Monday, May 20, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: TV Debates Could Be The Key

As the date of the first Democratic presidential TV debate
approaches, it is becoming clear how this event might likely be key
to the initial sorting out by voters of the overlarge candidate field.

As now scheduled, the debate will take place in Florida on June 26
and 27 with as many as ten candidates on the stage for each night.

There are 24 “major” candidates now declared and actively
running, and most of them have, or will be, qualified for that
debate, resulting in some candidates being left off the stage even
if they have qualified.

Since  appearing in the first evening or the second evening of
debate, a certain unintended consequence will happen --- that is,
the chance impact of which candidates appear together.

What if, by the luck of the draw, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
appear the same night? Or if they appear on different nights?
What if Pete Buttigieg and Robert “Beto” O’Rourke are on he
same night? Or different nights? What if Kamal Harris and
Elizabeth Warren share the stage? Or don’t?  Which current
underdogs will appear on which night, and in what combinations?

These questions don’t cover all the factors of how the public will
respond to the debaters, but it is an important unpredictable
element --- because TV debates often work significantly in
the viewer perception of contrasts between the skills and
personalities of the participants.

As the DNC has ruled, the determination of who will appear
on which night will be by chance, not by standing in the polls or
money raised.

Debate skill and projection of personality will also be important
factors. But if chance also determines who appears on which night
of the second debate the following month, voter sentiment might
remain undefined, and the large field might be at least partly
preserved into the new year and the first primaries.

This is the crux of the big question now, a month before the first
debate, about the nature of the Democratic contest --- will the
nominee be determined early, or in the primaries, or at the
convention?

A consequential question is whether or not the timing of selecting
the Democratic nominee matters to the ultimate outcome in
November. That question is obviously open to debate, and cannot
be answered now.

But with the Democratic Party apparently so divided on policies
(if not ideology), the potential of the TV debates to create voter
attitudes and enthusiasm or opposition remains very high.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Food And Dining Out In 2019

[On occasion, as a special feature for The Prairie Editor subscribers, 
I invite the venerable food critic Leo Mezzrow to write a column on 
a culinary topic. This one is about the state of the restaurant business 
today, and where to dine out in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and its 
environs. While my readership is national and worldwide, a 
significant number of readers either live in the area now, once lived 
here, or visit this now booming restaurant community. So I hope 
readers find  the list useful. ------ THE PRAIRIE EDITOR]

SPECIAL FOOD COMMENTARY
by Leo Mezzrow

The restaurant business, like so many other aspects in our American
culture, is going through a great deal of change. Some of this change
is good, and some of it is not so good, and most of it is being driven
by technology and economics. Some of it is also affected by changing
dining public tastes which, like all aspects of public fashion, are brief
and easily altered. While technically national inflation is deemed low
by financial institutions, prices seems to be rising notably for those
who dine out --- caused primarily by rising labor and food costs. Chain
restaurants, both low and higher end, seem to be affected the most,
but it can also impact the small neighborhood ethnic restaurant. Other
factors include increasing local regulations and rising local taxes,
especially in large urban cities. In short, it is a tough business getting
tougher. Somehow, however, the quality level generally of  U.S.
restaurants, and the food they serve, continues to rise.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is taking place in the Twin
Cities of Minnesota where, in less than a decade the local food culture
has blossomed. The seeds of this were sown in the decades before by
innovative local restaurateurs and their young talented chefs. Most of
those pioneers are gone now, and there were relatively few of them,
but they deserve much credit for provoking rising expectations in the
dining out public, especially among the young who have grown the
”foodie” population to a significant size. Interest in “good” food and
dining out has always been strong in the largest U.S. cities, and
certain smaller cities such as New Orleans and San Francisco, but
cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul have come to the new
culinary party later.

Below is a list of my favorite newer Twin Cites restaurants (listed
alphabetically) with brief descriptions of their cuisines.  I have only
included those which I have visited. These are not food reviews,
and readers can do an internet search for addresses, phone numbers,
hours and days open, and menus. This list is current, but restaurants
do close, so  I recommend an internet search before going, Every
dining experience is unique, as are each diner's expectations, so I
can't guarantee the good time I have had. Prices will vary. Some
readers might also know other restaurants which are their favorites.

I will try to update this list on another occasion. Bon Apetit!

[NOTE: This list does not include my favorite area restaurants 
which are longer-established such as TILIA, 112 EATERY, 
GORKHA PALACE, BIG MARINA, BAR LA GRASSA, 
PENINSULA, M STREET CAFE, MANCINI’S, etc. More
about them another time.]

MINNEAPOLIS

BAD WAITRESS NORTHEAST (American)
CAFE ALMA (innovative American)
CENTRO (Mexican)
COSTA BRAVA (Spanish tapas)
ESKER GROVE (innovative continental)
GIULIA (upscale Italian)
HAI HAI (Asian fusion)
THE LYNHALL (innovative American)
POPOL VUH (innovative Asian)
TAVOLA (Italian)
TULIBEE (innovative Nordic)
MOMO SUSHI (Japanese/Tibetan)
P.S. STEAK (upscale continental steak  house)
TEA HOUSE SOUTHEAST WEEKEND BUFFET (Szechuan/Hunan)

ST. PAUL


BAR BRIGADE (French)
COMMODORE (Continental)
HOLMAN'S TABLE (American)
LOUIS AT COSSETTA (upscale Italian steak house)
PAJARITO (Mexican)

SUBURBS

BELLECOUR French)
LATITUDE 14 (innovative Asian)

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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is GOP Senate Control At Risk In 2020?

In addition to re-electing President Trump, retaining control of the
U.S. senate is critical to Republicans in the 2020 election cycle.

On paper, that control  is clearly at risk --- since more than twice as
many conservative seats than liberal seats are up for re-election, and
three of those GOP incumbents have already announced they are
not going to run again.

But paper is not reality, and only a few GOP seats are likely to have
serious contests in 2020. The seats of the three retiring GOP senators
are in heavily GOP states, as are most of the other GOP senators
running for re-election.

With A 53-47 current lead, the GOP can also afford to lose 1 or 2
net seats. Republican are already considered likely to take back a
set that was unexpectedly won by a Alabama Democrat in a 2018
special election when the Republican nominee was so controversial
that many Alabama conservative voters stayed home.

Two Republican incumbents are considered especially vulnerable
next year --- Arizona Senator Martha McSally and Colorado Senator
Corey Gardner --- but Democrats so far have been able to recruit a top
challenger only in Arizona (former astronaut Mark Kelly) In Colorado,
they have not yet done so.

In fact, in several contests strong potential Democratic challengers
have not yet been recruited with a number of possible strong liberal
candidates either choosing to run for president or taking a pass
in 2020. These include Texas, Colorado, Georgia,  and North Carolina.
Republicans likewise have not yet recruited formidable challengers to
potentially vulnerable liberal incumbents in Michigan and Minnesota
--- although there is at least one strong GOP potential candidate in
each of these states.

One Democratic incumbent senator, Tom Udall of New Mexico, is
also retiring, but like his retiring GOP colleagues, his is likely to 
remain a safe seat for his party.

The basic environment of the 2020 battle for control of the U.S.
senate has been known for some time. but Democratic prospects
for this contest, as well as the one for the White House have until
recently appeared to be favorable.  For the present, however, the
historically large (and likely unwieldy) number of Democratic
presidential candidates, and a weak recruitment of Democratic
senate challengers has clouded that optimism.

The growing difficulty in the U.S. senate races is that time is running
out. The nature of a U.S.senate race today, especially in states of even
modest size, requires almost all challengers to either raise a lot of
money early or be able to self-fund with considerable resources. There
are exceptions such as the 2018 Utah senate candidacy of Mitt Romney
to succeed retiring Senator Orren Hatch. But even the exceedingly
well-known Romney was running in a very conservative state, and was
in a position to self-fund if he had to do so

Control of the U.S. house in 2020 remains a complicated matter.
Democrats must defend a large number of seats they won in 2018 by
relatively small margins, several of them in districts won by Donald
Trump in 2016. Court-ordered redistricting continues to favor
Democrats, and their surprising strength among suburban women
in 2018 might continue in 2020. On the other hand, President Trump
was not on the ballot in 2018, and the booming economy with
historically low unemployment (particularly among blacks and
Hispanics) had not been as realized then as it is now --- at least  for
the time being. In 2018, Democrats did an excellent job of recruiting
challengers. In 2020, the onus of  this task falls to the Republicans.
Unlike senate races, candidates for the U.S. house have more time,
in most cases, to enter a race. For these and other reasons, a useful
assessment of the the battle for U.S. house control needs to wait for
more time to pass.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Another Day, Another Democrat Running For President

Until the Democratic TV presidential debates begin in late June,
the most notable political news appears to be the seemingly endless
announcements of candidacies of Democrats with ostensibly
serious credentials. After the entrance into the race by former
Vice President Joe Biden (at gate number 21), it might have been
supposed to be the end of it, but already we have two more,
including Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, and the prospects of
several more. Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Bill Di Blasio of New
York are signaling their interest, as is Steve Bullock of Montana.
Andrew Cuomo of New York is writing op eds laden with hints.
Friends of Michelle Obama say the former first lady cannot be ruled
out. Given the sudden rise of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who
knows what other obscure urban mayors or state legislators are
dreaming of instant 2020 political celebrity.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) now says the first two
debates will have no more than twenty participants, ten on successive
days, in each. It set rather low bars for qualification. Seventeen have
already qualified, two are almost qualified, and each of the remaining,
including all those still unannounced, would probably qualify by the
deadline two weeks before the first debate.

As I wrote previously, the DNC has tied its own hands by declaring a
boycott of the Fox network (for being too conservative), and thus
provides candidates excluded from the debates, and even those included
but low in the polls, with an incentive to remain in the race past their
otherwise normal shelf life --- resulting potentially with an excessively
large number of candidates on the Democratic state primary ballots.
If the latter occurs, the risk is that no candidate will have enough
delegates to secure the nomination before the July, 2020 Democratic
national convention in Milwaukee --- and that a bitter battle there
might split or dishearten the party’s already fractious voter base.

Some might argue that  a contested Democratic convention, which
hasn’t happened for more than 70 years, would give the liberal party
much needed TV coverage and inspire voter interest, but the record
shows that large divided Democratic fields in conventions of 1920
(44 ballots) and 1924 (103 ballots) produced losing tickets in
November against the Republican nominees. Moreover, no party
nomination field has ever been as large as the one for the 2020
Democratic contest.

Conventional wisdom, furthermore, has been mostly wrong so far in
the 2020 cycle. Bernie Sanders, the upstart of 2016, was said not to be
able to hold on to his base, Joe Biden was said likely to fade after he
formally announced. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke was said to be the
“charisma” candidate. A small-city mayor (Pete Buttigieg) was said
to have no chance to gain traction. More radical candidates (Elizabeth
Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker), it was said, would do well in
initial polls.

The current cycle, however, is taking several contrarian turns, with
Sanders and Biden showing resilient voter appeal, Buttigieg stealing
the charisma “show” from O’Rourke, and more radical candidates
(other than Sanders) trailing in the early polls. Some preoccupation
with impeaching President Trump also is not resonating with most
of the liberal party base, nor is much of the issues lurch to the left.

I have previously pointed out that President Trump has serious
problems for his re-election, particularly in the all-important
electoral college, including the rust belt states he won (Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin)  and southern states he won (North
Carolina and Florida). I said he had few prospects of picking up states
he had  lost in 2016. Now, only a few months later, his prospects have
improved in most of the states he narrowly won in 2016 (particularly
Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida), and he has new
opportunities in some states he lost (Virginia, Nevada and Minnesota).

Most polls show Mr. Trump below 45% approval and above 50%
disapproval. Virtually all of the polls, however, are composed of
“eligible” voters or “registered” voters. The major poll which is
composed of “likely” voters shows Mr. Trump at about 50% approval
(currently at 50-47% approve). Polls of likely voters are usually much
more accurate. The establishment media is embracing the former,
and dismisses the latter. (Of course, they were certain Hillary Clinton
would win in 2016.)

Current conditions could easily change, Sanders and/or Biden could
fade. O’Rourke or Harris or another candidate or two could suddenly
catch on. The debates could change the whole picture of the contest.
Disclosures could force a candidate to withdraw. News, domestic or
international, could change the political environment. Trump could
lose some of his support.

But until now, conventional wisdom and establishment media
speculating don’t seem to be working.

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Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.