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Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

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3 Nights in Charlotte

Oh, the benefits of going second.  It’s not hard to imagine, after the Republican Convention last week in Tampa, Democratic leaders huddling somewhere to rewrite speeches, redo videos and shift the lineup to more effectively respond to the various charges and claims made by their opponents.  I’m here to tell you that, whatever they did, it worked.  Besides putting on a very entertaining show, the Democratic National Committee effectively made the case for President Obama’s re-election while, at the same time, energizing their base.  My prediction is that the President gets a 7-9 point bump out of this, but we’ll see once the new polls come out.

Before I get to the winners and losers of the convention, I want to share the best moment to come out of either event, by far.  On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords held an event in Tucson, Arizona.  Her “Congress on Your Corner” events were a great way for constituents to meet their Representative and have their voices heard.  On this particular day, however, the meeting ended in tragedy with six people (including a 9 year old girl) dead and Giffords critically wounded.   As anyone who has ever had or cared for someone with a serious brain injury knows, the path to recovery is long and extremely challenging.   She has made very few public appearances since the shooting and none have had the power and emotion of what she did last night.  Just watch.

Sure beats an empty chair as a lead-in to the party nominee!  Ok, without further ado, here are my winners and losers from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Winners:

  • Bill Clinton

President Clinton has been delivering speeches for many many years and he is a master storyteller.  When Clinton takes the stage, people listen and hang on every word.  Love him or hate him, you have to admire his ability to captivate an audience and deliver key messages in an engaging and exciting way.  The speech he gave on Wednesday night, nominating President Obama was, in my humble opinion, one of the best he has ever given.  He was forceful, he was funny and he left no doubt about how he has seen the past 4 years and why he believes Barack Obama should be re-elected.   As CNN Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said following the speech, “If Barack Obama gets re-elected, I think tonight will be a good reason why.”  Hard to do better than that.

  • Barack Obama

Watching the Republican Convention, one couldn’t help but wonder how much the party elite is really excited about the prospect of a President Romney.  Many of the speakers seemed to be more focused on building themselves up for a future run, rather than making the case for Romney.  By contrast, the Democrats are clearly excited about their ticket and that passion shone through in speech after speech.   In addition, I thought Obama’s speech was very impressive.  I left his speech thinking that this is a serious guy who has learned from his mistakes, but whose commitment to doing what he believes is right hasn’t wavered.  I really liked the reframing of the “hope and change” arguement from 4 years ago and found it quite effective.  Was it a soaring speech that Obama 2004 or Clinton 2012?  No.  But I don’t think it needed to be or, quite frankly, should have been.  He needed to let the others do that, and come across as a leader we can trust.  Which I think he did.

The other thing about the convention is President Obama came across as much tougher and stronger than I have seen before.  We heard from Vice-President Biden about how he goes about making decisions and what a strong character he has.  Biden told us that Obama “has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel” and we saw that in Obama’s speech.  All of those traits were there and, when combined with his messages, Obama very much came across as someone who we can trust to work for all Americans and continue to make a difference.

  • Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Jennifer Granholm

Aside from Clinton and Obama, these three leaders delivered the best speeches of the convention.  Each focused on different issues, but all three were extremely effective in their defense of the President and convincing in their support for him.  All three are going to play a critical role in the campaign between now and November 6 and all three delivered stirring and memorable speeches.   Patrick (Romney’s record in Massachusetts), Kerry (Foreign Policy) and Granholm (Auto bailout) all made the point that Americans are better off today because of the leadership of President Obama and all made the the point that Governor Romney would be the wrong choice.

  • Michelle Obama

Wow.  Just, wow.  Michelle Obama delivered an incredible speech that was beyond a simple endorsement of her husband.  She told us more about the man, what drives him and, most importantly, connected his ideas and beliefs to their family and the future they imagine for their daughters.  It was powerful, it was compelling, it was funny and it was effective.

Losers

  • George W. Bush

It’s clear that Obama’s team see winning Michigan and Ohio as crucial to their chances in November.  That’s why they focused so heavily on the Auto bailout and how many jobs that effort saved.  What no one mentioned, however, is that President Bush was the one who first began to lay the groundwork for the bailout and, in fact, authorized the first loan to Detroit.  The fact is that the bailout worked, but the facts are, also, that Bush deserves some of the credit.

  • Martin O’Malley

The Governor of Maryland is often mentioned as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate.  However, he did not do himself any favors with his convention speech.  The Republicans want to make this election a referendum on the past 4 years and, as such, are making the argument that Americans are worse off than they were when President Obama took office.   Leading into this convention, the Democrats had primarily tried to counter that argument by attempting to make the election a choice election – that is, putting the Obama/Biden plan alongside the Romney/Ryan plan and asking Americans which one works best for them.  However, in Charlotte, there was a much more forceful argument that we are, in fact, better off than we were 4 years ago.  It’s important because if they can defend both their record and promote their future plans effectively, there is no way Romney can win.

However, in a pre-convention interview on Face the Nation,  Governor O’Malley undercut that message when asked by host Bob Schieffer if he could ” honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?”  In response,  O’Malley said “No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit cards.”  It may have been honest and it may have been an attempt to link Romney to Bush.  But, as a result, O’Malley had to spend the convention backtracking and that’s not a position a 2016 candidate wants to be in.

  • Charlie Crist

Party changers are rarely well received at conventions, but Crist’s speech was embarrassingly bad.  It was such a transparent attempt to further his own political ambitions and those in the hall saw right through it.  I have no idea if Crist will help Obama win Florida by appealing to moderates but his speech last night didn’t do the President any favors.  As bad as Artur Davis was last week at the RNC, Crist was worse because he was clearly only speaking to help set himself up for a Gubernatorial run as a Democrat.   Not good.  Not good at all.

  • Platform Committee

The party platforms are rarely read and the news media, generally, only spends time talking about them if there is something controversial or different.  The fact that the RNC platform is anti-abortion, with no exceptions, was newsworthy and will become an issue in the campaign.  The Democrats made the decision to not mention God, and to not endorse Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Then, after some backlash from both inside and outside the party, the committee made the decision to add that back in.  This resulted in some awkward moments where, when the change was announced, there was scattered booing in the hall.  Likely the delegates were booing the fact that a change was being made, but it gave the appearance (as hyped up on Fox) that they were booing God.  Whatever the truth, it was not a good image for the party.

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Before I let you go (and kudos if you’ve read this all the way through) I want to leave you with two videos. I think it is ENORMOUSLY important that all Americans, regardless of where you may stand, see the speeches from both Presidential candidates.  Please set aside some time to watch – it’s important to know where they stand and what their vision is for the country.

My takeaways from yesterday…

History was made yesterday.  The House has sent to the President’s desk the first piece of meaningful health reform in decades.  This is not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way towards taking the power away from insurance companies and giving it to people and their doctors.  This bill will finally allow more than 32 million Americans to get health insurance.  This bill will reduce the cost of getting health insurance and, through subsidies, ensure that everyone will have access to care.  This bill will create millions of jobs, pays for itself and will reduce the national deficit.  This bill forces insurance companies to stop their discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and will stop the despicable practice of coverage being rescinded when someone needs it most.   This bill will ensure that being unemployed doesn’t mean you can’t have health insurance.  This isn’t a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will improve the economy and help millions of Americans.  Thank you to all those who made its passage possible.

A few take-aways from the debate and vote last night:

  1. The Democratic party showed it can be politically savvy as well – Republicans had proposed a roll-call vote on the bill so that they could use that footage in campaign ads, but were rejected.  In addition, the House leadership knew that the Republicans might try to send the bill back to committee (effectively killing it) by calling for a vote on re-inserting the Stupak anti-abortion language back into the bill.  Well, they were right and boy were the Democrats ready for it.  After Steny Hoyer made a brief statement in response to Republican speeches on the matter, he yielded his time to Bart Stupak who made a passionate argument against killing the bill causing his fellow Democrats to rise as one to cheer him.  It was a brilliant speech and helped ensure the Republican plan would fail.  Very effective and very well executed!
  2. The Republican Party, once again, has to deal with an embarrassing incident – 6 months ago it was Joe Wilson shouting “You lie” at the President.  Over the summer it was those awful town hall protests around the country.  Two days ago it was anti-healthcare protesters shouting racist and homophobic things towards members of Congress.  And yesterday, it was a Republican Congressman shouting “Baby Killer” at Rep. Stupak as he delivered his remarks on the House Floor.  This stunning lack of decorum and respect might energize the base, but it turns off the moderate voters who so often decide elections.  Yesterday’s outburst was especially unfortunate because the Republicans had done a very good job throughout the day highlighting a number of their members and make significant progress in ensuring that the voice of their party would not be Ruth Limbaugh.  But that will be overshadowed by a stupid and inappropriate outburst.
  3. No one kills time like Wolf Blitzer – For anyone who has spent any time watching CNN over the past few years, this statement will come as no surprise.  Waiting as the vote totals climbed to the magic 216 number, Blitzer bantered, questioned and cut off as appropriate to keep things entertaining while making sure viewers did not miss the key moments.  Well done Wolf.

So now the reconciliation bill goes to the Senate (that should be fun) and the main healthcare bill goes to the President.  Stay tuned…

Now what?

Congratulations to Scott Brown and his campaign team for a very impressive win last night.  They ran a fantastic campaign and, quite frankly, deserved to win.  A few take-aways and thoughts after a very disappointing evening in Massachusetts.

1. Healthcare is not dead – Despite what you may have heard/read today, the fight to fix our healthcare system is far from over.  I would expect that, in the next few days, the House will take up the Senate bill and will pass it with no changes, thus negating the need for another Senate vote.  Failing that, they will be forced to chop up the bill into smaller parts (something the American people seem to want anyway) and pass what they can.  This allows them to claim some level of victory and move on to other issues voters seem to care more about right now.  It would be a huge mistake on their part for them to try to force through a bill before Scott Brown is seated – it would send a terrible message to the country and would be political suicide. 

2. 41st vote – I don’t think there are words sufficient for me to describe my frustration over the perception out there that, because the Republicans now have 41 votes, the Democrats can’t do anything despite still holding 59 of 100 seats in the Senate.  As Ann Woolner notes, in her fabulous piece in Business Week, “These days political parties are so polarized, so short on ideological moderates and so bent on each other’s demise that compromise on hot-button issues is the rarity.”  With one party being hell-bent on destroying the President, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans, and using filibusters at every turn, 60 seats has become critical to accomplishing almost anything.   The Founding Fathers intended a simple majority to be needed to pass legislation and, as Woolner points out, “If the Founders wanted a supermajority for everything, they would have said so.”  The fact that it is a well-accepted conclusion that, because Brown won, the President’s agenda is dead, is a sad comment about the state of this country.

3. The President – Make no mistake about it.  This was a loss for President Obama and is another reminder that the American public is extremely anxious and impatient.  Obama has only been in office for a year – not nearly enough time to fix the problems he inherited – but people are hurting and they want and need real results.  In some ways this loss is a good thing for him.  It drives home the challenges the administration is facing and gives them 11 months to right the ship before the all-important mid-term elections.  They must find a way to make people feel better about the direction of the country and focus on important issues like job creation.  In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said that they like Obama personally.  That provides an exceptional opportunity for him to get out there and rebuild public confidence in his administration.

4. 2010 and beyond – In Massachusetts, the Democrats lost the mantle of the being the party of the people.  Scott Brown was engaging and convinced people he was an everyman who would look out for their interests.  On the other hand, Martha Coakley, until the end, came off as aloof and entitled.  There is a lesson here about how to run campaigns, even if you are the front-runner.  Going forward, Democrats have to get back to the populist message that made them so successful in 2006 and 2008 and remind voters of who got us into the mess we are in now.  All is not lost – far from it – but there are important lessons to be learned from Massachusetts (and VA and NJ) and how well those lessons are learned will affect what happens later this year.  It remains to be seen if MA, VA and NJ are accurate measurements of the mood of the country or it is simply an example of less than stellar candidates running poor campaigns.

5. Remember who elected you – I would encourage Senator-elect Brown to remember that it was largely on the backs of independent voters that he sailed into office.  You can bet the people of Massachusetts will be watching very closely and, in 2012, will not think twice about casting him aside should he prove to be more focused on the President failing than on making the country better.

Link for 11/13/09 – Some funny, some serious

I have two links for you and they are sure to fit any mood.  If you want to laugh, I would suggest looking at Jon Stewart’s ‘touching’ farewell to Lou Dobbs.  If you want to think, the debate between the Democratic candidates for the open Senate seat in Massachusetts is for you.  (Just ignore where Mr. Pagliuca says he is in favor of a draft…he changed his mind about an hour later)

Enjoy and happy almost weekend!

Link for 10/8/09 – Thank you Senator Franken

I would really like to understand the rationale for voting against an amendment that would punish government contractors for “restrict[ing] their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” Really? Is that a political issue? Politicians always talk about holding themselves to a higher standard (which they usually say when they’ve done something wrong)…it seems to me we should government contractors (and all companies) to a minimum standard of decency. Am I wrong?

Come on Senators. Not everything is about politics. Sometimes something is so clearly the right thing to do, it is ok to join with the other party. You are setting a really bad example for our country and your fellow Americans by essentially saying that is more important to protect big business or play political games than to protect people from sexual crimes. That, to me, is shameful and I’m glad the Huffington Post (and other places) have published a list of those who voted against this measure.

Link for 9/11/09

This is a fabulous article from politico about Congressman Wilson’s remark and the larger problem it presents for the GOP.   The Republican party really is facing a bit of an identity crisis and, so far, the “wrong” people are the face of the party.  This was so clear during the President’s address, but it is something that we have been seeing since the election.  The sad fact is that the reasonable conservative voices are being overwhelmed by the antics of Rush, the lies of Palin, the scandals of Sanford, the disrespect of some in house (not just Wilson, but the congressman who was wearing the ‘what bill’ sign and the many who were too busy texting to listen to the President) and the Nazi comparisons of a few on the far right.  This is not good for the GOP and it is not good for the country.   It remains to be seen who the future GOP leaders will be but, for the sake of the party, they better figure it out soon.