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September 24, 2015

Yogi Berra: Born To Squat

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:21 PM | Baseball 2012-16 • | Baseball Columns | Comments (0)
POLITICS: Rubio on "Amnesty"

Marco Rubio on "Amnesty": Let's Take Care of Everything Else First

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:19 PM | Politics 2015 • | Politics 2016 | Comments (0)
September 17, 2015
POLITICS/LAW: My Latest, 9/17/15

Syrian Refugees: Arm Them, Train Them, And Send Them Back

This Was Not A Good Debate For Jeb Bush and John Kasich

The Supreme Court Probably Isn't Done With Obamacare Litigation

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:40 PM | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2015 • | Politics 2016 • | War 2007-16 | Comments (0)
September 4, 2015
POLITICS/LAW: Latest Roundup

Bobby Jindal and the Easily Forgotten Lessons of Hurricane Katrina

Donald Trump Shows Why Money In Politics Is A Good Thing

Go Back To Your Day Job, Lindsey Graham

How The Supreme Court Created Kim Davis

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:44 AM | Hurricane Katrina • | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2015 • | Politics 2016 | Comments (0)
August 13, 2015
POLITICS: Trumpathon

My two most recent posts at RedState:

1. My quick reaction to the first debate (it seems from post-debate polling that many viewers disagreed with me about Ben Carson, who I thought had a very weak debate but who finished strong.

2. Laura Ingraham Gets Punked By Donald Trump, on the recklessness of conservative talk radio in boosting Donald Trump.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2015 • | Politics 2016 | Comments (0)
July 24, 2015
POLITICS/HISTORY: Connecticut Democrats Erase Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson From Their History

At RedState: Connecticut Democrats Erase Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson From Their History

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 AM | History • | Politics 2015 | Comments (0)
LAW/POLITICS: King v Burwell

I forgot to add this one the last time I updated here - I didn't get around to writing up a full analysis of the King v Burwell decision and its many glaring flaws, but I did put together a Storify essay from my Tweets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 AM | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2015 | Comments (0)
July 10, 2015
BLOG: Welcome Back, Blog!

I've been neglecting this blog rather badly for altogether too long - the archives say I haven't posted here since September 21, 2014. I've been busy in the interim on Twitter, of course, and publishing elsewhere. I probably need to post archived versions of some of those posts here. For now: links.

I will start with The Weekly Standard, where I have this issue's cover story, just posted today: Giving Thomas His Due, on Justice Thomas' opinions over the past year and what they tell us about his philosophy.

The Federalist

Then there's The Federalist, where I tend to post my longer essays these days. I ran a lengthy 5-part essay prior to the Obergefell decision, "Can Gays And Christians Coexist In America?". Part I looked at the Biblical reasons why Christians believe in one-man-one-woman-for-life marriage. Part II looked at the history of Catholicism and other Biblical Christianity in the battles over slavery and Jim Crow. Part III looked at the Christian concept of scandal and the battle between liberty-based and equality-based views of "LGBT rights." Part IV looked at the legal arguments over the rational basis for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. And Part V traced possible ways forward for coexistence post-Obergefell, which admittedly are not looking especially promising at the moment.

The First Principle Of U.S. Foreign Policy looked at various approaches to our foreign policy.

Others from the fall, including some of my poll-analysis posts:

The Ferguson Riots Are Nothing Like The Original Tea Party Protests

Polling Postmortem: The Best And Worst Senate Polls Of 2014 (I keep meaning to run the companion piece on the Governors races before 2016 polling heats up).

Do Democrats Always Win Close Statewide Elections? (covers the 1998-2013 elections; I should update this with 2014 results).

Listening To President Obama's Ebola Advice Could Get People Killed

And of course, if you missed it last time, my essay on how History Is Not On The Democrats' Side In 2016 is still an important read on the coming election, undoubtedly the most significant piece I will write on the 2016 election.


The Rise & Fall of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina - I wrote this a few weeks back, but it's very relevant to today's news.

Reading Tea Leaves on the 2015 Supreme Court Term - Basically just some educated speculation on who would write what and when, which ended up having mixed results.

Democratic Party Now Literally Selling Hate - a Father's Day gift post!

Bernie Sanders, Deodorant and Diversity - a meditation on central planning and markets.

Marco Rubio Recounts The History of Obama’s Treatment of Israel - quick hit on a great Rubio floor speech. Rubio isn't my first choice in 2016, but he's done nothing but impress this year.

From the fall:

2014 and Republican Morale - a GOP victory lap and a reflection on what it meant.

The Breakers Broke: A Look Back At The Fall 2014 Polls - A personal victory lap on my 2014 poll analysis and how it relates to the polling controversies of 2012.

The 2014 Polls And The 2012 Exit Polls - An earlier look at the same topic and at some specific issues with exit polling and poll methodology.

Nobody at Has Read The Fourteenth Amendment

BREAKING: Supreme Court Takes Obamacare Subsidies Case (on King v Burwell).

First Cut: 7 Polling and Elections Lessons From 2014 (Immediate 2014 election aftermath)

Why I Voted Yes On Question 1 (NY) (Election Day post on a NY ballot initiative)

Final Senate Breakers & Governors Breakers Report November 3, 2014

Senate Breakers Report October 30, 2014

Governors Breakers Report October 30, 2014

A Sad and Desperate Attack on Chris Christie - Actually a fairly deep dive on voter fraud controversies.

Governors Breakers Report October 22, 2014

Senate Breakers Report October 21, 2014

Senate and Governors Breakers Report October 10, 2014

Senate Breakers Report and Governors Breakers Report: Oct 1

Introducing The Senate Breakers Report - September 26, 2014, the start of my Fall 2014 stretch drive when I started getting too busy to cross-post here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Blog 2006-16 • | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2014 • | Politics 2015 • | Politics 2016 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0)
September 21, 2014
POLITICS: Bobby Jindal's Energy Plan

My latest at RedState.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 PM | Politics 2016 | Comments (0)
POLITICS: Better Call Paul

My latest at RedState.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:22 PM | Politics 2014 | Comments (0)
September 20, 2014
POLITICS: Mary, Mary

My latest at RedState, on Mary Burke's "plagiarism" scandal and why it matters.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 AM | Politics 2014 | Comments (0)
September 19, 2014
BLOG: RedState and Federalist Roundup

I owe longtime readers here some explanation and apology - my work at both RedState and The Federalist is now exclusive, at least when first published, to those sites, and while I post links on Twitter and Facebook, I tend to forget sometimes to post links back here at the old stomping grounds. (I may well close the comments section here too soon, since the lack of activity means a high spam-to-real-comments ratio, and since most regular commenters by now know how to find me elsewhere).

Here's my most recent posts over the past month, all of them on matters of politics and/or history:


Ferguson, Missouri and the Fog of Partisanship and Ideology

93% of Democratic Senate or Governor Candidates Are White

Where I Was On September 11 (a repost of the annual remembrance)

Is The Democratic Party Proud of its History of Slavery & Segregation?

Mid-September Polls Are Not The Last Word On Senate Races

The Federalist:

History Is Not On The Democrats' Side In 2016

Presidential Battleground States: A History

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:28 PM | Blog 2006-16 • | History • | Politics 2014 • | Politics 2016 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0)
August 12, 2014
POP CULTURE: Robin Williams, Suicide, Depression, and Evil Spirits

My latest at RedState.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 PM | Pop Culture • | Religion | Comments (0)
August 8, 2014
POLITICS/LAW: Recent Posts Roundup

Now that my posts are single-sourced to RedState and The Federalist (for Google/traffic reasons), I've been forgetting to link to them all here. A roundup of my latest:

At RedState:

Halbig's Critics Hoist By Their Own Petards

Obama Peddles Impeachment Conspiracy Theories To Raise Money

John McCain on the Decline & Fall of the United States Senate

Josh Marshall & TPM Promise a "BOOM," Deliver A Dud

Obama Administration Lied About Insurance Company Bailouts

At the Federalist, a cross-posted version of the Obamacare bailouts piece.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:05 PM | Blog 2006-16 • | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2014 • | Politics 2015 | Comments (0)
July 22, 2014

More of my latest posts, off the site. At RedState:

DC Circuit Blocks Obamacare Subsidies, Mandate in 36 States (updated with the Fourth Circuit's decision)

Could Elizabeth Warren Face Ted Cruz In 2016?

8 Myths In The Immigration Debate

At The Federalist:

17 Ways Driverless Cars Could Change America

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:52 PM | Business • | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2014 • | Politics 2016
June 30, 2014
HISTORY/WAR: Enduring Lessons From The Diplomatic Crisis of July 1914

My latest at The Federalist, which also has fairly extensive coverage of today's Hobby Lobby decision.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:11 PM | History • | War 2007-16 | Comments (0)
June 26, 2014
POLITICS: Waiting For The Wave: The 2014 Senate Map

2014 SEN RCP 6 26 14

The polling tells us that the bulk of 2014's contested Senate races are basically dogfights. So why are so many Republicans optimistic? Because it's still June, and some of the elements of the dynamics of 2014 may not be fully baked into the polling yet. How good a year this is for the GOP will depend on those factors.

If you look at the chart at the top of this post, what you pretty clearly can see from the data is that the Senate races right now seem to be sorted into three general groups (although in each group I'm including one race that is less favorable for the GOP than the rest).

Group One, three currently Democrat-held seats in deep-red territory without real incumbents, is the likely GOP blowouts. Montana and South Dakota are both looking locked up, and the South Dakota polling may get even uglier for the Democrats if the third-party support for Larry Pressler (a former Republican Senator running as an independent) fades. West Virginia is closer, close enough that a giant gaffe or scandal or something could put it back on the table, and in a different year or state a 10-point lead would not look insurmountable. But it's hard to see where that support comes from, in a 2014 midterm in West Virginia.

Group Two is the tossups, nine states that are really too close to call right now. Seven of the nine are Democrat-held seats, five with incumbents (Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina) and two open seats (Iowa and Michgigan). One of the two GOP-held seats has an incumbent (Kentucky), the other is open (Georgia). The Democrats have settled on candidates in all nine, Republicans still have a primary in Alaska (the poll average here is the matchup of frontrunner Dan Sullivan against incumbent Mark Begich), a runoff in Georgia (the poll average here is the matchup of frontrunner Jack Kingston against Democrat nominee Michelle Nunn), and a "jungle primary" that will probably result in a December runoff in Louisiana (the poll average here is the runoff matchup of frontrunner Bill Cassidy against incumbent Mary Landrieu). In only one of these races, in Michigan, does the current leader have a 5-point lead; in five of the nine races the frontrunner is below 45%, and in eight of the nine (all but Cassidy in Louisiana) below 46%. While a 2 or 3-point lead in the polls in October may be meaningful, a race with a lead that size in June and 10-20 percent undecided is functionally a tossup, at least until you take into consideration the various factors (national environment, state electorate) that are likely to pull the race in one direction or another as we enter the fall.

Why do Republican analysts feel so optimistic? Because polls, as we recall from 2010 and 2012, are only as good as their ability to project who will turn out and vote, and we are probably still a few months from pollsters being able to really make accurate assessments of what the fall electorate will look like. As Sam Wang, Ph.D., has noted, the various models for predicting how the Senate races will go are predicting different things depending on the extent to which they look beyond the polls to incorporate predictive elements like the economy, the effect of incumbency, the President's approval rating, and the like. Sean Trende, here and here, offered a model based mainly on Obama's approval rating, and found even after some tweaks to incorporate a few other variables, that Democrats could be projected to face double-digit Senate seat losses if the President's approval rating was 43% or lower on Election Day.


That's just one way of skinning this cat, but right now, Obama's approval sits at 41.5 approval/53.9 disapproval, and has been trending rather sharply downward for the past month, with his approval on the economy, foreign policy and healthcare all consistently worse than his overall approval rating. (Via Ace, it's even worse in the battleground states). In that national environment, with midterm elections in general tending to produce Republican-leaning electorates, and with the historic poor performance of second-term presidents in sixth-year midterms, you really have to feel pretty good about GOP chances of winning most of those nine races. That may seem improbable, but there were basically seven Senate races that went to the wire or involved potentially big Democratic upsets in 2012 - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Missouri - and I didn't think at the time they would run the table and win all seven. They did. In a few of those, like Virginia and Wisconsin, the Senate races tracked almost precisely the outcome in the Presidential race, meaning turnout from the top of the ticket was decisive. If the national environment really does show as sour across the board for Democrats in November as it looks from today, eight-for-nine or nine-for-nine could be a possibility. If the environment (including the parties' turnout operations) swings back to a more neutral one, I'd be looking more at the GOP winning five of the nine, which would net a six-seat overall gain in the Senate, enough for control of the chamber but by a very narrow margin that might not last beyond 2016.

For now, that's still a big if, not reflected in polls showing voters not really ready to commit to either side in most of those races. It's why Republicans are waiting for the wave. But it's also a reminder that those races won't win themselves - Democrats ran the table in 2012 by fighting all the way to the whistle in every race with every resource they had. One thing helping the GOP may be the Governor's races: for example, Rick Snyder is now comfortably ahead in the polls in Michigan, and the Colorado GOP dodged a repeat of the 2010 trainwreck by picking Bob Beauprez over Tom Tancredo; Beauprez may not beat John Hickenlooper, but he'll give him a tough race without Tancredo's divisiveness.

Finally, there's Group Three, the races in which the polling shows the Democrats safe for now - but, depending on the national environment, maybe not safe enough just yet to declare those races over. Incumbents Jeff Merkley in Oregon, Al Franken in Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire all have leads around 10 points, and Mark Warner in Virginia has a sixteen-point lead on Ed Gillespie. (It's also always possible some other races could come on the board; there hasn't been much in the way of general election polling in Mississippi or New Mexico, for example. But we'll have to wait and see). But none of them are regularly polling above 50%, the usual rule of thumb for a safe incumbent.

Realistically, those are "reach" races that only go on the board if things really get ugly for the Democrats. Oregon is, I would guess, the best hope for the GOP relative to its present polling given the Cover Oregon fiasco, New Hampshire the toughest of the OR-MN-NH trio due to Shaheen's personal popularity and the likelihood of a landslide win for the Democrats in the Governor's race (the other two will have tight GOV races). Also, Al Franken has a huge warchest, so his race with self-funder Mike McFadden could get ugly and expensive. Virginia, of course, is the longest reach, but Gillespie should be sufficiently well-funded and anodyne to take advantage if Warner slides into the neighborhood of actually being vulnerable.

Predictions? Anybody who's predicting the fall elections in June with too much certainty is nuts. But right now, Republicans have a lot of opportunities in the Senate. If Obama's approval rating keeps tanking, the GOP avoids any major campaign-killing gaffes, and the Democrats don't come up with a magic turnout bullet, the swing in the Senate could be bigger than anyone is realistically talking about right now. Don't count your chickens; this is just the optimistic scenario. But it is not, from the vantage point of late June, an unrealistic one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | Politics 2014 • | Poll Analysis
LAW: A Good Day For The Rule of Law


It is not the job of the court system to tell us what is right, or just; to make policy for us or govern our lives. But it is the job of the court system to police the basic rules of the road that keep our various elected officials, administrative agencies and lower courts from exceeding the powers the People, in the Constitution and laws, have entrusted to them. And today was a good day for the rule of law and a bad one for abuses of power:

1. The Supreme Court held 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Breyer, that President Obama abused his recess appointment power by unilaterally appointing members of the NLRB withouut asking the Senate. The Court split 5-4 on exactly how broad the recess-appointments power is, but all agreed that the President cannot just unilaterally claim that the Senate is in recess (for purposes of bypassing it) when the Senate itself (even Harry Reid) says that it is not in recess. That renders many of the NLRB's acts over a period of years invalid (although proper appointments were eventually made). So much for Obama's vaunted status as a Constitutional scholar; even his own appointees didn't buy his nonsense.

Justice Breyer left some wiggle room, however, for future debates over exactly when the Senate is recessed:

Canning 1

Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito, would have gone further in scaling back the recess power. Scalia reminds us of a favorite point of his, that separation of powers is the true backbone of Constitutional liberty:

Canning 2

2. The Court also held, in a 9-0 loss for Martha Coakley (now running for Governor of Massachusetts) that Massachusetts abused its power under the First Amendment by a blanket ban on protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. As Chief Justice Roberts observed, this ban was so draconian that it prevented women entering the clinic from being exposed to peaceable forms of persuasion:

Petitioners are not protestors. They seek not merely to express their opposition to abo­rtion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help in pursuing them. Petitioners believe that they can accomplish this objective only through personal, caring, consensual conversations. And for good reason: It is easier to ignore a strained voice or a waving hand than a direct greeting or an outstretched arm....Respondents point us to no evidence that individuals regularly gather at other clinics, or at other times in Boston, in sufficiently large groups to obstruct access. For a problem shown to arise only once a week in one city at one clinic, creating 35-foot buffer zones at every clinic across the Common­wealth is hardly a narrowly tailored solution.

Justice Scalia would again have gone further, noting evidence that the buffer zones were deliberately intended to discriminate against pro-life viewpoints:

This is an opinion that has Something for Everyone, and the more significant portion continues the onward march of abortion-speech-only jurisprudence.

3. Meanwhile, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, by a 6-1 vote struck down former Mayor Mike Bloomberg's Big Soda ban in a challenge brought by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The court concluded that the agency that passed the ban was not entitled to create policy-making legislation (a common feature as well of President Obama's agencies). A few key excerpts explain why unelected executive agencies (like courts) should not set policy:

Soda 1

Soda 2

Indeed. A good day for a government of laws, not of men.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 AM | Law 2009-16 | Comments (0)
June 5, 2014
WAR/POLITICS: Yes, It Matters That Bowe Bergdahl Deserted

bad deal indy

Does it matter whether Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter, or worse, a traitor? In evaluating President Obama's decision to trade five high-ranking Taliban terrorists for Bergdahl, it absolutely does.

Given the public-relations fiasco around the Bergdahl deal, liberal commentators are circling the wagons. Their latest argument, designed to compartmentalize the pieces of the controversy so they can't be considered as a whole, is that the President's calculation of what it was worth giving up to get Bergdahl back should not have taken consideration of the facts of Bergdahl's conduct and disappearance, specifically his abandonment of his comrades and mission under circumstances suggesting a deeper betrayal than simple desertion. This argument (which is summarized here by Brian Beutler at the New Republic, although it's been coming from people all over the left side of the commentariat the past two days), goes more or less like this:

1) Either you believe the military should have an ethos of "leave no man behind," or you do not.

2) Either you believe deserters should be court-martialed, or you do not.

3) You can't have a court martial until you've brought Bergdahl back.

4) If you believe in 1) and 2), you should want Bergdahl back first before deciding if he deserted, which is a matter for the court martial system, and he is presumed innocent until then.

As Beutler put it on Twitter, "this standard of rendering verdicts against POWs while they're in captivity and using them to oppose rescue is disgusting."

There are two related problems with this syllogism that illustrate its dependence on simple-minded sloganeering in lieu of sober judgments of reality. First, it confuses purely military decisions with major national security decisions. For soldiers, "leave no man behind" is more than a slogan - it's part of the deep ethos of military service, the knowledge that your comrades have your back even if you get lost or wounded or just screw up. It's the second-highest value the military has, and it's why commanders won't think twice about rescue missions that may put the lives of more soldiers at risk than those that are being rescued. Of course, there's a fair amount of bitterness at Bergdahl's desertion - his decision to leave everyone behind - among his former Army comrades and especially those who lost loved ones trying to get him back. But nobody really argues the point that the military should make efforts like that to get guys like him back.

But an exchange of high-value detainees is not a purely military decision. It's a national-security decision of precisely the type that has always been reserved, not to military men according to their military code, but to the elected civilian political leadership that makes the really big decisions with an eye beyond today's battlefields to the greater interests of the nation. After all, the military's highest value, even higher than its commitment to the lives of its men and women in uniform, is the mission itself - and it's the civilian leadership that sets the mission and chooses what sacrifices we ask of them. There are serious downsides to making ransom deals with terrorists, including setting dangerous men free and setting bad precedents and incentives for the future. Even President Obama had to admit that we could live to regret this deal in terrible ways:

"Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely," Obama told a news conference in Warsaw.

"That's been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There's a certain recidivism rate that takes place."

The existence of downsides, even grave ones, may not convince us to adopt an absolute rule against deals with terrorists; national security decisions often involve a choice among lesser evils, and if your foreign policy can be summarized on a bumper sticker, you will probably get in a lot of accidents. But they illustrate why the pros and cons and competing values need to be weighed carefully, rather than letting one motto ("leave no man behind") or another ("we don't negotiate with terrorists") do our thinking for us. Our principles, as always, must remain a compass, not a straitjacket. And once you concede that the decision involved weighing competing values rather than blindly following a single overriding rule, you have to take consideration of the fact that - while of course we all wanted Bergdahl back - retrieving him was not as compelling a value as retrieving a soldier who did his duty as best he could and unquestionably remained loyal to his country.

Which brings me to the second problem with the syllogism being proposed: that it asks the President of the United States to make vital national security decisions while wearing lawyer-imposed blinders as to the facts. Yes, as a legal matter under U.S. criminal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Sergeant Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty of desertion or any graver misconduct. But every day of the week, every hour of the day, Presidents make decisions on matters large and small, in the national security area and other areas, affecting the lives of many people, based on facts that have not been litigated in court. The idea that the facts of Bergdahl's disappearance could simply be wished away or pretended not to exist, simply because no court-martial had been convened, is ridiculous and juvenile. It's not as if we could get the five Taliban back if we tried Bergdahl and found him guilty, after all. Presidents make decisions based on the best information they have. Sometimes, that information doesn't come from sources that conform to the legal rules of evidence, or from sources that could ever be disclosed in a courtroom. And sometimes, facts come out later that show that the President was misinformed - but those facts arrive too late for a decision to be made. These are the adult realities of the Presidency, and only an appallingly misguided legalism can lead President Obama's own supporters, in the sixth year of his presidency, to remain blind to it.

The military owed Bowe Bergdahl its promise to try to rescue him, even if he walked away. The nation did not owe him an agreement to compromise national security by surrendering five high-value prisoners without asking what we were getting in return.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Politics 2014 • | War 2007-16 | Comments (9)
May 28, 2014
POLITICS/LAW: Interstate Commerce and Interstate Sales of Health Insurance

My latest essay at The Federalist.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:58 PM | Law 2009-16 • | Politics 2014 | Comments (0)
May 21, 2014
POLITICS: Does The Tea Party Need More Experienced Candidates?

Nathan Hale

This election season's primary results, in particular Mitch McConnell's lopsided trouncing yesterday of Matt Bevin, have produced their share of obituaries for the Tea Party. But the experience so far of Tea Party and other insurgent showdowns against the GOP establishment just goes to show that candidates and campaigns still matter - and that's not likely to change. While both "Establishment" and Tea Party campaigns have gotten savvier in learning how to play the primary game, we are likely for the foreseeable future to see Tea Party challengers win when they are good candidates, with some prior political experience, talent and funding - and lose when they lack one or more of those attributes. I'd like to look here in particular at the importance of political experience, and whether Tea Party campaigns has been losing races because it was running complete political novices.

As my analysis below shows, the answer to that question is not cut and dried - but on the whole, the Tea Party candidates with the staying power to win both a primary and general election have tended not to be people jumping into the political fray for the first time in their lives. As we'll see, political novices are most likely to win when they are business executives running for governor without an incumbent opponent, and candidates without prior elective experience are best suited to win when they have some family connection or other appointed entree into politics.

Experience isn't everything; Tea Party challenges have also failed for being underfunded and for having a crowded field that divided the anti-Establishment vote. But these and other aspects of successful campaigns - the ability to raise money, unite factions behind a single candidate, and avoid disabling gaffes - tend also to be byproducts of experience. The lesson is that activists who want to win statewide races behind Tea Party challengers to entrenched incumbents should begin by building a bench of Congressmen, state Attorneys General, state Treasurers, Secretaries of State and Comptrollers, state legislators, Mayors, district attorneys, and other intermediate rungs on the ladder to governorships and Senate seats.


For the analysis below, what I did was go through the list of Republican primary battles in Senate and Governor's races from 2010 through 2014, and isolate the races that can reasonably be classified as "Establishment" versus "Tea Party" races. Now, this involves a fair amount of generalization, and I show my work so you can draw your own conclusions. The Establishment, broadly speaking, refers to the official party committees (the RNC, NRSC, RGA and the state-level parties) and large organizations (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's group), but also to the constellation of donors, officeholders, and pundits that collectively tend to circle the wagons around party leadership and more moderate or less rock-the-boat candidates. Not every "Establishment" organ or figure has taken sides in each of these races, and each can argue for their own won-loss record, but it's usually not hard to tell who has the implicit or explicit backing of party bigwigs. The "Tea Party" is an even more amorphous collection of insurgent groups across a variety of issues, including the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and a host of smaller groups with "Tea Party" in the name (some of which are more legitimate than others, some of which are frankly scams on donors and candidates), social conservative groups, and individual figures like Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, and of course Erick Erickson. And again, different figures in this space have made different choices in different races. That said, it's still possible to see fairly sharp distinctions between the candidates who have "Establishment" backing and those who had to run against a headwind of opposition and rely on Tea Party support. I left off some races like the 2012 Ohio Senate race, where Josh Mandel had a lot of early Tea Party support but had no real Establishment opposition; ditto John Boozman's 2010 Senate campaign in Arkansas.

I also rated the candidates' experience on a 4-point scale - which again oversimplifies, but allows us to perform a quantitative comparison. I gave 3 points to incumbents and other candidates who had previously won a prior Senate, Governor or At-Large (i.e., statewide) House race; 2 to candidates who had won prior elections above the local level; 1 to candidates who had some political experience (appointed or local office, or working as a full-time activist or pundit) but nothing on the level of a Congressional or even state legislative race; and 0 to true political newcomers. Those ratings are listed under "TE#" and "EE#" and the difference between the Tea Party and Establishment candidate in a race listed under "Diff".

Let's walk through the races, grouped by outcome, and then sum up the findings at the end. Note also that in a few places I've listed a "win" that was delivered, not by primary voters, but by a party convention or by one side dropping out of the race.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2014 | Comments (5)
May 19, 2014
POLITICS: The Latest Bogus Obamacare Spin: The Ad Gap

Has Obamacare been outspent on the airwaves? Only if you don't count the biggest source of Obamacare ads.

The last diehard supporters of Obamacare have a new excuse for its pervasive and persistent unpopularity: that there are just too many negative ads out there convincing Americans that Obamacare is a bad idea. But this argument is based on obviously misleading statistics.

President Obama's April 1 now-infamous a football-spiking "Mission Accomplished" speech kicked off the latest round of this meme:

[T]his law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law...Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. (Laughter.)...[T]he debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.(Applause.)

...And we didn't make a hard sell. We didn't have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did. But what we said was, look for yourself, see if it's good for your family. And a whole lot of people decided it was. So I want to thank everybody who worked so hard to make sure that we arrived at this point today.

The latest entrant in this sweepstakes is a "study" the media has presented as being done by "nonpartisan analysts":

The report, released Friday by nonpartisan analysts Kantar Media CMAG, estimates $445 million was spent on political TV ads mentioning the law since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Spending on negative ads outpaced positive ones by more than 15 to 1.

Outside of Social Security and Medicare, "no other law has come close to these amounts, much less within such a short period of time," said Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar Media. "It speaks to the intensity of the opposition among the ACA's political critics" and their belief that the health care issue will benefit their party in this year's elections, she said.

As the November midterm elections approach, the picture looks much the same, Wilner said, although a few pro-Democratic ads are countering with messages supporting the health law and a few pro-Republican ads have gone from a flat-out call for repeal to a message of replacing the law with "free-market solutions."

In the 2014 congressional races, 85 percent of the anti-Obama ads were also anti-"Obamacare" ads, the analysis found. In some competitive races, 100 percent of the pro-Republican TV ads aimed at Democrats contained anti-health law messages.

Over the four years, an estimated $418 million was spent on 880,000 negative TV spots focusing on the law, compared to $27 million on 58,000 positive spots, according to the analysis. Nearly all of the spending was on local TV stations, in races ranging from state offices such as treasurer and governor to Congress and the presidential election.

Steve Benen of the Rachel Maddow Show Blog presents this analysis in pie chart form, and asks:

Benen Pie Chart 5.19.14

[W]hy does the public still disapprove of the Affordable Care Act? Perhaps because they've seen some of the 880,000 attack ads. In fact, maybe I'm the oddball on this, but given the one-sided advertising, shouldn’t the ACA be a lot less popular?

There are four big problems with this analysis. First and foremost, it ignores the fact that the landscape of commentary on Obamacare, and even specifically paid advertising, has been limited to the subset of ads considered by this study. What is missing is the $674 million in taxpayer money spent to market and promote the virtues of the ACA, most of it in the past year, a tidal wave of spending that easily dwarfs the political ad buy:

Obamacare Pie Chart

Second, that's without counting the free media generated by the President of the United States and his celebrity allies in touting the benefits of the ACA. It's egregiously dishonest to suggesting that this wasn't a "hard sell" but just a scrappy, underfunded plucky little federal government outnumbered and outgunned by the big bad Koch brothers. As Caleb Howe noted:

Get Covered You Rubes

You didn’t make a hard sell?? In what universe are the OFA ads, the thousands of carefully crafted tweets, the celebrity endorsements, the endless speeches by the President and every other democrat in every city, county, state, region, principality, protectorate, bus station, nebula, star cluster, dimension and PLANE OF EXISTENCE EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY SINCE THEY FIRST PULLED OBAMACARE OUT OF THEIR COLLECTIVE NO NO AREAS NOT A HARD SELL???

Pitching from every rooftop and every television and every station. Is that a hard sell?

I’m sorry. I probably seem agitated. I should get some Obamacare for that.

But I’m asking. Is having Ellen say America owes our thanks to Obama for this program a hard sell? Are campaign ads touting Obamacare a hard sell? Are dozens and dozens of town halls a hard sell? Are the hours of free air time from MSNBC, including ridiculous ad campaigns for the network touting Obamacare, a hard sell? Are the hundreds of "viral" content pushes a hard sell? Are sports legends telling you to Get Covered a hard sell? Is Valerie Jarrett hocking her wares in Hollywood a hard sell? IS THAT a hard sell? Tell me! Tell me what a hard sell is!

Is asking citizens to investigate which of their friends and family aren't pro Obamacare and then berate them for THAT a hard sell?

As you'll recall, that sales campaign was so reeking in desperation that it was parodied on Saturday Night Live with Obama kissing Justin Bieber on the mouth to sell insurance. pushing moms to evangelize Obamacare to their kids.

UPDATE: Then there's Organizing For Action, the Obama campaign arm, which is now cutting back staff it had employed to market the ACA:

[T]he group's workforce has shrunk in recent months from a high of more than 200 to just over 100 paid employees, according to a Democrat familiar with the group's workings.

The reduction came as OFA was winding down a major enrollment push for Obama's health care law. The group had staffed up for that campaign and to manage 1,700 participants in its fellowship program, and some were on temporary contracts. Most - but not all - of the departing staffers worked on those projects.

But somehow, now after all of that, when it turns out that Obamacare is still unpopular, the problem is that, gosh-darn it, nobody has tried to sell it.

Third, Obama and Benen are basically admitting the failure of one of their chief talking points, to wit, their contention that the 2012 election was a referendum on Obamacare. Obama, after all, spent a billion dollars getting re-elected, and we've been told that "the debate is over" because that election ratified Obamacare, sort of the way the 2004 election ratified the Iraq War. To say that not a penny of the pro-Obama spending was pro-Obamacare spending is to implicitly admit that he did not get re-elected on the popularity of his healthcare plan. And it's not as if Democrats and their billionaire backers, unions and dark-money interest groups - who are not, contrary to spin, being massively outspent by the Koch brothers - are unable to put more money into advertising; the fact that ACA critics are running campaign ads on the topic and its defenders are not is a sign that political professionals know the public has already made its mind up, and their money speaks louder than words as to what they think the voters will respond to.

Fourth, Obamacare's unpopularity is not a new thing. RCP's polling average goes back to November 2009, and the program's popularity has been at least 4.7 points underwater every single day of the past four and a half years, and more than double digits underwater for the great majority of the period (only for a few days in August 2012 did it rise above -5):

Obamacare RCP Average

The only really large-scale spike in unpopularity came in late 2013, and was associated not so much with campaign ads as with the disastrous rollout of the online exchanges. If anything, the persistence of the polling on this issue suggests that few minds are likely to be changed by TV ads (you'll recall that a major theme of the 2012 postmortems was the ineffectiveness of TV ad campaigns at changing minds). At some point, you just have to admit that the reason Obamacare is unpopular is that people don't like it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2014 | Comments (1)
WAR/POLITICS: Hillary Clinton's Iraq War Vote

My latest at The Federalist.

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May 5, 2014
BUSINESS: In Defense Of Homeowners

My latest at The Federalist.

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April 9, 2014
POLITICS: Watch How The Left-Wing Smear Machine Does Dick Durbin's Dirty Work

sahil kapur

Watch how Dick Durbin launches a coordinated assault on a Republican with an egregious misquote that takes off after it gets laundered through the left-wing media.

Yesterday afternoon, Sahil Kapur of TalkingPointsMemo wrote a piece quoting remarks from Mitch McConnell:

"Instead of focusing on jobs, [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] launched into another confusing attack on the left's latest bizarre obsession," the Republican leader said on the Senate floor. "Just think about that. The percentage of Americans in the workforce is at an almost four-decade low, and Democrats chose to ignore serious job-creation ideas so they could blow a few kisses to their powerful pals on the left."

My RedState colleagues and I can hardly be accused of being Mitch McConnell's biggest fans, but here he was, as any remotely fair-minded observer could tell from his remarks, referring to Reid's now-daily attack on the Koch brothers, which the (current) Senate Majority Leader has for weeks now been pursuing with the single-mindedness of Captain Ahab and the unhinged paranoia of Captain Queeg. If you woke anybody following American politics in the middle of the night and asked, "what is Harry Reid obsessed with attacking?" they would immediately say, "the Koch brothers."

That's what Erik Wemple of the Washington Post concludes today, with somewhat grudging assent from Kapur:

In a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Kapur said, "The initial confusion was that Sen. McConnell didn't specify whether he was referring to pay equity or the Koch brothers and his remarks don’t point to one issue or the other. "His office says it was about the Koch brothers, which I’m not disputing. I want to be transparent, and I really regret the confusion." Here’s a draft of Reid’s remarks as prepared for delivery. They are heavy on anti-Koch content.

"As is crystal clear to anyone who actually read or heard his remarks, Senator McConnell was referring to an ‘attack’ that Senator Reid had made the previous day on two private citizens who disagree with him," McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire said in a statement. "Only someone who believes that Senator Reid was 'attacking' pay equity could conclude that Senator McConnell was doing so himself."

As Wemple notes, the New York Times has appended a correction to a story it ran in this morning's paper, in which the Times is now equally unambiguous: McConnell was clearly misquoted:

Correction: April 9, 2014

An earlier version of this article misidentified the target of criticism by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, as the Senate prepared to vote on legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women. When he referred to "the left's latest bizarre obsession," he was criticizing Democrats' attacks on David H. and Charles G. Koch, conservative billionaires whose political organizations have spent more than $30 million on ads so far to help Republicans win control of the Senate. He was not referring to the pay-equity issue.

But how many people will see the correction? And how did Kapur, whose piece was posted at 1:40 p.m., get this so wrong? Well, at 12:01 p.m., The Hill quoted Reid's number two, Majority Whip Dick Durbin:

"Tune in tomorrow and find out whether five Republicans will join us to raise this issue of pay fairness for women across America. I am not encouraged by the statement just made on the floor by the Republican Senate Leader," Durbin said. "He said that we were blowing 'a few kisses' to our powerful pals on the left with this legislative agenda."

The Hill corrected its piece by 2:02 to clarify McConnell's remarks, and a screenshot isn't available. But the quote from Durbin, dishonest as it is, doesn't outright claim that McConnell was talking about the equal-pay push. For that, he needed allies willing to bend the truth further.

Going back over the Twitter timeline, first up, at 1:22 p.m. we have that reliable toady, Joan Walsh of Salon, with a reference to McConnell's Democratic opponent:


That got 57 Retweets. Walsh's article at Salon, naturally still uncorrected, asserts without citation or context that "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called equal pay 'the left’s latest bizarre obsession' and accused Harry Reid of 'blowing a few kisses' to advocates."

Then, at 1:31, we have DSCC Press Secretary Justin Barasky, citing the Hill article:


At 1:43 we have former DNC flack and now American Bridge and Americans United for Change (ha!) leader Brad Woodhouse, also citing The Hill (you can see in his and Barasky's tweets a sample of what the original Hill article looked like):


It's at this point that the coordinated message-carrying power of the left-wing media kicks in. At 1:45 we get Sally Kohn of the Daily Beast:


Meanwhile, Kapur posted his piece at 1:40, and at 1:46 we have Kapur's editor, Josh Marshall:


No disinformation campaign would be complete without the Daily Kos, so also at 1:46, its eponymous leader kicks off:


At 1:47 we get Kaili Joy Gray of Wonkette, also a former Kos writer:


Hey, how about the White House? At 1:50 we get official White House spokesman Jesse Lee, with the kind of factual rigor - discussing remarks made at the other end of Capitol Hill and easily checked - that we have come to expect from this White House:


By this point, the misinformation is becoming received Beltway conventional wisdom. At 2:12, Politico deputy editor Blake Hounshell moves on to discussing how it will haunt McConnell:


At 2:10 pm, after the Hill has already issued its correction, Jed Lewison posts a Daily Kos front-page item, "McConnell calls equal pay 'the left's latest bizarre obsession'," which remains uncorrected. [UPDATE: After I prodded Lewison on Twitter, he appended a correction to the post] Citing Kapur's piece, he writes, "Senate Minority Mitch McConnell dismisses Democratic concerns about women getting equal pay for equal work as a 'bizarre obsession'". Kos Managing Editor Barbara Morrill circulates the piece at 2:19:


Meanwhile, bearing out Hounshell's prediction. Woodhouse's lavishly-funded propagandists have been busy, and at 2:21 he tweets out a video that continues to completely mischaracterize McConnell's remarks:

At 2:46, Gray is still using the misquote to pester the RNC chairman:


At 3:47, the Daily Beast is still circulating Kapur's original piece:


The irony, of course, is that the "equal pay" push the Democrats are putting on is, itself, based on a farrago of lies and junk statistics (as even this Slate XX analysis observes and as the White House's economist in charge of the issue essentially concedes, yet the White House has been pushing the bogus number without shame or caveat). And Reid's daily Koch brothers attack is itself awash in phony math. But when you're desperate, it seems, the next step from your own lies is to double down by lying about what the other side is saying, even when it's easily checkable.

Because there will always be people on the Left eager to repeat those lies.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 PM | Politics 2014 | Comments (2)
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