Category Archives: News

Roy, Douthat, McArdle on GOP healthcare plan

Avik Roy and Ross Douthat were the first two guys I thought to check in order to learn more about the GOP health care plan. (Roy is, of course, well known as a health care wonk, and Douthat is my favorite columnist). Like many others, their reaction is negative.

Here is Avik Roy’s article at Forbes. He mentions that the best part of the bill is its overhaul of Medicaid, but criticizes other parts, such as its failure to repeal most of Obamacare’s insurance regulations because Republicans decided to pass the bill using reconciliation, which can only be used for taxes and spending; the flat tax credit, which creates a disincentive that traps people below the poverty line; the high threshold for phasing out the tax credit, etc. Best quote is at the end:

Expanding subsidies for high earners, and cutting health coverage off from the working poor: it sounds like a left-wing caricature of mustache-twirling, top-hatted Republican fat cats. But not today.

Ross Douthat had a series of tweets that I feel are worth mentioning. First, this:

Then, this series:

He also re-tweeted a decently fair-minded explanation of what Paul Ryan might be thinking – almost, but not quite, a defense – from a surprising source, Matthew Yglesias at Vox.

Finally, Megan McArdle at Bloomberg takes apart the plan – it’s basically Obamacare lite, among other problems – and provides a rather funny line, if you’re in the mood for snark:

I must point out that it’s actually quite clear what problem this bill solves: the problem of Republican legislators who want to tell their base that they repealed Obamacare, just like they promised. Tada!

She also points out that, since it’s not likely to work, the GOP would own any ensuing failures; no longer could they point to Obama and the Democrats as the problem.

As it stands, I’m inclined to doubt it should be passed. Something should be done, but not anything. It needs to be something good; something with enough bipartisan support to pass both the House and Senate. Something that won’t simply get repealed when the Democrats inevitably win an election and return to power. We can’t just keep passing the health care yo-yo back and forth every four or eight years. And it needs to be something that won’t let the Democrats credibly declare the “conservative” plan a failure and therefore show the need for single payer health care.

If I were the GOP leaders, I would seriously consider dropping the philosophical opposition to a mandate as a sort of litmus test for any reform, and begin to tout a plan like Switzerland’s. Republicans get to lower government health care spending, and transform the system from an employer-based system to a private, individual, consumer-driven market, while the mandate, regulations on insurers, and goal of universal coverage could be what entices enough Democrats to support it. That might be a way to get 60 votes in the Senate and change the system for the long term (and avoid single payer).

If that’s not possible, perhaps just go with Cassidy-Collins for the “federalist compromise.”

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Problem in North Carolina

Kay Hagan was one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators coming into this election cycle, and Republicans sensed a great opportunity to take a seat away from the Democrats. Yet Thom Tillis, the Republican nominee, hasn’t been able to take advantage and pull ahead. In fact, Hagan has managed to maintain a small but steady lead – including in a new poll by Marist/NBC News that has her leading 44-40%, and a Yougov poll that shows her with a 46-45% lead (when include “leaners”). Hagan had a negative public approval rating in July, with 40% approving and 50% disapproving, and although that has improved somewhat for her, she’s still in negative territory. She’s been helped a lot by mistakes from Tillis. The speaker of the state House of Representatives has had subpar fundraising – caused in part by a summer spent distracted with problems in the state legislature. The legislature itself is pretty unpopular, so being a member of it doesn’t help Tillis. There is still a month left, so we’ll see if Tillis can close the gap before election day.

Abbott leads Davis by double digits in Texas race

A new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows Gregg Abbott leading Wendy Davis 51%-40% in the race for Texas governor. There’s still a month to go but it looks like Texas will remain solidly Republican this round. Abbott has been working to win more Hispanic voters this cycle, so we’ll see how that plays out. The GOP will probably need to start attracting more minorities, especially Hispanics, in the future to maintain control of Texas and give them a better chance at winning other states including potential swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.

Davis is best known for filibustering late-term abortion restrictions in the Texas legislature, which propelled her into a star on the left. In the typical procedure that she defended, the abortionist reaches into the uterus with a long toothed clamp, grasps body parts of the developing fetus and literally rips them off and out of the uterus, finishing with the head which is crushed before pulling it out. How a person can vehemently defend such barbaric actions and be hailed for it is beyond me. She deserves to be absolutely crushed in this election, and I wish Abbott the best in this last month.

Top Republican campaign ads of 2014

Here is my list of some of the top 2014 GOP campaign ads so far. But keep in mind that this is a subjective list. Some of them reportedly played a large part in helping a candidate win a primary or take the lead in polls, but I have not tried to objectively measure how much they helped, nor am I sure how one would do that.

Squeal (Joni Ernst, Senate candidate in Iowa)

Although all the GOP candidates talked about cutting spending, Ernst made it memorable. This helped her stand out and win her primary.

Home (Mitch McConnell, Senator from Kentucky)

McConnell is already leading, but this touching new ad may help him close the deal with Kentucky voters.

Already Fighting for Oklahoma (James Lankford, Senate candidate in Oklahoma)

This ad helped inoculate Lankford, a member of the House of Representatives, against charges that he is a Washington insider by turning his House membership into a positive.

Has My Back (Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina)

Haley has a number of effective ads touting her record, but this touching ad is probably the best.

Nice Guy (Cory Gardner, Senate candidate in Colorado)

This ad was so effective, Democrats immediately tried to decry it as a nasty attack on Udall’s family.

Coach (Mike McFadden, Senate candidate in Minnesota)

McFadden is probably fighting a lost cause against Al Franken, but this was an interesting and rather memorable ad.

Anthem (Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin)

Walker kicked off his reelection campaign with this ad touting his record.

 

 

Significant recent polls

Here is an update on some significant recent polls on political races around the country.

First, a CNN poll in North Carolina showed Republican nominee Thom Tillis still trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by a narrow margin. This race so far has been one of the more disappointing races for the GOP, as Hagan’s unpopularity offers a prime opportunity to pick up this seat. But there is still time for Tillis to turn it around. One possible complication is the Libertarian’s third party candidate, who is probably taking votes from Tillis.

(R) Tillis 43% (D) Hagan 46% (L) Haugh 7%

Second, a University of New Hampshire poll found incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage within the margin of error against his Democratic opponent – trailing by only 2%. Here, an independent candidate is complicating things for Democrats, just as he did in 2010 – the only way a Tea Party conservative like LePage has a chance to win in a blue state like Maine.

(R) LePage 38% (D) Michaud 40% (I) Cutler 12%

Third, a South Dakota poll showed Republican candidate Mike Rounds with a double-digit lead over two opponents. Rounds does not have as much support as one would like to see, but the lead is solid.

(R) Rounds 39% (D) Weiland 26% (I) Pressler 24%

Fourth, a PPP poll confirms a new development in the Iowa Senate race – Republican Joni Ernst has slipped slightly ahead, a huge development for the GOP if it holds. The poll shows a narrower margin than the poll released on Saturday by the Des Moines Register which shows Ernst up by 6 points.

(R) Ernst 44% (D) Braley 42%

 

 

Brazil may soon have evangelical President

There’s an interesting story on Reuters today about next month’s presidential election in Brazil.

Marina Silva, an environmentalist running neck and neck in polls with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, is a Pentecostal Christian who often invokes God on the campaign trail and has said she sometimes consults the Bible for inspiration when making important political decisions.

The article goes on to talk about the growing influence of evangelicals, who numbered only 5 percent of the population in 1970 but grew to nearly a quarter today. It also highlights some similarities and differences between American and Brazilian evangelicals. Basically, Brazilian economic politics are to the left of American politics, and both major candidates, including the evangelical, call themselves socialists and support “robust” welfare programs. The evangelical candidate is also an environmentalist. Obviously, all of these positions would be anathema to most American evangelicals who are conservative like me. But Brazilian evangelicals share American’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage, perhaps even more strongly than we oppose it here, as both are illegal in Brazil and the political environment on social issues has obviously not moved to the left as far as the American environment has.

Here in American politics, I have often wondered why it doesn’t seem possible for any left-leaning individuals to support liberal policies on economics, environmentalism, and other things, while still remaining faithful to the Bible theologically as well as fully opposed to abortion and gay marriage. There’s no logical reason why one couldn’t, it seems to me, and often I think conservative Christians are too “religious” in their economic views, speaking as if socialism is against the Bible. (I think socialism is a bad idea, but more for pragmatic reasons than biblical reasons: I don’t think it works well. Although I do think socialism may infringe on property rights, but there is probably room for disagreement there, biblically speaking). But every time I encounter a Christian who leans toward the left on economics, etc., it seems like inevitably that person can’t be bothered to worry too much about abortion and gay marriage other than paying lip service to opposing abortion – as if the liberal positions always take priority. They may even support gay marriage. And usually, for some reason they tend to be squishy on biblical authority as well: is the bible really inerrant? is homosexual behavior really a sin? They often lean toward “no” on those questions. But Brazil’s politics confirms what I’ve long suspected: there is no necessary, logical connection to being a Christian and supporting conservative economic policies. (Of course, it’s not necessary to be liberal or socialist either, to be clear. Sometimes liberal evangelicals act as though conservatives are unbiblical or something). Here in the U.S., I’m not sure what exactly led to social conservatives aligning with fiscal conservatives and libertarians on economic issues so uniformly, but perhaps the two parties are so thoroughly divided on social issues, particularly abortion, that there is a tendency to conform on other issues as well, in order to fit in.

I wish Brazil’s evangelicals the best. But I do hope they remember what the Lord told the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4:6): “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” They may install one of their own in the presidency and continue gaining in influence, but they need to remain humble and remember that the future of their nation is in the Lord’s hands. And power can corrupt an evangelical just like a Catholic or a nonreligious person. Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, in their excellent book Blinded by Might, detailed the mistakes of the American religious right after their triumph in Reagan’s victory in 1980. I pray Brazil’s evangelicals avoid that mistake, or else Brazil may turn out to be worse off because of it.

 

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial campaign implodes

Being an Ohioan, I took special note of a story in yesterday’s New York Times that details the implosion of the Democratic campaign for governor in Ohio. The Democratic nominee is Ed Fitzgerald, the county executive of Cuyahoga County (the most populous county in the state). For some reason, the Democrats cleared the way for him to run without serious opposition in the primary, even though he was not very well known or tested in a big race. A couple incidents from his past came to light this summer that seriously hurt his candidacy: first, about two years ago he was found by police at 4:30 a.m. in a parked car with a woman who was not his wife. Second, it was learned that he did not have a driver’s license at the time: in fact, he drove for years without a valid license. His campaign has collapsed, losing donors and workers, trailing badly in the polls, and (Democrats worry) threatening the viability of other Democrats running for lower office in the state.