2012 Presidential Debates: Round Three… Obama by default, but Romney Didn’t Lose.

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Michi Iljazi gives his analysis of the final 2012 Presidential debate

The Final Presidential debate has concluded and after
watching all three I can safely tell you this: At no time did Obama have a
better performance than what Mitt Romney did in the first debate, period. That
being said, a few quick thoughts on this third and final debate of the 2012
election and what effect it could have as we reach the 14 days mark until the
votes are counted for this Presidential contest.

Obama Threw Plenty of Punches… But Had Nothing New to Show for
It.

This is why I give him the edge because he came out swinging
in a far more aggressive manner than Governor Romney did, but only because he
had to. Every single poll that has been conducted since the second debate has
shown that the momentum in this election is clearly with Governor Romney,
that’s just a fact. President Obama had no choice to but to get in there
tonight and throw some heat toward the Governor otherwise the race could be
declared over before any state even being called on election night. The last
two debates the President has done a great job of getting his base revved up,
and that’s clearly what he needs to do, but that being said he has offered nothing
with regards to a second term agenda and when looking to be reelected if you
are not running on your record (which he hasn’t been) you have to run on what
you will do. Instead, the entire Obama reelection campaign has been to attack
Governor Romney and make him unacceptable to voters. I’m not sure if it will
work, time will tell.

Governor Romney was Disadvantaged Tonight, but Played Mistake-Free

The advisers to Governor Mitt Romney clearly told him two things in preparation for tonight’s debate: First, do no harm, be
as safe as possible without seeming dethatched; second… pivot to the economy
every chance you get. Governor Romney did both, he was engaged and came
prepared to give his lines and discuss the ways in which he feels he would make
a better choice as President but what he also did was ensure that his best
issue against President Obama wasn’t left on the cutting room floor of
tonight’s discussion. He had a few moments when he shined and most of them
where when he moved from Foreign Policy to the economy and that is only natural
as the economy is his strong selling point with voters and President Obama’s
strength lies in his foreign policy record. Governor Romney chose NOT to invoke
the tragic death of US Ambassador Stevens in order to make his case and that
may have been a mistake, but we won't know for certain. That being said, he
made no major gaffes and also took no major risks and felt that he played the best
hand he could while having a slight lead in the polls.


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Romney (left) & Obama (right) face off one last time for votes

Moderate This… 

Coming into tonight’s debate there was the talk of all the
criticism from some of the performances of this years’ debate moderators. I
thought that Scheiffer (except for the binder and his couple of jokes meant to
mock Romney) was quite good tonight. He allowed a great deal of give and take
for the two candidates to discuss their views and how they may differ from each
other. Of the four moderators, he certainly was on par with Lehrer’s desire to
just “let them play” as opposed to the performances of Crowley and Radditz
constantly interrupting the gentlemen on the debate stage. Schieffer was also
not opposed to allowing the subjects of the question at hand to be expanded
upon and allowed both candidates to give a larger point of view of where they
come from and where they may go on several issues tonight.

This was the final debate and I believe that President Obama
may have curtailed the momentum that Governor Romney had coming in, both
nationally and in Swing State polls. I was wrong in my assessment last time at
how the polls would even out, so I may be wrong this time again. That being
said, I will be doing a few more posts in the upcoming weeks before the
election on he key Senate races and which states will play the largest role
come election night, but as always I will do my best to present a fair and
accurate picture of the climate of the election here in the United States!

Michi Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University and currently resides in Washington, D.C. He has specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking, voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organizations and currently works in Communications for a Virginia-based Advocacy Group. You may follow him on Twitter at @Michi83

Presidential Debate Post-Mortem (Part 2): Round Two goes to President Obama

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Michi Iljazi gives his post-game analysis of tonight's second Presidential Debate!

Some quick thoughts on tonight’s second of three
Presidential Debates and what it means going forward in the campaign. 

President Obama
Showed Up… Finally

After his dismal performance in the first debate,
left-wingers were extremely nervous/upset/distraught/angry/bewildered as to
where their candidate was in Denver and why he decided not to participate in
the first Presidential debate with Governor Romney. Well, tonight was a completely
different story as President Obama was squarely on offense bringing much to the
debate stage that he left aside just a few weeks ago. This was a more engaged,
more prepared, and far more interested President and maybe that’s because he
knew the stakes were quite high this time around after his lousy showing in the
first debate. He definitely did what he needed to do in order to halt any
further momentum that Governor Romney was building over the last week or so.

Governor Romney Played it Safe 

Yes President Obama did win tonight, but not in the fashion
that Governor Romney did in the first debate. Whereas President Obama was not
engaged and very impatient and unappealing in the first debate… Governor Romney
was only not as strong. Governor Romney certainly brought with him some ammo
and played on certain terrain that the President ventured into, but he was far
more cautious and less aggressive with the President (and the moderator) than
he was in the first debate in Denver. Tonight in New York the Governor decided
to land punches where he could and take a few punches without really fighting
back at times. This may have been a mistake, but we won’t know for sure… yet. 


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Romney (left) & Obama (right) square off in New York for Debate #2

We Are Tied… With One
Debate Left
 

This is it people, the election is only a few weeks away and
the candidates have been on the stage multiple times and we have seen them win
and lose… what else is left? We have a final debate on Monday night in a ‘one-on-one’
fashion as with the first debate where the focus will be Foreign Policy and
National Security and I suspect that depending on the polling that leads up to
that debate we will see certain strategies play out for each campaign. I expect
President Obama to stem the tide and get back to even with Governor Romney in
national polling and I suspect swing state polls may halt their forward momentum
toward Governor Romney, setting up a final showdown in the swing state of Florida
Monday night. The ball will be in the court of both men seeking the Presidency
and the final debate could be the deciding factor for who wins this election.

Michi Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University and currently resides in Washington, D.C. He has specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking, voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organizations and currently works in Communications for a Virginia-based Advocacy Group. You may follow him on Twitter at @Michi83

Presidential Debate Wrap-Up: Round One Goes to Romney

Amir-IljaziMenzies House U.S. Politics Editor Michi Iljazi discusses the first Presidential Debate between Obama/Romney.

Some quick thoughts on tonight’s first of three Presidential
Debates and what it means going forward in the campaign.
 

Romney Brought His
A-Game

Governor Romney was well prepared for tonight’s debate
bringing three things that were essential to coming out on top in the first
debate between the Presidential contenders. The first thing he brought was a
rebuttal to the attacks on his policy views and proposals on issues ranging
from Taxes to Medicare, to even Education. He did something extremely important
in the first part of the debate not allowing President Obama to define him on
the issue of taxes, unlike McCain in 2008. Second, he brought with him an
authenticity much like Obama has when he discussed real stories of real
American voters he has encountered on the campaign trail. Finally, he exuded a
certain confidence to be a part of the debate stage, something that voters do
respond to in kind.

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Romney & Obama Meet in First Debate

Where was Obama? 

This wasn’t an Intel-briefing so I am surprised he appeared
to skip the event. In all seriousness it did seem as if the President just
didn’t want to be there and he did stumble at times when trying to formulate a
response to either Mr. Lehrer or Governor Romney. It was akin to the famous
“watch-check” by former President GHW Bush in 1992 when he famously glanced at
his wristwatch during a debate with then Governor Bill Clinton and third party
Candidate Ross Perot. President Obama needs to step up his effort, and I
suspect he will, as my thought is he was either downplaying his expectations
for next time, or felt he had the lead decided to not take any chances thinking
Romney would not come out swinging as he did. Expect a better performance from
the President in the second debate, I highly doubt he will be subdued in Debate
number two.

 

What Media Bias?

Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer was very leveled in the debate
and I was surprised. I am the biggest critic of media bias that I know and yet
not one single question about “47%” tonight (that almost cost me btw). So, why
the kid gloves for Romney from his toughest opponent, the Obama-loving press? I
have two theories: One, they wanted Romney to win the first debate so they
could have a story to talk about, everyone loves a comeback! Or, they thought
(as many others), that this wouldn’t be close and President Obama would come
out and eviscerate Romney. I will be particularly interested in the
expectations game now as many were predicting an Obama win in the first debate.
I suspect they will raise the bar for Romney in New York (site of debate #2),
and then the moderator (Candy Crowley) will likely try to help the President to
ensure that he gets his groove back, even if he doesn’t need the help!

Michi Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University and currently resides in Washington, D.C. He has specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking, voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organizations and currently works in Communications for a Virginia-based Advocacy Group. You may follow him on Twitter at @Michi83

2012 Election Post-Convention Preview: A Stubborn Contest

Amir-IljaziMenzies House U.S. Politics Editor Michi Iljazi discusses the state of the 2012 US Presidential Election now that the conventions have wrapped up.

The 2012 Election is less than 60 days away and both sides
have now had their respective conventions and though the two sides have
striking differences (as well as glaring similarities) the
contours of this race have been somewhat stubborn
ever since GOP Nominee
Mitt Romney secured his party’s nomination in May of 2012. The respective
candidates have not been able to have a defining moment yet in the campaign
that has generated any kind of “breakaway” from the other,
nor has either
candidate done anything that would jeopardize the steady ground they are
standing on to possibly separate themselves from the other and create the
needed distance in order to close out the contest in what is now the final
stretch of a now multi-year campaign for the White House. 

Obama romney new bt
Romney (left); Obama (right) make the final pitch to voters

Why It’s Close:

This is a Base
Election, Think 2004

The two sides in this election are now firmly behind their
respective nominee, and there can be no
doubt that this election is strikingly similar to the contest that took place
eight years ago between President Bush and Senator John Kerry.
The most
important similarity is that the incumbent knows that he cannot run as some
sort of outsider looking to bring something “new” to the table so the strategy
is two fold: fire
up your base & go hard after your opponent early and often.
In 2004,
the Bush reelection team used the issue of gay marriage to turn out their base,
while making sure to paint Senator Kerry as an unacceptable alternative in a
“war on terror” environment. The strategy worked for President Bush and though
the race was close, it was clear that Kerry’s image among the electorate when
it came to National Security was a major factor in getting undecided voters to
go against him; and the issue of gay marriage turned out the conservative base
to vote for President Bush in several important swing states (including Ohio,
which decided that election). In this election, the Obama reelection team is
using issues such as abortion and taxes that appeal to their bases in order gin
up the excitement that is needed from the base in order to have a chance to
win. There is one glaring difference
in 2012… the economy is in bad shape and President Obama will need to
neutralize that in some way
in order to follow through on a base-election
strategy.

Undecided Voters
Remain Undecided

The closeness of the 2012 race can also be attributed to the
fact that those limited amount of voters that have yet to make up there mind
have seemed to be unmoved going all the way back as far as May of 2012.
The
reason why this 6-8% remain at a standstill could be attributed to a number of
factors, all of which make it nearly impossible to gauge when and how they will
ultimately decided. The
fate of the undecided voter could spell trouble for either side depending on
the events that take place between now and the election (debates, jobs reports,
overseas issues).
The key for President Obama is to get the undecided
percentage as low as possible seeing as historically in any election, undecided
voters tend to break for the challenger (in this case, Governor Romney). The
key for Governor Romney is to close the deal on the “acceptability” question
with as many undecided voters as possible before the election, so he may have a
better chance of them breaking his way come November.

Swing-State-Map-2012-1024x598
An updated look at the electoral map shows how close the race really is

The Attention Span
Gap

The last reason, in my opinion, to explain the closeness of
this race is that in all honesty many voters are just not tuned into the
election at this point. A
number of potential voters don’t even know who Mr. Romney is,
even after
the conventions. People, for the most part, are concerned with their own
lives right now and in these down economic times there is a potential to just
brush politics aside for the most part going well into the summer without
really even wondering about the larger questions that make up a campaign.

This is not the fault of anyone, and when the media and campaigns are focused
on miniscule issues, you can’t really blame your average American for putting
it aside until well into the Fall. With
the coming debates, this will change, it may not alter the closeness of the
race, but more voters will be focused and opinions may start be to shaped or
even solidify
as the day to choose approaches.

Why It Will Stay Close

Economy vs.
Personality

The most
important asset President Obama has in his bid for reelection is himself.

The inspiring story he brought with in the 2008 campaign and the personal
likeability he enjoys with voters from all party affiliations has helped to
keep him either tied or slightly ahead in an environment that nearly any other
incumbent would be sinking in. The US
economy just had another disastrous jobs report
and though some media
allies attempted to spin the numbers in the report to seem as if good news was
abound, even the Obama White House knew how bad this most recent report was.
There are two more
jobs reports coming
, including one the Friday before the election, and
though President Obama will use the same charisma and charm in order to keep
pace with Governor Romney’s clear advantage on many Economic issues… it may not
be enough.

Risk Averse
Candidates

The other reason why this race will likely remain close up
until the final days is because neither
President Obama nor Governor Romney are risky when it comes to political
strategy.
In 2008 you had the “No Drama Obama” team who did everything
possible to campaign exactly the way any other candidate in the Democrats’
position in 2008 would have; while John McCain’s risky campaign could be summed
up in one or two instances over a two-year period… most notably the selection
of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running-mate less than 24 hours after
President Obama’s acceptance speech at the DNC in Denver. This time around, both
men are playing it safe,
and though I wrote about the “boldness” of the
Ryan pick for VP, the truth is the pick isn’t risky, there’s a clear difference
and Ryan is exactly
what Romney needed without taking a major gamble (i.e. Rubio).
The last
chance for risk will come in the debates, and I would guess that both
candidates will be as “script-driven” as they were in their acceptance speeches
these past two weeks.

The election will be here in just less than two months, and
as both
campaigns flood the airwaves, barnstorm the swing states, and send out the
surrogates
in order to deliver the message they feel will best give them a
winning formula… the one
thing they need to remember is that in a race this close,
nobody knows for
sure what will be the deciding factor so playing to your strengths and avoiding
even the slightest mistake will be key to keeping it close enough to have a
chance one November 6th arrives.

Michi Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University and currently resides in Washington, D.C. He has specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking, voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organizations and currently works in Communications for a Virginia-based Advocacy Group. You may follow him on Twitter at @Michi83

Romney Goes Bold: Paul Ryan selected for VP

Amir-IljaziMenzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi on Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as VP

Multiple sources (not including the Mitt VP App) have now confirmed that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan will be selected as Mitt Romney’s running-mate in a formal appearance in Norfolk, VA at 9am EST this morning. I will be the first to admit that while I had Congressman Ryan in my Final Four Veepstakes Bracket, he was the fourth most likely of those I wrote about in that post. The reason he was ranked lowest of the four… he is by far the riskiest of choices, but risky may be exactly what Mitt Romney has been looking for all along. 

In selecting Congressman Ryan Mitt Romney has now made the 2012 election not just a referendum on President Obama… but a referendum on the policies of liberal progressives that have been a staple of the Democratic Party for more than fifty years. Paul Ryan is a bold thinker who has championed two very gutsy reforms: Entitlement Reform and Tax Reform. Congressman Ryan’s Budget has been a source of great controversy as it faced a barrage of attacks from the left, but also some on the right. The 2012 election will be squarely fought on battle-lines not just about the unemployment outlook and the deficit, but also the future of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security and also the best way forward on meaningful tax reform. Keep in mind, when I say tax reform, I mean actual reform and not just a debate about the tax rates.

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Here you have the GOP 2012 ticket: Romney/Ryan 2012

Mr. Romney has wanted this election… in fact… he NEEDS this election to be about policy, and NOT personality. If he has in fact picked Paul Ryan, he may have assured just that.

Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83

Romney VP announcement in Norfolk, VA tomorrow at 9am EST

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi with all the news on the 2012 US Election

Fox News' Carl Cameron has confirmed that Mitt Romney will announce his VP pick tomorrow at 9am EST in Norfolk, VA.

The Weekly Standard is reporting that the campaign is making preparations for a Paul Ryan selection, but also one or two other candidates (my guess is Portman and Christie are the other two)

Could be a huge headfake here, but all signs are pointing to Paul Ryan… but we'll know for sure tomorrow and I will be sure to update!

UPDATE (12:11am)- NBC News reporting that Paul Ryan will be the VP choice

UPDATE (12:18am)- Multiple sources now confirming that Paul Ryan will be the VP choice

2012 GOP Veepstakes Finals: Rubio vs. Portman… “Exciting” vs. “Safe”

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi makes the penultimate prediction in his multiple-posting series on the GOP's likely Vice-Presidential contenders.

A little more than a year ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced what many already knew, that he was running for the GOP nomination for President in the 2012 election against President Barack Obama. Slightly more than a month ago, Mr. Romney did what many also already knew he would do… secure that nomination. The last few months have provided certain clues, names, and rationales for the individuals who may be asked to join Mr. Romney on the ticket for the general election campaign this fall and there has been no shortage of people willing to give an opinion, myself included. We have now reached the point in the campaign where the VP pick will be made (privately, not yet publicly revealed) and I say this because the mistakes of the McCain campaign were unique to that campaign. There is no doubt that President Obama, President Bush, Senator Kerry and President Clinton all knew who they were going to choose several weeks before the public was made aware of the pick, and I am certain the Romney campaign will be no different. 
  Picture 6
The orignal 32 contendors for VP (above) are now narrowed down to two

The choice for Vice President, in my opinion, has always been between two dynamics and this time around that still holds true. One dynamic is the “exciting pick” that tends to be more about style and generating buzz about a ticket, certainly that is what won out for the McCain team in 2008, and in all honesty they had no choice but to go for that excitement factor considering what they were up against (stylistically speaking). The second dynamic in the Vice-Presidential paradox is the “safe pick” which is much more about the substance of the campaign and the credentials of the individual. This type of pick can be seen in many recent selections including the current Vice-President, Mr. Biden who was not only seen as a “safe” pick, but he was also someone who “balanced” the ticket for then-Senator Obama in many ways including age, experience, policy expertise, and middle-class appeal. Mr. Romney is now in the position where he must decide what type of dynamic will work best for his candidacy?
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Romney's (center) VP choice near: Rubio (left) & Portman (right) are in the mix

Within the two dynamics, there are a number of individuals who fit the criteria in more ways than one, and that is where we started when I began the Veepstakes Brackets months ago. The 32 initial contenders were a mix of many but in the end I could classify them all as being part of one of the two dynamics. “Exciting” choices like Condoleezza Rice and Gov. Chris Christie were eliminated just as were “Safe” choices like Sen. Jon Kyl and Gov. Mitch Daniels. That being said, the final two contenders undoubtedly represent the truest forms of the “exciting” vs. “safe” dynamic.

The case for Marco Rubio falls into line with those who feel Mr. Romney needs to make an “exciting” choice in order to increase his chances at winning the election. Senator Rubio would add an instant jolt into the Presidential campaign and many in the conservative base would be absolutely ecstatic with his selection to be on the ticket. Senator Rubio would provide an initial boost in polling for the Romney campaign both nationally and in specific swing states including NV, CO, and his home state (and mine) of FL and no state may be more important to Romney than the “Sunshine State.” Those who are endorsing Rubio for the VP nod are also looking at it from a demographic standpoint with the belief that placing Rubio on the ticket may provide Mr. Romney the opportunity to chip away at President Obama’s heavy advantage with Hispanic voters, an advantage of more than 40% as it stands now. Mr. Rubio, 41, is also seen as someone who could reach out to younger voters, another demographic where Mr. Romney is well behind the President. Certainly the fact that he is Catholic has to be seen as something of an advantage when weighing him for VP, considering the recent infringements upon the Catholic Church that Obama Administration has engaged in related to ObamaCare. Finally, the optimism that Senator Rubio exudes when discussing his life story on the trail is an asset that many believe can help the Romney campaign in their efforts to identify with voters from states all across the country. Nobody can deny the uplifting story that Senator Rubio brings to the table, and it is something that can appeal to voters from all backgrounds.

The case for Rob Portman rings true with those going for the “safe” choice. Senator Portman of Ohio is safe in almost every way, his bland and boring background practically screams conventional. Picking Portman would be all about the credentials, with just a hint of electoral map strategy. Senator Portman is one of the most qualified individuals in consideration for the VP, and he has been since the start. He was a former congressman and now a first term Senator hailing from the crucial swing state of Ohio… no Republican has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio. In between his time representing Ohio, he was a member of the Bush Administration in two different roles, and for both he was confirmed by the U. S. Senate. He was United States Trade Representative overseeing economic issues, which directly impacted how the United States does business both domestically and internationally. He was also confirmed to the OMB (Office of Management & Budget) Director for the Bush White House, where he was able to burnish his credentials on fiscal policy even further. Senator Portman’s credentials bring to light the first rule that many see as essential when choosing a Vice President, that rule is to pick someone who will be ready to be President on Day One. The pick for VP is the first major decision a nominee makes and when choosing someone for the number two spot, it will convey a message to voters on what you want from a Vice President. Senator Portman also brings almost no liability in the fact that he has been vetted already… twice. The Senate confirmed him for cabinet positions less than ten years ago, and had there been something in his past the Democrats in the Senate would have made sure to make it public. Finally, Portman reinforces exactly what the Romney candidacy is about… the economy.
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Rubio (left) auditions for VP on a campaign stop in PA with Romney (right) 

The two Senators both have compelling cases as to why they should have the edge in the Veepstakes, but in the end Romney can’t pick them both and there is no candidate who is the “perfect mix” of the two… otherwise that’s who I’d be writing about now. How does one decide between the two? Well in all honesty any individual can make the argument in any fashion they choose, but the way that I have come to my decision is to lay out exactly what one brings to the table over the other… and the risk that one carries over the other. In nearly all aspects, the advantage lies with the same Senator.

Experience Factor

Senator Portman has experience at the federal level that spans more than a decade and carries in both the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Senator Rubio is in his first statewide held office and has zero experience in a White-House capacity.

Senator Portman is experienced in issues on the economy and jobs that go back to his days as a congressman from Ohio all the way through his years in the Bush Administration as Trade Rep and OMB Director. Senator Rubio’s experience and actions in the U. S. Senate thus far seem to suggest an emphasis for other important issues such as Foreign Policy and Immigration policy.

Risk Factor

Senator Portman has been vetted twice before by the U.S. Senate, and there is nothing in his background that nobody knows about at this point in his life. Senator Rubio has not been vetted at this point and there are things in his political past that may give pause to the Romney campaign as we near a decision for VP.

Senator Portman can face not a single question about his preparedness to be President of the United States should something unforeseen take place if Mr. Romney is elected. Senator Rubio has not yet made the case that he is prepared to assume the Presidency if such a need occurred.

Senator Portman’s real risk lies in his ties with the Bush Administration and while many have said this may be what will doom his chances, I take an entirely different approach to this argument. No matter whom Mr. Romney chooses, the Obama campaign is going to try (as they have been) to tie the Romney ticket to Bush. So Portman or no Portman, the “Romney is Bush” message will be a part of the Obama strategy and it is highly likely that voters who would buy such an argument… have already made their decision anyway.
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Portman (left) has been a 'fundraising machine' for Romney (right) so far

Electoral Strategy

Senator Rubio doesn’t guarantee Florida, but he certainly increases the chances that Mr. Romney will be able to flip the state back to the GOP column after President Obama won there in 2008. Senator Rubio also may help to put other states in play just enough to flip them to the GOP as well; those being Nevada and Colorado.

Senator Portman may certainly help Mr. Romney in flipping the state of Ohio considering in his 2010 Senate victory he carried 82 of the 88 counties in the Buckeye State. He also helps in that he can have an appeal to neighboring Midwest states that will be in play including Iowa, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania… which all went for President Obama in 2008.

The Message

Senator Rubio would send the message that Mr. Romney feels the most important aspect to winning would be to excite the base while making a slight demographic play.

Senator Portman would serve to reinforce Romney’s economic message and make nearly the entire focus of the 2012 election campaign about the economy. 
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My analysis of how the electoral map looks today (H/T 270ToWin.com)

The Choice 

The 2012 election has been waged for nearly three years now, as potential candidates spent months raising money, raising their profiles, debating each other, and then ultimately competing in Primaries. There have been two constants through this entire process: One, Mitt Romney and how he methodically was able to capture the GOP nomination with very limited mistakes. Two, the Economy continuing to be the most important issue on the minds of voters… on all sides. Mr. Romney has succeeded because he has been able to convince enough voters (and donors) that he is the candidate who has the ability, experience, and competence to run an aggressive campaign against President Obama, and one that would have the best chance to win.

No matter what you may think of Mr. Romney in terms of his views, his political skills and that of his campaign have been extremely impressive thus far. Though some mistakes have been made, they have pounced at nearly every opportunity when it has come to taking on President Obama on his major weakness, the state of economy. Mr. Romney has also been an adept fundraiser and ensured that the coordination between his campaign and the institutional counterpart (the RNC) will be close, match, or excel in terms of money raised against President Obama. Finally, the campaign has been very disciplined to stay focused on the most important issue in this election, which is the overall state of the US Economy and President Obama’s leadership as it relates to the it and the decisions he has made in his first term. This despite the attempts by the Obama Administration and their allies to try and change the subject and shift the focus to choose your issue of the week (gay marriage, immigration, war on women, contraception, Bain Capital, Osama Bin Laden, etc.).

In the final analysis, it would be almost shocking to think that Mr. Romney would do anything to change the focus of this election, and that goes not only for issues… but also for individuals. In 2008 Senator McCain needed to change the dynamic so that then-Senator Obama wasn’t the sole focus of media and voters in the final months of that campaign, and on that battle the Senator succeeded with his selection of Gov. Palin. Fast-forward to 2012 and this election… Mr. Romney wants, and really needs the focus to be on President Obama as a referendum on his first term. A pick that runs the risk of possibly overshadowing the President may be exactly what the Obama campaign wants.

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Based on experience, preparedness, electoral strategy, risk factor, and messaging… Mr. Romney will, and should choose Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to be his Vice Presidential running mate on the 2012 GOP ticket.

Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83

THE SUPREME COURT SPEAKS: ‘OBAMACARE’ CONSTITUTIONAL

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi discusses the historic ruling on the Affordable Care Act and who the winners and losers were.

The US Supreme Court finally rendered their opinion on President Obama’s historic Health Care Reform legislation. The outcome was a surprise, and the immediate effects seem to be a positive for several of those who had much at stake. Here are the winners and losers from the monumental decision. 

WINNERS

President Obama

Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen; this ruling was a major victory for President Obama on multiple fronts. The Affordable Care Act was his signature domestic legislative achievement and the biggest issue for him and his party aside from the economy. The fact that the highest court in the land affirmed the law means that the one year President Obama and Democrats spent getting the law passed and the two years they have spent defending it did not go to waste as we head toward another election. Had the law fallen, it would have been devastating for an incumbent President struggling to find a salient strategy on how to run for reelection.

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President Obama (left), Mitt Romney (right) will battle on Health Care this Fall 

Mitt Romney

Yes, Mr. Romney was also a winner in the decision to uphold “ObamaCare” today. How you ask? Several ways and the first being financially; Mr. Romney’s Presidential campaign raised more than $1 million dollars in online donations in the hours after the decision was announced. This is also a victory for Mr. Romney in terms of getting the base energized to go out and vote; there can be no debate now about whether or not the most conservative voters will turn out to vote for an otherwise “moderate” GOP nominee… the base has been shored up. Finally, Mr. Romney can now discuss the issue not as a Health Care bill, but a “tax increase” and judging by historical standards, tax increases don’t play well with voters.

Chief Justice John Roberts

In a surprising move, the conservative George W. Bush-nominated Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court sided with the liberal justices to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act… but the way in which he did it was truly the most important aspect of how he was a winner today. Mr. Roberts did three things in this ruling: First, he silenced those on the left who have tried to paint the “Roberts’ Court” as political in nature, that argument is now null and void. Second, he upheld the limited-government principle that sought to argue the role of the Commerce Clause as applied by law. Third, he put the ultimate fate of the law in the hands of the voters while doing what no Democrat would do… tell the truth that it was a tax.

LOSERS

Conventional Wisdom

So much for insight and analysis! Nobody got this one right, not even the left-wingers who said it would be upheld could have envisioned the rationale being quite possibly a new front on the battle for the 2012 campaign. I called it wrong as did many other observers and really everyone did, from the beginning. The genesis from most “experts” was that it would be upheld by a wide majority; then it seemed as if it was headed for disaster; and all along many thought Kennedy would be the swing vote, he wasn’t. The observers were way off on this one and that isn’t limited to any media venue, or side of the political aisle.
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Chief Justice Roberts (above) went where nobody, left or right thought he would 

Senate Democrats

The most vulnerable group of politicians are those elected officials who voted for ObamaCare and the 2010 midterm elections proved that. Now, the Democrats in the Senate will be tasked with going to their constituents and explaining why they voted for an effective tax increase to the tune of more than $500 billion dollars. This issue will not be helpful to many Senate Democrats in close races and with control of the Senate in total play for the 2012 election, it has just been made that much more difficult by being burdened with a vote to increase taxes on their recent record.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

The moment that the Affordable Care Act was out on a track to be heard in front of the US Supreme Court, all attention was focused and had been focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy. He has been seen as the “swing” vote on the court over the last several years and many believed that whichever way he went would in fact be the way of the majority. It is clear now that the real swing vote is not Kennedy, but Mr. Roberts as he is both a conservative mind, but also the “steward” of the institution he presides over. 
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Justice Kennedy (above) is a "swing" vote in the court, no-more

Anthony Kennedy has been more of “reliable” conservative in the last few terms of the court as opposed to the “swing” vote that he used to be during his days serving with Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I would venture to guess that the attention he was accustomed to receiving in the run-up to major decisions will likely dissipate, considering the vehement dissent he authored today.

Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83

Wisconsin Recall: A Precursor for November?

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi discusses the results of the Wisconsin Recall election, and what it means for the Presidential race.

The attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker can be summed up in one word: DISASTER. Though the Obama-friendly media outlets (Fox News and The Wall Street Journal being the exceptions) have done their best to try and spin this for President Obama and the Democrat Party, there is no doubt that there are some takeaways from the results last night which should have the White House concerned.

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Early 2011: Anti-Walker Protesters storm the Capitol in Madison, WI 

The 2010 election saw a sweep for the GOP in not just Federal offices, but also many state held offices as well. In the state of Wisconsin, they elected County Executive Republican Scott Walker to the Governorship and with it began a political firestorm that culminated in a resounding victory for champions of responsible reform. Walker campaigned on changing the way the state does business at the local level with Public Enployee Unions in order to save the state money both in the short-term, but also the long-term as a budget crisis loomed large. Walker's reforms angered Progressives on the left because they knew that it would diminish the power of the Public Unions and in-turn hinder the power of Democrats at the bargaining table. They staged massive protests, and some Democrats fleed the state, but in the end Walker got his reforms through. A movement to recall the Governor began instantanousley fueled by left-wing groups in and out of the state and Democrat groups in and out of Washington D.C. The recall petition garnened more than enough of the needed signatures, and the Democrats held their prirmary just several weeks ago, nominating the man who lost to Walker in 2010, setting up a rematch.

The “Big Money” Advantage

The initial efforts to fund the recall effort were met with glee from groups from all over the country and there were large amounts donated from groups like MoveOn and those associated with them, as well as Public Employee Unions. In the run-up to the official signature gathering and ultimately when it was declared official that a recall election would be held, it seemed as if Walker was fighting from all a sides. However, Walker was able to raise more than $37 million from a combination of in-state donors; Republican organizations (RNC, RGA), and most importantly outside groups/ Super-PACS that wrote major checks to help Walker in his fight against Big Blue. Walker’s opponent raised only $4 million due to the short amount of time he had after winning the primary and also the fact that he was not the first choice of the unions (their candidate lost). In 2008, President Obama had a major money advantage over Senator John McCain… in 2012, that advantage will barely exist thanks to the new rules that have allowed a much more even-keeled playing field against major bundlers like the Public Employee Unions.

The “Message” Matters 

Governor Walker came into office and made good on the reforms he promised during the 2010 campaign. He was rewarded for this with idiotic behavior from Democrat politicians; violent and troubling rhetoric from those who opposed the reforms; but also support from not just Wisconsinites that agreed with him… but people all over the nation who felt he was standing up and making the tough decisions that many politicians would not dare come close to even trying. Walker set out on a statewide campaign to tell the voters why his reforms mattered and why they worked.

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Gov. Walker (above) sent a message to everyone: Voters reward results

He talked the talk, and walked the walk because his reforms had a positive affect on his state: Lower unemployment; a budget deficit is now a projected surplus; counties across the state saved millions in Health Care costs that was put toward education and infrastructure. The Democrats were left with no message or muddled messages that didn’t sway the voters at all. The lesson here for Democrats and Republicans is very simple: what are you running on? It is clear that as of right now President Obama does not have a positive record to run on which explains why they are running a near entirely negative campaign so far. This won’t be enough, and they know it.

Big Labor’s BIG Decline

The affirmation of Governor Walker’s reforms was another striking blow to Big Labor movement in the United States. The influence of Public Employee Unions has been waning for years and it just keeps getting smaller. They can still raise money through forced dues on their members, but as membership continues to drop, the amounts will be smaller. On election night, we saw more than 55% of the voters vindicate the decision to give those Public Employee Unions less power, and less influence including Democrats and Union Households. The other part of this is that National Democrats and the current White House Administration left those unions out to dry by giving as little support as possible from all appearances.
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Big Labor leader Richard Trumka rallies members in Madison, WI

President Obama steered clear of Wisconsin, and had a mere “tweet” in support for Walker’s opponent the night before the recall vote. It is clear there are divisions within the unions and the Democrat politicians that have depended on their support, Walker was able to get more than a third of union voters in the election Tuesday night so the divisions run all the way from Washington D.C. to the average union household.

Turnout Decides Elections

This is just simple math of course, but no matter what all the consultants say or how many speeches you give or even how much money is raised… you must be able to turn out your voters if you’re going to have a chance at winning an election. The pathetic Get Out The Vote efforts of the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008 had such a relaxed approach that there was no way they could have been expected to win against such a disciplined effort from the Obama/Biden campaign. In 2010, the GOP learned from past mistakes and last night eliminated any doubts that Republicans have gotten it together in terms of playing the ground game of grassroots organizing in order to turn out voters in droves. This is yet another advantage that President Obama had in 2008, that he will not be able to rely on come November, and the vote in Wisconsin cemented that very notion in less than an hour after the polls closed.

The Electoral Map is Fluid, Again 

Four years ago, President Obama won with a wide margin of electoral votes and had appeared to alter the map in a way that would make it difficult for any republican to defeat him in 2012… that is clearly not the case as evidenced by last night’s results. The baseline exit polling combined with an adjustment to reflect the final results of the recall vote show President Obama in a dead heat with Mr. Romney in the state of Wisconsin at 48% each. Wisconsin went for the President by 14% in 2008, but then elected a Republican Governor and a Republican Senator in 2010.
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From 270toWin.com, a generated map (mine) the electoral outlook as of now

The question before the recall vote was what impact would the results have in November… the answer is clear and the results show that President Obama will be playing defense in places he didn’t think he would be, including Wisconsin. Governor walker winning doesn’t ensure that Mr. Romney will win in Wisconsin… but what it does mean is that we are in for a very heated, and very hotly contested election that will be complete trench warfare in multiple battleground states from various regions around the entire United States.

Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83

The 2012 GOP Veepstakes: The Final Four

Amir-Iljazi


Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi narrows down his  Veepstakes Tournament for the 2012 GOP Presidential Ticket to the final two contenders.

We are now just a couple of months away from the 2012 Republican National Convention taking place in Tampa, FL. This will be the site where Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will accept the GOP Nomination for President of the United States after having officially clinched the nomination last week. Tampa will also be where his yet-to-be determined running mate will be introduced to the entire nation. I have narrowed down my list of finalists for the Vice-Presidential slot to four and will now eliminate two more contenders setting up a final piece pitting the two best choices against each other and ultimately making the case for one of them to be Mitt Romney’s Vice-President.

THE FINAL FOUR

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida
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The “Exciting” Choice

The Junior Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, is getting heavy consideration from the Romney vetting crew for the Vice-Presidential nomination. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind, Republican or Democrat, that Rubio is at or at least near the top of Governor Romney’s “short-list” for VP. Rubio brings a “jolt” factor to the ticket that some political observers feel would serve Romney (who is anything but lively) well in terms of energizing those who have already decided they will vote against President Obama… not necessarily for Mr. Romney. Rubio also represents the opportunity to solidify Romney’s chances of taking Florida and flipping it from the Obama column, as it is a large electoral prize. He also gives the GOP ticket a unique angle to speak directly to the Hispanic community in swing states where they may play an important role and possibly a deciding factor. The final thing that Rubio brings to the ticket, is his freshness as someone who is a newcomer to Washington D.C., he can claim the mantle of “outsider” that eludes the President, Vice-President Biden, and even Mr. Romney to a certain extent.
 

Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
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The “Qualified” Choice

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been the “long-shot” pick in this series of posts. I am certain many who pay close attention haven’t seen him as a “top-tier” possibility but they are wrong for a number of reasons. Governor Jindal brings three very important things to the table that make him a viable contender to land on the GOP ticket come August. The first is his depth of experience and knowledge on policy and governing, he is a successful two-term Governor who handily won re-election without much of a fight. The second attribute he brings is his unique background as the son of immigrants from Punjab, India who went onto to become a Rhodes Scholar studying Political Science he gives Mr. Romney that “diversity” pitch, which never goes unnoticed in electoral politics. The final thing that Governor Jindal brings is that he cements the outsider status of the ticket; Jindal can speak to those outside of the Washington bubble and connect with potential swing voters in a number of crucial states in a way the Mr. Romney has appeared to have trouble with thus far.
 

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
Ryan
The “Principled” Choice

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is nothing less than a hero to the Conservative movement and he retains a “rock-star” status that is matched by only few in the Republican Party at this particular point in time. Ryan has been on the trail with Mr. Romney already during the spring campaigning with the Governor throughout the state of Wisconsin, which may very well be in-play come November. What Paul Ryan brings to the table for Mr. Romney and the GOP ticket is three-fold: First, he brings in-depth policy knowledge on Fiscal issues (taxes, budget, debt/deficits, and entitlements) that is unmatched by anyone in contention for the VP slot. Second, as mentioned earlier, he adds to the chances of putting Wisconsin in the GOP Presidential column. Finally, Congressman Ryan brings a commitment to conservative principles best exemplified in his work as the Chair of the House Budget Committee. Congressman Ryan is the only individual who has put out a budget in ANY BRANCH of the Federal Government that has received a single vote in more than a year. He adds a credibility to the ticket that would be untouchable.
 

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio
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The “Safe” Choice

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has been receiving rave reviews from many pundits and insiders in Washington D.C. and is considered a top-choice for VP. Portman brings several things to the table, and while they are not necessarily unique or exciting, they are important. Portman is the only one of these four who has White House experience, which can be very advantageous when it comes time for a President to work with those who actually write the laws. Second, before serving President Bush he was twice confirmed by the Senate (once as OMB Director and once as US Trade Rep.) without delay; this means he has, for all intensive purposes, already been vetted… there are no surprises or unknowns. Portman hails from Ohio, which along with FL may be the most important state for Mr. Romney and having a native Ohioan on the ticket may be just what Romney needs to flip the state back to the GOP. Finally, Portman is bland and nothing will reinforce the Romney brand more than a “boring white guy” who is well versed on economic policy. Making the election about “issues” instead of “personality” could be the key for Romney this fall.

Each of the four individuals discussed above have excellent credentials and a case can be made for any one of them, but unfortunately I must now narrow it down to two candidates setting up a final matchup for the Vice Presidential selection.

Your final contenders for the 2012 GOP Veepstakes:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida vs. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio
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Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83