The Talking Elephant

A young republicans views of the current state of political affairs

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Extend Cash for Clunkers

Right now the Senate is poised to vote on additional funding for the "cash for clunkers" program. For those not familiar with this program, a consumer would receive $4500 for trading their old car in for a newer model. The plan has actually proven to be successful, in the sense that the program has already run out of money.

Cash for clunkers has received some negative publicity recently, but I actually believe the original intent of the idea is something worth keeping. The main idea of this program is to encourage people to drive newer, fuel-efficient vehicles because they are better for the environment than older cars.

The issue that I have with the program right now is that there has been a seperate agency created to administer the program. Anytime the federal government creates a new entity its almost impossible to get rid of it. I think the program can keep its intent and save time and money if people received a tax credit instead. The advantage of this program is that the tax credit will be administered by the IRS, an entity already in existence.

Tax credits, breaks, or rebates should be the preferred way the government incentivizes a preferred behavior rather than paying a car dealerships directly.

The other advantage of a tax credit is that the consumer can actually benefit by getting money for their trade-in from the dealer and getting the tax credit from the government on top of that.

So far the cash for clunkers program has been credited with the recent increase in auto sales. Some critics point out that most of the new cars purchased are actually foreign cars. My belief is that any increase in auto sales at this time is a good thing. Even if Toyotas and Hondas are being purchased there still is an American car salesman making commission, an American car dealership owner making a profit, and an American factory worker who can keep their job. Just because Toyota and Honda have benefited from the program does not mean the program should end. Keep in mind prior to this program Toyota and Honda were the the top selling cars in the US and it should not be a shock that they are still the top selling cars in the US after the creation of this program.

It is important to keep in mind foreign automakers are not the only benefactors, Ford Motor Company actually did better this recent month because of the program. Isn't any increase in auto sales no matter how short a good thing for US automakers? My belief is that US automakers need any help that they can get.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update: 2010 Senate Race

Although just earlier this week Al Franken was sworn as the 60th Democratic Senator, giving that party a filibuster proof majority there is good news on the horizon for the GOP. cRepublicans chances are helped by some recent polling indicating an American distaste for President Obama and Democratic leadership. One recent Rasmussen poll shows that Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats on eight issues including: Economy, Taxes, Social Security, Abortion, Iraq, National Security, Immigration, and Government Ethics. The only two issues Republicans lost to Democrats were Education and Health care.

In today's Rasmussen Preisdential Tracking Poll 38% of Americans Strongly Disapprove of President Obama's performance versus 30% strongly approving.

The other good news is how some of the key Senate races are shaping up across the country. Here is current break down of some key races with news to report.

New Hampshire: I first thought, Republicans would not have a chance when former Senator John Sununu said he would not challenge Rep. Paul Hodes to the Senate seat. My initial thinking was wrong when current state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte decided to enter the race. A recent University of New Hampshire poll shows Ayotte leading Hodes by 4% points. The other good news is that there are multiple other credible Republicans thinking about entering the race.

Illinois: There was some very big news that came out this week, Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican, has decided he will run for the Senate seat. Rep. Kirk is by far the strongest Republican and makes this race competitive. The other news that came out today is that the current Senator Roland Burris will not seek re-election. Burris did not have any chance of actually winning a full term. Rep. Kirk's chances look even better now that state Attorney General Lisa Madigan has decided to seek a third term rather than run for the Senate. The only credible Democratic challenger is state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias who has raised a considerable amount of money. Rep. Kirk can run on his experienc and not being party of the Chicago political machine, both of which would be Giannoulias' weaknesses.

Nevada: Democratic Senate Majority Harry Reid may have to fight to keep his Senate seat. A recent Mason-Dixon poll in that state shows Harry Reid's approval sits at 34% which is 5 points below Nevada's other Senator John Ensign. The key to this poll is that it was taken right after the news of Senator Ensign's sex scandal. I believe the key to this race is finding a credible Republican to run against Reid.

Texas: Could have a Senate race as long as current Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to resign her seat and challenge Republican Governor Rick Perry. I still have questions whether or not Hutchison will run. A recent Univeristy of Texas poll shows her trailing by 12% in the Republican primary. I'll update information on a Texas Senate race when I know there actually will be one.

New York: There are actually two Senate races but the only one that could be a challenge is the seat currently occoupied by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The race is going to be competitive for sure on the Democratic side with Rep. Carolyn Maloney challenging Gillibrand. Rep. Maloney's has been helped by the support from President Bill Clinton, whose wife used to have that particualr Senate seat. The Democratic primary can be very bruising with democrats having to decide between the candidate supported by President Clinton and the candidate supported by President Obama. A Republican can have a chance if they play off of the democratic internal fights. Right now there is not a strong potential Republican challenger, Rep Pete King has said he probably will not run for the seat. Senator Gillibrand is a moderate and I think Republicans would have a better chance if there was a bitter Democratic primary and Gillibrand lost. Angry Gillibrand voters could become potential Republican voters.

Kentucky: No real news here with what current Senator Jim Bunning is doing. Signs show he probably is not running but does not have any motivation to say so. The recent news is that Rand Paul, song of Ron Paul, a Republican Congressmen from Texas and former presidential candidate is going to run whether Bunning is running or not.

So far so good for Republicans. The key is at this point though is to remember that polls can change based on events. If approval ratings of President Obama continue to trend the way they have he will be very unpopular on election day in 2010. If he is unpopular there are more Senate and House rates that can be competitive. At this point though, Democrats have huge majorities in the House, filibuster proof majorities in the Senate, and the White House, whatever happens between now and election day is going to be on Demorcrats, good or bad.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What Will Palin Do?

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin shocked the political world when she announced her intention to step down as Governor at the end of July. Palin worded her resignation in a way that makes me think that she is interested in other political offices. But I believe she made a significant political miscalculation in resigning as governor.

One reason given for her resignation was that the Governor did not want to waste taxpayer money by being an ineffective lame duck governor. I respect her attempts at trying to save tax payer dollars but I believe she is flawed in her logic. Governor Palin's replacement will be Lt. Governor Sean Parnell who is running for governor in 2010. Alaskans will not be better off because instead of having a full-time governor, in Palin, they will now have a part-time governor whose focus will be on being elected governor, in Parnell.

Being a lame duck office holder is not really a place any politician wants to be but quiting is not really the appropriate action. In November of 2008 it would not have been appropriate for President Bush to resign and have Vice President Cheney take over. A governor or a president still has official duties that must be done. I cannot think of anyone at least in modern history that has resigned because they were a lame duck.

Governor Palin appears to have higher aspirations and I can see her not wanting to run for re-election but stepping down is odd. If anything being a lame duck governor for an aspiring politician is the best thing that can happen to that politician. The lame duck governor won't have to worry about legislative battles instead they can focus on their other official duties and still use their pulpit as a governor to gain attention on the national stage.

The more murky area is what exactly Palin will do now, her resignation was worded indicating she is not done with public service and I believe there are four sceanrios that could happen for Palin.

Sceanario 1: Palin runs for Congress

There are three offices that Palin could take over for potentially, the two US Senate seats or the US House seat. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski is up for re-election next year and so is Rep. Don Young, both are Republicans. Both Murkowski and Young have had some ethical issues in the past and Palin could be looking to capitalize on their issues to defeat them for re-election. Palin does have a history of fighting corruption and challenging members of her party.

Palin was elected Governor by beating Govenor Frank Murkowski (father of the Senator) and she might have an agenda to elminate the whole family from public office.

Competitive Republican primaries are not unusal in Alaska, Rep. Young was challenged in last year's primary by none other then, Lt Governor now soon-to- be-Governor Sean Parnell.

If Palin runs for Congress I think her easiest competition would be against Rep. Young, who only won his primary by 304 votes.

Sceanario 2: Palin goes to Congress

No this scenario is not redundant, Palin might not have to challange an incumbent. For being a rather densely populated state Alaskan politicians have had some corruption issues in the past. I don't want to start rumors but it is possible there could be some corruption charges coming down the pipeline that Palin might have been made aware of. In very recent history Senator Murkowski and Rep. Young have had ethic probes or complaints filed against them. The other Alaskan Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, has actually had a clean past that I know of, but there were some shady areas in his recent Senate campaign.

If there was some sort of ethical issue that could cause one of the senators or congressman to step down Palin now would be in an excellent position to be appointed to that office. The person that would be making the appointment to fill any vacant seat would be by the person Palin just made Governor.

Of course, this sceanrio is not really probable and there would probably be more questions and suspicion of Palin if it came true.

Sceanario 3: Palin prepares to run for the Presidency

Presidential campaigns are time consuming and expensive. President Obama starting running in 2006, two years before winning the office. If Palin wanted to run in 2012 she could have a headstart over everybody else in the race.

However, I think that her resignation to leave office early to run for president is not something that will sit well with voters and will be a big negative her campaign will have to deal with. Of course, Palin is 45 years old, and being president in 2012 might not be her goal. The Governor is young enough to be able to run in 15 years if she wanted to be president.

If Palin's looking to be president in the future she would have to do something now to prepare her resume. With President Obama in the White House I don't think she can expect a high level appointment of some kind. A good private sector job though could certainly help her resume and she can wait until 2014 when Senator Begich is up for re-election (who realistically will be a one term Senator).

Sceanario #4: Palin remains a semi-private citizen

There certainly is no question that the governor and her family have had their lives turned upside down since joining the national stage. It is possible the Governor resigned for the sake of her family and will work for the public good but not hold any public office.

The former Governor would be a great hire by any not for profit organizations and would be a great spokeswoman for multiple causes. If Palin stays out of public office her and her family stay out of the spotlight and won't be the blunt of latenight talkshow jokes.

What Governor Palin really plans on doing is not known and she has not indicated any desire to let the media or the public know until she is ready to tell people. We regretably will have to wait this out and see what exactly the Governor will do.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Update: 2010 Senate race

Since my last post there has been quite a few updates/primaries and I wanted to update everyone on how the Senate race is shaping up:

Illinois: Early last week Rep. Jan Schakowksy announced that she would not run for the seat. Early polls showed Schakowsky had a very real chance of winning the nomination and the general election. The three democrats that appear interested in the race is Senator Roland Burris, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, and Chris Kennedy, a Chicago businessman and son of Robert Kennedy. On the Republican side, the only credible candidate is Rep. Mark Kirk. Kirk hasn't said what he's going to do but did announce earlier this week he is getting a divorce from his wife. It is not known on this event will impact his decision.

Oklahoma: Senator Tom Coburn announced that he is going to seek another term, basically guaranteeing the seat stays in Republican hands

Connecticut: The latest poll shows Senator Chris Dodd trailing Rep. Rob Simmons in a hypothetical general election and he is still unpopular with most of the state. The good news for the Dodd campaign is that he is only losing by 6 percent and his numbers have been improving since my last update.

Pennsylvania: No official word on whether Rep. Sestak will actually run. I believe the general election will be very interesting one way or the other.

Colorado: The candidates for this race seem more like excellent candidates for a mayoral race rather than a Senatorial race. The current incumbent is Michael Bennet who was actually appointed to the seat and is a former school superintendent. The two Republican challengers are a county sheriff and a city councilman. Rumors have former Congressman Bob Beauprez looking at the race. If he entered he would be the only real prominent name. I think the Republicans need to look at this race because there is real opportunity to take back the seat.

Pete Coors, the Coloradoan businessman ran for the seat in 2004. If he wanted to really be in the Senate this year could be his year.

Florida: Governor Charlie Crist anounced he will run for the seat and he quickly snatched up key endorsements. Crist has some star-power and national fame. I think he wins the nomination and the general election.

Missouri: No big changes in terms of candidates, this race right now is a toss-up.

Delaware: Vice President Biden's seat could go into Republican hands if Rep. Mike Castle enters the race, sources say that he is leaning at running.

The most exciting thing in my opinion are the possibilities available to Republicans in 2010. This past November pundits and critics were telling Republicans that they were out of the mainstream. What a difference six months can make considering Republicans have good prospects in winning Senate seats in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, Colorodo, and Illinois, which are hardly states considered red or purple.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's action time for Obama on the torture photos

Congress this week has had a big discussion on what to do with abuse photos from Abu Ghraib prison. If you haven't been following the news, Congress is working on funding legislation for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In the Senate version of the spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attached a provision to bar the Abu Ghraib photos from being released for five years

A handful of very liberal members of the House of Representatives, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said they would not vote for the spending legislation if that provision was in the spending bill. Due to this opposition, the conference committee, the group tasked with smoothing out the differences between the House and Senate version were forced to drop the provision after the urging of the Obama Administration.

President Obama himself has said that he does not want the photos released and supported the McConnell amendment. Obama stated he opposed the measure because of the anger it will cause among Muslims and the harm that could come to our troops. I agree with President Obama on this idea.

The problem though is that the Obama adminstraton was not able to use its influence to get the necessary support for the spending measure and asked the conference committeee to remove the amendment from the spending bill.

I have two issues at this point, one issue is why some members of Congress want the photos released ( I feel this is more political and a topic for another blog) . The main issue I have is that the photo issue has not been resolved and the Obama administration needs to act now.

Congress has shown they are not capable of making the photos classified and the responsibility now lays with the president. I urge President Obama to classify these photosl for national security purposes and end the debate in Congress. These photo's should have never been taken and their existence is a black mark on the United States but no one benefits from their release. The photos should not be released now, in five years or ever, their release serves no function but political enjoyment for some of the exteme liberal members of Congress.

Run! What's KBH waiting for?

I have written a lot about the Texas Governor's race and a recent event has really made me think. Yesterday current US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison sent out a letter to her supporters basically asking for money. Of Course what made her letter interesting is that she included the phrase

" I am running for Governor because Texas must prepare for the future. I am running because I believe it is conservative to demand results and hold government accountable - with integrity and responsibility."

Now this is not the first time that KBH has said she is running but there has not been an official announcement of her campaign. At this point I am wondering what the hold up is in making an official announcement.

I am actually questioning the strategy of the campaign. When Senator Hutchison does finally announce she is running, the news won't be so shocking to Texans. Normally a candidate, any candidate gets a bounce in the polls when they actually say they are running. At this point its not news that she is running.

The only thing that would really be news is if Sen. Hutchison did not run. My thinking right now is that KBH would really like to run and be governor of Texas but wants a safety net and the ability to quickly back out of the race. Hutchison is looking to challenge incumbent Governor Rick Perry, who is not popular in the state by any means. The one issue the senator might have is that Perry is still very popular with conservatives. The senator has at times been at odds with some in the conservative wing of the party. We know from previous elections that devoted ideologues are usually the ones that turn out and influence a primary result. If Perry can get a enough of his base to turnout and Hutchison has issues connecting with voters it's possible Perry can win the nomination.

I do believe even though Texas is a very Republican state, I don't think Governor Perry has a good chance a general election if he is the nominee.

Right now, all Sen. Hutchison has really done is form an exploratory committee. She has also announced she is about to tour the state to discuss the future of Texas. After Senator Hutchison's listening tour it would not be too late for her to back out of the race if the polls don't look good. In fact she could easily back out of the race by saying "After touring our state and talking with Texans I have found that the best thing for Texas is for me to continue my work in the United States Senate."

Hutchison has backed out of the governor's race in years past and it still could happen this time around. If Hutchison does decide to run all the way I have to question the public relations strategy, I feel they the campaign might lose some of its momentum with multiple pseudo-announcements.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Specter Switch

In case you missed one of the biggest stories of last week's news cycle, Senator Specter announced that he was switching parties and deciding to run for re-election as a Democrat. This decision of course does not only impact the 2010 election but also the current balance of the Senate. Officially there are now 59 Democratic Senators and 40 Republicans. The one remaining seat is still being debated in Minnesota but it looks very likely the Democrats will be successful and have the 60 votes any party would want.

Specter's announcement is not particularly shocking to the political world because at best Specter was a moderate Republican. There are numerous events where Specter has been in the middle opposing a conservative initiative.

Specter faced a very difficult Republican primary against former Rep. Pete Toomey and his chances in the general election as a Republican were not great either. If Specter was able to beat Toomey for the Republican nomination I think his campaign would have been out of money in a general election fight.

In terms of how this announcement changes the prospects in 2010 is hard to tell right now. Former Pennsylvania Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is now "seriously considering" a run for the Senate seat. I believe Republicans would have a better chance of winning the seat if Tom Ridge was the nominee over former Rep. Pete Toomey.

Furthermore, Specter may not have a wideopen Democratic field for him. Rep. Joe Sestak is at least open to challenging Specter. Sestak certainly has a chance and a good bit of money on his side. Keep in mind Specter might have switched parties but he is not a liberal, he is a moderate. Pennsylvania Democrats might look to Sestak as someone who could win a general election and someone who agrees with them on all issues.

Republicans certainly can be positive about their chances in Pennsylvania. The Senate race is not over because Specter is not running as a Republican, in fact they could be better off due to Democrats potential hesitation towards him.

My prediction is if Tom Ridge wins the nomination, the general election is too close to call against Specter. If Rep. Sestak wins the Democratic nomination and faces Ridge this seat could go back into Republican hands.