THE MYTH ABOUT PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

Romney supporters are hoping he will win all three Presidential debates decisively, pass President Obama in the polls and ride that wave of momentum to the White House on November 6.  Possible?  Sure.  Likely?  History says no.  Read on to see why.

The three debates between President Obama and Mr. Romney are October 3 on domestic policy, October 16 in a town hall format and October 22 on foreign policy.  In addition, there will be one debate between Vice President Biden and Mr. Ryan on October 11 on foreign and domestic policy.  There is great anticipation surrounding these debates, particularly among Romney supporters.  They view the debates as a chance, perhaps the last chance, for their candidate to explain his policies to the voters clearly and specifically and to convince them to vote for him over President Obama.  Most political analysts on both sides have been saying that, barring an unforeseen event (e.g. the financial crisis of 2008 or another terrorist attack), the election will be decided by the debates and the turnout on Election Day.  The turnout part of the analysis is obvious; everyone would acknowledge that a high turnout would favor the Democrats.  History shows, however, that the debates, while a factor, have not been as major a factor in deciding elections as we might think.  We tend to remember famous sound bites or instances from these debates and, in hindsight, ascribe more significance to them than was the case at the time.

A few examples:

1.  The Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 was the first televised debate.   Many people remember or have heard that Kennedy “won” the debate because he was personable and charming on television whereas Nixon appeared to be”shifty,” “sweating,” “pale,” and had a 5 o’clock shadow.  Also, he was not feeling well and his general appearance was hurt by the fact that he did not use professional make-up like Kennedy.  It is important to note, however, that in 1960 many people listened to the debate on the radio, because they did not have a television.  Interestingly, it was reported that the majority of the radio listeners thought Nixon had actually won the debate.  Although this debate helped Kennedy because it enhanced his exposure to the country, it is debatable whether or not it was decisive.  It should be remembered that the race was tight before the debate and remained tight to the end.

2.  The Carter-Reagan debate in 1980 became famous for two of Mr. Reagan’s lines: “There you go again” and “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”  Mr. Reagan was very personable, at ease and entertaining.  Mr. Carter was stiff and on the defensive.  Mr. Reagan won the election going away, but was it because of the debate?  The debate performance was a contributing factor, but Stuart Spencer, Mr. Reagan’s political strategist in 1980 recollects that the momentum was already swinging Mr. Reagan’s way for two weeks prior to the debate.  The debate continued and, perhaps, accelerated it.  Also, he admits that had Iran released its hostages before the election instead of afterwards, the election results might have been different despite the debate results.  Incidentally, Stuart says Mr. Reagan won by pounding away repeatedly at a simple message: cut taxes, strong defense, fight communism, and make Americans feel good about themselves again.  Substitute “terrorrism” for “communism” and add the economy and jobs, and there’s the message Mr. Romney should be using.

3.  One of the biggest “gotcha” moments in debate history occurred during the vice presidential debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988.  Dan Quayle, a handsome, personable man with not much between the ears, was trying to compare himself to John Kennedy.  Mr. Bentsen interrupted him and said: “I served with Jack Kennedy.  I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.  Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  Hilarious,  but it had no effect on the election, which was won by Bush-Quayle.

The foregoing does not auger well for Mr. Romney.  A decisive win is highly unlikely.  Most likely, the result of the debates will be inconclusive, and few people will be swayed by them.  Each side will claim his man “won,” and the other person misconstrued the facts and mislead the listeners.  In fact, many, if not most, of the very undecided voters Mr. Romney is counting on reaching will probably not even pay attention (as has been their habit all along).  Don’t forget, we are in an age of short attention spans and multiple distractions.

The analysts will line up along party lines. The voters who bother to watch will be “rooting” for their guy.  Thus, they will perceive he did better than the other guy.  They will hear what they want to hear and what reinforces their opinions.  They will tune out or discount opposing views.  In the end, unless someone commits an historic gaffe, which, given the format, the degree of preparation and the experience of the particpants is unlikely, no significant change in the polls will occur. In order to win the election, Mr. Romney will need more than a strong showing at the debates, although it would be a good start.

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YOUNG VOTERS SUPPORTING OBAMA. WHY?

It is well known that President Obama has the strong support of young people.  (A recent Associated Press-GfK  Poll found that 61%% of registered voters aged 18-29 favored Mr. Obama vs 30% for Mr. Romney.)  The question is why?  I understand that they may think he is hip and cool and he brings an excitement that is attractive to young people.  Additionally, young people are generally predisposed to be more liberal.  But, if a young voter were to look beyond the razzle dazzle to the substance inside to ascertain who is better for me and my future, he or she would be hard-pressed to justify his support of Mr. Obama.

Consider the following:

1.  The level of unemployed youth remains stubbornly high – 17% vs 8% for the population as a whole.  The most recent rate for African American youths was 29%.  If you can’t get a decent job, you can’t start your life, e.g. start a career, get married, raise a family, etc.

2.  In four years under Mr. Obama’s watch the US debt has jumped to $16 trillion.  That number is the 500 lb. gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about, but it will have to be paid back someday.  Seniors and middle aged people won’t be around to worry about paying it back.  Guess who will be?  That’s right – today’s young people and unborn generations.  That debt will be a tremendous drag on the US economy for their entire lives, and, if the government decides to print more money, it could lead to double-digit inflation like we had in the 1970s.

3.  In addition to running up our debt and bankrupting several States, Mr. Obama’s entitlement policies have jeopardized the social security fund.  Independent projections indicate that young people will have to work longer (well past the current retirement age of 65), and will receive much less benefits than the current generation.  So, saving for your retirement will be virtually all your responsibility.

In summary, if I am a 21 year old college graduate about to look for my first job and maybe vote in my first Presidential election I have a lot to think about.  Do I vote for the candidate who provides the sizzle (Obama) or the steak (Romney)?  Remember, I’m not picking someone to invite to my frat house for a party; I’m picking a President who will hold my future and those of my family in his hands.

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE POLLS

Most analysts agree that Mr. Romney must win most of the “battle-ground” states – Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Colorado –  to win the election.  The two most crucial of these are probably Florida and Ohio – Florida because it has 29 electoral votes, the largest of the group, and Ohio, because no Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the state.  At the present time, most polls show Mr. Romney trailing in both states, in some cases outside the margin of error.

So, it would seem that barring a major comeback in the debates or a major Obama gaffe, the race is over.  Right?  Well, not so fast.

What most people don’t realize is that the polls are not as scientific as one might think.  The subjectivity enters the picture as pollsters have to adjust the raw numbers  to account accurately for the undercounting of men, minorities and young people.  Pollsters know that women are more likely to answer the phone than men.  Minorities and young people are two demographic groups that are harder to reach, particularly since many of them use cell phones rather than landlines.  Therefore, they use a formula to adjust those numbers upward.  On a net basis, this increases Mr. Obama’s polling numbers.  The question is, is the adjustment accurate or exaggerated?

Pollsters have been using the last Presidential election as a guide, which is standard procedure.  But, 2008 was a record turnout for both young people and African Americans, which is highly unlikely to be repeated.  Hence, Mr. Obama’s support is probably being overstated by enough to make it apprear that he is winning in Florida and Ohio whereas, in reality, both states are “toss-ups.”  It will all hinge on the debates and then the turnout.  The main point, however, is that the race is not the foregone conclusion that most pollsters and the liberal-leaning media would have you believe.

It is uncertain whether this is an accidential miscalculation or a deliberate conspiracy to mislead and discourage Romney supporters.  I guess one would have to consult his or her inner Oliver Stone.  All one can do is remember the Truman-Dewey election and show up on Election Day.

OBAMA AND ISRAEL

President Obama continues to enjoy the support of a majority of Jewish voters, based on his liberal policies and perceived support of the State of Israel.  However, although Mr. Obama says all the right things to have the Jewish voters believe he is a strong supporter, many of his actions over the last four years have not been consistent with what he has said.  These inconsistencies lead me to question the depth of his commitment to Israel.  Yet a majority of Jews continue to support him by rote simply because he is a liberal Democrat.  My message is look at the facts and re-evaluate your thinking before it is too late!

For example:

1.  He has criticized those who have denied that the Holocaust occurred, but he favors talks and, in general, a mild diplomatic approach with Ahmadinejad, who not only continues to deny that the Holocaust occurred but also promises to destroy Israel and is building a nuclear arsenal to do just that.

2.  Mr.  Obama claims to be committed to a strong and secure Israel, but then he said he favors a return to the pre-1967 borders as a precondition to meaningful peace talks.  He claims to be an ally and a friend of Israel’s, but then he offends Mr. Netanyahu with the above declaration and compounds it by refusing to meet with him in NY.

3.  Let’s not forget the infamous Jerusalem flip-flop, which was the subject one of my previous blogs.

4.  Most importantly, Mr. Obama seems reluctant to take a strong position with Iran on its nuclear weapons development or with other Middle East leaders at the present time.  My impression is that he is hoping not to stir up any controvery until after the election.  It’s not clear what kind of dialogue he has been having with Israel on the Iran matter, but if Israel should feel it has to act independently to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities before the election it is not clear how much and what types of support Mr. Obama will authorize.  The Israelis don’t want to act unilaterally, but according to a recent Wall Street Journal article Mr. Obama’s message to Israel seems to be more like “you’re on your own, pal”, rather than ” we have your back.”  Make no mistake about it, this tepid and inconsistent support of Israel has also emboldened Iran to continue to defy us.  This is one situation where Mr. Obama’s lack of experience has been a major factor.

In conclusion, Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy has been an abject failure.  He wants to be everbody’s friend with the result that he is nobody’s.  I believe he has been downplaying his true feelings for political reasons.  If he should win re-election,  he will have no further reason to hold back.  In that case, Jews and Israel beware. Four more years of Mr. Obama in the White House with Iran having nuclear capability and the backing of China and Russia may mean the destruction of the State of Israel.

DEVOID OF LEADERSHIP

Less than six weeks to go before the most pivotal election in recent memory and the country’s lack of leadership in the Legislative and Executive Branches is on full display for all the world to see.  The current Congress has displayed a lack of leadership throughout its entire term.  The majority and minority leaders, the Whips, the Speaker of the House, the committee chairpersons and other leaders have been unable to control the fringe elements in their respective parties.  As a result, they have been unable to eliminate squabbling and forge coalitions to pass significant legislation.  This Congress has only passed 173 laws, roughly half of a typical Congress’ output.  In addition, it adjourned earlier than any other Congress since 1960, leaving unresolved significant bills dealing with the expiration of the “Bush tax cuts,” forestalling the Post Office’s insolvency, a Farm Bill, and other matters.  They plan to take up these matters after the election.  Good luck with that.  At that point, it will be a “lame duck” Congress as some current members will have lost re-election.  It should be interesting to see how that plays out.

In fact the leadersip is so low profile and inept that few people can even name them.  For the record they are:  Harry Reid – Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell – Minority Leader, Jon Kyl – Minority Whip, John Boehner – Speaker of the House, Eric Cantor – Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy – Majority Whip, Nancy Pelosi – Minority Leader, Steny Hoyer – Minority Whip.  They are a far cry from the lions of yesteryear on both sides of the aisle, such as Sam Rayburn,  Everett Dirksen, Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, Hubert Humphrey, Jacob Javits, Lyndon Johnson, and Newt Gingrich, who knew how to compromise with their counterparts and accomplish things.

President Obama was right to criticize Congress for adjourning early so that its members could concentrate on their respective re-election campaigns, however, he is guilty of the exact same thing!  What hypocrisy!  First, he told Mr. Netanyahu he could not meet with him while he was in NY for the UN meetings because he was too busy campaigning.  Now it seems he has no plans to meet with any of the world leaders.  He is letting a perfect opportunity go by because he is too busy campaigning.  In view of all the crises in the world right now – Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt to name a few, one would think Mr. Obama could somehow find the time. It should be noted that former presidents Clinton and Bush 43 did find the time to interrupt their campaigning and meet with world leaders under similar circumstances.

Mr. Obama does, however, have enough time to yuk it up with David Letterman, Jay Z , the “View” women, and his other entertainment pals.  After nearly four years in office he has not learned that Americans do not want a celebrity President; they want a competent President.

ARE THE VOTERS PAYING ATTENTION?

Are the voters paying attention to the important issues of the Presidential campaign?  Do they realize what is at stake in this election?  Do they care?

As the campaign heads into the home stretch, it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that a sizeable portion of the voters are not paying attention to the campaign.  Instead, I believe they are distracted by issues in their own lives, or they are turned off by politics, in general, and they are planning to vote according to their political preconceptions rather than through careful analysis of the issues.

Despite President Obama’s poor record over the last four years, Mr. Romney is polling behind in all of the key battleground states – Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin to name the big ones.  Various polls show him down 5% in Florida despite 8.8% unemployment and one of the worst housing markets of any state in the country.   He’s down in Ohio even though the state has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country during the last four years, although it has been improving.  He’s down eight points in Michigan, the state in which he was born and his father, George, served two terms as Governor.  He’s down 14 points in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan’s home state, and eight points in Virginia.  He has to win virtually all of these states, depending on other combinations of smaller states that are in play, and he is ahead in none of them.

Most perplexing of all, in a recent poll a plurality of voters identified Obama as more qualified to solve the country’s economic woes than Romney.  That result was a real “head scratcher.” Anyone who thinks that really hasn’t been paying attention.

All these polls indicate that Romney has a lot of work to do.  Somehow, he has to change his strategy to get his points across to the voters.  He needs to be clear, specific and forceful.  There are still over 6 weeks to go until election day, which history shows is enough time.  But to  quote that famous baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It gets late early.”

IS ROMNEY THE WRONG CANDIDATE OR JUST RUNNING THE WRONG CAMPAIGN ?

As I write this blog, there are 47 days to Election Day, and most polls show Mr. Obama slightly ahead of Mr. Romney, although within the margin of error.  I know that history is full of examples of big comebacks in the last few weeks before Election Day, (Harry Truman and Ronald Regan come to mind), and some analysts have questioned the validity of some of the polls, but, that said, Romney’s situation is puzzling at the very least if not downright troubling.

The issues are all on the side of Romney and the GOP.  Some examples: (1) A deep recession with no end in sight; (2) over 8% unemployment with an equal amount of people underemployed and a goodly number of people who have given up and left the workforce; (3) a $16 trillion debt, which increases minute to minute, and no plan to repay it;  (4) a nuclear threat in Iran;  (5)  widespread violence in the Middle East, including an assassinated ambassador; and (6) general disrespect throughout the world.  Clearly, Mr. Obama has been “in over his head” and needs to be replaced.

Why, then, do the polls show what they show ?  I believe:

1.  Mr. Romney’s campaign strategy has been too benign.  He needs to attack Mr. Obama’s record forcefully, particularly the economy.

2.  Mr. Obama is very likeable; Mr. Romney is not.  This is just their respective personalities , and it is very difficult to change.  Mr. Obama is the kind of guy one would like to hang out with for a weekend, maybe have a few beers, tell a few jokes, just not as President. That does not mean Mr. Romney cannot win.  After all, few people were as disliked as the late Richard Nixon, even before Watergate.

3.  When you see Mr. Obama on the campaign trail you realize that he is better at running for office than in performing the job once he has won it.  That was how he fooled the majority of us in 2008. He ran one of the best campaigns I can remember, but he has been one of the worst presidents I can remember.  So far, Mr. Romney has not been able to match him as a campaigner, but I think he will make a better president. I also think Mr. Obama will prove to be the better debater.

Mr. Romney still has time to turn this around in the next 47 days.  For the sake of the country let’s hope he does so.

DID BERNANKE HAND THE ELECTION TO OBAMA?

So far, the polls indicate that the election will be very close.  Although Mr. Obama appears to be leading, his lead is well within the margin for error.  Anything can turn the election one way or the other.

Everyone except his most ardent supporters acknowledges that his achilles heal is the economy.  There is no need to rehash the details.  They are well known. The general perception is that even though he was handed a bad economy, his policies have not improved matters.  Indeed, they have made matters worse, and things show no signs of improving anytime soon.

History has demonstrated that one of the few ways in which a sitting president can be defeated is by being held responsible for a bad economy (e.g. Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter).  But, in this case, Ben Bernanke may have ridden to the rescue, intentionally or not.  His recent announcement that the Fed will inject substantial funds into the marketplace and maintain short term rates at or near zero percent has given a short term, artificial boost to the stock market.  Of course, it could also trigger inflation in the long run, but that would occur after the election.

In the meantime, a rising Dow gives people optimism that the economy will improve since the Dow is known to be a leading economic indicator.  Furthermore, according to USA Today in 90% of the elections held since 1900 the incumbent has won when the Dow has risen in the two months preceding the election.

Why would an astute person like Mr. Bernanke expect QE3 to help the economy when QE1 and QE2 did not, or was there an ulterior political motive?  Nobody knows for sure.  Will his action swing the election to Mr. Obama?  Time will tell.

THE ONE PERCENTERS

President Obama and the Democrats have been denigrating, disparaging belittling the 1%ers.  But, who are the 1%ers?  How many are there? Are you one?

In 2011 the US Census Bureau reported that there were 115 million households in the US and a total population of 312 million, which would identify just over 1 million households as 1%ers, more than one might think.   A recent CNBC study reported that the income cut-off to qualify as a 1%er was $343,000.  (Obviously, this is a national average.  If you make that much and live in New York City you might not feel rich, but if you live in Dallas with no state income tax it would be a different story.)  Most 1%ers did not identify themselves as such.  They, like most Americans, had an inflated impression of how much Americans earn.

1%ers are not a monolith as Mr. Obama and the Dems would have us believe.  Membership in the 1% group is not constant; new members are continually being added and subtracted as households become more or less successful from year to year.  To be sure, there are some who fit the old cliche –  WASP, born wealthy, belong to country clubs, were educated at prep schools and Ivy League Universities and inherited substantial wealth. But, a recent study published in the NY Times denotes that the group also includes entrpreneurs, self-made businessmen, doctors, business executives, entertainers, professional athletes, and others and includes all racial, religious and ethnic groups.  Moreover, a majority advised they did not inherit any money.  Furthermore, virtually all of the 1%ers achieved their status through some or all of the following: talent, hard work, a strong family unit, and education, including post-graduate degrees.

Additionally, the NY Times study found that, politically, 1%ers ran the gamut from conservative Republican to liberal Democrat.  Many were not opposed to paying more taxes, even though they currently pay about 25% of all federal taxes, but they are dismayed at how the government wastes the tax money it does collect.  Also, many of them are sensitive to some of the criticisms leveled at them and feel that the 99% don’t understand what they went through to achieve their success.

For example, doctors typically don’t begin to earn any money at their profession until their early 30’s, and, even then, they may spend most of their professional life paying off their mid-six figure college and medical school debt.  Entrepreneurs and small business owners must be creative and endure sometimes years of 24/7 work schedules, disrupted family life, substantial risk and long odds before succeeding, (only to be told by the President and the Dems that “You Didn’t Build it).”  Professional atheletes face long odds, damaged bodies and short careers  Everyone focuses on the rare $100 million contract, but for every one of those there are thousands of fringe players or players who never make it.  The list goes on.

In other words, there is more than one side of the 1%er story.  Alarmingly, in a recent study the Pew Research Center concluded that Americans were more concerned about conflicts between the rich and poor than conflicts among races or any other group. Instead of denigrating, deriding and belittling their success, President Obama, the Dems and the other 99% should applaud it and seek to emulate it.  That’s the American Way and the way it’s been since the founding of the Republic.

I AM ENTITLED TO YOURS AND I WANT IT

I am 67 years old.  For the first 63 years of my life, Americans, for the most part, earned their wealth and income through  capitalism, free enterprise and hard work much like they had since the beginning of the Republic.  Yes, there were and are laws within which one is required to operate,  but basically if you were smarter and worked harder than the next guy and took advantage of whatever opportunities came your way, you ended up with more wealth and income. You did not rely on the government or other people to support you, except for the very basics and temporarily at that. (Note: I am not referring to people who are disabled or have legitimate need for assistance.)

When I was starting out in my career, I observed many people with more wealth and income than me. I didn’t resent them.  I didn’t feel I was entitled to part of what they had.  My attitide was to aspire to work harder to achieve what they had and become wealthy like them.  Most of my contemporaries felt the same way.  In the end, some of them have been more successful than me; and some less successful.  I don’t resent or envy the more successful ones and feel I am entitled to some of their wealth, and as far as I know, my less successful friends feel the same way about me.  That’s the “American Way.”

In the last few years, I believe a sense of entitlement has developed whereby a large portion of the less wealthy look at the more wealthy with the attitude “You don’t deserve all the wealth you have;  I want some of it; I am entitled to it.”  I believe that this not so subtle shift in attitude originated with and has been encouraged by President Obama’s socialist philosophy and wealth redistribution policies.    I believe his “you didn’t build it” quote was indicative of how he really feels. Moreover, all this talk about the “1%” versus 99% only serves to divide the country by creating more envy.

A good President is a President of all the people and tries to unify the country, not divide it.  Mr. Obama’s policies are dividing it, and we need a change.