Patterico's Pontifications


SOTU 2012

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 4:50 pm

[Posted by Karl]

As Brendan Nyhan put it last year: “It’s the most overcovered event in politics relative to the amount of the news that’s made.”  It will have no lasting effect on the Obama presidency.  However, as it’s an election year, Obama will use this State of the Union address to preview his election themes:

Building off of the themes of the Kansas speech, the State of the Union will lay out a “Blueprint for an America built to last.” The Blueprint will be supported by four pillars: 1) American Manufacturing; 2) American Energy; 3) Skills for American Workers and 4) American Values.

As you may recall, the Kansas speech was about the joys of crony capitalism and regulatory capture.

So what about American Manufacturing?

It is certainly true that employment in manufacturing has fallen in recent decades. The council’s report observes that in 1980, manufacturing accounted for about 20 percent of American jobs, whereas the comparable figure today is about 9 percent. At the same time, manufacturing’s share of total production has remained roughly stable and, in fact, the United States and China are the only countries to have gained significant world share in manufacturing in recent years. The line that connects and explains these two dots of strong manufacturing and manufacturing job loss is the rapid increase in labor productivity, the result of innovation, and global competitive pressures.

Heritage’s J.D. Foster seemed to be at a loss to explain the administration’s emphasis here, but this will be Obama’s pander to Big Labor and swing states in the Rust Belt.

As for American Energy, Obama will (again) propose “an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American workers.”  Of course, it must be “homegrown” and “alternative” lest someone point out the  jobs Obama is killing in the energy sector.  Instead, we should continue to pour tax money down the rathole of renewable energy in an orgy of crony capitalism, to prevent people from noticing the Luddites backing the Democrats.  If the American Manufacturing plank is meant to placate Big Labor and the Rust Belt, the American Energy plank is intended to placate Greens, upper tier New Class crony capitalists and mushy upscale voters in the Mountain West.  Give Obama this much: It takes cojones to pull this after praising scandal-ridden Solydra during the 2010 SOTU.

When it comes to Skills for American Workers, the White House promises “new ideas for how we’ll make sure our students and workers get the education and training they need so that we have a workforce ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow.”  Anyone believe that?  The Occupy movement is largely a function of the fact that jobs are drying up for the social workers, virtuecrats, and the regulatory class.  The higher education bubble is the product of decades of progressive education policy.  If anyone out there thinks a president beholden to teachers’ unions and tenured leftists is going to propose a radical overhaul of our dysfunctional education system, Obama may have some infrastructure to sell you.  Among the president’s living props tonight will be Sara Ferguson, who teaches in the Chester Upland School District — which stands accused by the Pennsylvania Department of Education of financial mismanagement.

If you had any doubt that Obama’s rhetoric on American Values will be a heaping helping of class warfare, fear not: the First Lady has invited Warren Buffett’s secretary to serve as another human prop.  BTW, I see Twitter chatter asking why it’s okay to call her a “secretary,” when the obvious answer is bacause it’s a liberal doing it.  Expect a lot of gab about “shared responsibility,” when Obama is not blaming others for the failures of Big Government.

Also among the presidential guests tonight: Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.  Maybe Obama will recall the time that the Apple co-founder complained to him about over-regulation driving factories overseas and teachers’ unions crippling our schools.  The story would tie in to at least two of Obama’s themes tonight.


Is Newt Gingrich suddenly the more electable candidate?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 6:57 am

[Posted by Karl]

Yesterday, I ended up in part of a conversation with Ace and Lori Ziganto (among others) about electability.  Ace was soliciting comment on why people who did not take Newt Gingrich’s campaign seriously for so long suddenly find him electable.  Playing devil’s advocate, I hypothesized that maybe the campaign has not made Newt seem more electable, but has made Mitt seem less so.  But is that really what’s happening?  And how electable (or unelectable) is Newt?

If I understood Ace’s argument, part of it is that conservatives looking for a viable NotRomney are saying Gingrich is (more) electable now simply because he must be if Romney is to be defeated.  The Gallup tracking poll arguably contains some support for that theory.  From Jan 15-22, Romney lost 12% among conservatives, while Gingrich gained the same amount to tie at 28%.  Among liberal and moderate GOPers/leaners, Romney held steady at 33%, while Gingrich gained 6% to 15%.  From that angle, one can argue that Newt’s conservative surge does look like the Not Romney vote trying to gather, although his gains among moderates and liberals suggests a slightly broader shift is also at play.  Moreover, this is only one angle from which to view the poll, e.g., Newt’s surge is heavily explained by a shift in older voters from Romney to Gingrich (although this is likely correlated to the conservative shift, as the campaign was not focused on entitlements last week).

Of course, the Gallup tracker is limited to GOPers and leaners.  Broader polling may tell us a bit more about the current state of electability.  Although trial heats are not predictive this far from November, it’s notable that the RCP averages for Obama/Romney and Obama/Gingrich still show Romney as the more competitive candidate, even as his standing falls within the GOP race.  Indeed, Romney was also the more competitive candidate during Newt’s previous surge.  Does this tell us Mitt is the more electable candidate… or only that people know less about him?  We really cannot be sure.

During yesterday’s discussion, others raised Newt’s currently high unfavorable ratings as an indicator of unelectability.  Newt’s average from those recent polls is 55% unfavorable, which is certainly higher than Romney’s average of 42%.  Then again, Obama’s average unfavorable rating is 47% — and he’s not in the middle of a nasty primary scrum.  Thus, it’s at least possible that Newt’s unfavorables are high now because some on the Right (e.g., Mitt’s fans, or those who found Newt’s attacks on Mitt unfair) are unhappy, while Obama’s unfavorables have yet to be driven up by unified opposition.  As with the trial heats, it is also possible that Romney’s lower unfavorables are partially the product of people knowing less about him than they know about Gingrich.  Again, there is not solid data on this.  It would not be uncommon to have both party nominees carrying high unfavorables, but having one with unfavorables over 50% would be uncommon and possibly fatal.

The latest PPP poll from Florida — showing Newt up by 5% — has some interesting data bearing on these points.  On one hand, Newt’s favorability increased while Romney’s declined, suggesting that favorability can be a fluid thing (although likely less so in the general election pool).  On the other hand, 15% of primary voters say they would not vote for Gingrich in the general election, while only 9% say that about Romney, suggesting Mitt would be the stronger candidate against Obama (although we should be careful about assuming such attitudes hold after a nominee is selected; there were polls in 2008 suggesting Hillary Clinton supporters would not vote for Obama, but the level of defections was ultimately no different from any other election).

My conclusion from the data is that Romney currently remains the more competitive candidate.  His fumbling and stumbling over money issues — his tax returns, Bain Capital, gaffes real or imagined — has wounded him within the GOP electorate, but not outside it…yet.  If Romney does not get his act together quickly, he risks losing the mantle of electability among the broader electorate.

Conversely, Gingrich’s exposure of Romney’s weakness has not made Newt a stronger candidate outside the GOP electorate… yet.   Conservatives may like Gingrich’s fighting spirit, but Newt will need more support and an improved image outside that group to become the more competitive candidate.  Moreover, it is not clear he can achieve that simply by a Romney collapse.  In South Carolina, Gingrich appealed more to those in the GOP pool hurt most by our economic malaise; he needs to show he has the same appeal outside the base.


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