Posts Tagged ‘Clinton’

Gas Stamps Would Be Better than a Gas Tax Holiday

May 2, 2008

Senators McCain and Clinton have both recently proposed a “Gas Tax Holiday” under which the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax would be suspended this summer to help ameliorate the high costs of gasoline.  Senator Obama has rightly opposed this proposal, arguing that any reduction in gas prices (which many economists argue would not even occur) would only amount to $25-30 per driver this summer and is insufficient to really counter $4-per-gallon gas.  He and others have also argued that the tax holiday would reduce the funds available to repair our roads and bridges and encourage more driving at a time when we need to discourage driving.

Supporters of McCain and Clinton argue that Obama’s opposition to a Gas Tax Holiday shows that he is out of touch with the issues facing ordinary people, especially those with low incomes.  They imply that a savings of $30 issignificant to poor families and that Obama is too rich or detached to realize this.  I believe this is just political posturing on their part.  If the gas tax were suspended for 3 months and the savings were $30 as Obama suggests, that would be just $10 per month.  Given the amount of money some poor people spend on lottery tickets, cigarettes, and alcohol, I doubt this amount of money would really make a difference to most people.  Even if it would make a difference to some of them, it is clear that gas prices will keep going up and that working, low-income people need much more relief.  The only problem with Obama’s response to his opponents is that he has not really proposed an alternative policy to help poor people cope with the high price of gas.

Rather than pursuing a tax suspension that might not even lower the price of gasoline, a much better idea would be to create a Gas Stamps program for low-income people who own and drive cars in order to get to work.  This could be done quite easily by extending the current Food Stamps program.  I did some research about this program and learned that the phrase “food stamps” is an anachronism; in most states, actual stamps have been replaced by debit cards that are automatically replenished monthly and can be used at most grocery stores to buy food.  Gas stamps would really help poor people pay for their gas and would not stimulate gasoline consumption across all economic groups the way a Gas Tax Holiday would.  It could be funded with a sales tax on low-mileage cars and trucks which is something we should be implementing anyway to steer consumers toward higher mileage vehicles as part of a national policy to lower our consumption of gasoline and oil both for financial and environmental reasons.

An intersting fact about the Food Stamps program is that the government does not count a car owned by applicants when considering eligibility provided the car is used to commute to work or transport a disabled household member.  This means that the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service which administers the Food Stamps program already knows whether or not food stamp recipients own cars and how many they own, so the program could easily be extended to add a monthly gas stamp benefit to the existing food stamps debit card.  The only other thing needed to fully implement the program would be to allow gas stations to register with the program so that they could accept the food/gas stamps debit cards.

Senator Obama should propose a Gas Stamps program as a more realistic way of helping poor Americans deal with the high price of gasoline.  Doing so will show that he is more realistic about helping poor people bear the high price of gas and prevent Senators McCain and Clinton from claiming that he is insensitive or out of touch.  But he better propose this quickly before the primaries in Indiana or North Carolina.

Florida and Michigan Will Not Have Revotes

March 18, 2008

During the past two days the Democratic Parties in both Florida and Michigan announced that revotes are unlikely to occur for legal and logistical reasons.  So, the only choices open to the Democratic Party at this point are the following:

  1. Do not seat any delegates from Florida and Michigan.
  2. Allow some of the delegates to be seated with full votes based on the January primaries.
  3. Allow all of the delegates to be seated with partial votes based on the January primaries.
  4. Allow all of the delegates to be seated with full votes based on the January primaries.

While option 1 (the current de facto option) would respect the DNC rules, it could hurt the chances of the Democratic nominee to win Florida and Michigan in the general election.  So, it is not really a good option for the party.  While Barack Obama’s lead would be cut with any of options 2-4, it is in his longer term interest to accept one of them in some form after negotiations with the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the state parties.

I proposed a Plan B compromise in my prior post on this issue which was a form of option 2 above.  This is the proposed compromise I made:

  1. The DNC should refuse to reinstate any superdelegates from either state for the reasons I previously gave here.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.

I think this  plan is still a good option.  However, to make it more flexible as a framework for negotiating a solution between the Clinton and Obama campaigns, I would like to suggest the following modified version:

  1. The DNC should reinstate superdelegates from these states with partial votes ranging from 0% to 50% of a standard delegate vote.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.
  4. As far as the popular vote is concerned, all votes cast in the January primaries in these states would be fully counted if no new voting contests are held with “Uncommitted” votes in Michigan again being given to Obama.

The modified version allows the superdelegates to be seated at the convention but limits their vote, thereby imposing a direct penalty on the politicians who had the power and knowledge to avoid the rule-breaking primaries in January.  Some penalty on the superdelegates is needed in order to send a clear message to all state parties that their members will pay a personal price for breaking DNC rules in the future.  However, it is flexible enough to give both campaigns some room to negotiate.  It also fully counts each vote cast in Florida and Michigan as far as the popular vote is concerned.

I had previously estimated that Clinton would cut Obama’s pledged delegates lead by about 25 via item 3 above.  Florida has 25 superdelegates while Michigan has 28.  The modification to item 1 above adds an effective total of at most 26.5 delegate votes.  Assuming Clinton received 2/3 of these, she would get 17.5 of these votes while Obama would get 9.  This would cut Obama’s lead by an additional 8.5 delegate votes.  So, even if the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan were seated with half of their normal votes, Clinton would only cut Obama’s lead by about 33.5 delegates under my modified plan.  Given Obama’s current lead of about 142 delegates, he can probably live with this.  Clinton will obviously want more, but 33.5 is better than 0 which is all she currently has from these states.

Plan B for Florida and Michigan

March 13, 2008

I’ve written several posts in this blog advocating that Florida and Michigan should have new primaries or caucuses in the Democratic Presidential race.  Democratic leaders in both states are trying to figure out ways to do this, but an article on MSNBC.com today suggests that legal and logistical problems might prevent this in Florida.  So, this leads me to ask what should be done if one or both states cannot hold new primaries or caucuses.

My Plan B is as follows:

  1. The DNC should refuse to reinstate any superdelegates from either state for the reasons I previously gave here.
  2. The DNC should reinstate 100% of the pledged delegates from each state that manages to hold a new primary or caucus before the June 10 deadline.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the new contests.
  3. The DNC should reinstate 50% of the pledged delegates from each state that does not hold a new contest.  The allocation of delegates would be based on the January primaries that these states held with the following modification:  in Michigan, the 40% of the vote that was “Uncommitted” would be given to Obama on the assumption that he would have gotten most or all of those votes if his name had been on the Michigan ballot.

My plan would satisfy the two principles I laid out in the post I mentioned above, namely that the DNC delegate selection rules should be respected to avoid chaos in future elections and that new contests should be held in Florida and Michigan (if possible) so that voters in those states can have influence on the nomination of the Democratic nominee.  While the DNC stripped these states of all their delegates when it punished them for scheduling early primaries that violated Rule 11.A of the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules, Rules 20.C.1.a and 20.C.4 only mandated that the DNC strip the states of 50% of their pledged delegates and some specified superdelegates.  The DNC used the discretion it had under Rule 20.C.5 to impose a more severe penalty but presumably still has the discretion to reduce that penalty back to the mandatory penalty or some penalty in between these two extremes.

So, my plan still fully respects the DNC rules.  It also lets the voices of the voters in these states be heard.  While their votes will only count half as much as they could have, this will only happen if their states do not have new contests.  While it would be better if their votes could be counted fully, doing so based on the January primaries would simply not be fair to Senator Obama.  Even allocating 50% of the delegates based on the January primaries is unfair to him, but it is hard to conceive of any solution other than new elections that is fair.

What would the impact of my plan be on the delegate counts if neither state managed to hold new contests? I don’t know exactly how the delegates would be allocated since this would require detailed knowledge about the vote in each congressional district and the delegate allocation rules for these states.  But it is possible to calculate estimates of the pledged delegates that would be allocated based on the vote percentages reported in the original primaries.

Clinton won 49.7% of the vote in the Florida primary while Obama won 33.0%.  Allocating half of Florida’s 185 pledged delegates accordingly would give Clinton 46 delegates and Obama 31, giving her a gain of 15.

Clinton won 55.3% of the vote in the Michigan primary while “Uncommitted” won 40.0%.  Allocating half of Michigan’s 128 pledged delegates accordingly would give Clinton 35 delegates and Obama 26, giving her a gain of 10.

Clinton’s net gain in pledged delegates would therefore be approximately 25 under my plan.  Given that Obama currently has a pledged delegate lead between 150 and 160 , he can probably afford to tolerate a 25 delegate cut in his lead and might agree to do so out of the desire to let the voters in Florida and Michigan have some influence in the nomination process and to make sure they do not harbor resentment towards him in the general election (if he wins the nomination).  He might even do better under my plan than he would if new primaries are held and superdelegates from these states were counted.

Clinton would probably object to this plan since she expects to get more of the superdelegates from these states and would cut Obama’s lead in pledged delegates by 50 if the original primaries were fully counted.  But the chances of that happening are very small, so she might agree to my plan to get some delegates out of these states, especially if one or both of them are unable to schedule new primaries.  Also, even just counting the original January primaries 50% would strengthen her “Big State” argument since she could then claim to have won the legitimized primaries in both states. 

The only potential roadblock to my Plan B is giving Obama the “Uncommitted” vote from Michigan.  But if Clinton agreed to the plan, that should not be problematic.  Of course, if Michigan does hold a new primary, then this issue would disappear.

Clinton’s Chances of Overtaking Obama Now Smaller

March 11, 2008

After the March 4th primaries, I wrote a blog post asking whether Clinton could possibly overtake Obama in the race for pledged delegates.  I pointed out that her chances of doing this were poor even if Florida and Michigan have new primaries or caucuses.  I wanted to give an update of that analysis after tonight’s Mississippi primary which Obama won.

CNN finally posted estimated delegate counts for the Texas caucus from last Tuesday. Their estimates match the ones I gave in my prior post: 38 for Obama and 29 for Clinton. The combined results of the Texas primary and caucus were: Obama: 99, Clinton: 94. So, Obama won Texas as far as delegates were concerned.  Clinton did win the March 4th contests as a group, cutting Obama’s pledged delegates lead by 6.  However, Obama increased his lead by 2 on Saturday in Wyoming and by 7 in tonight’s Mississippi primary.

Despite all the talk about Clinton’s resurgence, Obama has actually increased his pledged delegate lead by 3 since the Wisconsin primary. That might not sound like much, but it is significant because there are now 415 fewer pledged delegates left to be divided than there were on February 19. In fact, there are now only 566 pledged delegates (not counting Michigan and Florida) in future contests and Obama currently holds a lead of 162 pledged delegates (using CNN’s numbers on March 11th).  Clinton now has to win 364 of the remaining pledged delegates in order to catch up to him. That represents 64.3% of the remaining pledged delegates.  If Michigan and Florida do have new contests, then there will be a total of 879 pledged delegates remaining.  In that case, Clinton would have to win 521 of the remaining delegates or 59.2% of them.  Either way, she now has to win a higher percentage of the remaining delegates than she did 1 week ago.

The primaries are like a marathon. Clinton is approximately the same distance behind Obama at the 22 mile mark as she was at the 20 mile mark. With only 4 miles left to run, her chances of winning are now smaller than before.

Mississippi Exit Polls

March 11, 2008

Here are some results from the Mississippi exit polls from today’s primary:

Let’s start with results based on race and gender:

     White voters (49% of those polled): 72% Clinton, 27% Obama
     Black voters (49% of those polled): 9% Clinton, 91% Obama
     Male voters: 39% Clinton, 61% Obama
     Female voters: 42% Clinton, 57% Obama
     White men favored Clinton 70% to 30%.
     White women favored Clinton 75% to 24%

So, while Obama beat Clinton amongst both male and female voters when race was not included, he lost amongst white men and women. So, he essentially won Mississippi based on support from black men and women.

Obama won 58-60% of the vote from those voters polled regardless of their education level.

A contrast to other states was that less affluent voters supported Obama while those making $75,000 or more supported Clinton (although just barely).  It is possible that there is correlation between income and race that could account for this.

Obama won all age groups except those voters over 65.

Top Candidate Quality:

     53% Can Bring Change
     19% Experience
     16% Cares About People
       9% Electability

It seems that campaign ads were important to many of Obama’s voters.  It is unclear from the exit poll whether these voters were positively influenced by Obama ads or negatively influenced by Clinton ads. 

     Campaign Ads Important: Clinton 35%, Obama 64%
     Campaign Ads Not Important: Clinton 61%, Obama 38%

More voters though Obama is honest than Clinton: 

     Is Obama Honest? 70% Yes, 29% No
     Is Clinton Honest? 51% Yes, 48% No

More voters polled thought that Obama was more qualified to be Command In Chief.

     Obama More Qualified: 54%
     Clinton More Qualified: 43%

Another interesting statistic is that voters who had a favorable view of John McCain tended to favor Clinton over Obama suggesting either that these voters are more focused on experience as measured by years spent in Washington or feel that Clinton and McCain are closer together on issues of national security and Iraq.  In any case, this suggests that (in Mississippi) that Obama offers stronger contrast to McCain than Clinton.

Democrats (70% of those polled) favored Obama 67% to 32%.
Republicans (13% of those polled) favored Clinton 77% to 23%.
Independents (17% of those polled) favored Obama 51% to 48%.

Voters who made up their minds in the last 3 days favored Clinton 54% to 44%.   Other voters favored Obama 61% to 39%.

Clinton’s Foreign Policy Experience Debunked

March 11, 2008

Greg Craig wrote a great article for Real Clear Politics that debunks her claims to have accumulated extensive foreign policy experience, especially during her years as First Lady.  It is well worth reading.  Craig is the former director of the Policy Planning Office in the U.S. State Department, so seems well-positioned to evaluate her claims.

Superdelegates: Obama: +46, Clinton: -6

March 11, 2008

MSNBC has been tracking the number of superdelegates that Senators Obama and Clinton have gained or lost since Super Tuesday.  This afternoon, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC reported that Obama has gained 46 superdelegates while Clinton has lost 6.

No wonder Clinton’s campaign is attacking Obama so ruthlessly and trying to undermine his candidacy.

Comments on Corzine/Rendell Op-Ed Column

March 11, 2008

Apparently, even some of our Democratic governors don’t fully understand the DNC delegate selection rules and are not very good at math.  In an Op-Ed column in today’s Washington Post, Governors Jon Corzine and Edward Rendell write that neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to win 2,025 pledged delegates by the end of the primaries and warn about the downside of having the nomination decided by superdelegates.  “But allowing superdelegates to determine the outcome of our nominating process while 366 pledged delegates, elected by more than 2 million democrats in Michigan and Florida, remain unseated is especially undemocratic.”  Their first mistake is that these two states have a total of 366 delegates (210 from Florida and 156 from Michigan) including both pledged delegates and superdelegates.  The actual number of pledged delegates from these states is 313 (185 from Florida and 128 from Michigan).

They then suggest that having revotes in Florida and Michigan could avoid reliance on the superdelegates: “Fortunately, we do have another, more democratic choice: We can choose to enfranchise Democrats in Florida and Michigan, thereby increasing the likelihood that voters, not politicians or party elders, will determine who faces Sen. John McCain in the fall.” The governors also voice their support for the principles that all voters should be able to participate in the nomination process and that all nominating contests must be fair.

As I indicated in a prior post, the total number of delegates needed to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for President will increase from 2,025 to 2,208 if delegates from Florida and Michigan are reinstated.  There are good reasons for having new primaries in Florida and Michigan (which I have advocated here and here), but making it more likely that one of the candidates can clinch the nomination without superdelegates is not one of them.  The bottom line is that neither candidate is likely to clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone since the DNC rules allocate delegates from all states proportionally and Clinton and Obama will share the remaining pledged delegates.  For the math on this, see this post.

Corzine and Rendell are right in advocating new primaries in Florida and Michigan, but they should have checked their facts more carefully.  Instead of advocating new primaries as a way of avoiding the nomination being decided by the superdelegates, they should have argued the issue solely on the principles that voters in all states should have a voice in nominating the party’s candidate and that only fair elections should count.

Hillary Clinton: “No Sex In My White House”

March 10, 2008

After hearing about the article on the website of The New York Times that reported that Governor Spitzer of New York had been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute in Washington, I called the Clinton campaign to get a reaction from Hillary.  Unfortunately, her deputy assistant communications director in charge of blogger relations, Brad Roachly, refused to let me speak with Hillary.  I asked why not and was told that I was just a minor blogger not worth his or her time.  I accused him of refusing to let me speak with his boss because I had written pro-Obama blog posts, but he denied having ever read my blog and assured me that Hillary wouldn’t have spoken with me even if I had written that Obama was a Muslim with three secret wives (in addition to Michelle) living in his grandmother’s house in Kenya.  I asked him Obama did have three more wives in Kenya.  He replied “Not as far as I know.”

Anyway, here is my interview with Hillary as I think it might have gone if she had actually spoken with me:

RB: Thanks for speaking with me, Senator Clinton.

HC: Just call me Hillary, RB.  We weren’t friends before this interview, but I’m sure we’ll be friends by the time we’re done.

RB: Thanks, Hillary. What is your reaction to the Times article reporting that Governor Spitzer was involved with a high-price prostitution ring?

HC: Well, naturally I feel tremendous sympathy for his wife having been in a similar position.  My prayers go out to Eliot, his wife, Silda, and the rest of their family.

RB: Do you believe that the charges against Governor Spitzer are true?

HC: Well, I have no evidence one way or the other, but he is a man.

RB: What do you mean by that, Hillary?

HC: Well, I’ve learned through personal experience — that the whole country knows about of course — that men, even good men, have certain vulgar impulses and desires that they find incredibly hard to control.  So, Eliot could easily been overcome and lead astray by his urges.

RB: Are you suggesting that all men are subject to these urges?

HC: Of course not.  I mean that’s  … you know, I have no basis for saying that all men are like that. But many probably are.

RB: Do you think Senator Obama is subject to these urges?

HC: Oh, I’m sure he is.  But please don’t take that the wrong way.  I doubt he’s ever acted out his urges, that is, if he even has them.  And I’m not saying he does have any urges, other than the urge to serve his country before he’s ready.

RB: But you’re suggesting that he could have urges similar to those that Governor Spitzer and your own husband demonstrated. Aren’t you?

HC: Right, right.  He could have these urges.

RB: Are you aware of any other urges he might have?

HC: No. Not really.  I wouldn’t really want to speculate about any urges he might have to gamble, drink, or do drugs.  I mean, we know he did do drugs as a kid, but he’s indicated that he’s stayed clean the last 20 years and I take him at his word that he’s done with all that.

RB: You mean with drugs, drinking, and gambling?

HC: And anything else he might have been guilty of.

RB: Such as?

HC: Well, any strange rituals he might have learned growing up with Muslims in foreign countries.  I trust he’s given those up and won’t introduce any of them into the White House.

RB: Are you worried that he might bring other things into the White House that don’t belong there?

HC: No, not really.  I don’t think he would bring a Koran with him to the Oval Office.  Not that there would be anything wrong with him bringing it into the Executive Residence.

RB: Why are you suggesting that he would bring a Koran to the White House? You recently denied in a 60 Minutes Interview that Senator Obama is a Muslim.

HC: That’s true. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a Koran.  He might have been given one as a gift or he might have purchased one to learn about his roots.

RB: Are you saying that it would be wrong for Senator Obama  or anyone else to bring a Koran into the Oval Office?

HC: No. No. It wouldn’t be wrong.  But I’m not sure the American people would be comfortable with that.  You know, RB, there are many things that we sophisticated Big State Democrats are comfortable with that ordinary Americans in small states are not.  When I’m President, I will be sensitive to their sensibilities.

RB: Wouldn’t Senator Obama be sensitive about that too, Hillary?

HC: Oh, I’m sure he would be — as far as he could be.  But sensitivity is something that takes a long time to fully learn and Barack is a young man.  He might be sensitive enough in 8 years to be President, but I’ll be sensitive on Day One.

RB: I’d like to get back to the question of prostitution.  You said that Senator Obama could have the same urges as Governor Spitzer.  Are you worried that Senator Obama would bring prostitutes to the White House if he were elected President?

HC: No, I’m not that worried about it.  I’ve met Michelle Obama and know she’s a tough one.

RB: So, you think his fear of being caught by Michelle would stop him?

HC: Well, she’s not afraid to speak her mind.  She did say she had not been proud of her country until people started voting for her husband.

RB: Did you find that unpatriotic?

HC: I’d rather not say. I think the American people can judge that for themselves.  Michelle is a lovely person and was probably just under a lot of stress.

RB: Why is that?

HC: I mean, she must be very nervous about Barack actually winning this race.  Not that I’ll let that happen.

RB: Why would she be nervous about his winning the race?

HC: Isn’t that obvious, RB?

RB: Not to me.

HC: That’s because you’re a nice Liberal Blogger.  You might have a hard time believing it, but there are still people in this country who do not want to see a Black man in the White House except in the movies.

RB: Are you saying someone like that might try to assassinate him?

HC: It’s certainly something to fear.  After all, the Secret Service can’t guarantee the safety of a President if he takes risks.

RB: You mean risks like visiting prostitutes?

HC: Well, that would certainly be a risk, both to Barack and Michelle.

RB: But do you think Barack would actually do that?

HC: Oh, I don’t think he would.  But I can’t say with certainty that he wouldn’t.

RB: Can you guarantee that there won’t be any more sex scandals in the White House if you’re elected President?

HC: Oh, I can guarantee that.  There won’t be any sex at all in my White House. 

RB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Hillary.

HC: Anytime.  You know I’m very other-focused, so I’m glad I could help you with your blog today.  Let me know if you need me to deny any more rumours about Barack.

More on Clinton’s Poor Management of Her Campaign

March 10, 2008

As an update to my blog post that compared the management skills of Senators Clinton and Obama, I suggest you read today’s article in The New York Times called “Sniping by Aides Hurt Clinton’s Image as Manager”.