Jim Webb and Gary Johnson Taking Steps Towards Independent Runs For The Presidency

Jim Webb

Jim Webb continues to talk about an independent run for the presidency, and has now hired former Draft Biden finance director Sam Jones to handle fund raising should he decide to run.

It is doubtful that such a third party candidacy will receive any meaningful support nationally, but The Washington Post notes that “polling suggests he could have a significant effect on the race in his home state of Virginia, taking between 13 and 19 percent of the vote from the two major candidates.”

Should Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination there we will have a situation where the Democratic candidate is at least as hawkish, and very likely more hawkish, than the Republican candidate–and we have seen how the Republicans cannot be trusted on foreign policy.

Webb would be preferable to Clinton or any likely Republican candidate on foreign policy, having disagreed with Clinton on her support for both the Iraq war while in the Senate and her push for regime change in Libya as Secretary of State. Both of these policies supported by Clinton have resulted in disasters. While Donald Trump also has a better track record than Clinton regarding regime change, he has far too many other negatives to be seriously considered as commander in chief.

Having Webb in the race could theoretically provide a counter to the likely neocon policies of both Clinton, should she defeat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, and most Republican candidates, Webb is otherwise too conservative to provide a meaningful choice. As any vote for a third party would amount to only a protest vote, other possibilities look far more intriguing. At this time, should I make a protest vote (which is easier not living in a battle ground state), I lean towards Jill Stein of the Green Party.

Gary Johnson, who also ran in 2012, has also announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination. Considering that Clinton’s record on civil liberties is also extremely conservative, I might also consider him as a protest vote should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. Entrepreneur Austin Petersen and cybersecurity expert John McAfee have also announced candidacies for the Libertarian Party nomination. Jesse Ventura has also expressed interest, which might make the race even more interesting.

Where We Stand In The Final Weekend Of Campaign 2012

The polls are looking favorable for Obama going into the final weekend before the election.

From the battleground states:

Colorado: Obama 46%, Romney 46% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Colorado: Obama 50%, Romney 46% (Public Policy Polling)

Colorado: Obama 47%, Romney 45% (Denver Post/SurveyUSA)

Florida: Obama 48%, Romney 46% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Iowa: Obama 49%, Romney 45% (Gravis)

Michigan: Obama 52%, Romney 47% (Rasmussen)

Michigan: Obama 52%, Romney 46% (Public Policy Polling)

Nevada: Obama 50%, Romney 44% (Mellman)

New Hampshire: Obama 50%, Romney 44% (New England College)

New Hampshire: Obama 50%, Romney 49% (Gravis)

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 47% (CNN/ORC)

Ohio: Obama 49%, Romney 49% (Rasmussen)

Ohio: Obama 47%, Romney 45% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 46% (We Ask America)

Virginia: Obama 48%, Romney 45% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 48% (We Ask America)

Wisconsin: Obama 52%, Romney 45% (We Ask America)

Daily Tracking Polls:

ABC News/Washington Post: Obama 49%, Romney 48%

Public Policy Polling: Obama 49%, Romney 48%

Purple Strategies: Obama 47%, Romney 46%

Rasmussen: Obama 48%, Romney 48%

Reuters/Ipsos: Obama 46%, Romney 46%

Rasmussen typically has a two point Republican bias. Still, just showing a tie has Dick Morris backing off on his predictions which I discussed earlier this week.

Romney could still win, but would have to out-perform the polls by over two percent to have a chance. The Denver Post has nine electoral college predictions–showing different combinations of states which lead to an Obama victory.

Supporters of each party are looking for ways in which their party could out-perform the polls (with Obama merely needing to match the polls at this point). Both parties have argued that early voting is helping them. The problem for the Republicans is that much of their early voting is occurring in southern states which will go Republican regardless of when people vote. The real question is not who is getting the most early votes, but whether Democrats will increase their total turnout with early voting. Polls of all registered voters typically show the Democrats doing five points better than polls of likely voters. If the Democrats can narrow this gap they can boost the numbers above.

Back in 2004 liberal blogs were counting on the Incumbent Rule to give Kerry the victory. The basic idea is that if the incumbent is running at under 50 percent, the majority of undecided voters will break for the challenger (already knowing the incumbent), giving a challenger who is close behind the victory. That didn’t work for Kerry, and it doesn’t look like this will work for Romney.

Other factors might also alter the results compared to the polls. The Libertarian Party, along with the Constitution Party in Virginia, might take a small number of votes away from Romney. I don’t see the Green Party as being a threat to Obama this year as Nader was to Al Gore in 2000. The Constitution Party’s candidate, Virgil Goode, is from Virginia and has the potential of taking enough votes from Romney to give Obama the state in a close race, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might be a spoiler in some western battle ground states.

There is speculation that the polls might be under-counting Latino votes, possibly enabling Obama to do several points better in some states, as Harry Reid did when running for reelection two years ago.

Under counting cell phone users might also play a part. Polls using robocalls are legally not allowed to call cell phone, underestimating younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic (assuming they do show up to vote). Polls not using cell phones do try to adjust their numbers but at least one Democratic pollster believes that Obama is actually  doing much better than the polls show.

These factors favor Obama, and there is one more trend which helps Obama. He had the far better week, denying Romney the chance to regain the momentum he held after the first debate.  Besides just dominating the news, he benefits from comments from Chris Christie, the endorsement from Michael Bloomberg, and the report of an increase in jobs created. There is very little time left for something to happen to change the trajectory of the race.

 

Legitimate Criticism of Obama, But A Poor Reason Not To Vote For Him

The attacks on Obama coming from Mitt Romney  have been counter to fact, which is one reason Romney continues to fall further behind in the polls. This does not mean there is not legitimate criticism to be made of Obama’s record. The Republicans are not going to criticize Obama where it is deserved as their positions are generally worse. Today Connor Friedersdorf has done what the Republicans never do–present legitimate criticism of Obama. While the criticism is legitimate, I still do not feel it justifies his decision not to vote for Obama.

Friedersdorf criticism is essentially based upon Obama’s foreign policy moves such as the use of drones in Pakistan, killing of an American citizen (although it is significant that the targeted American was working with al Qaeda) and sending troops into Libya without Congressional authority. The criticisms are all valid but I think that it is naive to ignore the difference with the party which moved the country to the right on these issues as opposed to the one which failed to reverse these measures. In an atmosphere in which we do face real dangers, and the Republicans are prepared to blame any future attacks on a Democratic president for not taking all the same actions they advocate, I don’t believe any president after George Bush would have behaved very differently. My bet is that if any Democrat short of Dennis Kucinich ad been elected his supporters would now be having similar complaints, and I’m not entirely convinced that even Kucinich would have wound up doing things much differently.

This is hardly justification for all of Obama’s policies, but it is a fact of life in our two party system. In our two party system, either a Democrat or a Republican will be our next president. Friedersdorf’s idea of voting for Gary Johnson is a meaningless protest. At least hopefully it will be meaningless, as opposed to the Nader vote in 2000 which helped give us George Bush, the Iraq War, and all of the national security nightmares which Friedersdorf  is right to be concerned about.

If there were really no difference between the parties today then such a gesture would be understandable. The fact is that there are major differences between the parties and there is no major issue where having a Republican in the White House would not make matters far worse.

In a two party system you are not going to get everything you want, and it makes little sense to be a one-issue voter or to demand ideological purity. The next president will likely choose the next three Supreme Court justices. I would far rather that this be done by someone who believes in our heritage of separation of church and state, supports a woman’s right to control her own body, and does not support the teaching of creationism in the schools. It is not hard to imagine the harm that three more conservative Republicans would do on the court.

On health care we would risk returning to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage to those with medical problems. We would see the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. We would see further redistribution of wealth to the ultra-wealthy, which is dangerous both to a market economy and to democracy. In this political climate I’m not sure whether Obama could do much about climate change, but I would certainly prefer a party in power which understands the challenges it poses as opposed to a party which denies the problem.

While I personally would prefer Obama over Romney on national security issues, there is plenty in Obama’s record to object to. The same is true with regards to the drug war. Even if we were to consider the parties equal on these issues, there remains major reasons why Obama is far superior to Romney. That is how voting is done in a two party system.

Libertarians Might Keep Mitt Romney Out Of The White House

Libertarian candidates might create some problems for Mitt Romney. Three Republican electors who support Ron Paul are saying they might not cast their electoral votes for Mitt Romney. If Romney should win by a very narrow margin, this could throw the election to the House. The vote in the House is based upon state delegations and, as GOP support is spread over a larger number of small states, Romney would still win the presidency in such a scenario. However if Democrats retain control of the Senate, they could re-elect Joe Biden as Vice President. If the Paul supporters are mad enough over the way Romney has treated them, perhaps they might even vote for Obama in the electoral collage.

At present it doesn’t look like Romney is likely to wind up close enough to Obama for this to matter. On top of all the problems leading to Romney falling behind Obama in the polls, another Libertarian might make it even difficult for Romney to win in some of the swing states. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who was formerly a Republican, is now on the ballot in 47 states. Currently Johnson is polling at 4 percent nationally, but his support is significantly higher in swing states such as Colorado and Nevada. In a close race, he could take enough votes from Romney to keep him from winning some swing states.