You Pays Your Money and You Makes Your Bets…

So…here it is.  Some people must feel this way anticipating the Super Bowl or the World Cup.  For me, it’s election night.

I’ll fire up the televisions that haven’t been out of their boxes in four years.  Connect the projector to one of the computers.  Since 2008, iPads have been added to the mix and there will be plenty of those lying around as well.

The fun will start early:

We should start seeing things by 6:00 pm (7:00 pm EST).  I suspect we won’t KNOW who wins, however, until sometime on Wednesday if then.  There’s a fair number of chances for recounts, lawsuits, etc. In fact, the post-election period promises to be almost as contentious as the fall campaign season has been.

As to who will win, I’m going with Obama.  No surprise there, of course, but – if you believe the polls – the conclusion is inescapable.  I very much agree with Nate Silver’s fact-based, logical analysis of the race.  If he’s wrong, then what you’ll see tomorrow is a true 1-in-8 longshot coming in. Not to say it doesn’t happen, it simply seems very unlikely at this point.

Here’s my bets:

Obama/Romney:  290-248 electoral votes, 50.1-48.9 popular vote.

Bellwethers: if they call Virginia or Florida or New Hampshire early for anybody, those are important indications of direction.  If Pennsylvania is too close to call for a long while (or goes for Romney) it’s a bad night for Obama.  If North Carolina stays uncalled, it’s a bad sign for Romney.

In the Midwest, we’re watching who gets Iowa.  In the mountain states, it’s Colorado.

Senate: Democrats retain a majority.  Maybe one party or the other picks up a seat, but the overall majority remains Democratic.  Warren wins in Massachusetts, McCaskill wins in Missouri, Donnelly wins in Indiana.  Here’s a good blow-by-blow if you’re interested.

House:  The GOP keeps the House, probably at roughly the same numbers.  Again, a good overview is here.

In other words, if my predictions are right, on Wednesday morning – assuming we’re done counting – the balance of power at the federal level will look a lot like it does now.

Here in the Land O’ Lakes, Senator Klobuchar wins by 30 points, maybe more.  Rick Nolan will make Chip Cravaack a one-term Congressman and we’ll still have Michelle Bachmann to embarrass us on the national stage as I expect Jim Graves’ challenge to fall short (but maybe not by much).  No changes in the rest of the Congressional delegation.  The marriage amendment fails and the voter ID amendment passes, but the latter will be much closer than polls have shown.

I don’t have a feel for the legislative races, but smarter people than me seem to think the Dems have a chance to reclaim the Senate majority.  I’ll go with that.

OK, that’s my predictions…what are yours?

– Austin

Romney Rally Anthem

Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad.
And don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had.
There’s a girl right next to you.
And she’s just waitin’ for something to do.

And there’s a rose in the fisted glove.
And the eagle flies with the dove.
And if you can’t be with the one you love,
honey, love the one you’re with.

Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.

– Stephen Stills

Dayton’s “Dog Doe”

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” That quote, falsely attributed to Harry Truman, may be on Governor Mark Dayton’s mind as the bachelor prepares to adopt his THIRD black German Shepherd.

Dayton is in the news today inviting Minnesotans to help name his adorable new pup. To give you a sense of the Governor’s naming tastes, the first two were named Mingo and Mesabi, and Dakota recently passed away.

Some of the early nominations for Dog Doe’s new name:

• From Republican Senate Majority Amy Koch: “Marx.”
• From DFL Chair Ken Martin: “Taxable.”
• From Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken: “Smalley.”
• From accuracy challenged U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann: “Cat.”
• From Minnesota Democrats Exposed blog: “Dog of Satan.”
• From Former Governor Tim Pawlenty: “President Pawlenty.”
• From MN Independence Party Chairman Mark Jenkins: “None of the Above.”
• From GOP Chair Tony Sutton: “Target Practice.”
• From South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard: “Overtaxed.”
• From Governor’s Mansion neighbor: “ANOTHER?!”

Okay, surely you can do better. Nominations are open.

– Loveland

Expectations for Tonight’s Debate

Political junkies looking for an excuse to avoid organizing their sock drawers will be gathered ’round the tellies and laptops this evening to watch the latest GOP presidential debate.  You can watch it on MSNBC or streaming on  Politico.  Festivities kick off at 7:00 pm CST though there’s sure to be pre-game coverage beforehand.

Tonight’s debate will feature 8 candidates and because of the Crowd’s remarkable connections, we can give you access to the last-minute advice each one is receiving from their handlers and debate coaches about what needs to be achieved, what needs to be avoided and how to get there.  Let’s listen in:

Michele Bachmann: “…what we really need tonight, Congresswoman, is for you to show that you’re still relevant to this race.  Yes, we’ve lost all the momentum we had coming out of Ames.  Yes, we’ve lost our campaign manager and our #2 manager this weekend.  Yes, there’s a danger every time you open your mouth, but your job this evening is to own the stage like you did at the New Hampshire debate in June (boy, doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?).  We’re trying like hell to get the moderators to ask you a ‘gotcha’ question about Marcus or the counseling or the farm so you can do the moral outrage thing again, but we can’t count on it.  Ignore everyone except Romney and Perry and attack them whenever possible:  Romney’s a flipflopper, Perry’s governed Texas for 11 years by selling it off bit by bit to his buddies.  Steal Palin’s ‘crony capitalism’ line if you see the opening to use it.  Hit Obama as often as possible – it might be time to bring back ‘gangster government.’  And, please, please, please…try not to knock us off-message with a ‘freelance’ answer; if it isn’t in the briefing book, please don’t say it. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he’s from Iowa like you!”

Herman Cain: “Herman, just go out and enjoy yourself tonight.  Our best guess is that this might be the last debate you’re invited to; your polling numbers are down there with Gary Johnson.  Because of that, the moderators are probably not going to give you a lot of openings so you’re going to have to jump in whenever you have a chance.  You’re articulate, you’re good on your feet, so just roll with it.  Who knows, we might get a “this is my microphone Mr. Green” moment that will keep us alive another month or two. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  You were both on the radio!”

Newt Gingrich: “Mr. Speaker, I’m not sure what to tell you to do.  I mean, just a month ago I was a volunteer in your campaign’s New Hampshire office and now I’m your campaign manager so I’m a little over my head here.  I guess you could talk about your ideas…you always have really cool sounding ideas…and maybe quote some Greek philosopher… that always sounds good.  Does your wife have any advice? Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all,  he was out of office for as long as you before he won the presidency!”

Jon Huntsman: “Governor, we really see this as your first appearance on the national stage.  Our polling tells us that a good percentage of likely Republican voters have forgotten you’re running for president.  Even worse, among those who do they don’t like you much because you’re seen as too moderate or are out of the consideration set because you worked for the Great Satan (Obama).  Tonight, you’re going to have really show a little leg in the sense of showing the base you can hate Obama and what he’s done to our country as much as the craziest, most jingoistic candidate out there.  You know who we’re talking about.  We need you to be aggressive and energetic – here take a couple of these…no, they’re perfectly legal (somewhere) – and to work as many of these words – “failure,” “bankrupt,” “traitor,” “un-American,” “disaster” – into your responses as possible.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he was a governor just like you!

Ron Paul: “Congressman, we’ve seeded the audience with as many supporters as we could get into the building – our guys have been standing on line for two weeks to get seats in the hall – so you can count on applause every time you open your mouth.  Hell, they’ll cheer if you break wind!  Just keep doing what you’ve been doing at every debate – tell the truth that we’re bankrupt as a country, that drugs should be legalized, that we should pull every troop back to the U.S. border, that the Fed ought to be eliminated and the gold standard readopted – and it’ll be great.  You can’t count on the moderators giving you equal time – remember how they ignored us after Ames – but let’s all remember that we’re really setting you up for the 2020 race. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, for years people thought he was an extremist just like you!

Rick Perry: “Governor, I know you don’t like debate formats so I know you’re not looking forward to tonight.  And, you can expect that everyone will be gunning for you.  Even so, our goals for tonight are easy: no mistakes, no gaffes, no scary language.  Keep your answers short, serious and to the point.  We’re lapping the other candidates in the polls among likely GOP voters so this approach will also help us with another long-term goal; persuading moderates and independents you’re a viable choice.  Work the brush fires into a couple of responses – how brave the people of Texas are, how resilient they are, how much they represent the best of America, something like that – but remember – as hard as it is to believe – not everyone loves Texas.   We’re also trying to position you as the outsider who can go to Washington and fix what’s wrong there, but this is a fine line to walk; the more we talk about that, the more we remind people of George Bush.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he used to wear cowboy boots just like you!”

Mitt Romney: “OK, let’s all get on the same page here: the ‘running as the defacto nominee’ strategy is no longer working.  As page 17 of the Powerpoint clearly indicates, GOP voters are still ‘unenthused’ about the Governor as the Republican nominee.  Accordingly, if you’ll flip to page 27, we’ve set ought a 5-point plan for tonight’s debate: 1) be less scripted; 2) make more use of pre-screened one-liners to convey spontaneity; 3) include at least two key messages from focus group testing in each answer; 4) smile between 1.5 and 3 times per answer depending on content; 5) attack Governor Perry as unelectable, dangerous and clone of George W. Bush. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he ran for president twice just like you!”

Rick Santorum: “Honey, you know the kids and I are behind you 100 percent.  We love being with you in the RV, we love all the Motel 6s we’ve stayed at when we could afford them and – if it were up to us – you’d be the nominee in a walk.  After tonight, though, maybe we could take a couple of days off?  See Disneyland?  Take the tour here?  Then we can claim you’re just like Ronald Reagan.  You could get a pin from the gift shop.”

For those looking for something to do between the guffawing and sputtering, let’s do this:  let’s count how many times each candidate says “Reagan” and let’s put our bets down about how many minutes will pass before someone invokes Nancy Reagan as an American heroine.  I’m guessing 12 minutes in and it will be Perry.

– Austin

Mini-Michele Steps Onto the Stage

Editor’s note: I just realized I’ve been spelling “Michele” with two “l”s today; this is why we should have copy editors.  Sorry.

Jeez, she’s tiny.  Everything else aside, are we ready for the first five-foot President?

I’m on a streak when it comes to catching GOP candidates declaring their candidacies; last week I got treated to Jon Huntsman in New Jersey.  Now, I’m watching Michele Bachmann’s coming out party in Waterloo.

So far, I’m underwhelmed:

  • Bad stagecraft – the flags and signage are poorly positioned for the cameras
  • Bad speechwriting – as with Mr. Huntsman’s announcement, I’m left wondering if Ms. Bachmann read this speech aloud before today
  • Bad delivery – She’s getting better as she gets into it, but her delivery is rushed and a little flat.

Let’s give Ms. Bachmann and her handlers a little break; this is the biggest stage they’ve ever played and in days of yore a lot of this would have been worked out in less of a glare (the first press conference I ever staged I set the camera angles to give a great shot right up the candidate’s nose but fortunately it was only covered by two stations in Hannibal, MO).

Biggest applause lines so far:

  • “I’m a social conservative.”
  • “I’m a member of the Tea Party.”
  • “Barack Obama will be a one-term president.” This one has become such a signature line for Ms. Bachmann that the audience did a sing-along with her as she spoke it.

She’s reminding the audience of the sacrifice of the Sullivan brothers who grew up in Waterloo and who died in the sinking of the Juneau in World War II.  This set up her call to action close for sacrifice and common purpose.

And we’re done.  Ms. Bachmann is doing the waves and hugs at the lectern to the strains of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”  As an aside, I hope Mr. Petty gets residuals from all the politicians who have appropriated his music for political events.  Same for Mr. Springsteen.

We’ve now segued into Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine”. Followed by the classic “I Feel Good” by James Brown and the Stones’ “Start Me Up”  Ms. Bachmann said in her remarks that she wasn’t trying to turn back the clock, but from a musical perspective, it’s 1980 again.

Musical update.  We’ve gotten up to the 21st century – almost – with Jennifer Lopez’ “Lets Get Loud, U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”

This performance was quite restrained in contrast with other Bachmann outings I’ve seen – no “gangsters,” no “anti-Americanisms.”  In fact, much of the red meat one has come to expect from Ms. Bachmann was missing. All in all, however, a decent coming out, significantly better than Mr. Huntsman’s in terms of energy and excitement.  Jason Lewis, who did the introduction, will no doubt have an enjoyable second career for a while as crowd-whipper in chief.  Based on this event, the new Iowa poll and her widely praised performance in the New Hampshire debate, Ms. Bachmann has clearly been on a roll in the last couple of weeks.

Poor Tim Pawlenty.  Like the Highlander series, there can only be one Minnesotan in this race and the very early betting on who’s head will be taken is on Mr. Pawlenty.

– Austin

Handicapping the Pitter-Pattering Herd

My, my, my.Things are getting SO interesting over on the other side of the aisle.  Seems like not a day goes by but some GOP wannabe announces his/her intentions – or at least their intention to announce their intentions – regarding the 2012 presidential race.

By my count, we’ve got at least a dozen actual or likely candidates seeking the GOP nomination, a number not unheard of but certainly big enough to give debate organizers fits for at least the next six months (I expect the field will actually start to thin well before the first real vote is cast in a single Iowa precinct as candidates fail the fundraising challenge).

Here’s the breakdown as it currently stands:


  • Herman Cain, former Godfather’s exec, radio host
  • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House
  • Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico
  • Ron Paul, Member of Congress
  • Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota

Likely to Declare

  • Michelle Bachmann, Member of Congress
  • Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, former Ambassador to China
  • Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska
  • Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts
  • Rick Santorum, former Senator

Might Declare

  • Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York
  • Rick Perry, Governor of Texas

Probably Won’t Run*

  • Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi
  • Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
  • Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
  • Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana
  • Jim DeMint, Senator
  • Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
  • Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
  • Mike Pence, Member of Congress
  • John Thune, Senator
  • Donald Trump, businessman

*Yes, a number of these individuals have said, “No, no, no” but if you really think they won’t change their mind and run over their grandmother if they see a plausible path to the Oval Office, you are too trusting for the rough and tumble of this blog.  Try this instead.

If you notice one common theme in this list, there’s a lot of people looking for something to do with their time.  Not many of the “frontrunners” are current officeholders. To the contrary, for most of those already in the pool or standing on the deck in their skivvies, running for president is their job.  Maybe that’s just good sense or maybe its an indication how underwhelming the current crop truly is.  When you think of Mitch Daniels as your off-stage savior, that’s a pretty good sign you’ve done a pretty piss-poor job of casting.

I suspect some of those who have decided to be out are staying in their cabanas because they contemplated the near impossibility of navigating both the Republican nomination process and the general election campaign in a single year.  The qualities and positions that seem most likely to attract and energize “the base” of the Republican party are guaranteed to be buzz kills for most of the general electorate (which, if you remember, is composed in near-equal numbers of “people who hate liberals,” “people who hate conservatives” and “people who hate everybody”).

For most of the last 40 years or so, electoral politics in the US has consisted driving hard to the edge to capture your party’s nomination (witness John McCain shedding everything that made him a “maverick”) and then trying to come back to the center for the general election.  If you do this successfully, you turn out your base of “people who hate the other guys” while simultaneously convincing – temporarily at least – most of the “hate everybodies” that they hate the other guys more than you (witness Bush 2004 and Obama 2008).

2012, however, promises to be an exceedingly difficult year in which to pull off this maneuver, particularly for the Republicans.  The party’s base has skewed so far to the right in this cycle that a “right-then-left” swerve looks to be almost neck-breaking.  By contrast, Obama – who almost certainly will have no intraparty opposition – can have a very gentle “S-curve” that reminds his base why he’s their man and still play to the middle.

Not many candidates in the current crop of “ins,” “outs” and “maybes” can manage such a maneuver, but there are a few to my eye.  To help us all visualize this, I’ve plotted each on two left-to-right scales that go from “no way” on the left to “could do it” on the right.  The first one looks at the possibility of capturing the nomination, the second at the possibility of winning the general election and the third highlights the only candidates who are on the right side of both scales.

(Click on the graphic to get a version you can actually read);

Quibble all you want with my placement of your favorite candidates.  I have my reasons for each which I’ll spare you here (this is already long enough). Suffice it to say that nearly all of the candidates gobbling up the media coverage these days can’t be nominated, can’t win a general or both.

Romney, Huntsman, Santorum and…Pawlenty (much as it pains me to admit it though he is the least likely of the three).  Two Mormons, a Catholic and an evangelical Baptist who used to be a Catholic.  A Westerner, Two Eatsterners and a Midwesterner.  Four white guys.  Three lawyers and a guy who played keyboards for Wizard (and, yes, did get an undergrad degree in international relations). Barely a pulse among them.  No wonder “none of the above” is polling so well.

I’m not sure America is ready for an all-Mormon ticket so the most likely combinations are Huntsman/Santorum or a Romney/Pawlenty ticket (assuming the nominee doesn’t go rogue with a Palinesque pick).

A lot can happen in the next year, of course, but right now I’m guessing the A-team oppo research teams in Obama’s Chicago HQ are on these four guys.

Personally, I think a Trump/Bachmann ticket is perfect for the Republicans.  I’m totally serious. Go for it, gang.  America will thank you for it.

– Austin