Archive for September, 2012

36 Days until the Presidential Election — Prediction Time

Louisiana and its eight electoral votes are irrelevant to presidential campaigns these days in case you hadn’t noticed.  We are a Red State and will be for the foreseeable future.

This insignificance was not always the case as Mike Bayhem recently opined; we were once a battleground state, and I’m sure the state’s Democratic Party would like to see that again.  However, until the Party can find a way to elect Dems statewide, and therefore create a pathway for mobilizing Democratic voters, it is highly unlikely that Presidential candidates will pay us much heed.

So who are the states that matter this election season?

For the presidential race, the following are considered the toss-ups (electoral votes in parentheses):

Colorado (9)

Florida (29)

Iowa (6)

Nevada (6)

New Hampshire (4)

North Carolina (15)

Ohio (18)

Virginia (13)

Wisconsin (10)

Based on the remaining states and their existing polls, President Obama currently has 238 electoral votes while Governor Romney has 186.  The total needed to win the presidency is 270, and the truth is this is just a math game at this point.  In my view, unless Romney can win Florida AND Ohio, the President will be reelected.  As of today, he trails by at least five points in both states.

For the Senate races, the following are considered toss-ups (three of which couple as toss-ups in the aforementioned presidential*):

  • Connecticut open seat — Rep. Chris Murphy (D) vs. Businesswoman Linda McMahon (R)
  • Hawaii open seat — Rep. Mazzie Hirono (D) vs. Former Gov. Linda Lingle (R)
  • Indiana open seat — Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) vs. State Treas. Richard Mourdock (R)
  • Maine open seat — State Sen. Cynthia Dill (D) vs. Sec. of State Charlie Summers (R) vs. former Gov. Angus King (I)
  • Massachusetts — Former Obama Treasury official Elizabeth Warren (D) vs. Incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R)
  • Montana — Incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D) vs. Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R)
  • Nevada* — Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) vs. Incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R)
  • North Dakota — Former State AG Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rep. Rick Berg (R)
  • Virginia* open seat — Former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) vs. Former Gov. & Former Sen. George Allen (R)
  • Wisconsin* open seat — Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) vs. Former Gov. & HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (R)

I believe Republicans will win Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, and Wisconsin while Democrats will win Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia.  These results would turn the Senate into a 50-50 tie for the next Congress, leaving the next Vice President to break ties.

For the White House…drum roll please…I believe President Obama will win Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, thereby giving him 304 electoral votes and a return to the White House.  This is terrible news for the Republican Party, who have had their “second team” on the field all year but great news for aspiring Republican presidential candidates, most of whom are the party’s “first team” .  Stay tuned for an early commentary on those candidates’ prospects after we see the results of the November elections.

Bring on 2016!

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The GOP’s Female Trouble

Team Obama is offering a straight-up 1970s feminist agenda but still winning among women. Why?

By Kimberly Strassel

To say that the Republican Party remains dominated by fossilized male dinosaurs who don’t know how to talk to modern women—well, that would be mean. It would also be close to the truth.

The GOP’s female problem may help lose the presidential election. Women—in particular women who are independent voters—are going to decide this race. They are the demographic most up for grabs. The campaigns know it, which explains the obsessive focus by both sides on the female electorate. And yet for all the Republican attention to the women’s vote, the party is blowing a huge opportunity to bring women to its side.

It isn’t as if Democrats are in tune with today’s woman. The Obama campaign is serving a straight-up 1970s feminist agenda: contraception, abortion, equal pay. In this world view, women can’t and don’t think much beyond their reproductive apparatus. Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter this week went so far as to explain that women “aren’t really concerned about what’s happened over the past four years.” Unemployment, gas prices, ObamaCare—these are not the concerns of women.

That outlook is offensive to every woman who spends 18-hour days wrestling the job, the house, the kids, the bills. Yet Democrats get away with it for one reason: Women appreciate that they are being spoken to directly. Decades of an aversion to “gender politics” has, by contrast, left the GOP with the antiquated view that it shouldn’t address women directly on issues that matter specifically to them. The Romney campaign’s idea of engaging female voters is to deputize women to repeat its broad campaign themes.

The Republican Party could take some hints from the success of the Independent Women’s Forum, an outfit started in the 1990s by free-marketers who wanted a voice distinct from both the feminist left and the cultural right. The IWF’s advocacy organization, Independent Women’s Voice, has joined in some of today’s electoral battles, using direct messaging to speak specifically to women and independents.

It does so by making clear, fact-based arguments on issues that matter to these groups—like health care. Women make 85% of health-care decisions. The GOP tends to bang on about parts of ObamaCare, such as the individual mandate, that are unpopular with its male base. The Independent Women’s Voice, by contrast, is directly taking on elements of the law that are popular with women, explaining that seemingly attractive provisions—say, letting 26-year-olds stay on parental insurance—will in fact raise costs and worsen care. In controlled tests of the households where the IWV message had been received, the group found a significant uptick in women and independents who want the law repealed and who support Mr. Romney.

“A lot of political advertising is about sledgehammers and chain saws and beats you over the head,” says IWV President and CEO Heather Higgins. “We assume our audience is smart, and want to be able to make up their own minds, and so we present them with facts.”

IWV also isn’t shy about cutting ads directly aimed at a female audience. That includes its witty “Boyfriend” Web ad, which shows a woman confiding to a friend about a guy who “seemed so perfect” but who just can’t “get his act together.” The camera subtly pulls back to show a poster of Mr. Obama. The ad was a Web sensation, so much so that the Republican National Committee copied it (with a lower-quality, less thoughtful version).

Republicans are correct in saying that their policies will help everyone, including women. What they fail to note is that their policies will help in specific and important ways. Women are subject to government programs and laws that never envisioned their economic presence and so ignore or penalize their work. Many of the reforms that Mr. Romney is advocating would provide a fix.

While Democrats brag about their Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Mr. Romney might note that the greatest pay injustice for women is the steep marginal tax-rate system that Mr. Obama loves. Since most women are second earners, their income is added to their husband’s and taxed at his top rate. A married woman who does the same job as a single man keeps fewer of her dollars. Mr. Romney’s tax reforms will benefit all taxpayers, but they will particularly benefit women. It’s that simple.

Mr. Romney could note that his health-care reforms—which would finally empower families to buy affordable insurance outside the workplace—would especially help the millions of women who work part time and so don’t qualify for corporate health plans. He could note that his plans for strengthening Medicare and eliminating the death tax will matter most to women, who tend to outlive their husbands. He could point out that the labor-force flexibility he promotes would allow women to craft more flexible work arrangements with their bosses—a top working-mother priority.

This isn’t gender politics, and it isn’t pandering. It’s explaining. And it is an acknowledgment that women are a distinct economic constituency—with challenges markedly different from the men who are the dominant force in the GOP. That’s the path to the women’s vote.

Write to Kimberly — kim@wsj.com.

A version of this article appeared September 28, 2012, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The GOP’s Female Trouble.

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Infrastructure spending and the gas tax

Traffic congestion in Baton Rouge constantly forces a debate about whether to build a loop around the city.  I don’t think I want to wade into that discussion although I do have an opinion (Hint: what did Shreveport do?)…

Instead, let’s look at the bigger transportation and infrastructure picture. This Wall Street Journal story – “The Gas Tax Is Running Low But What Should Replace It?” – is a GREAT look at the options available for shoring up the nation’s highway trust fund and getting our core infrastructure back to the level Americans deserve.

Yes, each option involves some sort of tax, but the fact remains that if we want quality, modern infrastructure, it costs money. I’m not advocating for carte blanche tax increases, but I would suggest a dedicated source of funding that takes into account infrastructure usage and inflation rates is worthy of consideration.

In case you’re interested in the subject but don’t want to read the whole article, or don’t have access to a subscription, below are the suggested funding solutions:

• Tax the Miles
• Tax the Roads
• Index the Gax Tax to Inflation
• Tax Oil, not Gasoline
• Tax Cars

Why is infrastructure spending so critical? Well, for starters did you know that according the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), more than 26 percent of our nation’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete? This fact is scary on its face but also indicative of the challenges facing federal, state and local governments who are all grappling with budget deficits and limited resources.

The ASCE states “a structurally deficient bridge may be closed or restrict traffic in accordance with weight limits because of limited structural capacity. These bridges are not unsafe, but must post limits for speed and weight. A functionally obsolete bridge has older design features and geometrics, and though not unsafe, cannot accommodate current traffic volumes, vehicle sizes, and weights. These restrictions not only contribute to traffic congestion, they also cause such major inconveniences as forcing emergency vehicles to take lengthy detours and lengthening the routes of school buses.”

Infrastructure spending affects every person’s life almost every day. Core transportation infrastructure is a significant driver for the nation’s long-term growth and economic development. Without a modern infrastructure, the cost of moving goods increases, making us less competitive with other nations, particularly China. For example, that country announced earlier this month a $157 billion plan to fund 60 major infrastructure projects across the country.

Meanwhile we can’t get Congress and the President to agree on a long-term transportation bill, so a series of short-term extensions force states like Louisiana to delay or constantly revise planning and implementation of the state’s long-term transportation plan.

Again quoting the ASCE, in Louisiana our infrastructure needs abound and are highlighted below:

• 30 percent of Louisiana’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
• Louisiana’s drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $4.11 billion over the next 20 years.
• Louisiana’s ports handled 456 million tons of waterborne traffic in 2005, ranking it 2nd in the nation.
• 44 percent of Louisiana’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
• 43 percent of Louisiana’s major urban highways are considered congested.
• Vehicle travel on Louisiana’s highways increased 20 percent from 1990 to 2007.
• Louisiana has $3.33 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.

These statistics are significant, but they are not a condemnation of the Jindal administration or even a previous administration. States are mostly, though not entirely dependent on the whims and finances of the federal government and the highway trust fund. I merely point these statistics out to show that we have a long, long way to go (a long road to travel, so to speak) and given the condition of our infrastructure, a short time to get there.

—————-

Also published on Louisiana Daily and the Hayride.

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Peggy Noonan Continues Her Pointed Critique of the Romney Train Wreck

If you don’t know it, Peggy Noonan is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the best selling author of seven books on American politics, history and culture.  Back in the day she was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986. In 1988 she was chief speechwriter for George H.W. Bush when he ran for the presidency.  You can find her complete bio here.

In short, she is a conservative columnist and commentator who is widely read by both sides of the aisle.  Unfortunately for Republicans, she has been blasting the Romney campaign of late.

Earlier this week she wrote of Governor Romney’s apparent campaign incompetence.  Today, she went further with this column.  Here’s an excerpt: “It is true that a good debate, especially a good first one, can invigorate a candidate and lead to increased confidence, which can prompt good decisions and sensible statements … But: The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant ‘rolling calamity.'”

Strong words to be sure, and I don’t exactly agree with her entire missive, but from where I sit (Washington and Louisiana), things need to change quickly, like in the next 20 days, or it could all be over.  True that many voters do not make up their minds until the last 20 or 30 days of an election, but many of them make that decision as a result of how they see the tide turning or who has the clear momentum.  After all, everyone loves to vote for a winner.

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Congressional Budget Office Predicts Six Million People Will be Forced to Pay Obama Healthcare Tax Next Year

Pay the Man

About six million U.S. residents in 2016 will be expected to pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act for failing to obtain health insurance, up from a previous estimate of four million, according to a revised report released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

Election Day: 48 more days…

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