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by inoljt

Hurricane Sandy Helped Obama, So Why Didn’t Hurricane Katrina Help George W. Bush?

10:53 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

A number of political analysts have labeled Hurricane Sandy as one of the factors that helped Barack Obama win re-election. Here, for instance, is a typical news analysis about it. Some conservatives have even gone so far as to say that the hurricane gave the election to Obama. It wasn’t the fault of the Romney campaign that he lost; it was the hurricane.

By the by, Obama wasn’t the only president who managed to get a hurricane to hit a major American city during his term. Our previous president George W. Bush also had the good luck of having a hurricane hit a major city in 2005. Strangely, however, Hurricane Katrina did not improve Bush’s popularity. In fact, his approval ratings plunged after the hurricane.

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Why did Obama benefit from Hurricane Sandy, while the opposite happened with Bush and Hurricane Katrina?

This is of course a rhetorical question. Natural disasters are politically neutral events. They can hurt or help an incumbent. What matters is the response, not the hurricane.

Obama’s administration responded competently and effectively to Hurricane Sandy. He thus gained political benefit. Bush’s administration responded incompetently and ineffectively to Hurricane Katrina. Bush thus saw his popularity drop.

In fact, that’s a pretty good metaphor for the Obama and Bush administrations overall.

by inoljt

I’m Proud That Obama’s Campaign Never Attacked Romney’s Faith

4:29 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/
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The 2012 presidential election is over, and Barack Obama has been re-elected president. There’s a lot of analysis being done on the election, and this blog doesn’t have any real insightful things to add to that.

With that said, there is one thing that I’m very proud that the Obama campaign did – or rather, that it didn’t do. Obama’s campaign never attacked Mitt Romney’s faith.

Mitt Romney, as almost everybody in America knows by now, belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is a very firm believer in the Lord, much more so than most politicians. Of course, all American presidential candidates insist on their Christian faith, but much of that is mere rhetoric. Mitt Romney actually walked the talk, probably more than any presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter.

And he suffered for this. Because in America there is still an element of bigotry against the LDS Church, which insists that members of the church are not “real” Christians. In the Republican primaries, for instance, evangelical southerners consistently rejected Romney.

Barack Obama could have used this in his campaign. He could have used coded religious appeals, of the type that Herbert Hoover used against Catholic Al Smith in the 1928 presidential campaign.

He didn’t. I never once heard Barack Obama say the word “Mormon.” Nor did I ever hear anybody in Obama’s campaign refer to Mormonism, no matter how obliquely. That’s something for which Obama and the Democratic Party ought to be very proud of.

Now, of course there are caveats to this. There was indeed a current of anti-Mormonism running through many Obama supporters. Here a liberal journalist, unaffiliated with Obama’s campaign, would sneak in a reference to Mormonism. There, Obama supporters would whisper (or sometimes shout) about how the LDS Church is racist. But Obama’s campaign itself shied away from such bigotry.

In addition, for most of the campaign Obama led in the polls. At no point was he ever losing the electoral college. It’s easy for a winning campaign to behave civil. What if Obama had been losing by five points in the popular vote and behind in all the swing states? The temptation to resort to attacks on Romney’s religion would have been much greater.

What form would such attacks have taken? A normal candidate probably would have made his own church and his own Christian faith a big and continuous theme in each of his speeches and during the presidential debates. This would have been an implicit contrast to Romney’s “non-Christian” Mormonism. Given Obama’s troubles with his own church, that path was probably not available to him. But there are other possibilities. A super-PAC formally unaffiliated with Obama’s campaign could have released an ad attacking Romney on abortion. This ad could have accused Romney, while head of an LDS branch in Massachusetts, of forcing women not to have abortions. A super-PAC ad could have been released accusing Romney of draft-dodging, bringing up Romney’s missionary work in France. There are a number of such ads which could have been run, all subtly bringing up the LDS church. Obama’s campaign would then deny any to connection the super-PAC running the ads.

Fortunately, Obama’s campaign never did that. He and his campaign stayed on the high road. They did what was right. For that they deserve an enormous amount of credit.

by inoljt

Obama Debating Before He Was Famous

2:57 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Before Barack Obama was president of the United States, he famously lost a congressional primary against Congressman Bobby Rush. In this race, as in many other races, there was a televised debate between the primary candidates (Obama, Rush, and another State Senator Donne Trotter). Very few people probably watched it.

Nevertheless, the debate is still on Youtube. It provides some interesting insight into the president during the beginning of his political career. Here is part one and part two.

There are some interesting things about this set of videos, and here is my set of observations.

Firstly, the debate is quite laid-back. It sounds a bit like one of those informal local community meetings, with a number of local issues unfamiliar to outsiders. The district Rush represents is one of the most left-wing and poorest areas in the United States. However, it didn’t really seem to make the debate different from a debate in any other congressional district.

In terms of the debate, to me Rush did the worst. He seems to have the type of demeanor of a person who has had power for a long time and is used to it. This is a contenance many politicians have. In addition, Rush’s flow of speaking is the worst; he pauses a lot and seems to have difficulty making his points. I have heard that Rush has a stuttering problem which he spent a lot of time trying to fix. That may be the reason for Rush’s difficulties in the debate.

Coming into the race, Rush had just suffered a major political defeat. He had ran for mayor of Chicago and lost badly. This was in fact the impetus for Obama’s challenge to Rush. During the debate, he’s asked about this in 8:10 of the second video. Of course, Rush states that “I believe that I was strengthened” by his run.

Obama’s style is fairly similar to his style today. There’s not much difference. One very noticeable thing, however, is Obama’s skin color. It’s conspicuously lighter than Rush’s skin color and seems also to be slightly lighter than Trotter’s. This may unfortunately have had something to do with Obama’s defeat in the heavily black district.

Finally, Trotter debates quite well. One wonders why it was Obama rather than Trotter who ended up getting gathering up most of the opposition against Rush. Perhaps Trotter had trouble raising money, which Obama did quite well in.

All in all, this is a very educative and interesting couple of videos. It’s a shame, judging by the number of viewers, that so few people have watched them.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

An Interesting Way in Which Barack Obama’s Race Helps Him

7:57 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be an election highly focused on economics and class. It seems that one of the main themes of the election will be class, or the gap between the rich and the poor. At this point, it’s pretty likely that the main Democratic attack on Mitt Romney will be an attack based on class. Mitt Romney will be portrayed as rich and out-of-touch, a Wall Street banker.

Now what does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well, obviously this critique of Mitt Romney wouldn’t work if his opponent was also a billionaire businessman. The attack against Mitt Romney relies on the fact that Barack Obama is not rich, is not out-of-touch, and is not a Wall Street banker.

Except one of these things is false. Barack Obama is rich. His income level squarely puts him in the top one percent.

One can make a good argument, of course, that Obama’s wealth is a very different thing from Romney’s wealth. Obama is wealthy mainly due to the success of his books. He has never been and will never be rich in the way Mitt Romney is. Before gaining political success, Obama was pretty heavily indebted. Not to mention that he deliberately chose to be a community organizer after college, not the most high-income of jobs.

But more importantly than all these facts, there is the fact that Barack Obama just doesn’t look very rich. The typical American does not think of Obama as belonging to the top one percent when they look at him. Obama just doesn’t exude wealth in the way Mitt Romney’s very presence does.

Why is this? The answer is pretty simple: it’s because Obama’s black.

Despite the occasional successful black entertainer or athlete, the black community is still very strongly associated with poverty. Think about, for instance, the first image that usually comes to mind when people talk about poverty in America (and especially urban poverty).

The result is that Americans almost never associate Barack Obama with being rich, even though today he has become quite wealthy. This is one of those subconscious things which most people don’t even realize is happening in their minds. Nor even do many political experts realize this. Nor did I for the longest time.

But the fact that Obama is African-American, and the fact that very few people associate African-Americans with wealth, will end up making a huge difference in the 2012 presidential election.

inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Thinking About Romney’s Southern Problem

7:52 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

It’s pretty clear that Mitt Romney has a Southern problem. The Republican candidate has consistently lost southern states. Indeed, it’s probable that if the South didn’t exist, then Mitt Romney would already have the nomination sown up today.

It’s also pretty probable that Romney will be the Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election. At this point, it would take an extraordinary event to deny him the nomination. It would need to be something on the lines of Romney saying that he doesn’t care about poor people.

It’s a very interesting exercise to think about how Romney’s weakness amongst southerners in the primary will affect his general election performance in the South.

The Republican Party in the South is composed of two constituencies: business Republicans and evangelical Republicans. Back when the South was solidly Democratic, wealthy white suburbanites (the business Republicans) were the first to start voting Republican. The white evangelicals came late to the party; indeed a dwindling number of them still vote Democratic. Romney is weak amongst the evangelical wing of the Republican Party in the South.

A good way to think about what this weakness means for the general election is to take a look at the 2008 Democratic primary, where Barack Obama was weak amongst several groups as well. Most famously, the president did poorly amongst white working-class voters in the Appalachians. This is a bad example to use, however, because Appalachian working-class whites have been moving against the president’s party for a while now. Southern white evangelicals, if anything, are becoming more loyal to Romney’s party.

There’s another group which Obama did very poorly with in the 2008 primary, and which is better suited to this analysis (see if you can guess what I’m talking about before finishing the next paragraph).

This group opposed Obama from the beginning to the end of the Democratic primary, despite his best efforts. People today forget this fact because group (unlike working-class Appalachians) is a strong Democratic constituency. Nevertheless, Obama’s weakness amongst this group made him lose states ranging California to Texas.

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s performance in the counties bordering Mexico in Texas, you’ll find him doing just as badly amongst Hispanics in Texas as he did amongst working-class whites in West Virginia and Kentucky.

The Hispanic vote in the 2008 Democratic Primary and the southern white evangelical vote in the 2012 Republican Primary have a lot in common. Both constituencies voted strongly against the party’s nominee during the primary, but both constituencies are still very loyal to the party during the general election.

So how did Obama’s poor performance amongst Hispanics in the 2008 primary end up affecting the general election? Well, there wasn’t much effect. Obama didn’t do great amongst Hispanics, but he didn’t do poorly. He did about average. Obama won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote that a generic Democrat winning a comfortable victory would win. He did underperform somewhat in several rural Hispanic areas.

By the same logic, Romney’s poor performance amongst southern white evangelicals in the 2012 primary won’t have much effect. Romney won’t do great amongst southern white evangelicals, but he won’t do poorly. He’ll do about average. Romney will win the same percentage of the southern white evangelical vote that a generic Republican will win. He will underperform somewhat in several rural southern areas.

There is one caveat to this analysis. Hispanic opposition to Obama was generally based on Hillary Clinton’s popularity and economic reasons. On the other hand, southern white evangelical opposition to Romney is based on personal dislike for Romney and religion. One could make a pretty strong argument that the latter two are more powerful forces than the former two.

But, all in all, Democrats shouldn’t get too excited about Romney’s Southern problem.

inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Why Barack Obama Will Lose the 2012 Presidential Debates

11:14 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The presidential debates are a storied tradition in America’s presidential elections. They tend to be more serious than the often superficial primary debates (which have escalated to a new low in this year’s Republican primary). The last presidential election featured Barack Obama debating John McCain. There were none of the game-changing fireworks that occurred in previous debates, and indeed the vice presidential debate caught more interest. Nevertheless, the general consensus was that Obama won. He did this not by landing a devastating blow on McCain, but merely by appearing more presidential and dignified.

Obama will probably not win the 2012 presidential debates. There are several reasons why this will happen. These reasons are neither complex nor convoluted; they’re just restating some common-sense principles.

Reason #1: The Republican candidates have much more practice debating than Obama does. Obama’s last debate occurred more than three years ago, during the fall of 2008. On the other hand, the Republican candidates have been debating for months now, often with one debate every week. That’s a lot of practice for the fall 2012 debates, and they’ve gotten pretty good. Much has been made about how Mitt Romney is now quite a skilled debater after the grueling schedule he’s just gone through. Newt Gingrich is no slouch either; his campaign revival is almost singlehandedly due to strong debate performances.

Reason #2: Obama is not a great debater. This is something that tends to be forgotten, but Obama struggled repeatedly in his debates against Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s strong performances were responsible for her summer lead in 2008 against Obama, and they helped her win Ohio and Texas when her campaign desperately needed to. Many undecided voters watched Clinton and Obama debate before crucial primaries; Obama’s consistent weaker performances probably cost him a lot of strength with those voters.

All this is not to say that Obama will actually lose the presidential election itself. John Kerry, after all, did much better than George W. Bush in 2004; he still lost. Walter Mondale’s strong debate performances against Ronald Reagan gave him absolutely no help. Debate winners do not necessarily become presidents.

But mark this prediction for the calendar: Obama will lose the 2012 presidential debates.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Misunderstanding the “Osama” Bounce

9:49 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

A number of Beltway pundits have remarked upon the effect that bringing justice to Osama bin Laden had on President Barack Obama’s approval ratings. The conventional wisdom is that Mr. Obama enjoyed a brief “Osama bounce” in polling. Now, with yet more bad economic news, Mr. Obama’s Osama bounce has faded.

This is a complete misunderstanding of what the killing of Osama bin Laden actually means for the president.

A “bounce” in one’s approval ratings is the result of a fleeting event which temporarily makes one look good, but which nobody will remember in a year. The political conventions that take place during every presidential election result in bounces. Modern political conventions make the presidential nominee look good, but nothing meaningful ever happens in them.

Another example of a bounce: Mr. Obama’s well-received speech after Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting. This was a fleeting event which temporarily made Mr. Obama look good. But the average American probably has already forgotten who Ms. Giffords even is. (Don’t believe me? Try testing your neighbor.)

In contrast, nobody will forget the death of Osama bin Laden for a long, long time. When the history books are written one hundred years later, they will still mention it.

Politically, Bin Laden’s death means far more than just a mere “Osama bounce” for the president. It rips an enormous hole through the Republican critique of Mr. Obama on foreign policy.

This critique is best described by the titles of two articles by conservative magazines The Weekly Standard and The National Review. Their titles are “A Leader From Behind” and “The Embarrassed Superpower.” Republican criticize Mr. Obama as weak on national security, uninterested in American exceptionalism, too apologetic for America’s mistakes, and so on. It’s a very classical critique of any Democratic politician.

That Mr. Obama’s administration brought the Al-Qaeda leader to justice fundamentally works against these themes. How can one say that the president apologizes too much after Bin Laden’s death? How can one say that the president is too “soft” after he ordered one of the most macho operations in American history?

In essence, Bin Laden’s death (along with Mr. Obama’s success in helping the Libyan people overthrow the Gaddafi dictatorship) has sealed off foreign policy as an avenue for the 2012 Republican nominee to criticize the president. Republicans will fight the 2012 presidential election on the economy and on domestic policy. They may win; they may lose. But due to his administration’s success in bringing the world’s number one terrorist to justice, Mr. Obama looks set to be pretty much invincible in the realm of foreign policy come 2012.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

8:18 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

–inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

by inoljt

An Interesting Fact About Obama’s Inauguration

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

President Barack Obama’s inauguration was a momentous occasion, which many Americans from around the country traveled to see.

Today, as the Obama presidency has become more mundane, much of the inauguration is forgotten. Most Americans, if they remember anything at all of the inauguration, might dimly recall the blunder Chief Justice John Roberts and Mr. Obama made during the swearing-in.

There was, however, a thread of fear that the inauguration would be the attempt for an assassination attempt against Mr. Obama, as the first African-American president. This was something which many people quietly feared, even knowing that the hard evidence was slim.

Naturally, the president and his security were aware of this possibility, and they took steps to prevent it. As it turns out, the president-elect was wearing a specially designed, bullet-resistant suit that day. Very few people knew about this, and very few people know about it to this day (there are quite natural reasons why).

Fortunately, the president turned out not to have needed the suit and the protection; there was no threat that day. All in all, the inauguration was a boring event, and therefore a successful one. Nevertheless, it is interesting to know that Mr. Obama was wearing a suit designed to hinder bullets, even though it did not look like he was doing so. It is good to know that clever measures such as this are being utilized to protect the country’s leader.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

by inoljt

The Biggest Threat to President Barack Obama’s Re-election Chances

10:34 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Almost everybody agrees that President Barack Obama’s re-election chances depend almost exclusively on one thing: the state of the American economy. If, for instance, unemployment is below 7% by November 2012, Mr. Obama could very well win a Reagan-style blow-out. If, on the other hand, unemployment is still in double-digits by November 2012, Mr. Obama may as well kiss his re-election chances goodbye.

The second scenario would probably occur in the event of another recession. The greatest danger, therefore, to the president’s re-election chances would be something that would hurt the economy badly enough to knock it back into recession.

What could cause such an event?

There are a number of possibilities, ranging from the very unlikely to the frighteningly possible. The latter – “the frighteningly possible” – actually has occupied the front pages of newspapers for almost a year. This is the continuing European debt crisis, which started with Greece, moved to Ireland, defeated Portugal, and is currently searching for its next victim *cough* Spain *cough*.

The worst case scenario would involve a country such as Italy – the world’s seventh largest economy – going bankrupt, or a collapse of the euro (and with it, the European Union). Such scenarios are far-fetched, but quite within the realm of possible. They are what many analysts spend hours worrying about every day.

A bankruptcy of a major European country, such as Spain or Italy, would do major damage to the United States. As Paul Krugman writes:

Nor can the rest of the world look on smugly at Europe’s woes. Taken as a whole, the European Union, not the United States, is the world’s largest economy; the European Union is fully coequal with America in the running of the global trading system; Europe is the world’s most important source of foreign aid; and Europe is, whatever some Americans may think, a crucial partner in the fight against terrorism. A troubled Europe is bad for everyone else.

Indeed, the United States has already experienced the consequences of Europe’s debt troubles, minor as they may seem compared to the worst-case scenario. It is no coincidence that job growth, after increasing steadily in the spring of 2010, stalled right as Greece’s budget woes hit the front pages that summer.

The most troubling thing about all this, for Mr. Obama, is how little control he has over this event. It is Germany, not America, which holds the fate of the European Union in its hands; German decisions – or, more specifically, the decisions of German Chancellor Angela Merkel – will either save or destroy the European Union. Mr. Obama can successfully influence Germany; indeed, his behind-the-scenes lobbying was one factor behind the trillion-dollar European bail-out fund. But ultimately the fate of Europe, and with it the American economy, may lie in Germany’s hands.

And whither goes the American economy, so goes Mr. Obama’s re-election chances. In the end the president may lose re-election because of events thousands of miles away, over which he has precious little control, which seemingly have nothing to do with American politics.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/