. By electing Tea Partiers to power, segments of the American people have put anti-government ideologues into the heart of a system that requires everyone to have the same goal in mind.

A significant amount of congressional figures being unwilling to compromise, regardless of the consequences might have caused the Democrats to give up all their red lines on this occasion, but is no guarantee of future cooperation.

A system does not work if one side plays ball and the other just sits stone-faced and says no. Unless the Republican leadership can get the Tea Party to play by Washington’s rules – exactly what they were elected to oppose – we can expect more nailbiting, economically and socially devastating votes. The last one passed by a couple of hours and the economy tanked; the US might not be so lucky next time.