2012 Election Thoughts
By Alex Saitta
November 9, 2012
Comment from November 5: ďI'm sticking to my prediction of Romney by 5 to 10%. I think the polling will be proven wrong -- I haven't seen a national poll with Romney ahead by more than 3 or 4.Ē
When you miss a prediction as badly as I missed this one, you have to ask what did I misjudge? I think it comes down to three things:
First, the economy has been improving with the employment rate dropping slowly over time. At the start of 2012, 45 percent more of those surveyed thought the country was heading the wrong direction versus those who thought it was going in the right direction. That figure was -25 points in September. It was only -15 points the day before the election. The economy and the publicís perception of the overall direction of the country has been improving.
While I have been saying the economy would improve, I thought it would be too little too late for Obama. The former was true, but I was very wrong about the latter. It improved enough the last year to turn enough people less negative.
Second, Romney provided a weak alternative to President Obama. Ryan was a bad choice, not being able to deliver his home state. While Romney was very capable, his message was neither conservative or moderate. His viewpoint generally swung too much in his career and during the primary and his general election run. This allowed the main stream media and the Democrat party to muddle up his message so much it lacked impact with the voters and didnít inspire enough people. Republicans also need to wake up about the growing Hispanic vote and tweak their message to them as well. Marko Rubio was my choice as VP for that reason.
Despite that, Romney could have won this race and should have. Romney lost in a close race ó by 3 states and 2% of the vote. While it is true the GOP has to sharpen its message and deliver it in a more consistent way throughout the campaign, I donít think it is necessary to overhaul the GOP like some are suggesting, Instead, I would tweak the GOPís message, but overhaul the Republican nomination process. Romney lost this election during the primary where he was badly beaten up by his own party. In December 2011 his unfavorable rating was -35%. By late April 2012, after the toughest part of the primary was completed, that figure stood at -47%.
It is suicide to beat up your ultimate nominee for 12 months prior to the campaign for the general election and drain his funds going into the race with the Democrat nominee. Either the GOP should shorten the primary season, limit the number of candidates who can participate to those with national name recognition and the resources to run a nationwide campaign or it should go back to selecting its nominee via the convention method.
The third reason Romney lost is there are now just as many people in the economic cart, as those pulling the cart. If someone has retired after 40 years, he is entitled to Social Security retirement. If someone is disabled and canít work, he should receive help. However, too many are receiving benefits they donít deserve or excessive benefits. That needs to be the focus of the GOP message there.
Look at disability. Iím sure every one knows someone who draws a disability check, but can and often works. I had a friend who hired a slick attorney and they went in front of a judge, saying he couldnít work because he was mentally scared. The judge agreed he was disabled and approved him for disability payments. Right after that he started a company under his relativeís name running a earth moving business.
Unemployment benefits make sense, but collecting them for 99 weeks is excessive.
For the most part the Democrats support protecting those in the cart, growing their numbers and giving them more benefits. Gosh, on TV they now advertise free phones for those on welfare. It is about growing their dependence on the Democrat Party, getting votes today and the heck with what we are creating for tomorrow.
The other side of that same coin is just as bad. Why do any energy companies receive tax credits beit an oil company or green energy firms? The GOP has to insist companies take their one foot out of the cart too.
I kind of knew all these factors were there, but didn't realize they were so intense theyíd put Obama over the top. Like I said before, Obamaís next four years will depend on the economy. Expansion of government (liberalism) is paid for with government tax revenue. Obamacare is not free and neither are the Obama Phones. The problem with Obamaís liberal agenda is his lack of an effective economic policy to pay for it all. His policy is nothing more than borrowing and spending and then having the Federal Reserve monetarize the new government debt and printing oodles of money. This is a short-term fix; not a long-term solution to economic growth.
I liken Obamaís economic policy to giving a marathon runner more and more speed to keep him running. It works in the short-run, but in the long-run eventually it hurts the runner and in the end his heart will explode.
Easley School Board Election:
I knew of the other candidates, but did not spend any length of time with them in the past. I supported Judy Edwards, mainly, because I knew what she was and wasn't. While Judy and I have stark disagreements on some issues, she is honest/open in what she thinks/ says and is independent minded. I appreciate all those things and believe she has strengthened the democratic process on the school board.
I do believe the city of Easley and some of the more vocal administrators in theschool system did not support her, because frankly, she doesnít bend to their wishes.
In the past, the city political machine elected their local school board member. This is why district proprieties that had value, where given to cities, benefiting the cities, but not helping the school district or its students. This is why district revenue was given away to cities in 15 year TIF agreements. Again helping the cities, but hurting the students those board members are elected to serve.
The board of 2010 stopped both practices because most board members believe the districtís financial needs are more important than political favoritism. For this reason, most of the city political machines donít support for the current crop of board members.
Ditto for some district administrators. Looking at the boards of 2004, 2006 and 2008. More than 95% of what the superintendentís recommendations were rubberstamped by the board. Some board members had 99% or 98% voting records with administration recommendations. If the superintendent wanted it, they approved it without much thought or question.
The board of 2010 didnít do that and at times came up with its own ideas. While the board still approves about 80% of what the administration requests, the approach is more balanced with all the board members having input. Some administrators donít like that the administration no longer has virtually complete control over the board. Those administrators opposed Judy Edwards. Again, she is independent minded.
It is difficult to tell why Edwards won the school board election. I donít live in Easley, so I havenít talked to too many voters over there. Likely it was a lot of small things adding up in her favor.
Easley is less conservative than Pickens, but not as liberal as Clemson. Naturally, the messages of the candidates were moderate, falling between the Pickens ideology and the Clemson ideology when it comes to school issues. More likely the outcome was determined by the backgrounds of the candidates, the dynamics of the race and how well they ran their campaigns more than their messages.
Being a teacher for 30 years, Edwards taught 750 students and many of them are adults now and they have spouses. Of those who still live here, likely, she got most of their votes. She ran before and many of these people voted for her once before ó the power of incumbency. Dick Gettys helped her a lot in 2008 and that probably had somewhat of a lasting effect.
I greeted at the primary, run-off and general election, talking with about 450 voters. Four years ago, many voters were upset about the direction of the school board, mainly the overspending/ overtaxing, Dr. Lee DíAndrea, and the Greenville Plan. They are still hot about the Greenville Plan, but some of that is being offset by positives things they have been seeing the last 2 or 3 years. That is probably the reason all 3 board members who were up for re-election are going back to the school board this time.
Also, the economy is improving, so budgets are starting to grow again. Dr. Kelly Pew's management is adding a freshness to the district as well. As a result, employee morale is improving. In the end current and former employees are more likely to support a retired employee of the district. Edwards had that advantage being a teacher from East End Elementary School.
Valerie Ramsey ran stronger than I thought (kudos to her), but probably split the anti-incumbent vote with Whittemore. If run-off rules applied, Whittemore might have beaten Edwards. Edwards received only 42% of the vote.
Letís face it. The presidential race is the big draw in these general elections. Some of the voters donít know a lot if anything about the local candidates. When that occurs, some skip local races. A few just pick the first name on the ballot if it remotely sounds familar. Edwards was first on the ballot, so that probably helped her too. About 250 less voted in the school board election than the Easley county council election, so there was an issue with name recognition in the school board race.
Pickens School Board Election:
I was not opposed and was quite surprised. Obviously some inside the system were working on it. In the spring I received an email from a district manager who was unhappy with one of my votes and he wrote, ďIt is time for you to go. We need people on the board who actually want to make a difference in the lives of our students and our community. Enjoy your last few months on the job.Ē
There where 212 write-in votes in my race. I led the pack in that category. My two children attend Holly Springs Elementary. I care about the children in our schools, but I also have an eye on the society theyíll inherit when they graduate. To not speak out about the social decline or spend more than we can afford doesnít benefit our children in the long-run.
Iím sure there were a lot of well intentioned people in Europe urging more spending and more taxing/ borrowing to pay for this or that service. They overdid it. Govenment usually does. Now look at Europe. It is an economic basket case. Greece is on the verge of economic collapse. Italy and Spain are on life support. The UK and France will follow. The manager who wrote me that email is only focused on the here and now ó what he wants, and isnít thinking about or he doesn't understand the long-term consequences. Naturally, he and those like him strongly oppose my bigger picture viewpoint.
First, I want to say challengers were treated unfairly in this process. The loop-hole in the law was accidentally created by the legislature, but too many incumbent legislators took advantage of that loop-hole, some going to the extent of hiring lawyers to exploit that loop-hole and then suing the local GOP and fellow GOP members personally to protect their ill-gotten gain.
That is where my heart was. Having said that, it was clear from the start the numbers were working against the petition candidates. I wrote that many times and advised those who asked me it was unwise to run as a petition candidate. Jimmy Davis was the only one I spoke to personally about it and he took the advice I and others gave him. Hopefully, heíll be back as a candidate in the next city election.
On November 6th the straight Republican vote swamped the petition candidates. County-wide, 9,300 people voted straight Republican (down from 13,000 in 2008). Martinís victory margin was about 10,000 votes, so he garnered all the straight line votes, plus some more.
Rick Clark won by 7,200 votes. He picked up all the straight Republican vote, but in non-straight line voting Morgan edged out Clark by about 2,000 votes. The Morgan campaign spent a lot of money in a short time. Iím guessing $50,000. Having run the primary and run-off, and pretty much self-financing his campaign, Clark seemed financially strapped coming down the stretch. That tightened the race, but Clark still won by 17%.
Of all the petition candidates, I thought Harris had a shot. He had the best showing. In his district BR Skelton picked up 1,500 straight line Republican votes. In non-straight line voting, Harris beat Skelton impressively, losing the overall race not by 1,500, but only 750. My advice to Ed Harris is stay active and vocal, and run in 2014. Harris is likely to win the 2014 primary in a head to head race with Skelton.