Maryland’s top prize

I have to admit I was shocked as anyone else to hear Barbara Mikulski was not seeking re-election. Although I figured she was closer to the end of her tenure than the beginning, I would have thought she would privately anoint a successor. In that respect it would have been a good landing spot for Martin O’Malley if Anthony Brown won the governorship, giving O’Malley a leg up on the 2016 Senate race once it became clear his Presidential bid was going nowhere fast. Sadly for the former governor, Larry Hogan won.

But among the blizzard of reaction from mainstream state news outlets and other political commentators, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, this opening in a statewide race would favor those with plenty of money and a team in place. It doesn’t have to be a person who has run statewide, and because this election allows members of the Maryland General Assembly to “run from cover” because their seats aren’t involved in the election, it’s very possible a few may take a shot.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly from a “bench” standpoint – if you assume that at least three or four sitting Congressmen decide to make a run for the seat, the same rules apply. Consider, if you will, an Andy Harris run on the Republican side – how many local elected officials would be interested in that seat as it suddenly opens? You could imagine Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio taking a shot, along with politicians from the other side of the Bay in Harris’s district. Multiply that by three or four Congressional districts and the prospect for several changes in the General Assembly for the second half of Larry Hogan’s term is significantly higher.

Yet in any of these cases, the decisions will have to be made early, probably no later than June. And that’s not just for the Senate seat, but those who may see themselves on the lower rung of the ladder in the House. Once those dominoes begin to fall, there’s no telling how far the stack could reach because it will all depend on who wins the respective primaries.

But just as the 2014 election proved to create a tremendous shakeup in the House of Delegates, the 2016 election may be cataclysmic for the state’s Congressional delegation. Even if just three or four run for office, the effect would be huge given that no more than two seats of the ten have changed hands in any recent election. The effect may be similar to 1986, when Mikulski first won office and several other Congressional seats picked up new faces (however, that was also a state election year, unlike 2016.)

So rather than try and predict the parlor game of who will run, the point of this piece is to remind people of the importance of a strong political bench. You have one seat that is a six-year term with no term limits and (quite honestly) not a lot of responsibility when you compare it to the governor’s chair. The last time this opportunity came up was 2006, but that was a year when state office holders had to weigh the odds of emerging from a crowded field against the certainty of re-election – not so a decade later.

The question isn’t so much who, but how many. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 2006 total of 28 aspirants isn’t surpassed in 2016. Most of them will be no-names or perennial candidates with no shot, but there will be some turnover in our Congressional delegation because of this sudden opening.

The Democrats’ biggest fear (for now)

It’s a concept I first heard from Rush Limbaugh, but it makes common sense: your opponents will show you what they are most afraid of by what they speak about and the terms by which they do so. In this case, perhaps their biggest fear going into 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was the subject of a DNC e-mail I received featuring this quote:

The DNC characterized this as an unsavory comparison, which some called a “gaffe.”

Obviously Walker was trying to portray himself as one who actually has a spine, unlike a lot of those who are in federal office at this time.  As a governor he has little foreign policy experience, but he has faced down more than his share of policy-based adversaries given his stance against the public-sector unions in Wisconsin. (It’s interesting to note that the Democrats in that Wisconsin case turned tail and ran rather than stand and fight for their beliefs. Par for the course.)

But Scott Walker has surged to the top of the polls because he’s maintained a relatively conservative line through the four-plus years he’s served as Wisconsin governor, winning not just two but three elections where Democrats have thrown the kitchen sink at him, including a trumped-up ethics investigation. A state that was considered to be safe for Democrats is now up for grabs because a conservative has led it for an extended period of time and performed successfully. That turnaround and the fact he actually stared down a key liberal constituent group and prevailed explains much of Walker’s appeal at this stage of the game. It’s a record none of the Democrats currently eyeing the nomination can match.

You may also recall that Walker was the subject of liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth a week or so earlier when he didn’t bite on questions about Rudy Giuliani’s remark questioning Barack Obama’s love of America. Add this to the CPAC speech and more and more on the Right are convinced Scott Walker is the Left’s biggest fear going into 2016 – so, to the liberals, he must be destroyed at all costs. Walker is hardly an elite or establishment GOP fellow, and it’s that relationship with the common man that Democrats fear, unlike Mitt Romney who they could (and successfully did) portray as a Wall Street patrician.

At this point, though, what difference does it make? To Americans who want a clear choice for President it makes all the difference in the world.

The DHS funding disaster

By Cathy Keim

This week in DC was the disaster that we all saw coming last December with the passing of the CROmnibus bill. The GOP promised that if only they passed the massive budget that gave Obama everything he wanted, they would hold the line on the illegal immigrant executive overreach when funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). So they gave up the momentum of the huge election win to allow the lame duck congress to vote for CROmnibus. In the outrage that followed this betrayal, conservatives begged for Boehner to not be returned as House Speaker. Despite 25 brave Congressmen voting against Boehner, the rest voted for him and the status quo.

Now the final betrayal that was set in place last December is coming to fruition. The proposition that the GOP would stand firm in a budget battle where the main leverage was a government shutdown of the DHS was already unlikely at best – then the Charlie Hebdo massacre happened in Paris and unlikely became impossible. The GOP is terrified that if the DHS were shut down, they would be blamed if a terrorist attack occurred. Never mind that of the 230,000 DHS employees, 200,000 are deemed essential and would be required to show up to work during the shutdown. (As in many of these instances, the so-called “shutdown” is more like a slowdown, and it’s almost certain they’ll be paid in the end.)

The House Republicans passed a DHS bill with a full year of funding but with amendments that addressed the illegal immigrant amnesty dictated by President Obama. The Senate has had the bill for several weeks but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to get the bill passed, so he stripped the House amendments out and sent it back to them on Friday. This is where it got somewhat confusing, because When the two bodies pass different bills they have to be reconciled.

The House voted at 2:43 pm on Friday to go to reconciliation with the Senate. All the Democrats voted against reconciliation. The Senate will vote on this on Monday and it is expected that all Democrats in the Senate will vote against it. The Democrats only want a clean bill passed, so they are not willing to try and reconcile the House bill with the Senate bill.

As the deadline drew near, there was a flurry of votes, which I found difficult to follow from the press coverage. However, Congressman Thomas Massie (KY – 4th Congressional District) posted an explanation on his Facebook page.

The entire post is worth reading to understand exactly what happened on Friday, but the bottom line is:

In summary, using the power of the purse to keep the executive branch in check is a legitimate and constitutional strategy, but our republican leadership chose poorly last December when selecting security funding as a point of leverage. Having backed themselves into a corner, last night House republican leadership abandoned their own plan and struck a deal with minority leader Pelosi that gave the President what he wanted for at least another week. In my estimation, the long-term prospect of using the power of the purse to stop the President’s unilateral action is bleak now that House leadership has signaled a temporary retreat without gaining a single concession from the Senate.

Our current Republican leadership is unable and/or unwilling to stop the tide of the President’s executive overreach. The citizens that voted last November for the opposition party to use the power of the purse to stop the President are left with nothing to show for their votes. It would appear that we are in for a painful two years as an uncontrollable President is left to execute his whims on a defenseless populace.

Citizens’ Mandate a sign of the times

By Cathy Keim

A few days ago Michael posted the question: How will people respond if Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee this time around? He gave quite a few options to choose from. So far only one comment has popped up on the blog comment section and it was not positive towards Jeb.

Personally, I am not in favor of another Bush running for president, even if he was the one that was supposed to be president according to GOP folklore. We are not a kingdom, but a republic. We do not have royalty and do not need another Kennedy, Clinton or Bush for our survival. In fact, a Clinton or Bush as our next president might be more detrimental than other choices. I know that Bush is considered the lesser of two evils in a Clinton-Bush match up, but he still has terrible positions on Common Core and immigration, which are two huge issues.

Rather than waiting for the elites in the GOP and the donor class to tell us whom we may vote for, we should be actively working towards vetting and then getting behind a conservative candidate early. Marylanders do not have much of a part to play in the early primaries, but we can still do our homework and then support our candidate early so that they have a better chance of making it through the primary process without being picked off one by one as we have seen in the past.

The GOP leadership has already shown itself to be arrogant and disinclined to actually listen to their base. They are willing to campaign to the base, but not to actually govern for them once elected. Jeb Bush has made it clear that he will win the nomination his way or just go home. He is not going to “pander” to the base.

In an effort to talk some sense into the GOP elites, a group of conservative leaders got together and wrote a Citizens’ Mandate after the November 2014 landslide elections. The hope was to motivate the GOP majorities in the House and Senate to actually stop the unconstitutional overreaches that the Obama administration has made a daily occurrence.

Despite the November landslide election, the first things the Republicans did was pass the CRomnibus bill in the lame duck session and then re-elect Boehner as the Speaker of the House. The current DHS funding fight was supposed to be where the GOP finally stood their ground against the executive overreach. So far, this has been less than an awe inspiring fight as Mitch McConnell frantically tries to pass the hot potato back to the House rather than pressuring eight vulnerable Democrat Senators to vote for cloture. The House loudly proclaims that they have done their duty, but that the awful Senate won’t do their part.

Finally, you begin to figure out that it is all showmanship to make the rubes out there think that they really, really did try hard to beat back the out-of-control executive branch, but it just wasn’t possible. Next stop, immigration “reform” as the Chamber of Commerce and business leaders wanted all along.

This means that many people will not see the point in voting Republican again. If we give them a landslide victory and this is what we get, then if Jeb Bush is the nominee, I predict that many people will just stay home.

The GOP is quite sure this will not happen as the Democrats are so much worse. But are they?

It is time for the GOP leadership to read the Citizens’ Mandate carefully and think about their choices. Andy McCarthy in National Review wrote about the Mandate. Please read the whole article, but McCarthy concludes:

Conservatives fear that Republicans, with their eyes on 2016 and their ears on professional political consultants, have drawn the wrong lesson from last November’s good fortune. Voters are not suddenly infatuated with Republicans. Voters are alarmed at the direction in which President Obama is taking the country, and they elected the only available alternative.

The fate of 2016’s race for the White House will be decided by how well Republicans heed the mandate of 2014’s referendum on Obama’s policies. Will Republicans use the next two years to stop the president? If, instead, they use the next two years to further enable the president’s fundamental transformation of the United States, they will not have convinced the country that they can govern. They will have convinced their base that they are not worthy of support.

Then Ann Coulter piles on:

Why don’t Republicans spend all their airtime attacking the media for lying about what Obama’s amnesty does and what the Democrats are doing? It’s hard to avoid concluding that Republicans aren’t trying to make the right arguments. In fact, it kind of looks like they’re intentionally throwing the fight on amnesty.

If a Republican majority in both houses of Congress can’t stop Obama from issuing illegal immigrants Social Security cards and years of back welfare payments, there is no reason to vote Republican ever again.

In January, Diana Waterman, the head of the Maryland GOP, sent out a letter saying:

If we want to be successful next year and beyond, we must continue to work together!! Please work with me to foster this unity – we have shown we can do it. We must not lose sight of our goals – victory in 2016 and 2018!!!

No, my goals are not victory for the GOP in 2016 and 2018. My goals are to stop the fundamental changes that the Obama administration is ramming down our throats each and every day. The Republican Party is currently the only vehicle available to me to try and stop the disaster. If the Republican Party continues to show that it cannot or will not make the effort, then no, I will not support them in 2016.

There are many others that feel the same way. We may not be a majority, but I suspect there are enough of us to keep the GOP nominees from winning. I will not stay at home. I will vote, but it will not be for Republican candidates if they continue this farce.

The gale force for renewed tax credits

Somehow it always seems that I like to write about wind power on blustery nights, when the winds are howling with gale force. Tonight is such a night, and it coincides well with a new report done by the American Wind Energy Association. It’s a report which makes the claim that the reliability and scope of wind power nationwide has given that industry the potential to create nearly half our electricity by mid-century.

Something I noticed on this report, though, is a graphic I had previously seen but not been able to find again. It’s a graphic which showed how much of each state’s electricity load was created by wind power, and states in the southeast don’t get much help from it – on the other hand, those in the upper Midwest do quite well. I suppose one could liken this phenomenon to whether a state is fortunate enough to have oil or natural gas underneath it, as some states have plenty while others are barren.

Yet the production increases and success the wind energy market has had comes mainly from two elements, both controlled by government: the Wind Production Tax Credit (WPTC) and various state regulations which mandate a certain percentage of electricity come from “renewable” sources. (Maryland is a state which has the latter.) Here’s what AWEA said about the WPTC:

Policy certainty is needed so that the U.S. can continue rapidly scaling up wind power. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit has successfully helped the U.S. become the number one wind energy producer in the world. Congress must rapidly extend the PTC for the longest possible time to avoid pushing American wind power off a cliff. A loss of $23 billion to our economy and nearly 30,000 well-paying jobs resulted the last time wind was left without policy stability.

Their definition of policy stability is keeping the WPTC afloat for more than a year-to-year basis, and some in Congress have unsuccessfully tried to ratchet this credit up for five additional years. To me, there’s no better proof that wind hasn’t reached a share of viability in the market than the fact that thousands of projects stall when the tax credit expires. Without the WPTC, it may be assumed that the costs of bringing wind energy to market are otherwise far too high. (This doesn’t consider offshore wind like Martin O’Malley wanted Maryland ratepayers to subsidize.)

AWEA makes the case that wind’s inherent unpredictability isn’t as big a deal as it was before since the industry is so widespread around the country – there is redundancy in the system now, so while Ohio may not be getting much wind Iowa could be buffeted. But it’s their claim that the unpredictability of policy holds them back, and the fact they continue to seek this crutch of the WPTC leads me to believe their lobby is all about the money and not so much about energy independence.

 

Physical labor may be good for your career

February 9, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, National politics · Comments Off 

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a blue-collar, auto-making town, so I feel a certain kinship with those who believe that America should still be making things big and small. So I liked the news that America accelerated the pace of manufacturing job creation at the tail end of last year, adding 115,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two months of the year based on revised federal figures.

But Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul called January’s 22,000 figure “so-so,” blaming “a combination of a strong dollar and unchecked foreign currency manipulation” for the slowdown. His group has called on the Obama administration to include currency manipulation provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated.

Month-to-month fluctuations are one thing, but what about adopting a broad-based approach to encouraging manufacturing and learning a trade at the optimal time, during the formative years of schooling? I don’t often agree with NPR, but last week they ran a story extolling the Millennial Generation to learn a trade in order to avoid the pitfalls of college loans and perhaps get a jumpstart on a good-paying career. While there was spirited argument in the comment section which made the case that their economic ceiling would be lower than their college-educated brethren could achieve - and that is true - not all children are college material and they should have a path to success which doesn’t involve spinning their wheels and racking up thousands in debt from college loans without a degree to show for it or one that bounces them from menial job to menial job just to get by. Alas, that is the fate of millions of young people today.

One paragraph sums up the opportunity:

With so many boomers retiring from the trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe-fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders, utility workers — the list is long. But the problem is not enough young people are getting that kind of training.

Personally, I’m on the wrong end of the baby boom. But those in the Millennial Generation (which my daughter is on the lead of as she was born in 1983) are indeed coming in at a good time. Problem is that we as parents have been fooled into believing college is the only path to success; that is, until we have to call the plumber, the electrician, or the mechanic who is good with his or her hands and has the proper aptitude to fix things. Chances are there’s a little gray in his hair, and while the last few years have been tough on these tradesmen economically they still have the skills to succeed.

What I seek is a path to success for our kids which doesn’t necessarily involve college and the massive debt that goes with it. If America can get back to building things and working with its hands, we can succeed like my father did with our family. We may never have been rich, but we had a roof over our head, food on the table, and those things we needed to succeed. Once every couple years we would go on vacation, and until I was in high school my mom was a stay-at-home mom. In short, we were a fairly typical middle-class Midwestern family in a blue-collar town.

The blue-collar upbringing really wasn’t that bad, and it’s a model we went too far away from for too long. Hopefully we have a chance to bring it back with today’s youth.

Common Core: where it is and what can be done

By Cathy Keim

Hello to the monoblogue readers! I am happy that Michael has agreed to have me join him on monoblogue from time to time. My interests are varied, as are Michael’s, but I can assure you that I will not be stepping on his toes by writing about baseball or the local music scene! I do hope to bring up topics for discussion and perhaps share ideas of ways to improve the situation or to take action.

My core interests are life and family, as I believe that we each are created in the image of God. We have unalienable rights from our Creator of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The family is the best way to equip our citizens to function in our republic.

To that end, I spent over twenty years homeschooling my five children until they went away to college. I took their education, both academic and moral, as a serious endeavor. Now that they are launched, I have time to work on my interests in other ways, such as writing about policies that affect our community and families both nationally and locally.

Last week I was at the 26th annual Educational Policy Conference presented by the Constitutional Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri, a forum where many issues were addressed, including Common Core. The speakers pointed out serious problems with Common Core, from the data mining concerns to the unbalanced history standards and the frustrating math.

I hope to cover some of the different areas over my first few posts, but first I wanted to mention Brion McClanahan, PhD, who took us on an historical romp to explain one reason why our representatives in DC do not listen to us. (As a small world note: Dr. McClanahan graduated from Salisbury University in 1997 with a B.A. degree in History.)

When our Founding Fathers were working on the design of our government, they originally decreed there be 40,000 people per each representative in Congress. George Washington intervened and got the number reduced to 30,000 to 1 because he felt that 40,000 was just too many.  As the country grew, new representatives were added until the Congress capped it at 435 representatives. Because of that cap, here in the First Congressional district in Maryland we have 662,000 citizens for one congressman. No wonder it is hard to get your voice heard!

Our Federal government was designed to handle a limited amount of responsibilities such as national defense, but with the wildly expanded government overreach not only do we have Congressmen representing on average 735,000 citizens, but they are also legislating in a myriad of areas that they should not be touching.

If, for example, we returned education to the states and preferably to the county level, then we would have a greater opportunity for community oversight. In every organization there comes a point when it becomes so large that it can no longer function effectively. It is extremely difficult to make one size fit all when you become a country as immense as ours. Hence, my lack of enthusiasm for Common Core stems from my skepticism that we will be well served by anything that unwieldy, as much as my innate repugnance to the many egregious problems embedded in the standards.

One of the more disturbing topics was “Data-mining Your Child: Building and Using the Psychological Dossier.” Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, D.C., explained how Common Core is about attitudes, mindsets, and dispositions, and not about educating your child. The goal is to track each child from pre-school until they enter the workforce so they will know how their minds work. The Federal government is prohibited from having a national student database so they are doing an end run around that by having each state build an identical system. The system is designed to track social and emotional learning rather than academics because that is more important for creating a good worker.

As one parent noted, the schools are now teaching what used to be taught at home and we now teach our children what the school taught. Teachers are assessing students’ attitudes towards learning, cooperation on the many group projects, whether the student is frustrated while learning, and many more subjective measurements which result in hundreds of data points for each child each year. Teachers are not trained social workers or psychologists and are not prepared to assess subjective opinions on each student that can then potentially be used inappropriately. The data is not protected for privacy by HIPAA-style laws. And although we are told that the data is stripped of identifying markers, we also know that it is impossible to collect thousands of data points on each student over many years without being able to track it to assure that it goes into the correct student’s file.

So, here we have one more blog post about the horrors of Common Core. What can you do about it?

You can make your complaints known loudly and clearly to every person you meet. Explain the problems and concerns that you have. Let’s educate those around us so that they can understand what is at stake for their children and grandchildren. At the federal level, inform your Congressman and Senators that they need to remove themselves from the education business. Since this is the beginning of the Presidential primary season, we need to be pushing the candidates to take a stand on Common Core. For example, Jeb Bush is a big mover behind Common Core. Make that stick! There are plenty of parents that are upset about Common Core – let’s use that anxiety to mobilize parents to demand that the federal government get out of education.

Governor Hogan said during his campaign that he wanted to put a pause on Common Core. However, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery is a supporter of Common Core. To opt out of Common Core, Hogan would have to replace enough state school board members to vote Lowery out of the superintendent position. Additionally, Maryland is a member in the Partnership for the Assessment of the Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), one of the two consortiums created to make tests for Common Core. He has to state within five months of taking office if he plans to continue his predecessor’s commitments, so the clock is running. If we want to stop Common Core in Maryland then the citizens are going to have to push very hard to make certain the governor takes on all this heavy lifting. No politician is going to exert themselves unless they have huge pressure forcing them into action, especially when the money and power is on the Common Core side.

The best chance we have to stop Common Core on a federal level is to make it a huge issue in the presidential primaries and on the state level we must give Governor Hogan the cover he needs to take on a behemoth that has already entrenched itself in our school system over the past two to three years.

A shift in the air currents

You probably recall that last month I detailed a study claiming that wind-created energy saved consumers $1 billion in last year’s “polar vortex.” Ironically enough, it was released on the anniversary of the 2014 polar vortex in the midst of more unusually cold weather at a time when the favored energy source of natural gas was serving the twin masters of electricity generation and home heating.

Yet a bone of contention for the wind industry has been the overdue renewal of a production credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, allowed over the first ten years of a qualifying project’s life. A five-year extension of this credit, sponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, was included in an amendment to the Keystone XL authorization bill in the Senate, but the amendment lost 47-51. One opponent of the credit, Americans for Limited Government, called it:

(J)ust another example of the crony capitalism that runs rampant in Washington, D.C. distorting our nation’s energy markets while encouraging the non-economically sustainable wind farming of America.

Of course, the American Wind Energy Association, while touting the increased capacity put into place last year, lamented the lack of this tax incentive:

2014 saw the completion of 4,850 megawatts (MW) in generating capacity, with cumulative installed capacity increasing eight percent to a total of 65,875 MW. That current wind capacity will avoid over 130 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equal to taking 28 million cars off the road, when the current wind capacity produces generation for a full year.

However, the amount installed in 2014 still falls far short of the record 13,000 MW that the U.S. wind energy industry was able to complete during 2012.

Industry leaders blamed uncertainty over federal policy. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit was only extended for two weeks at the end of last year, and has now expired again.

“Wind is gaining strength, but as recent history shows, we can do a whole lot more,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re looking forward to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle so that a reasonable, responsible tax policy is in place that allows the wind industry to continue lowering costs and investing billions of dollars in U.S. communities.”

So is it a “reasonable, responsible tax policy,” or a boondoggle?

As noted above, the tax credit is equal to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average American home uses just over 900 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. Rounding down to 900 for ease of math, it means that each month a wind-powered home creates a tax credit of $20.70 – over a year that adds up to $248.40.

In the same AWEA release, they claim that “U.S. wind farms now provide enough power for the equivalent of 18 million typical American homes.” If this is so, then the annual cost of this tax credit would be nearly $4.5 billion. Granted, this assumes that all wind capacity in the country would qualify for the credit, but stick with me.

Yesterday our not-so-illustrious former governor Martin O’Malley blustered in the New York Times that:

(R)enewable-energy businesses still aren’t even competing on a level playing field with fossil-fuel companies, which enjoy more than $4 billion in guaranteed federal subsidies each year.

Yet if you work out the wind power tax credit, that section of renewables could get a tax break exceeding $4 billion per year, not to mention the carve-outs states like Maryland provide for renewables at the expense of less expensive and more reliable fossil fuels. The benefit of having a share of a market worth tens of billions of dollars handed to renewable energy (or, as is more common, the treatment of this rent-seeking as a penalty paid by energy companies) is rarely factored into the equation, but stands as an advantage for the renewables side that traditional sources do not enjoy.

To really get a sense of where wind power can compete, not only should we permanently eliminate the Wind Production Tax Credit, but also do away with the market share requirements for renewables. Only then can we get a sense of where the market really is for that type of energy.

There’s a reason we have cars that run on gasoline, electrical plants which run on coal and natural gas, and fervent exploration for new sources of oil, just as there’s a reason wind turbine construction came to a near-halt in 2013. The market seeks its own level.

Yet another candidate, by George

February 2, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

As proof that the 2016 presidential contest is wide open on the Republican side, I give you the newest entrant: George Pataki.

Many of you are probably saying, “George who?” But as evidence that some people are more than just getting their name out there, Pataki served three terms as the governor of New York, actually establishing a period of sanity before the circus that was the Eliot Spitzer administration, which led to the David Paterson tenure before yielding to current Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Pataki, ironically, succeeded Cuomo’s late father Mario.)

But Pataki fits into the mold that Mitt Romney vacated: a more moderate Northeastern governor. Yet one has to wonder why he didn’t make a bid at the top of his game in 2008, just after leaving office. And at 69 years of age (he’ll be 70 later this summer) he would be older than many in the field. (He’s two years older than Hillary Clinton but almost three years younger than Joe Biden.) Granted, the current President is panned for his relative inexperience at the age of 53 so age may not be so much of a factor in Pataki’s case.

Like many governors, Pataki is running against Washington and has created his own superPAC called “We the People, Not Washington.” He’s also heading to New Hampshire to introduce himself to voters, perhaps believing he can make more of an impact in a state closer to home with an early primary.

But I look at this announcement with the realization that political analyst Larry Sabato has Pataki as a “seventh-tier” candidate – along with another blue-state Republican governor who you might know, Bob Ehrlich – correctly pegs Pataki’s chances. Their similarities include a long near-decade out of office, although in Ehrlich’s case it was thanks to two straight electoral defeats. As I noted yesterday, the list of GOP governors who are considering a run is very long because our side has a deep bench to turn to. Sabato lists close to a dozen possible current or former governors who are thinking about it.

And in looking at the political landscape Pataki would have to run in, he almost has to hope for a New Hampshire miracle where they embrace the populist message that government doesn’t have to be smaller, just run better. That’s not a direction the TEA Party wants to go.

Whether it’s a serious run or a last gasp at relevancy, you can’t fault a guy who had a pretty good twelve-year run as governor for trying. I just don’t know if he’ll succeed beyond the end of this year.

The new “it” candidate

In each Presidential cycle, there always seems to be a candidate who breaks through against the conventional wisdom choices and becomes popular because he is a new face and excites the populace. Barack Obama was one of those in 2007, and he rode that early wave of popularity all the way through to the White House. They are usually from the opposition party to the one in the White House.

But aside from Obama, usually that particular politician flames out early in the process just as Howard “the Scream” Dean did in 2004 and Herman Cain did in 2011. So whether the cycle is going back in the other direction or we’ll hear the same old song is up to the voting public.

This cycle’s early “it” candidate has been through the electoral wringer quite a bit in the last four years, though, so he’s not exactly a completely unknown quantity. But over the last couple weeks, since the Iowa Freedom Summit, the star of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rapidly ascended in the Republican ranks, putting him up into the top tier of candidates. Walker drew praise from no less than Rush Limbaugh, who believed the Wisconsin governor has clearly expressed a conservative manner of governance in his tenure over a previously staunchly Democratic state. “I believe Scott Walker is the blueprint for the Republican Party if they are serious about beating the left,” said Rush.

Walker, who recently formed an exploratory committee, comes into the race as one of several successful GOP governors. It’s a group that includes recent or current governors in Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, along with former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush. This group with executive experience has served to push back many of the other contenders, such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, who don’t have as much time in the national spotlight. (One exception in that group is Rand Paul, who remains among the top dogs.)

Yet the argument for a candidate like Walker is simple in light of the last six-plus years of having a president who learned on the job: it’s time to put the adults back in charge. In fact, you have to reach all the way down the Democratic field to Martin O’Malley to find a person who’s actually run anything on a scale that several GOP aspirants have – and O’Malley’s legacy was so poor that he couldn’t even get his lieutenant governor to succeed him in a majority-Democratic state. Otherwise, their top half-dozen contenders got their political experience mainly from the Senate and despite the oversized ego required to be a Senator they really don’t have a lot of qualifications for the job. Good or bad, four of the preceding five Presidents before Obama served as governors of their state.

The question going forward will be how much scrutiny Walker will receive, although having survived both a recall effort and re-election should mean there’s not too many secrets we don’t know about him. Much will be made about Walker’s lack of a college degree (he attended Marquette University but did not graduate) but it hasn’t stopped him from running the ship of state in Wisconsin. Consider him a magna cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.

I can see why Walker would be popular, though. He has the record of success against Big Labor Chris Christie can only dream of and beaten them back at the polls in a way John Kasich of Ohio could not. And while he doesn’t have the job creation record of a Rick Perry in Texas, his state also doesn’t have the energy potential Texas has. Wisconsin did rank fourth last year in the number of new manufacturing jobs, as industry has traditionally been the state’s economic bread and butter.

So is Walker the outsider the GOP rank-and-file is looking for? Time will tell, but he’s the buzz on social media right now and for good reason.

Romney takes the exit ramp

It’s all over the news today – sort of a Friday afternoon news dump, but definitely fodder for the Sunday talk shows: 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he was taking a pass on the 2016 race.

In their coverage, Fox News cited a poll from earlier this week that showed the race without Romney narrowly favored Jeb Bush, who had 15% of the vote in a wide open field. (Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul were at 13% apiece, Ben Carson was at 10%, and Scott Walker at 9%.)

Romney was the leader in many polls at this early date, with the caveat that polls this far out are heavily based on name recognition. But Mitt’s withdrawal, coupled with the decision earlier this month by his running mate Paul Ryan to stay in the House, means there’s no real odds-on favorite based on previous runs, unless voters decide Sarah Palin is not past her expiration date.

The conventional wisdom is that the money and advisers who would have worked on the Romney campaign will gravitate toward Jeb Bush and not Chris Christie – the guy who fits the Northeastern governor mold that Romney carved out last time. It’s probably why this poll conducted by Fox News worked out as it did. But the fact that 85% of the voters don’t support Jeb Bush and three times as many of those polled prefer one of the next four candidates down means that the GOP electorate isn’t nearly as sold on the younger Bush as Democrats are sold on the “better half” of the Clintons. To me, those who sat out the 2012 election because they weren’t excited about Mitt Romney are going to make it two in a row if Jeb Bush is the GOP standard-bearer.

If 2016 is another Bush-Clinton match 24 years later (with different players) my prediction is that we will see a record low turnout. I also think honest historians a century hence will see this run of Presidents from Bush 41 through Obama as the weakest since the group from William Henry Harrison through James Buchanan – a two-decade period where the United States couldn’t resolve the slavery issue and fought a war with Mexico, although they won. Granted, two of the seven presidents during that era died in office, but none of them served more than a single term in a restless time in our history. In the modern era, we have seen government grow and become more lawless, fought a pair of unpopular wars abroad, and watched the middle class struggle in a tumultuous economy. It’s not certain whether Mitt Romney would have turned that tide, but he didn’t win in 2012 and history isn’t very kind to nominees who lose a general election yet run again the next time.

The 2016 election really doesn’t have a parallel in the recent past. 2012 was a lot like 1996 in that they both pitted incumbent Democrats whose party was creamed in the most recent midterm election prior to those years (2010 and 1994.) But both Democrats survived when the GOP put up “establishment” moderate candidates in Mitt Romney and Bob Dole.

We need a path to victory in 2016, and Mitt Romney probably sensed he wasn’t the guy. It would take a lot to convince me Jeb Bush would be that person, too.

 

Testing the muddy waters

The GOP presidential field looks to be the deepest in many years as there are candidates coming out of the woodwork. It’s the time in the cycle when hopefuls make their intentions known, as Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham have done over the last few days.

All these candidates could make for a clunky debate, since an hourlong program with twenty candidates leaves very little time for broad exploration of the issues. And how do you determine who to invite and who to leave out? Right now there’s not just the known candidates, either – according to the FEC, 157 people have filed the necessary paperwork with them to run for president, with some barely waiting until the last election was over to file. I suppose in theory they should be in the debates, too.

But in response to a Facebook post about the prospect of who’s in and who’s shut out of the debates, I came up with a couple ideas I thought worthy of sharing with a wider audience.

Apparently there are 12 pre-primary debates scheduled, and the concern is having too many in the format – so they would use the polls to determine who gets in. To me, this is a problem because polls at this early stage are just name recognition – naturally a Mitt Romney or Jed Bush may poll much better than Walker or Graham, yet both could bring good ideas to the table. For example, Walker has taken a hardline stance against the abuses of Big Labor in government while Graham is a hawk when it comes to radical Islam.

So what I would propose is a debate not based on polls, but who can buy their way in. Anyone who has an exploratory committee or has filed, and can come up with a relatively significant amount – say $50,000 – can be in the debate regardless of poll numbers. (The money would be held in escrow for the eventual nominee.)

But Michael, you say, we would probably get 18 to 20 contenders, including one of those longshots who no one’s ever heard of. Well, the person would get one shot in what would be a series of hourlong debates, held on the same night in groups of 5 to 7, made as numerically equal as possible. Having 18 participants would mean three groups of six; groups which would be drawn at random so that the opening group in debate number 1 would be different the next time, and of course some will drop out or won’t be able to afford another debate.

If you assume the debates are the most important thing for a campaign at this early stage, then they should be open to whoever can afford the spot to get in. And if you complain about the monetary aspect, well, please come up with a better way of proving viability. It keeps the debate field to those who take it seriously and not those who just fill out the FEC paperwork as a lark or for publicity.

Now if we can get good debate moderators, we would be in good shape.

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