Tuesday, December 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Cautionary Advisory

Here is a cautionary advisory from The Prairie Editor:

The discussion about 2016 presidential politics taking place
now will not, one year from now when the contest will have
begun in earnest, much resemble the discussion we will be
having then.

Today the pundits and potential candidates are spinning their
wheels in public. In private, of course, serious maneuvering
is already taking place, especially in the retention of consultants,
advisers and other campaign operatives, as well as initial contact
with major donors and the preliminary organization plans and

First of all, we don’t know for sure who is running. Probably, we
know most of the candidates in both parties, but some of the
biggest names remain somewhat uncertain. Second, we don’t
know which candidates will have traction. Third, there are always
contenders who do much better than originally expected, and
those who do much worse. Fourth, surprises always happen
after the contest more formally begins, usually between Labor Day
the year before the election and New Year’s Day. Fifth, certain
late-breaking events, domestic and foreign, often can profoundly
shape the campaign season.

Only when the announced candidates are known, show their
political cards, begin their publicity campaigns, and appear in a
debate together, is the true chemistry of a presidential nomination
campaign visible. That is especially true since the 2012 cycle when
there were so many debates, as well as a number of late-entering
major candidates in the Republican contest. It has been said that
the two major parties will try to cut back the number of debates in
2016, but this will be easier said than done. This cycle, the contest
is open in both parties.

On the Democratic side, there is an early and seemingly
overwhelming favorite, Hillary Clinton, but she was similarly
dominant in 2007-08, before bring  upset by Barack Obama. In
2015, Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be mounting a growing
campaign to replace Mrs. Clinton, and former Senator James
Webb has now appeared for some serious media attention. Should
Mrs. Clinton surprise everyone by deciding not to run, the bats
would be cleared from the liberal belfry, and a donnybrook would
likely result. Serious candidates such as Governor Andrew Cuomo
of New York could then possibly get in the race with former
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, California Governor Jerry
Brown, Vice President Joe Biden and a parade of other wannabes.

The Republican contest is now an open field. Perhaps as many as
a dozen or more conservative candidates could enter the race,
including a few bats from their conservative belfry, but the early
primaries and caucuses should narrow their number quickly to
much fewer contenders.

By December, 2015, we will have long known whether or not Mitt
Romney decided for another run, whether or not Jeb Bush’s
surname is a help or hindrance, whether or not the New Jersey
bridge incident still hurts Chris Christie, and whether or not Rand
Paul is more than niche candidate. We will also know much more
certainly whether or not there will be severe Obama “fatigue,”
especially among independent voters.

Even then, the real campaign will lie ahead. Who knew or forecast
in December, 2011, for example, that the lead in the polls for the
Republican nomination would shift back and forth over the next
few months between at least six candidates, that as late as the week
after the South Carolina primary, New Gingrich might win, or that
at the very end, Rick Santorum would be the last contestant left to
battle against Mitt Romney?

The discussion today about the 2016 presidential election might
bear little resemblance to the reality only a year from now, but
it does serve a purpose. It’s like batting practice and pitcher
warm-up before a baseball game. We watch for little signs and
revelations about the conditions and techniques of the players.
It’s also fun just to watch.

But it’s not the game itself when a lot more is at stake, and the
unplanned occurrences and the unpredicted chemistry of actual
competition come into play.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 26, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: It's Not Going To Be Your Older Sibling's Washington, DC

We used to say it’s not your grandfather’s world, and then we
said it’s not your parent’s world, but so much is changing so
rapidly that now we have to say it’s not your older sibling’s

This will be especially true of Washington, DC which seems
to change its “atmosphere” appreciably every four to six years
or so, about the time difference between many oldest and
youngest siblings in a family. (Of course, this doesn’t work
literally if you're the oldest sister or brother, or you have no
siblings, but you get the idea.)

I’m not just referring to the changes of the party which controls
the White House.  Since January, 2009, there has been one
president, but control of the  Congress has varied. Nevertheless,
the political atmosphere has been essentially the same, i.e., the
Democrats in control and on offense, and the Republicans not in
control and usually on defense. Public policy has constantly, if
slowly, moved to the left, i.e., toward more and more federal
controls and regulation. Stalemate has occurred.

But it’s not just political. Washington sets the tone for much
media coverage, and in the past six years, under a Hollywood/
New York City bias to President Obama’s administration, for
much cultural tone as well.

More than the conservative landslide of 2014 will change
Washington, DC. The Old Liberal Media institutions of CBS,
NBC, ABC in radio and TV, the aging patrician newspapers of
the New York Times and the Washington Post, the cable TV
networks, and establishment of left wing Hollywood movies
and personalities have been in steep decline. (The recent
SONY movie debacle is only another marker of Hollywood’s
mediocrity and declining audiences.)

This does not mean necessarily that conservative institutions
will automatically or even effectively replace the liberal
institutions. The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard,
Fox News,  Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and a growing
number of centrist and conservative commentators, are
reaching larger and larger numbers of Americans, it is true.
More and more entertainment figures are expressing openly
conservative views, but they remain in the minority.
University faculty and administration establishments remain
on the radical far left.

Outside Washington, DC, the nation is much more balanced
politically and culturally, and this coincides with something I
and others have been writing about for some time, i.e., the
movement of increasing influence to individual states, new
demographic and technological communities.

This will make the next two years a very interesting period,
with the Old Culture trying very hard to regain its dominance,
and the New Culture trying just as hard to take control. Nor
will the labels “liberal” and “conservative” suffice to describe
the competing forces. Creative individuals and groups now
considered in traditional liberal/conservative paradigms will
almost certainly break out from previous patterns. Some
liberals, it will also be true, will become more and more radical;
some conservatives will become more and more reactionary, and
although they will undoubtedly flavor the competition, and
obtain not a few sensational headlines, they will not define or
shape the new atmosphere. (Nor will the series of recent “protest”
outbreaks, excessively publicized by the Old Media, but really
representing only very tiny groups of organized and disciplined
radicals who routinely try to take advantage of sensational
incidents as a way to influence unsuspecting majority groups
both on the center left and the center right.)

The bigger question is whether or not Washington, DC will
continue its current decline, and whether the "atmosphere" in the
nation’s capital will matter as much as it dud when our fathers
and mothers regarded it as the place where the various groups,
factions, parties and opinions in the country came together to
do the nation's business, to debate and then legislate.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Monday, December 22, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Congressional Interregnum

Only a few more days remain of the ancien regime of
congressional stalemate which has been stamped on the
past four years of the Obama administration in
Washington, DC. This stalemate, however, has not occurred
in most of the individual states where Republican governors
and legislatures (and some Democratic governors, too)
have pursued innovative and economically prudent policies.

The president’s sudden left turn in U.S. policy to Cuba, not
unlike his unilateral initiative on immigration policy, were
not exactly surprises, nor without the motive of distracting
public attention from the important changeover in the
U.S. Congress where the opposition party now has clear

There will be many changes after the first week of January
in the nation’s capital and capitol. The legislative agenda,
and all of its constitutional powers and prerogatives, will now
be in the hands of those who disagree with Obamacare,
expansion of bureaucracy, higher taxes and more regulatory
authority in the federal government. The president retains the
“bully pulpit,” but Congress now has unambiguous control
of the purse strings and the confirmation process.

The president had more the upper hand the past four years
with the Democratic control of the U.S. senate under the
autocratic hand of Harry Reid. Speaker John Boehner was
constantly at a strategic disadvantage as his party and his
colleagues were almost entirely shut out of federal policy
making. It will be fascinating to observe what both Mr.
Boehner and the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell have learned from their recent experiences in
dealing with Mr Obama.

The liberal Old Media makes much of the disagreements
about some policies within the Republican Party, especially
on immigration, Cuba, and healthcare, and that explains the
short-term strategy of Mr. Obama’s actions, hoping that
internal dissension will self-obstruct GOP opposition to the
larger liberal ambitions of creating a U.S. version of the
European welfare state.

Nice try, Barack, but I think John and Mitch have got your
number --- having obtained it through bitter experience over
the past six years.

Nevertheless, the Republican leadership will need to exhibit
very skillful leadership of its increasingly conservative
membership in the Congress. It’s not only a free country, but
conservatives seem to be more independent-minded than
their liberal colleagues, at least in the past several years. On the
other hand, there are several very bright and thoughtful members
of the liberal party in Washington, DC, who now should consider
themselves free of the whipping hands of Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi,
and if they exert themselves in the next two years, could do much
to bring their party back to the political center --- and thus possibly
to new victories in 2016 and beyond. Each party has its more
radical mavericks, for every Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
there is a Ted Cruz and a Rand Paul, but the business of the nation
mostly takes place in the center.

That is where the contest of the next two years, and then in the
election of 2016, will take place. It is in that arena where the next
president will be selected. In the current interregnum, Mr. Obama
seems less interested in what will follow him than in a personal
agenda. That’s understandable, but not necessarily helpful to his
own interests beginning in only a few more days.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Quick Notes - December, 2014

As we approach the new year, with a Republican-controlled
Congress, a cascade of announcements for president in
both parties (and some declines), new executive orders by
President Obama, oil probably at below $50 a barrel, new
machinations in the Middle East, and lots of surprises,
it’s time for a survey of some recent news stories.

JEB BUSH has now formally announced an exploratory
committee for president. In current polls, he is either the
leading Republican committee, or close to it. The cliche
about his surname being an obstacle to his becoming
Bush 45, now seems to be wrong. If he does run (more than a
50% chance of occurring), he will be one of the frontrunners.
With his Hispanic-American family (including his son
GEORGE P. BUSH, now a statewide elected officeholder in
Texas), a Jeb Bush candidacy would probably keep fellow
Floridian and U.S. Senator MARCO RUBIO out of the race.

HILLARY CLINTON continues to delay her public decision
about her candidacy for president. Although an overwhelming
frontrunner is all early polls, she has faced considerable
criticism from within her own party, and her poll numbers
have declined. A draft-ELIZABETH WARREN boomlet has
appeared from Mrs Clinton’s left, and Massachusetts Senator
Warren has been gathering strength in the polls, most of it
apparently in the Democratic Party’s most leftist base.
Although Vice President JOE BIDEN says he is considering the
race, his poll strength seems to be based on his name recognition
and little more. My old friend MIKE MCCURRY, formerly
President BILL CLINTON’s press secretary, has written a
suggestion that Mrs. Clinton be appointed to the U.S. Supreme
Court (should a vacancy occur in the next 18 months). Is this a
trial balloon? Who knows?

Perhaps the most extraordinary freshman class of new U.S.
senators in memory is about to enter the national scene in the
nation’s capital. BEN SASSE (Nebraska) and DAVID PERDUE
(Georgia) are replacing other Republican senators, and THOM
(Colorado), TOM COTTON (Arkansas), BILL CASSIDY (Louisiana)
STEPHEN DAINES (Montana), and MIKE ROUNDS (South Dakota)
are replacing Democrats, and thus have given the GOP control of
the new senate by a 54-46 margin. This exceptionally strong class
includes five former members of the U.S. house, a state speaker of
the house, a pig farmer/state senator, two active officers in the
military, a former governor, a physician, successful businessmen
and a conservative college president. The usual rules about senate
freshmen keeping quiet and a low profile might not apply to this
group. The new Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL
might have his hands full.

Rumors that former (2012) GOP presidential nominee MITT
ROMNEY might run again in 2016 continue to circulate, but now
that both JEB BUSH and New Jersey Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE
seem poised to run, this would seem to be much less likely. The
dark horse candidacy of DR. BEN CARSON, a black physician,
however seem to be the surprise at the early stage of the cycle,
as Dr. Carson, an outspoken and charismatic conservative,
shows up high in the polls despite being generally an unknown
national figure. The Republicans have a considerable number of
other big-name potential candidates, including the hard-charging
Senator RAND PAUL of Kentucky who was particularly active
helping candidates in 2012, including Majority Leader McConnell
who has virtually endorsed him.

Long-serving and highly popular Iowa Governor TERRY
BRANSTAD is leading an effort to scuttle the Iowa Straw Poll,
a fundraiser for the state Republican party and favorite event
of the national media, (but also a political graveyard for some
serious GOP presidential candidates --- most recently then-
Governor TIM PAWLENTY of Minnesota in 2012). This straw poll,
which traditionally takes place in the summer of the year before
the presidential election, has in recent years been the opening
salvo of the presidential campaign.

Prime Minister BINYAMIN (“Bibi”) NETANYAHU of Israel has
called for new elections, With its multiple parties in the Israeli
Knesset (parliament), the politics of the Jewish state are dizzying
in their permutations and complications, but few are betting
against the wily incumbent at this point.

Conservative and nationalist political parties and movements
are springing up and strengthening across the nations of the
European Union, most of it apparently provoked by the recent
immigration of workers from north Africa and former colonies.
Even Conservative Party Prime Minster DAVID CAMERON of
Great Britain is facing a strong challenge from a new party on
his right. Socialist Prime Minister FRANCOIS HOLLANDE of
France seems particularly endangered. 2015 could be a year of
considerable political change in Europe.

The decline in the price of oil is so far the biggest economic story
in the world, and the current price (about $55 a barrel) is
transforming economies, helping some (consumer nations) and
harming others (exporting nations). How far down the price of oil
will go is very uncertain, and it is likely to remain a very major
story in 2015. Economic columnist Robert Samuelson, one of the
savviest writers on the subject, says the fall in crude oil prices,
and subsequent lower prices at the pump, is a huge “windfall”
for consumers, and could help much of the world economy,
assuming consumers spend most of their fuel savings.

The Chinese economy appears to be in turmoil. As the now
largest economy in the world, its gyrations could have major
and hitherto unexpected impact across the globe.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Will Determine The 2016 GOP Nominee?

The discussion about who might be the 2016 Republican
nominee for president has begun, but it so far has
barely touched on the real ingredients of a successful

In fact, so far the discussion is overwhelmingly about the
personal ideology of the various possible contestants, and
how that ideology fits the current assessment of the GOP
electorate by whomever is conducting the discussion.

I suggest that this is exactly the wrong approach to the
question, and almost certain to lead to wrong conclusions.

First of all, here is my list of prerequisites for any serious
candidate in 2016:

A charismatic and likeable public personality, the ability
    to speak well, debate effectively, and generally think well
    on his or her feet, without making chronic gaffes.

A broad knowledge of U.S. public policy, critical national
    problems and issues; this probably gained from credible
    previous experience in government and/or business.

The instinct and the skill to remain on offense at all levels
     of campaigning and in all campaign circumstances.

Have as few personal controversies as possible, and to
     make the decision to put those vulnerabilities he or she
     does have out in public for airing as early as possible.

A national network of political organizers and staff at
    local and state levels. For those who have run before, such
    a network is probably already in place, and might be quite
    large. It might be much smaller for first-time presidential
    candidates, but needs to be structured to expand quickly
    and efficiently.

A fundraising  organization which either already has
    direct contact with major party funders, or can, if the
    candidate emerges as a major contender, make those
    contacts quickly. Further, a fundraising effort which does
    not use most of the funds to pay for the fundraising.

Close counsel and a working campaign team who think  
    creatively, can challenge the candidate, and organize the
    candidate’s campaign employing original strategies which
    take advantage of the contemporary (and not necessarily
    the historical) make-up of the electorate, the party’s voters
    and their concerns.

A political image which is enhanced by clearly stated
    public policy ideas and principles that separate the
    candidate from his or her competitors.

A public political personality which can appeal to voters
    of the majoritarian center of American politics.

The luck of being able to be the right person at the right
    time, and to have unanticipated developments break their

Obviously, no candidate is strong on all these points. Some
of these points have more weight than others. The candidate
and his campaign cannot control some of them The eventual
nominee, if he or she is to win the presidential election, will
fulfill more of these points than will his or her rivals, but the
combinations are not pre-established and predictable.

There will be a very large field initially for the Republican
nomination. Presumably, at this point, the Democratic field
will be smaller, and barring the unforeseen, not as competitive.
It would take a dramatic turn of events for Mrs. Clinton to be
denied her party’s nomination. Mrs. Clinton could surprise
everyone and choose not to run, or Senator Warren could emerge
as the 2016 Barack Obama, but neither of those now seem likely.

Some factors, in my opinion, are quite over-rated. National name
recognition clearly helps in early polls, but can quickly fade as the
contest begins in earnest. Family name, or the legacy factor, was
much demolished in the 2014 midterm elections (Senators Pryor,
Landrieu, Udall, Begich and candidate Nunn all lost in spite of
having popular family forebears). Although the Democrats had
much more money in 2008 and 2014, money was not the
determining factor in those elections.  Big-name endorsements are
always tempting for campaigns, but they actually do not usually
shift many votes at all.

Innovation is often a hallmark of a successful national campaign.
This goes back to at least the campaign of Abraham Lincoln, who
only months before the GOP convention which nominated him was
at the bottom of a list of nine, eight of whom were better known
than he was. Employing an unprecedented use of the media and
technology, and having networked in his party for years before,
Lincoln rose quickly. Roosevelt, Reagan, Clinton and Obama
also employed technological and other innovative strategies to
propel them to the presidency.

Presidential campaigns tend to focus on the lessons from the
previous cycle without thinking about new conditions and
factors in the new cycle.

Governor Chris Christie, having skillfully overcome a
potentially serious controversy in his home state of New Jersey,
got himself elected the chair of Republican Governors
Association, and spent the entire 2014 campaign raising money
and showing up to campaign for GOP governors across the
nation. The unexpected success of so many GOP gubernatorial
candidates in 2014 will pay enormous dividends for Mr. Christie
should he become a candidate. Senator Rand Paul also campaigned
strenuously for senate candidates across the country, including
vital support for his Kentucky colleague Mitch McConnell, now to
be the senate majority leader. Mr. McConnell, not considered to
be close ideologically to Mr. Paul, nevertheless has already
virtually endorsed him for president. Mr. Paul has also carefully
cultivated a broader image of his isolationist and libertarian

Much is now made, in both the liberal and conservative media,
about the difficulty for an “establishment” (translate as more
moderate) Republican figure to win the nomination in 2016.
This presupposes that ideology weighs more than the desire of
most Republican and independent voters of varying conservative
views to win back the presidency in 2016. I made this same point
before the 2014 election about more radical right wing challengers
to incumbents and other solid candidates in house and senate races.
The conservative grass roots wanted to win in 2014; and I suggest
they will also want to win equally or more so in 2016.

The 2016 primary and caucus system lies ahead. Early winners
in these events have advantages, but serious candidates who can
survive to the later series of primaries and caucuses can win
their party’s nomination.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Closing The 2014 Book

The massive wave election of 2014 in the U.S. senate races
was completed Saturday, December 6 when Republican Bill
Cassidy defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Mary
Landrieu by a landslide 12 points in a run-off in Louisiana.
That will give the GOP at least a 54-46 margin, and a gain
of 9 senate seats.

Two U.S. house seats had run-offs in Louisiana at the same
time, and Republicans won both of them, giving them a
246-188 margin in that body. One seat remains undecided,
in Arizona’s 2nd district where a Republican challenger leads
the Democratic incumbent by 161 votes before the recount.
That recount will be completed by December 17. The
Arizona secretary of state does not expect the recount to
change the leader, based on previous recounts. Should the
GOP candidate win, the 247-188 margin would be the largest
for the conservative party in many decades.

While political stalemate lies ahead, as it has existed since
the 2010 midterms when the GOP won back control of the
U.S. house, the ability of the “lame duck” President Obama
to control political and policy events will have been severely
curtailed by the loss of liberal control of the U.S. senate,
especially in terms of presidential appointments which must
be approved by the senate.

President Obama has so far indicated that his personal
political course has not been changed by the 2014 election,
but the combined GOP leadership in the Congress has many
cards to play over the next 18 months until the 2016
presidential and congressional election campaign begins.
House Speaker John Boehner especially has been through
four difficult years of his relationship with the White House,
and so far is indicating he will be, now joined by Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a formidable opponent.

Conventional wisdom has suggested that the upcoming
stalemate might ultimately benefit the Democratic nominee
for president (now presumed to be Hillary Clinton) in 2016,
but that also presumes that the majority of U.S. voters will
want the stalemate to continue past January 20, 2017 when a
new president is inaugurated. (The U.S. house almost certainly
will remain in GOP hands, and the large margin gained in 2014
in the U.S. senate makes it more problematic for the Democrats
to regain control of that body.)

The more the president now refuses to compromise with the
Republican Congress, the more difficult his final two years
will make it for the Democratic nominee of his party to
succeed him in 2017. The agenda of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi
administration was unambiguously rejected at the polls in
2014 in an election that was “nationalized” in large part by
President Obama himself.

On the other hand, the Republican legislators will need to be
skillful as the party in opposition. Some of their more radical
members could play into the hands of their liberal
opponents by trying to insist on unpopular or unwise courses
of action.

The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, also do not have a
likely presidential candidate. A competitive, and possibly
bitter, primary/caucus season lies ahead, beginning in January,
2016 (which is only a bit more than a year away). Candidates
do matter, as 2014 clearly demonstrated, and the GOP will
need to put forward a strong nominee in the next cycle.

Otherwise, their current advantages, especially the growing
fatigue with a Democratic president, could be lost. The
outcome in November, 2016 is still very much an open
question, and a book yet to be written.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Ten More Amazing Facts From History And Science You Probably Didn't Know About

      POLAND).  "Operation Hannibal"was the largest short-term
      military evacuation by sea in history, dwarfing the more
      celebrated British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. It rescued
      these ethnic Germans from advancing Soviet troops bent
      on revenge for the atrocities committed by the Nazi armies
      in Russia. However, once back in Germany, many of these
      refugees and soldiers were swept up in the chaos of the
      end of the war, and did not fare well.

      [Further reading: Death in the Baltic by Catherine J. Prince]
      In one of history’s cruelest ironies, Theresienstat
      became one of the most notorious concentration
      camps of the Holocaust of World War II --- the war
      and the Holocaust. having led directly from World
      War I. (An added irony is that Princip’s first name
      is Serbo-Croatian for the Hebrew name for “Gabriel”
      which means “”messenger of the Lord.”
      The Khazars were an Asian Turkic people who in
      the 4th century A.D. conquered the area north of
      the Black Sea, including the Crimean peninsula.
      Grown rich from taxing the silk caravans that
      passed through Khazar lands, the kingdom became
      powerful and very rich. In the 8th century, the king     
      and the Khazar elites converted to Judaism,
      although there are conflicting stories about why and
      how it happened. Jewish rule was relatively brief,
      but it is an amazing story considering the
      subsequent tragic history of the Jews in the same
      place a thousand years later.     
      HERITAGE. An ancient people who have lived in
      the area around the Carpathian Mountains in
      central Europe for the past thousand years, the
      Rusyn lands have been part of Russia, Ukraine,
      Austro-Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Romania.
      In 1919, after World War I, various Rusyn leaders
      traveled to the Versailles Conference in Paris to
      plead for their own nation, but were denied. Today,
      many of the 4 million Rusyns live in the U.S.

     [Further reading: The People From Nowhere by 
            Robert Magocsi]

      A GRASS. There are four kinds of true wild rice.
      The most well-known is native to the northern
      prairies, including especially northern Minnesota.
      Other varieties are native to eastern U.S., Texas
      and China, and varieties have been transplanted to
      California, but the primary commercial crop is
      from Minnesota.   
      AGENT.  Juan Pujols, known universally by the cover
      name “Garbo,” devised and implemented the
      greatest military deception in modern history by
      fooling Hitler and the German Wehrmacht to think
      the primary Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 would
      be at Calais and not at Normandy. Even three
      months after D-Day, “Garbo” persuaded the Nazis
      to hold vital divisions at Calais, waiting for an
      imaginary army invasion that did not come, and
      many consider Garbo’s efforts was a vital part of
      D-Day’s ultimate success.
      [Further reading: Agent Garbo by Steven Talty]

     GERMAN NOR ANY EUROPEAN. The first physicist 
     to do so was, ironically, the Japanese physicist
     Togutaru Hagiwara who revealed his discovery at
     lecture in Kyoto in May 1941, seven months before
     Pearl Harbor. Although the first H-bomb was not
     exploded until 1954, Hagiwara was also a pioneer
     in the theories which led to the first A-bomb
     exploded over Hiroshima in August, 1945’

     [Further reading: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by 
            Richard Rhodes]   

     OLD TESTAMENT. Although Hebrew and Arabic are
     today derived from it, it is still a living language for
     about two million Assyrians, a Christian people who
     live in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq where they have
     faced persecution for centuries. (A senior member of
     the U.S. house of representatives, Anna Eshoo of
     California, is the only Assyrian-American in
     COLLECTORS. His fabled collection included at
     least one of the most valuable coins ever issued by
     the U.S. Mint, the 1913 “Liberty” nickel (one sold for 
     $5 million in 2007) He also owned an “unofficial” 1933 
     U.S. gold double eagle that sold at auction for the highest
     price for any coin in history, $7.4 million.
     OUNCE. From 1933 until recently, the U.S. Mint did
     not issue gold coins, and they were not legal tender.
     Nevertheless, gold coins have been bought and sold
     on the collector’s market throughout the nation’s
     history. In 1971, the U.S. ended converting dollars
     into gold. At that time, common dates of twenty
     dollar gold pieces were routinely bought and sold
     for under $50 each (There was almost exactly one
     ounce of gold in those “double eagles”). When gold
     reached its all-time peak in 2011, those same gold
     pieces traded at about $1900 each. Today the price of
     gold is about $1200 per ounce. (Gold coins of all
     denominations which have numismatic value can
     exceed the official price by significant amounts --- as
     can be noted in the previous “amazing” fact of

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Age In The White House

There is now going to be an exhaustive discussion in the
media about the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
The discussion has already commenced, well before most
American voters have begun to think seriously about their
choices and preferences, but with the historic 2014 “wave”
election now history, and the prospect of no incumbent on
either party ticket in 2016, it is only natural that this political
conversation is underway.

I intend to explore several potential political themes for 2016,
and to try to anticipate, always an inexact exercise, what will
move voters most, not only in the presidential election, but
in the other major federal and state races as well.

We don’t know for certain who all the Democratic and
Republican contestants for the presidency will be, but with
the enormous organizational and financial requirements for
a successful candidacy, the time necessary to assemble this
kind of campaign organization, and less than two years
before the first caucuses and primaries, it becomes less and
less likely that a surprise late entry could emerge.

Initially, we can observe the obvious. The Democrats seem
poised to nominate Hillary Clinton, 67, if she decides to run
(and all signs point to that conclusion), but it is also probable
that she will have some initial opposition. Virtually all those
in her party, are, or will be in 2016, in their late 60s and in
their 70s. Does this pose a vital problem for the liberal party
which, in the recent past, has attracted the most younger
voters? In contrast, the Republican Party offers mostly
presidential candidates in their late 40s, 50s and early 60’s.

Individuals are quite varied in how they are affected by their
older years. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George
H.W. Bush had distinguished presidencies. But for the past
six presidential elections, Americans have preferred
younger  figures. Bill Clinton was 46 at the time of his election
in 1992, George W. Bush was 54, and Barack Obama was 47.
Prior to them, John F. Kennedy was 43 when elected, Richard
Nixon was 55, and Jimmy Carter was 52. Unlike many cultures
in Asia and elsewhere in the world, the U.S. has become a culture
which celebrates youth. Political organizations of both parties
are dominated by young men and women.

If Mitt Romney were to be the GOP nominee again in 2016,
there would be presumably no age issue. Both he and Mrs.
Clinton are the same age. If for some unexpected reason,
Mrs. Clinton chose not to run, virtually all of the other
Democratic candidates are older Americans.

I am not suggesting that age is the primary issue in 2016, but
I do think it plays an important role in the more subliminal
landscape of the next cycle. Mrs. Clinton’s primary attraction
to her party is that, if elected, she would become the first
woman president, and that seems clearly to be a more
important consideration for liberal voters. Mr. Obama was one
of the youngest men elected president, and he is currently not
very popular. In fact, he was the catalyst for the “wave” election
rejection of the Democrats in 2014. Richard Nixon and George
W. Bush were the only “young” GOP post-war presidents, and
they, too, ended their presidencies with low voter approval.

In 2014, the Republicans regained the U.S. senate with a
significant number of younger, fresh figures. The “boomer”
generation have for more than twenty years dominated
American politics, but a newer generation seems eager more
and more to take charge. It will be quite instructive to see
how this impulse plays out in the 2016 election cycle.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to the
international family of 
subscribers and readers of 
The Prairie Editor website.

A special salute to our U.S.
service men and women
around the world.

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Voters Who Don't Vote

I have written about this before, but there is always an
occasion when someone misuses the fact that a number of
eligible voters don’t actually cast a vote.

In this case, the misuse was by the president of the United
States who held a press conference after the November 4
election, and declared that while he heard the message
from the 36% of Americans who voted, he also heard the
message from the 64% who did not vote. This presumably
enables Mr. Obama to try to claim he and his policies were
not clearly rejected at the polls. as if the 64%  had a different
message in mind.

My notion is that there are always 100% of the voters in a
representative democracy who, one way or another, vote. I
am not saying, of course, there is a 100% turnout, but I am
saying, since voting in the U.S. is universal and voluntary,
the percentage of voters who don’t actually show up to vote
in reality are casting a vote to accept the winner, whomever
that turns out to be.

In other words, voters who choose not to cast a ballot are, in
effect, accepting the vote outcome by default. It might be the
most passive act a voter can make, but it is still a choice.

There used to be excuses made for and by voters who don’t
vote, including outright discrimination, illness, disability,
work conflict, etc., but today those impediments have been
all but eliminated. Absentee ballots are easily available, and
now often no excuse need be given to obtain one. Voting now
takes place over weeks, not just on one day. Some states
don’t even require voters to go to the polls --- they can mail in
their ballots. Same-day registration is available; minimal I.D.
requirements are made. In short, voting is now easier than
going to the grocery store.

The 2014 national midterm election was a nationalized vote
on Mr. Obama and his administration, just as the 2006 national
midterm election was a nationalized vote on George W. Bush
and his administration. Mr. Bush had the grace to admit that he
and his colleagues had received a “thumpin’,” and he moved on
to try to make his final two years as president the best he could.

Hopefully, Mr. Obama will now try to do the same.

U.S. voting patterns suggest a wide variance in turnout. More
voters understandably vote in presidential election years than in
midterm years, but turnout is essentially the domain of the
political parties and their candidates. From the point of view
of the the republic, however, the turnout is always 100%. It is
up to the individual voters whether or not they want their votes
to be counted.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Deluded Democrats Denying Defeat

It is obvious now that President Obama is attempting to
pretend that the voters did not reject him and his policies on
November 4. Is it self-deception or just another conscious
effort to try to make his words push past political reality?
It doesn’t matter. The defeat was not small by any
standard. It was not a small “wave.” Mr. Obama’s string
has run out.

The Old Media which promoted him, ignored his gaffes,
denied his failures, rationalized his constant amateurism,
and always praised him excessively, has begun to move on.
Even most of them find his denial too much to take.

But what about the rest of the Democratic Party? The
Democrats in the U.S. house of representatives have returned
Nancy Pelosi, herself a specialist in obvious political denial,
to her leadership position one more time. The Democrats in
the U.S. senate have voted to keep Harry Reid, the poster boy
villain in the voters’ eyes in 2014, to his leadership position.
So much for the message that voters clearly sent to
Washington, DC just a few days ago.

It was an awkward and transparent ploy for Senator Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana to co-sponsor a bill in the senate to pass
the Keystone Pipeline (she’s facing a run-off election on
December 5, and needed to show she had some influence in
her job), but even that fell short, although she had  every
GOP senator’s vote. The Pipeline is overwhelmingly supported
by most Americans, but most of her Democratic colleagues
failed to help her out.

Attention now naturally shifts to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run
for president in 2016. As the presumptive Democratic nominee,
it might be expected she would show some acknowledgment,
in some form or another, of the 2014 electoral results. So far
nothing, but she might yet do so. Meanwhile, pundits are
floating alternatives to her candidacy as a way to pass the time.
Some have suggested it could be Governor Jerry Brown, the
aging but persistent wannabe from California who will be 78
years old in 2016. Others have suggested Elizabeth Warren, a far
left figure who makes George McGovern seem like a right winger.
I myself have suggested Andrew Cuomo, a hothead who at least
has both experience and personality. But it’s probably going to
be Mrs. Clinton.

The Republicans have yet to play their cards. Many conservatives,
beaten down by the past six years, remain stubbornly skeptical
that their party can win back the White House, although many of
the liberal voting myths were shattered in 2014, and the GOP
leadership in Congress showed considerable skill and discipline
in the past year.

At the grass roots level, however, many thoughtful Democrats
were sobered by the 2014 election results. Contrary to the palaver
of their party leaders, they saw that many voters, especially the
vitally important independent voters, had enough of the
leftward shift of the Obama years, of the lack of transparency
in the U.S. senate and administration policy, and of the nasty
snobbery of liberal figures such as Jonathan Gruber. For these
grass roots Democrats, they see no truly serious alternative to
Mrs. Clinton (so they will vote for her), and they fear the next
election might be a final rejection of the aspirations and beliefs
they continue to have.

2014 was a wave election, but so was 2010. In 2012, however, the
Democrats recovered. The man who brought them back turned
out to be just another pied piper. With Mrs. Clinton’s party
ascendancy seemingly assured, media attention will now shift
significantly to the Republican  contest. It will be, as it was in
2011-12, a very large field of candidates, most of whom represent
factions of the party and cannot be elected. There are at least
three or four possible GOP figures, some of whom may not run,
who have the stature and the breadth to become president in 2016.
Their drama, and the melodrama of their supporting cast, will
now be played out in full sight and spectacle. At least one of
them presumably has no delusions about what happened in 2014.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 17, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Serious Liberal Alternative To Hillary Clinton?

When the subject of the “inevitability” of the Democratic
nomination for president going to Hillary Clinton in 2016,
those who dare to be negative to this proposition are always
and properly asked to name an alternative.

So far, the names put forward have little traction with
significant numbers of liberals and Democrats who make up
the majority of the party’s national base.

These names include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
who is much too far to the left, former Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but
himself, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer who is
too much of a Western populist, Virginia Senator Mark
Warner who barely survived  what was supposed to be an
easy re-election, and of course, Vice President Joe Biden who
is perhaps too old and too often a joke to seriously compete
with the former first lady, senator and secretary of state in the
Obama administration.

So who else is there?

There is just re-elected New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo is controversial and combative, as is Republican
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but especially if the GOP
nominee is Christie, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cuomo is former secretary of the Department of Housing and
Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, and by most
objective accounts, served well. He is also a former attorney
general of New York. He is somewhat of a fiscal moderate,
having introduced several prudent measures in state
government in Albany, including cutting state spending without
raising taxes.  He is, as might be expected from an east coast
Democratic politician, a social liberal. (In fact, his public
views in favor of abortion are on the radical side.)

Andrew Cuomo is an experienced government executive. Like
his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, he is
an outspoken and effective communicator. On occasion, his
bluntness has got him into political hot water.

He cannot, under the U.S. constitution, run for vice president
in 2016 if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee since she
is officially a resident of New York. (Only one resident of a state
can be on a national ticket.)

Many observers agree that if his father, then also the governor of
New York, had decided to run for president in 1992, Bill Clinton
might not have won the nomination. Mario Cuomo, however,
had no real drive for national office, either for the presidency or
for a seat on the U.S. supreme court (which was offered to him by
President Clinton). Andrew Cuomo does not seem to have any
such inhibitions.

He could not understandably allow his name to be considered
for the 2016 Democratic nomination while he was running for
re-election as governor of New York in 2014. Having won this
race decisively, he no longer is prevented from having his name
considered. It might be that he has no interest in the 2016 race,
realizing that any Democratic nominee will likely have an
uphill battle in the general election following the unpopular
Obama administration. He is relatively young at 56, and quite
able to wait until 2020 or 2024. He is divorced, has not remarried,
and has a reputation, as does Governor Christie, for playing
political hardball.

Recently, he and Governor Christie teamed up to declare that
travelers from Ebola-infected areas flying into New York or
New jersey could be quarantined for up to 21 days.

Mrs. Clinton’s “inevitable” campaign for president, however, is
not going well, nor has she held up well recently, traveling around
the country. She campaigned for twelve Democratic U.S. senate
candidates in 2014, and only one of them won. She is almost
100% nationally known, and she leads in most polls, but her
numbers were declining even before the midterm elections. The
Democratic Party brand has now been seriously diminished, and
the party, some might argue, needs a fresh face and voice if it
wants to have a chance to win in 2016.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What A Difference An Election Can Make

A sense of feckless national drift, many Americans felt,
seemed to be overtaking the U.S. prior to November 4,
littering the political countryside with the detritis of failing
programs, unsupportable policies, manipulated economic
statistics, unfulfillable expectations, and just plain wrong

On election day, a wave of rejection of these circumstances
came from the voters of America, and the nation began the
long process of clean up and redirection.

It would not be true to say that all of the debris of the past
several years, much of it from Mr. Obama, but some of it
from his predecessors of both parties, is gone. If the truth
be said aloud, many of the presumptions of both major
political parties have been shown not to be working well at
home and abroad alike.

That is why the most dynamic locations for policy innovation
and change today are not located in Washington, DC, but in
various states and state governments. In addition to the
rejection of the federal drift leftward the voters unmistakably
confirmed the efforts of conservative governors and legislatures
in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina,
Georgia, New Mexico , Kansas, Nebraska, and Nevada; and
brought in conservative leaders in Arkansas, Massachusetts,
Illinois, Texas and Maryland. They also seem quite satisfied
with innovative conservative governors not up for election this
year in Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota. Interestingly, the
only major GOP governor to lose re-election was Governor
Corbett of Pennsylvania who, unlike his many conservative
colleagues, failed to make innovations despite having a
legislature controlled by his party.

Conservatives are not the only elected officials being
challenged in the next two years. Liberal and moderate
Democrats who do not share the more radical views and
policies of President Obama,  and Democratic leaders
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have the opportunity to
bring their party back to the political center where it can
once again compete for a majority of voters.

Some commentators have called for an end to national
midterm elections. The vote just held demonstrates just
what a terrible idea that is. The way the American
representative democracy works, regular and periodic
evaluations of the performance of its representatives
must happen. In the pure democracy of ancient Athens,
the voice of the people was immediate and direct, but that
was the infancy of modern civilization with vastly smaller
numbers of citizens and lacking the subsequent two millenia
of the range, complexity and technology of the human species
now covering most of the planet.

The much repeated commonplace expressed in the days since
November 4 is that the Republicans, now in control of both
houses of Congress, must put forward proposals and
policies of their own to replace the rejected policies of the
current Democratic administration. But that is only half the
story of the conservative challenge. The other half is the ability
of GOP leaders and activists to rethink how to translate
their principles into new and specific forms of governing.
When Newt Gingrich and his colleagues set out their “Contract
With America” in 1994, they not only won a wave election,
they also reshaped national governing politics, even without
a president from their own party, for a generation.

Of course there will initially be an internal debate within the
Republican Party. There are some differing views about
priorities, methods, forms and rhetoric of the policies which
are needed to replace and reform the policies just rejected by
the voters. Let that debate take place, but it should be followed
by a clear, understandable and practical consensus of policies
if the conservative party wants to transform the voter rejection
of 2014 into voter affirmation for a Republican presidential
candidate and his or her congressional colleagues in 2016 and

Otherwise, the political roller coaster will continue to take the
nation back and forth, up and down, accumulating even more
political flotsam while the rest of the world, led by China, Japan,
Brazil and other nations, leaves the U.S. behind in its wake.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2014



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2014 And Its Consequences

The 2014 national midterm elections are concluded, and only
a few house races remain in doubt. The senate election in
Alaska has now been called for the Republican challenger
Dan Sullivan, and the run-off of the senate race in Louisiana
appears to be only a pro-forma one, with GOP challenger
Bill Cassidy almost certain to defeat incumbent Democrat
Mary Landrieu. That will make it a net gain of nine for the
conservative party, with comfortable margin of control for
the next two years.

The GOP also picked up a surprising number of U.S. house
seats to be added to their already existing majority. Their
net gains will be about 13-15. The larger majority could give
Speaker John Boehner some room to maneuver in the next term
as he and putative Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
try to position the Republican Party for the 2016 presidential

The 2014 elections did complete the realignment of U.S. state
politics to the conservative party. Not only did the GOP
successfully defend all of its innovative governors, they
surprisingly made a net gain in governors despite expectations
they would lose ground. Equally important, Republicans
increased their control of state legislatures. Gains were made
at the state level even in hyper-blue New York, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Maryland and Minnesota.

The question is: What impact will this wave election have on
the 2016 presidential election? The victory of a Republican
presidential candidate in 2016 would almost certainly result
in continued control of the Congress and the inevitability of
a conservative agenda for the nation for several years.

The wave election of 2010, won by the GOP, did not result in
the election of their presidential candidate in 2012, so it is
not automatic that 2014 will lead to victory for GOP in 2016.
But the circumstances of 2014-2016 are quite different from
2012-2014. Although the voter unpopularity of Obamacare
fueled the 2010 wave, the full impact of the leftward direction
of Democratic public policy was not evident until President
Obama’s second term.

The challenge for the Democrats, presumably under the
banner of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, is to
convince voters that the failures of the Obama years will not
be repeated. As John McCain discovered in 2008, however,
it is difficult to separate credibly from an unpopular
president and administration. As Mr. Obama's secretary of
state for four years, Mrs. Clinton will have a difficult task
to do this.

On the other hand, the Republicans, with the momentum of
2014 behind them, must transform voter negative attitudes
to liberal programs to positive attitudes to conservative
programs. This is much more difficult to accomplish than
it seems, but conservatives must remember that 2014 was
not an embrace of the GOP, but instead a rejection of the
Democrats in power.

Both parties have notable divisions, but at election time in
recent years, the Democrats have demonstrated the stronger
inclination to pull together. Tea Party conservatives,
libertarians and the so-called GOP establishment will surely
have a debate over the specifics of public policy in the next
two years, but at the 2016 convention they will need to
integrate their differences behind a strong candidate if they
want to regain the White House.

The good news for the GOP was that this process actually
worked in 2014. In primary after primary, conservative
voters selected their strongest nominee, and in those cases
when the malcontents ran as third party candidates, they
failed to prevent Republican victories. The bad news for the
GOP is that discordant voices will be even louder in 2016
as the party attempts to find a new national leader.

The huge money advantage the Democrats had in 2014 did
not make a critical difference in most final results, nor did
their much vaunted ground game, but that does not mean that
the liberals won’t regroup, revise and renovate their strategy in

It will take some time for the 2014 results fully to sink in.
Consequences we think we see now might be illusory as 2016
approaches. Personalities will certainly play a much greater
role than they do in a midterm election; after all, a new president
is going to be elected.

This is only the beginning of a long conversation.

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

Friday, November 7, 2014


The 2016 presidential election is now on the minds of
many Americans who pay close attention to politics, and
although there will be no incumbent president running in
2016, the Democratic nomination seems to have been
settled on Hillary Clinton, assuming that she runs.

The Republican nomination, however, seems to be a wide open
question right now, and even lacks a consensus frontrunner.

I  suggest that, once again, the most formidable contender for
the conservative party’s nomination is Governor Chris Christie
of New Jersey.

He had been a early favorite many months ago until a local
New Jersey scandal threatened to demolish any aspirations he
might have for higher office. The “scandal” itself was
“distasteful” and inexcusable, but any direct or even culpable
indirect role of the governor in the event turned out to be
non-existent. That this “scandal” was meant politically to derail
a very promising Republican national figure, however, became
obvious. Governor Christie’s handling of the allegations and
insinuations was something to behold. He, in effect, wrote a
new book in political crisis management.

He is no stranger to controversy. In the final days of the 2012
presidential campaign, after a hurricane devastated parts of
New Jersey, Christie welcomed and “embraced” President Obama
to the state at a time when the election outcome was in doubt.
Governor Christie needed presidential help to meet the serious
problems arising from the natural disaster, but he seemed
oblivious to political appearances. Many Republicans declared
they would subsequently not ever support Christie if he ran for
president. His poll numbers took a dive. “Sage” political
observers, political consultants and pundits alike, wrote and
rewrote his political obituary.

Employing his natural instinct to remain on offense, and his
remarkable speaking skills, Christie immediately faced the
public and the press after the New Jersey “bridge scandal”
with his side of the story. Damage had unquestionably been done,
but in subsequent months, employing his role as chair of the
Republican Governors Association (RGA), he demonstrated his
skills as a spokesman, inspiration and fundraiser for his party.

He had won re-election in New Jersey with 58% of the vote in spite
of the state being a very Democratic or “blue” state. After the
scandal, his poll numbers dropped precipitously. Today, they are
partially recovered, especially among Republicans.

Not only did he raise more money for gubernatorial campaigns in
2014, he raised more money than anyone had before. He campaigned
tirelessly for GOP gubernatorial candidates, both incumbents and
challengers, and everywhere he went he was enthusiastically
welcomed (unlike a certain incumbent president of the Untied
States). So much for his political obituary.

The biggest media story from the results of the 2014 national
midterm elections was the Republican takeover of the U.S. senate.
Perhaps the bigger political story, however, is the performance
of several GOP governors winning re-election against considerable
odds. There were many more incumbent Republican governorships
at stake in 2014, and virtually all observers predicted  Democratic
net gains even if there were a GOP wave in congressional races.
Governor Christie, as RGA chair, skillfully raised funds for GOP
gubernatorial races (significantly out-raising the Democrats), and
as the biggest Republican “star,” campaigned non-stop for virtually
all of his party’s gubernatorial candidates, many of whom were very
vulnerable in 2014. Most of them nevertheless won. As a result, he
can take some notable credit for the remarkable outcome, I think
it’s fair to say that Governor Christie was the biggest individual
winner of 2014, and he was not even on the ballot.

I am not yet predicting he will be the Republican nominee for
president in 2014, but after reviewing the many other known
hopefuls for that nomination, I feel safe to say that he is among the
two or three frontrunners for it, and perhaps already (again) the
man to beat.

He has obvious political handicaps to overcome before the 2016
GOP national convention. As a conservative governor from a liberal
state, some of his political views do not conform to party orthodoxy.
Some Republicans have not forgotten his “embrace” of Barack
Obama in 2012, and others remain skeptical about his role in the
recent scandal. “Perhaps he could win the general election,” some
go on to say, “but he cannot be nominated.”

The nomination process lies ahead, and how he might win that
prize is the challenge that faces him and his strategists, but I point
to the central strength of his candidacy: He is the only national
Republican figure who understands his party’s need to assume
the offense in national politics, and to take the risk of confronting
the liberal establishment of regulatory advocates, class warriors,
union leaders and other forces of liberal special interests. He is also
by far the national Republican personality with the most charisma.

He does have weaknesses and shortcomings, and these might yet
keep him from the nomination. He will face a large field of fellow
Republicans in the primary/caucus process, and then, even if he
is successful, he will probably have to face Mrs. Clinton. All of this
is yet to come, and will be formidable. More than anything else,
Chris Christie will have to demonstrate to his party, and then to
the nation, that he can learn from his own past, and from the
polarizing travail of the Obama years.

By 2016, not only his party, but the whole nation, will be yearning
for someone to take charge in Washington, DC, someone who can
not only lead well and wisely, but also truly inspire.


[POSTSCRIPT: Lest some readers think I am being partisan
in the above, I remind them that in 1990-91 I wrote several articles
saying that Governor Bill Clinton was going to be the Democratic
nominee, and then the president. Even when “scandals” seemed
to have doomed his prospects in the winter of 1991-92, I was
outspoken and consistent in predicting his victory. Some political
figures have an invisible tattoo of destiny......]

Copyright 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: No Time For Gloating

The national Republican Party, and most of its state
organizations, won some spectacular victories on
November 4, but a fair and sober appraisal of those
victories I think puts the cause in major part to voter
antipathy to President Obama and soon-to-be former
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their policies.

To also be fair, the GOP recruited one of the best
assortment of challengers, most notably in the
competitive senate races, in recent history. The old
truism is undeniable: “Candidates matter.”

Considering the big margin in the new senate, the fact
that the margin in the new house will be historic, and
despite having many more Republican governors than
Democratic incumbents up for re-election and still the
GOP made an amazing net gubernatorial gain, I don’t
think anyone can reasonably deny that there was indeed
a major “wave” on election day. (Although they did not
win, two underdogs, Scott Brown and Ed Gillespie
came very, very close to major upsets.)

The best of the 2010 class of new conservative governors,
including  John Kasich, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Susana
Martinez, Nikki Haley and Rick Snyder did very well in
turning back liberal challengers in 2014. Along with
outstanding other current GOP governors, including
Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, and just-elected
Asa Hutchinson, the conservative party has a very deep
bench of national executive leaders and potential
presidential and vice presidential candidates for 2016 and

But the understandable exhilaration of such a major
electoral triumph should not last for more than a few days
at most. Nor should Republicans and conservatives resort
to gloating, They should remember how they felt in 2008
and 2012 when they lost, and not become so self-absorbed
to forget that what the voters give they can also take away
soon enough. There is simply no time for gloating and
bragging. Voters in 2014 clearly said they want new
directions. Those who won in 2014 need to get promptly
to work.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 3, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Final Mid-Term Countdown

It’s a wave.

As I have consistently pointed out for months, a true wave
does not appear until the very end of a political campaign
cycle. The very end. That means the last 2-3 days. Even then,
the size of the wave is not fully clear until the votes are

There is a myriad of polls these days. National organization
polls. Political party polls. College/university-run polls.
Consultant polls. Candidate polls. Amateur polls. Most of
them, even the best of them, are of little prognosticative
value until the end of the campaign cycle. Their quality
often improves at the end of the campaign because most
voters have made up their minds, and because pollsters
don’t want to look foolish if there numbers are way off the
actual results (so they take more care in their sampling).

In the national mid-term elections of 2014, the final polls are
in, and if we are to believe them, there is a considerably
strong voter mood this year that is translating into votes for
Republicans, the party out of power. The most persistently
undecided voters, according to most polls, are voting not
only against the Democrat brand, but also against President
Obama and his administration. They are also voting against
incumbents of both parties.

Conventional wisdom is that the Republicans will now pick up
6-7 sets in the U.S.senate, 6-10 sets in the U.S. house, and lose
only a net of 3-4 governors. Based on the premise that a wave
actually comes, I think the GOP will do better than that,
perhaps 8-12 senate seats, 11-17 U.S. house seat, and come
closer to a zero net loss of governorships.

The Democratic Party advantage in cash has now been spent.
The only advantage they now have is their historically
(2006 to 2012) superior get-out-the-vote organization. If this
superiority is maintained in 2014, it might save some
Democratic incumbents and moderate the wave.

I want to point out that the term”wave” is used because a
political wave behaves in some ways like a wave of water, i.e.,
it takes down most every standing thing in its way. There will
probably also likely be some GOP incumbents who lose,
particularly some GOP governors.

The catalyst for this wave is Barack Obama, his White House
team, and the congressional leadership of Harry Reid and
Nancy Pelosi. Their policies have provoked a voter reaction
not unlike the one in 2010 against Obamacare, but this cycle
the reaction has been against a whole array of government
intrusion, class warfare, excessive regulation, higher taxes,
and an inept foreign policy.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 31, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Countdown #6 and other comments

Subscribers to this website have now been sent directly
to their e-mail address,"Mid-Term Countdown #6"
which has been my ongoing commentary of the individual
U.S. house and senate, and gubernatorial competitive
races of 2014. (Only subscribers receive this. To subscribe
go to the "SUBSCRIBE" button on the left side of this page.)

Two general comments, however:

President Obama has the worst political tin ear I've seen at
that level of politics. (I realize he thinks he is bringing out
his political base.) But it is almost as if he's daring Americans
to turn against him.

Let us not forget that the energy of the potential wave has been
provided by the incompetence of Barack Obama and his
overreaching allies across the nation. The Republicans, if they
win, will now have to out forward new ideas. Otherwise,
their victory next Tuesday would be an empty one.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Kudos To Cuomo and Christie

A few days ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat)
and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (a Republican) ordered
that air passengers originating in Ebola-stricken countries who
landed at New York and New Jersey airports would be subject to
quarantines of 21 days.

This was opposed by the Obama administration, and both
governors were subjected to severe criticism by the Old Media
which has consistently deferred to the president and his policies.

In fact, the action of Governors Cuomo and Christie was a
much-needed temporary response to the international health
threat which, if not contained, could become a worldwide

The first person quarantined was a nurse who had cared for
Ebola patients in West Africa, and had a temperature recorded
when she first landed in the U.S. She subsequently was
determined not to have the virus, and Governor Christie
released her. She is now in her home state of Maine.

The criticism of the two governors has been obviously
political. Governor Christie especially is a potential candidate
for president in 2016, and the liberal media has been for months
relentless in its efforts to discredit him.

A quarantine is an extreme measure that should only be used
when there is a clear and present danger. It is very inconvenient
for those quarantined. But it is only 21 days, and considering
its ravaging of West African nations, it seems a necessary
action at this time, especially for those who have had direct
contact with the disease. Voluntary or self-quarantines apparently
have not worked. Even medical personnel who should know
better have failed to observe the required protocols.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in contrast to his boss,
President Obama, supports the 21-day quarantine. U.S. Army
troops, including a general, who were sent to West Africa are
now in quarantine before returning to the U.S.

If these actions by the governors and the defense secretary seem
by some to be an over-reaction, they are at least on the side of
prudent caution.

The measures for quarantine can be adjusted so that persons such
as the nurse can be released. Governor Christie did this. Neither
he nor Governor Cuomo should be reproached for their serious
efforts to reassure the public and provide proper protection to the
general populace.

They, in fact, deserve public praise for taking charge at a time when
others were supposed to lead, and did not.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Those Gathering Waves

An unusual storm over the Atlantic has been forming now for
weeks, and like its climate cousin the hurricane, it makes its
way ashore on its own timetable. These great storms are always
unpredictable, and sometimes they do not come to land, but
spend themselves at sea. It is not a Pacific storm this time; the
west coast states of California, Oregon and Washington will not
discern it, but folks who live there will likely be reading about it.

One of America’s greatest writers, Herman Melville, wrote many
epic novels about the sea and about its storms. But this storm is
not about sailors and ships at sea, and it does not appear on
conventional radar or sonar. Its isobars are unrecordable by
weather forecasters On the American east coast, there are
already signs of this storm, but no definite evidence that it will
make landfall first at Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia or
Florida, if at all.

Unlike official storms, it does not yet have a name, but if it does
come ashore, it will surely have many names.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: If There Is a "Wave," What Might Happen?

I am writing this BEFORE the votes are counted on
election day; in fact, I am writing this several days
beforehand. I am NOT predicting any of the outcomes
discussed here; I am only suggesting what might happen
if the much-discussed political “wave” does occur (or
does not occur) on November 4.

I want to point out that political waves come in various
sizes. Furthermore, it is quite possible that there will be
no true wave this cycle, only a typical election in which
the party holding the White House loses some seats in
the U.S. house and senate.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, there IS a wave.

If there is a wave, its intensity and impact will depend on
how emotionally motivated significant numbers of voters,
most of them independents or non-party-affiliated, are on
election day. This general group usually make up most of
the so-called undecided voters, especially those who make
up their minds at the very end of the campaign, and then
go to the polls.

At this late date, it is very difficult to imagine a scenario in
which “wave” voters would turn to Democratic candidates.
If there is a wave in 2014, it will be most likely a conservative
and/or anti-Obama wave.

Currently, not taking into account a wave, there is a general
consensus that Republicans will pick up 5-7 U.S. senate
seats, 5-10 U.S. house seats, and that Democrats will gain a
net of 3-4 governorships. That would be a decent night for the
conservative party, but no wave. If the Democrats can hold
GOP gains in the senate to five or less, it would actually be a
relatively good night for the Democrats.

A true “wave,” in my opinion, would require many more
undecided voters to vote Republican, and many Democrats to
stay home. A true wave would produce a net gain of 8-10
Republican senators, 11-15 Republican house members, and
close to a draw in net new governors. A “tsunami,” on the other
hand, would bring in 11-15 new GOP senators, 16-25 new GOP
house members, and the surprise of some net gains in GOP

The “tsunami” scenario in 2014 seems unlikely with about
two weeks to go, but a more modest “wave” does not.
Considering the Democratic advantages of cash and their
get-out-the-effort, a more modest “traditional” mid-term
election with only some congressional gains for the GOP, and
Democrats picking a small number of governorships is also
quite possible.

I want to repeat what I have said now for many months. Any
kind of true wave, moderate or heavy, does not appear visible
until either just before election day, or when the vote is counted.
Waves are almost always late-breaking. Not only that, waves
can peak too soon or, as in the 1968 presidential election, not
reach their peak in time for the actual voting. (“President”
Hubert Humphrey could have lectured on that scenario!)

This discussion is obviously speculative. Even with only days to
go before election day, the dimensions of the 2014 cycle are
unclear. Waves are relatively rare electoral occurrences. When
they do happen, however, they often bring surprises and great
shock in their wake.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


In President Obama’s own and unambiguous words, he and
his administration are on the ballot on November 4.
Democratic Party strategists shuddered when he said it,
but this time there was “no walking the statement back,”
as they say in DC lingo. Mr. Obama and his wife on the
campaign trail have repeated it since again and again.

This is as it should be in the national mid-term of a
president’s second term. It gives the American electorate
an opportunity to pass a judgment on the accomplishments,
or lack of them, and a final chance to either encourage more
of the same or to put a brake on policies and a direction they
do not like.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved

Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 1918 Mid-Term Elections Deja Vu?

On November 5, 1918 American voters went to the polls for
the mid-term elections during President Woodrow Wilson’s
second term. Six days later, World War I would end. In that
month a worldwide pandemic of “Spanish” influenza was

In 1913, a constitutional amendment changed the election of
U.S. senators from election by state legislators to direct
election by all state voters. The first national direct election
of senators had occurred in 1914. The senate, because of its
constitutional powers of confirming presidential appointments
and its role in foreign policy was the key election that year. The
Democrats had 50 seats, the Republicans had 46. Control of
the senate was crucial to the direction of post-war foreign
policy, control of the U.S. supreme court, and the outcome of
the 1920 presidential election that would follow two years later.

When the votes were counted, the Republicans had picked up
a net of six seats, and had control of the senate 52-44. (There
were only forty-eight states in 1918, and thus only ninety-six

A year later, President Wilson suffered a stroke in office, and
his wife became the de facto president. In 1920, Republicans
won the presidency, and held the White House for the next
twelve years. (Ironically, the defeated Democratic vice
presidential candidate in 1920, Franklin Roosevelt, would win
back the White House for the Democrats in 1932.)

The circumstances of 1918 are very different from those of 2014,
although there is the curious coincidence of an international
pandemic occurring during both years. For example, in 1918
the Democratic senators from the South were segregationists.
Most black voters voted for Republicans, as they had since the
Civil War. In 1918, women did not have the right to vote.
Democrats had blocked this for decades. Historically, the
Republicans were the champions of women's rights, and the
election of 1918 made possible the passing of a constitutional
amendment in 1920 giving U.S. women the right to vote.

What is similar, of course, is the vital question of who controls
the U.S. senate, and the implications for the next presidential
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


In a race-by-race analysis of the national mid-term elections
sent to current subscribers to this website (directly to their
e-mail addresses) earlier today, I suggested that the past week
was generally good to the Republicans, but that a true picture
of the final outcomes is not yet in sight.

No political party easily gives up the powers that they have,
and the Democrats are particularly “ferocious” in this cycle
to keep control of the U.S. senate, and to make gains in their
number of governors of the states.

I have been stressing, despite the voter momentum to the
conservative party this cycle, that the liberal party has serious
cards to play, and that they are, and will continue, playing
them right up to election day. These include much more
campaign funds, reliable constituencies, and a proven and
effective ability to get out their vote. Republicans this cycle
have outfunded the Democrats only in the gubernatorial races
(thanks to having more incumbents and the efforts of
Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie).

The structure of the congressional map, as well as the GOP
trend this year, ensures mostly good outcomes for the
conservative party in U.S. house races, despite the Democrats’
financial advantage in these races. The Democrats have now
pulled their ads in many of the races where they hoped to defeat
incumbent Republicans, and reallocated those funds to saving
vulnerable Democrats.

It is in the U.S. senate races where Republicans must most be
wary, and not overconfident, with just under three weeks to go.
The Democrats know where they still have opportunities, both
to save their own vulnerable incumbents and to possibly pick
off an incumbent GOP senator or two. They have the money and
they have the technology to make a successful last stand.

As in some house races, Democrats have redirected their efforts.
They appear to be conceding Colorado and Kentucky, but there
are several senate races where heavy advertising and aggressive
get-out-the-vote efforts might yet save the political day for them.

Just as, following the 2004 election when Republicans had the
better ground game, the 2014 mid-term elections are a challenge
to the opposition party to adapt to a new election landscape
featuring early voting, looser voting rules, high-tech voter I.D
methods, and new political media/communication venues.

Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party
nomination in 2008 in part by embracing the then new election
landscape, and he defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 in part because
the Republicans had not learned the lessons of 2006, 2008 and

The conservative party has had fair warning.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Ground Game, Ground Game, Ground Game

There are now less than four weeks to go until election day,
Nominees have been chosen. Initial TV and other media
ads have been run. Campaign strategies are being carried out.
TV debates between the candidates have begun. What remains
to be done?

A very great deal, and it can be summed up in one short phrase:
ground game.”

The ground game is the unglamorous and most labor intensive
side of a political campaign. It consists of the time-consuming
work of identifying a candidate’s most likely voters, keeping in
touch with them by phone, with mailings and the internet, and
then creating an effective organization that makes sure they
get to the polls on election day.

It is not a casual effort. It requires large numbers of
carefully trained and prepared volunteers or paid staff, and in
2014, it also requires up-to-date technology and techniques.

Since 2006, the national Democratic Party, and most of the
state Democratic Parties, have clearly had the better ground
game. I think the liberal party’s ground game made the
difference in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of their
ticket. Even though the Democrats don’t have a presidential
candidate running in 2014, and despite the fact that their own
presidential incumbent has become quite unpopular, they will
conduct a massive and effective ground game in most areas of
the country this year.

Although it is undeniably a cycle favoring Republicans, the
conservative party would make an enormous mistake if it does
not achieve a very serious catch-up in its ground game in the
closing days of the 2014 national mid-term elections. So far,
all polling shows a higher intensity for Republican voters this
year, and some Democrats are demoralized by the performance
of President Obama, but that does not mean that most Democrats,
effectively identified and prodded by their party’s ground game,
won’t go to the polls and vote for Democratic candidates.

A so-called political “wave” could help Republicans, especially
Republican U.S. senate challengers, this cycle, but if there is not
a truly effective GOP ground game in the competitive senate,
house and gubernatorial races, the Republican Party, its
candidates, and its aspirations will fall short on election day.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.