Election 2012 – Prognostication and Portends

Election 2012 is in full swing, and by all accounts Wisconsin will have record turnout. That is encouraging, as the Voter ID provisions still in effect do make new voter registrations more difficult.  Based on voter registration data from 2008-2012, turnout will be key to an Obama victory and the hope that there will be a “coat-tail” effect in Wisconsin.

Voter registration data from the GAB shows that the slow and steady attempt by the GOP to disenfranchise younger voters (who vote more Democratic) has been having an impact – even in Wisconsin which has same day registration (numbers in thousands):

Year 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+ Total
2008 340.8 576.1 955.1 932.8 668.9 3,473.8
2009 336.2 614.3 930.4 926 675 3,481.90
2010 327.5 554.8 900.8 984.3 692.5 3,460
2011 273.9 506.3 826.1 967.2 697.2 3,270.60
2012 332.9 560.4 855.9 1,013.20 738.6 3,501

Notice the trend over the past 5 years. As this table shows, the under 50 age group registrations have dropped, while the over 50 registrations have increased (numbers in thousands):

 

U50 total 50+ total
 2008 1872 1601.7
 2009 1880.9 1601
 2010 1783.1 1676.8
 2011 1606.3 1664.4
 2012 1749.2 1,751.80
Diff 2008-2012 -122.8 150.10

 

122,800 less under 50 voters registered, as there are 150,010 more over 50 registered voters.

When expressed as a percent of the total registered voters, it is clear why turnout is key:

 

 2008 0.54 0.46
 2009 0.54 0.46
 2010 0.52 0.48
 2011 0.49 0.51
 2012 0.50 0.50
Diff 2008-2012 -0.04 0.04

 

The two age groups have converged, each comprising 50% of the registered voters. Badger Democracy has compiled graphs on this data as a PDF available at this link:

Voter Registration Graphs 2008-2012 PDF

A quick look at the 2011 registrations are one significant reason the Walker recall election failed. Another will be referenced later. Now, on to the prognosis.

President – Barack Obama defeats Mitt Romney. I believe in math and statistics. Nate Silver has the most unbiased, mathematically sound analysis and he has a history of being right. This morning, Silver updated his Five Thirty-Eight blog to give Obama a 90.9% chance of winning – largely due to Obama momentum gains in key swing states. Silver’s analysis takes into account the possibility of a bias for Obama.

In order for Mr. Romney to win the Electoral College, a large number of polls, across these states and others, would have to be in error, perhaps because they overestimated Democratic turnout. It’s this possibility, more than the chance of a successful hail-mary in a state like Pennsylvania, that accounts for most of Mr. Romney’s remaining chances of winning the Electoral College.

The chances of Romney winning the electoral college is given in poker terms by Silver:

…in poker, making an inside straight requires you to catch one of 4 cards out of 48 remaining in the deck, the chances of which are about 8 percent. Those are now about Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College.

If Obama were to lose, I would consider the results very suspect – especially if the difference is Ohio and the vote suppression methods under way there (addressed below).

While I expect Obama to win the electoral college, Hurricane Sandy has made the possibility of Romney winning the popular vote a bit higher. The area affected by Sandy typically accounts for about 30% of the total popular vote nationwide. There is a good possibility that enough people will be unable to vote due to the storm, still giving Obama the electoral vote win, but reducing the poplar vote outcome in the Northeast corridor. Can’t wait to hear what Rush Limbaugh would say about that…

Obama will win Wisconsin as well. The final Marquette Law School Poll shows Obama with a 51-43 lead over Romney. The Marquette poll called the recall election nearly spot-on, and had been consistently accurate. That brings us to the Senate.

The Wisconsin Senate Race – Nate Silver has Tammy Baldwin at a 79% chance of defeating Thompson, but the poll margins are extremely close. The voter registration numbers referenced above make the split even closer. The last Marquette poll gives the slightest edge to Baldwin as well, 47-43 (just outside the Margin of Error). I’m going to use another factor in making my prediction – momentum.

The January Marquette poll  showed that 50% of respondents had not heard enough of Tammy Baldwin to form an opinion of her. Only 17% said the same of Thompson. Baldwin had a 23% favorable rating, Thompson 49% favorable. By the June Marquette poll, 39% had not heard enough of Baldwin, 12% had not heard enough of Thompson to form an opinion. The favorability gap was closing – 27% Baldwin, 48% Thompson. In the first head-to-head poll of likely voters, Thompson had a 49-41% lead over Baldwin.

Fast forward to the second August Marquette poll. Baldwin continued to close the recognition gap; 27% not knowing enough of Baldwin, 17% not knowing enough of Thompson. The favorability gap also continued to close – Baldwin at 32%, Thompson at 40%. Among likely voters, Thompson continued to lead 50-41%, virtually unchanged from June.

The second September Marquette poll shows a greater shift in momentum taking place. Only 20% of voters had not heard enough of Baldwin to form an opinion (down from 50% eight months before), with Thompson holding steady at 12%. In the favorability rating, Baldwin had closed the gap – 37% Baldwin, 36% Thompson (compare to 23-49% January). In likely voters, Baldwin gained her first lead in the poll, 48-44%.

That brings us to the last Marquette poll pre-election. Among likely voters, only 13% had not heard enough of Baldwin – about where Thompson started. Favorability ratings are identical – 38% to 38%. More importantly, as more people have come to know Tommy Thompson, his unfavorable rating is 6 points higher than Baldwin’s, 51 – 45%. This was the first poll Thompson had a 50%+ unfavorable rating.

My prediction – based on the momentum of Tammy Baldwin, and the corresponding “coat-tail” effect of Barack Obama winning in Wisconsin by a fairly wide margin, that will be enough to give the razor’s edge victory to Baldwin. Tommy won’t go down without a fight – expect a recount. In the end, Baldwin wins and the Wisconsin US Senate is split.

This entire scenario relies on a fair and accurate election – which is in question and highly suspect. The Brad Blog  has been at the forefront of following election hijinks perpetrated by private corporateers who control the software and data involved in elections. It is astounding that in the first democracy, our election system is controlled by private corporate profiteers with significant conflicts of interest and political agendas – much as would be expected in a third world country election.

Investigative reporter for the BBC Greg Palast has (and continues) to follow the systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters in state like Ohio and Florida – with hundreds of thousands  of registered voters being dropped from voter rolls. Voter registration and ID laws are working in that regard – look at Wisconsin data above. Younger, more Democratic voters are being intentionally purged from the voting rolls – and it is worse in states without same day registration.

If the fix is in, we are in for a long 4 years. Under a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Administration, the United States would become a vulture capital economy. After all, Ryan was Paul Singer’s (“The Vulture”) number one pick to be the GOP Presidential candidate. Mitt Romney was Singer’s last pick – Ryan was the VP pick to satisfy Singer.

The vultures would run the show – and the economy. What Singer and Elliott Management are doing to Argentina would become the model for domestic and foreign economic policy. Romney’s financial dealings as a profiteer aligned with Bain Capital and Singer’s Elliott Management would become the new business model in the US. The whistle has just been blown on Romney’s dealings and profiteering – and if he is elected would never see the light of day.

The Obama Administration and mainstream banks like JP Morgan Chase understood the threat to worldwide economics when they recently filed amicus briefs in favor of Argentina’s sovereignty, and against Paul Singer and the vultures. There are theories this election is a battle of the titans for control of the US (and world) economy. Obama wins, and more reasonable heads prevail. A Romney win, and it is back to the Robber Barons – only on steroids with the Vultures in charge.

My concern is for State Senate and Assembly races. All politics are local, and while there may be a small carry over from Obama to the state races – it will be limited. A miracle is necessary for the Democrats to maintain the State Senate. The retirement of Jim Holperin (D-Eagle River) made that a difficult retention with the pro-GOP redistricting. The Assembly may become more evenly divided – but will remain GOP controlled. That leaves Wisconsin where we were after the 2010 election, with the need to remain ever vigilant, the struggle to continue.

There were lessons from the recall that went unlearned by state Dems, as has been written of previously. It must be our priority as progressives to push for a change in messaging and campaigning at the state level to counter the GOP machine. Wisconsin will likely remain under control of the GOP, with some balances at the federal and local level. Again, unless the fix is in. Our election process must be reformed and taken away from the privateers.

Get out and vote – and do your part to protect your right to vote. As for Scott Walker and the GOP in Wisconsin, I’ll be here along with other progressive bloggers long after the election is over to expose their continual abuse of power.

I leave you with the words of Thomas Paine, patriot:

“It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting,
but it is impossible to exclude them from the right of
rebelling against that exclusion.”

What is your right to vote worth?

 

 

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Tommy and Medicare…2008 – 2012 – From “Death Panels” to “Death to the system”

Two videos, four years apart illustrate a dramatic departure from political and economic reality for Tommy Thompson. In a recent speech in front of the “Lake Country Defenders of Liberty”  at Olympia Resort and Conference Center (Oconomowoc), Thompson laid out the plan to end Medicare. Four years earlier, in an October 2008 online interview, Thompson supported a commission to reform end-of-life treatment limitations as a way to help save Medicare. This extreme ideological shift begs the question – is Thompson even capable of independent thought and responsible governance anymore?

In the recent speech, Thompson outlines the textbook neo-conservative methodology for killing a government program . In the words of Grover Norquist:

I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

Thompson asks “…who better than me, I already finished one program, Welfare, to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?” His answer follows the Norquist blueprint. “Give people a choice,” says Thompson, between taking the current government-run Medicare or purchasing their own insurance with a subsidized voucher.

Thompson continued the attack, “…no one will accept it (the current plan), because Medicare will be broke by 2022.” The same strategy is being used to weaken public pension plans. As more people “opt out” the participant pool diminishes. Revenue going into the program decreases to the point that it becomes incapable of paying out current benefits. It can then be “drowned in the bathtub.”

Aside from the ideology over economics, Thompson’s claim requires a fact and reality check. The Thompson claim that “Medicare will be broke by 2022″ is inaccurate. Further, the voucher policy he supports, coupled with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Thompson has stated his support for repeal) would make Medicare even less stable.

According to the Medicare Trustees’ report from this year:

“The Medicare Trustees Report shows that the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is expected to remain solvent until 2024, the same as last year’s estimate…The ACA is giving the CMS the ability to do this work, with tools to lower costs, fight fraud and change incentives so that Medicare pays for coordinated, quality care, not the number of services…without the Affordable Care Act, the HI Trust Fund would expire 8 years earlier, in 2016.

Much of the neo-conservative propaganda about Medicare and the ACA being touted by Thompson et al, comes from an independent paper published by a Public Medicare Trustee  Charles Blahous.

To ensure the ACA does not worsen the federal fiscal outlook, fully two-thirds of the ACA’s new health-exchange subsidies must be repealed, or financing offsets must be found before 2014…the ACA will add some $530 billion to federal deficits by 2021 and that the Obama administration employs “double counting” in its savings estimates.

Blahous is a “Senior Research Fellow” at the Mercatus Institute – funded by Charles and David Koch. The Blahous paper has been skewered by more rational minds, namely Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman. From Chait:

You may wonder what methods Blahous used to obtain a more accurate measure of the bill’s cost. The answer is that he relies on a simple conceptual trick. Medicare Part A has a trust fund. By law, the trust fund can’t spend more than it takes in. So Blahous assumes that, when the trust fund reaches its expiration, it would automatically cut benefits.

The assumption is important because it forms the baseline against which he measures Obama’s health-care law. He’s assuming that Medicare’s deficits will automatically go away. Therefore, the roughly $500 billion in Medicare savings that Obama used to help cover the uninsured is money that Blahous assumes the government wouldn’t have spent anyway. Without the health-care law, in other words, we would have had Medicare cuts but no new spending on the uninsured. Now we have the Medicare cuts and new spending on the uninsured. Therefore, the new spending in the law counts toward increasing the deficit, but the spending cuts don’t count toward reducing it.

Krugman illustrates this accounting absurdity using a budgetary example relative to the Bush Tax Cuts:

“…the whole of the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of this year. If that’s your baseline, then plans like the Ryan budget, which not only maintains those tax cuts but adds another $4.6 trillion to the pot, are wildly deficit-increasing — in fact, the Ryan plan would be a huge budget-buster even if hell freezes over and his secret loophole-closers turn out to be real.”

The absurdity of this accounting of Medicare persists with far right-wing GOP candidates – including Thompson. The reason is obvious – it creates panic and confusion about fiscal reality. In fact, it is now replacing fiscal reality with ideology. The proof is Tommy Thompson in 2008 talking about how to save Medicare.  

Thompson’s ideas to reform (not kill) Medicare:

1.  “I would put a Medicare base closing commission together which is going to make the tough decisions such as age, such as taxes, such as when you’re on your death-bed, what sort of treatments do you get, and when you get in the last 12 months of your life where 30% of the cost of Medicare dollars are expended.”

2.”The second thing you have to do is you have to fix SCHIP. This is the program for poor children and you got to be able to put together a bipartisan support on SCHIP and I think that’s imminently doable.”

3. “…the third thing you have to do is you have to fix what we call the reimbursement formula for doctors. It has been postponed now for five years, and every year that it’s postponed, it’s causing more money and that’s got to be fixed.”

4. “…we got to do something about Information Technology and have national standards for an electronic medical record and put the cost to credits in there that’s going to be the inducement for doctors to use electronic medical records and actually prescribe using a computer instead of handwriting.”

5. “…we really educate America to eat properly, exercise and take care of themselves and that’s where chronic illnesses come in, because most of chronic illnesses are either self-inflicted or exaggerated and exacerbated by what we do, what we put into our bodies and our failure to exercise”

 Who was that Tommy Thompson? Such is the influence of corporate money and influence on politics. Merely four years ago, Thompson was talking of bi-partisan reform, and was even in support of what has now been demonized as “death panels” to reform end-of-life care treatments.

Today, Thompson has become an ideologue, putting the corporate takeover of democracy over responsible governance.

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New Marquette-Franklin Poll Vilified by Thompson, GOP

The new Marquette Law School Poll run by Charles Franklin was released yesterday (Wednesday, September 19). It didn’t take Thompson and the GOP long to attempt to discredit the poll – one they have always held in high esteem. The reason – the new poll told them something they didn’t want to hear.

On August 12, 2012 in an interview on Capitol City Sunday (Madison WKOW-TV), Thompson had this to say about the Marquette Poll:

“I think the Marquette poll which is considered pretty much the golden rule or the gold standard, came out and says I was 8 points up. So, I feel very good about going in, and I sincerely believe the momentum is with me and I feel very comfortable about the election.”

On Tuesday, the day before the poll was released, Thompson expressed confidence:

“Let’s see what the Marquette poll says tomorrow,” he said. “I feel very good about where I am at – feel very comfortable about the future of this race.” (MJS article)

After the poll was released, Thompson spokeswoman Lisa Boothe accused the poll of “oversampling for Democrats,” giving an edge to Baldwin. From the Thompson statement:

“We do not believe that today’s Marquette poll reflects the opinions of Wisconsin voters,”

An analysis of the poll shows in this most recent sample, there was a slightly higher number of respondents who identified as Democratic. While Franklin adjusts slightly for that in post-stratification, there is still a slightly higher number identifying as Democrats. The Thompson/GOP vilification is unwarranted. The Marquette poll over the past four months has been very consistent, showing an emerging pattern in the electorate conservatives will be desperate to stop. To the tables…

Marquette Law Poll Demographics (link to graph)

The demographics of the poll remain extremely consistent from July-September. The 45+ age group is slightly over-represented, as is respondents with a post-secondary degree. In political party identification, it is the norm in the poll for Republicans to be slightly over-represented; while Independents are under-represented. The September poll is an exception – showing Dems slightly over-represented. While this is leading to Thompson dismissing the poll – he should not. Even as the party ID appears to lean more Democratic, the big picture of the poll shows there is more at work in the results.

Marquette Law Poll Political trend (link to graph)

The poll shows consistently that about 66% of respondents (low 63-high 69%) follow politics “most of the time,” and 83% are “absolutely certain” to vote in the November election (low 81-high 85%). The next set of numbers disputes the Thompson/GOP bias claim in the poll – political leaning.

The fluctuation of respondents identifying as Conservative, Moderate, or Liberal is relatively consistent in a poll with a +/-3.8% margin of error (MoE). From the August 16-19 poll to the September poll, the values of respondents identifying is within the MoE for each category respectively – Conservative (41-39%), Moderate (30-32%), and Liberal (23-26%). The shift from Thompson to Baldwin has been with moderates, and also with those who previously “did not know enough” about Baldwin, now changing to voting for her – and against Thompson. The slight increase in “Liberal” or “Democratic” respondents does not account for the huge swing to Baldwin.

Marquette Law Poll Favorable rating (link to graph)

The favorability rating of the candidates and Scott Walker show part of the story. Barack Obama’s favorable rating has increased from 51-55%, Baldwin’s from 26-36%. Mitt Romney’s favorable rating is flat at 36%; while at the same time Scott Walker’s has fallen from 50-46%, Tommy Thompson’s from 44-39%.

Marquette Law Poll Unfavorable rating (link to graph)

The unfavorable rating is telling as well – showing a consistent shift apart from any alleged Democratic bias in the sample from a single poll, at a relatively insignificant level. Barack Obama’s unfavorable rating has gone from 42% down to 39%, Baldwin’s has stayed steady at 31%. Romney’s has increased from 42% to 51%, Walker from 45-49%, and Thompson from 36-44%. All increases in Republican unfavorable ratings are outside the MoE – and shifts in “conservative” or “liberal” political ID.

Marquette Law Poll Pres/Senate likely voters (link to graph)

Amongst likely voters, there has been a dramatic shift in the Presidential and Senate campaigns. Much of that shift can be attributed to the GOP Convention disaster, Romney’s campaign failures, and the Dems convention and messaging success. Romney/Ryan received a slight bump, closing them to within 49-46% mid-August. The recent poll has Obama/Biden up 54-40% . The same bump had Thompson up 50-41% on Baldwin; the recent poll has a huge swing, putting Baldwin up 50-41% on Thompson. This eighteen-point swing simply is not explained away by the nominal oversampling of Democratic voters. There is not enough shift in “liberal” vs. “conservative” to account for such a change.

Marquette Law Poll Issues (link to graph)

The August 2-5 poll showed 43% of respondents would agree to “higher taxes for more services.” This recent September poll shows 47% agreeing to “higher taxes for more services.”

In the same August poll, 44% approved of “Obamacare,” in September the number had risen to 49%.

The Bush tax cuts popularity continued decline, from 35% in August to 30% in September.

The above surveyed issues in the poll demonstrate a further shift consistent with the data – the electorate in Wisconsin is trending away from the right-wing GOP issues and candidates. That is why they attempt to discredit the Marquette Poll. The pattern playing out with conservatives is becoming clear.

When facts, data, and science don’t support your ideology-driven agenda, there are three courses of action as a right-wing conservative corporatist. First, ignore. Second, pay someone to write a study that supports your agenda. Third, pay to have your lies repeated to nationwide media.

The full polls cited above can be found here:

MLSP July Methdology          MLSP July Toplines

MLSP August 2-5 Methodology           MLSP August 2-5 Toplines

MLSP10 August 16-19 Methodology         MLSP August 16-19 Toplines

MLSP11 September Methodology              MLSP11 September Toplines

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Tommy Thompson – a Bain Capital connection with much to hide, everything to lose

In 2003 when Tommy Thompson was still George Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), an extraordinary amount of money was spent lobbying for Medicare prescription drug reform. Powerful lobbyists represented global pharmaceutical interests at HHS, and spent millions of dollars to gain profitable “reform” to prescription drug laws. Leading the charge was Secretary Thompson’s future partners at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld; spending $2,020,000 on the effort (see page 28 of the document).  What Thompson has never disclosed is his firms’ financial connection to Bain Capital – possibly one reason he is hiding his tax returns for the past 10 years.

In addition to the 2003 Medicare profiteering for Thompson, the companies he worked for in 2006 stood to profit greatly from reforms to Medicaid. The shift to greater state-managed programs turned out to be a boom for Thompson and his employers:

Thompson, who served during President Bush’s first term, is on the board of Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based company that operates Medicaid-funded health maintenance organizations in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. His proposals to move more Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured people onto such (state) plans could improve the company’s bottom line.

Thompson also is chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, part of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, a consulting firm that has contracted with states to help improve their Medicaid programs. (BD note – Deloitte now manages Medicaid health systems and reporting in Wisconsin)

Immediately after leaving the Bush Administration in 2005, Thompson took a number of high level positions. Two of the most visible were at Deloitte (Adviser and Independent Chairman) and Akin Gump (as a partner).  Thompson became part of the “revolving door” culture of Washington DC, far removed from Elroy, Wisconsin.

The most recent financial statement from Thompson, reported earlier this year, list Thompson’s assets at $13 million.  The last Public Financial Disclosure Statement available for Thompson is from 2006, when he was briefly a Presidential Candidate. The disclosure is only one year removed from his time at HHS; and is revealing as to where Thompson gets his millions, how he got them, and why he won’t turn over his taxes. Here are some income highlights:

Deloitte Touche – $1,062,500

Picis (Healthcare solutions) – $90,000

Novartis – $200,000

Heritage Medical Systems – $200,000

AGA Medical – $180,000

Pure Bioscience – $237,500

Akin Gump LLP – $1,148,421 (Income only)

To be clear – in 2006, one year after leaving the Bush Administration and deciding to not serve a second term; Thompson was paid over $1 million by a key lobbying firm for powerful and profitable (because of Thompson’s efforts) pharmaceuticals. In 2007, just one year later, Thompson and his partners at Akin Gump began representing a different type of interest – financial.

Records show that in 2007 – just before the largest economic recession since the Great Depression; Akin Gump began representing Bain Capital in lobbying for favorable securities and investment policy/legislation. Thompson and partners were paid $500,000 by Bain in 2007. In 2008, Akin Gump was paid $480,000 by Bain for financial lobbying efforts. The economy has crashed and jobs have been outsourced through the actions of firms like Bain; Thompson and his partners continue to reap the benefits.

The list of top contributors to Thompson’s current campaign  include a $20,750 contribution from Akin Gump (among other health care interests). Akin Gump still lobbies for Bain Capital.

This is not the Tommy Thompson that served as Governor of Wisconsin and negotiated with public employee unions. Thompson has changed. His refusal to disclose his taxes in light of historical information above is troubling – as it begs the question, whom does he serve? The new Tommy Thompson is far removed from the farm, has much to hide, and everything to lose.

That makes him dangerous.

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