Posts Tagged ‘Biden’

A psephologist is someone who simply eats lives and breathes the sways and nuances and surges of voter opinion, burying themselves in electoral statistics, voting boundaries, and opinion polls, to try and divine what is likely to happen in any given election. So far I haven’t got a major election wrong in over 30 years in any jurisdiction I have turned my mind to, but I will freely admit this Presidential election is fascinatingly obtuse and difficult to parse.

I am not a professional psephologist by any means. I am, however, a really sad anoraky type who would rather spend hours working out a likely election result than just about anything other than watching my beloved Southampton FC win easily. (Preferably against Portsmouth, but honestly, any win will do.)

This little play toy is, therefore, much like heroin to an opiate addict for me.

Make your own electoral map


Click on the map or this:

Just click on a state and give it to one of the candidates, and bingo, the updated expected electoral college vote materialises.

You wanna know what all the apparatchiks and backroom boys do all day in the Obama and Romney camp? This! Wanna feel like you’re Josh Lyman living an episode of “West Wing”?  Here it is.

Get rid of all the swing states at a touch of a button and award them to the current leader in that state. See that? Way cool. (Yes, the current electoral standing in each state is there too to make life easy for you.)

Think Romney will pull a surprise in Ohio, or flop unexpectedly in Florida? At the touch of a keypad or mouse it’s all yours.

Last time around this little tool won me a lot of money at the bookies by allowing me to correctly pick Obama’s tally. So go for your life, if you think you know what’s going on. But all care, and no responsibility, eh? Don’t blame me if they take you to the cleaners. This is the hardest election to call accurately in a l0ng time.

If you wanna know what I think, I have different scenarios running currently: Romney winning by a few, and Obama winning by a lot, depending on what happens in the next few days. In other words, it’s still too early to tell.

In summary, I still think the “win all the swing states” bar for Romney/Ryan is set too high, but we shall see what we shall see …

Really, it’s better than sex, innit?

Close call – who do you think won?

Well, it depends who you ask.

I thought Biden looked measurably more confident – and well briefed – than Ryan. But with me, he is singing with the choir. I have long considered Biden a very impressive and honourable individual, and I am openly arguing for a return of Obama to the Presidency. So how did it all look to non Obama fans?

Immediate post debate reaction seems more mixed. Some people did not like Biden’s aggression and interrupting. Fair enough: and it never plays well with the general public. On the other hand, I am sure this is how he was briefed, as the Obama campaign considered their man had abandoned the field in the previous debate, so it would have done the workers, supporters and ironed-ons no harm at all to see their side be more confident and combative.

The “Undecided” panel from CNN (who make up the worm respondents) judged it thusly:

Biden was strongest on the economy, certainly when discussing the middle class, and was lowest on the Libyan consulate affair. (Which goes to a generalised lack of trust in the Administration, although one foreign policy incident is surely a lower order issue taken in the whole scheme of things.) On the other hand, Biden scored well in an opinion poll on the judgement of whether he could step up and be President if needed.

Ryan was also strongest on the economy, (surely a sign that people are genuinely confused as to the best way to go) and, interestingly, weakest on abortion. In other words, he was caught talking to his own base, and ignoring the more nuanced attitudes on the topic from mainstream America.

In the end they voted it a tie. On the panel, Obama picked up three intending votes, Romney picked up 3. Hardly a scientific pool, but overall, I suspect the effect of the debate is likely to solidify the base support and move a tiny percentage of undecideds to the Romney camp as well. But for most people, it will have just made the decision what it appears to be for the entire country – obviously tighter than last time.

What has become clearer is there is certainly a strong and deep mistrust of the Administration, and no great enthusiasm for it. But, in essence, Romney/Ryan need to convince people that they could do better. That’s the whole game, right there. At the moment they seem to be just short of that goal to this watcher, but certainly further on than they were. A lot will depend on the next two Presidential debates, and, as I have opined previously, how the Obama camp nails – or doesn’t nail – what I consider to be the obvious holes in the Romney/Ryan tax plan.

For example, Ryan asserted confidently that the Romney tax cuts could be implemented without touching middle class welfare allowances like mortgage relief. Biden huffed that it was mathematically impossible. Later, the bi-partisan Tax Policy Centre delivered their verdict. “Not possible.” So expect to see that hammered again and again in the next couple of weeks.

The other issue will be how the “vouchers not Medicare” issue plays in Florida.

Florida. Keep your eyes on Florida. As I keep saying, it is where the Obama campaign will focus their anti-voucher campaign but it will be much more than some TV ads. I suspect we are about to see a classic case of grassroots campaigning affecting the overall result. Either they will beat Romney there, on the ground, or they will not. And if they don’t, Romney just – just – stands a chance.

Certainly not a bad night for either camp. Just not especially good for either, either.

One side note. Well, two.

I was fascinated to see Fox News split their screen with camera angles that made it look – erroneously – as if Biden and Ryan were not looking at each other courteously. The effect was to make Biden look excessively dismissive – bad for Biden – and surely can only have been deliberate. CNN instead used head on cameras. It really does make one wonder.

Second, Obama has conceded publicly he got the first debate wrong.

In a radio interview with nationally-syndicated Tom Joyner on Tuesday he remarked as follows:

“I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because, you know, it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true,” the president said, when asked what happened at the debate.

“It gets repetitive. But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken, or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term.”

Questioned on why he “had the open shot and … didn’t take it” in last week’s debate, the president said “I understand, but you know, what happens though is that when people lose one game, you know, this is a long haul. I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one,” he said.

“But keep in mind that, you know, the issues that are at stake for folks haven’t changed. You know? We’ve got millions of people who’ve got health care right now because of our health care bill. And they won’t have it if Mitt Romney is elected president.”

The president also protested the idea that he had the election locked down going into the debate.

“This is always going to be a close race,” he said. “Governor Romney kept on making mistakes month after month so it made it look artificially like this was, might end up being a cakewalk. But we understood internally that it never would be. That it was going to tight – it tightened over the last three or four days, but it could have tightened after the convention if they hadn’t had such a bad convention.”

He added: “By next week I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we’re going to go ahead and win this thing.”

We will see. Obama needs a real triumph in the next debate to recapture momentum. One telling moment will do it. We know that from past debates. Aides will be holding their breath. Whatever happens, expect a much more combative performance from Obama.

The gloves are off.


Biden and Obama

When is someone going to lead America out of its near-terminal decline?

Quote of the day: “The United States is hard-wired for innovation. Openness, free exchange of ideas, free enterprise, and liberty are among the reasons why the United States, in my view, is at this moment the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.” – Vice President Biden in China, speaking about America’s ability to compete in international markets.

I agree with Biden entirely, and from this distance he seems like a thoroughly likeable and decent bloke, with considerable intelligence, but the key phrase must surely be “at this moment”.

Because as sure as night follows day, if the American decline is not arrested, and fast, then – and I refer here to the generalised loss of confidence, the loss of will power, the loss of genuine self belief, and the loss of communal will, not just its current economic difficulties – this great country, this great and wonderful experiment in democracy, if you will – is going to end up as an also ran behind Asia, with who-knows-what knock on effect for the world, and for its own people.

Let’s shine a flashlight on the situation. At the moment America’s economy is supported almost entirely by lending from an economy which is command based, using often brutal techniques (and also many subtle ones) to suppress dissent, which is riddled with corruption, and despite its spectacular growth is entirely based on Confucian ideals of obedience to authority and lack of personal empoerment and individuality. That’s right, China.

If it wasn’t for China gobbling up American bonds (to keep their biggest market for cheaply produced goods open) America would, quite simply, be stony broke. One assumes Biden’s hosts were chuckling somewhere deep inside their inscrutable exteriors.

Long story short: America needs to re-discover its entrepreneurism, passion, unity and commitment, or it will simply be left behind by its less principled and more aggressive competitors. And if that’s the case, then liberal democracy will have failed, and we can all look forward to centuries of forelock tugging, with bread and circuses to keep the drones quiet.

At the moment, only the educated elite in America realise this – the chattering chardonnay classes, the policy wonks on all sides – the mass of ordinary people are wandering the streets with patriotic jingoism ringing in their ears, wondering wide-eyed with shock and distress how the hell they suddenly have locked-in 9.2% unemployment and a political establishment that is seems to be irretrievably mired in petty sniping, partisanship, and self-service. Even the spasmodic jerking of the Tea Party and others reveals no general understanding of the depth of the problem, but rather just a blind, angry and bitter communal shaking of the head, because it has, as its target, the wrong problem.

The size of government is not the issue, it is the inability of the economy to support the size of Government. If America was still belting down the outer lane of the freeway at a hundred miles an hour no one would care less about the size of Government, as its expenditure would be self-supporting from increased corporate and personal tax revenues, and an inevitable reduction in welfare spending.

What no-one in authority dares to say is that the true problem in America is the failure of private capital – bluntly, the American Emperor (for which you can read “free market capitalism”, unfettered by any focused direction whatsoever) has no clothes, and really hasn’t had for a generation. Because no one dares to say this for fear of sounding unpatriotic or an unbeliever, the blame for the current mess is being sheeted home to an easier to spot target in the Government, and its even easier to do that when “Government” is represented by a cerebral and gentle coloured man who seems, on walking into the White House, to have lost his ability or will to reach over the heads of the disfunctional political class and reach ordinary people any more.

As I have said many times in recent years, having visited both America and the Far East for both business and leisure, the solution is clear.

America needs to use its knowledge-base to make things that other people cannot make: and not only that, but make them better, faster, and to higher quality than other people can copy, and then it needs to sell that stuff hard to a world which is no longer just a bunch of easily-influenced barely civilised semi-rural economies, medieval kleptocracies, or war-wearied, worn out old democracies.

The world is a much more competitive and capable place now, and America cannot rest on its laurels for a day longer.

America may still be the greatest country in the world in some respects, but mindlessly repeating that mantra is holding it back from resuming any meaningful world leadership. Sadly, I see no one in America, despite my respect for Obama, who seems up to the challenge of first of all “telling it like it is”, and then yoking the whole country to the effort needed to turn things around.

America needs an internal crusade akin to that evidenced during the Second World War, or perhaps the New Deal response to the Depression, to break the cycle and get back to where it was. From whom, or where, will such an effort be initiated?