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Archive for February, 2012

Arizona by the Numbers – Surging Independent Enrollment

February 27th, 2012

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In the years since the Obama election, Independent enrollment has surged 20% in Arizona while Democratic and Republican enrollment are both down. Arizona technically has a “closed” primary—meaning that only registered Republicans are allowed to vote in the GOP race. But the rules allow voters to switch their enrollment up to 2 days before the balloting. In 2008, 18% of those who voted in the GOP primary called themselves Independents. Whether sizable numbers of Independents will make the switch by Tuesday is unknown, but one thing is clear: come November, Arizona Independents will decide the state.

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The Republican Demolition Derby

February 21st, 2012

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The 2012 election has crossed a barrier. In the latest CNN poll, 40 percent of Americans say things are going well in the country. Is that good? After all, 60 percent still say things are going badly.

For the Democrats, it is good.

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Faith in Math

February 21st, 2012

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Nate Silver makes a meticulous mathematical argument that President Obama would be better off gaining downscale whites even if it costs him many upscale white voters (“Why Obama will embrace the 99%”). But for his math to add up, he has to make a giant leap of faith: that populism will win over working class whites. But where’s the compelling evidence for this populist proposition?

In our surveys of this same group of voters, there is certainly anger directed toward Wall Street, Congress, and special interests, yet we keep hearing a much more resonant emotion: anxiety.  These and other swing voters are deeply concerned that the country is in decline. They fear that they, and especially their children, may not be able to successfully swim against an ebbing tide of American greatness. They don’t know what America does or makes anymore that represents a solid chance for opportunity and growth for themselves and their communities.

Among arguably the most important swing block of the electorate – those who voted for Obama in 2008 but switched to the Republicans in 2010 – this anxiety about America is palpable. In our 2011 survey we asked them to imagine that the world economy were the Olympics, and only one-third said that America would earn the gold 10 years from now. An equal amount said we would not be on the medal stand at all. Michael Ford, who directs the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, found that middle income Americans overwhelmingly believe “the future is being created elsewhere” and that the middle class has lost faith in every major institution in America except the military. A pessimistic populism focused mainly on fairness, income inequality, and anti-corporatism does not speak to, much less answer, these profound anxieties.

Whether he runs as a populist or centrist, President Obama may be reelected no matter the rhetorical framework. As Mr. Silver notes, the economy is improving, bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is in tatters. And let’s not discount the fractured primary on the Republican side. But ultimately, an anger-based “people versus the powerful” argument has been tried, time and again, in the modern political era – by Mondale, Gore, Kerry, and Edwards, among many others – and it always comes up short. What voters along the income spectrum want is a leader who eases their anxieties and speaks to their aspirations, not one who echoes their anger. If Nate Silver has persuasive evidence to the contrary, he didn’t include it in his mathematically astute piece.

 

Year of the Dragon Present Choices for China on Trade

February 15th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

According to Chinese tradition, the coming “Year of the Dragon” will bring success and happiness. But, for modern China, 2012 will also be a year of decision. The choices China makes will have important implications for its future and America’s, and for the health of global trade.

Last year marked China’s 10th anniversary as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). When it joined the WTO, China made a deal. In exchange for expanded market access to the WTO’s now 150+ members, China agreed to adopt free market reforms and significantly open its economy to foreign trade. And because China had much market-opening work to do, the WTO gave China a significant part of the past decade to phase in reforms.

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Is Mitt Romney’s manager cred losing its value?

February 14th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in Politico.

Mitt Romney could end up being the most hapless presidential nominee since Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Romney aims to lead a party whose base is in revolt — against him. Just like liberals were in revolt against Humphrey in 1968.

Antiwar liberals rioted in the streets of Chicago at the 1968 Democratic convention. It’s hard to imagine conservatives rioting in the streets of Tampa at this year’s Republican convention. Street riots are not their style. But Tea Party activists are pretty good at making their feelings known. And their feelings about Romney are not enthusiastic.

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