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3/6/2012
Ohio the Key to Super Tuesday Victory
CATEGORY: PJ Media, Politics

I have a preview of the Ohio primary up at PJM this morning.

Unfortunately for Rick Santorum, even a win in Ohio may not give him a majority of delegates. This is because the former senator failed to gather enough signatures in three congressional districts to qualify for reaping any of the 9 delegates at stake. He also failed to get the required signatures in six other districts. As for the latter, he may qualify to get one or perhaps two delegates in those six districts, but not all three. All told, Santorum might win the state but lose up to 25% of the delegates. Under the rules, Santorum can petition the party to include those delegates in his totals at a later date, but if Romney wins the popular vote, even if Santorum won the congressional district, he might have trouble collecting them.

Santorum’s delegate problems notwithstanding, there is a race to be won in Ohio and to the winner probably goes the perception of victory on Super Tuesday. Ohio is a big state - a microcosm of the country itself. The percentages of race, class, ethnicity, and religion roughly mirror those found in the country at large. It stands to reason that if a candidate can cobble together a winning coalition in Ohio for the GOP primary, he has a good head start on doing the same thing for the general election.

No less than six polls have been published in the last 24 hours, with two showing Santorum slightly ahead, three with Romney leading, and one that shows a tie. All polls show the leader within the margin of error. These polls are essentially unchanged from surveys that were published Friday and Saturday. Might we deduce that Romney’s momentum may have stalled and that the race is truly deadlocked? Unless something very surprising happens, it is likely to be a long night on Tuesday to find out the answer to that question.

In truth, both candidates need Ohio very badly to claim victory on Super Tuesday. As far as the primaries are concerned, Santorum is ahead in Tennessee and Oklahoma and has a shot at winning the North Dakota and Alaska caucuses (Idaho, where caucuses are being held Tuesday night,  is 27% Mormon and will very likely fall to Romney). Romney will win his home state of Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia (where Santorum is not on the ballot), and very likely the Idaho caucus. It would seem that a win in Ohio would feed the perception that the candidate who wins Ohio has carried the day and will be the beneficiary of the positive press that would follow. This would obviously benefit Rick Santorum far more than Mitt Romney because of Santorum’s dwindling war chest, which, at the moment, depends instead on the buzz  generated by a perceived win on Super Tuesday rather than a campaign organization that can raise millions of dollars in a short period of time.

I think Romney squeaks by in Ohio although it will be very close. He will win the lion’s share of the delegates thanks to Santorum’s poor organization.

So is the race over? For all intents and purposes, yes. Even if Santorum wins in Ohio, Romney is going to increase his lead in actual delegates. He will have anywhere from a 150-250 delegate lead on Santorum by tomorrow morning. Since most of the GOP primaries now award their delegates based on a proportional system, Santorum would have to win decisively in many of the remaining primaries for him to catch Romney and reach the magic number of 1144.

Josh Putnam at FHQ:

FHQ has been saying since our Very Rough Estimate of the delegate counts a couple of weeks ago that Romney is the only candidate who has a chance to get there. But, of course, I have not yet shown my work. No, it isn’t mathematically impossible, but it would take either Gingrich or Santorum over-performing their established level of support in the contests already in the history books to such an extent that it is all but mathematically impossible. Santorum, for instance, has averaged 24.2% of the vote in all the contests. Since (and including) his February 7 sweep, he is averaging 34.7% of the vote. That is an improvement, but it is not nearly enough to get the former Pennsylvania senator within range of the 1144 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination.

FHQ has modified that original model and put together a spreadsheet that not only better captures the rules in each state, but also allows for a constant level of support across all upcoming contests to be to be plugged in. Let’s begin by assuming that Santorum enters with 19 delegates and project a 50% level of support across all the remaining contests with bound delegates. This 50% would apply to not only the statewide vote but the congressional district votes as well. In other words, this would trigger a winner-take-all allocation of delegates in most states that have the conditional winner-take-all/proportional rules hinging on a candidate receiving a majority of the vote.

This is extremely generous. It assumes that candidate X would win nearly all the delegates in states that were not already directly proportional. Less generously, this does not count, like the previous version of this exercise, caucus states with unbound delegates (see Iowa, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, etc.) nor automatic delegates who have yet to endorse.

Where does that leave Santorum? 1075 delegates.

But hold on. What if we add another layer to this by accounting for the thresholds for receiving delegates in the various states (typically 15% or 20%)? This would have the impact of reallocating delegates of those under the threshold in proportional environments to those candidates over the threshold. That would mean more delegates. If we set the number of candidates over the threshold to its lowest value — 2 candidates in 20% threshold states and 3 in 15% threshold states1 — that maximizes the number of reallocated delegates.

Where does that leave Santorum? Again, this is assuming winner-take-all rules have been triggered in all the conditional states. It assumes that the likely bare minimum of candidates has crossed the thresholds to receive reallocated delegates. This is very generous.

1162 delegates. That’s cutting it awfully close.

One would think that Santorum will stay in the race at least until after the Missouri caucuses on March 24. Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all hold primaries prior to that date and he may want to test Josh’s best case scenario before calling it quits.

And Gingrich? It’s a vanity run now for the former speaker. If he stays in after Super Tuesday, it will be out of spite for Romney and as an ego stroking exercise. Once the math sinks in, however, the calls for him to step aside will increase from party leaders.

Love him or hate him, Romney appears to be on a clear path to the nomination.

By: Rick Moran at 10:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/5/2012
Putin for Life?
CATEGORY: FrontPage.Com

My latest is up at FPM and I cover the Russian presidential elections held yesterday.

Putin’s victory has come at a huge cost. It is sure to energize the growing opposition to his rule that has seen tens of thousands of Russians turn out for demonstrations in the dead of winter. There will also be a price to pay with regards to the steadily deteriorating relations with the United States. The US has strongly criticized the Russian government for its intransigence at the UN regarding the Syrian revolt, as well as openly siding with the protestors who are bitter over what is widely seen as a stolen parliamentary election last year.

In a victory speech on Sunday night, Putin addressed a large throng in Manezh square outside the Kremlin and, as his eyes brimmed with tears, proclaimed, “I promised that we would win and we have won! We have won in an open and honest struggle.”

Most independent and opposition election observers would vehemently disagree. The many charges of vote fraud include:

“Carousel voting” where large groups of voters go from polling place to polling place to cast several ballots.

“Centralized voting” where managers of factories, schools, hospitals, and other large organizations pressure employees to vote for a candidate. Ballots are sometimes collected at the workplace.

• The Guardian reports “Two women hover over a ballot box in the industrial Russian city of Cherepovets, stuffing in ballot after ballot.”

As usual, the Caucasus vote was nearly 100% for Putin and United Russia.

• Videos from various parts of the country showed numerous other cases of ballot stuffing. The independent election monitoring group Golos reports 5,000 complaints of irregularities and fraud in the vote.

“Russia has no legitimate government or legitimate president,” opposition leader Alexey Navalny said. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said the election was “illegitimate, unfair and intransparent.”

But Putin defiantly told the cheering crowd of supporters that “this was not only the election of president of Russia, this was a very important test for all of us, for our entire people. This was a test for political maturity, for independence.”

Protestors are planning massive rallies in Moscow and other major cities beginning Monday. Putin has warned that “unsanctioned” protests will be dealt with harshly. Moscow police — 35,000 will be on the streets on Monday — have called up 6,500 reserves and plans a show of force to prevent independent groups — angry at protest organizers who have scheduled a sanctioned demonstration far from the Kremlin — from marching to Manezh Square and pitching tents, imitating the “Occupy” movements in various western countries. A popular anti-Putin blogger has vowed to lead the unsanctioned protest, saying, “People need to go out on the streets and not leave until their demands are met.”

I ask later in the article why did Putin feel the need to cheat? Pre-election polls had him winning a huge victory with more than 55% of the vote.

Is it a problem with self esteem? Insecurity? The guy has pulled some crazy and bizarre stunts over the years. Remember when he walked up to a young boy, raised his shirt, and kissed him on his bare stomach? He is often seen shirtless and performing some kind of manly act.

He always looks ill at ease too. I would say Vladimir Putin is a man who is not comfortable in his own skin and needs constant reassurance. Hence, pulling off fraudulent elections that raise his margin of victory.

No matter. We’re stuck with him for 6 more years - at least.

By: Rick Moran at 10:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/4/2012
Cats Rule the Internet. But Why?
CATEGORY: Blogging

Since it’s Sunday, how about a little non-political distraction? Besides, I love cats and any opportunity that presents itself where I can tweak dog owners a bit is welcome.

In an article by a young intern at The New Republic, Perry Stein writes about the fact that posting cat pictures or writing about cats will bring more readers and links than writing about dogs. But why is that?

But the reason that cats have catapulted to cyber-fame isn’t purely biological: There are social factors at play as well. Steve Dale, a cat behavior consultant and pet journalist, told me that cat aficionados have been particularly drawn to the Internet because they lack other public safety valves where they can express their affection. “In the world of cats, there is no dog park,” Dale says. “For cat owners, the dog park is the Internet.”

Indeed, the Internet isn’t only a high-volume marketplace of cat memes-it’s also home to very intense communities of cat owners, who gather to share stories and seek answer about their pets. Mieshelle Nagelschneider, author of Random House’s forthcoming book Cat Whisperer, said that cat owners, have taken to the Internet as a means to actively, and collectively, reverse the stigma attached to them: Cat owners have long felt that they don’t get the respect of their counterparts who have dogs, even though there are more domesticated felines (a total of 86 million, according to the Humane Society) than canines. “I think the web has helped emerge this undiscovered beachfront property, that is cat owners,” Nagelschneider says.

There may be more deep-seated psychological responses at play as well. Cats’ famously reserved and withholding personalities naturally seduce us into paying closer attention to them. And unlike humans and dogs, cats are not only natural predators-they are also prey, a reason why cats often appear reserved and stealthy. Cats’ inherent vulnerability, Orvell says, naturally solicits our sympathy, and even puts us in touch with our own mortality. “There’s a complex set of reactions to cats, and the videos bring that into play,” Orvell said.

Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. They are loyal, loving, smart, and wonderful companions whether you live alone or in a family setting.

Cats are otherworldly. Ultimately, I think that in the back of most cat lovers’ minds is the idea that their pet is an alien species, visiting earth for a while in order to capture and captivate us with their strange and wonderful antics. Their intensity, their grace and agility, their ability to shamelessly manipulate us — so unlike dogs, unlike any other animal on earth.

In Theodore H. White’s autobiography “America in Search of Itself,” the author relates his experience in the 1950’s when he worked for the old Collier’s magazine and was asked by management to investigate why the magazine was bleeding readership and going bankrupt.

White examined statistics that didn’t tell him what he was to find out later; that television was replacing the mass market magazines like Colliers,  Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, and other national news/feature publications that reined for 75 years as venues where advertisers could sell their wares to a national audience. But White found something I think is fascinating; if Colliers ran a cover that featured a cat, newstand sales soared by more than a million. If they featured a dog or puppy, sales dropped. Probably something akin to that phenomenon is at work on the internet.

Someone once asked me what cats are thinking about when they look you straight in the eye and stare. “Lunch” I answered. The Geico commercial about the couple who took in a black panther rather than spend the money on a home security system is revealing in this respect. The panther sits atop the dresser eying the couple lying wide awake in bed, terrified. His stare is both frightening and mesmerizing. Is part of that the fact that for 3 million years, hominids were one of the major food sources of the ancestors of cats? Are our brains hard wired to fear and worship the beasts?

In the end, cats are what they are and many of us - about 86 million - try not to think why.

Besides, I’d like to see a dog look as relaxed and unconcerned as my Lucky.

1-1

By: Rick Moran at 9:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

3/1/2012
Breitbart: Bomb Thrower, Fearless Advocate, Bane of the Hateful Left
CATEGORY: Blogging, Media, Politics

Andrew Breitbart, dead suddenly at the age of 43, was not my cup of tea. He was too strident, too much the serial exaggerator, and was far too emotional to argue logically or in a reasoned manner.

And yet, I wrote this at American Thinker this morning:

Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air that Andrew Breitbart was “our Merry Prankster”:

He was willing to take risks and look foolish in order to make a point or win an argument, with more courage than most would muster. No one who saw it will ever forget how he seized the podium at Anthony Weiner’s press conference and demanded vindication from media outlets who had been disparaging him and defending Weiner when the former Congressman got caught literally with his pants down. Few men have had the kind of impact Andrew did in such a short time, and he leaves behind a media empire that is still gaining strength.

Breitbart had a zest for political combat. He reveled in being a polarizing figure. He had a genius for getting the goat of the opposition and never apologized for his swashbuckling style of journalism.

In the ancient world, opposing kings preparing for war would send out their champions to engage in single combat, sometimes to decide the outcome of the conflict, more often to indicate which side God was on. Andrew Breitbart was a conservative champion. But instead of riding out to meet a single warrior, he gladly sallied forth - sometimes alone - to combat the entire left. Along the way, he picked up many allies - and made many enemies. Win or lose, it seemed that most of the time, God was indeed on his side.

But if “A man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies,” so, too can it be judged by his friends. Don’t listen to the prattling left today. Simply remember a man, made for his time, unique in his abilities, who left us for a far, far better place.

Technically speaking, Mr. Breitbart was not a “journalist” in what we might think of as the “traditional” sense. That’s fine. The entire point of Mr. Breitbart’s existence was to destroy “traditional” journalism, rightly seeing much of it as biased, shallow, manipulative, and elitist. Like the milieu in which he chose to operate — the internet — Breitbart’s websites were hit or miss operations. He could be as manipulative of images and copy as any mainstream journalist (The NAACP video was discretely edited to make the DoA employee look like a racist when in fact, her remarks were taken wildly — and deceitfully — out of context.)

But these tactics had been used by the mainstream media against the right for decades. And this poses the question of just what kind of journalist Breitbart was?

In the grand tradition of Tom Paine, Philip Freneau, Horace Greely, Hunter Thompson, and Gore Vidal, Breitbart was a master polemicist. His goal was not so much to inform, as it was to chastise the wicked. His advocacy for conservatives and conservative causes was carried out with a zestfulness and razor sharp humor that is often lacking on the right. In an age when most activists from both sides are dour-faced, bitter partisans, Breitbart brought a smile with his snarl. He endeared himself to many on the right for his unflinching, giving-as-good-as-he-got attitude toward the opposition. In short, he gave movement conservatives heart to persevere in the face of withering and usually unfair criticism from their adversaries.

There was nothing gentle about Breitbart in the public arena. He saw politics as a street fight where there were few rules and just about everything and everyone was fair game. Mudslinging, innuendo, character assassination, and exaggerated controversies were his stock in trade — just as it is for most of the left. While many of us bemoan the loss of civility and comity in politics and government, Breitbart didn’t care. If this is the way the game was to be played, to hell with trying to change it, he would go them one better. The difference between Breitbart and his enemies is that Andrew never made any pretense that he was playing by the rules, or seeking accommodation, or even trying to persuade. His opponents piously, and hypocritically criticized him for using exactly the same tactics that they themselves employed with as much relish as Breitbart enjoyed.

He lived his life and plied his trade without apologies - despite there being times when one should have been forthcoming. That, too, was part of the game. There weren’t any apologies coming from his opponents when he got something right or broke an important story that liberals would largely ignore. By that standard, Breitbart didn’t need to feel sorry or express regret. If the left was going to play the game by their own set of rules, Andrew would enthusiastically accept that challenge — and beat them anyway.

Breitbart’s legacy will be a more democratized political conversation. This is not a perfect good. Few things are. But it’s a damn sight better than what the media moguls, the establishmentarian pundits, and the elitist snobs created and zealously maintained for decades; a clubbish, narrow-minded, and out of touch press that deliberately suppressed viewpoints and personalities that failed to meet its means-test for permissible dialogue. The riot of voices and opinions unleashed by Breitbart on his 5 websites — and currently being eagerly copied by others — have blasted the ancien regime and changed the media forever.

For one so young to have accomplished so much in so short a time is a rare and wonderful thing, indeed.

By: Rick Moran at 11:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)