Sunday, September 25, 2016

Where the election stands today and what to look for AFTER the first debate

Here is where we stand on the eve of the first presidential debate based upon the average of recent polling.

Trump has 197 electoral votes (states solid, likely or leaning toward Trump).

Four states with a total of 64 electoral votes are pure toss-ups:
Ohio-18 Evs.

Clinton has 273 electoral votes (solid, likely, or leaning toward Clinton).  In other words, Clinton goes into the first debate with enough electoral votes to win the election if it was held today.  Clinton would have 341 electoral votes if she won the toss-up states.

For Trump to reach 270 electoral votes and win, he needs to:
  1. Win ALL of the toss-up states AND
  2. Win at least one of the states that are currently leaning toward Clinton.

Trump is now leading, but within the margin of error, in all of the toss-up states.  FL is essentially tied (Trump ahead 0.1) and Trump is barely ahead in Ohio (+1.8), NC (+1.8), and NV (+2.3).

To win, Trump must capture at least one of the states leaning to Clinton even if he wins ALL of the toss-up States.  These Clinton-leaning states are:

Michigan 15 Evs
Wisconsin 10 Evs
Colorado 9 Evs
Pennsylvania 20 eves.

Clinton is leading Trump by 4.6 or more points in all of these stares except Colorado, where she leads Trump, by an average of 1.5 electoral votes, which is within the margin of error . Right now, Trump’s best chance of taking one of these states Clinton-leading states away from Clinton is probably Colorado. 

As things stand now, if Trump takes Colorado and holds on to it until the election along with Ohio, NC, NV and FL and the states where he is currently ahead,  he will win with  274 Evs.

Watch the polls in these key states over the next week.  If Trump’s lead improves in Ohio, NC, NV, and Fl and/or he overtakes Clinton in Colorado, then he may be getting a bump from the first debate that would be a bad sign for Clinton.

If, on the other hand, Clinton takes the lead over the next week in one or more of the toss-up states and/or expands her lead in Colorado, then that is a good sign that Trump hurt himself in the first debate and/or that Clinton did better than expected--A good sign for Clinton.

NOTE: The first debate CAN have an impact in changing the polls, although it is usually not huge.  In the last eleven elections, the first debates have resulted in a change of plus or minus about 3 points in the national polls with a couple of exceptions (1976 and 2004 where the national numbers moved 13.8 and 6.2 respectively but there were reasons for these outliers.  See Larry Sabato’s explanation for more:

See the following for current polling averages and forecasts, particularly the NY Times site for a comparison of projections from eight different forecasters.

Friday, September 23, 2016

You should pay close attention to the polls on October 11. Here is why.

Hillary Clinton’s lead over Trump in the national polls two weeks from next Tuesday will tell us a lot about whether she will win.

Going all the way back to 2000, the average error of the polls 21 days before the election (how far they were off from predicting the final outcome of the presidential race) is 3.6 percent.  In other words, based upon the history of polling over the last four elections, Clinton can be said to be in good shape to win if her AVERAGE lead in the polls is MORE than 3.6 points.  If her lead is 3.6 points or LESS on average, then the race is very likely tied and anything could happen.  Trump could win. 

Tuesday, October 11, is 21 days prior to the election.  Be sure to check Clinton’s average lead in the polls that day at Real Clear Politics.  Check this link. 

If Clinton’s lead on October 11 is less than 3.6 points, there may be trouble ahead.

NOTE:  Clinton’s lead today, according to the RealClearPolitics average is 3.0 points.  That’s close, but not enough.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Trump—the highly UNSUCCESSFUL businessman

Great story from Robert Reich.  

Reich says he asked a Trump supporter why he was for the Donald.  The guy said he was for Trump because Trump was a highly successful businessman.  Reich asked how the man knew Trump was a success.  The man said that Trump must be a success because according to Forbes magazine, he is worth four and a half billion dollars.  

Reich asked the Trump supporter if he knew that in 1976 Trump was worth about $200 million, most of which he had inherited.  Well, said the Trump support, that just proved that Trump was a great businessman.  He turned $200 million into $4.5 billion.

“But,” said Reich,”if he had just put that $200 million into an index fund and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth twelve billion today.”

So much for Trump’s business smarts. 

And, a lot of Americans want to turn the American economy over to this guy.  We would be better off NOT having a President rather than having Trump run things.  Manage the U.S. economy?  Give me a break.  Trump couldn’t even manage his own money.

Read Reich here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

As the Race Stands Now

We have new electoral vote forecasts from four of the 10 election forecasters I'm tracking.

  • FiveThirtyEight predicts Hillary winning with 303 EVs to 235 for Trump.  They had her at 340 in late August.

  • Election Graphs gives Hillary 285 EVs to 253 for Trump, a big drop from a few weeks ago when they had Clinton winning with 347 EVs.

  • Princeton Election Consortium has Hillary at 323 to 215 for Trump, down from 340.

  • Finally, Election Projection has Clinton with 294 EVs to 244 for Trump.  That's down considerably from a few weeks ago when they had Clinton at 363.

Bottom Line:  The gap has closed considerably over the last few weeks.  Clinton's bounce from the convention has pretty much disappeared and it looks like the retooling and TelePrompter-restrictions on Trump may be working, at least to some extent, in winning back the college-educated white male vote.

Hillary needs to get back to the positive message that was so effective at the convention and leave the Trump-bashing to surrogates.  Bill Clinton, Sanders, Obama and Warren, among others, need to focus  on getting out the Black, Hispanic, Youth and college-educated women vote. This election is going to be close and Hillary could be in real trouble if these voters don't turn out in near record numbers.

Don't let anyone tell you Trump can't win.  Hillary has an advantage in the Electoral College vote.  That's true.  However, Trump's core supporters are much more fired up about this election and hate Clinton so much that the WILL turn out in record numbers.

The election IS going to be about turnout, turnout, turnout....and turnout.

Simple Message:  If you are excited about having Clinton for President and/or worried about getting Trump, then Vote and get every Clinton lover/Trump hater you can find to vote-and vote early or you might just wake up in January to find the White House renamed the Trump House.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

What would you learn if you actually read the FBI report on Hilary and the emails? Well, someone just did. Here is what they found.

People have written thousands of words about the FBI report on Hilary and the “email scandal.”  Not surprisingly, up until now, no one writing about the Hilary email story that I can find has actually READ the FBI report.  No one.  Not one journalist I can find.  Certainly not one Republican politician or Clinton hater.

Well, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones actually did the unthinkable.  He READ the damn report from beginning to end.  He took notes.  He then wrote an article based upon what is actually IN the report, not what he thought was in it or what he heard someone say was it in or what someone said that someone they knew said they heard was in the report.

You can read Drum’s page by page review of what he learned from actually READING what the FBI wrote about Hilary and the “Damn Emails” here:

Please do.  Finally, we have an example of true journalism, the old fashion kind based upon facts. Congrats Drum, you are a rare breed.

But, let’s say, you don’t want to take the time.  Well, here is Drum’s brief summary of what he learned.

(T)his report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton. She wasn't prohibited from using a personal device or a personal email account, and others at state did it routinely. She's told the truth all along about why she did it. Colin Powell did indeed advise her about using personal email shortly after she took office, but she chose to follow the rules rather than skirt them, as Powell did. She didn't take her BlackBerry into her office. She communicated with only a very select group of 13 people. She took no part in deciding which emails were personal before handing them over to State. She had nothing to do with erasing information on the PRN server. That was a screw-up on PRN's end. She and her staff all believed at the time that they were careful not to conduct sensitive conversations over unclassified email systems. And there's no evidence that her server was ever hacked.

Enough said.  It doesn’t make a great story, but what the FBI found after over a year of investigation was Hilary did NOTHING WRONG and SHE TOLD THE TRUTH from the very beginning. 

Don’t believe Drum?  That’s fine.  Read the FBI report yourself.  It is right here:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Important Clinton Policy Statement that is Getting Little Attention

While Donald Trump is grabbing all the headlines with his nonsensical and hysterical approach to immigration, Hilary Clinton has just announced a major policy initiative that is getting too little attention.  It has to do with addressing our country’s mental health crisis.

Like most Americans, you probably know someone who is struggling to deal with a major or minor mental health issue and finding it hard to get the treatment they need and deserve.  That’s not surprising.  Forty million Americans live with a mental health issue and 14 million have a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder.  Twenty percent of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have post-traumatic stress or depression or other mental health issue needing treatment as do 17 million American kids and nearly 25% of college students.  Many can’t get adequate treatment for their mental health issue.  Finally, there is general agreement that if we are going to reduce violence in America, we must do a better job of identifying and getting treatment for Americans with mental health issues that, if left untreated, might lead them to commit violent acts.

We must do a better job of providing all Americans with affordable and easy access to quality mental health care.  Hilary has proposed to do just that.

Her plan includes:
  • Support for early mental health diagnosis and intervention
  • Support for increased public awareness and action to address maternal depression, infant mental health, and trauma and stress in the lives of young children.
  • Federal funding to ensure that college students have access to mental health services.
  • Support for expanded Suicide Prevention programs
  • Federal efforts to foster integration between the medical and behavioral health care systems (including mental health and addiction services), so that high-quality treatment for behavioral health is widely available in general health care settings.
  • Efforts to promote the use of peer support specialists in primary care settings, mental health specialty care settings, hospitals, and Accountable Care Organizations.
  • New Federal resources to help train law enforcement officers in responding to encounters involving persons with mental illness, and increased support for law enforcement partnerships with mental health professionals.
  • Prioritizing treatment over punishment for low-level, non-violent offenders with mental illnesses. 
  • Expanding community-based housing opportunities for individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.
  • Expanding employment opportunities for people with mental illness.
  • Significantly increasing Federal funding for research into brain development and the treatment of PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

You will not see this type of common sense and workable plan to deal with a major national issue coming from Donald Trump.  He just wants to build walls and scare people.

You can read more about Hilary’s plan for improving access to and treatment of mental illness here:

Share it with your friends who are thinking about voting for Trump.  Do they want practical solutions to serious public policy issues from a person who cares about the country and has the experience to get the job done, or do they want to just listen to the maniacal ravings of a narcissistic con artist for the next four years?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Has Trump run out of time? Not Yet. Not by a long shot.

David Byler at Real Clear Politics has an interesting chart that suggests what we should look for in the Clinton/Trump polls over the next 30 days or so.  Byler’s chart is based upon work by Christopher Wlezien and Robert Erikson, authors of The Timeline of Presidential Elections

Here’s the chart:

The chart shows how far the polls are off from the final polling average based upon the number of days to the election.  Notice the solid line.  As we get closer to the election, the polls get more accurate-closer to the final average.  There are more dots (polls) below the trend line as we get closer to the election. Many polls will be as much as 7 to 8 points off 60 days out, but by 30 days out, most polls are within 3 to 4 points of the final result.

What does this mean?  Hilary is ahead 5 points now, according the RCP average.  That means Trump has time to close the gap.  But, he has to close it by the end of September.

If Trump can close the gap to 3 points or less by October 1st, he has a chance of going ahead by election day.  On the other hand, if Clinton is ahead by 4 points or more then Trump’s chance of catching up with her by election day is slim, at least based upon historical polling data.  There just will not be enough time to move the polls in his favor.

Watch the RCP Average, Clinton was up, on the average, by as much as 7 or 8 points in early August.  It is close to 5 points as of today.  She needs to keep this lead for the next month, at least.  If her lead starts drifting down to 4 points or less, she could be in real trouble.  If she keeps her lead above 4 points, then it is going to be really difficult for Trump to catch up and pull ahead.

This election is a LONG WAY from being over.  Trump could STILL WIN.  Keep donating money and working for Hilary.

Why Hinsdale County, Colorado has so few Democrats

Hinsdale County, Colorado is located in Southwest Colorado near the San Juan Mountains.  Of its 662 registered voters in the county today, 414 are Republican and 143 are independents.  There are only 105 Hinsdale Democrats.  That’s better than it used to be.  Once there no Hinsdale Democrats at all.  They were wiped out.  It happened this way.

In 1873, a man by the name of Alfred Packer, along with five companions from Hinsdale County got lost in the nearby San Juan mountains during the winter.  Packer eventually made it back to civilization alone, claiming that his five companions had abandoned him and that he had no idea what happened to them.  After further questioning, he finally admitted that his five companions were dead.  He had killed and eaten them to stay alive.

Packer was tried, convicted and sentenced to 40 years.  It is said that the presiding judge at sentencing leaned down from his bench, pointed at Packer and said:

“Packer, you depraved Republican son of a such-and-such, there were only five Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate them all!”

It was tough being a Colorado Democrat in the 1870s.

Source: Irving Stone, Men to Match My Mountains (New York: Berkely Books, 1982, p. 433.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

State of the Race as of Late August

As of late August, all 10 of the forecasters we are tracking are predicting that Hilary Clinton would win the election if it were held today.  Six of the 10 project that she would win 340 or more electoral votes which would be slightly less than Obama's margin of victory in 2008 but better than his winning margin in 2012.  Click on the name of each forecaster for more information on how the forecast models and what they include.

NOTE: In the last month, Clinton has increased her electoral vote share in almost all of these models while Trump has lost votes as more toss-up states have been moved to Clinton's column.

Late August
Forecaster Clinton Trump Toss-Up
Frontloading HQ 347 191   538
Sabato’s Crystal Ball 348 190   538
FiveThirtyEight 340 198   538
Election Graphs 347 191   538
Cook Political Report 272 190 76 538
NPR 273 174 91 538
ABC 275 191 72 538
NBC 288 174 76 538
Princton Election Consortium 340 198   538
Election Projection 363 175   538

Thursday, August 4, 2016

State of the race as 8/4/2016

As of August 4, we have updated projections for the 2016 election from seven different forecasters.  Six of the seven have Clinton winning by as much as 347 electoral votes.  She needs 270 to win. has Clinton winning even without Florida or Ohio which EV says are too close to call. In other words, EV says right now Clinton would win with 273 electoral votes even if Trump took BOTH FL and OH.  That’s huge.  And, 270ToWin has Clinton within 32 electoral votes of winning with 134 EVs too close to call.   Just a few toss-up states would give her a win.

That is all good news and, of course includes the huge bump Clinton got from her well-received convention and Trump’s disastrous convention.  As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out, If Clinton can hang on to her current lead until after Labor Day, she will be in a good, almost perfect position going into the debates in October. 

But, don’t get the idea that the election is won.  It is not.  Clinton continues to need your contributions, support and vote.  We need to reach out to Independents, young voters, and traditional/non-tea party Republicans.  See my previous posts for talking points.






Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A note to Donald Trump--Hey Jerk

To Donald Trump:

Hey Jerk get two things straight

1. When a woman or man is harassed in the workplace, the harasser is the one who should be looking for a job, and not finding one, NOT the person harassed.  To tell a woman who is sexually harassed that she should just find another job is an insult to all women.

2. The purple heart is an acknowledgement of the pain and suffering someone wounded in combat in service of our country has endured and may have to endure for the rest of their life.  It is not in any way equivalent to winning a prize.  No one seeks a purple heart but you-the easy way without any sacrifice at all.  You insult every person who has received a purple heart.

Being President?  I think not.  You don’t have the brains or heart for the job.  Jerk. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Policy is important. Temperament is paramount

It should come as no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I think Democrats have the best ideas about both domestic and foreign policy.  When the country fell into a deep recession, near depression in 2008, Democrats had a plan.  They said save the banks, save the auto industry and stimulate the economy and then figure out what we need to do to build fire walls to make sure we don’t get in the same mess again.  Republicans said cut taxes on the rich, cut social support, and let the poor starve.  Republicans responded to terrorist by starting a war against a dictator who may not have been sponsoring terrorism.  Democrats said let’s work with our allies to fight terrorists since they threaten all of us.  Most importantly, let’s never make this a holy war. 

Nothing has changed when it comes to Democrat vs Republican policy differences in 2016.
This election goes far beyond policy.  It is about the temperament of the candidates and basic fitness for the office of President. 

You may not like Hillary Clinton but she will never embarrass you or the country with thoughtless and insensitive comments.  Trump will.  He can’t help himself.

Hillary Clinton will make careful, and yes calculated, decisions.  She won’t lead the country into an accidental disaster that could have been prevented if she had just thought it through.  Don Trump will jerk his knee at the slightest tap.  Donald Trump will embarrass our country.  He could very well leads us into a totally unnecessary and horrible war.

Question to Republicans: If you aren’t proud to have Donald Trump as your nominee, why would you be proud to have him as your President?  Why would you want him as our President?

And Yes, I am proud to have Hillary Clinton as the nominee of the Democratic Party and will be even more proud of our country for making her our President

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to evaluate Trump and Clinton’s visions for our country--Some suggestions

The conventions are over.  Trump and Clinton have delivered their acceptance speeches outlining their visions for America.  Now, you must judge those visions.  Which one are you prepared to follow?  Which one would you be proud following?

In 2008, I wrote a book entitled Want Get Fooled Again: A Voter’s Guide to Seeing Through the Lies, Getting Past the Propaganda, and Choosing the Best Leaders (Amacom, 2008) In chapter six of that book, I discuss how to evaluate a leader’s vision.  I call this the Values Test.

In my book, I discuss two types of ethical dilemmas we all face and that leaders, in particular, face: choices between right and wrong and choices between right and right.

Codes of ethics usually steer you and should steer leaders in the proper direction when it comes to right vs. wrong.  Every religion in the world provides rules for how we should respond when faced with a right vs wrong decision.

Here are some.[1]

  • African Traditional—One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.  Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
  • Baha’i—Oh Son of Being! Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.  This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.  Arabic Hidden Words 29
  • Buddhism—Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.  Sutta Nipta 705
  • Christianity—Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.  Bible, Matthew 7:12
  • Confucianism—Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself and you will find that is the shortest way to benevolence.  Mencius VII.A4  and  Tsetung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?”  Confucius replied, “It is the word shu—reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”  Analects 15.23
  • Hinduism—One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself.  This is the essence of morality.  All other activities are due to selfish desire.  Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8
  • Islam—Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.  Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13
  • Jainism—A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.
  • Judaism—When he went to Hillel, he said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn.”  Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
  • Taoism—Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and your neighbor’s loss as your loss.  T’ai-shang Kang-ying P’ien

Right vs Wrong decisions should be pretty easy.  Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal.

But what about other types of ethical dilemmas, right vs right?  Here are some of those: 
  •   It is right to protect the endangered spotted owl in the old-growth forests of the American Northwest—and right to provide jobs for loggers.
  • It is right to provide our children with the finest public schools available—and right to prevent the constant upward ratcheting of state and local taxes.
  • It is right to extend equal social services to everyone regardless of race or ethnic origin—and right to pay special attention to those whose cultural backgrounds may have deprived them of past opportunities.
  • It is right to refrain from meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations—and right to help protect the undefended in warring regions where they are subject to slaughter.
  • It is right to resist the importation of products made in developing nations to the detriment of the environment and/or loss of American jobs—and right to provide jobs, even at low wages, for citizens of those nations.
  • It is right to engage in pre-emptive war if by doing so you can protect the lives and property of millions—and right to go to war only as a last resort.
  • It is right to allow corporations the maximum freedom to make money for their stockholders and right to insist that they not do so at the expense of their employees, the environment and/or the communities in which they operate.
  • It is right to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent another 9/11 type terrorist attack and right not to use torture to get information from suspected terrorists.[2]

We all expect, or at least I hope we expect, anyone offering themselves to become President of the United States to have a strong sense of moral values to guide them in making right vs wrong decisions.  But, how do they answer the right vs right ones.  More importantly, by voting for them you are signing onto their vision.  Are you comfortable with the way they propose that we as a nation resolve the inherit conflict between right vs. right?

Here are some questions to ask yourself: 
  1. Will the implementation of the vision involve the commission of immoral, unethical and/or illegal acts? Are you comfortable not just with the goal of the leader's vision but how he/she proposes to achieve that goal?
  2. Who wins and loses if the vision is implemented and succeeds?  What are the net benefits and costs and to whom?  Does the vision maximize social benefits and minimize social injuries? Are people treated fairly?
  3. Is the vision consistent with the moral rights of those whom it will affect?  How will minorities be impacted? Do we have a special obligation to protect the weak and powerless? Will their rights be protected?
  4. Will implementation of the vision result in people being tricked, deceived, or exploited in any way?  Will there be full disclosure?  
  5. Will the people who will be impacted by the vision have a choice of whether or not to comply with the vision?  Is their choice a realistic and meaningful one?  Could they actually choose not to comply with the requirements of the vision?
  6. Will the vision lead to a just distribution of benefits and burdens or will some individuals or groups be unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged?
  7.  Is the vision based upon fundamental guiding principles of conduct everyone should follow?  Would you want these principles to be applied to you?[3]

While you are at it you might ask these additional questions:
  •  How would you feel if you followed the vision and your name ended up on the front page of the nation’s newspapers in the lead story about the good or harm that the vision caused?
  • Would your mom follow the vision or tell your leader to stuff it?  Would she be proud of you if you followed the vision?

Hope this helps as you decide how to vote this November.

[1] Adapted from Dalla Costa, The Ethical Imperative, 141-142.
[2] Except for the last six, these are listed in Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, (New York: William Morrow, 1995): 16-17.
[3] Adapted from Manual G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998):. 128.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Is it happening again?

Someone seems to be hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign to get information for partisan political advantage in order to help Donald Trump,  the Republican party candidate.

It has happened before. And, it may have made a difference in a close election. Let me take you back to 1980

On October 28, 1980, just one week prior to the presidential election, President Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan met for their one and only presidential debate. The stakes could not have been higher for either side since they were essentially tied in the national and state polls. Gallup had the contest at 45 percent Carter, 42 percent Reagan.  NBC/Louis Harris had the race at 45 percent Reagan to 42 percent Carter.

In the electoral votes, Carter had a lead in New York and Reagan had a lead in California, although each camp was claiming that they were closing the gap with their opponent. Pennsylvania and Texas were too close to call.[1]

Bill Brock, the Republican national chairman was predicting that a strong showing by his candidate in the debate would lead to a landslide victory for Reagan in the Electoral College. It’s uncertain how confident Brock was about Reagan’s chances, but others in the Reagan camp weren’t too worried. They knew Reagan had an advantage going into the debate. His staff had found a way for him to cheat. Of course that wouldn’t be widely known or published in the press until three years later. 

In the opinion of media commentators and political pundits at the time, neither candidate really won the debate. Carter was able to attack Reagan for his “radical” stand on a number of policy issues such as what to do about Social Security. Reagan found the opportunity to get in some of his famous zingers such as “I sometimes think he’s like the witch doctor that gets mad when a good doctor comes along with a cure that works” and “There you go again.”[2] Assessing the outcome of the debate, Hedrick Smith of The New York Timeswrote:

The Presidential debate produced no knockout blow, no disastrous gaffe and no immediate, undisputed victor. It was a contest of content against style, or a President repeatedly on the attack to put his challenger on the defensive while Ronald Reagan used his calm demeanor to offset Jimmy Carter’s contention that he was dangerous.[3]

Of course, not making a disastrous gaffe and winning the style contest may have been enough for Reagan. A highly unscientific “instant” poll conducted by ABC News right after the debate found that Reagan had “won” the debate by a two to one margin.[4] More importantly, Reagan’s performance in the debate undoubtedly helped to remove any doubts voters had about his ability to handle the job of president. Reagan’s pollster credited the debate with strengthening “Reagan’s credibility for taking Carter on as sharply as he did in the last five days [of the campaign.]”[5] Reagan won 489 electoral votes to just 49 for Carter.

Fast forward three years. In the summer of 1983, a book on Reagan by Time correspondent Lawrence Barrett entitled Gambling with History: Ronald Reagan in the White House was published. Two paragraphs in the 511 page book set off a media frenzy and Congressional investigation. Barrett reported that prior to the 1980 Reagan/Carter debate someone in the Reagan camp had obtained, or perhaps stolen, a briefing book and other papers Carter was using to prepare for the debate. These books had been used to prepare Mr. Reagan for the debate and obviously had given him an unfair advantage. There were both legal questions (Were the papers and book stolen?) and ethical questions (Did the use of material violate the Ethics in Government Act or just good ethical behavior in general?).

The initial White House reaction to the media and Congressional inquiries was to downplay the whole matter.  Reagan said it was “much ado about nothing.” White House spokesperson, Larry Speakes said, “This is nothing new in politics; it’s the way politics works.” However in response to a formal inquiry from Congressman Donald Albosta (Democrat, Michigan and chairmen of the House subcommittee responsible for enforcing the Ethics in Government Act), two senior Reagan administration officials admitted to seeing and using the documents. Chief of Staff Howard Baker said in a letter to the Congressman that he recalled seeing “a large loose-leaf bound book that was thought to have been given to the Reagan camp by someone with the Carter camp” to CIA Director William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager at the time[6] Casey said he didn’t recall the book and in fact wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot poll.[7] However, David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, admitted to Albosta that he not only saw the material but that he had used it in preparing to play the role of Carter in mock debates with Reagan. Faced with the Baker and Stockman admissions along with continued pressure from the media and Congress, Reagan asked the Justice Department to investigate the matter.

The scandal continued to expand and appeared to some to possibly threaten Reagan’s 1984 campaign for re-election. Carter materials were found in Reagan campaign files that matched in many respects a copy of the 1980 briefing book that Carter representatives provided the Justice Department and White House. The materials in the book laid out the major strategies Carter intended to use in the debate along with “major strategic thrusts and ripostes in anticipating Mr. Reagan and defending the Carter record.”[8] Former Carter aides argued that anyone who examined the transcript of the 1980 debate closely could clearly see how Reagan had used the purloined material to his advantage. And, a senior official of the 80’ Reagan campaign told reporters that he remembered Baker, David Gergen (Reagan’s Director of Communications), and others in the campaign boasting at the time that they had inside information on the Carter campaign.

The Justice Department launched what Reagan called “monitoring” and Justice officials called an “active review,” whatever that meant. The FBI said it would begin interviewing Reagan 1980 campaign workers to find out what they knew. Democrats and Republicans in the meantime began to squabble over whether there was sufficient material to warrant hearings on the matter even though the White House had found and released hundreds of pages of Carter materials that were discovered in Reagan campaign files. The Baker staff and Casey staff began arguing over who knew what, when, and where and who might have “run” the mole in Carter’s campaign if there had been a “mole” which no one was admitting. The Chairman of the Democratic Party called for an independent prosecutor to look into the matter. White House spokesperson, Larry Speakes reassured the press that the Justice Department was “looking into the whole matter, moles and woodchucks and all.”[9]

The controversy surrounding the theft and use of the Carter papers continued for nearly a year. After an eight month investigation, the Justice Department announced that it had found no evidence of theft of the Carter documents and no criminal wrongdoing of any kind and thus saw no reason to appoint a special prosecutor or pursue the matter further.[10] After an 11-month investigation a Congressional sub-committee disagreed. It found that “the presence, acknowledged receipt, and use of [the Carter campaign materials] in the Reagan...campaign showed that some crimes has occurred…[that] any Carter staff member who without authorization handed over the briefing books…may have committed embezzlement, and that Reagan aides who used [the documents] knowing they were stolen may be guilty of receiving stolen property.”[11] A federal court judge in response to a private lawsuit agreed with the sub-committee that the Ethics Act of 1978 may have been violated and ordered the Attorney General to appoint an independent counsel. However, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the judge’s ruling and, as Time put it, the scandal that had been dubbed “Debategate” simply fizzled.[12] 

In a close election featuring a media personality whose ability to govern had be questioned, that media personality who was the Republican candidate won in part, maybe large part, because someone stole inside information from the Democratic Party that gave him an advantage in responding to questions about his fitness to govern.  Is it happening again?

[1] See Clymer Adam, “Carter and Reagan to Meet Tonight in Debate That Could Deicide Race,” New York Times, 1980/October 28, A1.
[3] Hedrick Smith, “No Clear Winner Apparent; Scene is Simple and Stark,” The New York Times, 1980/October 29, A1.
[4] ABC and Bell Labs conducted an instant viewer poll in which viewers were invited to call one number to register a vote for Carter as the debate winner and another number to register a vote for Reagan.  Viewers were charged 50 cents per call but presumably could call as many times as they wanted.  As it turned out 650,000 votes were cast at the rate of some 5,000 per minute.  The results were two to one in favor of Reagan.  Bell Labs also won, taking in an estimated $325,000 for its efforts.  See John J. O’Connor, “TV: Instant Poll Steals Post-Debate Scene,” The New York Times, 1980/October 30, C.26.
[5] “Reagan Easily Beats Carter; Republicans Gain in Congress; D’Amato and Dodd,” The New York Times, 1980/November 5, A1.
[6] See Phil Gailey, “Baker and Stockman Report Receiving ’80 Carter Material,” The New York Times, 1983/June 24, D.14.
[7] Francis X. Clines, “Casey Says He ‘Wouldn’t Touch’ Papers from Carter Campaign,” The New York Times, 1983/July 6, A.1.
[8] Francis X. Clines, “Reagan Asks Inquiry into Papers Reportedly Purloined from Carter,” The New York Times, 1983/June 28, A.1.
[9] Francis X. Clines, “F.B.I. Likely to Ask Key Reagan Aides About 1980 Debate,” The New York Times, 1983/July 2, 1.1.
[10] Robert E. Taylor, “Justice Agency Ends ‘Debategate’ Inquiry and Says No Evidence of Crime was Found,” The Wall Street Journal, 1984/February 24, 1.
[11] Stuart Taylor, Jr., “Campaign Papers Remain Mystery,” The New York Times, 1984/June 18, B.9.  Also see “Excerpts from Report on How Reagan Camp Got Carter’s Briefing Papers,” The New York Times, 1984/May 24, A.24.
[12] “The Debategate Probe Fizzles,” Time, 1984/July 9 at,9171,950083,00.html.

Why voting for a third party candidate is NOT a good option for Republicans (or Sanders Democrats for that matter)

Some Republicans (and some Sanders Democrats) who can’t stand voting for Trump OR Clinton are thinking of voting for a third party.  That’s not a good option.  In fact, it is a BIG mistake.  Here is why.

If you vote for a third party candidate either Gary Johnson in the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party, then you are actually VOTING FOR the Democratic or Republican Party candidate you like the LEAST.  Let’s say you are a Republican, but you really don’t like Trump and you can’t see yourself voting for him.  You can’t imagine a man with his temperament in the White House making life or death decisions.  You don’t like Hillary Clinton either, so you decide to vote for Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate.  It is the same as not voting.  You end up helping Trump, the major party candidate you like the least. Here is why.

We don’t elect our President by popular vote.  We elect him or her (preferably her) through the Electoral College.  There are 538 Electoral Votes.  Each state and the District of Columbia are assigned electoral votes based upon population.  For example, California has 55 electoral votes and Delaware has just three.  To win the Presidency, a candidate must receive a minimum of 270 electoral votes.  Forty-eight states plus DC are “winner-take-all” states.  The candidate with the most votes wins ALL of the state’s electoral votes.  Nebraska and Maine award electoral votes largely by Congressional District.

The Electoral College makes it almost impossible for any third party candidate to win a presidential election.  Why?  Ballot access. 

You can’t win an election if you can’t get on the ballot so people can vote for you.  And, it is difficult for third parties to get their candidate’s name on the ballot in enough states to win.  For example, in 2016 the Green Party is on the ballot in only  23 states with 324 electoral votes.  The Libertarian Party is in better shape. It is on the ballot in 36 States and DC with 373 electoral votes.  See electoral votes by state here:

Here comes the BIG problem for third parties and their candidates. 

Take the Green Party.  Out of 538 electoral votes, at maximum it can only win 324.  It is only on the ballot in 36 states with 324 electoral votes, as I just said.  The Green Party needs 270 votes to win.  It can only spare 54 (324-270= 54).  If it loses California’s 55 electoral votes, it can’t win even if it takes every other state where it is on the ballot.  If it wins California, but loses Texas (38 electoral votes) and Illinois (20 electoral votes) or New York (29 electoral votes), it can’t win.  In short, since the Green Party is not on the ballot in all 50 states, it has to win just about every state where it IS on the ballot, particularly the big states which are all “winner-take-all” states.  That’s not totally impossible but you and I probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.

The Libertarian Party is in a little better shape.  As I said, it is on the ballot in 36 states with 373 electoral votes.  It can afford to lose a maximum of 103 electoral votes (373-270= 103).  It it loses California (55 EV), Texas (38 EV) and Florida (29 EV), it can’t win.  If it wins Florida, it only has 10 votes to spare. Lose Wisconsin, it has no chance.  Lose MO, no chance.  Lose TN, no chance. Lose AZ, no chance.  Again, the Libertarian Party, like the Green Party, has to win just about every state where it is on the ballot in order to have a chance of winning the election.  That’s not going to happen.  It’s like a person winning the lottery and 99.999% of people never, ever win the lottery even a little lottery.,

Face it.  The U.S. electoral system IS rigged.  It’s rigged to make it very difficult for a third party to get on the ballot in all 50 states.  It’s rigged in most states to award all of the electoral votes to the party with the most votes, thereby setting a very high hurdle for third parties.

Bottom Line:  If you cast your vote for a party other than the Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton) or the Republican Party (Donald Trump), you might as well NOT vote.  And, like NOT voting, casting your ballot for a third party candidate, HELPS the major party candidate you like the LEAST.  How?  Let’s say, you don’t like Hillary but you really hate Trump.  If you don’t vote or vote for a third party candidate instead of voting for Hillary, then you hurt Hillary’s chances of winning (she gets one less vote) and you help Trump, the candidate you dislike the most.

If you don’t like either major party candidate, your best strategy is to vote for the major party candidate you DISLIKE the least.

You may not like it, but it is the truth.  That’s the way the American electoral system works.

By the way.  I told my Political Science class at a small Georgia college about the realities of the Electoral College and third party candidates in 1968 when George Wallace was running as a third party candidate for President on the American Independent Party ticket.  Some of my students who were Wallace fans complained to the administration and I got fired.  It was okay.  I went back to the University of Georgia and got my Ph.D.  Wallace won five southern states which led to Republican’s adopting the racist “Southern Strategy” they have used since the time of Nixon.  But, that’s another story.  See here for more on the 1968 race:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Letter to my Republican Friends

Do you want your party back?

Are you ashamed that a man like Donald Trump is the nominee of your party?

Do you find yourself for the first time in years, maybe the first time in your adult life, saying “I can’t walk into the voting booth and vote for the Republican nominee?”

Are you tempted to just stay home, not vote, sit out this election?

If you want your party back—the party of Ronald Reagan and the Bushes and John McCain—then not voting is NOT the answer.

If Donald Trump wins this election, the Republican Party you have known and worked for will be lost forever.  You will never get it back

Even if Donald Trump loses, you will not get your party back unless…unless he loses by such a wide margin that his brand of hate-filled Conservatism is discredited forever.

You may not like Hillary Clinton.  You may even hate everything she stands for.  But she provides the only path to returning your party to sanity.

The only way to get your party back is to vote for Hillary.

In 2020, when Trump has been sent back to the fantasy world of “reality” TV, you can nominate a true Republican to challenge Hillary Clinton, not on the basis of childish insults but on the basis of true Conservative ideas and values.

Let’s have that debate in 2020.  I look forward to it.

This year vote for Hillary, work to elect Hillary and defeat Trump and his gang who have taken over your Grand Old Party.

Take your party back. Vote for Hillary this November.

Two Very Different Visions

The conventions this week and last have given us two sharply different visions of our country and its future.

The Republican vision, or at least the Trump version, is dark, fearful, and hate-filled.  It celebrates greed, division and exclusion.  It is all about drawing inward, forcing out, and moving backward to an imaginary past that was somehow lost even though it never really existed.  It is a vision that uses faith to divide us by emphasizing religious differences rather than the common beliefs almost all humans share about what is moral and good.  Religion is used as a weapon to drive us apart rather than bring us together.  Under the Trump Republican vision a promise is only as good as the benefits you derive for yourself from keeping it; it is stupid to admit a mistake; “facts” don’t have to be true, and it is okay to mock and degrade people with whom you disagree.

The Democratic Party vision we have seen this week is one bathed in the bright light of love, compassion, reaching out, coming together and lifting up.  Democrats look to the future with hope, imagination and the certainty that we Americans can achieve anything if we only work together.  Democrats celebrate both our common beliefs and aspirations and the richness that flows from our diversity.  For Democrats, a promise is a promise; mistakes are teaching moments, facts are facts, even when they are uncomfortable; and, every person deserves respect regardless of whether or not we share their opinions.

Voting for Hillary Clinton is an affirmation of this more hopeful vision for our future.  And, it is something more.  A vote for Hillary is a clear statement to the world that Americans will no longer tolerate artificial barriers to success.  Any strong, talented, intelligent woman with the drive and determination to succeed will for now on have the same opportunity as any similar strong, talented, intelligent and determined male.

Trump Republicans think we can get to the future by returning to the past.  They are wrong about that, dead wrong.  We will never get to the future by running backward.  We will only get to the future by taking one step forward and then another and another—together.