Sunday, February 24, 2008

John S. McCain the Third Veepstakes

It is often said that the vice president serves two purposes: 1) to balance the ticket, 2) DO NO HARM! (to win more votes than he or she would lose).

For balancing purposes, McCain needs to do two things: a) choose another conservative who hasn't irked the Republican base as he has - so as to unite the party, b) someone with stronger credentials on the economy.

The Democrats will use, to some success, the infamous 2005 quote where McCain said he didn't know much about the economy. He could use his vice presidential candidate to help fight this.

I will start by, irrespective of the requirements, naming two pet possibilities:

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)

Why? Because every Republican ticket since 1952, save one, has had a Nixon, Dole or Bush on it and I am amused by such historical oddities.

Dole would probably satisfy all of the requirements I set out. She is a solid conservative (ACU rating of 96) and, as a former labor secretary, has knowledge of the economy. She is also a classy lady who would warm voters hearts and certainly not lose votes. Her main disadvantage is that she is the same age as McCain and he'll probably want to balance the ticket with age as well. Moreover, she is running for re-election this year (and will be nominated in May) so that could make her an awkward veep candidate, though didn't stop Gore from choosing Lieberman in 2000.

Bush satisfies the conservative and economic qualifiers but, by virtue of his surname would probably cost McCain votes especially in that he would aid the Democrats in painting the Arizonan as Bush III.

Now on to others, (in alphabetical order):

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Brownback is certainly a conservative (ACU rating of 87), and even more especially a social conservative. After abandoning his ill-fated bid for the presidency he endorsed McCain which might be viewed as a plus. However, his support of McCain's immigration reform doesn't make him a very good candidate for bringing in the base. Moreover, he doesn't have much economic experience.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
An early supporter of McCain, Burr is a strong conservative (ACU rating of 92). He is young and has some experience but little focused on the economy. He voted on both sides of the immigration bill but unlike McCain and Brownback was not an unabashed supporter of it.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Though he is certainly a solid conservative (ACU rating of 100!), this former physician has been to the far, hard right on a number of issues which would likely turn off McCain. Moreover, he lacks experience on the economy.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL)
Crist's endorsement of McCain on the eve of the Florida primary may have pushed the Arizonan over the top and that win in Florida is what sealed the nomination, thus some favours are certainly owed here! However, Crist doesn't have a strong record as a conservative and Florida is likely to vote Republican with or without him on the ticket.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
A fairly solid conservative (ACU rating of 83), Graham was a strong backer of immigration reform and doesn't have a lot of depth on economic issues. He doesn't balance the ticket.

Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)
Huckabee was for a long time considered a favourite for a VP candidate, however, McCain is distrusted by some economic conservatives as is Huckabee. He would not be a good fit for McCain.
Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT)
Huntsman, a Mormon and governor of Utah, bucked many of his fellow members of the LDS church and fellow Utahans by packing John McCain over fellow Mormon Mitt Romney. He has foreign policy experience (a former ambassador) and economic experience (a former deputy U.S. trade representative and a successful governor overseeing a booming economy). He is young and conservative and could be a surprise choice by McCain.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
A former congressman and freshly elected governor, Jindal is a solid conservative (ACU rating of 92) and particularly a strong social conservative. He is only 36 and thus barely eligible for the vice-presidency (one must by 35) but has a remarkable amount of experience for his age. He was in the Louisiana cabinet at 25, ran a
national commission on medicare at 27, was named president of the University of Louisiana at 28 and was appointed as an Assistant Secretary in the federal health department at 30. He has had tremendous success in health care issues and the Democrats will be trying to make that a major issue in the election. Moreover, his multiculturalism could be the Republican answer to Barack Obama. Like Huntsman, he is another darkhorse.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)
This fellow seems to be the darling choice of the media. Pawlenty was the strongest and steadiest supporter of McCain through the dark period of 2007 when the latter's campaign seemed to be over. However, he is not a strong conservative and therefore would be a poor choice for ticket balance.

Fmr Rep., Int'l Trade Amb. and White House Budget guy Rob Portman (R-OH)
Portman isn't a household name, but he has lots of experience. He was a congressman for 8 years (getting an ACU rating of 88 in his last year) and served for 2 years as a junior member of the Bush cabinet (first as International Trade Representative [essentially the U.S. trade minister] and then as White House budget director [eseentially a finance minister in a minority government, with less leaway]). He is highly regarded among Washington insiders and is attractive and charismatic. Moreover, Ohio will be a key state (as it was in 2004) and he could help keep it in the Republican column.

Gov. Sonny Purdue (R-GA)
Purdue is only 10 years younger than McCain, has no national profile, no international experience and no tremendous economic record to present. Why he has appeared on some lists as a potential pick escapes me.

Fmr. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (R-PA)
A former congressman from and governor of Pennsylvania, the current Democratic governor of the swing state (which went Democratic by small margins in 2000 and 2004) said Ridge would push the state into the Republican column. Though he is not a solid conservative (he got a 61 rating from the ACU his last year in congress), he is well regarded for his stewardship of the terror file by conservatives and is a key Bush ally. He has supported McCain since day one and seems close to the Senator and delivering Pennsylvania would almost guarantee a victory for the Republicans.
(See "UPDATE" below)

Gov. Mike Sanford (R-SC)
A solid conservative (ACU rating of 92) and a compatriot of McCain in the anti-pork spending crusade, Sanford could be a good way to balance the ticket and to please McCain.

Fmr. Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN)
Thompson is a solid conservative and an old friend of McCain's from the Senate and from the latter's 2000 presidential run. Had he not run for president, or run and done better, I would imagine him as a frontrunner for the McCain VP nod. However, owing to his disappointing performance when he was running to be at the top of the ticket, I dought he would be tapped to run at the bottom.

Fmr. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK)
Watts, one of view Black Republicans ever elected to national office, is a strong conservative (ACU rating of 96) and was always considered a rising star before he opted to honour his committment to only serve three terms. Still relatively young, he could be a good fit for McCain.

No way Jose: The following names have been mentioned but would never be pick

First, McCain is on the record saying that he doesn't expect that the
party would nominate a pro-choice VP candidate. That rules out the
following who are sometimes mentioned:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Fmr. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)*
Fmr. Secretary of State Colin Powell (R-NY)
Sen. Olympia Snowne (R-ME)
Fmr. Gov. Christie Todd-Whitman (R-NJ)

Secretary of State Condi Rice (R-CA) may or may not be pro-choice, but her closeness to the Bush administration and unknown performance is true political arena would prevent her from being chosen.

*- Although Romney is now pro-life his previous positions on this and
many other issues would violate the "do no harm" principle

The likely picks, in order of likelihood in my view:

1. Portman

2. Huntsman

3. Sanford

4. Dole

5. Watts

6. Jindal

NOTES: ACU ratings for the most recent year of service have been used; the list contains all names I have been able to find on veep lists + some of my own (Thompson, Dole and Watts).

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post included Tom Ridge as the #4 most likely pick, however I have since learned he is pro-choice and thus not so likely. (h/t Jonathan Martin)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pre-debate predictions

March 4th is still aways away and there could be a knock-out punch or two thrown in one of the two Democratic debates to come (including one tonight), but here are my predictions for next week.

Clinton wins Texas and Rhode Island
Obama wins Ohio and Vermont

Clinton drops out.

ALSO: More on that McCain thing, I wrote a pretty bold headline last night after watching this on CNN:

DOBBS: Folks, we can talk about a lot of things here tonight but with this story breaking, and the accusations against Senator McCain suggesting, intimating, a relationship with this woman going back eight years ...

GOODWIN: Well --

DOBBS: I just don't see how we can go beyond this. I think we've got to focus on this and try to understand this as best we can.

GOODWIN: Also, Lou, if the allegations are correct it's an affair but it also involves she's a lobbyist and according to "The Times" and involves doing favors for her clients. So there's not just a personal life issue. There's a governmental issue, particularly for McCain and the sense of rectitude that he conveys.

DOBBS: The instinct here is to say this is the man's personal life, why deal with it, but in this instance, the suggestions are quite a bit stronger and broader.

HALPERIN: Well, I think there's a couple of things and I think Michael hit two of them very smartly. One is McCain's greatest strength is this public image of rectitude, that he's a man of honor. And this is a potential problem for him in that respect.

And then the other is, not the personal, but the fact that because she is a lobbyist, because she has clients with business before the committee that there's a potential for reporters to look more than "The Times" has into the question of whether her clients ever got special favors from Senator McCain. The story suggests that, talks about it. It's denied in the story but that does present a potential problem for him.

SHEINKOPF: And the campaign gifts or the other gifts that may or may not be illegal of private flights with someone who is not supposed to be there necessarily, how often did it occur, what else did they give him, all of the stuff will start to percolate.

DOBBS: And the journalism involved here coming out as it has before the paper is printed on the Web site, with the suggestion again that this has been in the works for awhile. Is the "New York Times" endorsing Democratic candidates and having done so for decades, is that timing suspect on the part of the journalistic organization in your mind?

SHEINKOPF: Not suspect in that way. Look, these are good reporters at "The New York Times." Some of them are terrific reporters. Jim Reutenberg is a very good reporter, someone I've known probably for most of the last 20, 25 years.

DOBBS: Me too.

SHEINKOPF: He's a good reporter, honorable and did his job.
Having seen the McCain story reported today, can you believe they were reading the same thing as us? Way over the top.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: McCain scandal?

This NY Times story for tomorrow's print just broke on CNN. I am reading it myself now, but the allegation is McCain is having an affair with a lobbyist, and has been for years, and has done favours for her clients.

This would be the antithesis to McCain's whole political persona and might be the "miracle" Huckabee was looking for. More after I've read...

UPDATE: Much ado about nothing? Hearing Lou Dobbs and friends talk about this at the top of the hour, I thought that this was a huge deal. Reading the article makes it appear it is a regurgation of allegations made back in 2000. No prove of any affair and not really a direct allegation, some allegations about favouritism but nothing over the top. False alarm.

I'll go back to working on my McCain veepstakes piece.

Long time, no write

Sorry for the delay folks, I have been a bit busy.

A hat tip to NB Taxpayer who won TTTT and is accorded the top link to the right. NBT - if you want that link pointing elsewhere, let me know.

Its been an interesting few weeks. Obama's essentially even showing on Tsunami Tuesday followed by 10 straight wins is making him all but inevitable. I had been holding out some hope for Clinton, but the loss in Wisconsin last night was large and went deep into her core areas of support - some of which she lost and others she "won" by the margin of error.

I would now expect her to lose one of Ohio and Texas (if not both) and drop out shortly after March 4.

This all but guarantees President McCain will be sworn-in in January 2009. Clinton would likely have lost to McCain as well but would have made it more of a race. I have always said, and maintain, that Obama is far more susceptable to attack than John Kerry was in 2004 and will likely be totally obliterated by attacks. I did a quick state-by-state gut projection of a McCain-Obama race last week and the electoral college was 397-141.

McCain's allies will be able to use Obama's own words from "Dreams from My Father" (the non-politically correct book pre-politics Obama wrote in the 90s), the recent statement of his wife that she only became proud of America in this election year, and may other instances where Obama has spoken in an idealistic and not pragmatic way.

Calgary Grit made an apt comparison between the McCain-Obama race and the fictional Vinick-Santos race of The West Wing a while back. But remember, in that alternate reality, Vinick was looking to win all 50 states until his campaign was derailed by an "October surprise".

This fall could turn out similar. Indeed, I would think McCain takes Florida totally out of play and his immigration stand would lock up New Mexico for the Republicans and could even put California in play (though I am not sure if he would win it, the Democrats can't win without California and would be forced to campaign there big time, thus losing ground in countless other states).

States like Maine, New Jersey, etc which have been Democratic locks for several elections would certainly be likely McCain pick ups. Even if McCain lost the economic big three (Michigan, Pennsyvania and Ohio), which I suspect he will, he could still win by a large margin.

My prediction now is that McCain wins the electoral vote by at least 100, likely much more.

I love predicting things, so I will move on to the veepstakes for these two candidates shortly. Let me know your ideas.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tsunami watching guide

Before I start to point to what I see as the races to watch on Tuesday, here are a few other tidbits I thought I would share with you:
  • In all of the hub-bub over the voting on Tuesday, the poor Maine Republican caucuses have been left in the dust. They are not being held simultaneously but over the course of the weekend. I link to the CNN results page which I assume/hope will start showing some results today (virtually all of the caucuses were today but some were Thursday and Friday and some will be Sunday and later in the month).

  • I compiled my estimates for delegates by state based on my predictions, you can find thim in this shared Google spreadsheet.
Now, on to the main event:

Here are some things to watch on Tuesday to see how the race is breaking...

Among Democrats there are no real winner-take-all states and most delegates are awarded proportionally by district, with a relatively smaller number awarded proportionally at the state-wide level. Each state and district has a 15% threshold to be eligble for delegates. Some districts have only 2 or 4 delegates and others have 6 or more. There is a huge disparity in terms of voting power in districts with an even number of delegates as opposed to an odd number. For instance, in a district with 3 delegates, a candidate getting 15% of the vote would get one delegate, even if another candidate got 85% of the vote - giving him or her 2 delegates (or twice as many for almost 6 times as many votes). Similarly, a district with four delegates could award 2 to a candidate getting 38% of the vote even if another candidate got 62%. The LA Times has a great piece explaining this (h/t Ben Smith). The moral of the story? There will be no run-away winner in the Democratic primary. If one of the two candidates were to get 60% of the delegates that would be a dramatic landslide, it is more likely that there will be no more than 10 points between Clinton and Obama (55%-45% or closer).

Two key states to watch are the big ones: New York and California. Clinton should do very well in both, if she wins New York by less than 10% she is probably in trouble. If Obama manages to win California, same story. If both happen then that is bad news. Other states to watch to see if Obama is faltering are those holding traditional caucuses: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota and Montana. Obama should win all or most of these, if he doesn't, he may be having a bad day.

Finally, another key state on the Democratic side to watch with be Oklahoma. This was Edwards' strongest state and Obama consistently ran third in polls here. If Obama manages to hold Clinton to 10 points or less or even wins here that means he is picking up more than his fair share of former Edwards supporters which could push him over the top in a lot of sates.

In terms of the Republicans, there are a number of pure winner-take-all states, but most are hybrids with about half of the delegates winner-take-all and then each district's delegates winner-take-all as well. A few states are done by proportional representation. Key states to watch are Missouri and Georgia. In Missouri, McCain may well place third, but Romney, who will face a challenge from Huckabee, needs to win here if he has any chance fo moving forward. In Georgia, McCain could win if Romney gets enough votes to split the conservatives with Huckabee and allow McCain up the middle, if this happens, then it could be a near sweep for McCain. Another state to watch is Massachusettes. Romney was elected governor of the state just over 5 years ago, it will be a tight race with McCain and if McCain wins it will damage Romney in terms of the media's eye even if he has an otherwise good night.