Mike Kueber's Blog

December 16, 2011

The final Iowa presidential debate

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:08 am
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Tonight’s final Iowa debate was supposed to be the most exciting, with all candidates having an urgent need to engage each other before the Iowa caucuses in two week.  And most of the post-debate pundits claimed that the event had been highly informative.  But perhaps I am getting jaded because I found it to be the lamest of them all.

I was planning to blog about the candidates’ significant comments, but there were none.  At best, each candidate (except Santorum) had a few good moments:

  • Rick Perry called himself the Tim Tebow of the candidates, declared that his debating skills were no longer a laughing matter, and revealed his erudition by correcting a moderator who said the Republican 11th commandment came from Reagan (actually it came from CA Republican Chairman Gaylord Parkinson).
  • Mitt Romney refused to take the bait from a moderator who asked him to respond to Gingrich’s claim that he had bankrupted companies and laid-off employees.  Instead of attacking Gingrich, Romney said that America needed a president who knows how capitalism works.  Romney also disagreed with Gingrich’s assertion that the courts had become too powerful in America.
  • Newt Gingrich continued his tendency to speak of “me,” “me,” and “me” when referring to the accomplishments under the Reagan and Clinton administrations.  But he also generously gave Romney credit for helping develop the new Ryan/Wyden plan for fixing Medicare. 
  • Ron Paul talked about a government of too much “welfare and warfare.”
  • Michele Bachmann was the only candidate to take on other candidates – i.e., she took on (a) Gingrich for his influence peddling and his position on partial-birth abortion and (b) Paul for his refusal to deal decisively with Iran.
  • Jon Huntsman repeated his theme from last week’s post-debate interview – i.e., Washington has a financial deficit and a trust deficit that must be corrected with term limits and an end to revolving-door lobbying.  He also said that America’s all-important relationship with China needs to be based on more than shared transactions, but also shared values.

As I noted above, the post-debate pundits thought the debate was edifying and the candidates impressive.  Gingrich seemed to get the loudest applauses, especially when he attacked the courts and sanctuary cities, but he was clearly on the defensive when Bachmann and Paul attached him for his consulting with Freddie Mac.  Twice he accused Bachmann of getting her facts wrong, and Bachmann responded incongruently that his accusation was inappropriate because she was “a serious candidate.”  Gingrich also had the best self-deprecating moment when he said that he was trying to self-edit his answers and to avoid sounding zany (something Romney had recently accused him of).      

After the debate, pundit Charles Krauthammer said that Romney had been steady, while Gingrich had been strong (criticizing the courts) and weak (taking money from Freddie Mac).  He was impressed with Bachmann’s willingness to engage Gingrich and thought Paul had gone off the rails with his Iran answer.

Pundit Juan Williams suggested that there was now a four-man race in Iowa, with Paul, Gingrich, Romney, and Perry (not Bachmann).  Juan also pointed out that Gingrich had the best crowd responses. 

And finally, consultant Frank Luntz opined that Gingrich had been hot & cold compared to Romney’s steadiness and that Perry and Bachmann had acquitted themselves well, Perry for his laugh lines and Bachmann for her aggressiveness.  He suggested that Paul was good on economic issues, but lost the crowd on foreign policy, while Santorum was a non-factor. 

Now, unless someone says something stupid, the people of Iowa can ruminate on this for a while and make a choice on January 3.

November 3, 2011

The DREAM Act and Texas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:16 pm
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Texas is supposedly on the front-lines of the war against illegal immigration, but sometimes it appears that the state wants to desert the war and claim conscientious-objector status.  The best example of this pacifist streak is the 2001 legislation that afforded in-state college tuition to the state’s illegal immigrants.  The legislation, which was passed almost unanimously, was signed into law by Rick Perry, but was really part of the legacy of the state’s compassionate conservative, George W. Bush, who was taking to Washington his message of education and “comprehensive immigration reform” – i.e., a path to citizenship.

Perry had no reason to oppose the legislation, and he went along with it, not knowing that this noncontroversial position would, more than any other position, torpedo his presidential campaign in 2011.  By 2011, the Republican electorate had decided that any compassion toward illegal immigrants was equivalent to giving aid & comfort to the enemy.

For example, at a congressional candidate forum in Del Rio in 2010, the candidates were asked to give a “yes” or “no” response to a one-word question – amnesty?  All of the candidates except me quickly said “no.”  I was booed when I asked the questioner to define amnesty.

Later in 2010, the federal DREAM Act almost passed, and the swing vote seemed to belong to Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Although Hutchison was one of the Republican Party’s most moderate senators, she was in the process of retiring from the Senate to run against Rick Perry for Texas governor and her positions were tacking strongly to the right.  She eventually opposed the DREAM Act and it died.

You can imagine everyone’s surprise a few months later, during the Republican presidential debates, to learn that Texas had passed its own so-called DREAM Act in 2001, Rich Perry has signed it, and, most surprising of all, he continued to champion it on national TV.  (I guess he would rather be stubbornly wrong that be guilty of changing his mind – i.e., flip-flopping.)

For the past few weeks, during countless interviews and debates, Perry has consistently defended the Texas DREAM Act.  In one debate, he even went so far as to call opponents of the Texas DREAM Act as “heartless.”  But Perry has never been asked to explain how he can support the Texas DREAM Act at the same time that he is opposing the federal DREAM Act.  This is especially incongruous when Perry says that the Texas DREAM Act is directed at those illegal immigrants who want to become citizens, but then he opposes the passage of a federal law that would allow them to become citizens.  You can’t have it both ways.

An article in today’s San Antonio Express-News reported on a local girl who is the so-called “poster child” for the federal DREAM Act.   According to the article, immigration officials have decided to drop the deportation case against this young woman, based on new Obama guidelines for focusing department resources on the deportation of bad illegal immigrants, not good ones.  Not surprisingly, most of the reader comments were outraged at Obama’s decision to create a back-door to amnesty and wondered how this individual would manage in a country where she would not be able to legally secure a legitimate job.

An article in the Texas Tribune earlier this week revealed that, although the Texas version of the DREAM Act passed almost without objection in 2001, the law is no longer popular.  (I wonder if Perry knew this.)  According to a Tribune survey on whether in-state tuition should be provided to illegal immigrants, 28% said yes, 55% said no, and 17% said they didn’t know.  Not surprisingly, the leading contender to be our next governor, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, has said that if he were governor in 2001, he would not have signed the bill.

The Texas Tribune survey also asked Texans what they thought of the federal DREAM Act – i.e., a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants who go to college or enlist in the military.  Although the majority of Texans oppose the federal DREAM Act, they are less opposed to the federal DREAM Act than they are too the Texas DREAM Act.  Slightly more than half — 51 percent — oppose the policy, including 36 percent who strongly oppose it.  Another 39 percent favor the proposal, 19 percent of them strongly.

Although Mitt Romney is being damaged by charges of flip-flopping, a subjective partisan criticism, Perry is guilty of more serious defects – irreconcilable positions and an unwillingness to reconsider his positions despite significantly changed circumstances.  I’m sticking with Romney.

October 27, 2011

More horse-race reporting on the 2012 Republican presidential nomination

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:39 pm
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The race to become the 2012 Republican presidential nominee has been exceptionally fluid and dynamic.  The conventional explanation for this is that President Obama’s attempt to transform America has motivated millions of Americans to resist the transformation.  Although the defining act of repudiation for the motivated millions will be to show President Obama the door in 2012, a critical preliminary act will be the selection of a worthy replacement.  That is why the Republican electorate is remarkably tuned-in to the campaigns and is responsive to campaign developments.  In the end, this heightened interest will result in a battle-tested candidate taking on President Obama in November 2012.

As I previously reported, horse-race reporting generally relies on polls (and pundits).  According to the most recent polls, this is a four-person race:

  • Cain’s numbers are exploding upward,
  • Romney’s are drifting downward,
  • Perry’s are crashing downward, and
  • Gingrich’s are drifting upward.

My horse-race reporting incorporates off-track betting numbers at the world-famous Intrade.com.  As of last night:

  • Romney was at 68.9%,
  • Perry was at 12.7%,
  • Cain was at 7.5%, and
  • Gingrich was at 4.0%.

This tells me that Cain’s campaign has caught fire, but the smart money thinks that Cain’s campaign is fundamentally and can’t win the nomination.  In fact, Cain’s campaign is so weak that it will be Perry, not Cain, who gets to go head-to-head with Romney at the denouement of this process.

Personally, I would be more skeptical of Cain’s demise if the obits were coming from media pundits.  But the media pundits are not issuing any obits on Cain, probably because of their ingrained political correctness.  I have a huge amount of respect, however, for the smart-money betters, and if they think Cain’s campaign is quixotic, then he is probably fighting a losing battle.

Incidentally, Marco Rubio’s self-inflicted wound concerning his parents’ exile status from Cuba has not significantly diminished he VP prospects:

  • Marco Rubio at 30.0%,
  • Herman Cain at 6.5%,
  • Rob Portman at 6.5%, and
  • Chris Christie at 6.0%.

And the chances of a Republican replacing President Obama continue to be 50%-50%.

September 25, 2011

Updated odds for the Republican presidential candidates

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:06 am
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The groundswell for Mitt Romney is growing.  Intrade.com currently lists him as the 45% favorite to earn the Republican nomination, while Rick Perry has dropped to 23%. Almost as dramatic a change, Chris Christie has supplanted Sarah Palin for third place. He is listed at 9% and she is at 8%. Huntsman is at 4%, Paul at 3%, and Bachmann at 2%. Surprisingly, Herman Cain remains at 1% despite a winning debate on Thursday and a victorious straw poll on Saturday, both in Florida. Newt Gingrich is also at 1%, and everyone else has less than a 1% chance of winning the nomination.

Perhaps the media will stop callling Perry the frontrunner.

September 13, 2011

The CNN – TEA Party debate

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:01 am
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Assorted thoughts on the CNN/TEA Party debate:

  1. Moderator Wolff Blitzer did a good job, but he allowed the candidates to evade an excellent, simple question from the audience on illegal immigrants – i.e., what do you propose doing with the 11 million illegal immigrants already here?  Instead of answering the question, the candidates talked about improving border security.  Wolff should have pre-empted the evasion by  telling the candidates that everyone wants improved border security, but the questioner wants to know what to do with the illegal immigrants already here.
  2. Rick Perry looked horrible in dealing with the HPC vaccination issue, which he authorized by executive order.  Bachmann was highly effective in challenging the order as an assault on personal liberty.  She also suggested that Perry’s action was prompted by political contributions, which might implicate Perry’s “pay to play” practice in Austin.
  3. Rick Perry provided a reasonable explanation of his Ponzi comment about Social Security, but he stumbled when Romney pointed out that Perry has previously argued that Social Security was unconstitutional.  Perry was unwilling to say whether he wanted to mend Social Security or dramatically de-centralize it to individuals or the states.
  4. Ron Paul lost the crowd when he tried to argue that al Qaeda attacked America at the WTC because America was occupying their land, not because, as Rick Santorum argued, America is a wonderful, liberty-loving place.  The crowd actually booed.
  5. Rick Perry lost the crowd when he tried to defend the indefensible – i.e., Texas’ in-state tuition law.  The crowd actually booed.
  6. Rick Perry talks too much about what he has done in Texas.  In my previous life at USAA, I noticed that people quickly tired of new employees who continually talked about how they did things at their previous employer, and I suspect the rest of America will quickly tire of Perry’s Texas braggadocio.

The post-debate analysis of pundits on CNN suggested that Michele Bachmann did well and might have re-invigorated her campaign enough to move toward the first tier of Romney and Perry, but the other lower-tier candidates seem to be lost in the crowd despite their excellent debating performances.

The betting line (Intrade) on this race the morning after the debate – Romney gained two points to 40%; Perry remained at 35%; Huntsman dropped two points to 6%; Palin dropped one point to 5%, and Bachmann remained at 3%.

September 10, 2011

Horse-race reporting – the updated election odds

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:55 am
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The media is often accused of ignoring the substance in a political campaign and instead covering the event like a horse race – i.e., who’s in the lead, who’s gaining, and who’s fading.  With horse-race reporting, the underlying facts are polls, fundraising, and talking heads/pundits.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a more reliable underlying fact – betting odds.  My experience has been that betting odds are more accurate than talking heads and pundits, so when providing horse-race reporting on the presidential campaigns, it makes sense to refer to the betting odds.

Although political betting is illegal in America, it is legal overseas, and the betting odds are easily accessible from Intrade, the self-described “world’s leading prediction market.”

On August 22, I blogged about the betting odds in the upcoming presidential election.   At that time, President Obama had a 50% chance of re-election, and Rick Perry was favored to win the Republican nomination (36% vs. 30% for Romney).

Since then, the Republicans held their first major debate, following which the general consensus of the punditry was that Romney was solid, Perry was adequate, and everyone else was disappearing, and the revised Intrade odds reflect that consensus.  Mitt Romney is now the favorite to win the Republican nomination at 38%, while Rick Perry has dropped slightly to 35%.  Jon Huntsman’s odds actually increased from 5% to 8%, and the odds for everyone else dropped, with Palin dropping from 8% to 6% and Bachmann dropping from 6% to 3%.

With respect to the general election, the Democratic Party candidate currently has a 50% chance of prevailing while the Republican Party candidate has a 48% chance.

Stay tuned.