Friday, September 28, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Counting Chickens

A lot of Republicans have become alarmed in recent days, and a lot
of Democrats elated, by media and poll reports showing Barack
Obama with a growing lead in the presidential race. These reports,
and their conclusions are based almost entirely on poll results, most
of which are plainly (and transparently) overweighted with Democratic
voters (weighting based on 2008 turnout). There is no indication
whatsoever, even by the most optimistic partisan analysts that the turnout
in 2012 will resemble 2008. If anything, it is much more likely to resemble
2010 when the voter intensity was on the Republican side.

There is a double edge to the consequences of these faulty polls. The
intended consequence is to demoralize Republicans and conservatives,
and to stampede undecided and independent voters to the liberal side.
The unintended consequence, however, might be to make Democratic
voters overconfident and to diminish their energy in the remaining days
of the campaign.

As I have pointed out many times. pollsters can “play around” with the
numbers, either out of bias or ignorance, rather freely when the election
is many months or weeks away. Sheer self-interest and survival instincts
reduce this tendency, however, as the election itself approaches. No pollster
wants to be humiliated by being on the record with a ridiculous poll just
before the election.

I am speaking here of media polls, that is, polls that are conducted primarily
to be very public news events. There is another kind of polling going on
simultaneously by campaigns themselves, usually referred to as “internals,”
which are rarely reported, but which serve as guides for candidates and
their campaigns about how they are doing. These are much more expensive
polls, and are weighted very realistically. No campaign is going to pay a lot
of money for an internal poll that gives them a false picture.

There are many more polls, particularly state and national ones, in 2012
than in previous cycles. The all-important sample number varies widely.
The weighting (which is simply adjusting the raw results) of a poll sample
by party varies even more erratically. Many pollsters and their polls are paid
for a by a political party. It is clear that reporting poll numbers has become
part of the “warfare’ of a political campaign. In my opinion, few polls
should be taken very seriously because few polls are successfully trying to
avoid the bias that comes from bad weighting,  inappropriate technological
inquiry procedures (such as using only land-line telephones and not cell
phones), or from the statistical consequences of repeated sampling to get a

One of the few national polls which seems to be trying most fastidiously to
reach an accurate result is Rasmussen. Their methodology seems to be
the most energetic to avoid a distorted result. While Gallup and other national
polls are showing a 3-6 point margin for Obama currently, Rasmussen is
showing it be either an exact tie, or depending on the day, a one-point
margin for either Romney or Obama. These are simultaneous polls, so
someone is wrong.

Whether or not Mr Romney has fully “sold” his point of view to voters
can be debated, as can the impact of his “47%” video remarks, but there
has not yet been any real evidence presented that his campaign is “falling
behind.” It might be true, on election day, that he will fall short, and that
Mr Obama would be re-elected. Similarly, there is no real evidence yet that
the president’s campaign is certain to fail. The presidential debates are ahead,
and I suspect that they will be more significant than usual in this campaign
cycle. Voters already know Mr Obama, but many do not know Mr. Romney,
especially standing next to and confronting his opponent,

Finally, the current poll distortion, if it is that, offers a greater danger to the
Democrats than to the Republicans. With less than six weeks to go, a mood
of overconfidence, provoked by currently reported poll numbers, could easily
be transformed into utter panic for Democrats if, as election day approaches,
the polls are reversed favoring the Republicans. As any experienced political
observer will tell you, momentum is a huge force just before and on election

Every pollster, good or bad, will say that a poll is only “a snapshot in time.”
But there are snapshots, and there are snapshots! That is why good cameras
cost more than cheap ones.

No one should think this campaign is over, nor that it is in a final trend, nor
that the information they are receiving via polls is accurate. Much more lies
ahead, including most importantly, what we will see when the two presidential
candidates are in front of us together.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Old Media Revert To Their Infancy

When the American media were born, in the 18th and 19th
centuries, there was no presumption of objectivity, fairness or
even civility. Most of the early newspapers and magazines
(there were no other media in that era) were associated with
either one point of view or, later, when the party system emerged,
with one political party or another. By today’s standards, perhaps,
much of what was reported was subjectively described, usually
contrived, and often slanderous.

At the infancy of the U.S. republic, many of the top leaders,
virtually sanctified today as founding fathers, were subjected to
poisonous and deliberately false accusations. Stories were often
concocted by reporters. Speculation was rampant. (One mild
example from so many: A leading New York newspaper, during
the Civil War, reported an outrageous incident, and subheaded
the sensational headline with the notation, “INTERESTING IF

After the muckraking era at the turn of the 20th century, U.S.
media seemed to mature. With the advent of radio, then television,
the media seemed to prize objectivity as networks sought to
appeal to larger and savvier audiences.

In recent years, however, the old established media (the major TV
and radio networks, long-time news magazines and journals, aging
major newspapers) began to slide back into an earlier and less
trustworthy mode. Most of the Old Media have become distinctly
and unmistakeably leftist and sympathetic to the Democratic Party.
This is made unambiguously clear by nearly every survey of this
media and their product.

But the emergence, first of cable television, talk radio, and then of
the internet has provided a balancing effect, with more conservative
views and interpretations, likewise partisan (to the right), to very
large numbers of listeners, viewers and readers.

The 2012 national election campaign would seem seem to be the
apotheosis of this trend. The Old Media side mindlessly on the side
of Barack Obama and  the Democrats. In reaction, talk radio, many
websites, and numerous new print and internet venues are critical of
the incumbent administration, Mr. Obama, and of the values of this
newest Left.

We are long past even pretending that the media, Old and New, are
non-partisan. The Old Media go further. They pretend that events,
facts and statements that contradict their opinions can be totally
ignored. Most media polls, which of course are part of the media,
are deliberately distorted this year (sometimes by bias, other times
by ignorance). The political center has very few media outlets which
they can trust.

This is the state of our media affairs. No use complaining. It isn’t
going to change any time soon.

Perhaps the voters, through the elections themselves, will force a
new direction to the media.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Political Air Turbulence

It is no secret that the United States of America is holding its
presidential election in less than two months. In a world of many
hostile players, it is no secret at all. This nation, in spite of not a
few difficulties, remains the central player in the world economic,
military and political communities. The president of the United
States and his administration's policies are key factors in how other
nations, large and small, ally or enemy, behave.

For these reasons, it is not a surprise that so much happens in the
world just before an American election for president. The current
eruption of demonstrations and violence in Arab and other
countries against the United States is not accidental. An obscure
extremist video which has been available for more than a year, but
hardly anyone watched, is suddenly translated into Arabic and
shown on Middle East TV.  This was not a coincidence.

Individuals, groups, and foreign interests, most of whom have little
understanding of American society and its politics, traditionally use
the American campaign season to get some international attention
and somehow try to affect the election. What they say or do makes
sense from their perspective, but almost always fails to achieve their
desired affect because they do not really understand how America

Nevertheless, between now and the U.S. election day in early
November, expect a series of unexpected international events,
“unexpected” by most Americans, but they will not be “spontaneous”
or otherwise unplanned. They will have been, in most cases,,
premeditated and timed, to disrupt American public opinion and
conduct as the U.S. prepares to vote in its national elections.

The same is true on the domestic side of politics. The recent one-week
strike of teachers in Chicago was timed to put pressure on the mayor
of Chicago, a Democrat and confidante of President Obama. The
public showing of a months-old video intended to embarrass Mitt
Romney could have been released by the Obama campaign when it
happened. Instead, it was held to maximize its impact on the closing
weeks of the campaign. Likewise, the timing of Mr. Obama’s old
interview revealing his desire to “redistribute wealth” in America
was calculated to have impact now as the presidential campaign
reaches its most critical stages. It can be presumed that both
presidential campaigns have material "in the can" and ready to use as
both offense and defense resources in the "warfare" of a contemporary
national election. Items such as the last-minute revelation of
then-Governor George W. Bush' s old DWI incident in 2000 (which
did not change the outcome) have begun to emerge in 2012. There
will, almost certainly, be more of them.

The presidential debates begin on October 3. That is likely to be a key
moment in the 2012 election for president. The nation’s voters will see
and hear for the first time the two nominees side by side. Each of the
candidates brings strengths and weaknesses to this now-traditional and
momentous confrontation. Voters will compare the two performances,
and many of those who remain undecided will then make their choice.

The truest direction of voter opinion, and the polls which try to measure
it, in fact, might begin to take a meaningful shape when that evening is

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Foreign Policy Matters In 2012

It is a well-worn commonplace in U.S. presidential politics that foreign
policy does not matter much to voters in choosing their chief executive.
It is domestic policy which matters, we are told, and voters make their
electoral judgments on either the economic performance of a first-term
incumbent or when there is no incumbent, the performance of the party
in power.

Recent history confirms that this is generally correct, and most recently,
in 2008, it was certainly so, following two terms of President George W.
Bush, and the mortgage banking meltdown which occurred during the
final weeks of the presidential campaign. Republican nominee John
McCain that year clearly had superior foreign policy experience, but in
spite of much more experience in economic policy as well, seemed inept
in dealing with the sudden economic crisis. His opponent, Democrat
Barack Obama, had no visible experience in any governmental policy,
but all he needed to do was offer the prospects of new policy which he
skillfully did with his oratory and his slogan of “hope and change.”

We have a different kind of election in 2012. The incumbent this year
was the challenger in 2008. His economic record, simply put, is that after
almost four years, his policies have not solved the chronic problems of
unemployment, lack of economic growth and recovery which he
inherited. His one major domestic achievement, healthcare reform
(known as Obamacare) is unpopular, controversial and expensive in
terms of increasing national debt. Its unpopularity was a catalyst for
major Republican congressional victories in 2010.

Nevertheless, the campaign remains apparently close. Mr. Obama’s
Republican opponent this time, Mitt Romney, has both public and
private experience, the latter including an adult lifetime of successful
business management. Mr. Obama and his campaign team have
attempted to make Mr. Romney’s business experience controversial,
and have spent huge sums in campaign advertising doing so, but there is
no indication that they have been successful. On the other hand, Mr.
Romney has had little foreign policy experience.

In the recent flare-up in the Middle East, including assaults on our
embassies and consulates in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and many other
nations, President Obama’s reaction has seemed to many to be weak
and apologetic. He and his supporters see it differently, of course,
because Mr Obama has pursued a policy of trying to improve the
American public image with Arab countries since the beginning of
his term, a policy of apologizing for past U.S. policy while at the same
time keeping an arm’s length from our ally in the region, Israel. This
policy, right or wrong, has had consequences, but there was hope in
the Obama administration that their efforts were paying off with the
eruption of the so-called “Arab Spring” in which several Middle East
nations overthrew existing regimes for new ones.

Recent developments, however, signal that the Obama approach to the
Middle East is not working as intended. Demonstrations of
anti-American attitudes have taken the form of assaults on our
embassies and, in one tragic case, the assassination of our ambassador
to Libya and three of his colleagues. Efforts by the administration to
significantly improve diplomatic security in the Middle East by sending
in Marines have not been received well by host nations, and in at least
one instance, refused. At the same time, Mr. Obama and his
spokespersons have asserted that the demonstrations were not really
anti-American, something which is plainly not true.

Mr. Romney, after an initial criticism of the Obama Middle East policy,
has turned his attention to domestic issues. Like Mr. Obama in 2008,
he need not try to second-guess the crisis; after expressing his
disagreement, he can let the public make its own judgment if it wants
more of the same or  new “hope and change” in foreign policy under
his leadership.

The economy is still the number one matter on voters’ minds. The
election will be decided in states where economies have suffered in the
current downturn. But the fragile condition of U.S. foreign policy in
the face of international fiscal and military challenges has taken on a
new urgency. In 1952, it was former General Dwight Eisenhower who
won on the promise he would “go to Korea,” presumably to solve the
Truman policies of a prolonged Korean War.  President Eisenhower
seemed in command in the face of the Hungarian and Suez Canal
crises of 1956. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson was able to portray
his opponent Barry Goldwater as a foreign policy extremist in the
Cold War, but four years later, Richard Nixon made a comeback
exploiting the public dissatisfaction with Johnson’s policy in
Viet Nam. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won a last-minute landslide victory
against President Jimmy Carter whose policy to return U.S. hostages
in Iran was failing.

So foreign policy issues have a way of intruding on American presidential
politics, and the prolonged decline of U.S. status in the world, both
economically and militarily,  makes it likely this intrusion will occur in
2012 If Mr. Obama’s foreign policies are perceived as by voters
as failing, Mr. Romney ironically need not do anything more than
indicate he offers the “hope and change” of a different policy. He can
then concentrate in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign on the issues
of domestic policy and the economy which are foremost on the minds of

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



Political Stalemate or New
Direction in the Race for 2012 

is the new book by Barry Casselman,
The Prairie Editor

With essays by Barry Casselman, Kavon Nikrad,
Tom Ridge, Newt Gingrich, Michael Barone,
Ed Morrissey and Lanny Davis, this overview of the
2012 presidential and congressional elections serves
as a guide to this year's critical voting. Including an
appendix with the 2012 primary and caucus results,
biographies of the contestants, and analyses of
contested individual races, this provocative book
should provide one of the best reads of the current
campaign season.

For ordering information, go to:

Monday, September 3, 2012


[With two months ago before Election Day, 2012, The Prairie Editor
will provide, for their convenience and exclusive use, most of his
commentary and opinion posts directly to subscribers at their e-mail
addresses. These will include special bulletins as well as The Prairie
Editor's continually updated surveys of the competitive U.S. house
and senate races.

Anyone who wishes to become a subscriber to this website should
send a check for $45.00 (for one year) or $80.00 (for two years),
payable to "Barry Casselman" to the following address;

Barry Casselman
520 S.E. 5th Street - Suite 4
Minneapolis, MN 55414-1628

When subscribing, please put e-mail address on check.]