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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seven Polls Mitt Romney Ought to Trumpet

As Mitt Romney tries to fend off a surging Newt Gingrich, he may want to step up his electability pitch to Republican primary voters, and there are plenty of poll numbers out in recent weeks that can help him do that.
Earlier this month, there was much ballyhoo about a McClatchy/Marist survey that showed Obama beating Romney in a head-to-head match-up, 48 to 44 percent. The same poll gave the president just a two-point edge on Gingrich, whom he led 47%-45%. This appears to be an outlier, however: that same day, a FOX News poll was released that showed the president losing to Romney, 42 to 44 percent, while beating Gingrich, 46 to 41 percent. Pew Research, meanwhile, came out with its latest numbers showing Obama routing Gingrich, 54 to 42 percent, but just barely edging Romney, 49%-47%.
Want more? Okay, Quinnipiac University has the Mormon & the moron statistically tied, with the latter holding a 45%-44% lead. The same survey had Gingrich trailing Obama by 9. A CNN/Opinion Research poll finds Romney trouncing the prez, 51% to 47%, while Gingrich loses to him by an even wider margin (53% to 45%).
These are all national polls, of course, and as we all know, it’s the electoral vote that counts. But the polling in individual states makes Romney look even better. Take New Hampshire, for example. Polls have consistently shown Romney beating Obama in the Granite State, but what’s really jarring is how poorly Newt is performing there. One survey has him trailing Obama by 12 percentage points. In Romney's native Michigan, the former Massachusetts governor tops Obama 46%-41%, while Gingrich trails him by the same margin, 45%-40%, according to a Detroit Free Press poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA. Rasmussen finds Romney ahead of Obama in Florida, 46%-42%, while Gingrich loses to him, 45 to 43 percent. Perhaps the numbers most worth taking a look at come from Public Policy Polling. (Yes, that’s James Carville’s outfit, but get a load of this.) PPP has Obama and Romney dead even in Pennsylvania, a state Republicans haven’t won in a presidential election since 1988. Each takes 45% of the vote, but in a head-to-head matchup with Gingrich, Obama bests him, 49 to 43 percent. Even more alarming are the results from Arizona, where Romney holds a healthy 7-point lead over the president, but where Gingrich is tied with him at 45%. This is big, folks; only one GOP presidential candidate in the last 60 years has lost Arizona, and while it would be easy to dismiss this poll as a fluke, all of these results taken together should give us all pause.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Did a Blow to the Head Knock RG3 Out...of Contention for the Heisman Trophy?

My fellow Baylor Bears and I were privy to another exciting game this weekend (actually three, but I'm talking football here). Our 66-42 rout of Texas Tech was significant for many reasons. For one, it capped the Red Raiders' first losing season since 1992, and we knocked them out of Bowl contention. Probably the most exciting play of the game came late in the third quarter, when Joe Williams, our stocky, 5'10" sophomore cornerback, picked off Tech QB Seth Doege and ran the ball back 90 yards for Baylor’s seventh touchdown of the game.
What the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout (which apparently is what this game was called) will probably most be remembered for is Robert Griffin III's head injury and subsequent absence from the second half. As Stephen Hawkins of the AP put it:

Griffin had scrambled from one side of the field to the other and slid inside the 5 with a first down when defensive back Cornelius Douglas came in hard with an elbow that knocked Griffin’s head back to the turf. The quarterback remained flat on his back for a couple of moments before coming out of the game for a play. He then returned for his second touchdown run to make it 31-21.
What's missing from Hawkins's summary but probably obvious to anyone familiar with the rules of the game is that Douglas's blow was a late (and ergo illegal) hit. Had this occurred in the NFL, he would've been fined and probably ejected from the game. Instead, his team was penalized, and he was allowed to play the rest of the game.
In fairness, it's not clear whether Douglas intended to hit RG3. Often times, these guys already have their bodies or body parts in motion when the clock stops. The bigger story may be the stellar performance of backup Baylor QB Nick Florence, who was 9 of 12 for 151 yards, including a pair of long touchdowns. Here on the Baylor campus, however, there's much chatter about how this might effect Griffin's Heisman chances.
Last week, after his record-shatterring performance in Baylor's unprecedented defeat of OU, RG3 was the talk of the town. Y! Sports' Eddie George and Pat Forde both listed him as their No. 1 pick to win the Heisman Trophy. I even joined in the media hype. Now, people are wondering if he'll even play in our season finale vs. Texas. He insists he will, but I'm getting tired and would like to wrap up this post. Good night.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Republicans Should Call the President's Bluff

Recently, the president has reprised his half-hearted call for Congress to extend the payroll tax cut enacted as part of the fiscal compromise passed last December. You may recall that the president had billed this temporary reduction in the FICA tax (to 4.2% from 6.2%) as a "payroll tax holiday" from the moment he signed it into law. There is no record of anyone who authored/sponsored the legislation in Congress intended this to be a permanent tax cut. This makes the president's call for Congress to extend the lower rate, lest they allow a tax increase to happen, disingenuous at best.

Congressional Republicans should not take the bait and engage President Obama in a serious debate, something the president has demonstrated no interest in having. Rather, they ought to pass a bill extending the payroll tax holiday for one year and also reducing spending by some significant amount (I'm talking hundreds of billions of dollars below the baseline.) during the same time period. That way, if the Democrat-controlled Senate balks and votes down the package, the GOP can legitimately blame the Democrats for the eventual reversion of the FICA tax rate to its pre-2011 level come January. If the Dems try to play games and pass legislation extending the current rate but with no spending cuts, then the House should simply take that bill, add a bunch of spending cuts to it, pass the amended bill, and then it would go to a Conference committee, by which time Congress will have already adjourned for its Christmas/New Year's recess. Obama will once again come off as a weak and feckless leader, something Republican candidates hoping to take him on next year should be sure to capitalize on just in time for primary season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not a Good Day to be an Oklahoman

If you follow NCAA Football, then you should be aware that yesterday was full of upsets. Oklahoma's two largest universities were on the losing end of two of them. Oklahoma State, ranked 2nd in the nation, was handed its first loss of the season by unranked Iowa State. More importantly, No. 5 Oklahoma rolled into Waco prepared to take on my beloved No. 22 Baylor Bears. Baylor had played OU 20 times prior to last night and lost every time. I can recall one particularly memorable game that went into double overtime back in 2005. I was a freshman at the time; the game was played in Norman, and it wasn't even supposed to be close. Now we have beaten the Sooners. Our mercurial WR Terrence Williams caught a touchdown pass from RG3 (Robert Griffin III, for those of you unfamiliar with the next Heisman Trophy winner) with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. As if that weren't awesome enough, WR Trey Franks (a Texas native) fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff. His Baylor counterpart, WR Clay Fuller, recovered the fumble to avoid another OT showdown agaisnt the Sooners. Could there be a more exciting finish to game that got off to such a slow, error-riddled start?

As to the other upset in the Big 12 this weekend, I didn't watch the OSU-ISU game, but there is something I want to share that ties in with it. My paternal grandmother (who appeared in one of my first YouTube videos ever) went to OSU back when it was Oklahoma A & M. She's a big Cowboys fan. She called me repeatedly last night. (Unbeknownst to her, I was at a social event known as "Law Prom" and couldn't be disturbed.) When she finally got ahold of me this morning, she was still excited. She didn't even care about her alma mater's bruising loss. Perhaps there's some lesson in there for disheartened sooners/Cowboys fans. I'm not sure what it is, but maybe other OSU alums can take some solace in their teams 10-1 record and look forward to their upcoming showdown with the team we just sent crying back to Norman.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

GOP's 2012 Motley Crew Dwarfs Dems' '08 Lineup

It's no secret that a lot of prospective Republican primary voters were initially cool to the field of candidates seeking the party's 2012 presidential nod. This was evident not only in the large chunk of "undecided" voters in poll after poll but also the constant turnover at the top of the field. Now, more and more voters appear to be settling on a candidate, if only tentatively. My personal favorite, Jon Huntsman, Jr., won't win the nomination, but that won't stop me from trying to wrangle a date with one of his daughters. (For the record, Huntsman was my first choice before he even entered the fray.) If I had to make a prediction, then obviously Mitt Romney is the heavy favorite to win the nomination; Newt Gingrich probably has the second-best chance. What I never really understood, though, is why so many people kept saying the GOP had a weak field of candidates. I'm not sure what that assessment was based on.

In 2008, the Republicans had an embarrassment of riches when it came to our choice of candidates; there was "America's Mayor," Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, who rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics and accomplished more than any Democrat ever had in the way of health care reform, and the eventual nominee, John McCain, who in addition to being a solid conservative with an incomparable record of legislative achievement, is truly one of our greatest living heroes. The Democrats, on the other hand, had an embarrassment, but that didn't stop their incredibly flawed nominee from winning the presidency. (Obama's victory was even more impressive when you consider that he wasn't even the strongest contender in a weak field.) The 2008 Democratic primary campaign was notable in many regards, not least for producing perhaps the most monolithic top tier of primary contenders in either party in recent memory. Think of it: three U.S. Senators, all of them lawyers, none with any real leadership experience, and two of whom had never held public office prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate. This is not to say that Senators or lawyers do not make good commanders-in-chief--J.F.K. and Richard Nixon were both better-than-average presidents--but America could do a lot better than the three tools who led the Democratic field in '08, so you can understand my reaction to Jonathan Capehart's latest column, in which he described the current GOP campaign as "a mystifying mosh pit of unsatisfying characters." That actually wasn't so objectionable, but then he went on to declare, "Four years ago, Democrats ... had an impressive field of candidates to choose from." He added, "The Republican race for the nomination is the exact opposite." I knew I had to call him out on that.

Before I tear Capehart apart (for the second time this month), I should mention that I actually agree with a lot of what he wrote about the Republican race for the nomination this time around. Witness:

Terrible debate performances aided in knocking Perry from the top spot. But his attempts to reclaim the magic of August, when he entered the race, have been shameful. He dabbled in birtherism and then disavowed it. His dance with insanity stomped all the announcement of his flat-tax announcement, which was meant to relaunch him and his campaign. Hints from Perry’s campaign that the Texas governor might skip future debates were lame. Then Perry unintentionally did his best Charlie
Sheen imitation
at an event in New Hampshire on Friday.
And yet he sits atop a stockpile of campaign cash that he is already deploying in the form of television ads in Iowa.
If Republicans follow their tradition of giving the nomination to the fella who was rejected the last time around, then Romney's a shoo-in. Unfortunately for him, he has to watch the GOP electorate romance everyone but him — Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio . . . did I leave anyone out? — before his entreaties are accepted.
The open flirtation with anyone but Romney must be galling to the successful former Massachusetts governor. And yet he keeps giving primary voters reasons to distrust him.

That's where Capehart stopped being reasonable--and I stopped agreeing with him. He contuines:

Romney has been all over the map on abortion, gay rights and health care. But he has now added flip-flopping stances on climate change and Ohio’s law restricting collective bargaining to the roster.

First off, Romney never flip-flopped on the aforementioned Ohio law (as I prove here). Second,s hi supposed "flip-flop" on "climate change" apparently consisted solely of a recent statement the candidate made in a speech at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, viz., "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet." (Romney had previously expressed an unequivocal belief "that climate change is occurring and "that human activity is a contributing factor.") Personally, I don't consider that a flip-flop. If you believe something but aren't sure of it, then you don't "know" anything. Also, Romney said "we" in the Pittsburgh speech, whereas his earlier comments clearly expressed his personal view. These may seem like semantics, but if this is what the trolls on the Left are going to characterize as "flip-flopping", then they can't fairly accuse me of nit-picking.

As for Romney's alleged stance-shifting on other issues, I also disagree that he's "been all over the map". He changed his mind on the abortion issue. Lots of people do (including yours truly). There's no getting around that, but it shouldn't be a politcial negative. (Voters didn't seem to have as big a problem with Ronald Reagan and George Bush's similar conversions on the issue.) As for gay rights, I think it's a matter of opinion as to whether or not Romney's been "all over the map" on that. In the first place, it depends on what you consider "gay rights." In my view, because no one has the right to marry someone of the same sex, being opposed to same-sex marriage is not an anti-gay rights position, and it certainly isn't "anti-gay." Other than his firm opposition to same-sex marriage, I'm not sure what else Mitt Romney's detractors claim evince a flip-flop from his avowed support for gay rights. As for health care, what?!? "Romney has been all over the map on health care."? Really, Jon? Have you not noticed that Romney's single biggest political liability in his quest for the Republican nomination is the health care reform law he crafted, championed and signed into law as governor? Have you really not noticed that, despite repeated entreaties from conservatives, he has consistently refused to disavow it? In fact, he has defended it relentlessly. You're crazy, Jon, or you're just stupid. (Perhaps both.)

If it seems like I got off on a tangent in the previous few paragraphs, then it's because I felt the need to delve into this absurd "flip-flopping" charge that has dogged the on-again/off-again GOP frontrunner because it provides an excellent example of how uttelry nonsensical much of the criticism of the 2012 GOP presidential field has been. The absence of Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Mitch Daniels is palpable, for sure, but we've still got an illustrious cast of characters that towers above the train of fools the Dems had to pick from in '08. I've already sung the praises of Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, so let's take a look at some of the others:

  • In addition to having the most impressive record of any Speaker of the House in the past half-century, Newt Gingrich has that rare (and, in politicans, almost non-existent) quality of brilliance restrained by humility. He is so smart that, unlike many people with a comparable intellect, he knows how to speak so as not to pander to people without also sounding like a pompous ass. (Paul Ryan is the only other modern-day politician I can think of who has demonstrated this highly impressive talent.)

  • When Americans look at and listen to Herman Cain, they see/hear a man truly worthy of making history as our country's first black president. Unlike Obama, who embodies virtually everything people say they hate about politicians, Cain has never held elected office. Unlike Obama, he has run several businesses and served his country in the United States Navy (as a ballistics specialist, no less). True, both Cain and Obama deal in sound bites, and at times both are guilty of inappropriate flippance. Nevertheless, Cain's improbable path to the presidency (if only theoretical) is a far more compelling story than that of a "community organizer" who grew up in a tropical paradise, went to the best schools and seemed to put his law degree to the use of everything but the practice of law.

  • Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are both men of firm convictions. I vehemently disagree with each of them on some things; on others I think each man is 100% right. Both men can bost achievements that the current president cannot. Santorum worked hard as a legislator and managed to get a significant number of bills passed, most notably the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Act (better known as the landmark Welfare Reform Act) of 1996. Paul has attracted a passionate throng of supporters who, in contrast to the legions of Obamaniacs out there, can actually explain what their candidate stands for and believes in.

Since I've previously criticized Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, I won't try to now tout them as first-rate candidates, though I'll reiterate my position that either of them would make a better president than Barack Obama, as would Gary Johnson or Buddy Roemer. Hopefully, though, my point is well-taken that the GOP's options for 2012 are much, much better than the Democrats' choices in 2008.