Hi All. I’m currently teaching at the University of Wisconsin, which is why you haven’t seen as much of me lately. (Well, teaching, and running two consulting businesses…). Since the semester is almost over, I have posted a small, very bad, personal webpage over at the Wisconsin website. If I continue teaching there, I will make it better. But, for now, it is what it is.
I predict that the nation-wide popular vote will be too close to call, but that it won’t matter because President Obama will win a clear Electoral College victory. I think Obama sweeps the Great Lakes states (except Indiana) and Romney sweeps the South. The final Electoral College count will be Obama 281 and Romney 257.
We’ll know in (hopefully) 36 hours how right or wrong I was in my predictions. Note that Obama could lose 10 Electoral College points I’m predicting he’ll get and could still win the election. That means he could lose Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), Nevada (6), Iowa (6), or New Hampshire (4) and still be fine. If I’m wrong on Ohio, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, then Obama could be in big trouble. Of course, if Romney loses Florida, North Carolina, or Virginia, then it’s probably all over for him.
People keep asking me to do this for them, so here it goes. For what it’s worth, these are my thoughts on the most talked-about people on the so-called “veep shortlist”:
Gov. Pawlenty is what you might call the “super-safe choice”. No one really dislikes him, but no one gets too excited about him either. He comes from a working class family (contrast with Romney), is an evangelical Baptist (contrast with Romney), and is generally likeable even if not charismatic (contrast with Romney). In spite of barely winning election as governor o fMinnesota twice, he is generally well-received in his home state. He would not alienate the conservative Republican base but would not overly offend independent voters either.
Basically, no one has a problem with him, except for what may be one significant issue: Pawlenty’s another white guy. The GOP really needs to get away from its image of being the party run by white men. It isn’t demographically sustainable for much longer. Pretty soon, the large majority of voters who are not white men will start asking questions.
Sen. Portman is another safe pick, but perhaps a more substantive one. He is impressively popular in Ohio, and might be just popular enough to swing that state Romney’s way. As the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, there are few elected politicians in Washington who understand taxing and budgeting issues as well as he does. In a debate with Vice President Biden, Portman might make Biden look like a little kid. In essence, he’s the “grown-up” pick.
The downside with Portman is that he may be a little too similar to Romney. Portman, too, is a white man. Portman also is the son of a successful businessman, with the added opportunities that affords. Portman’s policy strengths are also in economics and business. Social conservatives are also wary of Portman’s credentials on their issues. A problem Portman has differs from Romney is baggage from George W. Bush. Portman was a Bush guy, and worked for him in a number of capacities. The Obama team is licking their chops at the chance to bring up Bush as much as possible in this election.
I know a lot of you are asking who this is and how I could possible put him in the top tier of candidates. Sen. Thune represents South Dakota. His claim to fame nationally is beating then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Just by doing that, he became something of a hero in the GOP. Thune is generally well-liked and well-respected in Republican circles. He is a by-the-book conservative without any areas of heterodoxy of which I am aware. He is one of the most knowledgeable politicians in Washingtonon energy policy, and generally would make the Republican base happy. He would especially please the evangelical Christians, who feel like they have been taken for granted lately. Thune’s open Evangelical worldview would go a long way to alleviate discomfort among Evangelical Republicans about Romney’s Mormon faith.
There honestly isn’t much down-side to Thune, which is why I put him in this top category. The biggest problem is that he is, again, a white guy. He’s a boring pick, but the Democrats would have a hard time making him look like a bad guy.
The Less-Favored Favorites
(Full disclosure–I have had meetings with Gov. Jindal on a couple of occasions and am authentically impressed by him. Hopefully this won’t color my evaluation.)
Gov. Jindal of Louisianais the archetypal “policy wonk”. His knowledge of policy issues is almost encyclopedic. To be honest, it’s almost scary. There are very few politicians who can make most public policy professors look bad, but Jindal definitely does. If his political career goes awry, he can jump into academia very easily. No one could accuse him of being another Sarah Palin. Jindal is also not another white guy, being an Indian-American elected to a state in the South. The conservative base of the Republican Party generally likes him. He supports conservative issues and frequently out-debates liberals in doing so. He is also, arguably, one of the most successful governors in the country. Given that he governor ofLouisiana, that is really saying something. These would all be positives in a potential Romney Vice Presidential pick.
Here, from my perspective, is Jindal’s big negative. Jindal is horrible at giving speeches. I mean really bad. He seems incredibly uncomfortable saying words in front of an audience that are pre-written. He seems much more comfortable in debate situations, but even here he runs into problems. If he were debating in front of a group of college professors (such as myself), then he would be tremendous. The problem is that he is not good at translating his vast knowledge into language that a general audience can understand. That is probably not good for someone running for national office.
Picking Rep. Ryan would make a lot of Tea Partiers happy, especially the ones focused on budget issues. Ryan is the bulldog in the House of Representatives who every year proposes the Republican budget that goes nowhere. He would energize a large portion of the base and might even bring along some libertarian-leaning independents. Ryan is also very well-spoken and generally leaves people with a positive image after hearing him.
But I think Ryan would turn into the whipping boy of the campaign. The Democrats would have a field day with him, attacking him on things such has wanting to take money away from Medicare and Social Security, thus hurting the elderly. Your personal likeability can only take you so far when you are constantly being accused of trying to take money away from grandma.
Gov. Christie is another potential candidate that would energize the base. It isn’t because he is particularly conservative (how conservative can you be as the governor ofNew Jersey?) but because he is very blunt. He will tell you exactly what he thinks and do it in a way that gets attention. In that respect, he is similar to Vice President Biden, and a debate between the two would be entertaining, if nothing else.
But the comparison with Biden is where we run into trouble. Biden knows a lot more than Christie and is better at explaining it. I think Biden would make Christie look almost as bad as Biden made Sarah Palin look in 2008. There is also the problem that Christie might lose the support of the conservative base once they learn his specific views on a lot of issues.
Sen. Rubio gets a lot of attention. He is Latino, so that might siphon off some Latin American votes from Obama. Rubio grew up working class. He is well-spoken and good looking. He is popular in his swing state ofFlorida. He gives members of the Tea Party warm fuzzies all over. In these respects, he could be considered the “anti-Romney” in Republican circles.
What’s the problem? He lacks experience. We also don’t know that much about him. No one is quite sure what may come out if he is vetted for the Vice Presidency. People are afraid of a Sarah Palin repeat performance.
The Long Shots
The former Secretary of State is the first person on this list with foreign policy expertise and experience. That is somewhat astounding when you are talking about a running mate for a presidential nominee with no foreign policy experience. Normally if your candidate lacks experience in foreign policy, the vice presidential candidate has to have it. Think about it. Joe Biden for Obama. Dick Cheyney for G.W. Bush. Al Gore for Bill Clinton. Condi Rice is the only person on this list so far with foreign policy experience. (Someone might argue that Portman does as well, but his experience is limited to commerce, so I don’t count it.) She is also neither white nor a man.
But, Secretary Rice will not get the nod. At least I would be shocked if she did. There might be a riot on the floor of the Republican convention if the veep spot is filled with someone who is admittedly “moderately pro-choice”. She also has the “Bush” label on her, so that could also hurt in the general election.
I honestly don’t know much about Sen. Ayotte, except that, she seems to be a down-the-line conservative Republican, which is surprising given that she is from New England. Being relatively new to the Senate, she lacks any real experience, having spent most of her governmental career as a prosecutor and state attorney. Again, picking her might give voters flash-backs to Palin, except that I imagine Sen. Ayotte comes across as more intelligent and thoughtful.
Nikki Haley is the second governor of Indian descent elected in the United States(the first being Bobby Jindal). She is a Tea Party favorite and comes across very well in interviews. She would definitely make the ticket look diverse. She is a hero among those who want stricter immigration law enforcement, as both a strong advocate of those views and the daughter of immigrants. However, I think we might again venture into Sarah Palin territory here. Gov. Haley arguably has less experience than Palin did, even if she comes across as more intelligent than Palin in the media.
As I told a number of my friends (although I don’t remember if I ever said it on this blog), if the Republicans were smart, they would nominate Huntsman. He has foreign policy success. He has domestic policy success. He was a successful governor. And, if the Obama team tries to attack him on his positions, he can retort, “Then why did you hire me to be ambassador toChina?” A lot of Democrats I know authentically like Hunstman more than they like Obama, even though ideologically Huntsman is clearly a Republican. In many ways, if the GOP was going to nominate a Mormon candidate, Hunstman would have been the smarter choice. (But I would never accuse the electorate of either party of being particularly smart.)
So, here’s why Huntsman won’t get the nod for VP: 1) Demographically, he looks way too much like Romney (I think they are even distant cousins). 2) Huntsman used to work for the Obama administration, which makes him unpalatable to most die-hard Republicans. 3) I have friends who know both families well, and apparently Romney and Huntsman don’t like each other at all.
And, with that, I am officially out of ideas about who might end up as Romney’s running mate. If you have any more ideas, please comment or email me (especially if I missed someone obvious).
Yes, I know I haven’t been around in a while. Life got really busy and the blog took a back seat. I am also trying to figure out what to do with it as far as focus.
In the meantime, I do want to mention that my friend over at Intellectual Christian Geek has a new blog, Intellectual Christian Academic. So far it’s an interesting read for those of us in academia. I disagree with a lot of what he says, but that’s the nice thing about it. We can disagree and still be friends. I don’t think there will be much political stuff on this blog, even though he is a political science professor. (I’m sort of hoping he starts an “Intellectual Christian Politics”.)
He tends to write a lot about the challenges facing universities. For example, he writes about how academic structure disincentivizes good teaching and why college costs so much. It is interesting reading and I think most of it is accessible to a broader audience (you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand what he’s talking about).
So, as I figure out what I’m doing with this blog, I encourage you to scrounge about to see what others are doing. Since Intellectual Christian Geek was kind enough to plug me when I first got started, I’m returning the favor and giving him some props on his new endeavor.
This is the first video lesson in my Introduction to US Government course. (Hopefully all the technology works.) It addresses the first, fundamental question, “What is Government?”
This is the first in my “One Christian’s look at…” series. I figured I’d jump right in with a tough issue, but one that might indicate my thinking on a lot of other issues.
Doing a Biblical analysis of the separation of church and state is tricky at best. In the Old Testament, the church and state were intimately intertwined and kings were regularly chewed out by prophets. In the New Testament, church and state were two separate entities, clearly distinguishable, and frequently in conflict.
A lot of how one positions oneself on the separation of church and state will be determined by whether one focuses on the Old or New Testaments. I lean strongly toward emphasis on the New Testament in this area for a few reasons. First and foremost, I do not see any Biblical evidence that the United States, where I live, is God’s chosen nation. The relationship between God and Israel was a special and unique one. Israel was, in many respects, a theocracy. The main set of laws was handed down directly by God. My current living situation does not mimic this. I see a much stronger analogy between the US and Rome in its relationship to Believers. (If you disagree with me on this set of assumptions, then you will clearly disagree with this post’s conclusions. I’m fine with that. I really am. I think disagreement can be healthy, and force both sides to think more clearly about important issues like this. Please keep reading, and you can provide a comment with links to sources with other perspectives that you think I should look at.) Continue reading
After six months of working on this blog, I decided to change things up a bit. That’s right, I’m coming out of the closet–the Christian closet. I originally wanted to make this blog something of a introductory guide to politics without a political or ideological slant. Given that I don’t know of anyone who is doing something similar, I thought I would have at least a small audience of people who wanted to learn about politics without the ideological underpinnings or assumptions of previous knowledge that wasn’t there. Basically, the original idea was to provide an introduction to politics course that was available to a wide audience. That was Professor Knowsome, v1.0. Having developed only a small audience, I tried something else. Continue reading
I suppose it was bound to happen. Rick Santorum is now the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential race. While most people (including myself) were surprised at how well Santorum did, my friend Mark over at Intellectual Christian Geek was kind enough to explain it to me and give me permission to try to explain it to all of you (he’s getting married and moving in a few months and has not been able to blog frequently himself).
Mark explains that the key to Santorum’s recent success, especially relative to Gingrich, has had more to do with geography than anything else. Continue reading
Today Newt Gingrich announced that, no matter how the Florida vote turns out on Tuesday, he would stay in the race until the convention. Umm…right. He might just be crazy enough to do that (like Ron Paul might), but here is my basic question: Who will pay for it? Once it is clear he won’t get the nomination, I’m not sure how many more $5million checks he’ll get for the campaign going nowhere. If the vote is close in Florida, he might still be able to get funds for a while. The problem Gingrich faces, though, is that he needs to do well in a primary outside of the South before he will really be taken seriously. He can’t win the nomination, even if he sweeps the South, unless he is taken seriously in other parts of the country. As of right now, I’m not sure what part of the country that would be. (If you want to know why, read my friend’s post over at Intellectual Christian Geek.)
Frequently, I find that the best political novels aren’t really intending to be about politics at all. Below you will find my personal favorites.
Brave New World If I were to teach an entire Introduction to Political Science course using just a novel as a textbook, I would probably choose this classic from Aldous Huxley. It covers a number of key political themes from ideology to bureacracy, but does so in a way that causes people to think deeply about their own ideals. Continue reading