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Posts Tagged ‘2012’

Fact Time: The Hispanic Vote

July 13th, 2012

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While Hispanic voters have tended to support Democrats by wide margins in national elections, they are by no means always a sure bet for Democrats. Half of all Hispanic-Americans identify as an Independent. And Independents are not loyal party voters—even if they lean towards one party or the other. Take the example of former President George W. Bush.

In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore won the Hispanic vote by 27 points. But by 2004, President Bush’s support among Hispanics improved, reducing Sen. John Kerry’s margin to 9 points that November. In just 4 years, there was an 18 point swing in Hispanic voting! Democrats rebounded in 2008, with President Obama winning the Hispanic vote by 36 points. In current polls, the President appears ready to extend that margin, up recently by 41 points over Mitt Romney.

While it’s unlikely that Romney will capture a sizeable share of the Hispanic vote—indeed, he’s more likely to suffer former Sen. Bob Dole’s fate (he lost the Hispanic vote by 52 points in 1996)—Hispanic voters may not always support Democrats by wide margins. As President Bush illustrated, this is a group that is open to voting for both parties.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

March 19th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in National Journal.

Who’s to blame for rising gas prices? No one. And everyone. The recent spikes we’re all seeing as we drive around are unavoidable. They are the consequence when there are no other widely available options to fuel our cars, trucks, and airplanes. As we noted in a recent paper, Why We Face More Pain at the Pump, current price spikes are the result of worries about renewed conflict in the Middle East, a growing global economy, and refineries going offline.

On the Middle East:

The oil market is spooked. Why? Tensions with Iran over their continued development of nuclear weapons, and Iran’s threats to cut off oil to Europe and close the Strait of Hormuz. Closing the Strait would shut off the shipping route for 20% of the world’s oil, dramatically curtailing supply. [Read more about the possible effects of war with Iran in our recent report Keeping Our Powder Dry] In 2011, the civil war in Libya had a similar impact on oil prices, despite the fact that Libya only accounted for 2% of global oil supply.

On the global economy:

Through the end of 2011, markets were frightened by the prospect of a Greek default pulling Europe, and the world, into a deep recession. This helped keep oil and other commodity prices down. In mid-February 2012, the European Union agreed to provide Greece an additional round of bailout funding to meet its debt obligations. With an economic crisis seemingly averted, economists anticipate that the global economy, and the demand for oil, will begin to grow more quickly in 2012.

On refineries:

Every year, domestic refineries take a time-out in the spring to perform maintenance and switch to a summer blend of gas. This year, a host of refineries began maintenance early, disrupting gas supplies earlier than usual. At the same time, several refineries are closing because high oil prices have destroyed their profit margins.

Our nation must begin to provide alternatives to gasoline. Whether the option is natural gas, electricity, or biofuels, forcing oil to compete for consumer dollars, would drive prices down. Will the price spikes caused by Middle East hostility, economic recovery, and refinery shortfalls be enough to move Washington to act? Only time will tell. I for one will be buying a Volt or Prius as soon as I can.

There’s a Silver Lining in the Gas Price Gloom

March 13th, 2012

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With gas prices hitting record highs rarely seen since 1918, it’s understandable that pundits and politicians are looking for someone to blame. Headlines from recent polls have all but shouted that President Obama’s popularity is taking a hit from bad news at the pump. The reality is, however, that voters are a lot more sophisticated than they often get credit for. In fact, the data suggests that voters are taking a much more realistic position about how high gas prices are impacting them and who is, and is not, to blame.

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

March 12th, 2012

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“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’…”
-Bob Dylan 

The battles of the sixties may finally be over. How do we know? Because 2012 looks like the first election in nearly fifty years in which social issues are working to the advantage of Democrats.

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States in 2011 provoked a thought. In the 1960s, China experienced the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. They got over it. In the 1960s, the United States experienced the Great American Cultural Revolution. We never got over it.

Until now.

Eight years ago, Bill Clinton offered this defining explanation of American politics: “If you look back on the sixties and, on balance, you think there was more good than harm in it, you’re probably a Democrat. And if you think there’s more harm than good, you’re probably a Republican.”

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The Obama Independents

March 1st, 2012

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What do Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman have in common?

Aside from graduating from college in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, not much. Sanders and Lieberman, the only elected Independents in Congress, couldn’t be further apart—Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist and Lieberman was a surrogate for Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain in 2008. Sanders opposes the Keystone pipeline; Lieberman supports it. If you averaged their views, you wouldn’t know anything about their positions on that issue, nor many others.

But that’s how the media and political world assess the key Independent voter bloc today. They lump the Bernie Sanders, Joe Lieberman, and even Ron Paul Independents together and try to make heads or tails out of them. Talking about Independents as a unified group masks internal diversity, making it nearly impossible to draw coherent conclusions about their policy preferences, and offering little insight for how to appeal to these voters.

Instead, prognosticators and strategists should turn their attention to the true swing voters for 2012: the Obama Independents—those Independents who voted for the President in 2008. As it turns out, Obama Independents are a different breed than those who voted for McCain. They are much more ideologically moderate, vastly more ethnically diverse, and most importantly the swingiest of swing voters. In 2008, Obama won 52% of self-described Independents, a level of support that he has not matched in public polling since. To win in 2012 he doesn’t need to win all of those 52%, but he’ll need most of them. And it’s unlikely, based on our study, that he has much upside with McCain Independents.

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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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