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Christie’s special election decision

This afternoon, Governor Christie decided to hold two special elections — a primary in August and a general election in October — to fill the Senate seat that is vacant as a result of Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death yesterday.  In the following, Christie explains why he decided that the elections should be held in August and October.  Critics have already suggested that Christie’s decision was politically motivated by his desire not to have the Senate election in November, when he is up for re-election, because of the increased Democratic turnout what will come in the Senate election.  (Christie, of course, wants to be re-elected by a wide margin.)  Other critics have suggested that the special elections are a waste of money (as they will cost about $24 million in total), especially given the budget cuts that Christie has made to services such as health care programs for impoverished women (which he has cut by $6 million annually).

More reaction from both Democrats and Republicans is sure to follow.  But, in the meantime, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.


No Early Voting in New Jersey

Governor Christie yesterday vetoed a bill that would have allowed early voting in New Jersey.  After reading the following, comment on whether or not New Jersey should have adopted this measure.  Do the benefits outweigh the costs (both real and potential)?

Christie vetoes early voting bill, angering Democrats

Jenna Portnoy/The Star-Ledger By Jenna Portnoy/The Star-Ledger

on May 09, 2013 at 3:35 PM, updated May 10, 2013 at 7:16 AM

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a bill that would allow early voting at polling places, prompting Democrats to brand it a politically motivated effort to suppress the vote months after Hurricane Sandy exposed vulnerabilities in the state elections system.

The Republican governor called a proposal to let voters cast ballots at designated polling places during a 15-day period before Election Day “hasty, counterproductive and less reliable” than the current system.

“I support responsible and cost-efficient election reform that increases voter participation because democracy works best when the most people vote,” Christie said in the veto message. “But this bill risks the integrity and orderly administration of our elections by introducing a new voting method and process.”

Christie’s veto bucks a national trend. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia had instituted some form of in-person early voting as of September 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That does not include New Jersey, which allows absentee voting without having to provide an excuse.

State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), a primary sponsor of the bill (S2364), said Christie’s veto shows he is out of step with most states.

“The governor now joins other Republican governors who have sought to stifle the vote and limit access to the polls,” she said. “Once again he is catering to his national base at the expense of New Jersey residents.”

Currently, voters can cast a “mail-in-ballot” by mailing or hand-delivering a competed ballot to their county clerk starting 45 days before the election.

Christie said the expanded early voting system envisioned by the Legislature would create a side-by-side voting process, noting it would cost the state $23 million in the first year and $2 million each year after that. He also questioned the security of transporting paper ballots around the state during the early voting period and the call for a quick setup before July 1.

Christie, who is seeking re-election, raised the ire of unions and the Democratic Governors Association, who are backing his likely opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).

“The governor’s veto shamefully silences the voices of an untold number of New Jersey families,” New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said. The Democratic Governors Association immediately issued a statement likening Christie to what it called “shameless Republican governors restricting voting rights for partisan political gain,” citing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and others.

“Governor Christie’s veto is yet another example of Republican politicians taking the cynical view that making voting more difficult will win them more elections,” Buono said.

Hurricane Sandy damaged polling places and severely limited residents’ ability to get around the state days before the November presidential election. In response, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno issued a last-minute patchwork of directives intended to help people vote, including letting residents request and return mail-in ballots by fax and e-mail.

Christie said those measures worked well and the election went smoothly, pointing to the nearly 300,000 mail-in ballots cast. Voting rights advocates maintain that many residents were disenfranchised.

About 67 percent of New Jersey voters cast their ballots last year. For at least a century, New Jersey had never gone below 70 percent voter turnout in a presidential election year.


Bush v. Gore, according to O’Connor

The following blog post from the NY Times highlights retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s recent comments on the Bush v. Gore decision.  I have deleted the editorial content of the post because I want to hear your opinion.  Was SCOTUS’s  agreement to hear the case a good decision?  And what about the decision itself?  Is O’Connor’s after-the-fact commentary appropriate?  Was the Court’s decision a good one?

O’Connor Regrets Bush v. Gore

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 25, 2012. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty ImagesFormer

Now she tells us. More than 12 years after the fact, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said she believes it was a mistake for the Supreme Court to take Bush v. Gore and anoint George W. Bush as president of the United States.

“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” Justice O’Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board on Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’”

She continued: “Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision. It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”

The result, she allowed, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less than perfect reputation.”

Justice O’Connor’s comments, as fascinating as they are, have to set some kind of record for detachment (she calls the court on which she sat for 25 years “it” — avoiding the more apt “we”) and also for understatement.

Granted, we don’t know for sure whether Justice O’Connor wanted to take Bush v. Gore. Only four justices have to agree to hear a case. But we do know that she sided with the majority on the actual decision, which stopped the recounting in Florida and gave a one-vote majority in the Electoral College to the man who lost the national popular vote.

How old is too old?

The following suggests that Senator Frank Lautenberg is too old to run for reelection.  Meanwhile, Politco has reported that Joe Biden is “intoxicated” (figuratively, that is) by the prospect of becoming president.  Biden will be 74 in 2016.  So how old is too old?  Should there be age limits on elected officials, just as the Constitution imposes a minimum age?  Or should we let the voters decide?  What about federal judges? Should they be able to serve for life, as they do now?  Or should there be a mandatory retirement age?


Senator Frank Lautenberg Is Too Old to Run for Reelection

By Conor Friedersdorf

The 89-year-old New Jerseyan is refusing to bow out in 2014 — in defiance of both fellow Democrat Cory Booker and actuarial tables.

fl reuters.jpg


Let’s not mince words: Senator Frank Lautenberg, who will be 90 in 2014, is too old to run for another six-year term. I am not questioning his mental sharpness or the wisdom that he’s accumulated.

They’re beside the point.

He’d be starting a new term while fifteen years older than the average life-expectancy for American males. What are the odds he’d survive in adequate health until 2020?

Low. Too low to risk letting him try, given the political disruption and discontinuity of service that would result if he failed. As a general matter, I am against age discrimination in hiring. I usually oppose mandatory retirement rules. And I know that New Jersey voters can reject the man even if he decides to run.

But don’t candidates owe their constituents the promise that, to the best of their ability to estimate, they’ll be capable of finishing the job? The hard truth is that Lautenberg can’t make that promise. Beyond actuarial reality, he’s already missed important votes because of health problems.

I don’t know if he could win a primary, but incumbency and name recognition are powerful advantages, and if he won, voters in the general election wouldn’t be permitted to just choose the man with the better platform, or the ones from the party with whom they identify more closely — to be responsible, they’d have to factor extreme age and its likely effects into their calculations.

At what point should voters consider age in general? I have no idea where the line should be drawn — just that 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, and 95 are all on the wrong side of it. New Jersey Supreme Court justices must retire at 70.

For those reasons and others, Lautenberg is way out of line for telling — via the Philadelphia Inquirer — Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is interested in running for his seat, “I have four children, I love each one of them. I can’t tell you that one of them wasn’t occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK.”

Booker, the man he’s comparing to a child, is 43 years old — 10 years older than Jesus Christ when he died, 10 years older than Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and eight years older than the minimum age at which one can run for president.

I hope Lautenberg lives to be 110, is healthy and productive until the end, and injects his elder’s wisdom into public discourse at every opportunity. But another six years in the Senate just doesn’t make sense. Earlier in his career, Lautenberg himself injected age into a race against a 72-year-old Republican opponent. He should retire at the end of his term and stay neutral in the race to succeed him.

Colbert on SuperPacs

So the basic question, after watching this, is this: does it REALLY matter that campaign finance restrictions are ineffective?  Put it another way: should campaign donations be limited?  And even if they should be limited, CAN they be limited?  Or will donors always find loopholes?  Your comments, please…

How can the Republicans Convince you to be a Republican?

This came to me from a lonely High School Republican.  So how can the Republicans best attract your generation to join the party?

Sarah Westwood: Advice From a Lonely College Republican

The GOP is like a supermodel who’s been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup.


If the election results told us anything, it’s that the GOP has some serious soul searching to do. On paper, Mitt Romney’s history of accomplishment towered over President Obama’s train wreck of a record, so his loss seemed nearly inexplicable. But Mr. Obama carried his key groups so easily that Republicans should give him props for such a feat— and start taking notes.

In politics, as in life, perception is key. The Chicago machine and the Democratic National Committee as a whole have perfected the art of marketing, even when they’ve got nothing to sell. They’re like a used-car salesman who pushes lemons on unsuspecting drivers and never gets caught. Democrats can home in on Latinos, blacks, single women, young voters—and have them chanting “Four more years!” before they know what hit them.

I happen to be one of the latter, a college student at a time when youth is a hot political commodity. Most kids my age bristle at the word “conservative,” and I don’t blame them. The right has done nothing to welcome young people.

If Republicans hope to win in 2016 and beyond, they need to change everything about the way they sell themselves. They’re viewed by the 18-24 set as the “party of the rich” and as social bigots. That harsh, flawed opinion could be rectified if Republicans started presenting their positions in a different way. The GOP is like a supermodel who has been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup. But fix the lighting, dab on some foundation and highlight her good side, and she can take the most attractive picture.

My age group is one pocket of voters who Republicans should be carrying with ease. Youth is all about rebellion and freedom and independence—things the Democratic Party preaches but doesn’t deliver. Behind their clever one-liners lurks a government shackle waiting to be slapped onto the wrists of every young voter they ensnare.

The left proudly shouts “stick it to the rich,” which naturally draws the rambunctious college crowd into its fold. But Democrats fail to mention how broadly they define the rich—or that in reality, they want to dip into everyone’s wallets, not just Bill Gates’s.



Associated Press

Shame on Republicans for not seizing the opportunity this time around. They could so easily define their brand as the true advocate of rebellion; a “stick it to the government” movement in the spirit of the 1960s hippie wave.

It wouldn’t be a smoke-and-mirrors, bait-and-switch trick either, like what goes on across the aisle. Republicans truly are the party of a less intrusive ruling class. Frame the Republican fundamentals—tax less, spend less—as a fresh populist approach instead of Grandpa’s adage, and the party is back in business.

Another leg up that the left has is its claim to the moral high ground. The party of pro-choice, pro-gay has such a hold on young people because those are issues they can care about easily. Not many 20-year-olds can hold a coherent conversation about Social Security reform or double taxation, but all of them can argue passionately for gay rights.

As a member of this all-important demographic, I know that neither I nor (almost) anybody else coming of age today supports the Republican social agenda. That’s the way the country is moving—so just deal with it. Modernize and prioritize.

Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don’t have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.

Embracing a more liberal social agenda doesn’t require anyone to abandon her own personal values; it’s possible to keep faith and the party too. But the evangelical set essentially hijacked the Republican Party in the 1970s; now we need to take it back. Thawing the icy attitude of our most vocal, radical voices—including the raucous right (a la Limbaugh)—could let a fatally fractured party put the pieces together again.

The GOP won’t survive if it doesn’t start courting young voters. Simple math dictates that the Republican Party can wrest power away from the left only if it builds an army of fresh young members into its base. Democrats are the ones doing that now.

Ms. Westwood will be a sophomore at George Washington University in January.

Money, battleground states, politics, and maps

An interesting piece from NPR.  What should, or could, be done to address the issues raised by this piece?  Or should nothing be done?  Your comments, please.  Happy Election Day!

Nate Silver’s wisdom

So Nate Silver was on the Daily Show this week.  Watch the clip, and then comment briefly on what opinion(s) he expressed about campaigns, the media, the value of opinion polls, etc.  Each of you who comments only need to identify one of his opinions, so you can leave room for others to weigh in.



How not to connect with voters in a debate

Nate Silver today posted this video clip from the second debate in 1992 between President George H.W. Bush and Governor Bill Clinton (and Ross Perot, although he does not appear on this clip).  This is a town hall-style debate, just like tonight’s format.  Check out the connection, or lack thereof, made by the candidates and the woman who poses the question.

The Gender Gap

From today’s NY Times, a timely article about Romney and the gender gap.  Keep an eye on this tonight during the debate.  Note the complaints by Democrats about polling methodology (ironic, given that two weeks ago the criticism came from Republicans).  Once you watch the debate, comment on whether Romney did anything to further close the gender gap.

October 16, 2012, 11:46 am

Debate Could Provide Romney Chance to Close Gender Gap


Mitt Romney’s second debate appearance Tuesday night will provide him another high-profile opportunity to offer an image of reasonableness and moderation that could be crucial in winning over key voting blocs, especially women, with whom President Obama has had long-standing leads.

The candidates must find ways to be both assertive and understanding during the 90-minute debate on Long Island. But Mr. Romney, in particular, has a chance to close the gender gap if he can dispel Mr. Obama’s criticism about the impact his policies would have on women.

Polling released Monday by Gallup and USA Today suggested that Mr. Obama’s double-digit edge among women has evaporated in the wake of the first debate with Mr. Romney. The survey found Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, leading slightly among women in battleground states and tied elsewhere.

That survey result was strongly contested by Mr. Obama’s top advisers, who said the poll was flawed. And the Democratic advantage among women still persists in other polls, including surveys conducted by The New York Times in several battleground states last week.

But for Mr. Romney, the challenge remains: to use the debate to try to further erode the president’s usual advantage among women.

Top aides to Mr. Romney said there would be no specific effort to tailor his message to women during the town-hall-style debate. Rather, they said they hoped Mr. Romney could continue to present himself as the best alternative to the president for all of his constituencies, including women.

“Our internal polling shows strong movement toward Governor Romney over the past two weeks,” said Rich Beeson, the campaign’s political director, in a memo released to reporters Tuesday morning. “It also shows serious movement by independent voters, women, and those who were soft supporters of President Obama toward the Romney-Ryan ticket.”

The format of the debate could provide Mr. Romney the opportunity to make further inroads with women.

The questions from voters will give both candidates an opportunity to prove that they can identify with the plight of voters. If Mr. Romney can make that connection with a female questioner, it could help his cause.

There are risks, too. An awkward exchange during the debate could set back the Republican outreach to women just as the campaign is reaching its closing days. It could be hard to recover in the time left.

Advisers to Mr. Obama have been stressing Mr. Romney’s opposition to abortion and his position on contraception in the days since the first debate, hoping to energize women. Many women had said they were disappointed that Mr. Obama did not bring the topic up during the first exchange.

That will likely change tonight. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a point of raising the issue during his debate last week with Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate. Mr. Obama is likely to try to find a way to to do the same tonight.

Top strategists for Mr. Obama on Monday insisted that the Gallup poll was flawed and that the president retained a strong lead among female voters.

In a memorandum to reporters, Joel Benenson, the president’s lead pollster, said the poll’s findings regarding women underscored “deep flaws” in the way the survey identifies which voters are most likely to actually cast ballots in the November election.

Mr. Benenson noted that the poll showed Mr. Obama with a nine-point lead among all registered voters. That lead disappears when the poll is limited to likely voters, a result that Mr. Benenson says is evidence that Gallup is misidentifying who is likely to vote.

Other recent polls have shown little evidence of a shift among women toward the Republican ticket. A New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University survey of Virginia last week showed Mr. Obama with a 14-point lead over Mr. Romney, essentially unchanged from before the first debate.

A similar poll in Wisconsin showed Mr. Obama with a 10-point lead. In national polls from ABC News and The Washington Post from before and after the first debate, there was no significant swing among female voters.