A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Sunday, August 19, 2012

State of the Race – August 18

It has now been one week since Governor Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, so let's see where the race stands and what, if any, impact this choice has made. The chart below shows the breakdown on electoral votes as I calculate them as of this weekend:



If you want to see a visual breakdown of where states fall, see the photo above or click here for a map. Obviously, the darker the shade of blue or red, then the safer that state is for that candidate. (If you want to see how I arrived at these categories, I would encourage you to review last week's post which can be found here.)

Obviously, the biggest change is the addition of Florida and Virginia from Lean Obama to tossup. This puts four states with a total of 72 electoral votes in the tossup category. Although the president is still above the magic number of 270, it is by a very slim margin which shows that this election is still very close and as I expected, the race is tightening up. The other visible change is Wisconsin moving from the Likely Obama category to the Lean Obama category. In addition, there were other states that made changes in their percentages, but did not change categories – specifically, Ohio moved closer to the tossup category while Missouri moved closer to the Lean Romney category. In fact, all of the changes from last weekend to this weekend were states that were moving closer to the center, so to speak.

What does this say about the race and the selection of Congressman Ryan? Well first of all, I think it tells us that Governor Romney got a little bit of a bounce from the selection of Congressman Ryan as his running mate. I think this is largely due to the fact that the conservatives in the Republican Party are now really getting behind Romney's campaign and Congressman Ryan goes a long way in winning those voters over. As I said last week, Governor Romney's biggest fear would be that the conservatives would not get behind his candidacy and as a result, he would lose their enthusiasm. The conservatives clearly believe that Romney has chosen one of them with the selection of Congressman Ryan, so I think this goes a long way in helping Romney put any leftover troubles he had from the primary season behind him.

However, I also think that the tightening in the race and the movement of states towards the center speaks about the tone that this campaign has taken so far. Anyone who lives in a state or market that is considered one of the swing states has already had to deal with the constant barrage of advertising in this campaign and we're not even to Labor Day yet. Here's an interesting fact I read this week: the entire advertising spending in the 2008 general election was approximately $512 million. So far this year, the advertising spending in the general election in this presidential campaign has already exceeded that amount. Most commentators who study politics and elections generally say that the campaign doesn't start in earnest until after Labor Day. In other words, this will only get worse.

The insane amount of money being spent on this election is a clear byproduct of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010. I hate to say I told you so, but this was something that I did predict. In a blog post I did immediately after the Citizens United decision, I wrote “Why is this significant? It completely changes the way elections will now be run. Candidates will not only have to worry about ads that their opponent will run, but ones that corporations may run against them. It will also open up the amount of money that will be spent on political campaigns to heights never imagined.” The amazing thing about the amount of money I listed above is the fact that most of this is being spent by outside forces, i.e. not the campaigns themselves. You'll hear the news organizations refer to them as the Super-PACs. The other interesting thing about the so-called Super-PACs is that their advertising cannot be in coordination with the campaigns. In other words, they can't be promoting the candidacy of one of the candidates, so they are only left with one option – to go negative against the other side. If you're watching the political advertising, it is clear that both campaigns have been negative in their ads thus far, but what compounds this is the fact that all of the ads run by the Super-PACs are negative. For those of you who live in one of the battleground states and dislike political advertising, you better just avoid TV for the next 11 weeks because it's going to get really ugly.

What is this doing to the polls? There are a lot of studies that have gone into the effect of negative advertising and it's no surprise that they show that negative ads generally turn voters off. So why do campaigns run the negative ads? Unfortunately, it's because they work. While it turns voters off, it also has the consequence of depressing turnout for your opponent’s supporters and making undecided voters less likely to vote at all. This allows you to win not by winning undecided voters, but rather by making less of your opponent's voters show up at the polls. As a result, it should be no surprise that the percentage of eligible voters who actually participate in the electoral process continues to go down. So when we see the polls in these various battleground states getting closer, I think a lot of it can be attributed to the unprecedented negative ad wars that are going on in these states.

Anyway, as we proceed through the campaign, another interesting thing to monitor will be where both the campaigns and the Super-PACs are spending their money on advertising. I think that will say a lot about what are the true tossup states and which ones are not. As we get further into the campaign, this will be something I'll also look at and track as I continue to blog about the status of the election.


  1. Is it really true that super pacs can't produce ads that are for a canidate, they can only produce ads that are against another canidate? If so, what is the reasoning behind this rule? Do you agree or disagree with it?

    1. Stephen:
      Legally they are not allowed to coordinate their message with the campaign which makes it difficult to make "pro" ads. It's just easier to make negative ads against the other side. As for whether I agree with it, I think most rules when it comes to campaign laws are ridiculous. I really think we should go to one extreme or the other. Either have campaigns that are completely publicly financed where there is no option to go outside it or they need to have no rules but 1: disclose all your contributors so at least we know who is bankrolling each side.

      PS - remember when Simeon used to comment on my blog posts all the time??

  2. I am unclear regarding the Super-PAC ads. Are these the negative ads that have the candidate voice-over saying: "I am so-and-so and I approve this message."? Thank you for the clarification, Karl!

    1. No, they're not. If the candidate is saying that, then those are from the campaign directly & yes, they are VERY negative as well. The Super-PAC ads are the ones that will say "ABC Group is responsible for the content of this advertisement." FYI - Two of the more prominent ones are Restore Our Future which is Pro-Romney and Priorities USA Action which is pro-Obama.