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Tonight, Tonight…won’t be just any night.

We are mere hours away from Governor Mitt Romney taking the stage at the Republican National Convention to, finally, accept their nomination for President of the United States.  Regardless of your political stripes, it is sure to be a memorable and exciting moment.  Think about it for a minute.  This is a man who has a dream of being President.  Worked hard, did well and, when his time came, poured himself into a campaign.  It was a divisive, ugly and combative primary that Romney emerged from.  Yet, tonight, there won’t be a revolution led by one of the losing candidates.  There won’t be accusations of cheating or threats of violence against those who supported him.  Rather, his party will, together, celebrate the primary season that was and listen to the new leader of the party.  It’s a special moment and I congratulate Romney on making it to this point.

Leading up to tonight, we had two packed days of convention activities that are worth reflecting on.  The blog is called sportypolitics, so let’s do this winner/loser style.

WINNERS:

  • Ann Romney

Ann Romney has been called her husband’s secret weapon on the trail and, on Tuesday night, she proved why.  Her primary job as a speaker was to humanize her husband and introduce the country to who he really is.   She did that swimmingly, but didn’t stop there.  Her speech was also an effective political one, in which she attacked the Obama Administration for their failures, but did it in such a way that built her husband up.   In addition, in a departure from many other speakers, she didn’t use lies to make her point – instead she grounded her ideas and key messages in facts and her own personal experiences.  The more we see her on the trail, the better it will be for her husband’s prospects in November.

  • Social Conservatives

From Rick Santorum getting a prime-time speaking slot, to the official party platform, social conservatives could not possibly be happier with what they got from the RNC this year.  It remains to be seen if these issues (abortion, gay marriage etc…) will play a large role in the election but, for now, it’s clear the power that this group has in the party.

  • The 2016 or 2020 Republican Candidates for President

I can’t remember a convention where so many of the speakers seemed, so clearly, to be setting themselves up for their own future run.  As weak a field as the Republicans had this time around, if Romney is unable to prevail, the 2016 field will be one of the strongest we have ever seen.  Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Susan Martinez and Pam Bondi all delivered stirring speeches that, at the very least, made themselves more well-known and will stoke talk of the next election.

  • Bobby Jindal

Had he been in Tampa he would, no doubt, have been included in the previous paragraph.  However, Hurricane Isaac’s assault on his state meant that he decided to skip the festivities and return home to deal with the storm.  Assuming all goes well with the clean-up and recovery, he’ll come off looking like a leader who put his state before his party – something people want in their leaders.  It’ll make him a very compelling candidate in 2016 or 2020 and, in fact, sets him apart from the other contenders.

LOSERS

  • Mitt Romney

Watching the speeches, one couldn’t help but wonder how excited the leaders in the party are about the Romney/Ryan ticket.  And how confident they are in a potential victory.  The convention keynote speaker, Chris Christie, took a full 16 minutes to mention Romney by name (in a 24 minute speech) and spent most of the time talking about himself.  To have that in your keynote speaker, doesn’t say good things about you.   Plus, one of Christie’s signature lines implied that people didn’t have to love Romney, they just have to respect him.   It’s often said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line.  Rarely, however, do you hear that sentiment expressed so publicly and so obviously in a high-profile speech.

  • Party organizers

I’m not sure who had the idea of having Christie follow Ann Romney, but it didn’t work.  The fact that her speech was all about her love for her husband made Christie’s remarks about love not not being important seem callous and out-of-place.  At best it was a distraction and, at worst, it lessens the power of Ann Romney’s words.  Given that the Romney camp knew what Christie was going to say, spacing out the speeches would have made more sense.

  • The truth

Look, politicians have been lying, misleading, distorting and distracting since the beginning of time.  It’s nothing new and, sadly, it’s unlikely to change.  However, it’s been taken to a new low throughout this campaign and, the past two days, have taken us lower still.  Speeches by Senator John Thune, Governor Chris Christie and, especially, Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan have been notable for their misleading statements and downright lies.  But don’t take my word for it.  Fox News, in an opinion piece, called Paul Ryan’s speech “dazzling, deceiving and distracting” and commented that “The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”

Among the many inaccuracies (and you can see a larger list in the Fox article) is around Medicare.  Ryan derided Obama for cutting more than $700b from Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act and he said “A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”  The fact is, however, that Ryan’s own budget assumes the EXACT SAME cost savings from Medicare and he spends that money elsewhere.  Finally, the reduction in funding actually, according to non-partisan experts, strengthened the program and, in fact, lowered the out-of-pocket payments that retirees had.   Why is it that even when they agree, they lie to create fake disagreements?

In addition, the theme of the first day of the convention was “We did build that,” a reference to President Obama’s statement about who should get credit for small business growth.  The accusation, repeated by speaker after speaker, is that, essentially, Obama doesn’t believe that innovators and entrepreneurs deserve credit for their success, because the Government did it for them.  Here, however, is the full quote they are attacking.

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that Obama could have phrased his statement more artfully.  But, if you actually read the full quote (and not the truncated, carefully edited versions we are seeing in campaign ads), you see a very different message from what the Republican Party wants to you see.   And, in fact, the speakers they are trotting out there to help make their point, are proving Obama right.  Take Steven Cohen, president of Ohio-based manufacturing company Screen Machine Industries, who spoke at the convention last night.  In his speech, Cohen told delegates that he did build his company – problem is, his company received over $200K in Government stimulus money on top of the $2M+ in Government contracts they have claimed.  I don’t fault them for being successful – I fault them for lying.

So, all-in-all, it’s been quite the couple of days.  Looking forward to tonight and to seeing Mitt Romney’s vision for the future.  Here’s hoping he decides to give us more than Obama bashing and generalities.  Here’s hoping the fact checkers can take the night off!

ELECTION DAY!!!

VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the key races to watch today.

Virginia Governor’s Race: Creigh Deeds (D) vs. Bob McDonnell (R)
It is looking fairly likely that the Republicans will reclaim the Governor’s mansion in Virginia. This hard-fought and very expensive race has been trending McDonnell for the past two months. Looking at polls, if Deeds does in fact lose, he can point to three main factors that cost him this race.

1. The McDonnell campaign was perceived as much more personal. McDonnell was actually on camera in three times as many TV ads as Deeds was and this helped voters to get to know him and learn to trust him.
2. Obama, especially lately, stayed largely out of the race. As a result of that, and the fact that Deeds is not a great campaigner, the Democratic enthusiasm that we have seen in the last few VA elections ended up not materializing. Without that GOTV excitement, it is going to be very hard for Deeds to get the voters he needs to the polls.  Those ‘new’ voters who pushed Obama over the top and who have helped Warner and Kaine in the past are likely going to stay home.
3. A Washington Post poll indicates that more than 60% of VA residents think Deeds has run a negative campaign, while only about 35% think McDonnell has. This perception (even though it is wrong) has helped McDonnell to be portrayed as a man of the people and Deeds as a whiny politician. In politics perception is everything and this perception is one factor in costing Deeds the race.

MY ENDORSEMENT: Despite his uphill climb, I am endorsing Creigh Deeds to be the next Governor of Virginia. I appreciate his dedication to creating educational opportunities and his liberal stance on most social issues. McDonnell, quite frankly, scares me because I don’t know who he really is. In a 1989 thesis, McDonnell argued, among other things that “government policy should favor married couples over ‘cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators;'” criticized the 1965 Supreme Court decision which legalized the use of birth control by married couples; and described working women and feminists as “detrimental” to a the family. Since then, he claims his positions have evolved (pointing to the fact that he “worked to include child day care in [1995 welfare reform legislation] so women would have greater freedom to work.” However, he also opposed an effort in 2006 that would expand the state’s nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and, aside from the 1995 bill has done little, if anything, to signal a clear shift in thinking.  I can’t support someone who may (and probably does) still believe that discrimination is acceptable.

MY PREDICTION: McDonnell 55-45 win over Deeds.

New Jersey Governor’s Race: Jon Corzine (D) vs. Chris Christie (R) vs Chris Dagget (I)

Well this has been quite the nasty and intrigue-filled race.  On the one side, you have a Democratic incumbent – a business man – who has made misstep after misstep (including failing to deliver on promises to ease tax burdens) in the Governor’s mansion and is extremely unpopular in the state.  On the other side you have a former US attorney (appointed by George W. Bush) who is trying to make voters think that NJ is the only state having financial difficulties and is attempting to pin the responsibility of those financial struggles of the state on Corzine.  And, to complicate matters, you have an independent candidate who is polling better than most independents do in states like NJ (a high of 20%) and who is focusing his campaign on the economic woes of the state but, unlike Christie, offering real solutions.  Chris Dagget has shaken up this race to the point where his involvement may well cost Christie the race. 

MY ENDORSEMENT: Christie has been long on critique and short on ideas and I am never a fan of that.  This is a race that should have been much more lopsided in his favor, but he has failed time and time again to offer the real solutions that voters are demanding.  With him out of the way, it comes to down Dagget or Corzine.  I don’t agree with much of what has been written about Corzine being a complete failure for NJ.  He was Governor in an extremely challenging environment and I applaud his steadfast commitment to public education and his restructuring of the Abbott school funding formulas.  In addition, he has been a champion of the environment and has pushed for universal health coverage in his state.  However, this missteps are too large to ignore and, with an opponent as bi-partisan (not just in name, but also in action), accomplished and smart as Dagget, I want to suggest my NJ friends cast their votes for the Independent candidate in the race and elect Chris Dagget to be the next Governor of New Jersey.  With such a resistant legislature, Corzine may not be the best leader for the state – as a result a new voice may be needed if real progress is to be made.  I believe Dagget can be that leader and that new voice.   I don’t agree with everything he stands for, but I trust his ability to make the best decisions for the state and reform some of what ails NJ.  If elected, I have faith that Governor Corzine will make better decisions for the state than he has in his first term.  However, for the reasons discussed above, I am still endorsing Chris Dagget – not because he is an independent, but because he is the best person for the job

MY PREDICTION:  This race should have been a landslide win for Chris Christie.  However his ‘safe’ campaign, and the presence of Dagget to siphon off some of the anti-Corzine voters, will allow Corzine to keep his job and lead the state for another four years.  I predict a final tally of 42-40 in favor of Corzine with Dagget taking around 10% of the vote.

New York 23rd Congressional District: Bill Owens (D) vs. Doug Hoffman (C)

This has been one of the most interesting Congressional races we have seen in a while.  The Republican party put up Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican, as their candidate.  However, the conservative wing of the party was so opposed to her that many of them rallied around Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate.  With so much opposition Scozzafava made the decision, on Saturday, to drop out of the race.  Her removal caused the RNC to reverse course and endorse Hoffman, while announcing that Scozzafava was releasing her supporters to vote for Hoffman.  However, on Sunday, Dede released a statement, bucking her party, and announcing she was supporting Bill Owens (the Democrat) and suggested her supporters do the same.  This has become a clear race between a moderate candidate and an extremely conservative one and it has raised many questions with far-reaching answers.  If Hoffman can win, it will embolden conservatives across the country to challenge the moderate wing of their party and pull the party platform to the right.  If Owens manages to win (and become the first Democrat to hold this seat in more than 100 years) it will be a confidence-booster for the Democrats and will establish them as the party of the left AND the middle.  Either way, the ramifications will be extremely interesting to watch as we approach the mid-term elections.

MY ENDORSEMENT: No surprise that I am going to endorse Bill Owens for this seat.  However, I am going to let Dede Scozzafava tell you why.   “”I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same,” she said. “In Bill Owens, I see a sense of duty and integrity that will guide him beyond political partisanship. He will be an independent voice devoted to doing what is right for New York. Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.”

MY PREDICTION: I have no idea.  This race could go either way depending on so many different factors.  What will the turn-out be?  How will Scozzafava supporters vote?  Will they vote?  Can Hoffman rally the conservative base around him?  Can Owens tap into the moderate bloc and win their confidence?  If forced to chose, I think Hoffman will barely win, but I have no faith, whatsoever, in that prediction.

Other races to watch:

Boston Mayor: Thomas Menino (D) vs. Michael Flaherty (D)

            The most serious competition Menino has had since becoming Mayor, Flaherty has run a really good campaign.  However, Menino is too popular and too good to lose and should win by 20 points.  I do want to applaud Flaherty for bringing his primary opponent, Sam Yoon into his campaign – that action demonstrated a real ability to work with people you have disagreements with and made a strong impression.

Maine Votes on Gay Marriage:

            Voters will be going to the polls to try to repeal the law passed earlier this year allowing same-sex marriage in Maine.  If you live in Maine, please vote against the repeal so freedom of choice can be preserved.   

New York Mayor: Michael Bloomberg (I) vs. Bill Thompson (D)

            Uhh…like this will be close.  Bloomberg by 30.  I only put it here as an excuse for me to congratulate the Phillies on winning Game 5 and am hoping that one of Bloomberg’s once he is re-elected will be to watch the Yankees lose.

If you want more on all the races going on today, check out this great site in the New York Times.

REMEMBER TO VOTE TODAY