Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pre-K Initiative: I still don't know how I'm voting on it either...@LeftWingCracker


     Today is Election Day for House District 91 and for the Pre-K initiative. Akbari is the obvious choice for 91, but I can’t tell you how to vote on the Pre-K initiative.

      I have a tremendous amount of respect for Councilman Jim Strickland, and typically I support anything that promotes Pre-K education. The sooner we can educate impoverished children, the better.

      However, I have two major concerns that have been eating away at me on this issue.

1) My main problem with it is that it seems this is really just a way to lower the property taxes (while imposing a small yet regressive sales tax).

      I can't help but be suspicious that children are being used as a front.

      We actually do really need to lower our property taxes though, and, if it weren't for the state preventing us from instituting a payroll/income tax, then we'd have a better way to do it.

2) I am worried about who is going to run the pre-k programs as well. I was assured that it will be public, but does that mean the programs will be run out of public school facilities or are we about to see a lot of ministers profit off of pre-k programs at their churches? If the latter, that would explain some of the ministerial support that the initiative is getting.

      Looking at it from a positive perspective, I see a lot of children getting Pre-K education that wouldn’t otherwise get it. Looking at it from a negative perspective, the wealthy get their property tax reduction, and the ministers get to make some money; all in the name of helping children. How wonderfully disgusting.

      If you took out the sales tax, put in a progressive payroll tax in its place, ensured that programs would only be run from public school facilities (not churches), and made the board that is being created accountable to either the school board or the city council, then it would be a no brainer.

      Unfortunately, that is not the case, and I have a difficult decision to make today when I vote.

http://shelbyvote.com/index.aspx?NID=122

Monday, November 05, 2012

303 or 332 Obama to Romney's 235 or 206? Senate: Watch MT, ND, and WI.

     The race has tightened in Florida to the point where President Obama could net as much as 332 electoral votes tomorrow. Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) switched his Florida rating from slightly favoring Romney to slightly favoring Obama. I was little confused by the switch since Romney leads in Nate's polling average and his state fundamentals rating for the state. Obama leads in the adjusted polling average though, which in much part is due to the NBC/Marist poll. Major news networks, major newspapers, and universities are the only groups that can typically afford the thorough live call polls. It had Obama up by 2. That being said, I'm still not convinced that we're going to get Florida tomorrow. I'm sticking with 303 to 235, but a good ground game/turnout could flip the state to Obama. In fact, Obama's ground game flipped three states in 2008:

"Imbued with unprecedented financial resources, the Obama 2008 presidential campaign established more than 700 field offices across the country, mostly in battleground states. To what extend did this form of campaigning actually affect the presidential vote? This article examines the county-level presidential vote in 2008 in eleven battleground states. The findings show that those counties in which the Obama campaign had established field offices during the general election saw a disproportionate increase in the Democratic vote share. Furthermore, this field office-induced vote increase was large enough to flip three battleground states from Republican to Democratic."

"In three of the states under analysis—Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina—Obama won the actual election but would have lost if the mobilized voters had instead voted for McCain. McCain would also have won Indiana and North Carolina had the mobilized voters simply chosen to stay home on Election Day. These three states were worth a total of fifty-three electoral votes—not enough to actually cost Obama the White House, but certainly enough to make it a much closer election."

"The results suggest that Obama very likely would have won the national contest without these field offices, but that the offices had a measurable impact on the election, likely changing the results of several closely contested states."

http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/5/1023.abstract

See below for the full study:

http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/5/1023.full

     On the Presidential level, there shouldn't be anything as dramatic to watch as FL, but VA, CO, or maybe NC could get interesting. OH looks solid for Obama.

     On the Senate level, MT has become much more interesting. Fivethirtyeight still gives Rehberg a 69% chance of winning, but pollster.com has Tester in a slight lead:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-montana-senate-rehberg-vs-tester

     Nate Silver has Tester behind by so much because of his state fundamentals rating of MT. His state fundamentals for MT are so strongly Republican ("Rehberg +9.1") that they outweigh the fact that Tester leads Nate Silver's polling average ("Tester +1") and his adjusted polling average ("Tester +1.7").

     There's a similar thing occurring in ND, but it is a little harder to read. Pollster.com has Heitkamp up by .3%:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-north-dakota-senate-berg-vs-heitkamp

     However, you can't compare this to Nate Silver's charts as well because he does not include Pharos Research Group's polls in his polling aggregate because they refuse to give him the details of their polling methodology (sample size/etc.). It is usually a bad sign when a pollster hides the details so I don't blame Nate Silver for not including them. Nate would have the state leaning red because of state fundamentals either way though.

     Tester definitely has better odds of winning MT than Heitkamp has of winning ND, but both should be interesting to watch. These two races will decide whether Fivethirtyeight.com's state fundamentals ratings are justified in outweighing the polling (and adjusted polling) averages.

     The two other Senate races to watch will be WI and VA. In WI, Thompson has made up a lot of his lost ground in this race though Baldwin is heavily favored on Fivethirtyeight.com (77.2%) and very slightly favored on pollster.com (.8%):

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-wisconsin-senate-thompson-vs-baldwin

     In VA, Kaine is up by a healthier margin, and I still expect Baldwin (D) and Kaine (D) to win.

     No big changes in the House races (overall). The GOP still looks prepared to keep a majority in the House. However, the national polls finally became in line with the state polls (which is great news for President Obama). For a little bit, election experts were wondering whether the national polls or the state-level polls were telling the true story about the state of the election. The media pointed to national polls because they give off the impression that the race has been much closer than it actually is. As far as the popular vote goes, it will be a close race percentage wise; however, the state-level polls have shown an Obama lead in the electoral college the entire election cycle.

For more on this topic, see below:

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/state-and-national-polls-come-into-better-alignment/

     Towards the end of my recent prediction post, I stated that "[t]he main two I could see myself switching on are FL (from Romney to Obama) and MT's Senate race (from Rehberg to Tester); however, this late in the campaign things are usually fairly set in stone." It appears that was one good prediction on my part so far (without Nate Silver's help this time :P).

     I've been heavily keeping up with election numbers/predictions since 2004. As much as I believe in the research/thought behind the experts I follow, I realize that an extremely low or very high turnout could prove the likely voter models being used by all of the pollsters wrong, which would cause all of their predictions to be off. That being said, Nate Silver and most of the other poll aggregators have been on target for the past 4 years, and I don't expect that to change tomorrow.

     The best part about being a prediction/polling junkie is that you get an election day every two years. For one day the various pollsters/poll aggregators will be proven right or wrong, and then we can sleep in November to the sound of the blame game blaring from cable news channels.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Obama 303 to Romney 235, John Marek's 2012 Presidential/Congressional Election Predictions

Overall Prediction Summary:

President: President Obama will be re-elected (303 Obama to 235 Romney).
Senate: Democrats will retain control of the Senate (52 Ds, 47 Rs, 1 I) (The I will caucus w/ the Dems).
House: Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives (236 Rs, 199 Ds).

Marijuana legalization measures: CO and WA will pass theirs, but it will fail in Oregon (and the Ark. medical marijuana initiative will fail as well).
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     I've waited longer than usual to make these predictions mostly because I simply haven't had time, but also because the debates started up and the numbers were affected by them. That being said, I must give the same disclaimer that I always give: my predictions are mostly based off of Nate Silver's projections (fivethirtyeight.com), though I do also look at pollster.com and I throw in a dash of gut instinct.

     Why rely on Nate Silver? Because he called the electoral vote in 2008, and he called most (if not all) of the Senate races in 2010 (not to mention that he called the Republican House takeover, though he was off by around 20 seats). His model, which aggregates all of the polls for each state, weighs every poll based on sample size, whether it is a robo call poll or a live call poll (live call polls are better), and he adjusts them for political bias (ex: Rasmussen is adjusted for its Republican bias, and Public Policy Polling is adjusted, though only slightly, for its Democratic bias). Unlike pollster.com (which I also like a lot), he also includes historical state trends and economic indicators. If you are a regular reader of fivethirtyeight.com, then my predictions will not surprise you much (though I have varied with him slightly in the past).

     The right has been running a smear campaign against Nate Silver and anyone else who gives them information that they don't want, and here's a good response from Paul Krugman on the matter:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/the-war-on-objectivity/?smid=fb-share

     Here's a good article on polls:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/rubycramer/the-secret-economy-of-pollsters

     Before I start to break things down state-by-state, I would like to point out one major factor that people do not consider when looking at the polls: Registered voter polls vs. Likely voter polls. While likely voter polls are definitely better to look at, the actual election results (in a Presidential year) will fall somewhere between the likely voter polling and the registered voter polling. Why? Because multimillion dollar Presidential and Congressional campaigns will be focused on turning out the "less likely" voters. This typically benefits Democrats more than Republicans because a) there are more Democrats than Republicans in this country, and, even more so, because  b) because the demographics that vote Democrat are less likely to turnout (meaning that they aren't considered "likely" voters and meaning there are more "less likely" voters for Democratic campaigns to turn out). Because of this, my predictions may actually favor the GOP more than they should, though I'm sure none of them will be excited about what I see coming November 6th. 

     Here's a post showing the difference between likely and registered voter (national) polls:














http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/10/22/14614961-registered-voters-vs-likely-voters?lite

     Here's a good article/graph explaining President Obama's ground game edge, which is necessary since the Democratic Party has to focus more on turning out "less likely" voters (Republican field is not as effective because more of their people will show up to vote w/o needing as much contact). Don't allow me to overstate things though because Republicans do need field, they run it well, and they do have "less likely" voters that they need to turnout.













http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/obamas-edge-the-ground-game-that-could-put-him-over-the-top/264031/

     One thing to watch for in this election is that there's a chance that President Obama could win a decisive electoral vote while losing the popular vote. Nate Silver puts this at around a 5% chance of happening, but, while I agree that this won't be likely to happen, I think that the chances of it happening are more than 5%.
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Presidential Predictions (state-by-state): Obama 303 to Romney 235

     I am only going to focus on what I see as battleground, or at least potential battleground, states (so, if you don't see a state listed, it is because I believe it is already going one way or the other w/o need for comment). I am going to start with the battleground states that seem like they are already decided, and then I will work my way down to the more contested states:

NM: Obama. Stop calling this a battleground state.

MN: Obama. 1 poll comes out showing a 3 point race, and now people want to call this a battleground state? It won't be.

MO: Romney. Not the battleground state it used to be.

PA: Obama. Polls typically show it closer than the result we see on election day, which is something that also happens in NJ.

AZ: Romney. This state is not a battleground state this year (as I had hoped); however, I expect it to be a battleground state 4 years from now (due to demographic shifts).

WI: Obama. The media wants this to be a battleground state, but it is not. Even the group of voters that re-elected Gov. Scott Walker preferred President Obama to Romney (side note: Democrats should never create special elections...the low turnout kills us).

NC: Romney. We were lucky to pull this one off by ~14,000 votes in '08. While the state's demographics are moving in our favor (highly educated young people and Latinos are moving into it at a high rate), it is a little too early for us to claim this state.

NV: Obama. The ground game in NV is unbelievable, and Romney's campaign is having to chase votes all over rural NV while a 75,000 + strong union and Harry Reid's state party are giving President Obama a stronger edge than even the polls will permit (though they favor him too).

OH: Obama. If you are hoping for another 4 years of President Obama like I am, then this is the state that should help you sleep at night. No Republican has ever won the Presidency without Ohio, and President Obama has polled 3 to 5 points ahead of Romney in this state the entire race (before the 1st debate he was 10 points ahead...and early voting had already begun). The latest numbers I've seen in Ohio (based on polls conducted w/ early voters) show Obama with a 54% to 39% lead.

"Polls of people who say they already have voted show Obama with a lead in many of the states. The Obama campaign, which benefited from early voting in 2008, has focused heavily on urging supporters to vote early in this election as well.
Obama leads Romney 54 percent to 39 percent among voters who already have cast ballots, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled in recent weeks. The sample size of early voters is 960 people with a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points."

http://news.yahoo.com/40-percent-may-vote-early-u-election-obama-005022787.html

IA: Obama. Polls have looked good (though somewhat close) there, and good voting/election laws there should help out the Democratic turnout (voting is very accessible there).

NH: Obama. The polls are surprisingly close in NH, and I believe that this is one of the few battleground states (maybe the only) that has a registered republican voter advantage. That being said, NH Republicans are moderates, and I expect NH to stick with the President.

Top 3 Battleground States: (If I am to be wrong, it will probably be on one of these 3): 

CO: Obama. This state had a strong lean towards Obama early on, but has since become one of the most contested battleground states. That being said, it still leans very slightly towards President Obama, and I think the "less likely" voters will put him over the top.

VA: Obama.You can pretty much take what I said about CO and apply it here as well. Nate Silver (and recent polls) have shown VA to be a more likely pick up than CO for Obama (though there is only a razor-thin difference). Even though I believe both will go to Obama, my gut instincts tell me that we actually have a better shot at winning CO than VA.

FL: Romney. Unfortunately, Romney has begun to pull away in FL, and, even though Democrats had a 37,000 vote lead in the early vote last week, I expect Romney to win FL by a small margin. That being said, the polls have tightened to a point where a good ground game could put President Obama over the top. I hope to be wrong on my prediction for this state.

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-florida-president-romney-vs-obama

Here's a good article from Nate Silver on the "state of the states":

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/oct-25-the-state-of-the-states/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Here's a more recent article from Nate:

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/oct-28-in-swing-states-a-predictable-election/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

For more data check out fivethirtyeight.com, pollster.com, realclearpolitics.com, and electoral-vote.com (though electoral-vote.com really only looks at recent polls/is not a polling aggregate).
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2012 Senate races: 52 D, 47 R, 1 I

     As you see above, I believe that the Democrats will have 52 seats + 1 independent Senator (Angus King) that I expect to caucus with them (technically, Senator Sanders from VT is also an I that caucuses w/ the Dems), and I believe that the GOP will have 47 seats in the Senate.

Here's the breakdown:

NV: Republican (Dean Heller). Unfortunately, ethics scandals will most likely keep Rep. Berkley from defeating Dean Heller. She may be able to ride President Obama's coattails to victory, but I doubt it based on the polling I've seen. This is especially disappointing since this is a state the Democrats should have picked up a seat in.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/nevada-rep-shelley-berkley-combats-allegations-of-ethics-violations/

MT: Republican (Rehberg). It pains me to predict against Senator Tester, but I have to stick with Nate Silver on this one. More outside money has been dumped into MT's Senate race than they've ever seen in MT, and, even though pollster.com shows Tester leading by a couple of points (because recent Democratic leaning polls have shown Tester ahead), I fear that we will lose this contest. That being said, if positive polling continues to roll out for Tester in the coming days, I may change this prediction (I always update these a day or two before Election Day...as a separate post of course).

AZ: Republican (Flake). This future battleground state is giving us a current battleground race for its U.S. Senate seat. Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General, wasn't expected to do as well as he has, but he's proven to be a good candidate considering how close the race has become. That being said he made a minor last minute gaffe when he told the moderator in his debate that the moderator was "prettier" than Candy Crowley. I doubt that the gaffe will affect him much at all, but you don't want anything to go wrong when you are in a race as neck-and-neck as this one.

ND: Republican (Berg). This was definitely not a state that anyone expected the Democrats to have a chance in, but the Democrats picked a great candidate and Heitkamp has made this one a close race. She's won on a statewide level in ND twice before (Tax Commissioner/Attorney General), and pollster.com has her behind by only 1 point. That being said, I'm sticking to Nate Silver again on this one for 2 reasons: a) the state traditionally votes Republican, and b) the polls favoring Heitkamp are from Democratic pollsters. I hope Heitkamp's team can prove me wrong on this one come Nov. 6th, but, even if they don't, they still deserve much praise for forcing the GOP to spend money in ND.

NE: Republican (Fischer). Bob Kerrey, a former NE Senator and Governor, did the Democratic party a huge favor by jumping into this race. Though I don't expect him to win, he is forcing the GOP to spend resources in a state that they shouldn't have to spend them in. That being said, it is a red state and all of the polls favor Fischer so I expect this to be a Republican pickup.

MO: Democrat (McCaskill). GOP candidate Akin's twisted views on women has allowed this state to go from being one of the easiest Senate pickups for the GOP to a safe Democratic seat. Ever since GOP MO Senate candidate Todd Akin made the below quote, his polling numbers have been dismal.

“'It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,' Akin told KTVI-TV. 'If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.'"

Here's his screw up on a graph:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-missouri-senate-mccaskill-vs-akin

McCaskill was supposed to be the #1 target that the GOP could pick off for a gain in the Senate this election cycle; however, Akin completely dropped the ball to the point where the GOP has given up on the race (though Senator DeMint is still wasting money there last time I checked).

WI: Democrat (Baldwin). Are you a right-winger that thinks WI is a red state because they re-elected Gov. Scott Walker in his recall election? Well think again, WI is poised to elect a liberal lesbian to the U.S. Senate! Even better, the Republicans made a safe bet in going with Tommy Thompson, and even he hasn't been able to overtake Baldwin (he blames it on Romney dragging the ticket down in WI).

WI is the perfect example of the difference between 2010 and 2012. Mid-term election typically have a low turnout (meaning the likely voter polls are very accurate), and in 2010 the voting base was older and whiter than the country they were voting in. Republicans made big gains (though Nate Silver accurately called that Democrats would retain the Senate while Republicans would take the House); however, 2012 will not be a repeat of 2010 for one major reason: Presidential turnout.

IN: Democrat (Donnelly). Here is another race where the Republicans should have had an easy pickup, yet they dropped the ball. First, they made a mistake when they nominated a far-right-wing tea partier (Mourdock) to run against a moderate Democratic nominee (Donnelly). Because Indiana is a red state, Mourdock still had a slight (though very slight) advantage...that is until he said this:

“'I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,' he said. 'And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.' Mourdock, who became visibly emotional while speaking, supports abortion only to save a mother’s life, not in cases of rape and incest."

The polls still have this as a close race (Nate Silver's model has it going to Mourdock, but that is mostly due to the fact that not much polling has been done on the race since Mourdock made that bone-headed comment), but I'm going with Donnelly on this one. The race was already close, and Mourdock's comment will scare undecided/moderate women into Donnelly's camp.

OH: Democrat (Brown). Senator Sherrod Brown has been polling above Mandel the entire election cycle, even though millions of dollars have been spent against Brown. Ohio appears to have made up its mind on its Presidential and Senate races (though I will admit that they have both tightened up as we've come closer to Election Day...just not close enough to warrant a switch in my predictions).

FL: Democrat (Nelson). Nelson has also polled ahead of his Republican opponent this entire election cycle, and I don't see him having as much trouble in Florida as President Obama will have (see above).

VA: Democrat (Kaine). Senator Jim Webb did the Democratic party a huge favor by stepping down (his polling numbers weren't looking too great), which allowed Tim Kaine, a popular former governor of VA, to run. I expect this one to be close (just like VA will be close for the Presidential election); however, Tim Kaine has been polling ahead of Allen for most of this election cycle and I expect him to slightly outperform President Obama in VA.

PA: Democrat (Casey, Jr.). The GOP picked a far right candidate, who has made some strange comments, to run against a popular moderate Senator. Even though pollster.com has this race within 5 points, I don't see it being a close one.

CT: Democrat (Murphy). This race had Democrats worried for a minute when McMahon appeared to be pulling ahead in the blue state of CT. However, recent polling (even from Rasmussen, a right leaning pollster) has shown a strong lead for Murphy so don't expect the WWE family to take over the U.S. Senate any time soon.

MA: Democrat (Warren). You wouldn't think there would be much competition in this state, but, because of a special election and a terribly-run Democratic Senate campaign (back in early '10), MA elected moderate Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate. However, Elizabeth Warren is about to take back Ted Kennedy's seat for the Democratic party, and I'm looking forward to it. She's great for the party because the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was her brainchild (and it has already penalized many credit card companies for consumer abuse/legal violations), and because her messaging is so on target. She reminds us that the wealthy would not be wealthy if it weren't for the publicly educated workforce, publicly built roads/highways/infrastructure, and publicly funded research and development that we have in this country. I look forward to seeing what legislation she'll propose/pass in the upcoming Congress.

ME:
Independent (King). Republican Senator Olympia Snowe stepped down because she was tired of her party's unwillingness to compromise, and, in her place, we will get an independent that is likely to caucus with the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. I say this because he is viewed as being more liberal than anything else, and he is way outpacing both the Democratic and Republican nominees in the polls.

For a look at each race on pollster.com:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster#2012-congressional-races

For a good article on many of the Senate races:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/2012-senate-races_n_2010816.html?utm_hp_ref=@pollster

Of course, don't forget to see Nate Silver's Senate predictions:

Fivethirtyeight.com (click the "Senate Nov. 6th Forecast" tab)
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U.S. House of Representatives

     Trying to call the individual House races is painful and somewhat pointless since these races are polled less often, and most of the polls that are conducted for them are internal. Nate Silver appears to have abandoned his House forecasts for the same reason (he correctly called that the Republicans would take the House in 2010, but he was off by a lot on the amount of seats they would take it by...though he beat me :p).

     The only one I truly have insight on is the 9th District of TN, where I am the Campaign Manager for Congressman Steve Cohen. Because of my bias, I will not make an official prediction for this race, but I will say that I expect the great Congressman Steve Cohen to win by a comfortable margin. That being said, we have to run like we're 10 points behind because that is what you do on a winning campaign, and because we happen to have a mini-Mitt Romney/self-funder threatening to spend up to $5 million dollars against us.

     Therefore, I am only going to lay out a blanket prediction for the U.S. House of Representatives, and I'm mostly making an educated guess by relying on pollster.com's forecast:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/house-outlook

     According to this forecast, the Republicans have 231 to the Democrats 189 seats, which leaves 15 toss-up races. I expect the turnout in our Presidential election to help Democrats, and therefore I'm putting 10 of the toss-ups into the D column and 5 in the R column, which leaves us with my prediction: 236 Rs to 199 Ds in the U.S. House of Representatives. Being that I've pretty much made a guess at this one, don't be surprised if I'm off by a few :p.

Here's the "Generic National Congressional" poll aggregate:

http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2012-national-house-race
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Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

     Unfortunately, the polling hasn't been very heavy for these initiatives, but there has been enough polling to make predictions. That and Intrade (intrade.com), the prediction market based in Dublin, Ireland, has made some pretty one-sided predictions in the three legalization ballot initiatives. Because Intrade typically follows fivethirtyeight.com, I trust it, and I am going with it/polls I've seen in making my predictions:

WA legalization ballot initiative: Pass.

CO legalization ballot initiative: Pass.

OR legalization ballot initiative: Fail.

AR medical marijuana ballot initiative: Fail.

     WA and CO learned from CA's mistake, and wrote their initiatives to be more mainstream through the hard work of lawyers who used polling/focus groups' information to craft them (including harsher penalties for "stoned driving" and limits on how much marijuana someone can legally possess), and they've done a better job at funding their initiatives (most likely due to better polling data in both states).

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/03/oregon-pot-measure-struggles-as-washington-colorado-thrive/

http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2012/10/23/poll-support-dropping-for-medical-marijuana

     It will be interesting to see how the federal government reacts to two states legalizing marijuana for the first time, but, even if the federal government reacts negatively, it will force the U.S. Congress to finally have a serious national debate on the current state of our drug laws. How marijuana has remained a schedule 1 drug while much more dangerous substances, such as alcohol and prescription pain killers, are legal baffles me.
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     So there you have it. These are my current predictions for November 6th. I may adjust these predictions in a future post 1 or 2 days before the election. The main two I could see myself switching on are FL (from Romney to Obama) and MT's Senate race (from Rehberg to Tester); however, this late in the campaign things are usually fairly set in stone.

     Also, after the election, I plan on doing a post-election article discussing these predictions and several predictions I made a year ago (a year ago I thought the Senate would be a toss-up and that the Democrats would take back the House...redistricting of the House districts and some good fortune for Democrats in the Senate races have changed both of those predictions). 


     While 2012 will not be another 2008 for the Democratic party, it will be much closer to 2008 than 2010 was. Presidential turnout will help President Obama and every other Democrat down ticket (in close races at least), and I expect the likely voter models to slightly underrate Democratic numbers/candidates.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Too Young to Juggle So Much

Earlier today, I had a girl in my classroom crying because she couldn't handle an AP English class while working full time to pay the rent for her and her sister. 

People who like to talk crap about MCS kids are out of touch. Our system is full of kids like this:  smart, well-behaved kids dealing with overwhelming challenges that a child should never be forced to handle.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lunchtime Rant

During my lunch break I was reading comments about the possible Chicago teachers' strike. I'm going to be lucky if my blood pressure doesn't kill me. When did half the country decide that teachers are the root of all evil? I work 9 hours a day during the week, plus another 5 or 6 on the weekend teaching 6 classes, each with 35 students, how to read, write, and think critically. Despite the challenges the kids bring with them, most of them work hard and are good kids. Apparently, I'm just a lazy public employee who never works, couldn't handle a real job, and gets paid an exorbitant amount. I'd love to see the commenters get 200 students actively and enthusiastically engaged in a lesson, grade dozens of essays, break up a fight, work metal detectors, call parents of struggling students, differentiate instruction to handle kids of all types, mentor a new teacher who doesn't know how to handle a troubled student, and reread King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" for tomorrow's lesson before lunch. That is what this lazy teacher has done for his exorbitant 50 thousand dollars so far today.

I'm furious with how we have become scapegoats for the right wing.  I feel a calling to educate low income students for not a lot of money.  I grew up poor.  I know firsthand  how important education is to survive.  I chose to teach so I could make a difference.  It may be a cliche, but it is also true.  Somehow this choice makes me public enemy number 1.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Can Vote But Can You?

Richard Holden called me yesterday and said he'd meet me at 9:30.  I showed up, but he wasn't there.  Luckily, I had talked to George Monger so he and Joe Young were able to help me.  They found that Margo and I were put into the wrong split precinct and fixed the problem.  (Update:  It was the SCEC IT department that did the actual fixing.) I've since voted and it worked fine.  They said that they would go through my precinct and check for other errors and get back to me.  The two of them were of great help and should be commended.

As I left, I ran into Richard Holden in the parking lot.  I was less than satisfied with the conversation.  He blamed the errors on the county commission making them rush.  When I questioned this, he admitted that in hindsight they could have started earlier but that they had decided to do the process all at once.  He made several remarks that "luckily this is early voting so we have time to fix it."  Early voting is a huge percent of the vote and once these votes are cast wrongly they can't be undone.  What really annoyed me is when he made an entirely irrelevant sexist remark about me being formerly part of District 89 which to quote him "as I somewhat disrespectfully like to say has always been ran by the ladies."  Another time he used the word "girls" similarly.  What the heck that was about is beyond me.  I hadn't mentioned any of the past district 89 representatives.  Women in general, and elected officials in specific deserve better than to be spoken of condescendingly because of their gender. 

I have a lot of problems here.  First of all, early voting is not a practice to prepare for election day.  It is election day.  These votes are real.  Holden's cavalier attitude about early voting is concerning.  Secondly, when a voter complains these concerns need sent up the chain of command.  Voters don't normally have the time, resources, or knowledge to fight this on their own.  Poll workers should respond helpfully and not dismiss their concerns.  Finally, I'm getting reports of the same problem from across the county.  This isn't limited to my precinct.  We need to know how many people are affected, and how many people lost their vote.

When you vote, check everything for accuracy and demand answers if you have a concern.  NEVER submit a ballot until you are satisfied with all the answers.  Cancel your ballot and complain if you need to.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'd Just Like to Vote

After I picked my daughter up from daycare today, I decided to take her to vote.  She always gets excited over the chance to push buttons and get stickers.  One of the races that I was most interested in voting for was District 93.  Mike Kernell has been a great leader for the state and deserves to be reelected.  When I got to the the state house race it listed me as in District 98.My wife was listed in District 98 as well. A few weeks ago, the election commission listed me as in 93.  That wasn't old information, because the old district was 89.  I've been getting mail from District 93 candidates, and my neighborhood is packed with Mike Kernell signs.  Now the election commission has me listed in District 98.  If you go to the state website, I am clearly in District 93.  You can see that here: 


I am essentially in the middle of the district.  It's hard to get farther from the boundaries in this district than I am.  You can see here that my house is a mile from the District 98 line:



When I first complained, the election worker dismissed it by saying lots of people have been complaining that they weren't in the districts they thought they were in but that the districts had changed.  She said "people are like but I have signs for so and so..."  When I returned with a map, the supervisor there said that she couldn't do anything about it and that I should call the election commission on my own (the election commission was already closed as it was nearly 7.)  My preschooler is quite annoyed that she didn't get to vote.  Maybe her next lesson in civics will be how to complain to an election commission.  If this happened to two of us, then how many people who don't pay close attention have already voted wrong?  This is unacceptable.  It needs fixed now, but even if it is fixed people have almost certainly lost their votes. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

School Board District 2

The only race left that I'm undecided on is School Board District 2.  If anybody out there has any information about this race, I'd love to hear it.  As important as they are, these school board races are flying under the radar for most people. My district is between Tyree Daniels and Teresa Jones.  I'm reading their Coalition for a Better Memphis paperwork out of a lack of any other information.  My favorite part was where it asks the candidates to list 5 organizations that are working to support them.  Teresa Jones listed a tennis club and a Memphis in May BBQ team.  That amused me.  If I can find a school board forum, I'll go and give a report about what all the candidates said.  Anybody know of one?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stacey Campfield: Still a Moron

In an article in The Tennessean, Stacey Campfield says
 "I think the homosexual community is one of the biggest bullies in politics that there is,” he told The Tennessean. “They’ll go nationwide on a national issue to try to intimidate anyone who disagrees with their lifestyle.”
I'll buy that statement when gay people start shooting straight couples, attack and beat straight boys, ban teachers from acknowledging that straight people exist, or tell us we can't adopt children.

Hopefully, Campfield can get therapy to help him cope with all the horrible abuse that he has suffered.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bring it On!

I have to admit that I didn't expect the Supreme Court to uphold the health care bill today, but I'm ecstatic that they did.  This bill is huge.  Once everything takes effect, you won't be able to take it away.  This bill will be untouchable like social security.  President Obama has changed the country for our entire lifetime.  This is huge.

I watched Romney's response.  They put a sign front and center on his podium that said "Repeal and replace Obamacare."  Within an hour of the decision, the House scheduled another vote to repeal the bill.  I want to encourage the Republicans here.  Please tell Americans that giving health insurance to people with preexisting conditions is bad.  Please tell us that taking away lifetime maximums is bad.  Please tell us that expanding coverage and containing costs is bad.  This is a fight I want.  We beat them on this issue when we passed the bill.  We beat them in the Supreme Court.  Let's beat them again in November.  I'll be taking a pilgrimage to Ohio to volunteer in a few months.  Anybody want to join me?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Local Legislators’ Environmental Records Compared

Humphrey on the Hill has a post up with the Tennessee Conservation Voters Scorecard for the 2011-2012 sessions. I'm a proud tree-hugger, so I thought a few of our local legislators deserved some kudos. Mike Kernell, Jeannie Richardson, and Beverly Marrero were all at the top of the list for best environmental records during the last two years. Due to redistricting, all three are facing competition from other incumbent Democrats in August. Having to choose between them isn't fun. I thought I'd post a comparison for each of those races. The higher the score, the more positive environmental legislation they supported and the fewer environmentally damaging bills they supported.

Senate District 30
Marrero: 13
Kyle: 4

House District 90
Richardson: 6
J. Deberry: 4

House District 93
Kernell: 6
Hardaway: 3

I'm particularly annoyed that my fellow Holt scored a -3. Hopefully, Maddox can beat him and get his seat back next year.

Return From Parentland...

For the last few years my political involvement has dropped dramatically as I help keep a small Mogwai from eating after midnight or running in front of trains. She's getting easier now, so I'm reemerging into political land. I'm volunteering for campaigns nearly every day, and I figured I'd return to ranting on this site again. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Fix the United States' Electoral/Political System

Yes, I know that is a bold title for a blog post, but, after watching the GOP wreck our traditional Congressional system through its refusal to compromise (compromise is what our Congress...mostly through the procedural rules of the Senate, was built to do), I've decided that a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to fix our nation's political system. That's not to say that a drastic change wasn't needed before now, but I believe that a Constitutional Amendment that accomplishes these tasks (+ legislation that could address concerns without a Constitutional Amendment) would be the best way to move our country from gridlock to prosperity:

1. Overturn Citizens United

Citizens United was the 2010 Supreme Court case that has allowed corporations to dump millions of dollars into campaigns, and it has also allowed the formation of multi-million dollar "Super-PACs", which allows corporations and individuals to funnel in money to T.V. Ads/etc. anonymously (tearing apart any aspect of transparency in our electoral process).

Overturning Citizens United is by far the most important thing our country can do to protect our electoral and political systems.

I would also like to see all of our campaigns become publicly financed, but I doubt anything like that could ever pass through Congress. This is unfortunate though because if we pulled the money out of the process then we'd eliminate a lot of the corruption (though not all because of Congress' power over the appropriations process, which is necessary since you want people who can be held accountable by the voters to control that process).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

2. Proportional Representation

This is an issue that could actually bring the far left and the far right together, and it would create a system that would be more beneficial for everyone (not just the extremes). Right now we have a two-party system, and within each party (especially the Democratic Party) there are people with many different viewpoints. Therefore, you can only predict to a certain point what you are voting for when you vote for a political party (and a lot more focus is placed on the individual candidate as a result).

As opposed to the single member districts that we have now, if we allowed parties to be voted on for Congress and if we allowed each party to take the proportional amount of seats as compared to the percentage of the popular vote that each party received (ex: A party that wins 1% of the vote would get 4 seats), then we could allow multiple parties to exist. This could be done on a national level, or Congressional seats could be voted on within each state as a whole (I would prefer it be done on national level since that would be more in line with 1 person 1 vote...it would be more proportional).

Result: We finally get rid of the dreaded Congressional gerrymandering of districts (one of our political system's greatest illnesses), and we finally get multiple parties. The significance of having a multiple party system is consistency. You can actually know what to expect from a political party. Don't get me wrong, I am one of those who actually realizes that there are gigantic differences between the two parties (I'm so sick of the ignorant statement: "Both parties are the same"...read the legislation they propose for 5 seconds and you'll see there are some gigantic ideological differences); however, I also realize that there is ideological diversity within the parties and this causes more voter confusion than anything else. If green, libertarian, and other third parties were allowed to exist, then people could know exactly what platforms they are voting for when they cast their ballot. This would create more trust between the public and the government, and the business community could actually know what to expect from the government in power at the time (business loves stability in government).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation

3. End the Electoral College

This may actually be carried out by National Popular Vote (nationalpopularvote.com) before a Constitutional amendment could be ratified. What National Popular Vote is doing is basically lobbying state legislatures to pass legislation that would cause the states who agree to give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. However, states would not have to do this until enough states pass the legislation to make up a majority of the electoral college (270...they are currently at 132, which includes VT, MD, WA, IL, CA, NJ, MA, HI, and D.C.).

However, I still think it is worth bringing this up here since it only makes sense that we allow the nation as a whole to elect our President (as opposed to allowing a handful of battleground states to elect our President). This issue also has more bipartisan support than the other two issues I brought up above. People on the right and the left realize that its unfair that Democrats in TX and Republicans in CA, both of which are large groups of people, hardly have a voice when it comes to Presidential elections.

nationalpopularvote.com

4. Getting rid of or at least modifying the filibuster/unanimous consent rules in the Senate.

This would probably be a given if the rest of the above proposals were to pass, and this is also something that would not require a Constitutional Amendment. The filibuster and the other procedural rules are not given to us by the Constitution. They are given to us by the tradition of the U.S. Senate. One of my law professors once convinced me that we should keep the procedural rules of the Senate intact since they force compromise, make sure that any change that is made in our country is a baby-step as opposed to a leap forward, and that business loves the stability that this type of process creates. However, I have since been convinced that this process has been broken by a political party that refuses to compromise. Maybe I'm wrong, and, after the GOP loses badly in a couple of election cycles, they'll realize that you have to have the middle on your side to win. Until that happens, I'm sticking to my opinion that these procedural rules need to go.

On the first legislative day of every Congress (which usually goes many real days so don't take this as meaning one day), the Senate can change its procedural rules with a simple majority. Senator Udall attempted this earlier this year, and here is the list of his reasonable proposals (quoted from the CNN article linked below):

"Udall is considering four key proposals as part of the resolution he will offer. One would prevent filibusters to taking up a bill or on a nomination, although it will still allow filibusters to end debate on a bill. A second would eliminate so-called "secret holds" in which a senator can anonymously stall legislation or a nomination from coming to the floor. A third would require senators leading a filibuster stay on the floor and debate the issue during the entire filibuster.

A fourth proposal from Udall is aimed at appeasing GOP concerns about being locked out of the process. It would require a certain number of amendments for the minority party for any bill being debated."

Here is a link explaining the end agreement that the two parties settled on earlier this year (which resulted in small changes in the right direction as opposed to the bigger/better changes proposed by Sen. Udall):

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/01/reid_and_mcconnell_agree_there.html

Here's a more condensed version of the agreement: http://fixthesenatenow.org/news/entry/senate-leadership-agrees-upon-rules-package/

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, reached a mutual agreement on a new procedural system for the 112th Senate, earlier today.

The agreement eliminates secret holds, prohibits delay tactics like forcing the reading an amendment that has already been submitted for 72 hours, and exempts about one third of executive nominations from the Senate confirmation process.

Additionally, Sen. Reid agreed to reduce the use of 'filling the amendment tree,' while Sen. McConnell agreed to limit the number of filibusters. Both party leaders agreed not to seek the Constitutional option to change rules in the 112th or the 113th Congress."

I understand the argument for preserving the filibuster and other procedural rules of the Senate, which mostly evolve around the fear of the Senate becoming the partisan House. However, when one party decides gridlock is better than compromise, its difficult to side with the status quo on the rules of the Senate.

Other links on this topic:

http://www.brennancenter.org/blog/archives/senate_rules_reform_no_fire_and_brimstone_much_logic_and_reason/

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/04/some-senate-democrats-to-try-to-change-filibuster-rules-in-new-congress/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/25/us/politics/25rules.html

http://tomudall.senate.gov/?id=739&p=blog
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These proposals would not solve all of the world's problems, and we would still continue to have plenty of problems in our own country. However, what these proposals would produce, if they were to pass, would be a cleaner, fairer, and more transparent electoral and political system, which would better represent our country's electorate and would create more trust between Americans and their government.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Supercommittee, 2012 election, Affordable Health Care Act, and Prop 19 (CA) predictions

Predictions Summary:

Supercommittee: Will fail. (Called this a long time ago, and made some further predictions on this topic earlier this month. Just wanted to point this out since I know by the time I actually post this the news will already have declared the supercommittee a failure).

President Barack Obama: Re-elected.

House: Going back to Democratic control.

Senate: Toss-up (not much of a prediction here hah).

Affordable Healthcare Act: Deemed Constitutional before the '12 election with Scalia voting in favor of it.

Prop 19 in CA to legalize marijuana: A majority of voters will vote yes this time around.

Explanation:

First off, these are predictions (not things I'm certain of), and I'm sure I will adjust my predictions as the 2012 elections get closer and as new data comes in. However, I've been looking at a lot of information on the topics below lately, and I'm liking the trends that I'm seeing so much that I wanted to ramble on about it for a bit. It really is a bit early to be making the Presidential and Congressional predictions, but a few factors that I will discuss at least make it worth looking at.

Supercommittee

Earlier this month, I made this prediction on what would happen with the supercommittee, and it appears that at least the first part will be the case with the latter being very possible (though, technically, a last second deal could still be struck by today):

"My prediction on the supercommittee (or at least what I expect): Republicans will continue to refuse to increase taxes (and refuse to compromise in general), supercommittee will fail, Congress will immediately reinstate (at least part of) the defense cuts (via a bipartisan vote), they will actually compromise on where the cuts go (as a full Chamber after the supercommittee fails)...though that's already been agreed to previously to a certain extent, Bush tax cuts expire for everyone, President Obama scolds GOP for allowing tax cuts on the middle class to expire in order to stand by their demands to keep the tax cuts for the rich in place, and then the Democrats push tax cuts for the middle class to be reinstated over and over again to bait the Republicans into voting against it (I doubt they would, but who knows with today's GOP)."

The supercommittee failing should've been the obvious from its inception, since we currently have a GOP that has forgotten the definition of compromise and how important compromise is to our current Congressional system.

As I mentioned above, there is still time for a last second deal to be struck, but I just don't see the GOP budging with the current environment in D.C. Also, it would be worse for the Democrats to accept a deal with no tax increases than to just let it fail and allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year. Reinstating the tax cuts for the middle class would provide political cover for the tax increase, though it would increase our deficit.

I look very forward to seeing the figures on how much the deficit decreases once the Bush tax cuts expire (the data is already out there but, when it becomes official, I'm hoping a lot of voters' eyes are opened).

Rep. Frank also believes that the supercommittee failing is a good thing (and he seems to agree with many of the other predictions that I made earlier this month about the supercommittee):

"'The people who want to say ‘no’ have more leverage,' Frank said in a telephone interview. 'Every showdown until now, the right wing had more leverage. They tended to benefit more from gridlock. Now, thanks to sequestration and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, gridlock is bad for the right wing. So they are now going to be forced to deal.'

Frank said the supercommittee’s inability to produce a plan was not a failure of Congress, but rather a reflection of the country’s 'peak divisions.'

He said that Democrats should offer to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and end them for the wealthy, counting that as savings against the automatic cuts.

'And if you don’t like it,' Frank said, 'well, then we’ll just sit back, see sequestration and the taxes go up on everybody.'"

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/budget-approriations/195139-rep-frank-supercommittee-failure-good-news-for-democrats
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As far as the 2012 predictions go, this is much more of a guessing game since anything could happen between now and late 2012; however, there is a lot of data out there on the race for President and various Congressional seats.

President: Barack Obama gets re-elected

The main thing that has made me feel strongly enough about this to make a prediction on it this early out is the numbers I'm seeing in Ohio. More than one recent poll has placed President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by 6 points (49-43). He polls even better against failed candidates like Herman Cain and Rick Perry. The significance of polling at around 49% is that it leaves President Obama only needing to convince a few undecideds in order to win there (even if the polls get a little closer).

The reason that good numbers in Ohio alone would make me feel confident about a President that many people think will not be re-elected is because of two things: 1) Republicans have a very hard time winning the electoral college majority without Ohio because it forces them to have to pick up states that they do not traditionally win. (Note: No Republican has ever won the Presidency without Ohio.) 2) If the Republican overreach against labor has backfired this badly in Ohio, then it has probably backfired on them in many other states such as MI and WI, which are even harder places for the GOP to win in than Ohio. I expect this overreach to not only benefit President Obama, but I also expect it to help the Democratic Senate candidates in many states.

Republicans keep pointing to the close numbers between President Obama and the "generic Republican"; however, that is wishful thinking considering the fact that their primary field is one of the worst I've ever seen. The fact that Newt Gingrich has become the new anti-Romney candidate should have the GOP base disturbed (though at least Newt is smarter than Cain, Perry, and Bachmann combined).

When it gets closer to the 2012 Presidential election, I'll do a state-by-state analysis. For now, just keep an eye on the typical battleground states, and expect Arizona to be a battleground state this time around (I could see the Democrats pulling a surprise win off here based on recent polling on Governor Brewer's approval rating and based on demographic shifts/the population increase in AZ).
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House: Democrats retake it.

Earlier this year, I would never have made this prediction. While I knew all along that Democrats would make gains in the House in '12 (Republicans spread themselves thin and won in areas that they would normally never win in on election day 2010), I figured that the Republicans' 2010 success in taking over many state legislatures would lead to gerrymandering heavily slanted in their favor, which I thought would possibly even out the advantages that the Democrats have in 2012, which mainly consists of the higher voter turnout associated with Presidential races and the higher number of vulnerable Republican incumbents.

However, redistricting in CA, IL, and TX has given me new hope on that front (these states together will probably give Democrats around 10 new seats in Congress...they only need 25 to win the chamber). Though redistricting will hurt us in other states like NC and possibly MI, I'm starting to doubt that they will be able to do anything beyond break even with the Democrats on gains (nationally).

There's also good news from AZ and OH. In AZ, the AZ Supreme Court recently reinstated the independent commissioner on AZ's redistricting board after a Republican attempt to impeach the independent. In OH, the Democratic map will be placed on a voter referendum to oppose the current Republican map. Most likely the same people who defeated the anti-union law in OH recently will also approve of the Democratic redistricting map, which means more gains for Democrats in Congress in a state they were supposed to lose seats in as a result of the GOP takeover of its state's legislature.

Therefore, with redistricting not hurting the Democratic party like I thought it would and with a recent poll showing 12 Republican incumbents as likely to be defeated in 2012, I'm thinking that the Democrats will definitely make gains and have a good shot at retaking the House in 2012 (especially when you factor in the higher-than-usual turnout that is associated with Presidential elections).

Here's a good write-up on this topic from Tom Jensen from Public Policy Polling: (3 page report)

"Over the last few weeks national polling has increasingly showed House Democrats recovering from their defeat in 2010 and taking the lead back on the generic House ballot. An October 10 Reuters survey showed Democrats ahead 48-40 and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll the same day found Democrats with a 45-41 advantage.

The national numbers point to the possibility for Democrats to reclaim a majority in the House next year, and a series of polls conducted by PPP in 12 individual Congressional districts last week backs up what the national numbers are showing. The 12 districts we polled are all in states where redistricting has already occurred- Arkansas, California, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

And in all 12 we found the same thing- voters would like to replace the Republican incumbent with someone else, and for the most part the new GOP House majority is proving to be extremely unpopular."

http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_pppmemo.html

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68855.html
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Senate: Toss-up

Here is the one place where I do not feel comfortable enough to even make a guess at this point. While I do think 2012 will be a good year for Democrats, the Democrats have to defend 23 seats while the Republicans only have to defend 10. The Republicans will only need to win a net-gain of 4 seats to control the Senate (3 seats would be enough for them to have the VP break tie votes if President Obama loses), but this of course would require them to not lose any seats, which I don't see happening.

Here's a good map of the states that are having U.S. Senate Elections this year:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_elections,_2012

States to watch:

MO: This is probably the main Senate seat that I see the Democrats losing. Sen. McCaskill's numbers have not been good.

MA: Elizabeth Warren is going to make Scott Brown a 1-term Senator, though should we really be surprised? She's a great candidate, and MA is a very blue state.

NV: Either party could win here, but keep in mind that they re-elected Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010 (which was a bad year for Democrats...even if 2012 is not the year I'm expecting for Democrats, it will be better than 2010).

AZ: I'm one of the few talking about AZ, and I stand by this prediction: AZ will be a close state for the Presidency and for the Senate in 2012.

MT: This is going to be a close one. Senator Jon Tester is a fairly moderate Democrat, and he and his opponent are currently fighting it out for the NRA's endorsement.

NE: Ben Nelson will always have a tough re-election bid in the red state of Nebraska (especially in the current political environment).

ND: I actually think the Democrats will put up a really good fight here. Their candidate is a popular long-term politician in the state.

VA: Governor Kaine will hopefully pull this one off, but it will be close.

WI: With an unpopular governor like Scott Walker, I see the Democrats retaining this open Senate seat. It should still be an interesting race to watch though.

Other people talk about OH, PA, NM, and MI; however, I think the Democrats will safely retain all of those Senate seats. As far as Florida goes, I'm much more worried about President Obama's chances down there than I am of Senator Bill Nelson's chances for re-election.

Wild Card to watch out for: Hopefully the tea party will nominate some crazy/awful candidate to replace Lugar in IN or Snowe in ME. If that happens in either state (especially ME), then expect that state to be much closer. Otherwise, the Republicans will likely keep both seats.

Here's a good article with more information on the 8 top races to watch:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/gop-control-senate-top-races-watch/story?id=14374992#
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Affordable Health Care Act: Constitutional w/ Scalia voting for it.

I'm not going to say as much on this topic, but my primary reason for thinking this is precedent (the wheat case and the medical marijuana case that Scalia voted for), and the decision upholding the constitutionality of the healthcare mandate recently rendered by Judge Sutton, who is the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge that was appointed by George W. Bush in 2003. This is especially significant because he served as a law clerk for Justice Scalia. That seems to hint to me (along with other votes that he's made in the past) that Justice Scalia would vote in favor of the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act's individual mandate.

Here are some excerpts from the opinion:

"Commerce Clause

In his 27-page opinion, Judge Sutton said that the health care law meets the classic tests that the Supreme Court has imposed in deciding whether Congress has acted within its authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, the provision that empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce or matters that otherwise 'substantially affect' interstate commerce.

Noting that health care is a $2.5 trillion industry, Sutton said that 'no matter how you slice the relevant market,' virtually all of it affects interstate commerce, and Congress may constitutionally regulate such interstate economic activity. 'Few people escape the need to obtain health care at some point in their lives, and most need it regularly,' he observed. Everyone will eventually have some sort of big emergency bill that, left to their own devices, most individuals would be unable to pay. The health care mandate, he concluded, is little more than a requirement that everyone have insurance now so taxpayers and hospitals will not be left holding the bag later. Indeed, as he observed, federal law actually requires hospitals to accept many patients without regard to their capacity to pay.

Furthermore, wrote Sutton, 'No one is inactive when deciding how to pay for health care, as self-insurance and private insurance are two forms of action for addressing the same risk. Each requires affirmative choices; one is no less active than the other; and both affect commerce.'

Those opposed to the health care law raise good questions, he said, based on an intuition that this law cannot be constitutional. But '[n]ot every intrusive law is an unconstitutionally intrusive law,' wrote Sutton."

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/29/137506928/federal-court-upholds-health-care-law

The only good legal argument I've heard from the right is that there is a difference between the precedent and the current case in that the government is forcing people to do something as opposed to forcing people not to do something. While this is a legitimate argument, I do not think it is a strong enough argument to make Scalia vote against the Affordable Healthcare Act and prior Supreme Court precedent. However, even if he does, there is always the chance that Justice Kennedy will vote that the mandate is constitutional, which is something that I also expect.
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Prop 19 in CA: Passes

I'm not going to write as much on this topic either, but, if you aren't aware of Prop 19, it was the referendum over whether or not to legalize marijuana in CA. I believe it only obtained 46% of the vote in 2010, but I still found this to be impressive considering that turnout is typically lower in mid-term elections (and young people turn out much less in mid-term elections).

Since its failure, Gallup and other groups have released polls showing the legalization of marijuana favored by 50% of Americans for the first time ever. If the numbers are that high nationally, one would only assume that the numbers are even better in CA.

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform 2012 thinks that its approach this time around will calm the concerns of many growers in CA who actually voted against Prop 19 in 2010:

Dale Gieringer, California's NORML's state coordinator said, "There's more confidence that whatever emerges is more likely to be from the marijuana community than there was with Prop. 19."

Assuming that the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform 2012 is successful in crafting a referendum that is more in line with what the local growers want, I think this + the increased turnout in 2012 will ensure a victory for Prop 19.

http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/03/marijuana_2012_california.php

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/03/prop-19-results-marijuana_n_778050.html