Why aren’t more Hispanics Republican?

November 9, 2012

Independent-minded moderate conservative and New York Times columnist David Brooks is someone I’ve been consistently impressed by ever since I enjoyed reading his book about human psychology and decision-making, The Social Animal. His latest NYT piece offers this typically perceptive take on why the central GOP argument – big government is bad for business – just doesn’t work for Hispanic voters:

The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn’t get me or people like me.


Squeaky bum time

October 16, 2012

On the eve of the second debate, and with at least one poll (Gallup’s) showing Romney up to 50 per cent (when did that happen?! Oh yeah, then…) the ever excellent Nate Silver has this balanced and evidence-based analysis of the typical/variable impact of debates on polls and final election results. Nate closes by reminding us that round two is just as crucial as round one. Given Obama’s dreary showing on first go it’s possible to view this as both a blessing and a curse. Personally I’m tempted to turn my ‘phone off and hide under the duvet.

There is no evidence, incidentally, that the second presidential debate is any less important than the first one. On average, it has moved the polls by 2.3 percentage points in one direction or another — almost exactly the same as after the first debate, which moved them by 2.4 percentage points on average.


Romney’s best hope of debate victory: go underdog?

October 3, 2012

Interesting this: the Huffington Post has been combing the archives, analysing Mitt Romney’s performance in the series of five debates in 2002 that acted as (or perhaps more accurately coincided with) a turnaround in his fortunes in the battle with Shannon O’Brien for the Massachusetts governorship. Here’s O’Brien herself on the deciding factor; worth watching out for whether Romney attempts a similar underdog strategy in the debates starting today, and whether Obama can avoid falling into the same kind of ‘aggressor’ trap.

Romney, she said, had adopted a rope-a-dope strategy, playing tentative through much of the debates before finally punching back at a critical moment. “They wanted me to be tough,” she said. “That was a strategy to get me into a conflict. I took the bait. I kept going at him. I don’t think that helped me.”

It was a bit of political skill from her opponent that neither she or her advisers had expected. “I think [Obama] has to be careful being too negative, too nasty,” she said. “He has to be very matter of fact.”


You snooze you lose?

September 26, 2012

The vast majority of people writing about US politics – any politics, arguably – have little or no clue as to what’s really going on ‘behind the scenes’, but that doesn’t stop them putting pen to paper. And at times of apparently momentous change, for example the recent and seemingly stubborn shift towards the Dems, the bollocks multiplies. Levels of interest rise, insight doesn’t.

A case in point: Arianna Huffington’s blog post last week entitled Is Sleep Deprivation the Reason the Romney Campaign is Blowing It? It’s hard to know where to begin: this isn’t a light, humorous piece, but a fairly detailed analysis of Romney’s mis-steps, arriving at the coup de grace…

So what is behind all these bad decisions? Here’s my theory: not enough sleep. And I have evidence (at least one piece)! While I was at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a well-sourced journalist told me that senior Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom sleeps only three or four hours with his devices beside him, then wakes and checks his email, sends out replies, and then gets another hour of sleep. Or not. If Fehrnstrom’s habits are at all indicative of the Romney campaign operation at large, then voila — mystery solved!

And what, Obama’s senior people are taking regular catnaps? Sleep deprivation and politics go hand-in-hand, and whilst today’s neverending news cycle means things may’ve gotten worse, at some level it was ever thus. In his biography of LBJ Robert Dallek recounts how Johnson would work such long hours on the campaign trail he would have to be literally propped up at parties in the evening, able to barely raise a hand to greet wellwishers.

Little sleep is one thing, no sleep another matter entirely, however. One man with real access to a presidential campaign – unlike Arianna – is Jay Root, who this weekend revealed that Romney’s onetime challenger Governor Rick Perry did, in fact, have lack of sleep at least partially to blame for his botched showing. Following a couple of truly disastrous debates, the medics were called in…

After conducting overnight tests on Perry, they produced a rather startling diagnosis: He had sleep apnea, and it had gone undetected for years, probably decades. The ailment, which affects one in 10 men worldwide and becomes more common as people age, causes loud snoring and temporary lapses in breathing that disrupt normal sleep.

So when truth can be stranger than fiction, the problem we seem to be left with is which bollocks to believe?


Romney’s dad amongst the 47 per cent

September 19, 2012

Beautiful, rather touching irony this: as polls show swing states slipping away from the Republican challenger after he dismissed almost half the country as scroungers, a video of Mitt’s mum (mom, sorry) being interviewed in 1962, confirming both that the surreal practice of wives stumping on behalf of their politician husbands is as old as the hills, and that Romney Senior was ‘on relief, welfare relief, for the first years of his life’.


Wishful thinking, or will Obama really benefit from a global leftward trend?

September 17, 2012

In amidst news of infighting amongst members of Team Romney and a shift of that campaign (from ‘focused but ultimately ineffective’ to ‘unfocused’) I find it important to bear in mind the old rule of thumb: campaigns are rarely going as badly or as well as it seems.

And yet… goodness it’s tempting. Tempting to believe that the challenge facing Romney isn’t just a mad professor chief of staff doing three jobs or a Hollywood director who refused to be scripted. Tempting to think that the Republicans are running against the tide. That the President’s narrow lead has structural causes.

Especially when respected political commentators like E. J. Dionne (Jr.) suggest the flow may be a global one:

The movement in the presidential race reflects a broader trend visible in many nations. In the immediate wake of the financial crisis, electorates moved not toward parties of the left, which is what one might expect during a crisis of capitalism, but toward the right. Conservative-leaning parties won a long list of national elections in 2009 and 2010, including the Republicans’ midterm triumph here.

Since then, thinks Dionne, the centre-left has mounted a comeback, resulting in Hollande winning and Miliband leading. Can it be true that voters the world over eventually always come back to the middle of the road?


Supreme Court ruling on healthcare changes… nothing?

July 4, 2012

The decision of the US Supreme Court to uphold Obama’s healthcare reforms made headlines and frontpages around the world, but early polling suggests it’ll have little or no difference on the outcome of the presidential election.

It seems that even if just over half of Americans want to see some or all of the law repealed, most of the slim majority are more likely to volunteer to perform open heart surgery on their own grandmother than vote for Barack anyway.

This would seem to be the natural implication of new poll data from the more-reliable-than-most Public Policy Polling, whose first sounding since the Court’s decision (showing a 48/45 split in Obama’s favour) is… you guessed it: exactly the same as the one before.

I suppose a residual yet potentially important question is what effect the ruling will have on voter turnout in November, and in a tight race turnout is key.

But when you dig behind the numbers it’s hard to believe, say, analysis in Politico of a different poll, suggesting that ‘Republicans are more likely to be fired up by the ruling than Democrats — and could vote in stronger numbers in November.’

Hard to believe because:

Although much of Washington fixated on the Supreme Court last week, the Kaiser poll found that only three in five respondents were aware the court had ruled.


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