Commentary Magazine


Topic: Utah

Reapportionment Means Obama Just Lost Six Electoral Votes

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

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Congress Treats NASA Like a Local Jobs Program

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

President Obama’s announcement last April of plans to trash the Bush administration’s plans to return to the moon by 2020 in favor of planning for missions that might not take place until decades from now went largely without notice. That proposal was modified slightly by Congress to preserve a heavy-lift rocket. Although it is billed as something that will preserve manned space flight, as Robert Zubrin wrote in COMMENTARY last June (behind our pay wall), “it will be useful only as a lifeboat for bringing astronauts down from the space station, not as a craft capable of providing a ride up to orbit.” With the space shuttle being phased out by NASA, as Zubrin warned, “what this means is that the only way Americans will be able to reach even low Earth orbit will be as passengers on Russian launchers.”

But rather than worrying about why the government was scrapping practical manned flight plans in favor of building a largely useless rocket, it appears that Congress is mainly worried about the possibility that NASA might seek to preserve its options or even find a less expensive or more effective rocket. As the New York Times reported, at a Senate hearing held on Wednesday, senators of both parties berated NASA administrators about the agency’s perceived reluctance to follow this foolish course and warned them that any foot dragging about building the rocket would not be tolerated. In particular, “Congressional members from Utah, where Alliant builds the solid rocket motors, have also expressed worries that NASA is looking for a way around the law.” That is to say, they are upset about the possibility that a way will be found to stop this boondoggle. For most members of the House and the Senate, NASA-related projects are simply government jobs programs and nothing else.

We’ve come a long way since a bipartisan congressional consensus paved the way for Americans to land on the moon. Political logrolling has always played a role in the space program (Lyndon Johnson’s influence ensured that the program would shift from Florida to Texas in the 1960s), but Obama has essentially deep-sixed any chances for a return to manned flight in the foreseeable future. It’s a shame that the only interest that anyone in Congress seems to have in what was once America’s most innovative and glorious enterprise is merely a matter of patronage.

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Earmark Vote

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

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Pelosi and the GOP Win

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get ready for the next big idea in the non-peace, non-direct talks. “Why must Gazans carry their sons on their shoulders to their convocations of sanguinity, when they could be walking side-by-side with them, sharing space adequate for the lobbing of rocks and grenades and the aiming of RPGs? I say declare them a state, and don’t bother stopping at the tiny sliver of land that comprises Israel.” Read the whole thing to find out just what kind of state it should be.

Get ready for a slug-fest. Actually, Josh Block may already have scored a knockout. “The average, minuscule amount of support Jstreet claims to pass to their endorsees will again and again be offset by the grief and cost even the most pro-Israel candidates expose themselves to by associating with a group proven to be as duplicitous, deceitful and outright dishonest they have been exposed to be.”

Get ready for her to spend more time with her family. “Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs, told POLITICO on Thursday that Pelosi should not be a candidate for minority leader—a sign that other Blue Dogs are ready to pounce if Pelosi doesn’t voluntarily cede her power.”

Get ready for William Galston to be ignored by the Dems. Again. He tries to tell them: “It’s the ideology, stupid. … Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.” Do you think if Obama leaves the scene, the trend will abate? Just asking.

Get ready for the Beagle Blogger to freak out, again. “Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who self-identified to exit pollsters made up 3 percent of those casting ballots in House races on Tuesday, and 31 percent of them voted Republican. By itself, that number is amazing, especially when you consider that way too many people think being gay and voting Democratic are one in the same. But that percentage is ominous news for a White House viewed with suspicion by many gay men and lesbians, because that’s four percentage points higher than the change election of 2008.” First the Jews, now the gays. Only Obama could alienate them from the Democratic Party.

Get ready for more of this transparent slamming of the current Israeli government. “Fifteen years after the Israeli prime minister’s assassination, Israel needs his guiding spirit more than ever.” Why don’t these sorts ever lament the absence of a Palestinian Sadat? And do we imagine Yitzhak Rabin would have carved up his country without recognition of the Jewish state? The only prime ministers the Middle East establishment fancies are the dead ones.

Get ready for some major George W. Bush nostalgia on the right. “When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. ‘Damn right,’ he said. … In his memoir, ‘Decision Points,’ Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.”

Get ready for the next big idea in the non-peace, non-direct talks. “Why must Gazans carry their sons on their shoulders to their convocations of sanguinity, when they could be walking side-by-side with them, sharing space adequate for the lobbing of rocks and grenades and the aiming of RPGs? I say declare them a state, and don’t bother stopping at the tiny sliver of land that comprises Israel.” Read the whole thing to find out just what kind of state it should be.

Get ready for a slug-fest. Actually, Josh Block may already have scored a knockout. “The average, minuscule amount of support Jstreet claims to pass to their endorsees will again and again be offset by the grief and cost even the most pro-Israel candidates expose themselves to by associating with a group proven to be as duplicitous, deceitful and outright dishonest they have been exposed to be.”

Get ready for her to spend more time with her family. “Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs, told POLITICO on Thursday that Pelosi should not be a candidate for minority leader—a sign that other Blue Dogs are ready to pounce if Pelosi doesn’t voluntarily cede her power.”

Get ready for William Galston to be ignored by the Dems. Again. He tries to tell them: “It’s the ideology, stupid. … Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.” Do you think if Obama leaves the scene, the trend will abate? Just asking.

Get ready for the Beagle Blogger to freak out, again. “Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who self-identified to exit pollsters made up 3 percent of those casting ballots in House races on Tuesday, and 31 percent of them voted Republican. By itself, that number is amazing, especially when you consider that way too many people think being gay and voting Democratic are one in the same. But that percentage is ominous news for a White House viewed with suspicion by many gay men and lesbians, because that’s four percentage points higher than the change election of 2008.” First the Jews, now the gays. Only Obama could alienate them from the Democratic Party.

Get ready for more of this transparent slamming of the current Israeli government. “Fifteen years after the Israeli prime minister’s assassination, Israel needs his guiding spirit more than ever.” Why don’t these sorts ever lament the absence of a Palestinian Sadat? And do we imagine Yitzhak Rabin would have carved up his country without recognition of the Jewish state? The only prime ministers the Middle East establishment fancies are the dead ones.

Get ready for some major George W. Bush nostalgia on the right. “When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. ‘Damn right,’ he said. … In his memoir, ‘Decision Points,’ Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks.”

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Part 2: Immigration and the Golden State

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

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The New Republic’s Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

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Plus ça Change Department

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. — to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.'”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. — to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.'”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

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Krauthammer’s Takeaway

Here is Charles Krauthammer’s takeaway from the elections yesterday — an analysis done before the results were in. Krauthammer points out how much the nation has changed in two years and calls the Tea Party movement an “amazing story of the last year.” The Tea Party barely existed a year ago, he points out, and he then runs through what it has achieved in Massachusetts, in Kentucky, in Utah, and elsewhere.

“This is, I think,” Krauthammer concludes, “a tribute to how radical is the Obama agenda. This is a spontaneous reaction to overreach. … This is an amazing, spontaneous phenomenon.”

Indeed it is, and its effects have not yet been fully felt.

Here is Charles Krauthammer’s takeaway from the elections yesterday — an analysis done before the results were in. Krauthammer points out how much the nation has changed in two years and calls the Tea Party movement an “amazing story of the last year.” The Tea Party barely existed a year ago, he points out, and he then runs through what it has achieved in Massachusetts, in Kentucky, in Utah, and elsewhere.

“This is, I think,” Krauthammer concludes, “a tribute to how radical is the Obama agenda. This is a spontaneous reaction to overreach. … This is an amazing, spontaneous phenomenon.”

Indeed it is, and its effects have not yet been fully felt.

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Misconstruing the Message of Robert Bennett’s Defeat

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

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The Ticking Debt Bomb

Journalists often fixate on the absolute size of a government’s debt, coming up with imaginative ways to make it visible. My favorite (perhaps because I calculated it myself) is the American national debt in silver dollars. Lay the debt ($12,932,913,325,200.66 as of last Thursday) out in a line of silver dollars. Ignore the fact that there is not enough silver on planet Earth, mined and unmined, to mint that many silver dollars and that the silver content of an old silver dollar (0.7736 troy ounces) is now worth $14.12 as bullion. That line would stretch from the sun to the earth, back to the sun, back to the earth, and with enough left over to wrap around the equator 1,132 times.

But while this sort of thing is amusing, it doesn’t tell us much. Instead, there are two relative measures that are important for assessing government debt. One is the size of the debt relative to the GDP. Having been at 57 percent in 2001, the national debt at the end of the first quarter of 2010 was 87.3 percent. While we have to take 9/11 and the recession that began in 2007 into account, that is a breathtaking climb in a decade that has seen no great war or great depression. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the debt under current fiscal plans will double by the year 2020, putting us back, at the least, to where we were in 1946, right after World War II, when the debt peaked at 129.98 percent of GDP.

The other measure to keep a firm eye on is the percentage of total government revenues that goes to pay interest on the national debt. As you can see here, that measure is, as well, on a very worrisome trend, with the CBO predicting that the interest, now about 8 percent of government revenues, will amount to 18 percent of revenues by 2018;  18 to 20 percent is the point where Moody’s and, presumably, other rating agencies would strip the U.S. of its AAA rating. That, in turn, would cause the price of borrowing money to go up sharply.

However, both the CBO estimates are predicated on the economy recovering fairly briskly from the recession and on interest rates remaining low. Those two predicates are, to a certain extent, contradictory. With the current sovereign-debt crisis, it’s entirely possible that all governments will have to start paying more to borrow new money and roll over maturing bonds. Moody’s projects that the cost of federal-debt service could reach 22.8 percent of government revenues as soon as 2013.

That would not only threaten our credit rating and drive up still further the cost of borrowing, but also increasingly constrain the ability of the government to pursue American interests. In the 1920s Britain was paying over 40 percent of revenues to service its debt from World War I, gravely limiting its ability to function as a Great Power. In the 1780s France was spending over 80 percent of revenues to pay interest on its debt, no small reason why the 1780s didn’t end well for the French monarchy.

The people seem increasingly aware of this looming threat. Just ask Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, denied nomination to a fourth term yesterday largely because he voted for the TARP bill in 2008. But do the political class and the Washington media? They had better, and soon.

Journalists often fixate on the absolute size of a government’s debt, coming up with imaginative ways to make it visible. My favorite (perhaps because I calculated it myself) is the American national debt in silver dollars. Lay the debt ($12,932,913,325,200.66 as of last Thursday) out in a line of silver dollars. Ignore the fact that there is not enough silver on planet Earth, mined and unmined, to mint that many silver dollars and that the silver content of an old silver dollar (0.7736 troy ounces) is now worth $14.12 as bullion. That line would stretch from the sun to the earth, back to the sun, back to the earth, and with enough left over to wrap around the equator 1,132 times.

But while this sort of thing is amusing, it doesn’t tell us much. Instead, there are two relative measures that are important for assessing government debt. One is the size of the debt relative to the GDP. Having been at 57 percent in 2001, the national debt at the end of the first quarter of 2010 was 87.3 percent. While we have to take 9/11 and the recession that began in 2007 into account, that is a breathtaking climb in a decade that has seen no great war or great depression. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the debt under current fiscal plans will double by the year 2020, putting us back, at the least, to where we were in 1946, right after World War II, when the debt peaked at 129.98 percent of GDP.

The other measure to keep a firm eye on is the percentage of total government revenues that goes to pay interest on the national debt. As you can see here, that measure is, as well, on a very worrisome trend, with the CBO predicting that the interest, now about 8 percent of government revenues, will amount to 18 percent of revenues by 2018;  18 to 20 percent is the point where Moody’s and, presumably, other rating agencies would strip the U.S. of its AAA rating. That, in turn, would cause the price of borrowing money to go up sharply.

However, both the CBO estimates are predicated on the economy recovering fairly briskly from the recession and on interest rates remaining low. Those two predicates are, to a certain extent, contradictory. With the current sovereign-debt crisis, it’s entirely possible that all governments will have to start paying more to borrow new money and roll over maturing bonds. Moody’s projects that the cost of federal-debt service could reach 22.8 percent of government revenues as soon as 2013.

That would not only threaten our credit rating and drive up still further the cost of borrowing, but also increasingly constrain the ability of the government to pursue American interests. In the 1920s Britain was paying over 40 percent of revenues to service its debt from World War I, gravely limiting its ability to function as a Great Power. In the 1780s France was spending over 80 percent of revenues to pay interest on its debt, no small reason why the 1780s didn’t end well for the French monarchy.

The people seem increasingly aware of this looming threat. Just ask Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, denied nomination to a fourth term yesterday largely because he voted for the TARP bill in 2008. But do the political class and the Washington media? They had better, and soon.

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What’s in It?

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

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Could Democrats Save Themselves?

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

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Texas Bloom

The Census Bureau has come out with its annual state-by-state head count and it makes for interesting reading. There is no one better than Michael Barone at the art of looking at numbers and bringing them to life. He notes that Texas had the highest population gain (and third highest in percentage terms) and thinks he knows why:

Texas had above-average immigrant growth, but domestic in-migration was nearly twice as high. There may be lessons for public policy here. Texas over the decades has had low taxes (and no state income tax), low public spending and regulations that encourage job growth. It didn’t have much of a housing bubble or a housing price bust. Under Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, it has placed tight limits on tort lawsuits and has seen an influx of both corporate headquarters and medical doctors.

Because of its population growth, Texas is likely to gain four new House seats in 2012. Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada will each gain one. For the first time since it became a state in 1850, California will not gain any seats in the House, and New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois will all lose a seat and Ohio will probably lose two.

No wonder the Obama administration is in such a hurry to lock in its far-left policies. As Barone explains, “Americans have been moving, even in recession, away from Democratic strongholds and toward Republican turf.”

The Census Bureau has come out with its annual state-by-state head count and it makes for interesting reading. There is no one better than Michael Barone at the art of looking at numbers and bringing them to life. He notes that Texas had the highest population gain (and third highest in percentage terms) and thinks he knows why:

Texas had above-average immigrant growth, but domestic in-migration was nearly twice as high. There may be lessons for public policy here. Texas over the decades has had low taxes (and no state income tax), low public spending and regulations that encourage job growth. It didn’t have much of a housing bubble or a housing price bust. Under Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, it has placed tight limits on tort lawsuits and has seen an influx of both corporate headquarters and medical doctors.

Because of its population growth, Texas is likely to gain four new House seats in 2012. Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada will each gain one. For the first time since it became a state in 1850, California will not gain any seats in the House, and New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois will all lose a seat and Ohio will probably lose two.

No wonder the Obama administration is in such a hurry to lock in its far-left policies. As Barone explains, “Americans have been moving, even in recession, away from Democratic strongholds and toward Republican turf.”

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OK, He Doesn’t Mean It

“The three places we’ve lived voted for us — Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.” That’s not a good thing for Romney to say. Makes him look weak. Maybe he fills an inside straight later tonight and stays in. But the fact he spoke such an elegaic, nostalgic sentence tells me Romney thinks he’s probably out tomorrow.

“The three places we’ve lived voted for us — Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.” That’s not a good thing for Romney to say. Makes him look weak. Maybe he fills an inside straight later tonight and stays in. But the fact he spoke such an elegaic, nostalgic sentence tells me Romney thinks he’s probably out tomorrow.

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McCain Has The “Mo”

McCain builds momentum as we head into the weekend. He gains former Rudy backer and ex-Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci (and decides to make Romney sweat in his home state) and also nabs former Rudy advisor Steve Forbes. (Fiscal conservatives can argue whether Forbes or McCain advisor Phil Gramm would make a better Treasury Secretary.) Finally, the McCain team advises the media that in the excruciatingly complicated Louisiana caucuses (in which an uncommitted pro-life slate initially won), the delegates have now selected McCain. He nabs 41 of 47 of the state’s delegates.

Little by little the pieces fall into place. Looking at the latest polling I see Mitt Romney leading only in Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah. In many Red states he runs third to MIke Huckabee. It is quite possible Huckabee will gain more delegates than Romney on Tuesday.

McCain builds momentum as we head into the weekend. He gains former Rudy backer and ex-Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci (and decides to make Romney sweat in his home state) and also nabs former Rudy advisor Steve Forbes. (Fiscal conservatives can argue whether Forbes or McCain advisor Phil Gramm would make a better Treasury Secretary.) Finally, the McCain team advises the media that in the excruciatingly complicated Louisiana caucuses (in which an uncommitted pro-life slate initially won), the delegates have now selected McCain. He nabs 41 of 47 of the state’s delegates.

Little by little the pieces fall into place. Looking at the latest polling I see Mitt Romney leading only in Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah. In many Red states he runs third to MIke Huckabee. It is quite possible Huckabee will gain more delegates than Romney on Tuesday.

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What Happens Wednesday?

Beginning Wednesday, we will be in the midst of a phenomenon we have never experienced: a national primary. On the Republican side, we have twenty-one states, including California (173 delegates) and winner-take-all contests in big delegate states like New York (101), New Jersey (52), Missouri (58), and Arizona (53). John McCain is ahead by solid, but not insurmountable margins, in New York, New Jersey and California. Huckabee is competitive in Missouri and is well positioned in deep Red states like Georgia and Alabama. So far, Romney has the edge in Utah, Massachusetts, and Colorado.Should McCain’s post-Crist endorsement momentum result in a Florida win, there is every reason to believe he will hold his leads in the big three February 5 states of New York, New Jersey, and California (a total of 153 winner-take-all delegates and 173 proportionally awarded California delegates) and do quite well in the remainder. Retail politicking is out, obviously; what remains is paid and free media. Part of that is the national media coverage of the “frontrunner” in national polling, which will create something of a bandwagon effect for McCain. An added factor in his favor: even if Rudy remains in the race, he is not likely to hold his share of the voters in February 5 states, which may benefit McCain in Missouri, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota.What if Mitt Romney pulls out a win? I think we have a wild coast-to-coast fight. McCain will still hold the advantage in the states in which he currently leads, but Romney, with fresh momentum and lots and lots of money for paid ads, will have a very good shot at consolidating conservative support. In short, all bets are off at that point.

As for Huckabee, his role is not unlike that of John Edwards: potentially a spoiler and holder of some cards if we get to a brokered convention. However, it is difficult to imagine him even playing the Edwards role should McCain win in Florida.

Bottom line: I don’t see how McCain can be stopped if he wins tomorrow.

Beginning Wednesday, we will be in the midst of a phenomenon we have never experienced: a national primary. On the Republican side, we have twenty-one states, including California (173 delegates) and winner-take-all contests in big delegate states like New York (101), New Jersey (52), Missouri (58), and Arizona (53). John McCain is ahead by solid, but not insurmountable margins, in New York, New Jersey and California. Huckabee is competitive in Missouri and is well positioned in deep Red states like Georgia and Alabama. So far, Romney has the edge in Utah, Massachusetts, and Colorado.Should McCain’s post-Crist endorsement momentum result in a Florida win, there is every reason to believe he will hold his leads in the big three February 5 states of New York, New Jersey, and California (a total of 153 winner-take-all delegates and 173 proportionally awarded California delegates) and do quite well in the remainder. Retail politicking is out, obviously; what remains is paid and free media. Part of that is the national media coverage of the “frontrunner” in national polling, which will create something of a bandwagon effect for McCain. An added factor in his favor: even if Rudy remains in the race, he is not likely to hold his share of the voters in February 5 states, which may benefit McCain in Missouri, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota.What if Mitt Romney pulls out a win? I think we have a wild coast-to-coast fight. McCain will still hold the advantage in the states in which he currently leads, but Romney, with fresh momentum and lots and lots of money for paid ads, will have a very good shot at consolidating conservative support. In short, all bets are off at that point.

As for Huckabee, his role is not unlike that of John Edwards: potentially a spoiler and holder of some cards if we get to a brokered convention. However, it is difficult to imagine him even playing the Edwards role should McCain win in Florida.

Bottom line: I don’t see how McCain can be stopped if he wins tomorrow.

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