Thursday, June 20, 2019

Media Declares Elizabeth Warren is Surging!; Polls Say Otherwise

Listen to any of the news outlets and you will come away with the conclusion that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is surging in the polls in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.. It is such a constant narrative that I decided to take a look at the polls to see if it is true.

Today (6/20)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)
Economist/YouGov:  Biden 26, Warren 16, Sanders 12, Buttigieg 9, Harris 7

Yesterday(6/19)
Monmouth:  Biden 32, Warren 15, Sanders 14, Harris 8, Buttigieg 5
USA Today/Suffolk:  Biden 30, Sanders 15, Warren 10, Buttigieg 9, Harris 8

Tuesday (6/18)
Politico/Morning Consult:  Biden 38, Sanders 19, Warren 11, Harris 7, Buttigieg 7

Monday (6/17)
The Hill/Harris X:  Biden 35, Sanders 13, Warren 7, O'Rourke 6, Harris 5, Buttigieg 4

Sunday (6/16)
Fox News:  Biden 32, Sanders 13, Warren 9, Harris 8, Buttigieg 8

Tuesday (6/11)
Quinnipiac:  Biden 30, Sanders 19, Warren 15, Buttigieg 8, Harris 7
Politico/Morning Consult:  Biden 37, Sanders 19, Warren 11, Harris 7, Buttigieg 7

In February, Warren was polling in the high single digits.  Now, four months later, post-surge, her RealClearPolitics polling average is 11.9.   Yes, her polling numbers have improved. But a surge?  Hardly. 

As an aside, the state polls show similar results.. Probably most remarkable, and significant, are the most recent polls in Warren's home state of Massachusetts and nearby New Hampshire.

Sunday (6/16) New Hampshire
CBS News/YouGov:  Biden 33, Sanders 20, Warren 17, Buttigieg 10, Harris 7

Sunday (6/9)
Boston Globe/Suffolk:  Biden 22, Warren 10, Buttigieg 8, Sanders 6, Harris 5

So Warren is far behind in her home state and is running third in New Hampshire, which has the all important, first-in-the-nation, primary.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Democratic Presidential Candidates Compete for Second Place; Vote Gravel!

I have never bought the conventional wisdom that the Democratic presidential nomination is wide open.  Barring a health crisis, former VP Joe Biden will win.  The debates and early state caucus/elections are more about auditions to be Biden's running mate than picking a nominee.  My money on that score is on California Senator Kamala Harris with my backup choice Minnesota Senator Amy Klobachur.  While I'm not sure who Biden would pick, I can guarantee his running mate won't be a white male.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is driving in the same lane as her Vermont counterpart from the Senate, Bernie Sanders.  One will eventually run the other off the road.  I think Warren wins that.  She has the same socialist polices as Bernie without the gruff personality.  Plus, she's a woman, which
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel
is a major bonus with Democratic voters.

In a field dominated by third and fourth tier candidates struggling to break 1%, Harris and Warren stand out as solid second tier candidates.  But I don't see either as ever displacing Biden.  Neither are seen as electable as Biden.  But more importantly, they are not even winning their home states in the polls.  A California poll released yesterday has Harris in 4th place in her home state, with just 13%. (Warren in the California poll is actually second in that state with 19%.)   A Massachusetts poll earlier this week, had Warren in second, but with only 10%.  Biden led the poll in both states.

Meanwhile, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are attempting to drive in the same lane.  (Sorry for continuing to use that tired metaphor.)  O'Rourke is barely a second tier candidate.  At his rallies, O'Rourke appears to be desperately trying to channel President John Kennedy and that schtick is not selling nationally like it did in Texas.  "Mayor Pete," meanwhile, has been the most impressive candidate on the campaign trail.  He has displayed a temperament and intellect that is a wonderful contrast to President Trump.  Buttigieg also has a great resume, including military service that contrasts nicely with Donald "Bone Spurs" Trump.  I do have doubts about his ability to transition after a primary to run a general election, but of all the candidates who could break through and displace Biden as the nominee, my money would be on Buttigieg.

While there are some excellent candidates in the third tier, I think the odds of one of those candidates breaking from the back of the pack and sprinting by Biden are long.  (See, I changed metaphors - horse racing!)  But one of them, not sure which one, will eventually have a moment and move up into the second tier.  But "a moment" among the leaders is all they are likely to have. 

In short, I don't think the Democratic nomination is as wide open as people think it is.

I do note the newest entry into the Democratic race, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (gruh - vel').  Gravel has led a very interesting life.  No candidate, not even Biden, can match his personal, professional and political experience...which is not surprising since he's 89 years old.  Gravel is also known for the greatest political commercial ever made.



Vote Gravel!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How Far Left Will Biden Be Pushed on Abortion?

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Ask any of the gazillion Democrats running for President about abortion and they will tell you the issue is simple.  It's about "women's health care," they declare.  The more extreme Democratic presidential candidates repeat the nonsense, ad nauseum, that opponents of abortion are "just men wanting control women's bodies."   Of course, about 50% of the people who oppose abortion rights are women. Never mind that there is no logical reason that men or women against abortion hold that position because they want to "control women's bodies."  The issue has to be more complicated than that.

And it is.  Despite the rhetoric of the left, the reason there are so many people opposed to abortion rights is that they see the fetus as a living, growing human being.  And medical science certainly backs up that position. 

No doubt that those on the pro choice side are rightly concerned about a woman's autonomy and the need to control her body.  But they are off base when they pretend abortion is not more complicated than that.  There is indisputably a human being growing inside a pregnant woman. That's why the issue is complex and difficult.

As a side note, don't get me started on polls which proclaim overwhelming support for Roe v. Wade.  99% of the public couldn't tell you what the holding of Roe v. Wade is.  That is proven over and over again with polls which show strong majorities do not support abortions that are perfectly legal under Roe.

Enter in the current debate former Vice President Joe Biden.  Biden is hardly a moderate on abortion.  But he seemed, at least, to recognize the legitimacy of the pro life position, even if it rarely impacted his actions as a public official.  But one area where Biden did not have an extreme pro choice position was on the issue of public funding of abortion.  He supported the Hyde amendment, a long holding compromise between the pro-choice and pro-life sides which essentially banned public funding of abortion.  s.

Last week, Biden changed his position on the Hyde Amendment.  He now supports not only abortion on demand until at least viability (more on that in a second) but that taxpayers should have to pay for those abortions.  (The Hyde amendment has the standard exception for rape, incest, life of the mother.)  To say that is an extreme position insulting to those who have grave reservations about abortion, is to be generous.  But that extreme position is the one held by all the other Democratic candidates running for President.

Was it a wise move politically?  There have always been s a significant number of Democratic-leaning voters who are pro life. One poll I saw showed about 30% of Democratic-leaning voters support the Hyde Amendment.  Now those Democrats will not have a primary candidate representing their view.  Biden abandoned those voters in favor of making his position indistinguishable from the other Democrats.  The idea behind the Biden switch no doubt was to deny his Democratic opponents a wedge issue. That switch though opens up the issue of electoral integrity, i.e. is a candidate switching his or her position solely out of political expediency?  Despite protestations to the contrary from the Biden camp, the answer is clearly "yes."

I should clarify:  political expediency for the primary round. There is little doubt that Biden's position against the Hyde Amendment, which is supported by a strong majority of voters, is harmful to his chances as a general election candidate.  No doubt, Trump will bludgeon Biden or what other Democrat is nominated, with the extreme position that taxpayers should be forced to pay for what many view as a morally repugnant procedure that ends a human life.

But for Biden, his abortion capitulation is unlikely to end there.  Next up will be the issue of third trimester abortion and the subset of those late stage abortions, partial birth abortions.  (Yes, partial birth abortion is a real thing and I won't go into the gruesome details over why that descriptive term is used.)   While Roe v. Wade provided for a constitutional right to abortion on demand through six months, the then assumed point of viability (which was altered by Planned Parenthood v. Casey), Roe allows states to ban abortion during the third trimester (except for threats to the health of the mother.)  But that is a policy choice made by legislative bodies.  In the stampede to the left, will all Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, sign on to this expansion of Roe?  According to my Magic Eight Ball the "signs point to yes."

On the right, Republicans fall into the political quicksand when they adopt pro-life laws that don't have the highly popular traditional rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions. Collectively those amount to something like 1% of the abortions performed.  While I'm aware of and sympathetic to the argument that "all life is precious" for not including the rape and incest exceptions, it does not seem wise to throw the 99% away because you are fighting for the 100%.

Likewise, third trimester abortions are highly unpopular.  They too are rare, making up to about 1% of the abortions performed.    Do the Democrats really want to make the abortion battle about defending the highly unpopular 1% instead of the 99% of abortions performed during first and second trimesters?

Pushing Biden to the left on abortion did him, and the Democratic Party, no favors.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Indy Welcomes All, Indy Pride...Not So Much

I've been watching with amusement the interactions between Indianapolis Republican Mayoral Candidate Jim Merritt and the folks at Indy Pride.  This is how Indy Pride, Inc. describes itself on its website:
Indy Pride, Inc. produces events which educate, honor our history, and celebrate the diversity of the Indianapolis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. We exist to unite and serve our members and the LGBTQ+ community of Central Indiana through leadership development, educational programs, and community events which achieve inclusivity, equality, strong community connections, and awareness of LGBTQ+ issues.
When the Indiana General Assembly a few years ago was considering adopting the the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act,  Many organizations responded with horror.  RFRA would allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, we were, wrongly, told.  Locally, groups like Indy Pride pushed the city's businesses to adopt the slogan "Indy Welcomes All." 

Indy Pride sponsors an annual parade in Indianapolis which is set to take place this Saturday.

When Senator Merritt announced he would walk in the Indy Pride parade this weekend in support of LGBTQ rights (as a private citizen rather than a mayoral candidate, not sure there's a huge difference with that), Indy Pride Executive Director Chris Handberg responded that Merritt was "not welcome" at the event.  I kid you not...he actually used tho

Of course, the slogan always had a phony ring.  You are "welcome" if you share a particular position on LGTBQ issues.  If you don't, or God forbid, you dare to practice a religious faith that doesn't reflect the politically correct positions on LGTBQ issues, you are NOT welcome.  If there was any doubt about the hypocrisy of Indy Pride teach tolerance while practicing intolerance, Handberg's actions, which were spurred by complaints from those in and allied with his organization, proved that beyond doubt.

Breaking news is that Senator Merritt today issued a new press release announcing he won't be walking in the parade after all.  In the lengthy statement, Senator Merritt continued his attempt to pander to the LGBTQ community by throwing conservatives and those who believe in religious freedom under the bus.  In the release, Merritt said he didn't know at the time of his vote for RFRA that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and cited his later vote for the RFRA "fix" (which didn't actually do anything from a legal standpoint by the way.)
Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis)

So, Senator Merritt, RFRA can be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation?    Name ONE example in which RFRA has been used to deny goods or services based on sexual orientation.

Over 30 states, by statute or judicial decision, have RFRA. Having read every federal and state judicial decision that mentioned those RFRAs, I can't find a single one where the religious freedom law was used to allow a business owner to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 

After RFRA passed, I was at a legal seminar discussing the law.  An ACLU attorney who was on the panel agreed that RFRA is simply irrelevant to the issue of business owners discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation...that the only thing that matters is whether the jurisdiction has a civil rights law that includes sexual orientation.  Exactly.  Even in those jurisdictions that don't have such a civil rights law protecting sexual orientation, anyone can discriminate with or without RFRA. Again, RFRA is irrelevant to the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Although not an attorney, Merritt has to know that his newly learned information RFRA can be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation is as bogus as a three dollar bill.  Indy Pride can legitimately complain about Merritt's position on LGBTQ rights, but its the lack of support for a civil rights law which includes sexual orientation they should be complaining about, not his support for RFRA. 

If the folks at Indy Pride were smart and honestly believed the "Indy Welcomes All" slogan they promoted since the RFRA debate, Indy Pride would have welcomed Senator Merritt and used it as a opportunity to educate him about LGTBQ issues.  But Indy Pride needs to stop misrepresenting what RFRA did.  Indy Pride's complaint is about the lack of a civil rights law protecting sexual orientation..  The organization needs to stop distracting from that agenda with unwarranted attacks on religious freedom.

Early Polls Show Trump and GOP Face Possibility of Landslide Electoral Loss in 2020

As I've pointed out on these pages before, Donald Trump is not a strong general election candidate.  Even though he faced the most unpopular Democratic candidate in history, Trump still lost the popular vote and only won the electoral college vote by a very narrow margin. If just 39,000 people in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) had switched their vote from Trump to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House.

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Looking at the 2016 results, one finds that scores of GOP congressional candidates across the country did better than Trump at the polls.  (Indiana was a notable exception to this.)  Trump's win was not based so much on traditional Democrats switching to Republican, but that GOP-leaning turnout being juiced thanks in no small part because of Trump being on the ballot.  Meanwhile, Democrats, dissatisfied with their candidate, stayed home. 

Trump's performance in office has changed that 2016 dynamic.  While the GOP voters remain energized, now Democratic-leaning voters, wanting to send a message to the President, are as well.  In 2018, we had the opportunity to see what happens in the rare election in which both sides are energized.  The result was an historic Democratic victory, winning a, net, 40 seats in the U.S. House.

How bad can 2020  be for Trump and Republicans.  ?  Let's look at some of the state polling:

Texas:   In 2016, Trump beat Hillary by 9 points in Texas.  (By way of comparison, the GOP candidate for State Railroad Commissioner won by 15%).   A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday has former Vice President Joe Biden beating Trump by 4% in Texas.  All the other Democratic candidates poll in the head-to-head contest with President Trump trailed by less than 4 points, well within the margin of error.  Lest anyone think the Quinnipiac Texas poll is an aberration, a late April poll of Texas voters also showed Biden beating Trump by one point in the Lone Star State. 

North Carolina:  Trump won the state by 3.6% in 2016.  In a poll, just released, Biden beats Trump in the Tar Heel state by 11%.  Sanders is up by 8%.  Even South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Trump by 4 points in North Carolina.

Florida:  Trump won the state in 2016 by 1.2%.  He remains surprisingly popular in the Sunshine State two years later.  A May poll shows Biden only running even with Trump.

Pennsylvania:  Trump won this critical state in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote.  A mid-May poll has Biden up 11 points in the Keystone State.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is up by 8 and Sanders up by 7.  In fact every Democratic presidential candidate the pollster asked about leads Trump in Pennsylvania except for former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

Arizona:  Trump won the state by 3.6% in 2016.  An early May poll shows Biden ahead by 5 points.

Nevada:  Trump lost the state by 2.4% in 2016.  But Biden's lead in a 3/31 poll is only 4 points.  This is an example of a 2016 blue state that the GOP should probably target.  

Iowa:  Although the Hawkeye State is ideally suited for Trump (heavily white and rural) and Trump won by over 9.5 points in 2016, he polls as down to Biden by 6 points.  The same March 25th poll has even Sanders leading (by 2 points) Trump in Iowa.

Wisconsin:  Along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin was a critical victory for Trump in 2016.  He won the state by about .7% of the vote.  In a March poll, Biden beats Trump by 8 points in the Badger State, while Warren and Sanders lead by 4.   In fact, all of the Democratic presidential candidates polll ahead of Trump in Wisconsin.

Michigan:  The closest state in the 2016 election, Trump won Michigan by .23%.  But a poll just released yesterday shows Biden and Sanders beating Trump by 12 points in Michigan.  March polls show Trump trailing badly in the state, with Biden up 8 points, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar ahead by 6 points, Sanders up by 5.  No Democratic presidential candidate polled as running behind Trump.  Even Buttigieg polls ahead of Trump by 6 points in Michigan.

New Hampshire:  Trump lost the state by .37% in 2016 and it is apparently being targeted by the GOP for pickup in 2020.  But February polling show Biden and Sanders both beating Trump by 10 points in 2016.

If you take how the swing states are currently polling (as outlined above), a Joe Biden would defeat President Trump 348-190 in the electoral college.  That's assuming that Florida, which currently polls as even, is won by Trump.  There are other red states - Ohio and Georgia, for example - which are well within striking district for Democrats.

Undoubtedly the Trump cult will call the polls "fake news" and claim that 2016 election results show how wrong the polls were that year.  Except that the polls in 2016 weren't wrong  In every swing state, the election result for that state was within the margin of error in the Real Clear Politics average.  (Wisconsin with a spread of 7.2% was by far the closest to being outside of the MOE.)  To clarify, contrary to how it is reported, the MOE in polling is not the margin between two competing candidates' numbers but rather a statistical aberration for each candidates' poll numbers.  Thus, in a two candidate race a 4 point MOE provides for a possible 8 point swing.

Of course, polls can change. After all, despite the unpopularity of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama at their first mid-term, all ended up with big re-election victories.  So there is a possibility that Trump's popularity could increase and he could win a big re-election in 2020.  But what militates against that happening is that unlike the fluid approval numbers Reagan, Clinton and Obama had, Trump's numbers appear to be set in stone.  Trump's approval numbers have barely moved in two years.  People seem to have made up their minds about Trump early on and nothing seems to be changing that.  Perhaps independent voters would punish Democrats pushing impeach by voting for Trump to have a second term, but that seems like a long shot at best.  

A side note:  A recent story noted the Trump campaign's acknowledgement of the shifting map and the decision by the President's team to target certain Democratic states to offset those rust belt states he turned red in 2016 but are likely to go back to the Democrats in 2020.  The states being targeted are New Hampshire, New Mexico and Nevada.  Odd.  First, those states together have just 15 electoral votes while Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, key states Trump won in 2016, have a total of 46 electoral votes.  There is no chance the Trump campaign is competitive in New Mexico and a win in New Hampshire is unlikely due to Trump's unpopularity there.  Nevada is definitely in play for Trump, but how is Minnesota not on the Trump list of blue states that can be turned red?