Monday, November 28, 2022

Columnist James Briggs' Departure and Why I Cancelled My Indianapolis Star Subscription

This weekend,, Indianapolis Star columnist James Briggs wrote that he was leaving the publication..  In his column announcing his departure, Briggs mentions where he is going, but is sure to state that his "leaving on his own."  I'm not so sure. When someone as young as Briggs leaves a full-time professional position with no other job lined up, usually that person did not leave the  job voluntarily.

James Briggs replaced political columnist Matt Tully, who passed away shortly after leaving the Star.  My complaints about Briggs were the same as with  Tully. They both went out of their way to praise the powerful business interests who run Indianapolis and would support every version of corporate welfare, no matter the cost to ordinary citizens.  One would think a major city newspaper's political columnist would stand up for the weak and against the powerful.  Briggs and Tully consistently did exactly the opposite.  One of Briggs' last columns was to tell readers how lucky they are to have Jim Irsay as owner of the Colts.  Of course, Briggs dutifully ignored the fact that Indianapolis, actually Indiana, residents have turned Irsay from a millionaire to a billionaire.  We taxpayers paid for the new football arena pursuant to a sweetheart deal that allows him to keep the revenue generated by the building.  If that wasn't bad enough, we taxpayers also pay to operate the stadium.  

Indianapolis Star Columnist James Briggs

Of course, Tully and Briggs never said one complaining word about the Colts and Pacer deals that greatly enriched the teams' owners at the expense of taxpayers.  Nor did Tully or Briggs ever write critically of the 50 year parking meter deal, private jails, taxpayer subsidized development deals, the city-county council constantly handing over TIF money to government contractors (a practice that takes revenue away from schools and other services), or any other corporate welfare measure.  Indianapolis politics, whether the city is run by Republicans or Democrats, is always about taxpayers subsidizing private, for-profit businesses.  You would think the Star's columnist would shine a light on these practices.  Nope.  Tully and Briggs were consistent cheerleaders for the corporate welfare that has for decades dominated this city's politics.

It was Briggs' Irsay column that was the last straw for me when it came to my Indianapolis Star on-line subscription.   When I read Briggs' fawning portrayal of Irsay , I made a critical comment, noting how we taxpayers had made Irsay filthy rich.  The post didn't contain anything offensive or personal  in nature, but was critical of the position Briggs took.  


A few minutes after I made the comment on Brigg's column, I tried to post another comment to a Star article and found I was blocked from doing so.  This didn't happen once, it happened probably 7 or 8 times.  The minute I would make a critical comment to a Briggs' column, I would end banned from commenting on Star articles for a period of time. 

Several times I reached out to the Star to get an explanation for why I was banned.   Indianapolis Star representatives would never respond to any of my queries.  I finally contacted a reporter I knew and asked him to forward along my communications.  He did so.  But after a few days passed and my commenting privileges weren't reinstated, I logged in and cancelled my subscription to the Star.  I had had enough.

It's funny....I made critical comments on other Star articles and was never barred from posting comments.  I made several positive comments on Briggs' columns, and those never resulted in bans either.  But the minute I would write anything critical of about a Briggs' column, I would be barred from posting again.

If it would have happened just once or twice, I'd chalk it up to a coincidence.  But 7 or 8 times?  I don't know if Briggs was personally banning me, or (more likely) someone was doing it at his behest, but there was no doubt what was going on.  Clearly Briggs has thin-skin and has trouble accepting criticism.  But blocking readers from commenting because you don't like what they say - well that's just plain wrong.

I'm not sure if my complaints to the Star about what was going on helped usher Briggs out the door.  But if it did, kudos to the Star for taking action.  Now Gannett can now hire someone as a columnist who isn't a shill for the corporate interests who dominate Indianapolis politics.  Is that too much to ask for?

Monday, November 21, 2022

Exit Poll Shows Making the Mid-Terms a Referendum on Trump Hurt the GOP

On Election Night, the pundits were busy explaining the reasons for the lack of a red wave using exit poll data. The consensus was that Trump and abortion had reversed the GOP advantage. But here's the thing about exit polls. Compiling and studying exit poll results actually takes days, not hours.  Often, what one is told to be true on election night turns out not to be so when a more in depth study of the numbers is conducted.

Jeffrey H. Anderson writing for the City Journal, took a hard look at the exit poll numbers.  His analysis concludes that the unpopularity of Trump and other GOP leaders is what dragged down the party:
Midterm elections normally serve as referendums on incumbent presidents—to whom voters seldom give the benefit of the doubt, and whose parties almost always lose substantial numbers of seats in the House of Representatives and often the Senate, as well. To the surprise of most commentators (including yours truly), that didn’t happen this time. As of a week after Election Day, the number of seats that the GOP will gain in the House looks likely to be in the single digits—a far cry from the 54 seats that Gingrich and company gained in 1994 or the 64 seats that a Tea Party-fueled GOP picked up in 2010.

A pair of numbers leaps out of the exit polling: 32 percent of voters said that they cast their House vote to “oppose” President Joe Biden, while 28 percent said they cast their House vote to “oppose” former President Donald Trump. In other words, for every eight votes cast against Biden, all but one was negated by a vote cast against Trump. This is surely unprecedented in a midterm election. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a previous midterm in which almost as many people voted against the loser of the previous presidential contest as voted against the winner. How many people, for example, bothered to vote against Richard Nixon in 1962, Jimmy Carter in 1982, George H. W. Bush in 1994, or even Hillary Clinton in 2018?

Of course, it didn’t help Republicans that the leading establishment faces of their party are even less popular with voters than Trump. The former president’s favorability rating in exit polling was -19 percentage points (39 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable), worse than Biden’s -15 points (41 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable). But Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy’s favorability rating (-26 points, with 27 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable) was not only lower than Trump’s but also lower than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (-24 points, with 36 percent favorable to 60 percent favorable). RealClearPolitics lists Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s unfavorability rating as of Election Day as being nearly triple his favorability rating (59 percent vs. 21 percent). Per RCP, McConnell’s net favorability rating of -38 percentage points is 24 points worse than that of his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer (-14 points, with 33 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable).
During the last few weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump worked hard to make certain the mid-term would be considered a referendum on him.   No doubt Trump wanted the public to view the anticipated GOP wave as an endorsement of his re-election.  Republican operatives voiced concerns the presence of Trump might drag down GOP candidates.  Turned out those worries were well-founded.  The exit poll data suggests Trump was consistently a drag on GOP candidates across the country, even more so in those statewide races where the twice impeached ex-President openly endorsed candidates who had embraced Trump's Lie about the 2020 election being stolen.

The abortion issue was also cited as a factor that hurt Republicans in the mid-terms.  Anderson though found the effect of the issue, unlike the negative effect of Trump's endorsement of election denying candidates, was much more mixed:
Many observers have blamed Republicans’ lackluster showing in the midterms on their positions on abortion, but exit polling suggests a more nuanced picture. On the one hand, Fox News exit polling indicates that few voters (10 percent) considered abortion to be “the most important issue facing the country.” On the other, 25 percent regarded the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as the “single most important factor” to them personally when “thinking about voting in this election.”

The network consortium’s exit polling found that only slightly more voters think abortion should be “legal” (30 percent) as think it should be “illegal” (26 percent) “in most cases.” But those in the latter camp appear to hold their positions with more conviction, as they were far more likely to support Republicans (90 percent to 9 percent) than those in the former camp were to support Democrats (60 percent to 38 percent). Indeed, the Republicans’ 81-point margin among voters who think abortion should generally be illegal swamped the Democrats’ 22-point edge among those who think it should generally be legal.

Moreover, Republicans won a majority of the vote among the 58 percent of voters who, in response to the overturning of Roe, felt “enthusiastic” (16 percent), “satisfied” (21 percent), or even “dissatisfied” (21 percent). Combining those three groups, Republicans won by a margin of 50 points (74 percent to 24 percent). Only the 39 percent who felt “angry” in response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization supported Democrats (85 percent to 14 percent).

Thus, more moderate voters on this contentious issue—those who were neither enthusiastic nor angry, and those who think abortion should be neither legal nor illegal in every case—were more apt to favor Republicans. Among those with more intense views either way—those who were enthusiastic or angry, and those who think abortion should either always be legal or always be illegal—Democrats prevailed.
Clearly the Republicans were not prepared to handle the politics of abortion in a post-Roe world.  Early on, the GOP allowed the issue to be defined by the exceptions (rape, incest, threat to life of the mother) which in actuality account for less than 1% of the abortions performed.  It was not just Democrats doing the defining.  Shortly after Roe was overturned the Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita held a press conferences announcing an investigation into an Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10 year old rape victim who had traveled to the Hoosier State from Ohio for the procedure.  So incredibly dumb.

Republican candidates used to concede the exceptions as a political necessity. But as the GOP became more radicalized on the abortion issue over the years, Republican candidates faced defeat in primaries if they embraced the exceptions. But now the political climate has shifted with those candidates now having to face general elections in which abortion rights are more than theoretical.  Still despite their clumsy handling of abortion and getting heavily outspent on the issue in the mid-terms, the pro life side had numerous successes in 2022.  In my home state of Indiana, after the Dobbs decision, the Indiana legislature this year passed the most strict abortion law in the country which only allowed abortion for the three exceptions.  I was certain that it would cost Republicans seats in the state legislature.  Instead, the Indiana GOP added seats and won statewide races by even bigger margins previously.  Likewise, the Republican Party did well in a number of states including Arkansas, New York, Ohio, and Georgia. 

Republicans though will have to moderate their position on the abortion issue.  That means again embracing the three exceptions and forcing the Democrats to debate what gestational limits on the procedure they will accept.  Most industrialized states have adopted, via their legislature, 12-15 week limits.  Roe mandated 24 weeks, at the minimum.  Democratic talking points are that the issue is just about a choice regarding what a woman does with her body suggests they are no acceptable gestational limits on the procedure.  Further, they want it to be funded with tax dollars.  In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams found herself defending this very unpopular position, which let Governor Kemp off the hook on the issue. 

OOP's short takes:
  • Regarding my predictions on the eve of the election, I was hoping to get 70% correct, not a huge number but one I thought was reasonable given that so many races were within the margins of error in the polling.  I ended up calling 87.5% of the races correctly, missing only four: the Arizona and Wisconsin governor races, the Nevada Senate race, and the Indiana Secretary of State's race.  I was not right in guessing the Republicans would lose seats in the Indiana House and Senate, that Senate control would be decided by the Georgia run-off and that Kari Lake would be the new MAGA star.
  • And, no, the 2022 polling was not "off."  People need to understand how the MOE works in polls.  Some of the predictions based on the polling was off, but the polls this cycle were very good.  Yours truly did very well.
  • Saw the Mike Pence interview on Sunday Meet the Press.  Pence's repeated attacks on the FBI for simply doing their job is appalling.  Likewise, so too is his claim that the accusation of Trump's collusion with Russians in winning the 2016 election was a hoax.  The evidence is overwhelming that the Trump campaign warmly accepted the help of Russian officials in that campaign.  Saying that that was not "collusion" is an intentional dodge, based on how that term is used in the federal code.
  • So sorry to learn of the passing of my political mentor, Rex Early.  I will have to write at length about him later.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Political Predictions: Senate Control Goes to Runoff, Again; Republicans Gain 20 seats in the House; Kari Lake New MAGA Star

Election Day is just a few hours away. Not sure that we can can call it "Election Day" any longer as people started voting weeks ago in most states.  This election though is like none other in my lifetime.  As I write this, there are 10 Senate races and 8 Governor races fully within the polling margins of error.  To further complicate things, it appears that turnout will be at record highs.  Because there will be people casting ballots in the mid-terms who don't often vote in those races, those infrequent voters can greatly skew the typical turnout model.  Predictions are a crapshoot at this point.  But I'm taking the plunge and making my predictions anyway.  It should be noted that I am only predicting the races that are currently polling as close or semi-close.  So I'm not going to pad my numbers with easy predictions.  My hope is to get 70% of my predictions correct, but even that may be overly optimistic at this point.

Republicans started this election cycle with a large advantage in the polls.  Then the Democrats overtook the Republicans over the summer.  But as the leaves began to fall, Republican candidates across the board started to do dramatically better.  As we turn the page on another election, talk again is of a Red Wave.  Indeed that might have happened in the Senate races, but Republicans chose historically weak candidates that limited their ability to win a majority.  Indeed, I'm predicting that when the counting is done, Republicans have a 50-49 edge in the Senate, pending the outcome of a December runoff in Georgia.

Before jumping into predicting all those super close races, let's look at some which are just outside the margin of error:

Alaska Senate race:  Although the race won't affect partisan control of the Senate chamber, I predict that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski will win re-election despite Trump's endorsement of her Republican opponent.  Murkowski can thank the state's ranked choice voting system.  Murkowski will likely be the second choice on many Democrats' ballot and those votes will go to her once the Democrat is knocked out of the three person race.  This may take weeks to sort out.

Florida Senate and Governor race:  Sen. Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis win re-election.  DeSantis win margin will be just under 10 points.  Rubio's victory will be by a few less points.  Election results in Florida will make Democrats wonder whether they should write it off for 2024.  In 2018, Florida had probably the closest governor and U.S. Senate race in the country.  Now those races are not in the top 10.   Shows you how much more Republican Florida has become.

Georgia Governor's Race:  In a rematch, Republican Governor Brian Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams, by a margin greater than 2018.  Unlike 2018, Abrams will not, falsely, say the election was stolen.

Iowa Senate:  Republican Charles Grassley will win re-election, but it will be by the closest margin of any race he's had in decades.

Pennsylvania Governor's Race:  Democratic Attorney General Joel Shapiro wins the governor's mansion.

Texas Governor's Race:  Republican Greg Abbott easily wins re-election.  Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke joins Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in the "What Was I Thinking" Club.  Both have seriously damaged their political careers by running against strong candidates in what from the outset looked like a bad year for Democrats. What were they thinking?

Utah Senate:  I so wish I could pick independent Evan McMullin to pull off an upset against the pro-insurrectionist incumbent Senator Mike Lee, but alas I cannot.  Lee will win by 10 to 15 points.

Now a few Indiana/Indianapolis races:

U.S. Senate:  Republican Todd Young wins re-election with nearly 60% of the vote.

Indiana 1st Congressional District: Democrat Frank Mrvan wins re-election by 5 to 10 points.

Indiana Secretary of State:  Really bright spot of the night for Indiana Democrats is that their candidate Destiny Wells defeats scandal plagued Diego Morales.  This is my upset special.

Indiana Legislature:  Democrats gain a few seats in the House and Senate.  Even though Republicans drew the new maps, the GOP had already pretty much maxed out the districts they could win in a state in which over 40% of the electorate regularly vote Democrat.

Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor:  Democrat Ryan Mears easily wins re-election as Marion County confirms its new role as the bluest county in Indiana.

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

Now the margins of error races.  These races are all legitimate tossups and can go in any direction.  What I'm guessing (and it's little more than a guess) is that candidate quality will tip the balance in most of these races.   Republicans would be slam dunks to win Senate races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and possibly even New Hampshire this time if the GOP would have nominated better candidates.  But the Democrats also blew an easy win against Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson by nominating a far left candidate.  Likewise, the Democrats deeply hurt their chances to win the Arizona Governor's race by nominating a candidate who decided the best strategy was to not take on her opponent.  

Note: After the state's name, I am listing who is currently in the lead in the polls, based on Real Clear Politics' average of polls.  The Oklahoma governor's race does not have a RCP polling average, so I have used FiveThirtyEight's instead for that contest.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Senate)

Arizona (+0.6 Kelly) - This is a carbon copy of the New Hampshire race.  Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is struggling to hold on to his seat.  Fortunately, as with Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, the Republicans, thanks to former President Donald Trump, nominated a weak candidate in the person of Blake Masters.  Fortunately for Masters, the Libertarian candidate dropped out and endorsed him.  Still, that may not be enough.  I give the edge to Kelly to hold onto the seat.

Colorado (+5.7 Bennet)  Republican challenger and businessman Joe O'Dea has presented himself to Colorado voters as an independent-minded Republican, which earned him the ire of Donald Trump.  While Bennett chose the right path to possibly upset the incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, himself a moderate Democrat, his effort is likely to fall a few percent short.  Give the edge to Bennet.

Georgia: (+0.4 Walker) - Republican Herschel Walker has moved very slightly ahead of the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock.  On election night, I believe Warnock will have a slight lead but below the 50% required for a December run-off.

Nevada (+2.7 Laxalt) - Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is a slight favorite to upset Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. 

New Hampshire (+1.0 Hassan) - Republican Don Bolduc has drawn nearly even with Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in the polling.  I still have to give the edge to Hassan though, who I expect will squeak out a victory.

North Carolina (+6.0 Budd)  -  I know some polls show Democrat Cheri Beasley on the heels of Republican Rep. Ted Budd.  I'm not buying them.  I think Budd wins this by about 5 points on Election Day.

Ohio (+8.0 Vance) - It appears that Republican JD Vance is starting to pull away from his opponent Rep. Tim Ryan.  Ohio is a tough nut for Democrats to crack.  Edge goes to JD Vance  Ryan was attempting to run as a more moderate Democrat who appealed to blue collar workers.  The hope of many Democrats was that Ryan's approach would provide a blueprint for Democrats in future elections. But I'm fearful the margin is going to be so great that Democratic progressives will say the problem was that Ryan was not liberal enough.  Like that would have worked.

Pennsylvania (+0.1 Oz) - Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has closed and overtaken his Democratic opponent Lt. Governor John Fetterman.  But at 0.1% difference, it could barely be more of a tossup.  I'm going to give the edge to Fetterman.  Do voters prefer a candidate who is suffering the effects of a debilitating stroke or someone who comes across as a jerk who doesn't even live in Pennsylvania.  I'm guessing the former.  Since this was a seat held by a retiring Republican, Pat Toomey, it would be a Democratic pickup.  

Washington (+3.0 Murray)  I just can't believe that incumbent Senator Patty Murray is in trouble of losing her re-election bid.  Republicans haven't won a Senate election in the state in almost 30 years.  But Tiffany Smiley has run a good race and is giving the Republicans a chance to win. But she will fall a few points short.

Wisconsin (+3.3 Johnson) - Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican Senator in the country.  So what do the Democrats do?  They nominate a Bernie Sanders acolyte, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes against him instead of a moderate Democrat.  Brilliant!  Give the edge to Johnson to win another term.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Governor)

I'm not as familiar with the Governor's races, so I will keep these predictions brief:

Arizona (+2.4 Lake) -  Republican Kari Lake will win the Arizona Governor's race.  It's too bad the Democrats didn't bother to field a candidate.   Okay, I know Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is her opponent, but her decision to not debate Lake was as stupid as stupid gets.  Lake will be the new MAGA star.  One thing that worked against Donald Trump's attempt to undermine American democracy is that, well, Trump is frankly very stupid.  Lake is what Trump would be like if he had a brain.  Be afraid, very afraid.

Michigan (+4.2 Whitmer)  - Gretchen Whitmer wins re-election by several points against her opponent, Republican Tudor Dixon.

Minnesota (+4.3) Walz - Governor Tim Walz easily wins re-election.

Nevada (+2.3 Lombardo) - Don't know much about this race, but I do believe Nevada is going Republican on Election Day.  That means Republican Joe Lombardo beats Democrat Steve Sisolak.

New Mexico (+4.0 Lujan Grisham) -  Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wins re-election.

New York:  (+7.0 Hochul):  No, Republicans are not going to elect a governor in the Empire State.  Incumbent Kathy Hochul will win re-election by nearly double digits over Trump-backed Lee Zeldin.  I'm not sure what all the fuss about this race was about.  It was never really close.

Oklahoma: (+2.5 Stitt - FiveThirtyEight):  Democrat Joy Hofmeister has been polling ahead of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt for much of the year.  Who would have thought a Democrat could win Oklahoma.  But Hofmeister, a former Republican, picked a bad year to run.  As unpopular as Stitt is, timing is everything in politics and that includes being on the ballot in the right year.  I have to give the edge to Stitt.

Oregon (Tie) -  Like the State of Washington, I refuse to believe Republicans are going to win neighboring Oregon.  The state is too blue.  I give a small edge to the Democratic candidate Tina Kotek.

Wisconsin (+0.6 Michels) - Probably hardest governor's race to predict.  But I'm going with Republican businessman Tim Michels to unseat Governor Tony Evers.

OOP's Observations/Thoughts:  

  • Will someone please explain to me why it takes so long to figure out who wins a ranked voting contest?  I get the concept.  You rank your favorite candidates and if your first pick finishes last your second pick becomes your first choice.  This process continues until one of the candidate gets a majority.  Can't someone design a software program which can figure out who wins these ranked choice contests in a manner of seconds?   Why does it take weeks?   Ranked choice is never going to catch on if a fortnight passes before we know who won.
  • Every election I hear people in the media and some political pundit types urging American voters to be patient in waiting on the results.   The admonition is that it may take days to count the votes. Why?  With modern technology, why can't we count the votes so we know the winner on Election night?   I know part of the problem is with states like Pennsylvania which bar the counting of mail-in ballots until the polls close.  Well, those states need to change their damn rules.  And those states which allow write-in ballots to arrive a week after Election Day (California, you hear me), well that just needs to end.  If ballots don't arrive by Election Day, they shouldn't be counted.  Period. 
  • We need to stop expecting that, with the proper education about what is going on, the American public will eventually become accepting of these long counts that stretch out over days.  That is never going to happen. Worse yet, you are going to see politicians increasingly use the long counts to claim voter fraud.  In Pennsylvania, we have an explosive situation set up this time. Oz will no doubt lead early in the count.  But as the mail-in ballots are counted, Fetterman will be closing in on Oz and may pass him.  I can just hear the howls now about voter fraud. 
  • Speaking of Pennsylvania, don't be surprised if you see violence in that state as Oz's lead starts to collapse.  Violence will almost certainly happen somewhere on Election Day. My bet is on the Keystone State.
  • I can't believe I'm saying this after the 2000 Bush-Gore fiasco, but if you want an example of how to count votes, look at Florida.  Florida has a lot of votes to count, including tons of mail-in votes (which option is emphasized by the state's GOP organization), yet they manage to get all the votes counted on Election Night.
  • In 2020, I predicted that there would be armed people, members of groups like the Proud Boys, outside of polls intimidating voters.  It didn't really happen.  Well, I think my prediction may have been just a bit early.  I am renewing it for this election.