News from the Votemaster
In a new CNN/ORC national poll of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has shot into second place behind Donald Trump, largely on the strength of her very strong performance in the second Republican debate. Here are the numbers.
Perhaps even more amazing than Fiorina's rise is Scott Walker's fall from grace. He was originally hyped as the Bush-killer, a Midwestern governor who had balanced budgets, beaten unions, and shown he could actually govern as a conservative, not just talk about it. Now he is below 1% along with George "Who?" Pataki and a few others.
Fiorina's rise and Walker's fall are indications of how unstable the race is. You make a couple of clever quips on the teevee and now you are #2 for President. It makes little sense. Walker is governor of an important state in a critical part of the country. That alone makes him a serious candidate. Fiorina is mostly famous for being fired in a spectacularly public way from a highly respected company that she almost drove into the ground. In a way she can be (unfavorably) compared to Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in 2012 and then had her 15 minutes of fame. But in Bachmann's favor, she was elected to Congress four times. It's not that business executives are implausible as presidential candidates (although the only businessman-President, Herbert Hoover, was not a great success). But a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs could point to a track record of success that Fiorina cannot. Fiorina's standing in the polls is likely to be short lived as her opponents begin talking about her record of failure more.
Actually, the talk has already started. Yesterday Donald Trump, who after all, has some business credibility, said: "The Compaq computer deal was one of the worst deals made in business history. And she destroyed the company that she was at before then." Others are sure to pile on soon. People may want an outsider but Bill Gates is busy curing African children of terrible diseases and Steve Jobs is dead. How long can it be before Trump or someone else says to her: "I worked with Steve Jobs. I knew Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a friend of mine. Carly, you're no Steve Jobs."
It is almost as if the Republicans are so angry with "Washington" that they don't care about winning. They have four governors or former governors (Walker, Kasich, Christie, and Bush) and a plausible senator (Rubio) available, all of whom would be formidable general-election candidates. Nevertheless, the top three in the current poll, good for 53% of the total, are all weak to hopeless, while the five serious candidates add up to 25%. If Kim Kardashian were to announce she is running for President as a Republican, she would no doubt shoot up to the top instantly.
We have heard a lot about millionaire and billionaire donors this year, but some of the candidates themselves are also pretty well heeled. A report from Politico shows that 14 presidential candidates, 12 Republicans and 2 Democrats, have a net worth of over $1 million. Ten of them (8 Republicans and 2 Democrats) exceed the $7.8 million threshold to make it into the 1% club (Jindal, at $7.6M, just missed). Here is a table from the report showing the estimated net worth of the 14 millionaires.
|1||Donald Trump||$1 billion|
|2||Carly Fiorina||$59 million|
|3||Hillary Clinton||$32 million|
|4||Lincoln Chafee||$25 million|
|5||Jeb Bush||$25 million|
|6||Ben Carson||$14 million|
|7||John Kasich||$13 million|
|8||Mike Huckabee||$12 million|
|9||Gerorge Pataki||$11 million|
|10||Jim Gilmore||$8 million|
|11||Bobby Jindal||$8 million|
|12||Ted Cruz||$3 million|
|13||Chris Christie||$2 million|
|14||Rand Paul||$1 million|
Even candidates who try to come over as "just plain folks," like Mike Huckabee ($12M) and Ben Carson ($14M) have a net worth that is two orders of magnitude more than the average family. For comparison purposes, the estimated median net worth of all American families in 2013 was $81,400. The mean was $528,400, which shows the enormous skew in the distribution.
In a sense, the presence of so many millionaires in the race is not surprising. Ordinary people are just barely making it. Running for President requires taking off 2-3 years from work and racking up huge expenses, not all of which are reimbursed by the campaign, even if it has the money. The days when a former hat maker from Missouri, like Harry Truman, could make it big in politics are long gone.
Not all the candidates are wealthy. Four of them are actually in debt: Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Martin O'Malley. However, with politicians, being in debt doesn't mean being poor. Rubio recently bought an $80,000 fishing boat, for example.
The very public saga of Vice President Joe Biden's possible entry into the presidential race took another turn yesterday with a report from NBC News that Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is "not an obstacle" to his running, despite the death of her stepson, Beau Biden, from brain cancer in May. Previous reports said that she was not ready for a grueling campaign against front-runner Hillary Clinton. Biden himself said only last week that he hasn't made a decision and didn't think anyone should run unless they could give 110% of themselves. If he jumps in now, the first reporter to get to him is going to check the gas gauge: "Mr. Vice President, are you 80% full? 90%? Where are you?" Biden has been testing the waters for weeks now, probably as much to see how full his tank is as to see what the voters think. All recent polls have shown that in a de facto three-way race between him, Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), he draws as much support from Sanders as from Clinton, still leaving her with a comfortable lead.
Just before Pope Francis will visit the United States and is likely to discuss topics such as climate change that make Republicans uncomfortable, religion has been injected into the presidential race in a different way. Several Republicans have either outright rejected or are uncomfortable with the idea of a Muslim Commander in Chief. Ben Carson has stated and then repeated his belief that Islam is not consistent with the Constitution. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have said the possibility makes them uncomfortable. In contrast, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said "Of course a Muslim, or any other American citizen, can run for President."
The Republican Party is in a bind on this subject. The national Republican leadership is focused on winning elections, which means having a big tent. However, presidential candidates who are aiming like a laser at narrow slices of the primary electorate or members of the House who come from lopsided conservative districts have a completely different message, which is often in conflict with the national strategy. This problem is accentuated when everyone sees polls showing that 43% to 54% of Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim and only 45% say they would ever vote for a Muslim. The leadership knows this is nonsense, but telling your own base that what they deeply believe is all wrong is not a strategy for remaining in the leadership for long.
It is well-known that America's physical infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers issued a report in 2013 giving it a grade of D+ . But the technology used to vote is just as bad. After the 2000 election, with its hanging chads and pregnant chads, many states and counties bought new voting machines. As of next year, much of this equipment will be about 15 years old. Voting machines are essentially PCs with some strange peripheral equipment (e.g., optical scanners). Would you use a 15-year-old computer? The Brennan Center has surveyed over 100 experts on voting technology and although they didn't award the voting infrastructure a letter grade as the ASCE did, D+ would probably be overly optimistic.
Election officials are constantly warning their political bosses about the need for new equipment and the possibility of major snafus if they don't get it, but officials from 22 states have already said they have no money for new optical scanners and other equipment. Only three states (California, Indiana, and Ohio) have laws requiring local election officials to have a backup plan in the event of failure. The usual procedure is to wait until there is a disaster somewhere, with the presidency in the balance, and then start arguing about whose fault the problem is.
Going forward, there is some hope because the technology has changed. Voting machines used to be expensive special-purpose device produced in low volume. The trend now is to commercial off-the-shelf technology. For example, each voting booth could be equipped with an iPad or Android tablet and a small printer. The voter would use the tablet to vote (possibly in multiple languages or with audio cues for the blind). When finished, the voter would tap "PRINT" and the printer would spit out a marked ballot the voter could inspect for accuracy. This would then be either scanned immediately or deposited in a ballot box for scanning later. In either case, the paper ballot would be the only one that mattered and could be hand counted in the event of a close election. The tablet would simply serve as an interface to the printer. To avoid ballot-box stuffing, each voter would be given just one sheet of nonstandard-sized colored paper with an invisible watermark.
The key aspect of this system is the ability of the voter to inspect the printed ballot immediately and check it for accuracy, so if a malicious app made its way onto the tablet, the voter could detect the result. The tablet would not keep score, since it cannot be trusted. For a good Website on voting technology, see Verified Voting. If you are comfortable with computer technology and want to see the design of a voting system that voters could verify themselves, check out this paper published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.Email a link to a friend or share:
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