For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.
Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA, and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.
It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.
Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.
It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.
Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:
Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)
Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.
Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.
I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.
Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.
On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:
The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.
We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.
The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.
And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?
I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.
To be quite honest I didn’t see the withdrawal of Rand Paul to be quite this soon, but the other day I noted in passing that Paul was among the bottom-feeders in both New Hampshire and South Carolina so once he performed poorly in Iowa there was really no need to move forward. His idea of trying to get 10,000 Iowa college students to caucus for him failed to the extent that he had a total of just 8,481 votes, drawing just 4.5% of the vote for a fifth-place finish (and one delegate.) And considering New Hampshire is the ground zero for the Free State Project – a group of libertarians who have vowed to move there to further their political activity in the state they determined was most conducive to their interests – you would have thought Paul, the most libertarian-leaning of the GOP candidates, would poll better than the measly 2 to 5 percent he was receiving in New Hampshire. But he wasn’t, and his high-water mark there last summer was only in the 6% range.
(By the way, speaking of the Free State Project, they announced this morning that they have met their goal of 20,000 who pledge to move to the state, triggering a five-year clock for those who pledged to relocate. We’ll see how that does in the next half-decade.)
Meanwhile, Paul has a Democratic challenger for his Senate seat so he was surely getting pressure to abandon what was seeming to be a more and more futile quest for the Oval Office to protect a Republican Senate seat. (In the hopes his Presidential campaign would catch fire, Paul also managed to get Kentucky to have a Republican caucus in order to avoid having an issue with being on the ballot for two different offices, which is against state law.) His situation was different than the other Senators who are running (or have run): Ted Cruz isn’t up until 2018, Lindsey Graham was safe until 2020, and Marco Rubio declined re-election to the Senate to pursue his Presidential bid. (Among the names mentioned to replace Rubio was former Marylander Dan Bongino, who now lives in Florida.)
Yet there is a small but sufficient portion of the GOP that had as its motto, “Paul or none at all.” There was no other candidate they liked, so it remains to be seen how many will hold their nose and vote for the eventual GOP nominee, how many will migrate to the Libertarian candidate (odds are it will be former Republican aspirant Gary Johnson, who dropped out of the 2012 GOP field and became the Libertarian nominee later that year), and how many will just stay home. If the latter two numbers are too great, it obviously affects the Republicans’ hopes of getting back in the White House, but if the last number is high that could make Republican prospects of holding the Senate more unlikely as well.
Truth be told, I really liked Rand Paul as a candidate although I had a few reservations about his foreign policy. (On the domestic front he was nearly unbeatable.) Perhaps this is a good time for a reminder of my own level of support for these guys and how the field has shaken out since the process started last summer. Back at the end of September when I made my initial endorsement, the 17-person field had already lost Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Based on my level of support, this is how the race has elapsed:
- Bottom tier:
George Pataki, Donald Trump
- Fourth tier: Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
- Third tier:
Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
- Second tier: Marco Rubio,
Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham
- Top tier (and these guys were miles ahead of the rest): Ted Cruz,
Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal
Walker was being a disappointment and was trending toward the third or fourth tier, on the other hand Perry may have landed in my top five.
As you can see, I’m perilously close to holding my nose because the only one of my top five remaining is Ted Cruz. Yet those who support Paul don’t tend to like Cruz because they’re occasionally been rivals in the Senate and Cruz also has ties (both through his wife and financially) to Goldman Sachs - a bank libertarians love to hate. There are also those who question the whole “natural born citizen” aspect of Cruz’s (and Marco Rubio’s) candidacy, although that charge has been led mostly by supporters of Donald Trump.
Sadly, I suspect there really is a great number of Rand Paul supporters who will be the “none at all” contingent when it comes to November. When you have to pin your hopes on the equal disillusionment of Bernie Sanders supporters (who are bound to be hosed by the Clinton machine) it is worth wondering about the direction of this republic.
Update: As I was writing this, word came out that Rick Santorum is also suspending his campaign. Scratch another off the list.
It was one of those meeting where we had a featured speaker, but someone else stole the show. That’s not to show any disrespect to Cathy Keim, who ably represented Election Integrity Maryland, but a testament to the hot-button issue of the day.
With the meeting conducted by Second Vice-President Marc Kilmer in Larry Dodd’s absence, the meeting had a little bit of a different feel to it. Maybe it was the new year. Regardless, we went through the usual preludes and club business, also taking a moment to thank Ann Suthowski for her handling of the club’s Christmas Party last month before turning over the meeting to Cathy for her presentation.
She introduced her group, Election Integrity Maryland, as a nonpartisan watchdog group which was an offshoot of the True the Vote organization based in Texas.
In essence, what she had to share was startling – but not surprising. There’s no question that those who favor common sense steps like photo voter ID, proof of citizenship, tightened registration rules, the elimination of same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period are accused of fomenting disenfranchisement at best, and racism, homophobia, bigotry, and the remaining laundry list of liberal insults which normally follow once they can’t stand on the facts. And they can’t, instead trying to portray this as a “GOP war on voting.”
On the contrary, a Rasmussen Poll found 82% favor voter ID, no decrease in turnout has been reported in states requiring voter ID, and laws to safeguard against a mass registration dump on the eve of the election (in order to make it more likely fraudulent registrations are allowed) make it easier on legitimate voters to be registered.
Yet there are still rampant examples of the system being tampered with. As a recent example, in the New Hampshire primary, filmmaker James O’Keefe enlisted volunteers who entered and asked for ballots representing voters who had recently died to prove a point, carefully not representing themselves as the deceased voter. Because New Hampshire doesn’t ask for a photo ID, there was little chance a person who actually wanted to misrepresent himself as a voter couldn’t get away with it.
Cathy also outlined the Secretary of State Project, which is a 527 organization devoted to electing the chief elections official in each state where that post controls the balloting. Its biggest success was in Minnesota, where their Secretary of State (elected with backing from the SoS Project) conducted the 2008 recount that cost Republican Norm Coleman a U.S. Senate seat, given instead to Sen. Al Franken. Prior to that election, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who was elected in 2006, ended a ballot reconciliation program and refused to investigate claims of registration fraud.
Some of the more immediate goals of Election Integrity Maryland are to assure accurate voter rolls, promote an active citizenry with an interest in the voting system, conduct poll watcher training (for anyone, regardless of affiliation), and work on legislative measures which promote a clean and fair election. Along with the poll watcher training, they also seek volunteers to sift through the voter registration database and help eliminate duplicates or people registered at phony addresses. On a national level, they are also assisting with verification of signatures in the Wisconsin recall, since some have stated they signed petitions dozens of times. Election Integrity Maryland is a 501(c)(4) group so it can be involved in political activities.
All in all, Cathy put together a nice and informative presentation. But Joe Holloway rose to speak, and that’s when things got very interesting.
Joe stated up front that he “needed to see some friendly faces.” He and three other Republicans on County Council had come under withering criticism for their proper vote to hold off on building Bennett Middle School until the county was on more solid fiscal footing. Fellow County Council member Bob Culver, who was also at the meeting, said “I’ve never been spoken to like I have over this (Bennett Middle School) issue.” He had opined that we should explore the cost of remodeling the existing building instead.
Yet Holloway was clear on his intentions. “Bennett Middle School will be built,” said Joe, “but we want it done right.” However, he listened to four members of County Council and reluctantly agreed to hold a special meeting to reconsider the subject. (That meeting, held earlier today, is the subject of this update to a previous post.)
Holloway wasn’t as quick to approve the school, though, because a lot of the “new” financial information they were presented was based on a number of assumptions which he was determined to challenge.
And what impact would a new school have on county finances? Well, Holloway believed that around 80% of what we have bonded are education-related projects, and Joe also reminded us the new school would affect both the capital and operating budgets, since we pay millions in debt service annually out of the operating fund.
One questioner reminded us of the prospect of having to adopt teacher pensions at a county level, and another wondered if it was simply a tactic to have the revenue cap removed. But former County Executive candidate Joe Ollinger challenged Holloway to name a figure he could live with. Regardless of the figure, Bob Culver bluntly assessed that “we’re going to have to raise taxes.”
But Central Committee member John Palmer would have none of it. “I’m disappointed that County Council can’t move a Republican agenda,” he said. He’ll certainly be disheartened by today’s vote.
Speaking of the Central Committee, Dave Parker reminded us of the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner, but also predicted rough times were ahead for the county. “It’s going to be worse than Martin O’Malley is telling us,” said Parker, and County Council is being “snookered” by those who would “misuse political power.”
However, Parker had some better news as he was promoting the Republican message both in a PAC-14 forum which featured Democratic Central Committee member Harry Basehart in a discussion of the differences between the two parties, and a regular point-counterpoint feature in the Daily Times leading up to the election. (I’m not the only self-promoter here.)
Mark McIver spoke on behalf of Congressman Andy Harris, who was unopposed in the primary and would use the advantage given to him by redistricting to help other GOP causes and candidates. “Andy wants to build the party,” McIver said. Mark also announced Andy had become a lifetime member of the WCRC.
A pair of relatively new faces were present as well, as Donnie Scholl and Charles Landherr stopped in to represent Dan Bongino’s campaign, which is promoting itself around the region. Bongino was a guest at our June meeting last year.
Finally, we had nominations for our 2012 slate of officers, and unless someone steps up to challenge that slate at our February 27 meeting, that group of five holdovers and two new participants will be the 2012 cadre of officers for the WCRC.
According to an AP story by Philip Elliott and Kasie Hunt, Jon Huntsman is preparing to drop out of the GOP presidential sweepstakes and endorse Mitt Romney. Ironically, the same newspaper whose edition of the story I used (The State, based in the Columbia, SC area) spent its Sunday edition endorsing Huntsman in the South Carolina primary to be held next Saturday.
But the die for Huntsman was probably cast in New Hampshire, where he finished a distant third in a state where he was counting on competing with Mitt Romney for moderate Republican, independent, and disaffected Democratic votes. Finishing 22 points behind Romney and not expecting much of a showing in a much more conservative state (South Carolina) where Gov. Nikki Haley already placed herself squarely in the Romney camp, it was probably felt that Huntsman had no path to victory against his former boss, Barack Obama. So the two convention delegates Huntsman won can go ahead and support another candidate rather than be among the loneliest duo at the national Republican convention.
Yet while a number of conservative pundits believed Huntsman was a conservative actually attempting to broaden his appeal as a moderate, in reality Jon had two major problems I found: he supported the DREAM Act and believed in anthropogenic climate change. Neither of them are particularly conservative, and they overshadowed many of his good points with an electorate which has cried for a more conservative candidate than Mitt Romney.
Still, Romney will be Huntsman’s choice going forward, based on perceived electability – no surprise there. However, all that may do is bump Romney’s ceiling from 25 percent of the GOP electorate to 26 percent. Unfortunately, there’s not much Romney could gain from a Huntsman endorsement; meanwhile, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who both exited the race with a broader base of support, haven’t stated publicly which competitor they will endorse. Those two endorsements could help sway the race to more of an extent than Huntsman’s commitment and it’s fairly likely they’ll be backing one of Romney’s opponents.
So we have the first qualifier on Maryland’s ballot to drop out of the running. Now the question is how many other “ghost” candidates will be on the docket we see April 3rd.
And it’s about time. It will be interesting to see as the evening wears on whether any of the candidates who are currently in will exit the field after today’s New Hampshire primary.
But closer to home, we found out that both parties are now represented in all eight Congressional districts, so no incumbent gets a free ride in November. Andy Harris filed today to retain his First District seat, while Republican Charles Shepherd of Gaithersburg filed to run in the Fourth Congressional District to fill out the puzzle. As of now, here’s the breakdown of how many are in each Congressional primary:
- First District: 1 Republican, 2 Democrats
- Second District: 4 Republicans, 1 Democrat
- Third District: 4 Republicans, 2 Democrats
- Fourth District: 1 Republican, 3 Democrats
- Fifth District: 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats
- Sixth District: 7 Republicans, 4 Democrats
- Seventh District: 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and 1 unaffiliated (who is automatically advanced to the General Election in November)
- Eighth District: 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 1 Green Party (also automatically on November’s ballot if nominated by the Green Party.)
- U.S. Senate: 10 Republicans, 9 Democrats
At this point, with a day and a half to go, the only two incumbents to not have primary opposition are Andy Harris in the First District and Dutch Ruppersberger in the Second.
Another interesting item is the number of General Assembly members now running:
- State Senator Nancy Jacobs is running for the Second District Congressional seat.
- Delegate Tony O’Donnell seeks the Fifth District Congressional seat.
- The Sixth District race is a no-holds-barred firefight with representatives from both General Assembly chambers: Delegate Kathy Afzali jumped in today to join Senators Rob Garagiola and David Brinkley.
- The U.S. Senate race now officially features State Senator C. Anthony Muse, who also filed today.
We also have yet to hear from Delegate Pat McDonough, who made overtures to both the Second District Congressional and U.S. Senate races over the past year. But there’s still this afternoon and all day tomorrow; however, it’s more likely any member of the General Assembly won’t wait until the last minute because the 2012 session commences tomorrow as well. Former Senator and current Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney hasn’t filed as of this writing, either.
I’ll update this post as events warrant in both New Hampshire and Maryland.
Update #1: As of late this evening, this is how the Maryland Republican Presidential primary ballot will shape up:
- Newt Gingrich
- Jon Huntsman
- Fred Karger
- Ron Paul
- Rick Perry
- Buddy Roemer
- Mitt Romney
- Rick Santorum
Not surprisingly, Barack Obama is the lone Democrat on the ballot. All 9 are shown as having filed today.
And by the way, Eric Wargotz IS running – to be a delegate to the national Republican convention from the First District. He has not added his name to the list for U.S. Senate, however.
With just under 50% of the vote in, Mitt Romney was long since called as the winner in New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he’s strongest in the two counties (Hillsborough and Rockingham) which are closest to the Boston area. Ron Paul is second, but runs closest to Romney in Cheshire County in the southwest corner of the state and Coos County, which is pretty much the northern third of the state.
Update #2: According to the Washington Post, Alex Mooney is taking a pass on the Sixth District race and endorsing Roscoe Bartlett.
So here’s my questions: one, will he again assume the leadership mantle of the Maryland Republican Party? (Hey, I’m just glad I don’t have to go to a special convention just to pick a new chair.)
Second, and more importantly, what’s he going to do with the $100,000 or so he raised? Can he give it to the MDGOP? I know state candidates have the ability to do so when they close out their campaigns, but I don’t know about federal law.