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Memorial Day…Freedom is Not Free…2012


Memorial Day historically is for those members of the Armed Services who valiantly fought and died for their country.  Many have served and given their lives…but many others lives were taken away, regardless of their service.  I would like to remember our military, as well as all the others, who have given their lives for this country, in one manner or another.

Always remember: FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.





Obama Himself Made Bain Irrelevant

Barack Obama this week stated, quite clearly, that he though Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital is a key piece to the entire election.

“This is not a distraction,” Obama said.  “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”

“My opponent, Gov. Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience,” Obama said before the assembled world press.  “He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts.  He’s saying, I’m a business guy and I know how to fix it, and this is his business.  And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits.  Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

This, to me, is one of the more laughable statements made by this President, which with his series of ridiculous comments over the past few years, is quite an achievement.

For better or worse, Obama is arguing that EXPERIENCE is a major issue in the 2012 election.  Does anyone else see the hypocrisy of this statement?

Barack Obama was one of the least experienced and least vetted Presidential candidates in American history.  I think most historians would tell you that he was by far the least experienced, never holding an executive office, never once being in charge of anything, nor had he ever fully completed a full term on the national political stage.  He spent approximately 180 days as the junior Senator from Illinois, never authoring or passing any significant legislation, and proclaimed he was ready for the Oval Office.

And now, experience is an issue?

Let us be clear: Obama is still a man whose past is shrouded.  Do we know much about how he got into college?  His grades, for example?  What exactly did he do for a living between law school and entering politics?  We know the outlines of the events, but not much about the specifics of those events themselves.

The Bain attack centers around the failure of a paper company that Bain bought in 1992, sold four years later (when Romney was no longer at Bain), and then went out of business four years after Bain Capital was no longer involved.  This is relevant..how?

Bain Capital claims that revenues grew in 80% of the more than 350 companies in which it has invested.  They claim thousands of jobs exist because of their restructuring.  To point to one failure, in the myriad of successes, is simply ignorance  or distortion on a tremendous level.

If we are to make experience an issue, we should do so.  Let us closely examine all of Obama’s past history.  This includes college transcripts, time spent with Rev. Wright, etc.  But there is a simple reality here:  the American public does not care.  They made that judgement in 2008 when they elected an inexperienced fresh face over several qualified, much more experienced opponents.  This year appears to be more of the same:  the public has largely discounted Bain Capital as a major issue.  The Obama attacks are not working.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton made the argument, over and over again, that experience was the key ingredient needed for a successful Presidency. She spent millions on the argument, including the famous ‘3 a.m. phone call’ ad.  Obama’s response: “I have shown the judgment to lead.”  Who won that race, may I ask?

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  The more time and money the Obama campaign uses for Bain Capital attack ads, the better it is for Mitt Romney.  This campaign will have little to do with past history, and everything to do with judgement.

That is one thing Obama got right in 2008.  This time around, the ability to lead this country economically will be the decisive factor.  Right now, Barack Obama talks about Bain Capital, because all he has to offer the country is distraction and distortion.

For Mitt Romney, the lesson is clear:  it is the economy, stupid.  Bain Capital, and anything discussing anything other than the economy and jobs, is irrelevant.


Why David Brooks Is A Moron

This is why I think David Brooks is a moron.

He wrote a piece detailing why he things America and Europe are failing, and said this:

“Though the forms were different, the democracies in Europe and the United States were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching. But democratic self-government is possible because we’re smart enough to design structures to police that selfishness.”

Um, no. Go read the Founder’s writings, and individual selfishness is not a common argument. They believed government was overpowering and oppressive, and the less centralized power, the less likely to infringe on individual rights.

Also liberals often point to the Madison quote, without READING THE REST OF THE QUOTE. It comes from Federalist no. 55, and it talks about how people use the ‘depravity of humans’ to argue for DESPOTISM. The quote is here in its entirety:

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

They did understand that governments and movements were depraved…but look at the Constitution, which completely focuses on RESTRAINING GOVERNMENT and MAXIMIZING INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM.

I could go on and destroy Brooks’s argument about the European ruling classes…but why bother, when his fundamental theory is so unsound?

I do agree with one point: Brooks goes on to say that the balance between government and individuals is out of whack. Absolutely…government has grown out of control.


The Avengers: Movie Review

I know, week late…dollar short.  But since I was on vacation, this was the first blockbuster movie I missed on opening weekend in years.  You can fault my wife for that.


The Avengers was a benchpost for Marvel Comics.  It has long been held as one of their most prized comic collections, and bringing it to the big screen was a major endeavor.  Using virtual prequels in the likes of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, as well as to a lesser extent the Incredible Hulk, Marvel has taken a decade to set up this payoff.

And it was worth the effort and wait.

Written and directed by fanboy Joss Whedon, the Avengers does a nice job of uniting the characters that we have learned backstories about in the movies listed above, as well as transitioning other important characters into the mythology.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, as usual, brings the dry humor.  Chris Evans does a nice job as the straight laced Steve Rogers.  Samuel Jackson has Nick Fury nailed down for sure.  Chris Hemsworth’s Thor was brawny.  However, Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki in certain scenes was fantastic. Scarlett Johanson probably did a nice acting job, but she was so gorgeous is some scenes I kind of forgot she was talking.

If I was going to pan any of the actors, it would be Mark Ruffalo.  He wasn’t bad, per se…but compared to the brilliant Ed Norton, I just kept on wishing for more depth.  He was adequate however.  Other reviewers loved his mellow portrayal of Bruce Banner.  So maybe I am wrong on this, but that was my gut reaction.

The action sequences, which basically portray an alien invasion of Midtown Manhattan, are fabulous, and everything one expects from a high grade action film.  The comedy during the height of the battle is awesome, and comes from numerous characters (my favorite is a Hulk moment with Thor…which, trust me, will make you at least giggle).

In the end, this was the payoff geeks like me have wished for. The Avengers is going to print money this summer, as young teenage boys go back again and again to get their geek fix.  More importantly, it shows that a major comic book series with crossover characters can be successful, which gives hope for other tentpole franchises, most specifically D.C. comics Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

And the end credits [minor spoiler] point to Thanos being the key villain for Avengers 2, which is freakin’ awesome.

Kudos to Joss Whedon and Marvel Comics for pulling it off.  A must see to begin the Summer blockbuster season.


My First Electoral College Prediction

So, this is my electoral college prediction as of April 27, 2012.  I did this all through the 2008 election cycle as well.  [Credit to www.270towin.com].

Couple points:

  • First and foremost, these are just my educated guesses, hunches, and outright leaps of faith.  I do base some of the choices on current poll numbers, but I am not a big believer in the veracity of polls 200 days before the election.
  • Ohio is a state that many people predicting today to go to Obama. (Including Karl Rove, Mark Blumenthal of HuffPost, and Ben Domenech).  Obama won the state by 200k votes, about 4% of the electorate.  Living here in Ohio, I have a feeling that it will be much closer.  That is also why, if you asked me today, Rob Portman is likely to be the VP nominee.  He may not add a lot…but 2-3 percentage points?  Surely.  Enough to make a difference.  The path for Romney without Ohio is unrealistic.  Ohio or bust.
  • There are several states I believe are going to be close that right now I believe Obama will win.  New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania lead the list.  States I have as Romney winning which are likely to be close include Nevada, Missouri, Virginia and Florida.  I believe states in both columns are winnable for both candidates.
  • Virginia is a state many have in the battleground column.  Simply put, if Obama wins Virginia (and the same argument can be made for North Carolina and Arizona), then he is winning in a landslide, and you won’t care much which states he is carrying.

The Hunger Games: Movie Review

The Hunger Games, the much anticipated movie based on the popular novel, has been compared to the Twilight series and other female oriented fictional genre of the past several years, although the similarity ends there.

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Trilogy has also was a national bestseller, and a favorite among young adult readers, especially women.  However her protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is everything that other recent female characters are not:  Independent, intelligent, innovative; in short, Katniss a virtual force of nature, whose only goal in life is to keep her family alive.

The dystopian view of the futuristic totalitarian society in The Hunger Games is one that dispirits most of its people is at times depressing, violent, and ultimately frightening.  The society exists hundreds of years in the future, after multiple cataclysms befall the United States.  It is dominated by a central governing state, Panem, which echoes Rome during its Empire days.  It relies on 12 surrounding districts for all its resources and needs.  Decades ago, the then 13 districts rose up in revolt…and were crushed.  The 13 district was annihilated.

Since that time, the Capitol punishes the 12 districts for their audacity through a yearly event:  The Hunger Games.  The competition, which harkens back to other sci-fi movies such as the cult classic Battle Royale, is a violent and gruesome fight to the death among a pair of participants from each of the 12 districts, a young boy and girl.  The event is the most profound cultural annual event in the country, as virtually every citizen watches the events on television.  The viciousness is especially profound, considering the age of the combatants is as young as 12 years old.  The competitors fight until only one person remains standing…and that person lives on as the Victor, with glory, fame, and wealth for the rest of their lives.

Our heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence, was a survivalist long before she enters the arena, as she struggled to keep her mother and sister alive after the death of their father.  She is a hunter by need, and those skills serve here well during the Games.  She volunteers for the games after her 12 year old sister is initially chosen.  Her counterpart from her district for the Games is Peeta, a young boy with which she has a complicated, albeit very limited, past, but one that comes into play in the future story.

My fear about the movie adaptation was that they would fail to convey the violence and despair that the Hunger Games cause.  The movie does a decent job showing violence when needed, emotions when required, and depth and complexity to characters who are on the screen for only a very limited time.  Now, does the violence of the Games on screen match the terror in the books?  I have to say no.  I think there is a sense of dread while turning the pages that is difficult, if not impossible, to convey on the big screen, unless you are making a horror movie.

Ultimately, it is Lawrence, and not the action or the violence, that carry this film.  She gives her character the depth necessary to relate to her oppression and horror.  She doesn’t feel a need to win the Games, except for her family.  She would happily die for them, and that carries over into the character.  But as the Games progress, she finds herself and others, and learns to fight for reasons she never thought possible.

The first installment of this projected trilogy does its job well.  It introduces us to the main characters, the central event (the Games themselves), and the horrors of the totalitarianism in which the entire story takes place.  I am more than satisfied with this adaptation, and am anxiously waiting the sequel.  Highly recommended.

Please note:  My one caveat…the violence is EXTREME. I would be hesitant to take a child under 13 to this movie, and even teenagers, if squeamish about violence, should think twice. 



The Post-Super Tuesday Reality

Mitt Romney wins Super Tuesday!

Yeah, right.

This must be the most pathetic Super Tuesday victory in modern history.  Romney, who outspent his opponents 4 and sometimes 5 to 1 in many states, eked out a victory in the essential state of Ohio.  This was the type of victory that feels like a defeat; waiting until the wee hours of the morning, worrying about votes from Cuyahoga county to put you over the top.

After a similar type of victory in Michigan, Romney needed a decisive win, but again failed to attain it. Besides Ohio, Tennessee was an utter disaster, with Romney falling to Rick Santorum by double digits in a state which is the least conservative of the southern states.  Other than Virginia, where neither Newt nor Santorum were on the ballot, Romney only took states in the Northeast, including his home state of Massachusetts, and in Western states which he was favored to win for various other reasons.

The exit polls are telling.  So which groups gave Romney trouble?  Well, all of them.  Yes, in Ohio Romney won women and was even with men.  He lost strong conservatives but won somewhat conservative voters as well as moderates.  He beat Santorum among Catholics.  But frankly, all that doesn’t matter…ultimately, he tied Santorum in Ohio, which is bad enough.

So the real question, now that we are into March, is where are we, and where are we going?

1.  The only candidate with the CHANCE TO WIN the nomination is Gov. Mitt Romney.

This is a truth most of my conservative brethren don’t want to except.  Erick Erickson however has basically conceded as much.  Numerically, there is no path to the nomination for Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum.

The argument from the Santorum camp is they have a chance if Newt leaves the race.  First of all, does anyone believe Newt will just walk away now?  Me neither.  Second, several polls have shown that the beneficiary of Newt leaving would be…Mitt Romney.  Whether this would bare out in reality is a question mark, but enough of one to wonder if Santorum has any strategy that would outright provide him victory.

How big a hill does Santorum have to climb?  To win the nomination, he would need to win 61% of all remaining delegates.  If you assume Romney wins the northeast delegates remaining, that means Santorum would have to win 67% of the other delegates.  And if the unbound delegates (the approximately 100+ delegates who can vote whatever way they presume to) vote for Romney as expected, Santorum would have to win 71% of all remaining delegates.  This is virtually impossible, and shows you the basic problem:  there is no realistic path to the nomination for Rick Santorum.

So most likely, Mitt Romney will win the nomination.

All that said…

2.  Even Mitt may not be able to close the deal.

Now, to be clear, even Romney’s path to 1144 is difficult.  If all four candidates stay in the race, and races go as predicted, I added up and got to 1100 delegates for Romney…or 44 short of winning the nomination.  That was a conservative approach to the delegate count, but shows how razor thin this margin is going to be.  Romney will be digging and scraping for delegates well into the summer.  I believe ultimately Romney will win enough delegates, and some states will break his way late that today we would not expect.  However, that shows how uncertain this entire game is.

3.  The only anti-Mitt strategy is the convention.

‘Open convention’.  It sends conservatives into a frenzy.

The reality is, there is only one strategy to stop Mitt Romney, and that is to block him from enough delegates in order to send this to a convention floor fight in August.  Prevent him from reaching the magic 1144 delegates he needs, and all of a sudden, the power is out of the hands of voters, and in the hands…of the establishment.

And this is precisely the problem with this strategy.  It is not base conservatives that will decide our convention’s fate, but the very establishment that created this mess.

That is not to say we would not possibly be better off with an open convention.  I think at this point, many of us would take a Chris Christie, for example, over Mitt Romney. Names such as Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin have been thrown out there, but are much more divisive names that would be harder to get the country to coalesce around.

Additionally, if Romney is short only 40 or so delegates, as I stated above, he could probably sway delegates simply by naming someone like Marco Rubio as his Vice President. Or, in an crunch, could sway Rick Santorum, though that would likely be disastrous for his general election campaign.  In either case, even in the open convention scenario, you have to believe the most likely outcome is Mitt Romney is our nominee.

4.  Mitt Romney can defeat Barack Obama. 

I know in recent weeks, it has been conventional wisdom that this election is over, with people such as George Will stating it with virtual certainty.  That entire thinking process is an utter joke.

First, lets look at history.  In August of 2004, John Kerry led George W. Bush by 8 points…and lost by 3 points.  In March of 1992, George H.W. Bush led all Democrat candidates (a divided contest at the time, much like this year) by large margins.  In 1980, the few polls available showed Jimmy Carter defeating Ronald Reagan by double digits.  Reagan won by 10 points.

Is this primary season brutal?  Yes.  Is Romney so far a pathetic candidate?  Absolutely.  But there is one thing that is quite clear:  most long, arduous primary fights that don’t involve an incumbent tend to make candidates stronger, not weaker.  Romney is going to improve as a candidate because of this fight, not be weakened because of it.

There is no historical reason to believe this election is over.

Furthermore, Obama is a weak candidate.  If the economy is improving, Americans are barely feeling it.  Numbers matters, such as the unemployment rate, but never matter as much as what the public sees on the ground.  If they see their neighbors and relatives find work, Obama’s approval numbers will skyrocket.

That is not happening yet.  Obama’s job approval rating, as measured by Gallup, is 45 percent or lower in 12 battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  That is not conducive to re-election.

Let us remember:  a GOP candidate does not need a huge shift to win the Presidency.  We are likely to take Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina back.  Then, we need to win Ohio, Florida, and a combination of states for 14 more electoral votes…or Pennsylvania.  That is not an easy task, but extremely doable…even for Mitt Romney.

Conservatives and the GOP need to take a deep breath.  This nomination process will drag out, probably until May or June.  If Mitt wins, he wins.  If not, it goes to the convention.  But the reality is, there will be a GOP candidate standing in September, and that candidate will be a viable legitimate alternative to the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Simply put, despite all the gloom and doom, we have a realistic shot at defeating Barack Obama on November 6th.




Best of CPAC 2012

CPAC time again, and this year, this conference is more important than ever.  Will we unify as a movement, or fracture even further?  The speeches and attendants at CPAC will begin to give us answers.

I will try to add future videos of speeches as they become available.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida did nothing to alter his rockstar status in the conservative movement. In a funny and politically pointed speech, Rubio went after liberalism and its key purveyor, Mr. Obama.  If he hasn’t elevated himself to the pole position for Vice President (assuming he has changed his mind and would actually consider it), he has at least placed himself in good position for the next go around…whether that is 2016 or 2020.

Strong speech by Gov. Mike Huckabee, and I wonder if he would have been a strong candidate this time around.

Gov. Rick Perry had a pretty mediocre speech, in my humble opinion. He says he will be back…and I think he will. But this, by far, was his best quote in his speech.

Sen. Rand Paul once again eloquently talks about the coming debt crisis, and tells Republicans that they better accept that reality or might as well be Democrats.  An integral voice in the future of conservatism. And a much more pragmatic one than his father.

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Gov. Mitt Romney had a solid, but definitely unspectacular, speech.  But as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, the key quote that came out of this may be Romney describing himself as a ‘severe conservative‘, which is inane.  Not quite a foot in the mouth, but close.  He definitely did not close the deal.

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Speaker Newt Gingrich was clearly the best of the three Presidential candidates.  The crowd wanted red meat, and got it.  And more importantly, this was the ‘good’ Gingrich that so many mainstream conservatives love; a man devoutly professing conservatism while largely ignoring his competition.   Gingrich, as far as I can tell, never really mentioned any specifics regarding Romney or Santorum.  He focused on Obama, and that is when he is at his best.

Rep. Allen West is quickly becoming another up and comer, along with Rubio.  Another highlight of CPAC so far.

For pure entertainment, nothing beats Andrew Breitbart.  Yeah, I disagree with a lot of his rhetoric…but his damn funny.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has been somewhat off the radar since his disastrous State of the Union response in 2009, and following the Gulf oil spill.  But he has done wondrous things with business and education in Louisiana.  Jindal is another rising star in the Republican Party.

Gov. Sarah Palin was presented the keynote address, and did a good job pointing to what the conservative movement needs to focus on.


Why Republicans Should Cheer The Employment Numbers

Last week, the monthly unemployment numbers for January arrived, and gave a boost to the Obama Presidency.  The unemployment rate was calculated to be 8.3%, the lowest since February 2009, with the economy adding 243,000 jobs, the fourth month in a row of significant job increases.

Republicans instantly attacked the numbers as twisted numerical spin, even fraudulent.  And they very well may be, as I discuss below.

But I have long argued that Republicans should be cheering these numbers, and the nominal lowering of the unemployment rate that could have easily been predicted almost a year ago.  This prediction was not because of some great confidence in the Obama economy, but simply looking at the realities of the hard data, and making logical projections.

So why should Republicans cheer these numbers?

1.  Don’t be the pessimist in the room.

Republicans have largely been the party of optimism and hope for America since Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ campaign.   While Democrats always talk about the looming disaster to befall the American middle class, Republicans have always talked about giving the middle of America more hope for the future.

In this campaign, we should be promoting the future of an ever great nation, not one in decline.  If the employment numbers are good…we should applaud, and then give a reason why they should be better, instead of simply declaring failure at every turn.

2.  Accept that the numbers right now don’t mean much.

Let us take a look at the unemployment rate.

First, definition.  The unemployment rate is defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the persons who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work (Otherwise defined as the unemployed) divided by total number of people available to be working.

The key disclaimer here is that those who are neither receiving unemployment benefits nor otherwise not actively looking for work are not included in this number.

If you look at January’s numbers, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% largely because of people dropping out of the workforce (thus, decreasing the number in the denominator) than by the additional 243k persons who gained employment during the month.

How does one verify this?  By looking at the labor participation rate.  Labor force participation rate is defined as the labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population; or in other words, the number of people employed, divided by the entire adult population.  This is a much more gross number. In January, the labor force participation rate dropped to 63.7%,  its lowest level since the early 80s recession.

What does this mean?  Well, what it means is that although the BLS numbers on unemployment are accurate, they are misleading.  Overall, the number of people working today is far less than before Obama took office.  Furthermore, if you include the people that are no longer looking for work, the unemployment rate is 10.3%.  And, in fact, that number has largely been stable since 2009, even considering the Obama stimulus and other work programs.

The above graph is a little confusing, but here is the basic take home point:  the dotted red line is the TRUE unemployment rate, if you include people no longer looking for work, but actually able to work.  The solid red number demonstrates the unemployment rate as defined by BLS.  The difference between the two lines shows you all the people that are no longer working, are unemployed…but do not show up in the actual unemployment numbers.

NPR states it another way:

“The number of ‘discouraged workers’ — those who have given up looking for work and thus aren’t counted as being part of the labor force — went up to 1.1 million from 950,000 in December. Also, slightly fewer people either reentered the workforce or entered it for the first time. Those are among the reasons why the ‘labor force participation rate’ went down to 63.7 percent from 64 percent in December.”

This difference, between the two graphs above, is equivalent to approximately 3 to 6 million people.  Even if you argue that Obama was not responsible for the disaster of 2009, that still does not blunt the argument.  If you take the labor force participation rate as of January 2011, the unemployment rate would still be 8.9%.  That is wholly owned by the Obama Presidency.

 3.  The numbers ultimately may work in our favor.

Let us stipulate that the worst of the recession is likely over.  I think conservatives even accept that.  What we don’t accept is if we are in a robust recovery.  Clearly, with the numbers laid out as above, we are not.

Let us assume for a moment that this is a lagging recovery.  Then, the unemployment rate is likely to stay the same or even drop, and the people leaving the workforce is still quite large, and jobs are being created.  If you take this presumption, the unemployment rate, at current growth levels, will be around 7.5% in November.

However, in this scenario, do any of us believe that the American people will simply look at the unemployment rate, and accept all is well?  That is presuming that the public is so stupid as to accept the number, while ignoring the reality of parents, children, siblings, and friends remaining unemployed or struggling. Ultimately, I seriously doubt that the public would accept the number for anything but a fallacy.

Let us put forth a second scenario.  Let us assume the economy is really picking up. This, ironically, is even a worse scenario for the Obama Administration.  Why?  Because this would cause people who are currently so discouraged as not to be even trying to obtain work to re-enter the workforce.

This would be disastrous to the unemployment rate.  If you assume that 100k people will re-enter the work force per month, then the unemployment rate would actually increase.  In fact, using this scenario, the unemployment rate would hover around 8.5% by November, and could skyrocket to over 9% if there is a large influx of workers into the labor market.

The irony here is, it is not Republicans but possibly Democrats who are hoping that the economy doesn’t recover too fast to hurt their election chances.  They want people to stay out of the labor market, because otherwise, the true unemployment rate will be expressed in the actual unemployment rate, at which this entire mirage falls apart.




Gingrich and the South Carolina Firewall

For years, if not decades, the South Carolina primary has been thought of as ‘true’ conservatives firewall to prevent silly or liberal candidates from sneaking through Iowa and New Hampshire to win the Republican nomination.

But it hasn’t always worked out that way.  Bob Dole crushed right-winger Pat Buchanan there in 1996.  And John McCain defeated a divided conservative field in 2008 on his way to the nomination.

But this year, the firewall is back.

Newt Gingrich’s surge from virtual oblivion is stunning, and will keep the nomination fight going for a significant time.   After Iowa, it looked like the ‘new’ Gingrich was going to revert to the ‘old’ Gingrich: a brilliant man who, when angry, would self-destruct and become more destructive than constructive.  Newt’s attacks on Romney, whether it be about the Political Action Committees or Romney’s days with Bain Capital, were awkward, reactionary, and eventually, not that effective.  And that is why Gingrich lost ground to Romney, Paul, and even Santorum in New Hampshire.

But after New Hampshire, Gingrich finally accepted a basic fact.   The ‘old’ Newt would lose in dramatic fashion.  So he quickly course corrected, gave up the anti-capitalistic rant regarding Bain, and became the guy that had convinced a lot of conservatives to give him a chance in the first place:  an intelligent and eloquent voice in defense of conservatism and capitalism.  He stuck to the script, laid asidethe Romney attacks for the most part, and focused on the Gingrich persona that had created his first national surge last fall.

It has worked, beyond I am willing to bet even Newt’s immense dreams.  Newt kept on course.  And while he did that, Huntsman and Perry dropped out.  Santorum didn’t make a significant move.  And Mitt?  Mitt Romney incomprehensibly stumbled on an incredibly stupid and easy issue:  his tax forms.  Instead of simply answering that he would release him, he gave inept answer after inept answer, to what end I have no idea.  His campaign appeared to be on cruise control, assuming they could just walk in and do well in South Carolina.  They were wrong.

So Newt’s victory in South Carolina alters the entire dynamic of the campaign.  This more and more looks like the Democrat nomination of 2008.  Romney, playing the role of Hillary, is the establishment candidate that has weaknesses, but is safest for the party apparatus.  Gingrich is the insurgent candidate, who no one inside the party or out are sure where he will take them.  And the Democrats nomination process in 2008 went well into the summer, if you recall.

So 10 days until the Florida primary.  Romney has the edge in support and money, but Gingrich has the momentum. Momentum may not be enough in a large state like Florida, where retail politics doesn’t really work, and advertising is essential.  And Gingrich, unlike a Democrat, cannot depend on positive free media despite his stunning victory in South Carolina.  But enthusiasm means a lot in politics, and the question becomes can Newt convert this victory into an enthusiasm gap that Romney cannot overcome.

The best thing that could happen for Gingrich would be Rick Santorum dropping out.  I cannot see that happening, with Santorum gaining social conservative backing over the past week.  So if the conservative vote remains divided, I still have to believe that Romney is the favorite in Florida.  Only time will tell if conventional wisdom wins out, or if Newt turns the entire establishment on its ear.

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