Chicken Soup for the Democrat’s Soul: the State of the Senate

Although the race for the White House has received the lion’s share of political coverage this fall, the Senate has several interesting races and the news here is much better than anyone would have expected last year. If Governor Romney wins the Presidential election, the Senate will – rightly or wrongly – be the final firewall against the Tea Party Congress passing radical budgets that will gut Medicare and Social Security or laws that will increase government control of women’s reproductive rights. It will also be the only defense against President Romney nominated Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe vs. Wade.  Most of the seats up for reelection are held by Democrats, so through pure chance it seemed as though Democrats were in for some bad news. Several recent events have changed that, though.

Two of these fall into the category of male GOP candidates forgetting that women have the right to vote, and making statements about rape that were shocking. In Missouri, where Senator Claire McCaskill seemed certain to lose, Todd Akin lost 10% of his support in a single week by attempting to differentiate between “legitimate” rape and whatever other kind there is. Months later, when the controversy had all but died, Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock revived it by referring to pregnancies resulting from rape as God’s will. Mourdock, the former state treasurer, is a Tea Party candidate who successfully defeated bipartisan-minded (read: he supported reducing the number of nuclear missiles in the world) long-time Senator Richard Lugar in the primary. Had Luger been up for reelection, he almost certainly would have won. Once again, the Tea Party seems on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by selecting candidates that would make an Ayatollah proud.

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The math keeping the Obama campaign up at night

President Obama’s electoral college “firewall” is a paper tiger. Even without Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Republicans have several clear paths to victory. A change of a point or two in the polls – caused by the hurricane, a slip up, a bad jobs report, or simply the passions of the moment, could mean waving goodbye to a second Obama term.

The average of popular vote polls has Governor Romney leading by one percentage point. For better or for worse – that’ll be an issue for after the election – that number doesn’t matter more than symbolically. The electoral college, the collection of 51 winner-takes-all (except in Nebraska and Maine) popular vote competitions, tells a different story. As of now, Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight predicts that President Obama will win 295.5 electoral votes and the election by a reasonably comfortable margin. Drew Linzer of Votamatic is even more bullish. He predicts that the President will win 332 electoral votes, including those of Florida and Virginia. With little over a week left until the Presidential Election, it’s impossible not to obsess over the possible electoral college scenarios. 


At this point in the race, polls have stabilized significantly. The Obama campaign has dedicated a huge proportion of its resources on Ohio and it seems to be working. Barring some huge shift before election day, it seems as if the President will carry both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even with these states, though, there are a number of paths to a Romney victory that some recent polls have hinted at. Florida seems to have sunk into the Republican column, and Virginia – never a considered swing state before 2008 – is close to going that way as well.

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Whole binders of thoughts on the Presidential debate

Romney, with a binder full of women \\Photo credit: Reuters

Barack Obama, who apparently skipped the first debate in order to celebrate his wedding anniversary, showed up for last night’s debate. There was little similarity between the sad, defeated, petulant shell of a man from the first contest and the aggressive, feisty President that slapped Romney all over the stage at Hofstra. 

There was something unsettling about hearing Mitt Romney advocating for increased coal use, as though this were 1912 and not 2012. To make things even weirder, he referred to oil as one point as a “vast new resource” as if its wonders had just been discovered. President Obama had an excellent response here about using a combination of wind, solar, and natural gas to increase energy independence and job growth. The other interesting part of Romney’s rhetoric on energy is that he always talks about creating energy independence for North America. Every President going back to Nixon has set a goal of making the United States energy independent. For Romney to expand the area is a lowering of the goalposts, and would be significantly easier to accomplish given the vast reserves of oil in Canada and Mexico. Obama also got the better of him on gas prices: asked why gas prices had gone up so far in his time in office, Obama replied that they’d been low because of the financial collapse, and then suggested that Romney could make them low again if his deregulation triggered another one. BOOM! Policy slam!

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Thoughts on the VP Debate: “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?”

Blue steel? Source:

Like many of the members of my generation who hope that somewhere deep inside the gloomy shell of the  the candidate from 2008 who promised that “we were the one’s we’d been waiting for” and that his election would change the world remains a President who can accomplish that, I was extremely disappointed in the Presidential debate last week. There was barely a memorable line or moment. Instead, the first debate will likely go down in history as the debate that-mentally-only one man showed up for. It wasn’t Jim Lehrer, and it certainly wasn’t President Obama. Obama’s terrible performance left me questioning whether I can really vote for him again. Why would I bother, when he couldn’t even bother to do the appropriate level of debate prep? Why would I donate to his campaign when he often seems incapable of explaining his vision for America and unable to even defend his own record? President Obama has a lot to make up for in the next two debates.

Last night (or whatever night it was – the time zone thing here really messes with my head), Vice President Biden helped to stop the bleeding, and did an excellent job of reminding America both how ridiculous the Romney platform is, and what – to use a friend’s phrase – a smarmy shit Congressman Ryan is. Most of the discussion about the debate revolves around whether Biden was too rude and too over-the-top in his constant interrupting, laughing, challenging, and grinning at Ryan’s answers. I think that, except for when he got a bit too aggressive during the part about tax policy, it was perfect.

Biden reacted the way that he did because Ryan’s stock lies are absurd and insulting. Even the moderator wouldn’t let him get away with it:

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Frack it, we’ll do it live

Republican politicians and talking heads including W. Mitt Romney have made a big deal lately of the Obama administration’s supposed “war on coal.” It’s a phrase that no doubt tests well with blue-collar focus groups in the states needed to win the election, and the evidence seems to match the attack line: across the United States, the fires of coal plants have begun to flicker out. Coal prices have increased substantially over the last several years. The construction of new coal-fired power plants has all but ceased. Part of this is due to the EPA, which has put into place a series of regulations that limit the emissions of mercury, acids, and small particles that come from coal plants and cause hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma in United States every year. But that’s not the whole story. The true culprit of the war on coal is natural gas. Natural gas extraction through high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing—fracking—has revolutionized the American energy industry, lowering both prices and carbon emissions. With the proper safeguards, natural gas extraction can help revitalize stagnant rural communities throughout the nation.

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