Third Parties Can Succeed



Open Letter to John Kasich

Dear John,

If you haven’t noticed, it’s high time you dropped out of the race. Your continued involvement in the race is – if anything – more likely to allow Trump to win the Republican nomination than to achieve your stated objective of forcing a brokered convention.

Look at the latest Wisconsin poll results, for example: Cruz 36, Trump 35, Kasich 19. The only possible role you can play there is as a spoiler. Are you trying to get Trump elected as the Republican nominee? If not, then you need to evaluate the math and recognize that it’s time to drop. I don’t think I’m anywhere near being the only one who is growing less favorable to the idea of you being selected in a brokered convention, since you seem to be working so hard at preventing a brokered convention from happening.

Let’s take an honest look at how you’ve done in the contests to date. Displayed graphically, it looks like a tally of reviews for a really bad book. You have the smallest number of good finishes and the largest number of bad finishes. Admittedly I left out your 8th place finish in Iowa in this graphic, but, the key question from this data is clear: how can any of us take seriously a candidate who has more 5th place finishes than 4th place finishes, more 4th place finishes than 3rd place finishes, more 3rd place finishes than 2nd place finishes, and more 2nd place finishes than 1st place finishes?

Kasich Placement

Did you notice that you even managed to place 4th in Arizona in a three-man race? If that doesn’t give you a sense that it’s time to read the writing on the wall, it’s hard to know what would. Perhaps the fact that you’ve earned less than 10% of the vote in 19 of the contests held to date would give you pause.

Kasich's Percentage

Admittedly, you did win in one state (your home state of Ohio). Congratulations. But have you also noticed that, even in your home state of Ohio, people are either mocking or skeptical of your continued presence in the race :

Your strongest argument for your persistence in the race is your electability. You claim that polls show you faring well against Clinton, which is true. But have you thought about the possibility that the only reason you fare well in polling against Clinton, is that you are so irrelevant that nobody has bothered attacking you yet? It’s a pretty big stretch to assume that if you have 10 fifth place finishes (and 19 finishes at 10% or less) while competing only against Republican colleagues that you’ll be able to defeat Clinton in the general election.

Maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because it certainly looks like the longer you wait the less pleasant the smell will be.



#4: Romney Has Crossover Appeal

Artur Davis, formerly a Democratic Representative from Alabama, spoke at the Republican National Convention this year. In 2008, he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention seconding Obama’s nomination. And he was a co-chair of Obama’s national campaign in 2008. But this year, he attended the Republican National Convention to support Romney.

Davis spoke of his reasons for changing allegiance and challenged Democrats and independents to compare the two candidates and decide which one better measures up to their vision of America.

Do you know why so many of us believed [in Obama in 2008]? We led with our hearts and our dreams that we could be more inclusive than America had ever been, and no candidate had ever spoken so beautifully. But dreams meet daybreak. The jobless know what I mean, so [do] the families who wonder how this Administration could wreck a recovery for three years and counting…. Remember, my friends, the President saying of negative politics and untrue ads, “Not this time?” Who knew “not this time” just meant “not unless the economy is stuck and we can’t run on our record?” Remember when the President said of his own election this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal? Who knew the plain English version of it was, “Middle America, get ready to shell out 60 bucks to fill up your car?”… So, this time, in the name of 23 million of our children and parents and brothers and sisters who are officially unemployed, underemployed, or who have stopped looking for work, let’s put the poetry aside, let’s suspend the hype, let’s come down to earth and start creating jobs again. This time, instead of moving oceans and healing planets, let’s pay our bills down and pay down the debt … so we control our own future. And, of course, we know that opportunity lies outside the reach of some of our people. We don’t need flowery words about inequality to tell us that, and we don’t need a party that has led — while poverty and hunger rose to record levels — to give us lectures about suffering…. Bill Clinton, Jack Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson reached across the aisle and said, “Meet me in the middle,” but their party rammed through a healthcare bill that took over one-sixth of our economy without accepting a single Republican idea, without winning a single vote in either house from a party whose constituents make up half of this country…. This is the dawn before we remember who we are. So, may it be said of this time in our history: 2008 to 2011, lesson learned. 2012, mistake corrected.

If the man who seconded Obama’s nomination has come out in support of Romney, it may be worthwhile for Democrats and independents to evaluate Obama’s promises and his track record and decide if there is a better source for hope and change.

Why an Independent Should Consider Romney, #9: Problem Solving

My previous blog entry commented on our national government being broken. With that background, what would be more appealing than a leader with a proven track record as a problem solver? Let’s take a look at Romney’s ability to solve problems in several different arenas.

1. Bain Capital problem solving – Romney’s firm specialized in seeking out troubled companies and turning them around. One of Romney’s detractors, a former member of Obama’s administration, gave a positive review of Romney’s record at Bain Capital:

Overall, Bain Capital’s record was extraordinary, among the best in the business…. Of course, a number of its early stage investments failed. That is the nature of venture capital — an industry not unlike baseball in that a .300 batting average can be an excellent performance. But who can quarrel with an investment firm trying to nurture and finance young companies? The story of the private equity business is somewhat more complicated. Almost by definition, a private equity investment is made with the hope of improving the profitability of the “portfolio company”…. Bain had less than its share of bankruptcies, but it had a few — it appears four — that are particularly troubling…. Let’s be sure to keep these few problem children in perspective. During the Romney years, Bain made 77 significant investments — and a number of smaller ones. It made billions for worthy investors and, yes, doubtless created some incalculable number of net new jobs for the U.S. economy.

2. Home problem solver – Mitt’s son Tagg describes his dad as someone who is constantly trying to solve problems:

“In his spare time, he wants to solve problems,” Tagg Romney said in an interview. “He wants to figure out, when he comes over to your house, he wants to figure out, ‘Well, your boiler’s not working. How are we going to fix the boiler?’ and ‘Have you noticed that some of your trees are dying out there? Why are your trees dying? What’s causing that? Can we figure that out, and can we go down to the hardware store and see if they’ve got something to fix that?’ And all of a sudden you see him driving a tractor in your backyard, and he’s pulling stuff up. He’s like, ‘Oh, these rocks were doing that.’ I mean, that’s just who he is.

3. Olympics turnaround – The Salt Lake Olympics were suffering from scandal ($1 million in bribes) as well as financial problems (projected debt of $397 million), when Romney was asked to take the reins. Romney’s COO at the Olympics praised Romney’s involvement in the Olympic turnaround:

It was in the midst of a scandal, and you only know how dark it was there if you were there…. Prospective sponsors, nobody would answer the phone. We had a budget deficit, the morale was very low…. [Romney] can see into a situation very quickly… He’s very facile with numbers. He’s got that raw intellect which lays a great foundation… He is a blast to work with. He’s very funny, he’s got a wonderful sense of humor; he has endless energy. It’s always hard for people to keep up with him, because he’s going at 90 miles an hour all the time.

In the end, attendance at the Olympics was up compared to previous Olympics, and the budget shortfall turned into a $56 million surplus. And Romney, who had said he would not accept a salary unless the Olympics ended in the black, turned over his Olympics salary to charity.

4. Bain & Company problem solving – Not only did Romney solve problems for companies in which Bain Capital made investments, Romney was also called on to turn around Bain Capital’s parent company (Bain & Company). Bain & Company was suffering from problems with debt and from dissatisfaction among employees and clients. Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, described Romney’s accomplishment in glowing terms:

There’s nobody that I can conceive of who could have come into that fractious situation, and pull that together…. I know Nancy Pelosi very well and I know a number of the Republican leaders…. Pulling those guys together is a lot easier than pulling Bain together.

5. Personal problem solver – Mitt Romney helped members of his congregation with personal problems while he served as a lay pastor in the LDS church. Ronnie Catalano and his wife credit Romney with saving their marriage.

‘Mitt was the one who really stood out. He was always caring about my family, my wife, my children,’ Catalano said in a recent interview. ‘He taught me how to keep my family together.’ ‘He saved us. He rescued us,’ added his wife.

6. Government problem solver – Mitt Romney inherited a state budget that faced a $3 billion shortfall and managed to generate budget surpluses by reducing spending, consolidating government agencies, increasing fees, and closing loopholes. He didn’t change the tax rates but still managed to set the state’s financial house in order. Even staffers who were helping one of his Repbulican opponents admitted Romney had a strong fiscal record in Massachusetts:

State Senator Bruce E. Tarr, also a co-chariman for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, said Mr. Romney ‘provided some pretty strong fiscal discipline.’

I’ve been waiting my entire voting life for a President who would actually follow through on campaign promises of turning around the fiscal disaster of our national deficits. I have been successively disappointed by every Republican and Democratic President in my voting lifetime. With Romney’s track record of establishing fiscal discipline in the Olympics, in the corporate world, and in state government, and his overall record of being a creative problem solver, I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the first time in many years and hope that, finally, we might have a candidate who can pull it off.

General Election Viability as of Super Tuesday

Let’s take a couple views of the electoral map as of Super Tuesday and see how the Republican hopefuls fare.

1. If we look at the AP Delegate Tracker Map and compare it to the 2008 Electoral College Map, one of the striking contrasts is how well Romney has done in states that Obama previously won and how poorly Santorum and Gingrich have done in those states. Considering that Obama’s job approval ratings are relatively low, it seems that the Republicans have a decent chance of holding onto the states that voted Republican in 2008 and, consequently, much of the electoral game in 2012 will depend on putting states into play that Obama won in 2008. Looking at the 13 states where Obama won in 2008 and where Republicans have held primaries in 2012, we have the following results:

Romney: 10
Santorum: 3
Gingrich: 0

If we look at the states that voted Republican last time, the race is much closer:

Romney: 4
Santorum: 4
Gingrich: 2

However, I think these states are unlikely to become battleground states in 2012 given that they already cast their vote in 2008 against a President who is currently suffering in popularity.

2. If you don’t fancy my view of where the crucial battles lie, we can turn to Gallup’s list of 12 key swing states: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WS. All of these states went to Obama in 2008, so Gallup is basically taking a smaller slice of the same pie that I was looking at. Here’s how the candidates stack up on Gallup’s list of swing states:

Romney: 6
Santorum: 2
Gingrich: 0

Santorum has done best among the very conservative in the Republican primaries so far. Admittedly, he has also done well among the very liberal: in both Michigan and Ohio, he handily won the vote among Democrats who voted in the Repbulican primary, but it seems pretty clear that those voters won’t provide him a general election boost. Romney, on the other hand, seems to be doing best where a channel to victory could conceivably be opened.

It seems to me that the choice now facing Republicans is whether they want someone who can recapture the same states they won in 2008 or someone who has the best chance of bringing new states into play.

Romney Destroys Santorum and Gingrich on Super Tuesday

We’ve seen many headlines tonight stating that the Super Tuesday states were split among the top three contenders, but the story those headlines are missing is that the delegate math delivered a much more decisive result.

Right now, Romney is leading in 7 Super Tuesday states (OH, VA, ID, WY, MA, VT, AK), Santorum in 3 (TN, OK, ND), and Gingrich in 1 (GA).

After today, Gingrich has become a non-candidate, racking up only one 1st place Super Tuesday finish (in his home state), with three 3rd place finishes, and six 4th-place finishes, and one contest in which he didn’t qualify for the ballot.

Santorum, on the other hand, in spite of racking up 3 “wins”, had a very poor showing in delegates. In all three states that he won, it appears likely that he will share a significant number of delegates with Romney. On the other hand, there are four states where Romney is picking up delegates in which Santorum will get few delegates or none: Georgia, where Santorum didn’t cross the necessary 20% threshold to score at-large delegates; Massachusetts, where Santorum didn’t cross the 15% threshold to score at-large delegates; Virginia, where Santorum didn’t qualify for the ballot; and Idaho, where it appears that Romney has captured all of the delegates by virtue of his commanding 67% majority.

And a final footnote on the battleground state of Ohio … even though Santorum had strong support among the Democrats in Ohio who voted in the Republican primary, it appears that Romney has clinched that state with 99.4% of the precincts reporting.

Check out Nate Silver’s site for some great analysis and the Huffington Post’s live update site for a nice “delegate math” dashboard showing the before-Super-Tuesday and after-Super-Tuesday results. The Huffington Post is currently showing 179 Super Tuesday delegates for Romney, 64 for Santorum, and 52 for Gingrich.

Gingrich and Santorum may not figure it out for some time, but the delegate writing is clearly on the wall.

Republican Primary: Who Has the Numbers?

There’s been lots of talk about the changing winds of the Republican primaries, but let’s take a careful look at the numbers from all of the contests that have been held so far and see where that leaves the final four contenders.

1) Total votes – Romney wins in this category. He is the only candidate who has accumulated over a million votes. He has received 1.4 times as many votes as the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 1,183,979
Gingrich = 837,611
Santorum = 569,488
Paul = 337,894

Note: if you want to review the state-by-state results, 2012 Election Central has a convenient summary page.

2) Average percentage of the vote – Romney wins in this category. Taking the percentage of votes he earned in the nine contests that have been held so far and averaging that number, Romney has averaged 34% of the vote. This is 1.3 times better than the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 34%
Santorum = 26%
Paul = 19%
Gingrich = 18%

Note: I boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had counted his 0% Missouri finish, that would have dropped his average to 16%.

3) Average Place (i.e., first, second, third, …) – Romney wins in this category with an average place of 1.7, putting him comfortably ahead of the second place finisher in this category, who scored an average place of 2.4. The breakdown of this tally is telling: Romney had only one finish that was not a 1st or 2nd place finish, while Santorum had 5 finishes that were 3rd place or lower, Gingrich also had 5 that were 3rd place or lower, and Paul had 6.

Romney = 1.7
Santorum = 2.4
Paul = 3
Gingrich = 3

Note: I again boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had assigned Gingrich a 4th place finish in Missouri, that would have dropped his score to 3.1.
4) Delegate count – Romney wins in this category also. You would have to combine every delegate from all three remaining contenders to tie with Romney’s total.
Romney = 123
Santorum = 72
Gingrich = 32
Paul = 19
My conclusion is that Romney can still safely be considered the Republican front-runner.
  • Gingrich has done well in two high-population states (South Carolina and Florida).
  • Santorum has done well in four states that involved relatively low numbers of voters (the most votes he received from a state that he won was 138,957 in Missouri) and relatively high percentages of Evangelical voters (all his victories came from states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population). He has placed 3rd, 4th, or 5th in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population. That may not bode well for Santorum in the evangelical-poor but delegate-rich states of California, New York, Illinois, and possibly even Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania (the latest poll in Pennsylvania shows Santorum and Romney in a statistical deadheat). See the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life for religious composition summaries by state.
  • Romney is the only candidate who has consistently scored 1st or 2nd place finishes almost entirely across the board. He has won all three contests in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population, but he has also placed 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 6 states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population.

With the most total votes, the highest average percentage of the votes cast, the best average place in the first 9 contests, and the highest delegate count, Romney is clearly the best-positioned to do well in the long haul.