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Sunday, October 7, 2012

It’s The Congress

“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” — Article I, Section 1, U.S. Constitution.

In my last blog post I commented on the presidential debate and the numerous things that both candidates stated they had done or would do if elected to the presidency.

Over the years, especially the 100 years of progressivism the people of the United States have looked more and more to the president as the leader of the nation. This phenomenon grew during the Wilson era when he stated in 1908 in his essay on the presidency:

“For he is also the political leader of the nation, or has it in his choice to be. The nation as a whole has chosen him, and is conscious that it has no other political spokesman. His is the only national voice in affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overpower him. His position takes the imagination of the country. He is the representative of no constituency, but of the whole people. When he speaks in his true character, he speaks for no special interest. If he rightly interpret the national thought and boldly insist upon it, he is irresistible; and the country never feels the zest of action so much as when its President is of such insight and calibre. Its instinct is for unified action, and it craves a single leader. It is for this reason that is will often prefer to choose a man rather than a party. A President whom it trusts can not only lead it, but form it to his own views.

It is the extraordinary isolation imposed upon the President by our system that makes the character and opportunity of his office so extraordinary. In him are centered both opinion and party. He may stand, if he will, a little outside party and insist as if it were upon the general opinion. It is with the instinctive feeling that it is upon occasion such a man that the country wants that nominating conventions will often nominate men who are not their acknowledged leaders, but only such men as the country would like to see lead both its parties. The President may also, if he will, stand within the party counsels and use the advantage of his power and personal force to control its actual programs. He may be both the leader of his party and the leader of the nation, or he may be one or the other. If he lead the nation, his party can hardly resist him. His office is anything he has the sagacity and force to make it.”

From Wilson, over the ensuing years, the American electorate has looked more and more to the president to: manage the economy, create jobs, establish social justice, give us health care, lead us into war, command the military, and set the moral tone of the nation. In essence we look more and more for him to be the father of the administrative nanny state. This was not the intent of the Founders when they wrote the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly sets out the powers that shall be vested in the President. Those powers are clearly stated as:

“The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

After having lived under the rule of a monarch our Founders were very clear in the powers they wanted to give the president. They wanted to keep all power to lay taxes, spend money, pass laws, and regulate commerce in the hands of the legislative branch (Congress). And even the power of the federal government was defined by the enumerated powers set forth in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. All other powers were to be left to the states and the people, as stated in the Tenth Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

During the first presidential debate both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney expressed what they would for the nation in the realm of the economy. While their positions were different they both addressed issues of the deficit, national debt, job creation, taxing and the tax code, health care, environment, regulating business, education, and in general investing the tax payers money. While the president may have the ability to use his “bully pulpit” to move opinion he does not have the constitutional power to pass laws or regulate any of these things. These issues are clearly placed in the purview of Congress. If you want to change the road we are on towards more and more of the tyranny of the administrative states you must change the complexion of Congress.

Due to the support and involvement of the Tea Party the U.S. House of Representatives fell under the control of the Republican Party and today480px-John_Boehner_official_portrait holds a 240-190 majority over the Democrat Party. This year 40 incumbents are retiring (21 Democrats and 19 Republicans). Due to redistricting many seats where the incumbent was considered “safe” are now contested races. The Utah 4th District is one example where the Democrat incumbent Jim Matheson is in a tight race with his Republican opponent Mia Love. Also due to shifts in population some new districts have been created such as Utah 2nd, Texas 36th, and California 47th. In fact Texas has 4 new seats which should all go Republican.

In poll after poll the House is held in very low esteem by the electorate. Yet, by a vast majority, incumbents win their seats over and over again by substantial margins. While the voters have disdain for Congress as a whole they love their Congressperson. As the old axiom goes; “All politics is local.” This is what the Founders wanted. They wanted a lower house that was responsible o the people of their district and could, as James Madison said; “represent the current passions the people.”

Due to the increased local activity of the Tea Party the makeup of the House should remain in solid control of the Republicans and probably pick up as much as 10 additional seats.

456px-Harry_Reid_official_portrait_2009_cropThe Senate is much more problematical for the Republicans. Right now the senate is controlled by the Democrats under the leadership of Nevada Senator Harry Reid. The Democrats hold a one seat majority (three if independents Lieberman (Conn) and Sanders (VT) are considered as they caucus with the Democrats. This year one-third of the Senate is up for reelection (33 seats) including 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and the two Independents.

In early October 2012, Crossroads GPS announced it would launch a $16 million advertising buy in national races, of which one was the Presidential campaign, and four were Senate elections. Of that money, $4 million was allocated to the Senate elections. The media buy in the Florida race was to be spent by American Crossroads. The other three races are North Dakota, Montana, and Virginia.

According to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball four of these races are considered “toss ups”, two are considered leaning Republican, and one is considered a win for the Republicans. The tossup states are; Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The leaning Republican states are; Arizona and Montana and the most definitely Republican is Nebraska. Other pundits show Indiana and Virginia as toss ups.

As Jim O'Sullivan writes in American Thinker:

“A somewhat overlooked battle is raging in fourteen states which may determine the future of our country during the next four years. The United States Senate's composition -- not just the presidency -- will be determined on November 6. Simply stated, if the Republicans pick up a net of three Senate seats and Romney wins, Ryan, as vice president, will cast the deciding vote should a tie vote occur in the chamber. Furthermore, a net of four Republican wins would capture a majority, ending the bifurcation of Congress and putting the party in a strong negotiating position should Obama win or in a substantial supporting role should Romney prevail.

On the surface, a Republican majority in the 2012 election appears likely. Democrats have to defend 21 seats, Republicans 10, and independents just 2. The independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, caucus with Democrats, giving Democrats a 53-to-47 majority. Inside-the-Beltway pundits have voiced in their "elitist" tone that Republican victories in four races without a reversal elsewhere is heresy...Obama, the narratives speculate, will lead a tsunami against Romney, and Senate candidates down the ticket will be anointed with his largesse. A similar insistence, in the press, of the unraveling of the Republican Senate takeover advantage is gaining steam. Numerous Senate race assessments have been posited, purporting objectivity without presenting a basis for the analysis or conclusions (e.g., NYT-Battle for the Senate).”

Without media hyperventilation, numerous factors can be predictive of victory. This evaluation will focus on just six. They include (1) the national economy and the race's state economy; (2) the political nature of the state -- i.e., red (Republican), blue (Democrat), and TU (toss-up); (3) the president's approval rating, above 50% positive for a Democrat, below 50% positive for a Republican; (4) the incumbent's current approval rating -- >50% good, <50% not good; (5) Obama's foreign policy/defense posture; and (6) the RCP's average Senate poll ratings.

The election will be influenced by whether an incumbent or open seat is being contested; obviously, the incumbent, where he or she exists, has the edge. In half of the 14 races being reviewed, the contested seat is open, and nine of the states can be described as red or TU, a slight advantage for the minority party. Many predictors include Arizona, Indiana, and Hawaii in their Senate prediction models, since an upset could impact control, but this writer believes no upsets will occur in these states.

High-confidence Republican wins:

Probable Republican Wins:

Montana - Denny Rehberg (R) has shown surprising strength against Jon Tester (D), the incumbent. Jon Tester has leveraged his incumbency through moderation in a red presidential and statehouse state. Rehberg has a down-to-earth, highly energetic style. He has consistently led Tester in the RCP polling averages by up to 5%; the state has a strong economy but a fear of regulation and the EPA. Rehberg uses Obama's unaffordability (41%) and Romney's popularity (52%) effectively, and he exhibits a deft touch citing foreign policy concerns. Rehberg will win, but narrowly.

Nevada - An insurrection is brewing in the state. The state has a party registration favorable to Democrat Shelley Berkley, yet the state's unemployment rate leads the nation, has immigration issues and budget and deficit problems. Dean Heller (R) has led Berkley in the RCP average polls by up to 9% and now leads 47.3% to 42.0%. Berkley is under investigation, which gives Heller the edge. eller wins in a pro-Obama, Democrat state.

Horse-races with possibilities:

Florida - The state, put simply, is up for grabs. The incumbent is Senator Bill Nelson (D), whose re-election is saddled with a troubled economy, high unemployment, and foreclosures. The challenger, Connie Mack (R), the son of a former popular Florida politician, is gaining momentum based on recent RCP average polls Obama's approval rating ranges from 45%-48% -- well below his 2008 levels. This TU state has a TU senate contest.

Virginia - The match pits George Allen (R), a former senator, against Tim Kaine (D), the former governor. A victory will turn on Obama's policies and ideology. Unemployment is quite low due to government, and the state has gradually moved toward red. Obama's approval is 46%-49% but has not exceeded 50% since mid-2011, thus Allen's miniscule lead in the RCP polling average of 0.5%. The race is leaning marginally Republican. Republicans are betting that either Florida or Virginia adds a seat to their pickups.

Republican long shots:

Massachusetts - The contest is a donnybrook; Scott Brown (R), the incumbent, versus Elizabeth Warren (D). Warren, a devotee of the very liberal/progressive left, has claimed Native American heritage to gain an employment preference and subscribes to the "you didn't build that" philosophy. Nevertheless, Warren has a 4% lead in the RCP average polling, which is nonetheless very volatile. Warren has a significant Democrat registration majority, an Obama approval rating over 55%, a decent economy and an anti-war/defense constituency. Scott Brown needs a second miracle. He did it once; can lightning strike twice?

Connecticut - Linda McMahon (R) is leading in the RCP average polling (after eliminating the outliers) by 3%-4% over Chris Murphy (D). Murphy is running his first statewide race with personal financial problems haunting him. The state has a stagnant economy with intractable high unemployment and an unpopular Democrat governor, yet it exhibits a large Democrat registration edge. Murphy's approval rating is below 50%, but Obama's is 52%.

McMahon's campaign, which is personally funded, has kept Murphy on the defensive. McMahon sells herself as a job-creator and grandmother, and she literally knocks on doors to ask for votes. Support to date has been steady and, insiders say, growing slowly. In this writer's judgment, Bridgeport voter shenanigans aside, this is an "upset special" in a very blue state.

Missouri - Claire McCaskill (D), whose approval rating is less than 50%, is leading Todd Akin (R) in a leaning-red state, with a less than robust economy, an Obama approval rating hovering at 42%-43%, and an unemployment rate at roughly the national average. The reason is Akin's well documented insensitive comment. Before the comment, McCaskill's epitaph was being written. McCaskill wins -- the Republicans give one away.

Republican losses:

Ohio - Sherrod Brown (D) defeats Josh Mandell (R).

Michigan - Debbie Stabenow (D) defeats Pete Hoekstra (R).

New Mexico - Martin Heinrich (D) defeats Heather Wilson (R).

Maine - Angus King (I) defeats Charles Summers (R).

All of these states are blue except Ohio, which is TU. The Democrat easily leads the Republican by 7%-10% in the RCP average polls, unemployment is below the national mean (Michigan excepted), the state economies have all improved slightly to moderately (except Michigan), and Obama's approval rating is 48%-51%, in every case higher than Romney's.

The arithmetic is straightforward; Republicans could conceivably gain seven seats, culminating in a reversal of their present disadvantage of 53 to 47 seats. A more coherent estimate of the election's outcome is the attainment of four to five net seats. That means that the Congress of the United States will be controlled by Republicans. But continue to pay attention; fluidity will be the norm over the next thirty-plus days.”

Of course there are many other predictions out there for the outcome of the November election. No matter who wins the presidency it’s the Congress that matters. In the 2010 Congressional Elections this country took a giant step, thanks to the advocacy of the Tea Party, to changing the course of the past years. If the Republicans can take control of the Senate we may be able to get back on a course to fiscal soundness and the rollback of some of the myriad of government regulations that are plaguing our businesses and citizens.

James Madison and the rest of the founding fathers were radicals in the very best sense of the term — champions of independent thinking and self-reliance. At the end of his celebrated essay Federalist #10, Madison warned that in the future, "factious leaders may kindle" certain "wicked projects" that include "a rage for paper money [inflationary spending], an abolition of debts, and an equal division of property."

Madison aided in the creation of the greatest document by which a nations' citizens and government could coexist. We the people have stood idly by and watched as tiny pieces have been torn away from it again and again under the guise of humanity and social justice for all, all the while empowering a government of masterminds that has little or no respect for its people and stripping the hard-working Americans of their ability to be human. It was no coincidence that he gave these warnings. The reason he wrote them was so that we would recognize exactly what is happening today well, now it's here. The question should be, okay, now what can we do to prevent it from going any farther?

Even if Romney and Ryan are elected and the senate remains in control of the Democrats it will be difficult for the president and House to change Obama’s transformations and to appoint federal judges. Remember, it is the Senate that confirms all federal judicial appointments. It will be a long night on November 6th and the airways will be filled with vote totals and opinions from various pundits and commentators. While you are focusing on the electoral count keep an eye on the Congressional makeup.

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