Obama Campaign Manager: Jon Huntsman Would Have Been Tougher Candidate

Huntsman family just prior to John Huntsman announcing his presidential bid on June 21, 2011 at Liberty State Park. (Mel Evans/AP)

In an interview with Politico‘s Mike Allen, Jim Messina, the 2012 Obama campaign’s manager, revealed that his team believed that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who also served as President Obama’s Ambassador to China, would likely have been a tougher general election opponent than Mitt Romney.

“Um, hmm, that’s a good question,” Messina said when Allen asked him which GOP candidate he believed would have had the best chance of beating Obama. “Look, I think we were honest with our concerns about [Jon] Huntsman. I think Huntsman would have been a very tough general election candidate. And as someone who helped manage his confirmation for the Chinese ambassador, I can tell you, you know, he’s a good guy, we look at his profile in a general election and thought he would be difficult.”

When Allen suggested that Obama’s team chose Huntsman as the ambassador to China in order to take him off the “chess board,” Messina responded, “No, I thought he was a committed American who would serve our country well, and he did.”

Abby Huntsman Livingston, Huntsman’s daughter who campaigned for her father before and during the Republican primaries, told the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday that it was great to hear “confirmation” from the Obama campaign about her father’s appeal.

“My dad is a principled, thoughtful and experienced leader ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century,” Abby Livingston said. “In fact, many of the ideas he spoke to during the primaries, Republicans now recognize as a message more in line with a majority of Americans.”

In 2009, senior Obama adviser David Plouffe expressed concern over a potential Huntsman candidacy, with reporter Nikki Schwab describing Plouffe as “a wee bit queasy” over the possibility. “I think the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate is Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah,” said Plouffe at the time. “I think he’s really out there and speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party.”

Huntsman’s brief presidential campaign ended on January 16, 2012, when he dropped out of the race after placing third in the New Hampshire primary behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. After ending his candidacy, Huntsman tepidly endorsed Romney, who eventually became the party’s nominee but was defeated by President Obama in the general election.

Huntsman’s name was briefly rumored as a possible replacement for Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State. Huntsman currently sits on the boards of several private companies, including Ford Motor Company, and has said he has not ruled out the possibility of running again for public office.

Huntsman also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from 1992-1993 under President George H. W. Bush, at the time the youngest U.S. ambassador the nation had appointed in over a century.

Gallup editor-in-chief lashes out at Nate Silver

In a post-election statement whose purpose seemed to be to explain why Gallup was wrong about the election outcome, Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport included what can only be interpreted as a dig at the New York Times‘ Nate Silver and predicted analyses like Silver’s could result in less polling in future cycles:

It’s not easy nor cheap to conduct traditional random sample polls. It’s much easier, cheaper, and mostly less risky to focus on aggregating and analyzing others’ polls. Organizations that traditionally go to the expense and effort to conduct individual polls could, in theory, decide to put their efforts into aggregation and statistical analyses of other people’s polls in the next election cycle and cut out their own polling. If many organizations make this seemingly rational decision, we could quickly be in a situation in which there are fewer and fewer polls left to aggregate and put into statistical models. Many individual rational decisions could result in a loss for the collective interest of those interested in public opinion.  This will develop into a significant issue for the industry going forward.

For his part, Nate Silver identified Gallup as one of the worst polling firms of the election, calculating their polls to have been biased towards Mitt Romney by 7.2% on average.

Rand Paul: “I’m interested” in 2016 presidential run; GOP should lay off marijuana

In an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) admits he’s open to running for president in 2016.

Asked directly whether he was going to run for president in 2016, Paul responded, “You know, I want to be part of the national debate. I think it’s a little too soon to talk about it, who’s gonna run and who’s not gonna run, and to tell you the truth I don’t know what will come. Am I interested in thinking about that? Yes.”

“You’re thinking about running for president?” Karl followed up.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “But am I someone that’s gonna make the decision, am I ready to make the decision now, no.”

“But there’s a real chance we’ll see a Rand Paul for President,” Karl asked, “carrying that mantle of libertarian conservatism?”

“We’ll see what happens,” Paul said, smiling. “Too early to tell.”

“Usually when people say that it’s almost a declaration of candidacy,” Karl said, and Paul nodded and laughed.

“Well, you know,” Paul responded, “I am different than some in that I’m not gonna deny that I’m interested.”

Paul went on to name some things he believed needed to change about the Republican party.

“I’m not gonna that I think we have to go a different direction because we are – we’re not winning, we’re just not winning,” Paul said. “We’re getting an ever dwindling percentage of the Hispanic vote. We need to let people know — Hispanics in particular — we’re not putting you on a bus and shipping you home.”

But Paul emphasized that he was still on the side the “hardcore immigration people” when it came to border security. “I will insist that border security’s first,” Paul said, “but I’m also not gonna rule out that we can’t figure out an eventual way if you’ve been living here for ten or twenty years that you can’t become like the rest of us.”

Aside from Hispanics, Paul said the Republican party also needs to do more to reach out to young voters. One way, Paul says, is to soften the rhetoric on marijuana. “We should tell young people, I’m not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don’t want to put you in jail for twenty years.” Paul went on to say that states such as Washington and Colorado, which recently passed controversial laws legalizing recreational marijuana, should absolutely have that right.

Regarding working with Democrats in the Senate, Paul pledged again that he would not compromise on taxes and would not vote for any bill that included an increase in taxes.

Trevor & Calvin Forecast [Incorrectly] That Mitt Romney Should Win Ohio

by Trevor Antley and Calvin Roberts.

[Update: The election has been called, and the winner of Ohio was President Barack Obama. Our forecast, as we noted was very possible, turned out to be incorrect. While the problem with the model can’t be verified until after full election results come in, it is most likely that the margins assumed for election day voters in Ohio were much closer than we assumed (assumptions which were based on an aggregate of three of the most recent Ohio polls). Higher-than-expected turnout among African-Americans and youth voters evidenced in exit polls seem to have boosted Obama’s election day margins.]

[Update 2: Our model was correct. The variables were that turnout was lower-than-expected (below 2008 turnout), and that the polls were slightly wrong regarding Romney’s margin over Obama with election day voters (it was slightly less than the number we used for our projection). Had we aggregated all of the polls and not the final three, as other statisticians suggested, the model would have shown Obama’s victory. Hats off to Nate Silver.]

Forecast: Mitt Romney Will Likely Win Ohio

Abstract: Actual reported early voting data requires that early voting will represent no more than 32% of total vote in Ohio, while virtually every poll was weighted for early voting to occupy ~35-40% of total votes cast. The smaller-than-expected number of early votes means one of two things: 1) 2012 will see historically low voter turnout in Ohio; or 2) Mitt Romney has a much better chance at Ohio than polls assumed.

Late Monday night the Ohio Secretary of State released the “final” early voting results from Ohio’s counties. The results got the attention — and slight consternation — of the New York Times’ Nate Silver. Dave Wasserman kindly put the data into a spreadsheet here, which tabulates early voting results by county and compares that data to early voting results from 2008. Wasserman’s spreadsheet also notes Kerry’s 2004 margins and Obama’s 2008 margins, allowing one to effectively deduce the partisan-leanings of each county.

In a discussion on Twitter, Silver and Wasserman focused largely on the surprise changes in turnout in many of Ohio’s counties. While total early voting in Ohio only increased by 2.44% from 2008, early voting in counties that voted heavily for Kerry/Obama declined 4.1% while counties that voted heavily Bush/McCain increased their early voting by a shocking 14.39%. Wasserman, while still predicting an Obama victory, suggested that trend meant a tighter race in Ohio than expected and suggested it might undercut Nate Silver’s famous forecast. Nate Silver’s response: “I’ll stick with the 538 forecast in OH. I disagree that the early voting data there provides much reason to doubt the polls.”

Seemingly overlooked by Silver, however, during the discussion of county-by-county results was the simple number of total reported early votes: a meager 1,787,346. As stated above, this number shows a 2.44% increase in early voting from 2008 — but the number is still surprisingly low. Virtually every Ohio poll this cycle was weighted on the basis that early voting would occupy a massive chunk of the total Ohio vote. Rasmussen’s final poll ceded 40% of the total vote to early voters (EVs). PPP gave EV’s a more reasonable 35%. The Columbus Dispatch calculated early voting to take up an astounding 47% of the total Ohio vote. Almost every other Ohio poll seems to have weighted early voting between 35% and 45% of the total vote.

The reported early voting numbers, however, show that virtually every single Ohio poll overestimated the amount of early votes cast. If early voting is calculated at 1,787,346, in order for total voter turnout to rival 2004 numbers, early voting cannot occupy more than 32% of the total votes cast — and even in that scenario, that high of a percentage means that total voter turnout will be lower than it was in 2008. In order for turnout to match 2008 levels, early voting can only account for 31% of total votes cast.

The next important piece of data is what the polls consistently report: Obama leads by huge margins among early voters but trails Romney among those who say they will vote on election day. This inverse in voting segments is why the proportion of early votes in the total votes — and that virtually every poll overestimated this proportion — is so tantamount. In most polls (which usually only have Obama leading by a small margin, although some give him a more comfortable ~+5%), lowering the percentage of early votes in the polling sample means lowering Obama’s lead drastically. And when Obama’s lead is only one or two percentage points, that can mean handing the election to Mitt Romney.

Our forecast is based largely on the reported margins between Romney and Obama among early voters and election day voters as reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Rasmussen, and other polls (all polling data considered is represented in the graphic below). The Columbus Dispatch gives Obama +15% among early voters; Rasmussen gives him a much wider 23%. Other polls for Ohio EVs: CNN/Opinion Research, Obama +28; Gravis Marketing, Obama +13; PPP, Obama +21. For our forecast we assumed a more conservative Obama +18 among EVs, averaging Rasmussen and the Columbus Dispatch.

In 2008 Obama won 58% of early voting against John McCain, who had virtually no get-out-the-vote infrastructure in Ohio; our model, giving Obama a 18% lead, again assumes he will win that 58% of early voters despite the fact that Mitt Romney is putting forth a much more competitive get-out-the-vote campaign and disregarding the GOP-leaning trend in early voting results of individual Ohio counties. When one considers the results from individual Ohio counties this cycle, Obama’s actual margin among EVs may actually be much lower (although without specific partisan data, it’s also possible that Obama’s margins have actually increased — although this seems extraordinarily more unlikely). But because this is impossible to determine without actual breakdowns of the early vote, which are not yet available, those implications are not included in this model.

In determining the margin among election day voters, the same polls were considered. For election day voters, Rasmussen has Romney +15; Columbus Dispatch, Romney +11; and CNN/Opinion Research, Romney +13. PPP and Gravis Marketing both had Romney’s election day margins at a much smaller +3. For our forecast, we assume Romney’s election day voter margins at 13%, an average of the first three polls. The consistency and disparity between the first three and the latter two polls made it difficult to average them since margins of error do not explain such a clear discrepancy between the two groups.

In this scenario — which seems to be supported by the majority of polls and early voting trends (but is notably not supported by all polls, as seen in the previous paragraph) — Romney should win Ohio. Based on these assumptions — which in turn are based on a combination of polling data and the state’s actual reported early vote — if early voting accounts for 32% of the vote (a very conservative number which would place total voter turnout slightly below that of 2004), Romney wins by a whopping 50.9% to Obama’s 47.8%. The higher voter turnout is — and therefore the lower the percentage of early votes in total votes — the higher Romney’s margin becomes.

In this scenario, even if we assume our model’s margins between Obama and Romney among early voters and election day voters are somehow skewed in Romney’s favor, Romney still has padding that those margins could be reduced and he still wins. If early voting is only 31% of the total vote — putting Ohio’s total vote at just above 2008 levels — Romney has incredibly more wiggle room.

The lower-than-anticipated turnout among early voters suggests the Obama campaign’s lead in Ohio was largely hot air. And this does not even seriously consider the county-by-county early voting results, which appear to be even more damaging to Obama.

Reasons Why This Projection May Turn Out to be Wrong

  • In the case that the final early voting numbers reported by the Ohio secretary of state are incorrect and the final early voting results will include statistically significant additions, obviously this projection will have no meaning.
  • As seen above, some of the polling data used in the projection (such as Romney’s margin among election day voters) is supported by several independent polling organizations but not by some others. If it turns out that the fewer polls’ results were right, then obviously our entire model is skewed too heavily towards Romney.
  • Some have raised the possibility that effects from Hurricane Sandy stifled early voting in the final days and these early voters will simply vote for Obama on election day, increasing his election day margins beyond what polls indicated. In this scenario the polls are essentially still correct; Obama’s early voting margin was simply reallocated to his election day margin. There is no solid data to show that this is the case, but it is certainly possible.
  • There is always the chance that the government and electorate will decide simply to defer to Nate Silver’s forecast and forget this whole voting nonsense. Since our forecast is based largely on actual votes, not subjectively weighted aggregates of polls, this would make our projection essentially meaningless.

“Mormons for Ron Paul,” Libertarians Protest Outside of Paul Ryan’s Provo Fundraiser

As Wisconsin Congressman and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan had dinner with wealthy donors and spoke to local students in the new Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, a small group of Libertarian protesters had their say on the sidewalk outside the event.

One man wore a dollar bill taped over his mouth and carried an American flag and alternating signs reading “Occupy Provo” and “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the Status Quo.” Another man carried a large “Mormons for Ron Paul” sign, while a nearby woman carried “Vote for Gary Johnson” and “Romney/Ryan are Not Truly Conservative” signs. As Romney/Ryan donors left the convention center following the event, the woman supporting Gary Johnson shouted, “Ryan voted for the Patriot Act!”

PHOTOS: Press Gets Excited Because Mitt Romney Made a Joke

After getting a new campaign bus, several of the press who follow Romney as he campaigns made sure to tweet this morning about a joke the former governor made. A lot of them seemed pretty surprised that the former Massachussetts governor could be semi-funny.

Source: dgjackson

Source: Juana Summers

The Man Who Challenged Orrin Hatch: A Look at a Dan Liljenquist Town Hall Meeting

After not having a serious challenger for his entire 36-year tenure as Utah’s U.S. Senator, Orrin Hatch is now facing his first primary battle since he won office in 1976. Hatch is the longest serving senator in Utah state history, but after failing to get the super-majority of votes needed at this year’s state Republican convention, Hatch is now facing former state senator Dan Liljenquist in Utah’s Republican primary on June 26.

Liljenquist held a told hall meeting in Provo, Utah on Saturday evening in an upstairs conference room at the city’s Wells-Fargo building. Outside the office building several college students stood waving “DAN Liljenquist for U.S. Senate” signs to passing traffic, some yelling “Honk if you love America!” As the event started upstairs about fifty people sat in attendance, not including the student volunteers who later came up. It was a Liljenquist-friendly crowd with most seeming to be decided supporters as many sported his campaign badges and t-shirts. But a few undecideds were there, and there was at least one Hatch supporter present.

Bain Capital & Mitt Romney

Liljenquist began his speech, complete with a few jokes about his last name and meeting his wife while studying at BYU. In giving his introduction Liljenquist made sure to mention his work at Bain & Company, which he refers to as “Mitt’s company,” although Mitt Romney had not worked at Bain & Company for almost a decade during Liljenquist’s brief tenure there. He later name-dropped “Bain” and “Mitt” several more times, although Liljenquist’s work at Bain was only a small part of the former state senator’s decade-long work in the private sector. Later in his speech Liljenquist stated that he was a “huge Mitt Romney supporter.” Romney, who ran the 2000 Salt Lake Olympics and used to have a vacation home in the state, is a beloved figure in Utah.

Audience photo of Liljenquist giving his speech at Provo town-hall meeting.

Entitlement Reform

In his town-hall address Liljenquist attacked Congress’ detachment from the American people, saying that the U.S. Senate has “lost its way” and that it was time to send new “fiscal leaders to Washington.” Liljenquist said that if elected he would first “use every ounce of my training at Bain Consulting and in the private sector to dive into the financial issues of our time,” to reform the nation’s welfare programs, to fix social security and medicare, and “to return our republic to what it was meant to be.” Programs like medicare and social security, Liljenquist argued, were best run at the state-level. “I am running on entitlement reform,” he emphasized.

The Budget & Congressional Term Limits

Discussing balancing the budget, Liljenquist said he will “propose reforms, not just amendments,” to accomplish the feat. He criticized other U.S. Senators, including Hatch, for their failure to commit to achieving a balanced budget during their tenures and accused them of “hypocrisy.” Liljenquist also promised that if elected he would not move to Washington, D.C., but that his family would stay in their Bountiful, Utah home, joking that they had just remodeled it. “We are not moving,” he reiterated. “When people move to Washington, they start representing Washington.” Liljenquist also committed to serving no more than three terms in the Senate if elected and that he would sponsor congressional term-limits. “This was never meant to be a lifetime gig,” he said.

No Federal Pension for Liljenquist

Liljenquist received his first applause from the audience when he promised not to take a federal pension, and he then promised to sponsor legislation that would eliminate pensions from congress. “Congress should not get a better deal than we the people,” Liljenquist  stated. “There is a disconnect of trust between Congress and the American people…and I am determined to change that.”

Regarding Hatch: “No One Senator is King”

Liljenquist lambasted Hatch, accusing him of constantly seeking more power and in each election asking to be reelected while saying, “I’m almost there.” Liljenquist rebutted, “No one senator is a king, no matter what seat he sits in,” and he accused Hatch of using the “politics of fear.” “No one senator is too big too fail, no one senator is too important to lose.” He then argued that the Senate was moving beyond its traditional leaders and that new relationships need to be forged with the future of the Senate. Liljenquist then name-dropped Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), and others, saying he “knew these guys.”

The Plane Crash

Finally in his speech Liljenquist told a personal story of a plane crash he had experienced in 2008 during a humanitarian trip to Guatamala where eleven others died. Liljenquist said his survival of that tragedy created an “urgency” for him to become involved in politics and help his community.

Audience Q&A

During the Q&A that followed Liljenquist’s speech most of the raised hands were softball questions from supporters. In response to one question, Liljenquist accused Hatch of “largely insulating himself from the people of the state” and “refusing to debate,” suggesting he was afraid of Liljenquist. While answering another question Liljenquist said “Obama has done one thing with absolute honesty,” to which one of the audience members shouted out “Golf?” Liljenquist laughed and said, “Maybe two things then.” Liljenquist later referred to President Obama, saying that “we are on the verge of having an emperor.”

Asked by a young man whether it would be hurting a President Romney not to have Hatch in the Senate, Liljenquist noted that Romney’s endorsement of Hatch came months before Liljenquist was ever in the race and that Romney and Hatch had “been friends for a long time” and that the two “have a deep and abiding relationship.” The questioner then curtly said that Liljenquist didn’t answer his question.

Finally in answer to another question Liljenquist said that he supported repealing the 17th amendment to the Constitution, arguing that the Founding Fathers never would have supported electing U.S. senators by popular vote. Along with that he dinged Hatch once more for not being in touch with the Utah state legislature, saying that that was why the majority of Republicans in Utah’s state congress were supporting Liljenquist.

Liljenquist’s conversation with another supporter discussing bailouts and other issues is available in a video (3:58 minutes) at the end of this article.

Liljenquist’s Chances?

Hatch is still the favorite to win the June 26 primary. At the Republican convention he received 2,243 votes — roughly 57% — against Liljenquist’s 1,108 votes, or about 28%. But since then the primary battle has received the attention of a number of state and national figures, with Liljenquist receiving the endorsements of the majority of his colleagues in the state legislature, along with the endorsements of the Gun Owners of America and popular conservative commentator Michele Malkin. On the other hand Hatch has been endorsed — many of them given, however, before it was clear that he would have a real primary challenger — by popular national figures such as Romney; Mike Crapo, Idaho U.S. Senator; Sam Brownback, Kansas Governor; Sarah Palin, former Alaskan Governor; and Hugh Hewitt, a popular conservative talk show host. In a very early poll taken in January 2012, 42% went for Hatch, 23% went for Liljenquist, and 30% said they were undecided.

Liljenquist has held over 200 town-hall meetings since declaring his candidacy in January.

Weird Things You Learn about NJ Mayor Cory Booker on Twitter

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is a rockstar in the Democratic party, and political pundits are practically united in their speculation that Booker is likely to take a run at the White House in 2016. Booker is also a rockstar in the Twitterverse where he has over 1,000,000 followers, which is over twice as many as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And Booker is unusually active with his Twitter account, which is apparently run by himself and not by staffers, and he seems to revel in posting detailed information about himself, some of which can be a little weird.

1. Cory Booker doesn’t drink.

2. Cory Booker Tebow-ed a baby.

3. Cory Booker likes Seinfeld.

4. Cory Booker meditates. Sort of.

5. Cory Booker seems to have a thing for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

6. Cory Booker has been a vegetarian for 20 years.

7. Cory Booker has confusing opinions about penguins.

8. Cory Booker is a jokester.

9. Cory Booker breaks up school kid fights.

10. Cory Booker has never smoked pot.

Is Mitt Romney a Unicorn? “Unicorners” Want Government to Investigate Shocking New Allegations

A new website, www.MittRomneyisaUnicorn.com, alleges that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is secretly a mythical one-horned horse, and the organization behind the website is calling on the state of Arizona to investigate these claims. The website has gathered almost 25,000 signatures supporting a government investigation into the rising allegation that Romney is a unicorn and that the former Massachusetts governor has been hiding this secret from the public. From their website:

The Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett has announced that he may keep Barack Obama off the ballot because of “questions” whether the president was born in America. … But what about Mitt Romney?  What about the persistent rumors that Mitt Romney is in fact, a unicorn? There has never been a conclusive DNA test proving that Mitt Romney is not a unicorn.  We have never seen him without his hair — hair that could be covering up a horn.  No, we cannot prove it.  But we cannot prove that it is not the case.  And if Mitt Romney is or may be a unicorn, he is not Constitutionally qualified to be president. (source. emphasis in original.)

If the allegations are true it could be potentially damaging for the Romney campaign as popular sentiment seems to be that a magical equine would be unfit for the presidency. Romney himself has not yet commented on the unicorn allegations. It is unclear whether the state of Arizona will officially investigate the claims.