Mitt Romney

Paul Ryan: Designated Relief Pitcher

A desperate GOP establishment has tried pinch hitters and pinch runners to prevent Donald Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination and now may turn to its successful designated relief pitcher, Paul Ryan.

A desperate GOP establishment has tried pinch hitters and pinch runners to prevent Donald Trump from winning the Republican presidential nomination and now may turn to its successful designated relief pitcher, Paul Ryan.

A move is afoot to draft Paul Ryan as a GOP presidential candidate, which would confirm the Wisconsin Republican’s role as his party's designated relief pitcher.

Ryan, with seeming reluctance, saved the day by agreeing to serve as House Speaker after conservatives drove John Boehner out of the game and objected to other candidates. Ryan was cast as the only Republican that all factions could support.

That’s the thinking behind the Draft Speaker Ryan movement. The Republican Party is in disarray. Donald Trump is leading the presidential pack, but a faceless GOP establishment cabal is desperately trying to block him from winning the nomination. The party’s 2012 standard bearer has called out Trump as a con man and a phony. Marco Rubio has said Trump wet his pants and has tiny hands.

Beyond a distrust and dislike for Trump, Republican establishment figures worry that another Democrat will succeed President Obama. Some have concluded the only viable alternative to defeat this fall is Ryan.

Ted Cruz has made inroads on Trump’s march to the nomination, winning in Kansas and Maine over the weekend and inching closer to Trump’s delegate total. But Cruz could be the only GOP figure detested more than Trump.

Earle Mack, a former ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush, spearheaded a $1 million Super PAC to draft Ryan. As he did to importuning to become House Speaker, Ryan has dismissed the draft movement and disavowed the SuperPac in a letter to the Federal Election Commission.

It is hard for Ryan to deny an interest in the nation’s top job. He was Romney’s running mate in 2012 and in the eyes of many political observers outshone the top guy on the ballot. Ryan has injected himself into the presidential primary by deploring Trump's racially charged statements.

As Speaker, Ryan has quieted the conservative rebellion, even as he pushed through controversial budget bills. Conservative members said they still disagree with compromising and relying on Democratic votes, but they support Ryan because he has reached out to them and listened.

Ryan has pushed the conservative agenda, but also promised more than just red meat, including a comprehensive health care plan to replace Obamacare.

The 2016 presidential election has been anything but normal, with insults dominating policy discussions, a billionaire activating citizens who feel economically disenfranchised and a socialist seriously challenging the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s nomination.

A brokered GOP presidential convention could be the perfect setting for a relief pitcher to trot in from the bullpen. Nobody has stronger credentials to become the party’s closer than Paul Ryan.

Defending Nate Silver and Math

As the November 6 election approached, a lot of commentators trained their fire at Nate Silver, a numbers guy who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog for The New York Times. Critics said Silver was crazy for projecting an 80 percent chance Barack Obama would win re-election.

Faux conservative commentator Stephen Colbert hosted Silver on his show and pooh-poohed his prediction that the election wasn't a "coin toss." Dylan Byers, media blogger at Politico, said Silver could become a "one-term celebrity."

Post-election, Paul Raeburn has blogged that critics who sniped at Silver seriously misunderstood what he does. Silver isn't a pollster. He is a statistician who uses polls and other data to model projected outcomes.

Raeburn says Silver's work should be compared to weather forecasters. They offer predictions based on probability, such as a 75 percent chance of rain. It's not the same as saying it will rain, just that there is a high likelihood it will rain.

For many people, from Karl Rove to New York Times columnist David Brooks to the New York Times public editor, it was illogical to predict such an overwhelming prospect of an Obama victory when most polls showed the popular vote as neck and neck.

However, Silver was modeling the probability of what would occur, not prophesying it. A Romney victory November 6 would not have gone against what he modeled; it merely would have demonstrated that Romney beat the odds.

Halloween Blurs with Election Eve

It is only fitting that a high-profile, high-intensity presidential contest end with dignity — or not.

Donald Trump, apparently unmoved by the devastation at lower levels of New York than he inhabits, continued to press his $5 million bounty for anyone who could produce Barack Obama's college application.

Mark Cuban, buoyed by his TV fame on the Shark Tank, called Trump's bounty the "dumbest thing ever," then offered his own $1 million contribution to charity if Trump trimmed his comb-over.

Haunted by his dissing of the U.S. auto bailout, GOP contender Mitt Romney ran an ad in car-centric and Electoral-College-significant Ohio claiming Chrysler planned to move Jeep assembly jobs to China. The Italian president of Fiat, which owns Chrysler, denied the charge.

Then there was the claim from the National Rifle Association that the Obama administration would use the pretense of storm evacuation from Hurricane Sandy to confiscate people's guns. This was based on a report that a New Orleans police officer confiscated a handgun from someone in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Voting Early More Often

More Americans — maybe as many as 70 percent of those who vote — are expected to vote on a day before the November 6 general election polls open.Oregon has led the nation in vote-by-mail elections. Now as many as 70 percent of Americans who vote may cast their ballots before the election-day polls open November 6.

The Oregon legislature approved discretionary vote-by-mail elections at the local level in 1981, made them permanent in 1987 and extended them to federal elections in 1996, when Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was elected to succeed Senator Bob Packwood. In 2000, Oregon became the first state in the nation to conduct a presidential election entirely by mail, in which 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Polling shows vote-by-mail is popular with both Republicans and Democrats in Oregon, which may explain why both parties are actively encouraging early voting around the nation, as 32 states and the District of Columbia permit pre-election-day balloting. 

The Obama and Romney presidential campaigns are operating on the belief that as many as 70 percent of those who cast a ballot will vote before November 6, which perhaps explains the early intensity of television, radio and social media advertising.

In a close presidential race, neither side wants to take any chances about getting its base voters to the polls — and before they have any reason to change their minds. Last week's presidential debate, which most observers believe was won by GOP hopeful Mitt Romney, is the kind of event campaigns use to motivate their voters to cast their ballots as soon as possible.

For voters, early voting can mean avoiding long lines and traffic congestion at a voting place on election day. Early voters can cast a ballot and drop it off or in the mail on their schedule, improving voter access for those with non-traditional work schedules, limited transportation options and mobility challenges.

In this election cycle, as several states have implemented — or tried to implement — voter ID laws, some citizens may want to vote early to make sure their vote will actually count.

There seems to be ample evidence more people vote when voting isn't condensed into a single day. Turnouts in Oregon have typically ranged higher than those in states that haven't allowed early voting in some form.

Battle for Voter Eyeballs

If you are a political junky or just a Web surfer, you will probably get your fill and then some of online political advertising. In fact, political ad buys are so intense there may be little space left for anything else.

Observers estimate that campaign spending on digital media ads will increase by seven times or more since 2008.

What has caught the attention of many grumbling online dwellers is the profusion of campaign ads on YouTube, including massive banners and 15- to 30-second pre-roll ads before selected videos.

“There has been incredibly strong demand for online video advertising inventory in targeted states, so there is virtually no 30-second inventory left for the fall,” says Rob Saliterman, head of Republican advertising outreach for Google, which owns YouTube. "Campaigns are buying it up for September and October and the first week of November.”

Kari Chisholm of Mandate Media, who is based in Portland and working on a Nevada congressional campaign, told the Las Vegas Sun, "We're all trying to run through the same door at the same time."

Fueling the spending binge of online advertising is the lack of available ad space on TV and radio in battleground states and local markets with hotly contested political races. "The TV inventory has been bought up and there's only so much direct mail you can send," explains Jim Walsh of DSPolitical.

You can't just take a sabbatical from YouTube to escape the onslaught. The presidential campaigns, leaving little to chance, have purchased trending topics, at $120,000 each, on Twitter to attract more viewers in what one blogger calls a "battle for eyeballs." Romney started the trend, but Obama has reportedly outspent him on the tactic.

Hurtling Back to the 1970s

Tie dye T-shirts, bell bottoms and the risqué mini-skirt were swell in the early 1970s. Many wish we could go back to those fun and revolutionary times, and that may be what the federal government winds up doing with its budget process called sequestration.

Last Friday, the Obama Administration provided the skinny in an anything-but-skinny 394-page document detailing how agencies would implement $109 billion in automatic cuts scheduled for January 2 — unless Congress enacts a budget bill before then, which is growing politically more unlikely by the day.

If the full sequestration is implemented over the next 10 years, domestic discretionary spending in 2014 would be capped at 1970 levels. Then it would precipitously fall through 2021 to 2.5 percent of GDP, which doesn't sound so groovy to a lot of folks, including economists who warn spending cuts of this magnitude this suddenly could thrust the U.S. economy back into recession.

After painting itself into a corner, Congress forced Obama to compile the report that outlines automatic cuts for FY13, which would reduce spending across more than 1,200 federal accounts, trimming defense by $54.67 billion, domestic discretionary spending by $38 billion, Medicare by $11 billion and other mandatory spending programs by about $5 billion.

The report estimates the reductions would reduce discretionary defense spending by 9.4 percent and domestic discretionary spending by 8.2 percent in FY13. Medicare would be reduced by a maximum 2 percent as required under the August debt limit increase law.

The looming spending cuts are freaking out many different constituencies in the country and the situation could get worse. With the defense community already engaged on a campaign to offset defense cuts, domestic programs could be under added pressure to make up the difference.

Jeepers Creepers — How Did We Get Here?

When federal lawmakers agreed to last year’s debt limit law, they established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The so-called super committee was tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in savings through spending cuts or increased revenues. Because the super committee was unsuccessful, across-the-board spending reductions of $1.2 trillion will be automatically triggered in January 2013 through a process known as “sequestration.”

Rhetoric Aside, Both Sides Favor Medicare Limit

Despite fierce campaign rhetoric, one business commentator says President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney largely agree Medicare needs to go on a spending diet.Medicare has emerged as a defining issue in this year's presidential campaign, but one iconoclastic commentator says President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney actually agree more than they disagree on what to do.

Matthew Yglesias, who covers business and economics for Slate, says despite fiery campaign rhetoric, both sides have committed to putting Medicare "on a diet." How they would shrink Medicare spending differs, Yglesias says, but that difference pales in comparison to their agreement on imposing a finite spending limit on one of America's most popular entitlement programs, which expands as medical costs rise.

Romney and his new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, have ignited a fierce political debate over Medicare because of Ryan's congressional budget proposal to privatize Medicare by giving senior citizens medical vouchers. The amount of those vouchers, Yglesias says, would be limited by a cap on Medicare spending growth equal to annual GDP growth rate plus 0.5 percent.

Obama has blasted the Ryan voucher plan, predicting it would "end Medicare as we know it." However, Yglesias says Obama in his 2013 budget proposal also seeks to limit growth in Medicare spending, using the same formula as Ryan.

Wyden Walks Medicare Policy Tight Rope

His Medicare reform white paper co-authored with GOP presidential running mate Paul Ryan has Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden in the political crosshairs of just about everybody.Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who isn't even on the ballot this fall, nevertheless finds himself in the middle of a hard-fought, negative presidential campaign. And he isn't happy about it.

Wyden co-authored a provocative white paper on Medicare reform options earlier this year along with House Budget Chair and now GOP presidential running mate Paul Ryan. The Mitt Romney-Ryan campaign seized on the white paper — and Wyden — as evidence of bipartisan support for their approach to Medicare reform.

Wyden has gone to great pains, including a speech this week to the Portland Rotary, to say ‘no dice.’

Defending the white paper and his collaboration with Ryan, Wyden says what Romney has endorsed and House Republicans have passed is not consistent with the white paper's approach to "preserve the Medicare guarantee."

In an interview with Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, Wyden said the major differences between his views and those of Romney involve the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. Romney and Ryan favor repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Wyden doesn't. The Ryan-inspired House budget would give states more freedom to run their Medicaid programs for low-income citizens, but also provide less money. Wyden says that will harm lower-income seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Paul Ryan and the Wikipedia War

Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate ignited a war on Wikipedia over whether it was relevant to note his high school voted him as the biggest brown noser. Photo by Gage Skidmore.The selection over the weekend of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's Republican running mate  touched off a wave of pro and con commentary. None was more pitched than a series of edits and counter-edits to Paul Ryan's Wikipedia page.

The focus of the Wikipedia Wars quickly zeroed in on a 1988 reference in Ryan's high school yearbook that listed him as the "Biggest Brown-Noser."

Ryan sympathizers swept in to scrub the reference as irrelevant, but the vigilant opposition countered and put back the brown-nose reference, declaring it was relevant. The battle waged on with hundreds of revisions, including mention that Ryan was prom king his senior year.

Actually, a spate of Wikipedia edits in a politician's profile has now become a semi-official perch to judge whether a vice presidential candidate's stock is rising or falling. 

Writing for The Atlantic, Megan Garber said reporters staked out the various Wikipedia pages of leading vice presidential candidates to see which one had the most editorial activity, a clue to who might get the nod. She noted that short-listers Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Ryan each had about the same amount of pre-announcement editing.

This was in sharp contrast, Garber said, to 2008 when Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was edited 68 times the day before John McCain's surprise announcement of her as his running mate.

Political mischief-maker Stephen Colbert, perhaps miffed because he wasn't on anyone's short list, openly encouraged people to "go on Wikipedia and make as many edits as possible to your favorite VP contender." Wikipedia locked down the pages of the short-listers, which sucked the air out of Colbert's party.

Myths about the Middle Class

Reports of the death of the American middle class may be exaggerated and hope for its survival and success may lie in improved education and direct links to economic growth.As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stalk middle class voters, a University of Arizona sociology professor offers some hints of where to look and what to expect.

In a piece published last week by The Washington Post, Lane Kenworthy says — contrary to political rhetoric — America's middle class is better off today, not just financially, but also in terms of enhanced quality of life.

"Income changes alone don't capture the enhanced quality of life that stems from greater access to information and entertainment through personal computers, smartphones, the Internet and cable TV, advanced in medical care such as MRIs and surgical techniques and more choices for all kinds goods and services," he wrote.

Kenworthy dispelled what he called the myth about economic growth benefitting the middle class. "Sadly, that's wishful thinking," he said. 

"Since the 1970s, the American economy has continued to grow fairly quickly, yet the middle class has seen a relatively small gain in income," Kenworthy noted. "Between 1979 and 2007, two peaks in the business cycle, the country's per capita GDP increased by 50 percent. During that same period, the average income of the middle three-fifths of households rose by less than 30 percent."

Hashtag Warfare

If politics is war, then Twitter is the neutron bomb. Politicians are engaging in hashtag warfare to stake out positions and target opponents without ever talking to a reporter or entering a TV studio.

You know you have a powerful weapon, says The Washington Post, when the President of the United States incorporates hashtags into his speeches, as he did last week — #dontdoublemyrate — in pressuring the GOP-led House to block an increase in student loan interest rates. After whipping up a student crowd in Chapel Hill that chanted the hashtag, there were almost instantaneously 20,000 tweets with the hashtag. 

Within 45 minutes, House Speaker John Boehner responded, using the hashtag, blaming Democrats for the student loan rate increase. Conservative groups seized on the hashtag to rip Obama over gas prices and lingering high unemployment rates, a risk you run in hashtag warfare.

Ann Romney chose Twitter to respond to criticism about her being a stay-at-home mom. Her tweet — "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." — reframed the conversation in thousands of retweets. Critics changed the subject.

Twitter-bombing isn't just an American political phenomenon. It played a huge role in the Arab Spring upheavals. Reportedly the new president of Chile instructed his cabinet ministers to tweet to build grassroots support for his new policies.

Facebook has tons more users, but Twitter has become the go-to place to find out the latest news. That is just the kind of battlefront that attracts political operatives. Shots fired on Twitter wind up ricocheting on Facebook and, ultimately, populate searches on Google.

Political Nanotargeting

Many people think of politics as a lot of hot air. It turns out politics may be more like rocket science.

Since the 2004 George W. Bush presidential campaign, Republican and Democratic political strategists have been using nanotargeting to reach and activate their political bases. To target ads, operatives pore over voting histories, housing values, recreational preferences, automobile ownership, TV viewership as well as favorite restaurants, drinks and websites.

Who knew that your zest for Arby's or the number of bedrooms in your home could drop hints about your political leanings?

In a recent piece in The New York Times, Thomas Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, probes this intensifying segmentation — and polarization — of the American electorate. Here are some tips Edsall offers in spotting stereotypical Republicans and Democrats:

  • Someone who reads The Washington Post or watches the Comedy Channel is more likely to be a Democrat. People who reads The Wall Street Journal or watches Country Music Television or the Golf Channel are probably Republicans.

  • Among the top 10 favorite TV shows of Republicans are "The Office," "The Big Bang Theory," "Desperate Housewives" and "The Biggest Loser."  Democrats prefer "Late Show with David Letterman," "PBS NewsHour," "House of Payne" and "60 Minutes."

  • McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's appeal to the political middle. You can spot the Republicans eating at Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Arby's and Chick-fil-A, while the Democrats chow down at Popeye's, Dunkin' Donuts and Chuck E. Cheese.

  • The Democratic drinks of choice are cognac or Budweiser. Republicans favor light beers, Guinness and scotch.

  • Don't look for GOP presidential ads on "30 Rock" or Democratic ads on professional football games this fall.

Clearly these are generalized views of American political sympathies. But they are the basis for making critical, make-or-break advertising choices. As Edsall notes, "Incremental shifts among key constituencies — Hispanics, single white working class women and private-sector unionized employees — can be decisive."

From Bugaboo to Booboo

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused President Obama of spending too much time at Harvard, even though Romney attended the university longer and sent his three sons there.Calling someone elitist and out of touch because they attended Harvard isn't a new strategy. However, it is a novel argument when made by a candidate who spent even more time at Harvard, sent three children there, and donated thousands of dollars to the university.

And his Boston campaign headquarters is just across the river from Harvard.

In politics, you have to know how to deliver a zinger. But it's usually a good idea to taser your opponent, not yourself.

Basking in the trifecta of victories in this week's GOP presidential primaries, frontrunner Mitt Romney turned his guns on President Obama, saying he "spent too much time at Harvard," leaving him out of touch with mainstream America.

Obama did spend three years at Harvard, earning his law degree and working on the Harvard Law Review. It turns out Romney attended Harvard for four years, earning a law degree and a masters in business administration.

In addition to the math problem, Obama made it to Harvard from fairly humble circumstances, while Romney got there from a family whose dad was president of American Motors and governor of Michigan. 

Pick Your Product Placements Well

Etch A Sketch emerged from relative obscurity to become a hot new toy — and a political metaphor — after an off-hand comment by an aide to a presidential candidate.We are familiar with product placements in movies and TV shows, but are they now showing up in political statements? Maybe not, but don't tell that to the makers of Etch A Sketch, or Mitt Romney.

Sales of the 1960-vintage drawing toy soared after a comment by Eric Fehrnstrom, communications director for the GOP presidential hopeful, referred to it as a metaphor describing how Romney would reset his campaign in the fall if he wins the Republican nomination.

"It's almost like an Etch A Sketch," Fehrnstrom said. "You kind of shake it up and restart it all over again."

Etch a Sketch may be an iconic toy that has lost its luster in the digital age, but that didn't stop the toy maker's PR firm, Southard Communications, from swinging into action. They turned it into a real-life Toy Story adventure – without Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as voice talents.

The PR pros kept Fehrnstrom's quote in the national news, while maintaining political neutrality, by sending an Etch a Sketch to all the leading presidential candidates, including President Obama. They also dispatched Etch a Sketches to talk shows to hand out to studio audiences, resulting in loads of free air time showing how the toy works while kindling old memories among post-Baby Boomers.

The Frontrunner, the Dwarfs and the Debate

If you were hankering for a great debate about health care, birth control and bombing Iran, don't expect to see Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney square off in Portland March 19. Photo by Panorama Mercantil.Oregon Public Broadcasting brushed off objections by Mayor Sam Adams, but it may be harder to sustain a GOP presidential primary debate in Portland without a frontrunner.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dispatched a staff member to announce he wouldn't be participating in the March 19 debate in Portland hosted by OPB and broadcast by National Public Radio. Now the question is whether any of the three other remaining presidential candidates will participate. So far, only Newt Gingrich has committed to attend.

While Gingrich's outsized personality and political rhetoric can fill a stage, it is debatable whether the debate will go on if he is a solo act.

There have been 20 Republican presidential debates, the last one February 23 in Arizona. The contest since then has turned into a regional sideshow with Romney, Gingrich and Rick Santorum stumping the country in the shadow of advertising by their respective supporting SuperPACs. Ron Paul depends on his organic grassroots network of support.

Red Carpet in the Corn Belt

The diplomatic red carpet rarely extends as far as Muscatine, Iowa, an industrious town of 23,000 on the banks of the Mississippi. But it did this week for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who paid a return visit to the town where in 1985 as a provincial official he led a trade mission to learn more about American farming practices.

Xi appears to be the heir apparent as leader of China, which is why he was given star treatment in Washington, D.C. with visits with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

But in Muscatine, the visit was described by the mayor as a reunion of old friends.

Xi stayed two nights in the small Iowa town a quarter century ago, sleeping on the floor of a local boy's bedroom festooned with Star Trek figurines. Eleanor Dvorchak, Xi's host and breakfast companion in 1985, now lives in Florida. She flew back to Muscatine for Xi's return trip, bringing with her a copy of "Obama on the Couch" with an inscription she had written in Chinese.

Other Muscatine residents recalled the 1985 visit exuded an exotic quality because China was just emerging from its international shell. Then, as now, most Muscatine residents were white. Just a handful of Asian Americans live there. The visit this week had a different complexion as U.S.-Chinese relations have grown and at times clashed.

Cautionary Coat-tails in 2012 Presidential Race

Based on the present and projected GOP presidential lineup of potential nominees, it is hard to imagine President Obama losing California, Washington and Oregon in his 2012 bid for re-election. It is the Left Coast, after all.

But winning isn't everything in presidential politics. A candidate may not have coat-tails, but his or her campaign does. Those coat-tails can make a huge difference in so-called down ballot races for Congressional seats and statewide offices.

The most notable recent example occurred in 2008 when Republican presidential hopeful John McCain pulled the plug on his Oregon campaign. That pullout left a late, gaping hole in Senator Gordon Smith's campaign and arguably played a role in his eventual defeat by Jeff Merkley.

That helps explain why David Axelrod, Obama's top political adviser, showed up in Seattle to reassure Democratic officials and operatives the President wouldn't take the Pacific Northwest for granted.

Some show of force by the Democratic presidential candidate can translate into tangible help for fellow Democrats facing tough races. In Oregon, Congressmen Kurt Schrader and David Wu, assuming he survives a primary challenge, could be in fights for their political lives.