Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Mitt Romney made his first foreign trip since becoming the 2012
Republican nominee-presumptive for president. As with so many trips
of its kind before it, including a similar one by nominee Barack Obama
in 2008, it was designed both to show off Mr. Romney's foreign policy
skills and to have appeal to ethnic constituencies in the U.S.

How did he do?

In baseball terms, in three at bats, he got two hits. His first at bat was in
Great Britain, our oldest and historically strongest European ally. It
coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games in London. Since Mr.
Romney had been in charge of the Games almost two decades before, it
seemed an appropriate time and place, but if the truth be told, the former
Massachusetts governor flubbed it by implying that his hosts did not have
their act totally together. Was it hubris about his own (and genuine)
expertise on the subject, or just insensitive inexperience? Whether one of
those or both, it was a mistake, and it cost him intensely bad press for the
visit and overshadowed his later private visit with British Prime Minister
Cameron, and Romney's subsequent public statement that he would
welcome back the small bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office if
he were elected (President Obama had returned it to the British earlier)
In sum, Mr. Romney fouled out over the right field line.

The next leg of his visit was to Israel where Mr. Romney seemed to score
one success after another, emphatically stating his support for our ally
Israel, and identifying with the anxieties facing the Jewish state. He declared
that Jerusalem was the true capital of Israel (the U.S. currently has its embassy
in Tel Aviv), and although he met with the Palestinian prime minister as well
as with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he left no doubt where his political
sympathies lay. In spite of the U.S. Anglo-Saxon heritage, there is no real
"British" vote in the U.S., but there is a notable Jewish vote. Most American
Jews traditionally vote Democratic by a large margin; in fact, Mr. Obama
won 78% of the U.S. Jewish vote in 2008, but the president's share of this
vote, according to recent polls, has been slipping. Nontheless, Mr. Obama
will win the majority of this vote this year. Perhaps the real constituency Mr.
Romney was aiming at was the much larger U.S. Christian evangelical
group of voters, many of whom have become strong supporters of Israel in
the Middle East crisis. As a Mormon, Mr. Romney did not do especially well
with this group during the primaries. His Israeli visit could do nothing but
improve Mr Romney's standing with evangelicals. Bottom line, Mr. Romney
hit a home run over the center field fence.

The third leg of Mitt Romney's travel across the Pond perhaps received the
least attention from the media and political observers, but may have the most
political impact back home. Visiting Poland, recently liberated from communism
and the Soviet Union, he was welcomed by one of our newest allies, albeit one
that may have felt slighted by the Obama administration. Mr. Romney was
especially invited to Gdansk by Lech Walensa, the hero of Solidarity and the
Polish revolution that liberated Poland. There. Mr. Walensa effusively greeted
Mr. Romney and, for all intents and purposes, endorsed him. (Current leaders
of Solidarity, it should be noted, disagreed with Mr Walensa, citing Mr. Romney
as anti-union in the U.S.) From there, the former Massachusetts governor went
to the capital and met with the Polish president. There he paid special tribute to
the memory of Pope John Paul II who had played such an important role in
both the liberation of Poland and the overall defeat of the Soviet Union during
the Cold War. None of this could be lost on the very sizable (mostly Catholic)
Polish-American electorate in the U.S., many of whom live in the battleground
states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  Final tally, a triple to the left
field corner for Governor Romney.

Keeping with a long-standing U.S. tradition, Mr. Romney made no direct
criticism of President Obama during his trip, but his statements throughout
provided many stark contrasts with Mr Obama's actions and policies. In the
final scorecard for this election, foreign policy will almost certainly count less
than domestic economic policy. Supporters of President Obama understandably
focus on Mr. Romney's blunder in London, while supporters of Governor Romney
will understandably focus on his successes in Israel and Poland. In reality, it was
the introduction of Mitt Romney to the complex international stage.

If he is someone who learns from his experiences, as his 2012 primary/caucus
campaign indicated he did (from his unsuccessful 2008 effort), Mitt Romney
will benefit most personally from his British experience, however momentarily
unpleasant, on this visit. As Barack Obama learned in 2008, that is, being a senator
is not being a president, Mr. Romney has now has more evidence that being a
governor is not the same as working in the Oval Office.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 27, 2012


I hope my readers will permit me a bit of hometown pride when I single
out the phenomenon of Congressman Mike Kelly who represents the
3rd District of Pennsylvania (the largest city in the district is my hometown
of Erie).

Congressman Kelly has just delivered a speech of the floor of the U.S.
house of representatives decrying  the excess of government regulation
now coming out of Washington, DC, but it was no ordinary speech. With
his Irish-American passion and background as a successful businessman-
turned-citizen-congressman, Kelly ripped into the avalanche of liberal
regulatory fiats that is overwhelming American small businesses across
the nation. "Let the tide rise for all boats!" Mr. Kelly said at the conclusion
of his speech, and, in a rare action, many of his colleagues gave him a
standing ovation, punctuated by cheers of "U-S-A! U.S.A.!" (U.S. house
rule forbid applause and demonstrations such as this on the floor). Videos
of his speech have now gone viral across the nation, and virtually every
major conservative publication has taken note of it.

Who is Mike Kelly? He is, if you will, a successful car salesman from the
southern part of the district which previously had been represented by
Tom Ridge (later governor and then first secretary of the U.S. department
of homeland security) and Phil English (Ridge's successor and one of the
brightest men in Washington). Kelly himself had defeated a liberal
Democrat who had upset English in the liberal sweep of 2008, but had
voted for Obamacare and other legislation unpopular in this blue collar
Rust Belt district in northwestern Pennsylvania. With major figures such as
Ridge and English who had preceded him, Kelly might have, as is usual for
house freshmen, kept a low profile, but he has been an outspoken and
passionate opponent of many policy initiatives of the Obama administration,
particularly those which are perceived as anti-business.

I said that Mr. Kelly was a car salesman, Actually, he took over his father's
Chevrolet business and greatly expanded it. He did serve on the Butler city
council for a while, but came to Washington primarily as a businessman.
A few years ago, there were few of these in Washington, but my friend
Rudy Boschwitz , who had begun a very successful business in Minnesota,
started a trend four decades ago when he won a U.S. senate seat, and for two
terms continually articulated the value of business principles over federal
bureaucratic practices. Since that time, several other successful and
articulate business persons have come to Washington (Wisconsin Republican
Senator Ron Johnson and Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner  are two
examples), but in my opinion there are too few, especially in the current
political environment when regulatory fiats are clearly out of control.

Mr. Kelly, I am sure, simply spoke his mind the other day on the U.S. house
floor, and had no idea that he might touch a deep nerve in the body politic,
or that his speech might make him a celebrity, But he did, and it has.

(Twenty years ago, as I have already noted, another unknown congressman
from this "forgotten corner" of the Keystone State came from nowhere to
become a successful governor and later, a cabinet member and major national
figure in the War on Terror.)

Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is now considered by many as a
classic American play. I've come to realize that it is much over-rated and
a sentimental anti-capitalist screed, typical of many "serious" plays of
the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It echoes the leftist notion that the foundation of
democratic capitalism is somehow an empty ideal, and implies that a
paternalistic central government is a better way. That sentiment has been
revived with much fervor in Washington today by an administration that
employs class warfare as a weapon.

Perhaps Mike Kelly's impromptu words have somehow struck a
long-hibernating chord. The response to his speech would suggest that
it has. In any event, I think we will be hearing from him again.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


As a relatively unknown first-term U.S. senator, Barack Obama entered the
2008 Democratic presidential nomination contest as a clear underdog
challenger to frontrunner U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, the former first lady
during her husband's eight-year administration.

Mrs. Clinton had the nomination all-but-locked-up going into the Iowa
caucus, and even though she lost there to Mr. Obama, the nomination was
still likely to be hers if she competed seriously in all the primaries and
caucuses. Overconfident, however, the Clinton campaign only contested the
primaries, ignoring the smaller caucus states, giving the Obama campaign
the opportunity to accumulate a sizable number of delegates before the later
primaries in larger states. To their credit, the Obama campaign skillfully did
just that, and grabbed the momentum that led them at the very end of the
nomination contest to a narrow victory. The Obama campaign, taking cue
from Howard Dean's innovative use of the internet for fundraising in 2004,
launched a grass-roots fundraising effort which culminated in their raising a
record amount for a presidential race. They raised so much money that they
declined the federal subsidy available to major party nominees, and at the
end, dwarfed the campaign spending of their opponent Republican U.S.
Senator John McCain who accepted federal funding.

Let us remember the political environment in September and October, 2008.
The incumbent Republican President George W. Bush, after two terms filled
with war and controversy, was very unpopular. The whole nation was
war-weary, and although Mr Bush had lowered taxes at the beginning of his
first term, he had also presided over a large increase in federal spending,
some if it of course for the war. Mr. McCain was a genuine war hero, but not
a particularly strong presidential candidate. Concerned with voter sentiment
about his age, and the unpopularity of the incumbent GOP president, he chose
the unknown Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Most of the
establishment print and broadcast media had become increasingly hostile to
the Republicans during the administration of George W. Bush, and by 2008,
were showing unambiguous bias against the GOP ticket, with particular
savagery to Mrs. Palin. Mr. Obama, who had his first national exposure as
keynoter to the 2004 Democratic convention, and had only a few terms as
a state legislator and partial term as U.S. senator in his resume, was not vetted
by the media which ignored the fact that most of the records of Mr. Obama's
political past had "disappeared."

In spite of all this, and particularly in spite of Mr. McCain's reluctance to make
his campaign a strong rebuttal of Mr. Obama's lack of experience, the GOP
ticket was ahead in the polls a few days before the historic crisis in the mortgage
banking sector appeared. This crisis was, of course, the last straw for many
independent and undecided voters, and Mr. Obama sailed to a decisive victory
in November. As happens with all presidential winners, the president-elect and
his campaign were hailed as "brilliant" strategists.

Now let us go forward to the present day.  After the initial holiday with voters,
President Obama's popularity soon declined below 50% where it has
remained for some time. With control of both houses of Congress, and the
ability to enact virtually any legislative program he wished, Mr. Obama and
his congressional allies decided to enact radical healthcare reform, bludgeoning
any opposition along their way. The result was, and is, the most unpopular
major legislation in recent history, and this was clearly demonstrated only two
years after he took office in the off-year national elections when Republicans
took back control of the U.S. house and made large gains in the U.S. senate.
Since 2010, the government has been essentially in stalemate.

Since Mitt Romney secured his party's presidential nomination in early May,
Mr. Obama and his campaign team have made, and continue to make, several
egregious political mistakes. Team Obama had bragged they would raise a
billion dollars for their re-election effort, but they are not only falling far short
of this goal, Mr. Romney, for the time being, is outraising them.

Instead of instinctively heading for the political center, and for independent
voters, where virtually all presidential elections are decided (indeed, it was in
this area that candidate Obama had succeeded so well in 2008), Mr. Obama
has veered sharply to the left, presumably to shore up his political base. But
that base, however unhappy they might be, was not going to vote for anyone
but Mr. Obama in November. Mr. Obama and his campaign also has attacked
Mr. Romney for his business background, but this so far has failed to change
many voters' minds. In fact, the emphasis on Mr. Romney's successful career
in the private sector may be unintentionally helping the GOP challenger with
independent voters who are unhappy with the Obama economic record of his
first term. Latest national polls indicate that a large majority of voters this year
have more confidence in Mr Romney than Mr. Obama in dealing with the

It would appear that the "political brilliance" of the 2008 Obama campaign
may have been an illusion. Mr. Axelrod, the president's top political adviser,
sounds increasingly like a nasty political hack, and less like a master
strategist. Mr. Obama goes from one major verbal and political gaffe to the
next. Democratic candidates for the U.S. house and senate are increasingly
putting distance between themselves and the presidential re-election effort.

I say all of this, and it's not a "pretty picture" if you're a Democrat, while I
acknowledge how difficult it is for an incumbent president to lose a re-election.
True, Jimmy Carter did it, and so did George H.W. Bush, but the political and
electoral advantages of an incumbent president are enormous. Considering
the resources Mr. Obama has had throughout most of his presidency, he should
be sailing to re-election. He might still do it, but the omens are not good.

However it turns out, the election of 2012 should be one for the books.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Book Intended To Be Better Than Expected

     Books by politicians who are running for president are usually
most notable for what they do not tell you. After all, the purpose
of these books is not genuine autobiography, nor even complete
biography. Their purpose is to convey an image of the author and
presidential wannabe so that the whole effort will serve to enhance
his or her campaign for the highest office in the nation.

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty’s contribution to this modern
American genre is, in most ways, no different from those of his
predecessors or current rivals. “Courage To Stand” (written in
2011) is short and panoramic in its sweep of the author’s
childhood and life in politics, and predictably selective in what
it chooses to tell us. This is not a criticism, of course, it is simply
the nature of presidential campaign autobiography. There are some
surprises, however, most notably Mr. Pawlenty’s frequent mention
of his religious beliefs and their role of in his adult life.

Those who know Mr. Pawlenty may be surprised by this because
he is not someone who usually publicly wears his religious beliefs
on his sleeve. It is well-known that he converted from Catholic to
evangelical Protestant soon after, and primarily because of, his
marriage to his wife Mary, but his public speeches, and at least
the private conversations I have observed over 20 years, do not more
than hint at his private religious feelings.

I don’t doubt that what he writes is sincere, but some skeptics might
suggest that he expressed it so often in his book because the first big
electoral test of the presidential campaign occurs in Iowa whose
Republicans are known for their conservative Protestant views.
Because he is from the adjoining state of Minnesota, expectations
were high he would do very well in Iowa, where in 2008 Mike
Huckabee won the caucus and Mitt Romney came in second.
Huckabee did not run this time, but Romney did.  Further
complicating Pawlenty’s chances in Iowa, so did Michele Bachmann,
Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. In the Iowa Straw Poll, a year
before the GOP national convention, Pawlenty campaigned all out,
and was beaten by Mrs. Bachmann. He almost immediately withdrew
from the presidential race, surprising even his closest advisors.

Not only did Pawlenty then quickly fade from national view, interest
in his autobiography became virtually nil. Almost a year later, however,
Pawlenty has reappeared on the national stage as a loyal surrogate
for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. In this role, also fulfilled
by several other Republicans, Pawlenty quickly became prominently
mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice. (In 2008, Pawlenty
also was a major contender to be John McCain’s running mate, and
was a finalist, only to have Mr. McCain ultimately choose Sarah Palin.)

As matters now stand, Tim Pawlenty has become the frontrunner  in
the speculation about Mitt Romney’s choice for a running mate.
According to reports, the Pawlenty family and the Romney family have
“bonded” in the course of these surrogate speaking appearances and
after several personal meetings. The rationale of a Pawlenty choice, it
turns out, can be gleaned from the former Minnesota governor’s
autobiography, so recently put on back shelves.

Pawlenty tells a classical midwestern story of rising from a working
class background, being the first in his family to go to college, and
employing his family values and circumstances to rise to be a conservative
governor in a state usually known as traditionally liberal, having put
Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and now, the liberal comedian Al
Franken, on the national political scene.

Pawlenty’s narrative centers around his childhood growing up in South
St. Paul, a suburban Twin City community whose main fame was because
it was the location of the largest stockyards. in the U.S. His story centers
on his relationships with family and neighbors here, including a traumatic
loss of his mother when he was only 10.

What emerges in Pawlenty’s account is a smart boy growing up in
ordinary circumstances surrounded by persons with small town
working class values. There is a gentlemanly and decent impression
Pawlenty the politician has always broadcast, and its origins fill the
pages of this short book.

It is the stark contrast between this story and the more dramatic and
afffluent details of Mitt Romney’s childhood as the son of a famous father,
that many are citing as reasons Pawlenty is a serious possibility for the vice
presidential nomination.

When “Courage To Stand” was written, it was meant to introduce a
little-known midwestern governor running for president to the voters
of his party. When he withdrew prematurely from the race, the book
inevitably faded from view.

It is only a matter of days or weeks before Mr. Romney will make his
choice known. If it is Mr. Pawlenty he chooses. I can safely predict that
the remainder copies of the Minnesotan’s autobiography will soon
be back in demand.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Friday, July 20, 2012


just been sent to the subscribers to THE PRAIRIE EDITOR directly to
their e-mail addresses. It takes on the conventional wisdom that the
presidential race is, and will continue to be, close until election day.

Non-subscribers who wish to read this and subsequent ADVISORIES
should read the subscription information below.]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Do We Really Know How The Presidential Race Is Going?

Virtually the entire public sense of the presidential race so far is based
on opinion polls. I have been critical of most of these polls, even some
of the most well-known ones, because of their highly subjective
"weighting" of raw data, their statistical inaccuracy and methods, and
the inherent inability of any objective assessment of them.

I realize that the rejoinder to my criticism of the dependence on polls
is: What is the alternative? Fair enough, if you are requiring some
pseudo-mathematical support for assessing who is ahead, who is behind,
and by how much.

I have long asserted that there are two kinds of polls which are genuinely
credible. First, most polls privately taken for candidates, and paid for by
them (usually at relatively high cost) are reasonably accurate. They often
do not reveal good news for their candidates, but that is not their purpose.
Their purpose is to instruct campaigns on how their candidates are doing
with voters and on specific issues. Private pollsters are usually
professionals, and know how to get reasonably accurate information from
their work --- at a price. They also know that if their work does not produce
accuracy, they will not be hired in the future.

Public polls, on the other hand, are often distorted by various factors of
economic cost, subjective judgments about how to "weigh" the raw data,
their size, and chronic ambiguities in how questions are asked. Most of
these polls are produced by media organizations or polling firms which
serve one political party or another, or one ideological view or another.

The second type of political polls which are usually credible are major
polls that are taken just before an election. This means polls done between
two days and one week before an election. No professional pollster could
last very long if their polls in this time frame were routinely very wrong.

The polls most of us read, or have access to, at this stage of a presidential
campaign fit neither of these conditions. The polls we do read have
relatively small samples, are weighted by wildly various assumptions
(including weighting how many Democrats, Republicans, and independents
to count from the raw data), are often worded so as to "tilt" the replies, and
face historically low numbers of responses from initially selected random
voters (a factor which distorts statistical accuracy significantly more than
most pollsters will admit to), and so far often do not distinguish between
"registered" and "likely' voters. I would contend that a poll of registered
voters is far less useful than one which uses "likely" voters.

Public polls so far indicate that the presidential race is very close.  It may
be, so but we have no real evidence, in my opinion, that it is close. More
importantly, we have no evidence at all that it WILL BE close in November.

The common sense statement that the election will be determined by how
voters will feel  about their own economic circumstances on election day,
or on the day they make up their mind who they will vote for, probably has
more validity than any other judgment about who will win and who will lose.
We are now coming up to having only 100 days until election day, but the
economy, unemployment, manufacturing and housing numbers remain
static, as they have virtually through the presidential administration of
President Obama.

If this continues, or is only slightly moderated, he will lose. If the economy
dramatically turns around to the upside, he will win. As we draw closer to
election day, the public polls will more and more resemble the private

Whether the reader likes it or not, public polls today tell hm or her relatively
little about how the presidential race is going (other than the obvious that
most Democrats will vote for Obama, and most Republicans will vote for
Romney). Even if the reader has access to the best private polls, they only
know something of current opinion.

A great deal of gamesmanship is now taking place, and will further intensify
after the national conventions.  The purpose, on both sides of course, is to
influence the result in November. There will be much of this, and events (now
unpredictable) will have impact no poll can predict.

I want to say one more time that there is only one preeminent question in the
presidential election of 2012:

"Does the majority of American voters, expressed through the electoral
college system established by the U.S.. constitution, want four more years
of Barack Obama, or not?

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 9, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Forgotten American Statesman

I recently attended a seminar on national security at the U.S. Army
War College in Carlisle, PA (about which I will write at another
time), and learned that the College was the creation of a former U.S.
secretary of war, Elihu Root.

The War College today is mostly known in the general public as the
place where America’s greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe, had attended
and began his legendary life in sports. It has served, however, as the
army’s graduate school for almost a century. Virtually every U.S.
general officer in this period has attended the College, or lectured

As for Mr. Root, his name is unknown to most Americans although
much of his work continues to influence national life today.

Born in Clinton, NY, Root was the child of a college teacher,
attended law school at New York University and began a practice of
mostly corporate law. His public life began when he was appointed
U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York by President
Chester Arthur. In 1899, Root was appointed Secretary of War by
President William McKinley, serving through 1904 under President
Theodore Roosevelt. Root reformed the War Department, enlarging
West Point, establishing  the War College and the General Staff. He
modernized many U.S. military procedures and institutions.He played
a key role in how the U.S. dealt with territories it had acquired in the
Spanish-American War, including creating the procedures that
returned Cuba to the Cubans, writing the charter of government for
the Philippines, and eliminating the tariffs on goods imported from
Puerto Rico.

He returned briefly to the practice of law, but President Roosevelt
appointed him secretary of state in 1905. As he had done as secretary
of war, Root immediately brought needed changes to the state
department, putting the consular service under civil service,
maintaining the Open Door policy in Asia, and advocating and
facilitating arbitration and peaceful resolutions to international disputes.

In 1909, he left the cabinet to run for the U.S senate from New York.
He quickly became a leading figure of the senate judiciary committee.
In 1912, he received the Nobel Prize for Peace. After one senate term,
he retired in 1915, returning to the law.

He opposed President Wilson’s neutrality policy as World War I broke
out in 1914, but supported the president after the U.S. joined the war
effort. In 1916, he received more than 100 votes on the first ballot for
the Republican nomination for president, but he declined to run further,
saying he was too old at 71. One year later, however, President Wilson
appointed him the head of the Root Commission to go to Russia just
after the overthrow of the tsar to arrange cooperation with the new
provisional government. Traveling extensively in revolutionary Russia,
Root was unimpressed with the new government which, only months
later, fell to a Soviet insurrection.

After World War I, Root supported the League of Nations, and served
on the commission of jurists which established the Permanent Court of
International Justice. In 1922, at the age of 77, President Warren
Harding appointed him the Washington Naval Conference (an
international conference on the limitations of armaments).

In 1918, he had been the founding chairman of the Council on Foreign
Relations. He was also the first president of the Carnegie Endowment for
Peace. He was a leading figure in the establishment of several other
organizations of international law and arbitration.

Elihu Root, by today’s standards defies easy categorization. He believed
in military preparedness, and in resisting aggression, but he created
institutions that advocated peaceful arbitration. He opposed artificial
build-ups of armaments, but supported military modernization and
organizational efficiency. He perceived the Russian provisional
government’s weakness, and fought against the interwar build-up of
military armaments, but he worked for world cooperation. For 50 years,
he was asked by the presidents of both parties to take up important tasks,
and to bring reforms to institutions, much of which survives to this day.

His most famous quote was “Men do not fail.....they give up trying.”

He is called one of the original “wise men” of Washington, a breed that
emerged at the turn of the century, but there seem fewer men or women
of this stature today. George Schultz comes to mind as one of the last of
this breed, wise in war and peace, but we have no truly recent Elihu Root.

Elihu Root belonged to the last century. He was one of the few who most
notably helped our nation grow from the previous century, our “pioneer”
century, to the century of American power and leadership in the world.

What we need today, and don’t seem to have (yet), are those. like him and
the others who were “wise” in our history, who will have the intelligence,
boldness, imagination and pragmatism that can lead us to adapt to this
new and uncertain century we find ourselves in.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 6, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The First Second-Guessing Season

After incessant speculation about who might be chosen for vice president,
the next most frequent media compulsion in the early stages of the
pre-Labor Day period of the November presidential campaign is to
second-guess the putative presidential nominee and his campaign team.
This custom applies to both parties, but this year the Democratic nominee
will be the incumbent president, so the first second-guessing, already begun,
is mostly about Mitt Romney.

For the most part, this public second-guessing is harmless, and it is always
possible that it might even contain some good ideas, but it is usually an
exercise in self-promotion or lobbying for some interest group or another.
After all, the winning nominee was only one of many competing candidates,
each of whom represented various party base constituencies. Now that the
nomination is settled, each constituency seeks some assurance that their
concerns will not be forgotten or ignored.

When members of Mr. Romney's team initially disagreed with the notion
that Obamacare was a tax (presumably because Romneycare, as a state
law, was not a federal issue, and thus was a "penalty"), a hue and cry arose
that the Romney campaign had blundered and failed to take advantage of
the obvious political opportunity the Supreme Court decision had given to
the opponents of President Obama. When Mr. Romney himself spoke up
about the issue, he reversed the comments of his team, and conceded that
Obamacare was indeed a tax (saying the Court decision, being the law of
the land, had made it so). Then a new hue and cry arose, saying Mr. Romney
was being a "flip-flopper" again. He had caved in, this criticism asserted, to
his party's grass roots which presumably wanted some "blood and guts" in
his reaction to the Supreme Court action.

In fact, Mr. Romney has said that his very first priority on January 20, 2013,
should he be elected, would be to repeal Obamacare. He has been unambiguous
and firm on this point throughout the nomination process.

No doubt, criticism of Mr. Romney and his campaign from fellow Republicans
will continue. Some of it might have merit, although usually the most effective
criticism is communicated privately. The criticism of Mr. Romney which will
come from Mr. Obama and his campaign is part of the normal and necessary

The presidential campaign of 2012 turns on whether the voters want to keep
Barack Obama  in the White House for four more years or not. Mr. Romney
and his team evidently understand this, and are understandably acting and
speaking in a manner not to change this equation, believing that on the merits
the voters want a new president. They will be critical of the president and his
administration, and of his policies, but they will strive to keep public attention
on Mr. Obama.

After Labor Day, when the autumn campaign will begin in earnest, and after
Mr. Romney will have chosen a vice presidential running mate, he and his
campaign team will follow a strategy that will seek to conclude with the
election of a new president. Mr. Obama and his team will follow a strategy of
their own, designed to re-elect the president. There will be three presidential
debates. The media will properly examine and evaluate these strategies in
the heat of the battle, and during the critical time period when most undecided
voters will make their choices.

The day after the votes are counted, and the result is in, there will be plenty
of time for a second round of second-guessing.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Europe Delays Its Day Of Reckoning --- Again!

Chancellor Merkel of Germany has been trying to assert some common sense
into the current European economic crisis by putting a halt to the bailout of
debt-laden Eurozone national economies. Up until now, of course, she has
willingly joined in on these practices, even as German voters, living in
Europe's strongest economy, have increasingly resented paying for the
continued bad fiscal practices of the other Eurozone nations which have
accelerated the crisis to begin with. These practices include the decades-long
accumulated costs of unsupportable national entitlements of shorter and
shorter work weeks, early retirements, growing pension fund liabilities,
indefinite unemployment benefits, rising national health care costs, recent
housing bubbles in some member nations, and, in some cases, chronic tax
avoidance. Germany's economy has its problems, too, but Germans feel they
work hard, pay their taxes, and try to manage their entitlement programs with
some restraint. German re-unification has been painful and expensive, and most
Germans, in their attitudes to the rest of Europe, have been sensitive to the fact
that, seventy years ago, a depraved German Nazi regime almost destroyed the
continent with unspeakable aggression, plunder and murder.

German guilt, and its sense of responsibility to its European neighbors,
however, has limits, and German voters, most of whom were not even born
during the infamous Nazi regime, are understandably beginning to wonder if
its unilateral burden will ever end.

The leaders of Italy and France essentially "blackmailed" Frau Merkel into
reversing her decision to stop the bailouts, and one more time, a stopgap
"plan" has been put into place to stave off the day of European reckoning.
A new and inexperienced conservative prime minister in Spain, and a
disappointingly weak conservative prime prime minister in Great Britain,
have gone along, having their own hands full with local economic problems.
Troubled economies in Greece and Portugal are doing nothing really to correct
their own problems.

Having begun various programs of austerity, European leaders are now being
pressured to reverse themselves to promote "growth." In this case, the word
"growth" is a euphemism for repeating the old policies which have caused
the continental economic crisis. Its assumption is the discredited notion that
an economy can spend its way out of its problems while, at the same time,
increasing taxes on the rich.

Lest I be accused of simply pointing an American finger at the Europeans in
their time of crisis, I need to cite the unfortunate role of the American president,
Barack Obama, who has pressured the Europeans to adopt the "growth"
approach and reject austerity. Mr. Obama, of course, practices in the U.S. what
he preaches for Europe, and the result has been a lagging economy, high
unemployment, slow growth and general pessimism about a recovery that
does not ever seem to arrive. Mr. Obama's motive is also informed by his belief
that if the "growth" band-aid is not applied, the troubles of the European
economy could hurt his own chances for re-election by further depressing
American trade with Eurozone member nations.

This saga seems to go on indefinitely. The U.S. and world stock markets go up
with each bailout, and back down when it is soon enough realized that only
delay has happened. The politicians seem helpless to move out of this pattern.
The European Union was created, in large part, without the consent of the
governed. Perhaps it will be the "governed" who will have to take the first steps
to put Europe, in whatever form it will eventually take, back on its feet.

Copyright (c) 2012 by barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Monday, July 2, 2012


As I have stated previously, the greatest suspense in the national elections of 2012, when we are in the closing days of the campaign in October, will likely
be in various close U.S. senate races. The mathematics of this cycle, with twice
as many Democrat incumbents up for re-election than Republicans, favors a
GOP takeover of the senate. While it seems almost certain that there will be a
Republican majority in the senate in 2013, the size of that majority, with four
months until election day, and not all the nominees yet determined, is up in the
political air.

There have been a number of retirements by long-term incumbents of both
parties, and in most of those cases, turnovers will result. Moderate GOP
Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine will probably be replaced by a centrist
independent who will organize with the Democrats, Angus King. Conservative
GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas will likely be replaced by someone
from her own party, but a primary has yet to determine whether the new senator
will be an establishment conservative or a Tea Party conservative.

In North Dakota, retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad probably will be
succeeded by Rick Berg, a Republican. In Hawaii, the retiring Democrat may
well be replaced by an upset winner, former Governor Linda Lingle, the most
successful Republican in the state's history. Retiring Democrat Herbert Kohl of
Wisconsin will also give way to a new GOP senator, although the nominee has
yet to be determined by an upcoming primary.

Two Republican incumbents, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada and Senator Scott
Brown of Massachusetts, are facing serious challenges, but it is my sense that
both will survive.

Survival is not likely, however, for Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill of
Missouri who currently trails each of her GOP potential opponents by double

Open seats that are now closely contested, in Arizona, New Mexico, and Virginia
are probably too close to call, but the open seat in Nebraska, now held by a
Democrat, will be won by a Republican in November, as will the unexpectedly
open seat (incumbent GOP Richard Lugar  lost his primary). Democrats could
win one or two of the open seats, but they already control two of them.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown now leads in the pivotal state
of Ohio, but his GOP opponent is a political phenomenon, Josh Mandel, whose
major drawback is not his actual youth, but his youthful appearance. I am virtually
alone among my pundit colleagues in predicting his win in November, but I am
sticking to it.

There is going to be a donnybrook in Montana where incumbent Democratic
Senator Jon Tester faces a very serious challenge from the state's only
congressman, Don Rehberg, a Republican.

In contrast, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson would seem to have edge in Florida
where his GOP opponent Congressman Connie Mack IV has not been impressive.
Incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow in Michigan currently has a big lead over
her Republican opponent Peter Hoekstra, but this state is particularly volatile this
cycle, and this race could be a "sleeper" (other "sleeper" races could take place in
Washington and Connecticut).

A cursory look at the math, now has Republicans with a likely net gain of five or
six, and a chance at a net gain of two or three more. If President Obama's
re-election falters badly, more Democratic-held seats could fall. With prospects
for Democratic gains in the U.S. house now thought to be no more than single
digits. the likelihood of the conservative-controlled both houses of Congress in
2013 is high.

It is, however, early July. Caveats must be uttered inasmuch as economic and
international events can theoretically change. On the other hand, 2012 seems
now much more likely to resemble the character of 2010 than of 2006 or 2008
when Democrats clearly had both the intensity and momentum on their side.
The political aftermath of the controversial Supreme Court decision on
Obamacare has unexpectedly revived the key issue for voters in 2010.

No matter what, I will be returning to the senate races frequently over the next
few months. As 2010 was the campaign year of the U.S. house, 2012, regardless
of who wins, will be the campaign year of the U.S. senate.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.