Campaign

Romney can't afford to lose Virginia

When Mitt Romney stopped in Virginia last week he said, “This may well be the state [that] decides who the next president is.”

At least he understands the stakes.

Barring a collapse by either Romney or President Obama, the popular vote will be close. Major polls are all within the margin of error and likely to stay that way. Romney supporters know they face an uphill battle to unseat an incumbent president. And, now that the primary season is over and Romney has emerged as the nominee, Democrats have begun to heed the call of former Clinton campaign aide James Carville to “wake the you-know-what up.”

But it’s not about the popular vote. It’s about the Electoral College – and there, President Obama has a decided advantage right now. Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix blog in The Washington Post, sees no way Romney can exceed 290 electoral votes. He sees a rough, but doable path for President Obama to win nearly 310.

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Let's have a real general election: Democracy for the 100%

In the presidential race, attention has turned to what we erroneously call the "general election." The problem is that there is nothing "general" about it. From Louisiana to Alaska, from California to the New York Island, 80% of Americans now live in states where no presidential competition will take place because statewide results are a foregone conclusion.

The number of swing states has sharply declined as the states polarize just like our gerrymandered congressional districts. Even a state expected to be in play can be sidelined overnight, as in 2008 when John McCain redeployed all his staff and resources out of Michigan a few weeks before the November election, leaving devastated local backers in his wake.

This year neither party will invest resources fighting for three of our four largest states-bright-red Texas and deep-blue California and New York. Of the 15 smallest states, 14 are safe for one party and therefore political fly-over country too-states like blue Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware and red Idaho, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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Romney should pick Graham for VP

Now that the GOP presidential primaries effectively are over, it's on to Tampa for Mitt Romney and the Republicans. The only question up for grabs now is, who will the presumptive nominee select as his running mate?  My pick is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, but more about that later.

Geography and ideology have played important, but not always critical, roles in naming vice presidential running mates. It didn't matter much to George W. Bush that his pick, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, was from Wyoming. Ditto for Barack Obama.  He chose the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee chair Joe Biden of Delaware. What Bush and Obama each needed most was a Washington insider on the ticket. I'm sure going rogue, as former GOP running mate Sarah Palin is fond of saying, never crossed their minds. 

As Jeff Greenfield recently reported, " ... the critical factor is less about the running mate and more about what the presidential candidate wants voters to think about himself." This insight explains why Ronald Reagan, who never thought of himself as an ideological zealot, chose moderate George H. W. Bush to be on the ticket with him, and why Al Gore, himself Bill Clinton's vice president for 8 years, needed to be his own man. He selected outspoken Clinton critic, Sen. Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate.

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Government contractors aren't the problem they're made out to be

Recently legislation was introduced that would amend the Hatch Act. First enacted in 1939 and amended several times, the Act restricts the political activities of federal, state and local government employees. One of its restrictions prohibits state and local employees from running for political office, a prohibition that the legislation would relax. While appearing to be limited in application, the Hatch Act turns up in some interesting ways.

It is important to note the basis for the Hatch Act. Today most of the focus is on the Act’s prohibitions from the perspective of what the government employee is prohibited from doing. But in fact, the Act was in large part designed to protect the employee from being forced into political activity to benefit his or her superiors. For example, the reason the Act bars government employees from making political contributions to their superiors is to protect the employee from being coerced into contributing, for example, in exchange for continued employment.

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More deliberate approach to homeland security reform needed

On March 20 I testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on FEMA’s proposal to consolidate the current homeland security grant programs into a new National Preparedness Grant Program. My basic message to the Committee was that mayors and other local officials across the nation have serious concerns with this proposal.   



Still under development, this proposed program would be a mix of formula grants to the states intended to sustain current activities and competitive grants to states and regions for specific policy areas, including critical infrastructure, counterterrorism, and transportation. There would be no more separate Urban Areas Security Initiative, transit or port security programs, or Operation Stonegarden along our land borders – all programs which provide funding to areas and facilities considered to be at greatest risk. There would no required pass-through of funding to localities and no requirement that one-fourth of the funds be dedicated to law enforcement terrorism prevention. 



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Big bundlers should see the sunshine

As of Jan. 31, the Obama campaign listed 444 individuals who had bundled at least $50,000 for the president's re-election effort. We know their names -- John Emerson, an executive at Capital Group; Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks; and Jack Rosen, the head of a New York law firm and chair of the American Jewish Congress, for instance -- and our research shows that more of them come from finance than from any other sector, with lawyers and law firms close behind. We know, too, that they're bundling at least $74 million for Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which is also devoted to seeing him win a second term.

Is this important? Absolutely. If we as a society have decided that the names of campaign contributors of more than $200 should be made public in the interest of knowing who is financing our candidates, then it's doubly true that the public should know who is dialing those contributors to solicit funds, gathering up the checks and delivering them en masse to the candidate. 

These are people to whom the campaign has good reason to be especially grateful. In fact, in one administration after another, a sizable number of bundlers go on to plum jobs within the administration. According to the Washington Post, more than half of Obama’s $500,000+ fundraisers from 2008 have been given administration jobs, while nine more were appointed to presidential boards and committees. At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors.

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Why we support school choice

Colorado’s citizens pride themselves on independence and a practical ability to get things done. This mix of autonomy and pragmatism is paving a new trail for public education by providing broad, bi-partisan support to a simple principle: school choice.

Colorado is politically purple. The most recent elections saw a narrow democratic U.S. Senate victory, its Congressional representatives include three Democrats and four Republicans, and the State’s General Assembly is evenly divided. Successful politicians in Colorado reflect their constituents, demonstrating autonomy and focusing on practical solutions regardless of party affiliation.

Embracing this independent pragmatism, Colorado’s political leadership has now coalesced around school choice. Governor Hickenlooper has proclaimed January 22 – 28th School Choice Week in Colorado, receiving public support from traditional democratic strongholds including the Colorado Education Association, as well as elected officials on both sides of the political aisle.

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In defense of bundlers

There is an old joke in campaign circles, “There are three things you need to win an election. The first is money. And I can’t remember what the second two are.”
 
Maybe it is more of an anecdote than a joke. But whatever it is, political campaigns generate lots of criticism and suspicion, and perhaps for good reason.  They are nasty, brutish, short affairs in which at least half the country thinks you are on the wrong side. And as even low-profile congressional races become big business, we are certain to hear more complaints about the abominable amounts of money being spent on elections. The republic, so the argument goes, is once again for sale to the highest bidder.
 
It is true that campaign spending has gone up exponentially over the years. Even accounting for inflation, Abraham Lincoln only spent $2.8 million on his election. In contrast, Obama and McCain collectively raised and spent $1.1 billion in 2008. Over the last ten years, Americans spent more than $20 billion dollars on congressional, senate and presidential elections.

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Adopting the DISCLOSE Act will help voters

Today, the Federal Election Commission is holding a public forum to explain its campaign spending reports, and to solicit input on a new “disclosure portal” it hopes will “provide one-stop shopping for campaign finance data.” Shedding light on how government works is commendable. But an FEC forum on disclosure sounds a bit like a seminar on responsible home finance run by the banks that just agreed to pay $26 billion for their mortgage lending abuses.
 
Federal law requires the FEC to collect and publish data on spending by candidates and groups seeking to influence federal elections. The data is useful in the horse race handicapping that constitutes contemporary political analysis: FEC numbers show what candidates raised the most, and who has the most cash on hand.
 
But the FEC has carved loopholes in federal law that allow the real sources of much of today’s political spending to remain hidden. The agency charged with shining disinfecting sunlight on political spending is allowing millions of dollars of dark money to swamp our elections.

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House must pass transportation bill

This week, the House of Representatives will take up the most significant jobs and transportation reform bill Congress will consider this year. If Congress wants to improve our crumbling infrastructure and put Americans to work in the hard-hit construction industry, it’s time to support the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act.

This legislation will reform our federal transportation programs and rebuild our nation’s roads and bridges. This measure also reduces energy costs and dependence on foreign energy sources in a manner that will create thousands of new private sector jobs from coast to coast.

Because this measure ensures funding for the next five years, major infrastructure projects across the country can be undertaken, creating long-term employment opportunities. The Senate’s 18-month transportation proposal primarily allows for smaller, short-term employment projects.

Not only is this a jobs bill, it also launches a much needed overhaul of our current transportation programs and bureaucracy. In fact, the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act is the most significant transportation reform initiative since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.

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