New York Soda Ban Invalidated

There was a major strike against the Nanny State today: A New York State Supreme Court judge struck down Michael Bloomberg’s regulation banning sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.  He described the law as “arbitrary and capricious,” and questioned if it would be effective as intended to reduce obesity rates.

I spend a large part of the day treating patients with diabetes and understand what Bloomberg is trying to accomplish, but this is not a proper function of government. This is certainly not the end of this issue as Bloomberg has announced plans to appeal. Hopefully the appeal will fail, but perhaps the news surrounding this issue will cause some to reconsider their self-destructive habits. Ultimately we can try to educate, but the final decision rests with the individual.

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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.

 

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Politics Is A Game Of Inches

Thomas Friedman once again wants Michael Bloomberg to run for president. We currently have a center-left candidate from the Democrats and a combination center-left, centrist, and far-right candidate from the Republicans depending upon which positions Romney decides he wants to hold on any particular day. The big problem with Friedman and others who want to see a centrist candidate run and break the partisan gridlock is that the positions such people tend to advocate are essentially the positions held by Democrats. Steve Benen explained:

Friedman wants a party that will commit to investing in infrastructure, education, and short-term economic growth, but is also willing to make concessions and compromises on long-term fiscal challenges on entitlements. But he’s also under the impression that the two-party system is failing him — even though one of the major parties already agrees with him.

The columnist wants Bloomberg to run as independent in order to push Democrats to be more … Democratic?

Matthew Yglesias argues that this won’t even help Friedman’s problem with dropped calls.

I guess politics is a game of inches. Michael Bloomberg is perhaps inches closer to the center than Obama, making him preferable to people like Thomas Friedman. Similarly it takes just a very slight increase in the top marginal tax rate to make Obama a socialist in the eyes of the know-nothing right while the Republicans (who have done more than any group, including true socialists, to destroy a working system of capitalism) are their heroes.

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Run Sarah, Run

It is getting late for Sarah Palin to enter the Republican nomination race, and not many Republicans even want her to run. Christian Heinze thinks Palin might run as an independent:

Last week, business mogul Donald Trump suggested to Fox News that Palin needed to step into the background and let the declared candidates have the spotlight. But Palin hasn’t shown any interest in sharing it, and one can easily imagine a scenario where she makes an aggressive push to insert herself into the conversation again.

Palin has held the GOP establishment in contempt since 2008. During the 2010 elections, she regularly railed against the “GOP machine” and “good old boys,” and both she and her supporters have accused the party of trying to muzzle Palin. In fact, Palin’s embrace of the Tea Party movement has regularly been coupled with attacks on the Republican Party, and she’s often keen to note that her spirit and principles are conservative, not Republican.

In short, Palin doesn’t claim loyalty to the GOP, and in fact loathes the party establishment. There’d be no greater blow she could strike to the GOP elite than to run as an independent and siphon off votes from the Republican nominee. Party bigwigs would either fawn over her, trying to coax her out of the race, or attack her mercilessly as they try to discredit her among conservative-minded voters. Either way, Palin would once again be the center of attention.

As former George W. Bush strategist and No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon says: “I think Palin will continue to find creative ways to stay relevant to the conversation, and threatening a third-party bid could certainly be in her toolkit.”

But beyond that lies the sheer spectacle that a third-party bid from Palin would provide, and Palin seems to love spectacles. Every four years, the media work to find a way to insert a credible independent candidate into the general election. This dynamic raises the profile of a presidential race considerably, but not since Ross Perot’s first bid in 1992 have we seen anything close to what could happen in 2012.

Running as an independent would give Palin plenty of publicity and she could wait until sometime in 2012 to actually launch the campaign. She couldn’t win, but the former half-term governor does seem far more interested in the attention than actually serving out a term in office.

Of course I would love to see Palin run as an independent. Some potential independent candidates such as Mike Bloomberg could take votes from both parties, but Palin would clearly hurt the Republican candidate. Her votes will come from Republicans, not true independents. If Mitt Romney wins the nomination, which looks very likely at this point in time, there will be social conservatives who would prefer to vote for an independent who might have no chance of winning, but shares their views, as opposed to voting Republican. I think it is very likely that a social conservative will run if Romney gets the nomination, but such a candidate might only receive a minimal number of votes in red states which will still go Republican.  Palin, while down in support, still has enough supporters  to run as an independent and  take a significant number of votes from any Republican nominee.

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Local Elections and National Politics

I’ve already commented on the limited meaning of yesterday’s elections. The argument that all politics is local is over used and often false, but yesterday was one of the times when local politics was more important than national trends. The Wall Street Journal pointed out how difficult it is to draw conclusions from such off-year elections:

But it can be difficult to draw broader conclusions from off-year contests, which often turn on local issues.

Going back to 1989, one party swept the off-year gubernatorial elections five times. Three of those times, that party also won the following year’s congressional elections; twice it did not.

In 1993, Republicans Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey and George Allen in Virginia captured their states’ governor’s mansions. The following year brought the dramatic Republican takeover of Congress.

In 2001 gubernatorial races, Democrats Jim McGreevey in New Jersey and Mark Warner in Virginia swept to victory. The next year, Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate.

In June 2006, Republicans won a special House race in California, and Republicans crowed that the Democrats’ much-ballyhooed momentum was a fantasy. But in the fall elections that year, Democrats captured 31 seats and retook the House for the first time in 12 years.

“I don’t think they say anything,” Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, said of off-year elections. “The sample is too small and the issues are local.”

First Read even shows that New Jersey and Virginia are following long standing trends:

After a while, you can’t dismiss these trends: Yesterday became the NINTH-consecutive time (since 1977) that the party that won the White House lost Virginia’s gubernatorial contest the following year. And yesterday became the SIXTH-consecutive time (since 1989) that the party controlling the White House lost New Jersey’s gov race. Whether due to buyer’s remorse, happenstance, or a combination of the two, those trends should give all us pause in making broad statements about last night’s two contests — and what they mean for the White House, the midterms, or the next presidential contest.

An analysis from CNN also points out the importance of local politics:

Victories in New Jersey and Virginia Tuesday provided a major shot in the arm for the Republican Party heading into the 2010 elections, but the Democratic losses of these two governorships should not be interpreted as a significant blow to President Obama.

While the economy and jobs were the chief concern for voters in both states, 26 percent of New Jersey residents said property taxes was also a major issue, while another 20 percent mentioned corruption, according to CNN exit polling. In a similar CNN survey taken in Virginia, health care was the most important issue for 24 percent of the voters, while 15 percent named taxes and transportation was mentioned by 7 percent.

Further proof that this election was not solely focused on Obama, 56 percent of Virginians said that the president was not a factor when it came down to their vote. In New Jersey, that number increased to 60 percent of the people who went to the polls on Tuesday.

Perhaps this was the problem for Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

Neither Democratic candidate was Obama; neither was a great spokesman for “change;” and Democratic strategists and grassroots activists said each candidate failed to give independents a reason to support them.

One problem for the Democrats, which could also be a problem in the off-year elections in 2010, is that the Democrats won big in 2008 by bringing in many new voters who are less likely to vote in off-year elections. CNN notes:

In New Jersey, while Corzine overwhelmingly won among African-Americans, only 14 percent of the vote was black; young people, age 18 to 29, made up 9 percent of the vote and 36 percent of them backed Republican Chris Christie. Meanwhile, 60 percent of independents supported Christie as well.

The numbers were worse for Deeds in Virginia. Ten percent of the electorate was age 18 to 29 and Republican Bob McDonnell captured 54 percent of this voting bloc. Deeds overwhelmingly carried the African-American vote that made up16 percent of people who turned out on Tuesday, while 66 percent of voters who identified themselves as independents backed McDonnell.

The voters in off-year elections are older and whiter than those in general elections. In the short term this helps the Republicans in off-year elections. On the other hand, it does not bode well in the long run for Republicans to be dependent upon declining demographic groups.

This year’s elections also raised a number of issues regarding interference in national races by the national party. I’ve already discussed the ramifications of conservative Republicans opposing a moderate candidate here and here. In contrast, New Jersey represents a case which could be used as reason for the national party to get involved in getting an incumbent not to run–not due to ideology but due to being a weak candidate. Corzine has had approval ratings in the 30’s and the race was clearly a referendum on Corzine and not Obama. Nate Silver pointed out:

Voters in Tuesday’s election approved of Obama’s performance 57 percent to 43 percent, according to exit polling. It was Corzine they didn’t like; 27 percent of the voters who approved of Obama nevertheless found someone other than the Democratic incumbent to vote for.

Support for Obama was not enough to make up for disapproval of Corzine. During the campaign Republican candidate Chris Christie had even tried to tie himself to Obama in campaign videos which showed Obama.

With Obama’s campaign visits to New Jersey not being of any value, I’ve seen suggestions that he might have better used his time going to New York to help the Democratic candidate beat Michael Bloomberg. A visit by Obama might have made a difference considering that Bloomberg won by a closer margin than expected, primarily due to many voters objecting to the manner by which he repealed term limits in order to run. While it might be true that Obama’s intervention could have led to the defeat of Bloomberg, I question if Obama had any interest in doing so. Bloomberg has been supportive of Obama and I bet Obama is perfectly happy seeing Bloomberg remain as mayor of New York.

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Liberty Counsel’s Program to Pray For Liberals

You just can’t make up stuff stranger than what is coming out of the right wing. The Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, has started a program to adopt a liberal and pray for them:

Since the landmark 2008 general election, there can be no doubt that a very large percentage of our Nation’s leaders have a liberal mindset. The undeniable fact is that the 111th Pelosi-Reid Congress and the Obama Administration demonstrate a far left political philosophy. And since the President nominates federal judges and Justices of the United States Supreme Court, the judicial branch of government could take on a decidedly more liberal bent as the Obama Administration wears on.

Liberty Counsel has therefore named this special new prayer-in-action program Adopt a Liberal. And that’s exactly what we invite you to do — adopt a liberal who is in authority for regular, intense prayer in accord with St. Paul’s admonition to his disciple, Timothy. In fact, we expect that many of our friends and supporters will choose to adopt many liberals as subjects of regular prayer!

Pick one or more of the liberals from the list we have posted online at www.LC.org, or choose your own liberal(s) to adopt. If you are led to choose one or more of the liberals we have selected for consideration, please read their brief biographical statement, including the reasons they stand in need of prayer.

Pray earnestly and intensely for them! Pray that the Lord would move upon them and cause them to be the kind of leaders who will encourage others to lead “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We encourage you to seek the Lord’s guidance on how to pray for your liberal(s), always allowing Him to temper your prayer with His love and mercy.

Please pray daily for the liberal(s) of your choice, so each can become a good influence on our Nation’s culture. Prayer is powerful! It allows God to change the minds of those for whom we are praying. In fact, we fully expect that many of our adoptees will “graduate” from this prayer program with vivid testimonies of God having changed their lives and worldviews!

They even provide a list of names of liberals to pray for, including the “Unknown Liberal” for any additional liberals:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Congressman Barney Frank
Director John Holdren
Mr. Barry Lynn
Secretary Janet Napolitano
President Barack Obama
Senator Harry Reid
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Senator Olympia Snowe
The “Unknown Liberal”

Reading the warped descriptions of the views of the people on their list is also good for a few laughs.

(Hat tip to Amygdala and Andrew Sullivan)

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Obama Roasts McCain at Al Smith Dinner

Following is the full transcript of Barack Obama roasting John McCain at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, October 16, 2008:

Thank you so much.

Thank you to Al and to Ann, to Your Eminence, to Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Senator and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleagues, Senators Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests. There is no other crowd in America that I’d rather be palling around with right now.

I’m sorry he couldn’t be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or as Senator McCain noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator. I was thrilled to get this invitation and I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neumann.

But I have to say tonight’s venue isn’t really what I’m used to. I was originally told we’d be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium, and — can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek Columns that I requested?

I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian tea room. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great grandfather, but from everything that Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition. So — wonderful stories.

The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news — made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, you can do that?

The president’s better half, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is here. Glad to see you made it, Hillary. I’m glad to see that you made it because I heard Chuck Schumer actually tried to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium.

But I’ll tell you all from personal experience, Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She’s broken barriers. She’s inspired millions. She is the — she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now. I am also glad to see that Senator Schumer is here, and I see that he’s brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the folks with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.

Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Senator John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions.

Recently, one of John’s top advisers told the “Daily News” that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain’s going to lose. So, tonight I’d like to talk about the economy.

(more…)

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Anyone Want To Vote for Bloomberg/Paul?

Voters in Virginia just might get a chance to vote for a Michael Bloomberg/Ron Paul ticket. Sam Stein reports that the Independent Green Party of Virginia collected enough signatures to get this ticket on the ballot  without the knowledge of the potential candidates. A representative of the state board of elections did state that they would not be placed on the ballot if they request to have their names taken off.

Ron Paul is quirky enough that I wouldn’t attempt to guess what he will do, but I doubt he would have any interest in this. I certainly don’t see Michael Bloomberg keeping his name on the ballot. If he was really interested in an independent run he would have no chance of winning this year but he could do respectable by third party standards. I can’t see any reason why he’d allow his name to be on a ballot without actively trying and wind up with a negligible number of votes.

If they should remain on the ballot it is difficult to be certain how it would impact the election this year when Virginia is actually in play. Ron Paul has more fanatic supporters who might vote even if neither is campaigning. The conventional wisdom is that Ron Paul would take more votes from a Republican, but it is also possible that a Bloomberg/Paul ticket could take anti-war votes away from Obama and help McCain.

It is unlikely a third party candidate would win under any situation, but it is even less likely Bloomberg could win against Obama and McCain due to their support form independents. Earlier in the year when a Bloomberg candidacy was being discussed I suggested that his best chance would be if John Edwards won the Democratic nomination and Mike Huckabee won the Republican nomination. With a candidate as weak as Edwards there would be an outside chance of Bloomberg moving ahead of Edwards and then create a coalition including Democrats and country club Republicans who would find Bloomberg preferable to Huckabee. Considering how things turned out, this scenario of Bloomberg becoming the de facto Democratic candidate looks even more plausible today if Edwards had somehow won the nomination. (Of course this was never really plausible as the same weaknesses which would prevent Edwards from being competitive in a general election campaign would also prevent him from becoming the nominee.)

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Least Favorite Elected Republicans of the Right Wing

I recently posted a list of favorite elected Republicans among conservatives as compiled by Right Wing News. They subsequently posted their least favorites. As I expected, John McCain did better on this list than on the favorites list. Many who made this list are some of the less objectionable Republicans, with several moderate Republicans leading the list. Ron Paul also barely made the list. I bet Michael Bloomberg would have ranked even higher if he hadn’t changed to an independent. Here are their least favorites:

14) Ron Paul (5)
14) Mel Martinez (5)
13) Michael Bloomberg (7)
11) Susan Collins (8)
11) Charlie Crist (8)
9) George Voinovich (9)
9) John Warner (9)
7) Lindsey Graham (16)
7) Larry Craig (16)
6) Ted Stevens (17)
5) John McCain (18)
4) Arnold Schwarzenegger (19)
3) Olympia Snowe (20)
1) Arlen Specter (23)
1) Chuck Hagel (23)

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The Bald Cajun Sings

While Hillary Clinton pretends that the race is not over, and even that West Virginia means something, one top Clintonista realizes it is over:

James Carville has been one of Hillary Clinton’s most energetic defenders, but on Monday he all but declared Barack Obama will become the Democratic nominee for president.

Speaking to students at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, Carville argued Clinton should stay in through the final nominating contest in early June, but said the Democratic tide appears to be moving in Obama’s direction.

“I still hear some dogs barking,” Carville said, according to The State newspaper. “I’m for Senator Clinton, but I think the great likelihood is that Obama will be the nominee.”

“As soon as I determine when that is, I’ll send him a check,” he added.

Clinton has reason to stick it out. She has burned so many bridges she might not have much beyond her Senate seat after this battle, and Bill’s legacy has been tarnished by her campaign even more than by the stain on the blue dress. She might as well hang on and hope for a miracle, or use her withdrawsl from the race as a bargaining chip. Carville, on the other hand, still has his day job. He wants to maintain some credibility as a pundit or Democratic strategist.

Carville also had some ideas as to a possible running mate for the presumptive nominee:

Asked about who might share a ticket with Obama, Carville floated Clinton’s name, as well as that of Clinton ally Gen. Wesley Clark. Carville also mentioned Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg as possible running mates, according the Greenville News.

It certainly makes sense to consider Clinton supporters such as Clark as Hillary might be too radioactive to be anywhere on a national ticket. After all, she’s been rejected by over half of the Democratic Party, and non-Democrats dislike her even more. However many Clinton supporters would remain acceptable. I don’t see Michael Bloomberg as running mate, but I could be wrong. I think its more likely he’d wind up in the cabinet if he’s interested.

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