Biggest Lies About Obamacare Debunked Once Again

Michael Tomasky described how, despite all the predictions and lies from opponents, the Affordable Care Act is working and the dire predictions are all failing to come true. He suggested why all the predictions of doom have failed to come true:

…maybe it’s not just dumb luck that the law seems to be working, especially in the states that took the Medicaid money and set up well-run exchanges. Maybe it’s working because bureaucrats (!) anticipated all the potential problems and planned for them in the writing of the law. Nancy-Ann DeParle, one of the administration’s chief architects of Obamacare, put it this way: “When President Obama took office, there were 42 million uninsured Americans, premiums that were unaffordable for families and businesses, a delivery system with the wrong incentives, and unsustainable cost growth. The Affordable Care Act was the product of nearly two decades of bipartisan analysis and discussions among health policy experts and economists to address these problems, and most–indeed, virtually all–of the policies in the law had widespread agreement from these experts.” In other words, writing this law wasn’t guesswork.

He then listed what he considered to be the five biggest lies about Obamacare and why they are not true:

1. Healthy People Won’t Sign Up

Or call this “Death Spiral Part I.” The idea here, spread lustily by many conservatives since 2010 but especially during last fall’s disastrous roll out, was that healthy people simply wouldn’t buy insurance. Senator Orrin Hatch said last November that “at this pace, the Obama administration will never be able to meet their enrollment goals.” Speaker John Boehner at the time groused that “the idea that the federal government should come in and create a one size fits all for the entire country never was going to work.”

Their hope was that only really sick people would sign up, which would lead rates to spike—the much-feared death spiral (more on that later). But lo and behold it turned out that millions of healthy people did want health insurance. As noted above, the precise numbers are hard to come by. But Gallup’s estimate is that the country has roughly 10 million newly insured citizens under Obamacare. And insurance companies report that around 80 to 85 percent of them are paying their premiums (this was another canard spread on the right, that people would sign up but never pay).

In sum, the law’s advocates were right, and its critics wrong, that health insurance was something normal Americans did in fact want. “There never was any realistic prospect of a death spiral,” says Jon Gruber of MIT, one of the country’s top health-care economists.

2. You Won’t Be Able to Choose/Keep Your Doctor/Plan

It’s true that this happened in a limited number of cases—maybe six or seven million people who bought policies on the individual market got cancellation letters from insurers telling them that their plans didn’t meet the minimum requirements under the new law, as NBC News explosively reported last fall.

It harmed the administration’s credibility, and rightly so. But it didn’t represent much of a change from the past — the “churn-rate” in the individual market has always been high. More importantly, no one seems to have followed up with this population to try to figure out what percentage did, in fact, lose coverage and/or have to pay considerably more for a new plan, so we don’t actually know how many of those six or seven million walked away satisfied or dissatisfied.

But more broadly, in a country where some 260 million people have health insurance, no one has adduced any proof that the ACA has resulted in anything remotely like the cataclysm opponents predicted. In fact, last fall, Factcheck.org rated such claims as outright falsehoods. And Gruber noted to me that if some people are “losing” their doctors, it’s often by their own choice, because now that they have so many different coverage options, many are choosing less expensive or so-called “limited network” plans. “No one is making people buy these plans,” Gruber says. “They’re cheaper alternatives. This is capitalism at its finest. For the right to criticize that is just ludicrous.”

3. Obamacare Will Explode the Federal Deficit

You heard this one a jillion times back when the law was being debated. Still today, Republicans and conservatives are deft at cherry-picking numbers out of official reports that can convey the misleading impression that fiscal watchdogs think the law will be a disaster.

The truth is that the Congressional Budget Office said in 2010 and reaffirmed this summer that the Affordable Care Act’s budget impact would be positive. The 2010 estimate was that the ACA would cut deficits by $124 billion over its first decade. And in June, CBO head Douglas Elmendorf reported that his experts “have no reason to think that their initial assessment that the ACA would reduce budget deficits was incorrect.”

Now, he throws in a number of caveats, as any bureaucrat should, having to do with the fact that many provisions of the act will kick in later. But Elmendorf sees no hard evidence to suggest that initial estimates were wrong. In fact, says Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The CBO has estimated that the law will especially reduce the deficit in its second decade, and there’s every reason to believe that those estimates are on course.”

4. Okay, Then, It Will Bust States’ Budgets

Texas’ Rick Perry, Florida’s Rick Scott, and numerous other Republican governors have said that Obamacare will bust their budgets. They’re basing that on the fact that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion through 2016, but a little less than that thereafter (although never less than 90 percent). So states are going to have to start shelling out (that is, states that take the money in the first place, which Texas and Florida did not).

That’s true as far as it goes. But here’s the part Perry and Scott leave out. All states have, of course, an existing relationship with the Medicaid program in which states pay for some portion of the program’s implementation. And a number of studies estimate that in that pool of funds, states will save significant amounts of money that will offset most of the new expenses incurred under Obamacare. For example, Massachusetts found that after implementation of Romneycare, its costs for “uncompensated care”—charity work, basically—decreased considerably. And one study released in June found that uncompensated care costs are already dropping dramatically under the ACA—but only in the states that have taken the Medicaid money.

Thus, Perry, Scott, et alia are perhaps agents of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Yes, the ACA might bust the budgets of their states—the states trying to kill off Obamacare. But in the states trying to make it work, the budgetary impact, say most nonpartisan experts, will be a little bit negative, but pretty small.

5. Premium Rates Will Shoot Through the Roof

This is the big enchilada, and the culmination of the alleged death spiral. The charge here is that the lack of healthy enrollees will force insurers to jack rates up to the heavens, because they’ll have all these sick and dying people on their hands. Premium hikes for this year were all over the map, because they were based on guesswork by the insurance companies about who was enrolled. But now, the companies have hard data. So just watch, critics say, as the rates go boom.

To be sure, you can go to your Google machine and enter “insurance premium increases 2015” and find a lot of scary headlines from earlier this year. But you can ignore them all, because no one really knows yet.

Here’s how it works. By roughly this past Memorial Day, insurance companies submitted their 2015 rate requests to the states. These could range from tiny to huge—but they’re just requests. State insurance commissioners are now reviewing the requests. Final, approved rates will be made public in November (before November 15, when Obamacare’s second enrollment period begins). By the way, the ACA, for the first time ever, rationalized this “rate season,” so that everything happens in almost every state at the same time and in more or less the same way. Before, there was no national logic to the process at all.

Again, to echo back to what DeParle said: The people writing the law knew all this was coming, and understood very well that rate shock would be a risk. As a result there are numerous provisions in the law designed to guard against it. The most notable one carries an obvious name: “rate review.” Under rate review, any request for an increase of 10 percent or more has to be approved by a board, to which the insurer has to offer copious documentation proving that such a hike is necessary. Prior to the ACA, there was no such review.

Before we go any further, let’s step back. What’s a typical, pre-ACA rate increase? Good question. In 2008 it was 9.9 percent; 2009, 10.8 percent; 2010, 11.7 percent. Within those broad averages, numbers were all over the map: In 2010, rates went up in Kentucky by just 5.5 percent, but in Nebraska by 21.8 percent.

The numbers released in November will similarly be all over the map. There are just too many variables to say otherwise—how much competition there is among insurers in any given state (in general, it’s increased); what the risk pool looks like in a state (how old, how sick); and other factors. So undoubtedly, there will be some isolated hair-raising increases.

We don’t know, but we do have some early indications and studies, and they are pretty hopeful. The Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers looked at rate requests from insurers that have been filed across 29 states and the District of Columbia and found that the average increase is 8.2 percent, which is impressively low and definitely not “sticker shock.” And remember, these are mostly just requests (in Rhode Island and Oregon, the rates are final), which aggressive state insurance commissioners might seek to make still lower.  “So far, the filings suggest modest increases for 2015, well below the double digit hikes many feared,” says Ceci Connolly, the managing director of the institute.

All the above is about the individual market—people buying insurance on their own, either through state exchanges or the federal marketplace. For a host of reasons, that’s the best barometer by which to measure the law’s success. But there are other markets, too, notably the small-business market, where employers with fewer than 50 employees buy for their workers. There has been some grumbling among conservatives that this “small-group” market will take an especially hard hit, but that seems not to be the case either.

Again, there will be great variance in the small-group market, according to Jon Kingsdale, of the Wakely Consulting Group in Boston. He says the biggest impact will be that, because of some technical changes made by the law, employers with older employees and larger families will likely see rates increase, while employers with younger workers and smaller families may see rates decrease.  But overall, says Kingsdale, “I do not believe there will be a significant jump in rate in the small-group market, because the underlying body of people being insured is not so different from the prior year.”

One last point on rates: This is another area where Republican saboteurs of the law can, if they choose to, make it not work. That is, Republican state insurance commissioners can approve big premium hikes just to make the law look bad. Says Sally McCarty, the former Indiana state insurance commissioner, now at the Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms: “States that are in earnest about implementing the law will likely see lower increases, and states not so concerned about seeing the law succeed will see higher increases.”

 

 

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This Is Not The Libertarian Moment, But Also Not The Right Moment For Democrats To Follow Hillary Clinton’s Views

Robert Draper asks, Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived? in The New York Times Magazine.

Libertarians, who long have relished their role as acerbic sideline critics of American political theater, now find themselves and their movement thrust into the middle of it. For decades their ideas have had serious backing financially (most prominently by the Koch brothers, one of whom, David H., ran as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian Party ticket), intellectually (by way of policy shops like the Cato Institute and C.E.I.) and in the media (through platforms like Reason and, as of last year, “The Independents”). But today, for perhaps the first time, the libertarian movement appears to have genuine political momentum on its side. An estimated 54 percent of Americans now favor extending marriage rights to gay couples. Decriminalizing marijuana has become a mainstream position, while the drive to reduce sentences for minor drug offenders has led to the wondrous spectacle of Rick Perry — the governor of Texas, where more inmates are executed than in any other state — telling a Washington audience: “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money.” The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget. And deep concern over government surveillance looms as one of the few bipartisan sentiments in Washington, which is somewhat unanticipated given that the surveiller in chief, the former constitutional-law professor Barack Obama, had been described in a 2008 Times Op-Ed by the legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen as potentially “our first president who is a civil libertarian.”

Meanwhile, the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms may well become a political wild card over time, in large part because of its libertarian leanings. Raised on the ad hoc communalism of the Internet, disenchanted by the Iraq War, reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles, appalled by government intrusion into their private affairs and increasingly convinced that the Obama economy is rigged against them, the millennials can no longer be regarded as faithful Democrats — and a recent poll confirmed that fully half of voters between ages 18 and 29 are unwedded to either party. Obama has profoundly disappointed many of these voters by shying away from marijuana decriminalization, by leading from behind on same-sex marriage, by trumping the Bush administration on illegal-immigrant deportations and by expanding Bush’s N.S.A. surveillance program. As one 30-year-old libertarian senior staff member on the Hill told me: “I think we expected this sort of thing from Bush. But Obama seemed to be hip and in touch with my generation, and then he goes and reads our emails.”

To say that the libertarian moment has arrived based upon the views of millennials is to look at only part of the picture. Polling has showed millennials to typically be liberal on social issues, non-interventionist on foreign, policy, but far from conservative or libertarian on issues such as preserving the safety-net and providing universal health care. They are hardly likely to be attracted by either the Republican or Libertarian Party. Unfortunately the Democrats also are risking turning off such voters with the choice of Hillary Clinton:

Early polls show young voters favoring Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, but their support could erode as they refamiliarize themselves with her, just as it did in 2008. Clinton has been even slower than Obama to embrace progressive social causes, while in foreign policy, she associates herself more with her former Senate colleague John McCain than with noninterventionists. Nor is Clinton likely to quell millennial fears about government surveillance. Welch says: “Hillary isn’t going to be any good on these issues. She has an authoritative mind-set and has no interest in Edward Snowden, who’s a hero to a lot of these people.”

Comparing Clinton to John McCain, who seems to have never seen a possibility for going to war which didn’t excite him, might be a little extreme, but she has firmly placed herself in the Joe Lieberman camp. She is a rare Democrat who rooted for going to war with Iraq based upon false claims tying Saddam to al Qaeda. She now repudiates her past support for the war however the story of Hillary Clinton’s career has been to get the big issues wrong at the time and possibly later realize that she was wrong. As I’ve also pointed out before, in the remote chance that the Republicans do nominate Rand Paul, or anyone else with similar non-interventionist views, this could really shake up the race, putting Democrats in the position of running from the right on foreign policy. Clinton’s weakness and cowardice on social issues wouldn’t help matters.

So, no, the Libertarian Moment has not arrived. The future looks more friendly towards politicians who are socially liberal, anti-interventionism, but far from libertarian across the board. Most likely the Republicans will run a candidate who is even further to the right of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and social issues, and as Andrew Sullivan recently argued, Clinton will try to run on vacuous statements (along with inevitability), and avoid taking controversial positions on the issues.  She will continue to try to stick with what she sees as safe answers, such as saying that the Bible is the book which she found most influential. Maybe she will get away with it, but if the Republicans shake things up and question her on more libertarian grounds on social issues and foreign policy, there is the real danger of the Democrats losing the millennials.

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Republicans Spared Boehner Because God Told Them To

If you believe some people, God takes as great an interest in the Republican Party as he does in Notre Dame football. The Washington Post described how John Boehner managed to remain in power despite opposition in his own party:

Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker.

Boehner’s opponents might have remembered that God’s support for Boehner as Speaker does not necessarily preclude his support for additional people to move on to be Speaker. Before the last election, God wanted Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry to run for president.

I actually find this more disturbing than a politician telling the public that God wants them to run. Perhaps they might pick up some votes, but we hope that the candidate doesn’t really believe this.  In the case of the Republican revolt against Boehner, it appears we actually had members of Congress change how they voted for Speaker because either they believed God told them to spare Boehner or because they believed others when told that this is God’s will.

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Wingnuts Say The Darndest Things: Michele Bachmann On How God Will Free Us From Obamacare (Which Literally Kills People)

“I think the President will ultimately be forced to repudiate his own signature piece of legislation because the American people will demand it. And I think before his second term is over, we’re going to see a miracle before our eyes, I believe God is going to answer our prayers and we’ll be freed from the yoke of Obamacare. I believe that’s going to happen and we saw step one last week with the repeal of Obamacare in the House. We have two more steps. We serve a mighty God and I believe it can happen.” –Michele Bachmann

Bachmann has also said recently that Obamacare “literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”

The National Memo responds:

Of course, if Bachmann was correct that God pushed her — along with Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry — into the 2012 presidential race, then it seems pretty clear that He was doing His best to ensure that Barack Obama would win re-election, thus protecting health care reform. And if God really wanted to undo Obamacare, then He probably would’ve helped out with House Republican’s previous 37 attempts to repeal the law. But considering that Bachmann was last seen on this list complaining that the IRS will deny conservatives the Obamacare coverage that she hates so much, it’s probably best not to read too deeply into the logic behind her ramblings.

 

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Rick Santorum Becomes Eleventh Candidate To Lead GOP In Polls With Mitt Romney Severely Facing Problems

Although the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney is the probable Republican nominee, he is certainly having a hard time establishing himself as a front runner. Before today’s poll came out, Nate Silver listed ten previous front-runners  in alphabetical order, including some Republicans who led in the polls without being a declared candidate: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Today, Public Policy Polling makes Rick Santorum the eleventh. Santorum leads at 38 percent. Romney trails at 23 percent, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent.

Rick Santorum does even better if he does not have to divide he conservative vote with Newt Gingrich. If Gingrich were to drop out, the poll shows that 58 percent of his supporters would go to Santorum. In a such a three way race, Santorum get to 50 percent, while Romney would be at 28 percent and Paul at 15 percent.

Leadership in the GOP race has not meant very much to date, but falling behind at this stage does create problems for Romney. He might go negative against Santorum as he did against Gingrich, but his negative ads are starting to backfire. Some suggest that instead of going negative against Santorum, Romney must convert to a positive campaign. I’m not sure how a man who lacks any core beliefs or convictions can do this.  His strongest pitch is that he can make up the biggest lies about Barack Obama.

The Maine caucuses conclude tonight with a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. There is speculation that Paul might be able to pull an upset victory. If you cannot beat a crackpot like Ron Paul, it is hard to see victory for the nomination as inevitable.

There’s another potential embarrassment for Romney. Public Policy Polling is also seeing the start of a surge for Santorum in Michigan. A loss in Michigan would be devastating to Romney, both for losing his home state and because of reinforcing Santorum’s dominance over Romney in the Midwest. Perhaps Romney will try to flip-flop on having been born and raised in Michigan. Would Mitt Romney’s birth certificate then become an issue?

CPAC is also conducting their straw poll. To paraphrase Jay Leno, Romney is promising to change his views to whatever views CPAC members desire. Romney pandered before them, claiming to be “severely conservative.” The word severe might sound out of place here, unless you see it as an honest admission from Romney, such as “I am severely insane” or, at very least, “I am severely out of touch with the voters of this country.”

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Santorum Moving Up In Sinking Ship

The big question of the day is how Mitt Romney could possibly have lost three contests last night (Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri) after receiving the endorsement of Donald Trump? As Trump took the credit for Romney winning in Nevada after receiving his endorsement, is there any chance that Trump would accept the blame for Romney’s loses yesterday. So far, no such concession, but Trump is talking about a cabinet position in a Romney administration (which should scare away some more potential votes) and does raise a valid point about  Santorum:

Rick Santorum was a sitting senator who in re-election lost by 19 points, to my knowledge the most in the history of this country for a sitting senator to lose by 19 points. It’s unheard of. Then he goes out and says oh ‘okay’ I just lost by the biggest margin in history and now I’m going to run for president. Tell me, how does that work? … That’s like me saying I just failed a test. Now I’m going to apply for admission to the Wharton School of Finance. Okay? He just failed a test…. And now he’s going to run for president. So, I don’t get Rick Santorum. I don’t get that whole thing.

Despite this, Santorum has an outside chance at the Republican nomination because of the degree of dislike for Romney by conservative Republicans and the lack of a viable alternative. Compared to Newt Gingrich, Santorum looks like an acceptable choice to GOP leaders. (Ron Paul remains irrelevant towards the actual nomination even though he will probably pick up a number of delegates, especially in the caucus states). I’m not all surprised that Santorum is emerging as the non-Romney candidate outside of the south. He is the best shot for the big-government conservative movement which remains obsessed with imposing their archaic religious views upon the entire country.

Beyond the Santorum hat trick, the other news out of last night’s contests is that turn out remains low in a contested battle for the nomination to oppose  a president who many conservatives continue to think is a black foreign-born Muslim socialist who hangs out with terrorists. (Only the first part of that characterization is accurate, but that is enough to get many Republicans to want to defeat him). Public Policy Polling found that “58% of Democrats were ‘very excited’ about voting this fall, compared to 54% of Republicans. Six months ago the figures were 48% of Democrats ‘very excited’ and Republicans at the same 54%. Generally you would expect voters to get more excited as the election gets near.” The poll also found that “The percentage of Tea Party voters ‘very excited’ about voting in November has declined from 73% to 62% since late July.” Perhaps many will remain home in November if the Republicans do not nominate a candidate they find acceptable, while appealing to the Tea Party will lead to further loses among independent and moderate voters. (One caution on this poll is that the poll was conducted for Daily Kos. There is no evidence that this affects the results, but I always feel uneasy about whether pollsters might attempt to please those paying the bill.)

Other recent polls have also been favorable for the Democrats. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Obama with a clear lead over Romney nationally for the first time. The trend favors Obama as “By better than 2 to 1, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him.” Results in battleground states matter more in the electoral college than national polls but as Obama’s support improves nationally, it is also likely to improve in battleground states. The latest Quinnepiac poll shows Obama leading Romney 47 to 43 percent in Virginia. Democrats are also taking the lead in generic polls over preferred control of Congress.

It is still a long way until November and the polls can still change many times between now and then. Unpredictable events can also have a major influence on the election. There is, however, one predicable series of events which will help Obama. Nobody will be able to wrap up the Republican nomination soon, and the more the GOP candidates campaign against each other, the more the approval for all the Republican candidates declines.

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Romney In Serious Trouble In South Carolina

In covering primary and caucus votes I’ve held to two principles: 1) polls, especially in early contests, are meaningless until just before the actual vote, and 2) each vote has the potential to change the dynamic of the nomination battle making polls of  subsequent events open to considerable change. These principles were clear when John Kerry and Barack Obama used come from behind victories in Iowa in 2004 and 2008 to defeat the previous front runners for the Democratic nominations. This year, South Carolina has the potential to derail the campaign of Mitt Romney.

The script was supposed to read that South Carolina would be Romney’s third consecutive win, making his nomination inevitable. While Romney very well can still go on to win, this script is now in doubt. Newt Gingrich has overtaken Romney in late polls, while Santorum has been given the win in Iowa. A loss tonight would make Romney one out of three.

Romney has taken some serious hits, including questions about his years at Bain Capital, his admission that he only pays 15 percent in income taxes, his money in the Cayman Islands, and his poor response to questions about releasing his income tax returns. Added to clear demonstrations that Romney has no convictions or ideas as to how to govern, even if he still should win the nomination it is questionable whether he can compete in a general election campaign.  Exit polls from South Carolina are showing that voters are looking for the candidate with the best shot at beating Barack Obama, but the old conventional wisdom that this is Romney might no longer hold. At this point Newt Gingrich, with all his faults, very well might be the Republican’s most competitive candidate in a general election campaign–which should be very scary for anyone crazy enough to want to see a Republican in the White House.

I wonder how much more momentum Santorum might have received if he had been declared the winner at the time of the actual vote. His initial placement in second place, along with the endorsement from portions of the religious right, appear to be insufficient to make him the major non-Romney candidate in South Carolina. The main difference is probably that Gingrich, from neighboring Georgia, is better able to play into the fears and prejudices of southern Republican voters. It is doubtful the revelations of his infidelity and request for an open marriage would hurt him at all. The morality of the religious right is in no way related to the morality of decent, honorable people who reject their archaic world view. Many in the religious right hold a strange world view where the paternalistic display of power by Newt over his previous wives would be seen as favorable, and Gingrich’s attack on the press for discussing this would be an even bigger plus. Rights of women and the concept of a free press are two ideas which are foreign to them.

The campaign also got down to the final four this week, first helping Romney and then non-Romney. There is a tremendous benefit to being declared first even before the GOP race allows winner take all votes in April. While Jon Huntsman never caught on, it became possible that his votes could make a difference in allowing Romney to hold on to first place in what was then a five way race. Rick Perry’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich helps balance that vote. The question in upcoming states will be whether Gingrich and Santorum divide the conservative vote, while Ron Paul, who has zero chance of actually winning, siphons off enough additional votes to allow Romney to come in first.

Should Romney have a strong showing today he will become very difficult to beat. However, should Gingrich win then the polls showing Romney with leads in Florida and other states might no longer have any meaning. A win for Gingrich in South Carolina would give an entirely new narrative in the Florida race. Romney’s national lead has fallen to ten points in the latest Gallup tracking poll. That poll was a five day rolling average taken between January 15 and 19. Romney’s position at the end of that period  could even be worse., after leading by twenty-three points at the start of the week. Romney could fall even further if he loses in South Carolina, possibly leading to a loss in Florida, or at very least keeping the race going into more states.

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David Letterman: Top Ten Things People Said When They Heard Jon Huntsman Was Dropping Out Of The Presidential Race

David Letterman: Top Ten Things People Said When They Heard Jon Huntsman Was Dropping Out Of The Presidential Race

10. “Who’s Jon Huntsman?”
9. “Is he the rich boring white guy, or the other rich boring white guy?”
8. “Seriously, who’s Jon Huntsman?”
7. “You mean my tax attorney? Oh wait, that’s Stan Huntsman”
6. “Does this mean we can bring Herman Cain back? That guy was hilarious”
5. “So that leaves only four viable candidates, plus Rick Perry”
4. “It’s like Jon Huntsman said . . . Well, actually, I have no idea what he said”
3. “Hey honey, some guy I’ve never heard of is dropping out of the race”
2. “He should have Tebowed more”
1. “Now who’s gonna lose to Obama in the general election?”

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Quote of the Day

“Mitt Romney said that he liked to fire people. Well, there’s a pretty good message to send to Middle America.

“When Rick Perry heard that, he said, ‘Well that’s nothing. I like to execute people.’” –David Letterman

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The Impact of the Iowa Caucus

The 2012 Republican Iowa caucus had far less impact on the race than the 2004 and 2008 Democratic races which propelled John Kerry and Barack Obama to victories in their party. The biggest question is whether we are seeing a repeat of the 2008 Republican caucus, with Rick Santorum playing the part of Mike Huckabee. Santorum benefited from being the last non-Romney candidate standing, surging with too little time for media scrutiny to harm his campaign. His eight vote loss to Mitt Romney might be analogous to Mike Huckabee’s win if it turns out to be an isolated win for a social conservatives. There is an outside chance that Santorum might capitalize upon this win to become a strong enough anti-Romney candidate to pull an upset. If conservatism was really a small-government movement a supporter of big-government such as Santorum would have no chance, but deep down many Republicans must realize their small government rhetoric is all talk. Even the Tea Party members (who have always been dominated by social conservatives) gave Santorum support.

The biggest difference between 2008 and this year is the desire of conservatives to prevent a replay of 2008 and allow someone they see as more moderate win the nomination. Newt Gingrich now wants an anti-Romney alliance with Santorum, but this looks a lot like a losing candidate trying to remain relevant. Gingrich might destroy Romney, and in the process destroy the GOPs chances at winning the general election. It is about time Gingrich does something useful.

Meanwhile conservative leaders are meeting in Texas to attempt to find a consensus conservative candidate. Good luck finding someone who adheres to the conservative line on most issues and doesn’t come across as bat-shit crazy to moderate and independent voters in a general election.

The biggest loser was obviously Michele Bachmann who dropped out of the race. Rick Perry almost left the race. As he has been raising money better than he has been debating, he might as well remain in the race. As volatile as this race has been, he could still maintain hope of becoming the surviving anti-Romney candidate down the road.

If measuring against expectations, Ron Paul also turned out to be a loser. After appearing to have a chance to win, or at least come in a close second, his third place left him virtually forgotten behind the close Romney-Santorum battle. Besides, there are few states where Paul has a chance to pick up many votes in a Republican primary.

Overall it was an unimpressive night for Republicans, who suffered from low turn-out, and for Mitt Romney. Romney spent years and millions of dollars to show that he could not appeal to any more voters than four years ago. Derek Thompson calculated how much each candidate spent per vote. Rick Perry spent the most per vote at $478.40.  Mitt Romney spent $154.90, Ron Paul  $103.30, Newt Gingrich  $89.84, Rick Santorum  $20.50, and Michele Bachmann spent $3.95 per vote. Santorum clearly got the most for his money.

It seemed that there were far more people tweeting about the caucus last night than participating. Some say it is unfair that such a small number of people could potentially choose our president. That is no where as bad as the 2000 election when the election was decided by nine people on the Supreme Court.

 

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