Thursday, September 29, 2016

With History as a Guide, Clinton is the Clear Favorite in November

If you're interested in any historical comparisons: As of today, Clinton's average lead over Trump is 47.4 to 44.4. On this day in 2012, Obama's lead over Romney was 48.7 to 44.6. On this day in 2004, Bush led Kerry 48.6 to 43.4. In the end, Obama won by 3.9% and Bush by 2.5%. On this day in 2008, Obama led McCain 49.9 to 43.9.
Thus far, this race most closely resembles 2012 and 2004 - with Clinton in the Obama position in 2012 and the Bush position in 2004. The question for Trump is, does he under perform like Romney (Obama got a huge hurricane Sandy bump) or close strong like Kerry (Bush took a hit as faith in the Iraq War faltered). But in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012 the candidate in the lead (regardless of the margin) at this point ultimately won the election.

Using history as a guide - and barring some "October Surprise" - Clinton continues to be the clear favorite going into November. That being said, I'm just offering an historical comparison. I am not making a prediction. There is a very angry electorate out there. Trust in government is the lowest ever recorded, and no small number of people are openly angry at government. Trump is the perfect vessel for their anger and frustration. And, given that Clinton is doing better than usual in some red states it is very possible that she could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unprepared Trump gave little to move undecided his way

The most watched debate in 2008 wasn’t between John McCain and Barack Obama. It was the vice presidential showdown between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin that attracted all of the attention.
By the time of that debate, Palin’s qualification and preparedness for office had been pilloried by the press and late night comics and people tuned into the debate expecting to see a disaster of epic proportions. Instead, Palin surprised her critics and even her proponents by delivering a competent performance against the more experienced Biden.
How did Palin pull it off? Simple — weeks of intense preparation and mock debates.
The folks who tuned into the debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton finally got to see the Palin v. Biden debate they had been expecting in 2008.
From the very first question, it was clear that Trump had done little to no preparation for this debate. And yet, it was the first 20 minutes or so where Trump did best.
In a clear pitch to working class voters, Trump hammered away at trade agreements and the exodus of American manufacturing to other countries. He hung the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) around Clinton’s next.
But even in the midst of his strongest performance he was weak. He couldn’t explain how he would keep jobs from leaving the U.S. He couldn’t explain just how he would punish companies that left. And, he had no answer to Clinton’s correct observation that what Trump was proposing was nothing short of a trade war — which threatens the global economy.
After those initial exchanges, Trump’s lack of preparedness became ever more clear. In response to Clinton’s criticism that Trump’s tax plan would add $5.3 trillion to the debt, Trump’s response was “Your regulations are a disaster, and you’re going to increase regulations all over the place.” Perhaps an example would’ve helped?
Easily goaded by Clinton
On exchange after exchange, Trump could muster little more than broad generalities in response to Clinton. Perhaps worse for Trump is how easily he was goaded by Clinton. Merely a mention of his tax returns and the possibility that he wasn’t as wealthy as he claimed sent Trump on an unnecessary and unhelpful tangent about the combined values of his buildings and total value of his outstanding loans.
Whereas Clinton was able to goad Trump with her responses, Trump was typically unable to muster much more than “it’s a disaster” when he responded to Clinton’s comments.
Perhaps the most damaging segment of the debate was when Clinton made reference to the many small businesses who claim that Trump refused to pay them for services or that Trump used his power to force them to accept greatly reduced payments. The best defense Trump could muster was “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work…”
Trump’s biggest supporters are white, working class voters — many of whom live paycheck to paycheck — and I think he needed a better response. It apparently did not occur to say that in his business he has created thousands of jobs. It didn’t occur to him, because he never prepared for the debate.
By the final 30 minutes, Trump was clearly tired and frustrated and mostly unfocused. Clinton’s performance was far from perfect, but her mistakes were overshadowed by Trump’s.
Late in the 2008 election cycle, a question was raised regarding Barack Obama’s experience and qualifications to be president. One of Obama’s proponents responded that Obama’s successful campaign for the nomination was evidence of his qualifications.
Monday night, on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump proved that a successful campaign for a party’s nomination is not sufficient proof of experience or qualifications. Many Republicans office holders have justified their support for Trump by arguing that he would be a better president than Clinton. Last night’s debate revealed that to be a hollow argument.
How will the debate impact the race? It’s hard to say. They entered the race in a virtual tie and it will take about a week to truly see any debate impact.
It is unlikely that the debate will have any effect on the folks who already support Trump, but unlike more recent elections there are many more undecided voters this year. By the time the debates came around in 2012, only 5-7% of the electorate were still up for grabs. Today, roughly 15% of voters are undecided. Trump gave them little reason to choose him.

Friday, September 2, 2016

In Response to Hogan, Senator Ferguson Gets it Right

In response to Governor Hogan's executive order mandating a post Labor Day start for the school year, state Senator Bill Ferguson penned a must read response for MarylandReporter

Ferguson writes "if we are to have a conversation about adjusting our calendar, let it not be about starting the school year later, let it be about making the year longer, richer, and more purposeful... In an era of global competitiveness we need to be talking about a longer school year, not a shorter one." 

He is absolutely correct. In fact, the legislative task force that in 2014 endorsed a post Labor Day start noted that many of those who attended the various task force meetings expressed support for year round schooling - and for good reason. But unlike other calls for a year round school year that simply takes the same 180 day count and just spreads it more evenly across 365 days, Ferguson calls for more days of schooling. And for good reason. Research has shown that a simple year-round approach, that relies on the same number of days, doesn't improve the education outcomes for anyone. What's need are more days of instruction. At present, the American education calendar imposes a tremendous burden on low income and working class families and especially on minority communities. Imagine the benefits of a 240 day school year - children with access to nutritious meals, no retention gap from the long summer, more time for personalized instruction, less stress on families as parents commit less of their limited disposable income on childcare. These are but a few of the benefits of a longer school year. 

I've longed believed that such a policy would go nowhere in Maryland - perhaps I was wrong (perhaps not). It would be wonderful if Governor Hogan's executive order spurs a real conversation about meaningful education reform, instead of just hand wringing and attempts at recrimination.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Labor Day Showdown in the Free State

This week, Governor Hogan issued an executive order mandating that the Maryland school year begin after Labor Day and end no later than June 15th. The motivation for the post Labor Day start being the desire to generate a little additional revenue from family vacations to Ocean City prior to the start of the school year. Estimates are that the revised start date could generate up to $74 million in economic activity. This is not a new issue in Maryland and multitude of other states have grappled with the Labor Day question as well. The MD General Assembly created a task force back in 2013 to study the issue and that task force recommended adopting the post Labor Day start date, but their recommendation had no authority. 

The task force report noted:
"All 24 local school system superintendents, the State Superintendent, union representatives, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland are opposed to a post-Labor Day start date."
The task force was not moved by that universal opposition, noting instead that "there was no compelling evidence that showed there was any impact on education starting post-Labor Day..." and "there was no quantifiable evidence that a post-Labor Day start is harmful to local schools systems."  

The post Labor Day start has been a favorite of Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot and was endorsed by former Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley. But given opposition by local school systems and the Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland General Assembly was not willing to impose the mandated start date.