Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tis the Season for Fake Partisan Polls Designed to Motivate the Troops

I remember when I first became active in Marion County Republican politics.   As the election season wound down to its final days, party leaders would come rushing into headquarters with the big announcement that the race had tightened.  If the GOP candidate had been polling ahead, the news was that new internal polling showed the Democratic opponent surging to within a few points.  If the Republican candidate had been behind, the news was that a new poll showed the GOP candidate within reach of his or her opponent. 

The answer to the new polling result was always the same.  We party workers had to work harder. Turning out our folks was critical to success.

It took me a couple election cycles but I finally figured out that these last minute polls touted by party leaders were LIES designed to motivate the troops.

I thought of that lesson when I saw the news that a new Democratic poll shows John Gregg surig to within 3 points of Mike Pence, 47-44 with 9% undecided.  

My response:  Yeah, right. 

The fact the poll is a lie is actually evident by the result.  There is a big name Libertarian in the race, Rupert Boneham, who will get a significant percentage of the vote on Election Day.  So the poll showing 100% divided between Gregg, Pence and undecided makes no sense.

No, the result will be 54-41-5 for Pence, Gregg and Rupert. Bet the farm and the first born.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Election Prediction: Say Hello to Governor Mike Pence

I am a long way from picking a winner in the Presidential race.  But I am ready to look into my crystal ball and predict the winner of the Governor's race.  The winner will be Republican Congressman Mike Pence.   Here's the official line score score so you can bet the farm:

(R) Mike Pence 54%
(D) John Gregg 41%
(L) Rupert Boneham 5%

I think Pence might be a notch below at 53%. Possibly Rupert (I shall use his first name as, like Oprah, that is how he's known) might get some Democratic crossover (in addition to typical Republican crossover for the Libertarian) to hit 6%.  I'm comfortable though with Gregg at 41%.  I think the Democrat is definitely looking at the low 40s.


Congressman Mike Pence
Given Gregg's conservative, small town credentials, he should have been the perfect candidate to challenge Pence.  But he has run a poor race.  He should have opened by defining himself followed by defining his opponent.  Instead he opened by running a series of hokey ads (I counted five) from his hometown of Sandborn that just didn't work.  While they were meant to be ads combining an introduction of himself with an attack on his opponent, the humor in the ads fell flat.   Even worse, some voters were undoubtedly offended by ads which appeared to portray Hoosiers as hicks and left them thinking that Gregg wasn't a serious candidate. 

Meanwhile, Mike Pence has run a strong, picture perfect campaign.  But then again, he hasn't really been challenged.

I can't finish though without mentioning the fine campaign Rupert ran.  He showed himself to be a person of energy and worthwhile ideas.  Hopefully a Governor Pence will make room in his administration for his ideas on criminal justice reform. During the debates, Pence showed some interest in addressing this issue raised so knowledgeably by Rupert during the campaign. 

NPR Polling Shows 8% Nationwide Swing for Romney in Just One Month; Is President Obama Losing His Grip on Oregon?

In examining polls, it is best to compare apples to apples.  A NPR poll released today, showing Romney with a 48-47 lead, provides just that opportunity.   NPR did a poll just a month ago which had President Obama ahead of Romney 51-44.  That's an eight point swing in just a month.

Meanwhile it looks like there may be a new state entering the outer orbit of battleground states.  A poll by the Oregonian released on Sunday showed President Obama's lead in Oregon narrowing to six points. This follows a poll by Hoffman Research last week showing Obama's lead in Oregon down to five points.  In both polls, President Obama is polling at 47%, which is below the all important 50% threshold.  In Oregon, the polls show undecided voters in the double digits, a far higher percentof such voters than is found in battleground states.




The Indianapolis Star Fails Its Readers...Again; Newspaper Opines for Mass Ave Project Without Even Mentioning $5.4 Million Giveaway of Public Property

Jeff Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, Indianapolis Star
Once again, the Indianapolis Star fails its readers. Once again, the Indianapolis Star fails in its role as watchdog.  One again, the Star demonstrates why it - deservedly - is losing readers.

A few days ago, the Star's editors published an editorial entitled "It's flashy, but it might just work," a piece which discusses the design of the Mass Ave development and concludes, of course, that the City has made another good development decision:
In a city that's long had safe -- or, to be blunt, boring -- architecture, the proposed design of a $43 million development on Mass Ave. is indeed startling.
But in a good way. 
...
Such projects are important for the city's future for multiple reasons, including a stronger tax base, higher-population density in core neighborhoods and a more vibrant urban feel that's attractive to highly sought-after young professionals.
So, yes, the city is taking a small risk with a flashier-than-ordinary design on Mass Ave., and even bigger risks by backing other developments. But playing it safe, with design or development in general, won't move Indy forward.
What the Star fails to even mention in its editorial is that the project involves the City simply giving away public property worth millions of dollars.  This is a paragraph from a previous Star story, I reported on
The city is selling the property to developers, officials said, for $5.4 million. Those funds will be placed in escrow, according to a release, and can be accessed by the developer to help fund construction on the site
That's not a "sale."  It's a giveaway of public property worth millions of dollars.  Of course though, the Star's editors can never bring themselves to criticize the giveaway of the public's money to private developers. Like the Broad Ripple Parking Garage, the Star's editors offered zero criticism of a giveaway of our tax dollars to a politically connected developer. 

Can anyone remember a corporate welfare project that the Star's editors ever opposed?  I can't think of one time the Star stood up for the public, i.e. its readers, against the giveaway of our tax dollars.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Updated Electoral Analysis Shows Race Coming Down to 1,639 Voters Living in Ohio

On Monday, September 24, 2012, I did a detailed analysis on my blog of all the state polls, breaking out the undecided votes using a well known political science concept that, in an election involving an incumbent, the undecided vote historically breaks for the challenger anywhere from 60% to 80%.

A lot has happened since I did that analysis.   Mitt Romney made his 47% comment which sunk him in the polls briefly.  There were also three debates.  I decided it was time to revisit that analysis and update.

To refresh the readers' memory, in September I looked at the recent average of the polls in the states and employed a 67% advantage to challenger Romney for the undecided vote.  When that 67% factor was applied to the undecided vote, I found President Obama winning the electoral college 337-201.  However, when I upped it to 72%, I found that the states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina all flipping to Romney, making the electoral vote spread being reduced to 278-260 in favor of President Obama.   In September, I noted that one state, Ohio, would give Romney the victory utilizing the 72% analysis, if 32,833 voters in Ohio flipped their vote.

In revisiting the analysis using updated numbers, I found that the undecided vote declining in every battleground state.  I also found the race much closer using the 67% analysis (which I prefer in this race.).  The states of Colorado, Florida and North Carolina are now in Romney's column at 67%.  Although Virginia wasn't at the tipping point in the September survey, it has now moved from the Obama to Romney column.  In Nevada, while the President's lead hasn't increased, he is now at 50% in the average of polls in that state.  

Interestingly New Hampshire, which in September was, perhaps surprisingly, narrowly in the Romney column, still goes to Romney by a scant 50.014% to 49.086% margin.  That amounts to 196 raw electoral vote difference, or 99 people changing their minds from the winning to the losing candidate.   As New Hampshire only has 4 electoral vote, it is unlikely to be the state that makes the difference.

Ohio, with 18 electoral vote, could be the difference maker.  In the updated analysis at 67%, I find Obama winning the electoral college, 277-261.   Obama's win in Ohio is a squeaker though 50.03% to 49.97%, which translates into a difference of 3,277 votes or 1,639 people in the Buckeye state changing their mind.

If the undecided vote breaks 72% for Romney, Ohio switches to Romney.  Iowa and Wisconsin get close but fall just short.

This is, on paper, the closest election I have ever witnessed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romney Opens Up Big Lead in Missouri; Romney Surge in State Appears to Aid Akin

A St. Louis Post Dispatch/Mason Dixon poll released this morning shows Mitt Romney opening up a 13 point lead over President Barack Obama (54-41) in Missouri.  Obama narrowly lost the state in 2008.

That poll also took a look at the U.S. Senate race in that state.  Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill holds just a two point lead (45-43) over Republican Congressman Todd Akin.  That's well within the margin of error.  It should be emphasized that the undecided voters historically break sharply for the challenger, i.e. Congressman Akin.

I still think Akin is going to lose that race.  But Democrats have to be troubled over this latest poll from Missouri.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Person Denied Photo ID By BMV Finally Gets Due Process Hearing

The Indianapolis Star has an interesting article today:
An Indiana man caught in a legal battle with the state for a photo ID cardwill get his chance in a due process hearing scheduled this morning. 
... 
The reason, according to court documents, is that Worley's Social Security card, which reads "Joesph A. Worley," and his birth certificate, which reads "Joseph Alan Ivey," do not match. 
Worley brought the complaint after being unable to get a photo ID card, which is required to vote under the 2007 Indiana voter ID law. Given requirements by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles,
... 
Worley's hearing was ordered by federal district court Judge Sarah Evans Barker earlier this month.
The headline of the article and accompanying photo suggests the hearing will take place in the federal building.  I have doubts by about that though.  Because Judge Barker ordered the BMV to hold the evidentiary hearing, which means it most likely is in the BMV offices.

The article appears to be the BMV just imposing rules without employing common sense.  "Joesph" is obviously a typo and the fact that someone is going by a middle initial instead of his full middle name isn't something that should require a name change.

Nonetheless, I thought the article was interesting given that I spent the last two days in the federal court building. Every time I entered the building, I had to show a photo ID.  I couldn't find it listed what form of ID is acceptable to enter the Indianapolis federal court buildings.  However, I did find it listed in other jurisdictions that only government photo ID (driver's license, passport, etc.) were acceptable forms of ID for entry.

It is ironic that the very federal courts deciding whether a photo ID is unconstitutional are located in buildings in which a photo ID is required to enter.

UPDATE:  Posting this early in the morning without enough caffeine in my system, I missed the fact that the last name was different.  Obviously that makes the issue more complicated and the BMV's opinion more reasonable.  I'm not sure though why the BMV would have denied a hearing in the first place, however.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

City "Sells" Massachusetts Avenue Property to Developers for $5.4 Million, Gets Nothing in Return

Only in Indianapolis would city leaders claim to "sell" public property for $5.4 million, yet the taxpayers end up with nothing.
A brightly colored, five-story building of mixed uses will replace the Indianapolis Fire Department station at Massachusetts Avenue and New Jersey streets in Indianapolis, according to designs unveiled today. 
The turreted building front will feature changing electronic images — a la  Times Square  — welcoming visitors to the arts district with its shops, taverns and restaurants.
The project, expected to cost $43 million, will include up to 235 apartments, 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and two levels of underground and surface parking, Mayor Greg Ballard said at today’s announcement. A development team consisting of J.C. Hart Co., Strongbox Commercial (led by Paul Kite) and Schmidt Associates will oversee the projects.
This is my favorite part, however:
The city is selling the property to developers, officials said, for $5.4 million. Those funds will be placed in escrow, according to a release, and can be accessed by the developer to help fund construction on the site...
When will these giveaways of the taxpayers' money stop?

Indianapolis Parking Meter Court Violates Law By Issuing Default Judgments Without Required Notice

I have heard from several people who have received $150 default judgments in the mail on tickets they received or don't recall having received when parked in Indianapolis at the newly privatized meters.   These judgments are being issued in violation of Indiana law.  Let me explain. 

The administrative proceeding in Indianapolis parking ticket court is governed by the Administrative Procedures Act contained in IC 4-21.5 et seq.  Pursuant to IC 4-21.5-3-24, if a defendant fails to attend an administrative hearing, the Administrative Law Judge is to issue a proposed default order to the parties.  This gives the Defendant to within seven days “file a written motion requesting that the proposed default order not be imposed and stating the grounds relied upon.”  

The parking ticket ALJ needs to be sending proposed default judgments and giving defendants the right to respond.  Further, the parking ticket ALJ continues to issue judgments against defendants based solely on affidavit of an individual from Citation Collection Services, the keeper of records as to tickets that are issued in Indianapolis.    That information is hearsay.  While hearsay is admissible in an administrative proceeding such as this, Indiana law is clear that an administrative judgment  cannot be based merely on hearsay evidence.  Rather it has to be supported by some other competent, non-hearsay evidence 

I have a client who recently received a default judgment.  I am trying to file a motion to modify which is allowed under the rules in parking ticket court.  No one in the City-County Building seems to know where one can file a motion in parking ticket court.   Phone inquiries aimed at getting a place to file a document in parking ticket court proved unsuccessful.  The only suggestion I have right now is to file at the Auto Desk in the City-County Building.  The Auto Desk does not even have a stamp.  Without a filed-stamped copy (showing the date of filing), I have no way of proving later on that I timely filed the document in question.

At the very least, residents need to have clear cut information on how to proceeding with a parking ticket challenge and where documents can be filed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indianapolis' Smoking Ban Set For Evidentiary Hearing in Federal Court

MEDIA ADVISORY

Date:              Wednesday, October 24, 2012 (possibly continuing the next day) 

Time:               Beginning at 9 am. 

Location:         United States Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN, Room 349 

            Indianapolis' ordinance banning smoking in city bars is set for an evidentiary hearing to begin on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 in the courtroom of the Honorable Richard Young, Federal Judge of the Southern District of Indiana. 

            Counsel for the Plaintiffs will call several bar owners, a patron and others to testify about the devastating impact the ban has had on the bars' business.  Plaintiffs will also call Dr. John Dunn who will testify that there has never been, under the rules of science, a link established between secondhand smoke and health problems.  Attorneys for the City of Indianapolis are expected to counter with their own lay witnesses and medical experts. 

            The evidentiary hearing, which is expected to last two days, is being held with respect to the Plaintiffs' request for an injunction (and the City's request to dismiss that request) against the enforcement of the city's smoking ban against the Plaintiff bar owners, most of whom have small neighborhood bars that have been hit hard by the smoking ban. 

            Paul K. Ogden, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs, noted that, for many of the bar owners, over 85% to 90% of their customers were smokers and that, since the smoking ban was enacted on June 1st, these customers simply stopped going to bars that previously allowed smoking.  Ogden stated:  "It's sad what the City has done to these people.  Many invested their life savings to buy a small bar in a working class neighborhood so they could earn a living and socialize with friends.  Now these smoking customers are gone and, despite what city officials promised, the wave of new, nonsmoking customers going to these former smoking establishment, never materialized." 

**                    **                    **                    **                    **                    **

President Obama Never Recovered From First Debate

Last night, the last of the three presidential debates featured Barack Obama's strongest performance by far.  The President is clearly most comfortable when talking about foreign policy as opposed to economic policy.  Mitt Romney at times appeared out of sorts.  None of this is a surprise.  A sitting President is briefed every day on foreign policy, while the challenger, a former Governor no less, has to learn foreign policy basically from scratch, the same way Obama had to learn the subject four years ago.  So the fact President Obama bested Mitt Romney in a debate on foreign policy is not exactly a surprise.

The simple fact though is that people don't vote on foreign policy.  The only exception is when the country is involved in a major war that attracts the daily attention of the average public.  Afghanistan isn't that war.

Despite President Obama winning Debates #2 and #3, though I have to question whether #2 wasn't more of a draw, his polling numbers never bounced back from his roundly panned performance in Debate #1. Today the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls show Romney with a .5% lead nationally.  Obama had a few point lead before the first debate.

Worse for President Obama is that Romney appears to be on the verge of putting formerly Obama-leaning states back into play.  A poll in New Hampshire released today has Romney up 1 point.  Other polls released today shows Obama's lead in Nevada down to 2 points while only ahead 5 points in Minnesota.  Two polls released on Monday show Obama's lead in Pennsylvania dwindling to 5 and 3 points.  A poll yesterday showed Iowa as a tie.

Democrats have to be concerned the election is drifting away from the President.  Romney isn't a great candidate and he hasn't run a great campaign.  But he and his campaign may be just good enough to win.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Happens If There Is An Electoral College Tie? Answer: Constitutional Chaos

An Electoral College tie?  It is not a far-fetched scenario.  If Mitt Romney wins Iowa and Nevada, where he is only narrowly behind, and sweeps the Atlantic coast states of Florida, Virgina and North Carolina, where he is even or leads, then Romney can still lose Ohio and end up in a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College.  What happens next is a story of constitutional chaos.


Electoral College 269-269 Tie Scenario
First, it is important to remember that the electoral vote totals reported on election night are not set in stone.  Each electoral vote represents an elector, a flesh and blood human being.  Earlier in 2012, each presidential candidate (or his party) filed a list of electors.  Forty-eight of the 50 states, employ a winner-take-all system for determining which electors meet in mid-December to cast a vote for President.  In Indiana, for example, if Romney wins by one popular vote, all 11 electors (a state's electors equal number of senators plus U.S. representatives), who vote for President are Romney's.
Two states, Nebraska and Maine, award an elector for each congressional districts plus two for the overall winner of the state.

Indiana is one of the 21 states in which electors are not bound to vote for the popular vote winner.
In 29 states and the District of Columbia, electors are legally bound to vote for who they originally pledged to vote. 

Alabama (Code of Ala. §17-19-2)
Alaska (Alaska Stat. §15.30.090)
California (Election Code §6906)
Colorado (CRS §1-4-304)
Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-176)
Delaware (15 Del C §4303)
District of Columbia (§1-1312(g))
Florida (Fla. Stat. §103.021(1))
Hawaii (HRS §14-28)
Maine (21-A MRS §805)
Maryland (Md Ann Code art 33, §8-505)
Massachusetts (MGL, ch. 53, §8)
Michigan (MCL §168.47)
Mississippi (Miss Code Ann §23-15-785)
Montana (MCA §13-25-104)
Nebraska (§32-714)
Nevada (NRS §298.050)
New Mexico (NM Stat Ann §1-15-9)
North Carolina (NC Gen Stat §163-212)
Ohio (ORC Ann §3505.40)
Oklahoma (26 Okl St §10-102)
Oregon (ORS §248.355)
South Carolina (SC Code Ann §7-19-80)
Tennessee (Tenn Code Ann §2-15-104(c))
Utah (Utah Code Ann §20A-13-304)
Vermont (17 VSA §2732)
Virginia (§24.2-203)
Washington (RCW §29.71.020)
Wisconsin (Wis Stat §7.75)
Wyoming (Wyo Stat §22-19-108)

Even as to these 29 states, many legal scholars believe that electors remain free to vote for who,ever they wish and that these laws are likely to be struck down as unconstitutional if challenged.  Previously so-called "faithless electors" have cast votes in contravention of state laws that were supposed to bind their electoral vote to the state's popular vote.  Further, the penalty for not following the law when casting an electoral vote is generally a fine in the range of a $1,000 or a misdemeanor criminal charge, not enough to deter an elector from breaking the law to decide the outcome of a presidential election.

Imagine the scenario where one Romney or Obama elector out of 538 could switch sides and throw the election to the other candidate.  An apparent tied electoral college could result in massive lobbying of electors taking place, including promises of ambassadorships and other lucrative positions in federal government.

But let's say that a vote doesn't switch and the Presidential candidates (and VP candidates) remain stuck at 269.  Under the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives decides the election among the top 3 vote-getters in the Electoral College, with each state casting one vote. Because the Republicans have a strong majority among state delegations, the next President would be Mitt Romney.

According to the 12th Amendment, the Senate would decide the VP race among the top 2 vote-getters in the Electoral College.  If the Democrats have a majority in the U.S. Senate after the election, then you could easily end up with a Democratic Vice President Biden serving with Republican President Romney.  I don't buy that the Senate Democrats would not vote a Democratic VP to serve with a Republican President Romney.  After all, our constitutional structure does not mandate the President and Vice President work as a team and there are many examples in history where the running mates were not working partners.  The VP really has no constitutional responsibilities except serving as President of the Senate and breaking ties, which is why the Senate Democrats would want another Democrat in that role, especially since the new Senate is likely to be close.

But what if the Senate is split 50-50 after the election and the vote for VP is strictly along party lines?  With no VP selected, then a "vacancy" might give the President (with confirmation by the Senate) the opportunity to pick the Vice President under the 25th Amendment.

But here's another twist.  Electors meet in their respective state capitols on December 17, 2012.  According to federal law, the electoral vote count is announced at a joint session of the new Congress on January 6, 2013.  But the 12th Amendment says that the House shall "immediately" choose a President if there is a tie in the Electoral College.  (Ironically the word "immediately" is omitted when it comes to the Senate selecting a Vice President.)  The electoral college vote is public record and we'd know the result long before the January 6th formal opening of the ballots.  So why not let the House decide the election for President in December rather than wait until January 6th, a mere two weeks before the new President is inaugurated?

The House in fact can do exactly that ... by simply passing a law that replaces the January 6, 2013 with one in December.  That would put election of the President into the hands of the lame duck Congress as opposed to the newly-elected Congress which doesn't take office until December.  While this did not happen in the 1800 and 1824 elections when the House picked the President due to a lack of an electoral college majority, back then the President did not take office until March 4th.  With inauguration now moved up by 1 1/2 months, to January 20th, starting House deliberations on picking a President on January 6th, seems to leave far too short of a transition period for whatever President is selected by the House.

What happens if on Election Night, the electoral vote ends in a 269-269 tie?  It would be constitutional chaos.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Second Obama-/Romney Debate a Draw; Moderator CNN's Candy Crowley Distorts President Obama's Comment on Benghazi

Last night's political reminded me of a boxing match in which both sides come out swinging from the first bell.  Ninety minutes later I can say both sides landed punches but neither side won.  It was a draw.  I expected President Obama to win the contest, but I didn't see it happen.  Romney continued to make the case for his candidacy, and especially did well when answering economic questions.

I do find it reprehensible that Moderator Candy Crowley intervened to confirm the misrepresentation of President's Obama's statement on Benghazi the day after the killing of the American ambassador.  If you look at the context, it is clear that President Obama certainly did not call it a terrorist act.  At the end of the press conference that day, President Obama said:
"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,"
The statement was made at the end of a press conference in which President Obama talked about investigating what happened in Benghazi  It's a statement about terrorism in general, not a conclusory statement about what happened in Benghazi.  The fact that it was a general statement is proved by the conduct of the administration for the following two weeks in which officials disavowed that it was a terrorist act and suggested the killing was the result  of a poorly-made YouTube video.  In interviews afterward, President Obama himself placed the blame on what happened in Benghazi on the YouTube video, not on terrorism.

It's hard to believe Candy Crowley would not have understood this.  Instead of being honest about the statement, she decided to misrepresent the facts during the debate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Eve of Debate II, Romney's Debate I Bounce Fades

Following the first debate, Mitt Romney surged in the polls for the first time in nearly a year passing President Barack Obama in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls (RCPAP).  His lead reached its apex at 1.5%.  Now, with the next debate a little over 24 hours away, the Romney RCPAP lead is down to .2%. (Update: the race is now listed as a tie in the RCPAP).

I've been tracking state polls as well.  While Romney made clear gains in most of the battleground states, Ohio post-debate remained stubbornly in the Obama camp in most polls.  Losing Ohio would make the math for a Republican win quite challenging, but not impossible.

My belief is still that Romney is going to sweep the Atlantic coast battleground states, including Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.  I more and more think Colorado will go to Romney.  I assume New Hampshire goes in the Obama column, though Romney has an outside chance there.  Two states where Romney has trailed, barely, in most polls are Nevada and Iowa.  I think he has a real shot at winning both of them.  If those states are won by Romney and the Republican loses Ohio, you have a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Republican Mike Pence Easily Outshines Democrat John Gregg in Gubernatorial Debate; Libertarian Rupert Boneham Finishes Second

I had time tonight to watch and make detailed notes of the gubernatorial debate involving Republican Mike Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.  Disclaimer upfront is that I am a supporter of Pence.  Our paths crossed at Hanover College and again at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, where I followed Pence as an unabashed advocate of conservative views, something not always popular in a student body filled with liberals.  With that disclaimer out there, here is my scoring of the debate.
Mike Pence, Republican Candidate for Governor

DEBATE FORMAT:  Political candidates are often faulted for speaking in sound bites instead of providing details detailed answers during debates.  But the problem is the rules.  The rules of this debate called for one minute opening statements, one minute answers to questions, 30 second rebuttals, and a 90 second closing statement. Candidates, facing those ridiculously short time restrictions, are placed in a position where they can give little more than soundbites.

ROUND ONE (OPENING STATEMENTS):

All the candidates talked about their background. In addition to the biography, Gregg emphasized jobs, education,  bipartisanship, Gregg talked about his mentoring program and empowerment, Pence talked about the importance of economic growth and plugged his road map.

The candidates didn't get much time to do anything in the 60 second introduction.  On my 10 point scale, I score it as:

Round One Scoring:  Gregg 10, Pence 10, Boneham 10

ROUND TWO (Question:  How do you improve education given that more spending didn't result in better educated children.)

This question was asked by Andy Keil (sp.).  In asking how the candidates proposed improving education, he premised his question with the assertion that between 1980 and 2007 spending per student rose ten fold to now where spending per pupil is at $10,000, yet student test scores went down.    None of the candidates challenged the statistical premise cited by Keil.  While I'm not sure about Kiel's figures, I have seen figures showing spending on K-12 education increasing for decades far above the inflation rate.

Gregg answered by saying that the war on public education needed to end.  He cited his background as former President of Vincinnes University.  He emphasized a collaborative approach to reform that put teachers, principles and superintendents at the table.  He also emphasized preschool education.  

Boneham talked about teachers teaching to the test and that students are over tested.  He emphasized vocational education.

Pence talked about how public schools in the state had been struggling and that parents should be provided more choice, and teachers more freedom to teach.  He said there needed to be more emphasis on vocational education. 

The question was one designed for Pence to hit out of the park.  Instead he hit a double into the gap.  Pence should have emphasized how we've poured money into public education far above the inflation rate and we need to try a different approach such as charter schools and vouchers for parents too impoverished to afford private schools.  Pence talked about choice but wasn't specific enough. Still his response was better than Gregg's.  While putting teachers at the table is at the education reform table, there are no bigger obstructionists to education reform than principles and superintendents.  They would put the brakes on reform.  Pence and Boneham both scored talking about the importance of vocational education.

Round Two Scoring,  Boneham 10, Pence 10, Gregg 9
Total After Round Three:  Boneham 20, Pence 20, Gregg 19

ROUND THREE (Question:  How do you propose to make college more affordable, cut down on student debt, and provide useful skills.)

Question was asked by Bobbi Craig, office manager from Osgood.   Boneham talked about something I've seen first hand, students arriving at college unprepared to learn and having to take remedial classes.  Boneham's answer then kind of trailed off, talking about obscure things like putting books on e-readers, a good idea, but not something worthy of the limited 60 second answer.


Rupert Boneham, Libetarian Candidate for Governor
Pence brought in the personal touch, speaking of his three kids, two of which are in college.  He talked about how only 1/3 of students complete college in four years, and that providing incentives for on-time completion was a good idea. He cited a specific example, Indiana University, where that incentive program was being implemented.

Gregg again took the opportunity to plug the fact he was President of Vincinnes University.  He talked proudly of the effectiveness of Indiana's community college system and satellite campuses in making college affordable.  I thought the position was puzzling.  Indiana is near the bottom in residents with four year degrees and one of the chief reasons is the lack of a strong community college system.  Gregg did mention the problem with new building construction driving up costs.  Gregg capped off his answer by talking about the use of geothermal energy by Ball State University.  Gregg was all over the place on his answer.

Pence stayed focused throughout.  Gregg a question later adeptly pointed out a flaw with Pence's higher education answer, but since it didn't happen in response to this question, the point goes to Pence.

Round Three Scoring,  Pence 10, Gregg 9, Boneham 9
Total After Round Three:  Pence 30, Boneham 29, Gregg 28,

ROUND FOUR (Question: What role does mental health services play in education.)

The question was asked by Brett Rash (sp), a social worker from Fishers.  Even though the question wasn't up Pence's alley, he started talking about things he did know such as innovation and reform of education.  He talked about graduation rates and test scores being up.  Said mental health is important as is early intervention.  Pence then mistakenly referred to where he was as Hamilton County.

Gregg, a question late, hammered the fact that Pence's road-map wasn't good for non-traditional students.  He pointed out that many people, like himself, worked through college and couldn't graduate in four years.  He then talked about the cut in mental health funding and his role as an attorney working with Knox County hospital.

Boneham started off strong, recognizing the questioner.  Then it was downhill from there.  He talked about his career mentoring program.  He spoke of creating a system impacting the quality of life.  The rest of the answer was a bit rambling.  It was Boneham's worst point of the night.

On rebuttal, Pence admitted that Gregg had a point about non-traditional students, but then he went back to the importance of completing a degree on time.  Gregg again talked about mental health cuts and that the state surplus came from cut.  He talked about the millions of dollars DCS returned to the treasury despite problems.  It was Gregg's strongest response of the night.  Boneham talked about disclosure and seeing what happened. 

Round Four Scoring:  Gregg 10, Pence 9, Boneham 8
Total After Round Four:  Pence 39, Boneham 38, Gregg 38

ROUND FIVE (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Gregg's Statement)

In this format, a candidate starts off with a one minute statement, the other two candidates have two minutes to respond, then the original candidate gets one minute to close.  John Gregg led off by talking about manufacturing in Indiana, and growing and protecting Indiana jobs from competition.  He even brought up coal gasification (but failed to score points by mentioning on the controversial Rockport project).  Gregg could have used the statement to put his opponents in a position of responding to a popular position he had taken.  Instead it was sixty seconds of rambling that both candidates ignored in their responses.

Boneham answered by talking about creating a fair and level playing field and decreasing business taxes in order to have the lowest business taxes in the Midwest.  He talked about putting people to work and empowering people.  He talked about putting people to work and empowering people.

While Boneham's response was okay, Pence's was on the money.  He said that the next Governor should make job creation a priority.  He talked about fiscal integrity, talking specifically about three priorities.  (I counted four.)   1) ensuring there is an adequate surplus; 2) returning money to taxpayers; 3) freezing regulations; and 4) supporting education.  While it wasn't a response to Gregg's rambling one minute statement, it was an excellent outline of policy.

Gregg used his one minute rebuttal to hit Pence, saying the Congressman didn't support the auto industry when given the chance.  He talked abut how Anderson had 23,000 auto jobs and how it today has none.  While Gregg's flurry came late in the round, he did narrow the loss in the round fro two points to one.

Round  Five Scoring:  Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 9
Total After Round Four: Pence 49, Boneham 47, Gregg 47

ROUND SIX (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Boneham's Statement)

The Libertarian opened up by talking about criminal justice reform and the fact that some felons deserve a second chance.  He talked about empowering those people, making them productive members of society.  Boneham is clearly most comfortable talking about his issue.

Pence gave the first two minute response. He thanked Boneham for raising this issue.  While Pence said he wanted to make Indiana the worst place for one to be to commit a felony, he recognized the importance of giving people a second chance. Pence talked about working with Congresswoman Julia Carson on the Second Chance Act, transition programs.  Pence said that the government needed to do better to work on helping people start over.  Those of use who see the need for corrections reform have to be encouraged by Pence's response.

Gregg responded to Boneham's opening statement about criminal justice reforms by talking about wind turbines and alternative energy.  He asked why parts on the turbines were being made overseas.  He mentioned that there was no rail policy.  He talked about his opposition to free trade.  He said he was proud of his record as speaker, and would stay away from divisive social issues.  The response was rambling and made no sense to what Boneham's original statement was.
John Gregg, Democratic Candidate for Governor

Boneham was given sixty seconds to close.  He said it is a bad policy to lock up non-violent offenders in jails with violent offenders.  He talked about how many people are hurting and they want a second chance in life.  he said prisons should be used for violent criminals.

Round  Six Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 10, Gregg 8
Total After Round Four: Pence 59, Boneham 57, Gregg 55

ROUND SEVEN (Lincoln-Douglas Format - Pence's Statement)

Pence's opening statement dealt with fiscal responsibility.  He mentioned that when Governor Daniels' took office, the state had an $800 million deficit and owed $800 million to local units of government.  He talked about the need for fiscal discipline to make sure the budget balanced.

Gregg talked about the way to achieve fiscal discipline is to have bipartisan control over government, in this case a Republican General Assembly with a Democratic Governor.  He talked about Pence missing 86% of his votes and how Pence had never passed a bill.  He tried to paraphrase the Lloyd Bentsen line to Dan Quayle about knowing Jack Kennedy, by saying Gregg knows Mitch Daniels and Pence is no Mitch Daniels.  The problem is a few words into the line, Gregg had to look down and consult his notes.  Gregg then said Pence voted five times to raise the debt and that he was a lead warrior in the "War on Women."  He also worked in to his answer tea party extremists.  The answer was, once again, unfocused rambling that this time included tag lines Gregg appeared to be trying to get on the board before the time ran out on the debate.

Boneham talked about being tripartisan.  He talked about the state's misplaced tax dollars.  Boneham repeated the suggestion that local government take a greater role in collecting taxes rather than receive money from the state.

In his one minute rebuttal, a testy Pence talked about his having at least a 955 attendance record and that he was named one of the hardest-working representatives in Congress.  He then said that according to public records 5 of the 6 years that John Gregg was speaker, the state ran deficits.

Round Seven Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 8
Total After Round Seven: Pence 69, Boneham 66, Gregg 63

ROUND EIGHT (Question:  What is your position on the Affordable Care Act?)

The question asked by Michelle McGuire (sp?) an insurance act first went to John Gregg. Gregg complimented Governor Daniels by bringing him and his running mate, state senator Vi Simpson in for a discussion of the ACA.  According to Gregg, Daniels said the law wouldn't be repealed.   Gregg said he thought the state should take a hybrid approach to adopting. 

Boneham said his views has changed and that ACA is here to stay.  Can't plan on it being repealed.  He pointed viewers to his five page report on his website.

Pence said Obamacare needs to be repealed.  He said it raises taxes on Hoosiers and will increase health care insurance premiums.  Pence gave an example of the medical device tax costing an expansion of jobs.  The congressman said he was against the enactment of a state exchange for health care.

Round  Eight Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 10, Gregg 10
Total After Round Seven: Pence 79, Boneham 76, Gregg 73

ROUND NINE (Question: What is the role of unions in today's society.)

This question came from Michael Moody a pilot who lives in Georgetown, Indiana. Boneham used it to talk about his being a card-carrying union member (he didn't say which union), and his opposition to the right to work legislation. Pence recognized the important role unions have played in history, but said he believed in individual freedom and people shouldn't be forced to join a union as part of their employment. (Actually, I think technically they couldn't be forced to join a union prior to RTW, but they could be forced to pay fair share union dues.). Gregg talked in detail about the accomplishments of unions, such as the 8-10 hour work day and that RTW will lead to lower wage jobs. The 30 second rebuttals were basically worthless, though Gregg did claim Pence contradicted himself by saying Pence believed unions had done good things, but then supported RTW.

Round Nine Scoring, Gregg 10, Pence 10, Boneham 10
Total After Two Rounds:  Pence 89, Boneham, 86, Gregg 83

ROUND TEN (Closing Statements)

Pence talked about being a lifelong Hoosier, and building a business.  He talked about the uniqueness of the time and having the right leaders to lead.  He reemphasized his road map and the need for a fast growing economy.  It was a relative weak close to a strong debate performance.

Like Pence, Gregg, talked about his resume, creating jobs and his experience in state government, including his balancing of the budget.  He said the election depends on Lugar Republicans and talked about the tea party extremists.  Gregg then said extremists of both sides should look for another candidate.  It was a rambling, unfocused close to a rambling, unfocused debate performance.

Boneham like the others talked about his resume, though emphasizing he was not a career politicians.  He talked about getting government out of charities.  The Libertarian said if the people want change, they need to elect change.  He said it is not enough that Indiana is doing better than its neighbors.  Boneham's close wasn't particularly strong either.

Round Ten Scoring:  Pence 9, Boneham 9, Gregg 9
Total After Two Rounds: Pence 98, Boneham, 95, Gregg 92

BONUS ROUND (Overall, Including Visual)

Mike Pence was the best debater from a visual standpoint.  He seemed the least stiff and to have the most organized thoughts that were (usually) responsive to the question asked.  Pence could be a lot stronger though.  One thing Pence needs to do when he gets a question from the audience is, to thank that audience member for the question addressing him or her by name at the outset of the response. (People love being addressed by their name.)  However, all the candidates failed to do this, with the exception of one Rupert response.  Pence also needs to include more specifics in his answers.  For example, when he says "school choice," he needs to say "charter schools" and "vouchers."   He mentioned his income tax proposal only once.  He talked too much in generalities, but the format of the debate made that almost necessary.

Rupert Boneham was surprisingly good.  He did have moments where his comments were rambling and unresponsive, but those moments were much fewer than they were with seasoned politician John Gregg.  Boneham could have offered more specifics...but of course the limited time makes that difficult.  Boneham does overuse the word "empower."  His campaign team needs to limit him to 2-3 empowers per debate.  Boneham also does need to work on blinking more.  His unblinking manner is going to make certain people uncomfortable.  A smile every now and then wouldn't hurt.

Having not watched the debate until several days later, my expectations were mostly based on what I read on social networks sites like Facebook and various blogs.  Those expectations turned out to be totally off.  When I got around to watching the video, I frankly was shocked at how bad John Gregg was.  He was totally unfocused and rambling at times, moving nonsensically from one topic to another.  Then at other times he seemed desperate to try to stick in talking points into an answer, even if it didn't fit the topic being discussed.  He may not be aware of it, but there are a lot of conservative Democrats who identify with the Tea Party, which began as a populist revolt against corporate welfare.  Dissing Tea Party People and signing on to the "War on Women" nonsense isn't going to score points in conservative Indiana. 

Visually, Gregg was stiff and didn't come across as the affable, country lawyer people who know him say that he is.  There wasn't any warmth there at all.  While Pence and Boneham didn't score high on that point either, Gregg was worse.

Bonus Round Scoring: Pence 10, Boneham 9, Gregg 8
FINAL TOTAL: Pence 108, Boneham, 104, Gregg 100.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ryan v. Romney Debate is a Meaningless Draw

I caught the debate last night between Republican Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden.  I don't have a lot to say on the subject.

I can't think of a single VP debate that has ever even marginally affected the ultimate winner of the presidential race.  I suspect last night won't be much different.  Both candidates did well.  I thought Biden did a good job being an attack dog and clearly is most comfortable discussing foreign policy.  But Ryan was surprisingly adept at foreign policy and has a better grasp of the economic numbers than Biden.

Ryan does a much better job of monitoring his facial expressions than Biden. The Vice President has a tendency to smirk and laugh at inappropriate times which might turnoff some voters.

I did find it surprising that in the monitoring of undecided voter reactions used by CNN, Ryan consistently did better with women than men, much more so than Biden.  I guess those women didn't know that Ryan is involved on the so-called "War on Women."  Or perhaps, outside of hard-core Democrats, women don't buy that nonsense.

Of course, in the end last night's debate won't amount to a hill of beans. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Indianapolis Star Editors Violate Journalistic Ethics in CIB Editorial

This morning, the Indianapolis Star published an editorial entitled "CIB can't afford this big hit."  The editorial arose from the proposal that the CIB make payments in taxes (PILOTS) for Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse  While those facilities put money in the pocket of two billionaire sports owners, they pay nothing in property taxes because they are ostensibly owned by the Capital Improvement Board, a non-profit, quasi-government entity.  In arguing against the proposal, the Star editorial opined:
Jeff Taylor, Editor and Vice President, Indianapolis Star
"As CIB President Ann Lathrop noted Tuesday, the agency has built up reserves in part because it has large loans that will come due in the next few years. That starts in 2017 with $33.7 million that the city owes to private investors that helped initially with funding for Circle Centre mall and later Bankers Life Fieldhouse...."
What the Star's editors failed to disclose to its readers is that the owner of the Indianapolis Star, Gannet Co., Inc., is one of those private investors.  On September 13, 1994, Central Newspapers, Inc. approved investing $2.3 million into the Circle Centre Mall, which debt has been rolled into the debt on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.   In 2000, Gannett bought Central Newspapers.  Thus, Gannett is now one of those investors it was saying in the editorial needs to be paid back, even if it means higher property taxes for Indianapolis residents.

Under even the most forgiving standards of judicial ethics, the Indianapolis Star's editors at the very least had a duty to disclose in the editorial Gannett's ownership interest.

This breach of judicial ethics by the Star points to another one.  A newspaper should never become an investor in a major city project that will be the subject of numerous stories in the newspaper.  Disclosure alone isn't enough to avoid the inevitable conflicts of interest that arise when a newspaper abandons its role of unbiased observer to become a player in local politics.

Jeff Taylor, Editor and Vice President of the Indianapolis Star, owes the newspaper's readers an apology for its breach of judicial ethics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Romney for First Time in a Year Moves Ahead of President Obama in Real Clear Politics Average of Polls

On October 11, 2011, almost three months before the first Republican primary, Romney led 45.9% to 45.3% in a head-to-head matchup with President Obama in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls.  That was the last lead Romney enjoyed until today.

Another positive Romney poll pushed the average over the top. Today

The closest Romney has been since was  a tie shortly after the Republican National Convention.  Just two days away from a full year of never trailing, President Obama fell behind 48.2% to 47.8%.

State polls released today show Romney up 9 points in North Carolina, 1 point up in Ohio, 4 points up in Colorado and even in Nevada.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shaking Down College Students and Their Parents for Money: What the Crackdown on Drinking on College Campuses is All About

This morning brought yet another news story of a bust of underage drinkers, this time a story concentrating on excise police busts during tailgating at this weekend Indiana University-Michigan State football game. The Indianapolis Star reports:
This is the first fall semester that the Excise Police are implementing their Intensified College Enforcement program, a concerted effort spearheaded to curb underage drinking and related behavior -- such as binge drinking -- at six colleges across the state: Ball State, Indiana State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Butler and IU.
....
Police say they're optimistic that ICE will have an effect on curbing underage drinking overall. So far this year, they made a record-breaking 110 arrests at the Sept. 14 IU-Ball State game and issued 99 citations in the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan matchup.
But they won't know how effective the program is until they have enough arrest and citation numbers over the next few years for comparison's sake.  
...
Fifty-one minors between the ages of 18 and 20 were cited with possession of alcohol during Saturday tailgating activities [at IU}, and Lt. Bill Turner said most of them were let go with a citation.   
...
By the end of the day, police arrested 57 people on 65 charges -- about seven fewer citations than homecoming weekend in 2011, but more than triple the amount issued in 2010, 2009 or 2008.
Meanwhile, 58 people were arrested at Indiana State University last weekend.  The weekend before 72 were arrested at Notre Dame.  At an earlier weekend on the Purdue campus, over 153 individuals were arrested or ticketed for alcohol offenses.

Drinking on college campuses?  Adults consuming alcohol before that magical age of 21?  How long has this been going on?   This never happened back in my college days at Hanover and Ball State.

The crackdown on underage drinking is not about the safety of the young men and women who attend our state's universities.  Rather it is all about money.  Where do state and local law enforcement officials get the money to do these crackdowns?  You guessed it...a federal grant is used to fund the ICE program.  The federal money goes to law enforcement officials to pay the salaries and overtime of law enforcement officials who participate.

But law enforcement officials also profit on back end of these enforcement actions.  Those underage drinkers are rarely prosecuted...instead they get funnelled to a diversion program. According to a 2008 report (link to pdf file doesn't work), 98% of the defendants placed in the diversion program in Monroe County are 18-25.  Pay the prosecutor a few hundred dollars and criminal charges won't be filed.  That can be very profitable to arrest the never-ending wave of college kids who pass through college campuses.  How profitable?    Reportedly 37% of the operations of the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office is funded by these diversion fees and that fund was running low this summer. The enforcement actions this fall allowed the prosecutor down there to replenish the fund.

Why spend resources to pursue a home invasion or a robbery, when law enforcement in these college towns can send officers to a college campus and make money busting young adults for underage drinking?

The notion that adults over the age of 18 are not going to consumer alcoholic beverage is every bit as unrealistic as probation was.  In fact, for 18-20 year olds, prohibition still exists and, you know what, it still doesn't work.  Instead of law enforcement officials shaking down college students and their parents for cash, maybe we should have sensible laws and policies that teaches people to consume alcohol responsibly?  That's what happens in European counties who do not have near the problem with binge drinking and drunk driving that we have in this country.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are Marion County State Senate Seats Ready to Turn Blue?

The Marion County state senate districts demonstrate an inviolable fact of gerrymandering.  Success can breed failure.  When a majority party goes into redistricting with too many incumbents to protect, partisan margins gets sliced creating numerous competitive seats.  Incumbents, who never had competition, suddenly find themselves in a battle to retain their seats. Then, if a partisan wave hits for the minority party, scores of majority party incumbents are swept out of power leaving the minority party with many more seats, if not in a majority.
New Marion County State Senate Districts (click to enlarge)
That is the situation faced by the Republican state senate in 2011 when redistricting took place.  The GOP had an embarrassment of riches.  The GOP had just won landslide victories in the 2010 election.  The Republicans held 37 or 74% of the 50 seats in a state in which the Republican statewide baseline is perhaps 56%.

The problem was that drawing 37 safe seats for Republicans was impossible. You simply can't pack enough Democratic-leaning voters into the 13 Democratic seats to spread the margins sufficiently to protect Republican incumbents in the other 37 districts.  The Democratic-leaning voters had to go someplace and that place was into Republican districts.  The result is that margins in districts were cut significantly, making once safe Republican seats competitive.
When those in charge of redistricting decided to cut Republican state senate district margins, the No. 1 place they went to was Marion County.  Although Marion County turned blue in about 2000 and since has become a solidly Democratic county, six of the eight senate districts concentrated in Marion County are still held by Republicans.  How does that happen?  In 2001, the Republican-controlled state senate drew the Marion County state senate districts to include portions of neighboring counties that had a strong Republican vote.  That made the districts safe for the Republicans.
In 2011, faced with an overwhelming success statewide, the Republican-controlled state senate had to cut state senate district margins.  The districts that were hit the worst were the Marion County GOP Senate districts.  The fact that those districts are now much closer can be ascertained by looking at where those districts are and the quality of opponents those Republican incumbents drew.
Four Marion County Republican state senate districts face opponents this year.  Let's look at their districts.
Senate District 30 (most of Washington Township, parts of Carmel and Fishers in Hamilton County)
Incumbent Scott Schneider is facing off against Tim Delaney, son of State Representative Ed Delaney

Senate District 32 (includes the southern part of Warren Township, all of Franklin Township and portions of eastern Center and Perry Townships)  
This district is now entirely contained in Marion County.  Incumbent and long-time legislator Republican Pat Miller faces former Democratic state representative John Barnes whose former house district includes much of the new Senate District 32.
Senate District 35 (includes Speedway, southern Wayne Township, southern 1/3 of Hendricks County including Plainfield and Clayton) 
This district features a battle between incumbent and long-time legislator Republican Mike Young and Democratic attorney Mark Waterfill.  While the Marion County area of the district is Democratic, the Hendricks County area tips the district to the Republicans.  However, Waterfill has lived in the Hendricks County portion of the district for years and may be able to blunt Young's appeal to Republicans. 
Senate District 36 (includes a good chunk of Center Township, Perry Township and a sliver of Johnson County where incumbent State Senator Brent Waltz resides.) 
Republican Waltz is facing a challenge by former Democratic former state representative Mary Sullivan whose house district included much of Senate District 36.
Democrats have shots at all four of those seats.
Then in 2014, State Senate District 29 will be up.
Senate District 29 (includes part of the western half of Wayne Township and most of Pike Township. The district goes north picking up portions of Boone County (Zionsville) and Hamilton County (Carmel.) 
This district is held by Republican State Senator Mike Delph. While Delph had a difficult re-election in the old district in 2010, it appears that some efforts have been made to try to shore up the district a bit. 
The only Marion County State Senate district that appears to be safe for Republicans during the next decade is Senate District 31 which includes most of Lawrence and Fishers and is currently held by Republican Jim Merritt.

Bottom line is that Republicans could end up losing a couple Marion County state senate seats next election and by the end of the decade it is quite possible that the 6-2 Republican margin in state senate seats becomes a 6-2 or even a 7-1 Democratic margin.  Republicans are going to have to pour a ton of money into defending those Marion County-based state senate districts.  Given the fact the Marion County GOP organization is only a shadow of its former self, it is unlikely that the GOP will be able to hold onto those districts as more and more Democratic-leaning voters move into what was once comfortable Republican territory.

Post-Debate Polls Show Romney Cutting National Margin, Moving Ahead in Key Battleground States

Last Saturday, President Barack Obama's lead in the  Real Clear Politics Average of Polls peaked at 4.3%.  Yesterday it stood at 3.1%.  Today, with more post-debate polls being added to the mix, it dropped to 1.8%.

That is the national picture.  The only thing that counts in a presidential election is winning states.  State polls released today and yesterday, post-debate polls, show Republican Mitt Romney moving ahead in key states.  In Colorado, two polls show Romney ahead 4 and 3 points,  Romney is shown ahead by 3 and 2 points in Florida polls, and up Romney is up by 1 and 3 points in two Virginia polls.  A poll from Nevada has Romney up 1 point, while Ohio polls are split, one showing Romney up by one percent and one showing President Obama up by 1 point.

Here's an interesting note.  If Romney's recent surge in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada and Colorado hold up, he will still be 12 points down in the Electoral College. If he wins Iowa, which he's only narrowly behind in right now, then that state's six electoral votes would make the election a tie, 269-269.  But remember, many of the state's electors are free to change their vote as they see fit.  So one elector, promised a nice ambassadorship, might decide to throw the election to the other side.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney Seen as Winner of First Presidential Debate

I had the chance to watch the debate last night.  Here are my thoughts.

Historically challengers prevail over incumbent Presidents during the first of the series of presidential debates.  Last night was no exception.  I thought President Obama was on the defensive and an unfortunate character trait - testiness when confronted - was on full display.  Visual appearances are so important in those types of debates and the President fell down in that regard.  If one listened to the debate on the radio, I would imagine the debate would have been scored fairly even.  But television is how people get their information these days so the visual is as important as what is being said.
Jim Lehrer, of PBS, Moderator
of first Obama-Romney debate

The post-debate analysis was even worse for President Obama than the actual debate.  Outside of the hard-core Democratic spinsters, almost everyone else concluded Romney was the winner.  Perception often gets altered by post-debate discussions.  Romney's marginal debate win, thus, becomes a huge win.  Perception is reality when it comes to politics.

I watched the CNN feed of the debate.  At the bottom of the screen was a running graph showing Colorado undecided women and men voters turning knobs pro and con to things they heard during the debate.  President Obama usually did better with women, but you could tell the issues that sparked female support - those that involved government taking a bigger role in such things health care and education.  Colorado men on the other hand responded more positively to Romney's plea for more limited government and cutting taxes.  Despite all the nonsense about the Republicans' "War on Women," the fact is on social issues women, things like abortion, and government requiring private insurance coverage to include contraception, women are every bit as conservative as men if not more so. 

The gender gap isn't because of differences between the sexes on social issues.  Rather it is because of stark differences between women and men when it comes to economic issues.  Polls consistently show that women want government, including the federal government, to play a larger role in dealing with issues like health care, education and employment.  Men, on the other hand, tend to favor cutting the size of government and reducing taxes.   That is the reason for the gender gap.   Although the emphasis is on the problem Republicans have getting the support of women, in particular single females, Democrats also struggle to get male voters. The gender gap runs both ways.

At the start of the debate, I watched the ABC feed on my computer.  They had twitter comments running at the bottom of the screen while the candidates were talking.  I detest that.  So many of the comments are just silly, if not idiotic, and distract from the serious issues the candidates are talking about.

A quick note on the moderator, Jim Lehrer.  Earlier in the debate Romney and President Obama began to ignore time limits and limits on rebuttals.  Lehrer tried in vain to enforce the rules and quickly gave up.  I fully expect the next moderator of a presidential debate, Candy Crowley of CNN, to enforce much more strictly the rules, including possibly turning off microphones when candidates speak over the limit.

Here is information on the Vice Presidential debate and the two remaining Presidential debates.

Topic: Foreign and domestic policy
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location:
Centre College in Danville, Kentucky (Tickets)
Sponsor:
Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan
Moderator: Martha Raddatz (ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent)


Topic: Town meeting format including foreign and domestic policy
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York (Tickets)
Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN Chief Political Correspondent)


Topic: Foreign policy
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Monday, October 22, 2012
Location:
Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida (Tickets)
Sponsor:
Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
Moderator: Bob Schieffer (Host of Face the Nation on CBS)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New National Poll Shows Race Tied on Eve of Presidential Debate

Continuing the trend of new national polls showing the race for presidency tightening, a new poll shows President Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney, in a dead heat as they head into the first debate:
Mitt Romney
President Obama and Mitt Romney are deadlocked among likely voters as they prepare to square off in their first presidential debate, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.

...

Obama and Romney each pulled in 47 percent support in the poll among likely voters. It is among the narrowest margins of several presidential surveys published ahead of the debate this week. Other polls have shown the president with a slim lead. In this survey, while the race is tied among likely voters, Obama has a 5-point lead, 49 percent to 44 percent, among registered voters.

The survey was conducted Sept. 27-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Romney led in the poll among independents, 49 percent to 41 percent, with both candidates winning more than 90 percent support from their respective parties. The survey had Obama winning 81 percent of the nonwhite vote and Romney carrying 55 percent of white voters.

In estimating the turnout on Nov. 6, the poll projects an electorate that is 74 percent white, 11 percent African-American, and 8 percent Latino. The likely-voter party splits are 36 percent Democratic, 29 percent Republican, and 30 percent independent.

The estimates are similar to the 2008 turnout, when, according to CNN exit polling, 74 percent of voters were white, 13 percent black, and 9 percent Latino, with Democratic turnout at 39 percent, Republicans at 32 percent, and independents at 29 percent.


To see the rest of the report on the poll, click here.

It's interesting see the difference result between "registered voters" and the subset of "likely voters" in this poll.  During the process of asking a respondent questions, the pollster will ask about the likelihood a person registered will vote come Election Day.  The screen is generally more important in low turnout elections than presidential elections.  Plus people lie a lot on that question.  People responding to pollsters generally don't want to admit they may not vote.  

The surprising five point difference between registered voters and likely voters suggest that the Democrats are going to have to work extra hard to make sure those registered voters favoring Obama actually go vote for the President.  It's a reflection an enthusiasm gap that may not have gone away after all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Business Travel Association Rates Indianapolis as One of Worst Cities for Visitor Taxes

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Visitors pay among the highest travel taxes in the nation when they come to Indianapolis — 17 percent on hotel rates, 15 percent on rental cars and 9 percent on meals.
That adds up to an average single-day, combined travel tax of $34.91, according to the Global Business Travel Association, which ranked Indianapolis No. 8 on its list of the worst 10 cities for travel taxes. 
The rankings are based on the amount of hotel, car rental and meal taxes paid by travelers in the top 50 travel destinations in the United States. 
Although Indianapolis officials say the city is still making great gains in visitors and is competitive with its convention-city peers’ taxes, some in the hospitality industry say those taxes hurt business and are calling for them to be rolled back.
“We just keep inching up,” said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association and president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant Association. “If we want people to come here and spend money and help out, we are kind of shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The article goes on to quote several officials who claim that high taxes have no effect on whether people come to the City and, besides, they pay for neat things like Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center. 

The study by GBTA can be found here.  The GBTA table of best and worst cities for travel are listed below.



New Polls Show Romney Narrowing Obama Lead; Romney Needs to Regain Enthusiasm Edge

After the 47% comment, Mitt Romney sunk in the polls.  The political commentators opined that the "arc of the election" had been cast and Mitt Romney had to do something desperate going into the debates.

Mitt Romney
Then a funny thing happened.  Instead of President Obama's lead continuing to expand, it started to shrink.   The polls showing President Obama with a lead in the upper single digits were supplanted by newer ones showing the Obama lead in the lower single digits, well within the margin of error.

As Romney sunk in the polls, my Republican friends began dissing the methodology used by the pollsters.  But even if the methodology is flawed, the polling can still be relevant.  Let's say, for example, that a Gallup poll shows Romney even with Obama and then take another poll that, post-47% comment, shows him down 6%.  Pollsters tend to use the exact same methodology from poll to poll, so two polls from the same pollster, employing the same methodology, would still be relevant in tracking movement.  Movement was definitely shown to be in President Obama's favor following Romney's 47% comment.

I should note that if the polls started showing a Romney lead, Democrats would be challenging the methodology of those polls.  Neither side much believes in the inexact science of polling when the polls don't come down in their favor.

I, on the other hand, believe strongly in the science of polls. Most of these pollsters take their craft seriously. While a flawed methodology might affect the result of the poll, generally you're only talking a few points.  Each pollster has to make adjustments to adapt to changing circumstances.  For example, the fact is many people no longer have land lines with a published name and address that can be cross-referenced against voter registration lists.  When you're making those land line calls, you have to call people who are specifically on the list in order to get a representative sample of the electorate.  If a husband;s name is on the list, you can't instead talk to his wife who answers the phone.  However, when pollsters start calling cell phones they are dialing into the dark.

In the last two days, four polls have been released showing Obama with leads of 3, 3, 4 and 2 points.  The most recent poll released late yesterday was CNN's which showed President Obama ahead of Romney 50-47%.   Looking at the cross tabs on the poll, 756 interviews were conducted of people with landlines and 257 interviews were with cell phone users.

The CNN poll interviewed 305 people who identify themselves as Democrats and 107 who call themselves as independents who lean Democratic, for 412 Registered Democrats in total.   People who identified themselves as Republicans in the poll was 270 with 143 identifying themselves as independents who lean Republican, for a total of 413 Registered Republicans.  Apparently the rest are independent voters who refuse to identify with either party.

What head-to-head poll results don't do, however, is capture enthusiasm which drives turnout to the polls.  You get elections where the polls are close, but once side wins by a landslide because of the enthusiasm factor.  The presidential election of 1980 is the classic example.  The polls were very close, but Republicans were enthusiastic about Ronald Reagan while the Democrats were not thrilled about another four years of President Carter.  Republican voters flocked to the polls while Democratic voters stayed home.  Reagan won an enormous landslide win that year that was not at all reflected in the polls..

I sensed that enthusiasm for the Romney had been waning.  The CNN cross tabs showed that.  When asked about how enthusiastic they were about voting in the presidential election, here are  the results:

Registered Democrats v. Republicans (first number is Democrats)
Extremely enthusiastic:  39 - 38
Very enthusiastic: 25 - 27
Somewhat enthusiastic:  21 - 17
Not too enthusiastic:  8 - 11
Not at all enthusiastic:  7 - 7

The CNN poll shows that Obama has more than closed the enthusiasm gap.  Romney needs to get Republicans and Republican-leaning independents re-excited about his candidacy.  If he fails to do that, he won't be able to close the gap on Election Day with better turnout.