Obama Poll Watch -- May, 2011

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[Program Note: Regular readers may be scratching their heads over one of two things when they see this article today: “Where’s the Friday Talking Points column, Chris?” and/or “Why are you running the Obama Poll Watch column for May when there are still four days left in the month?” The answer to both of these questions is the same: because I’m about to go on vacation. See the note I’ve posted on my site for full details. In a nutshell, Friday Talking Points will be on hiatus until 6/10/11, and then skip another week after that, until it returns to regular service on 6/24/11. My apologies for the interruption in our regular schedule.]

Obama’s Best Month Ever

Due to this column’s premature nature, I just have to state up front that the numbers we’re using this month are preliminary. There are still four days left in the calendar month, which could cause the numbers discussed here to change slightly when the polling data is in. Any changes should be minor, and will be properly adjusted in next month’s column. But the trendlines for May are so solid, at this point, that the final numbers should be very close to where we’re going to peg them today. Just wanted to get that big caveat out of the way before we begin.

This month was the best month President Barack Obama has ever had in the polls, when measured as change over the previous month. If you count it one way (measured by absolute values) Obama’s best month was technically the second month into his term — when he was still enjoying his “honeymoon” period, and had 63.4 percent support from the public. But in terms of actually changing public opinion, May was indeed the best month Obama’s had, by far.

There’s a simple reason for this, of course, which might be labeled: “What a difference a death makes.” President Obama announced at the very beginning of the month that Osama Bin Laden was dead, and his poll numbers reacted almost immediately. For simplicity’s sake here, we’re going to call this his “OBL bounce.”

This OBL bounce was the biggest bump Obama has yet experienced in his poll numbers. It reversed the last few months’ downward trend in his numbers, and gained back all the ground Obama has lost since November of 2009 — a full eighteen months’ worth. Obama enjoyed both the biggest upward bounce in his job approval average for the month, as well as the biggest downward slide in his job disapproval average.

Let’s take a look at the chart:

Obama Approval -- May 2011

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.] Continue reading Obama Poll Watch — May, 2011

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Proposed Congressional Map Provides Opportunities for Downstate Illinois Democrats

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The legislature passed an incumbent-protection map for Illinois members of Congress in 2000. In contrast, the proposed map released this morning could mix things up. I found the Google Maps version at . . . → Read More: Proposed Congressional Map Provides Opportunities for Downstate Illinois Democrats

Strauss-Kahn Calls New Townhouse ‘A Total Babe Magnet’

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It isn’t exactly a jail away from jail…

Disgraced former IMF Chief and future wearer of a seven-digit number Dominique Strauss-Kahn has finally found ‘suitable digs’ in which to serve the remainder of his house arrest . . . → Read More: Strauss-Kahn Calls New Townhouse ‘A Total Babe Magnet’

Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

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ONE: 21 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Back in 1942, the University of California at Berkeley awarded a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering to Harold Egbert Camping. That wouldn’t be unusual, except that Camping seems to have no mathematical aptitude whatsoever. And/or he’s just a liar.

Camping, a self-taught Bible instructor, runs Family Radio International, which broadcasts on 66 stations, but he’s become much more famous for recurrent predictions about Armageddon. Most recently, he claimed May 21 was the drop-dead date. It was not:

The day after his prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 failed to materialize, Harold Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle he was “flabbergasted.”

Which is sort of an odd reaction, since he’s had egg on his face before:

Camping had previously predicted the Rapture would occur back in 1994. When it didn’t, he explained that an error in his mathematical computations from clues in the Bible were to blame, and he later revised his forecast.

This go-round, however, Camping was sure he had it sussed, and when it became clear that he didn’t, he embarked on a brief spiritual retreat:

Camping… said he felt so terrible when his doomsday message did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife.

Sufficiently cheered by a couple of days at the motel, he returned to the spotlight to announce that the correct, can’t-miss, this-time-for-sure date is October 21. He also managed to spin his May 21 prediction thus:

Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

Ah, well, that must be it.

Camping’s problem with numbers was demonstrated once again when the topic shifted to money:

Camping offered no clues about Family Radio’s finances Monday, saying he could not estimate how much had been spent on getting out his prediction nor how much money the nonprofit had taken in as a result. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

But of course this isn’t about money. It’s about faith:

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

I have no proof, but I suspect the motel already has a room reserved for two for October 22. Continue reading Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

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GOP Proposal Would Repeal Drunk Driving Laws

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Claiming the mantle of ‘The Party of Personal Responsibility’ and in an effort to correct what they characterize as ‘senseless government intrusion into every day life’, House Republicans today voted to open debate on a measure that would repeal all current drunk driving statutes.

The measure, introduced by freshman Rep. Jackson Daniels (R-TN) and titled “Repeal of the Intrusive Job and Buzz Killing Laws Act of 2011” immediately drew fire from House Democrats, several of whom offered to buy the first round for any Senator who votes to block the measure in that chamber – as passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is virtually assured.

House Speaker John Boehner praised Rep. Daniels while expressing his support for the bill:

“Not only do these laws represent the sort of senseless overregulation long espoused by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle insofar as they impose government mandates on personal behavior, but as with all other forms of regulation, they result in needless expenditure of public funds and more importantly, they cost jobs.  What my good friend Jack has done in drafting this historic piece of legislation is bring us a step closer to returning our country to a better time and place – a time where citizens have ownership over their own conduct without some bureaucracy dictating their personal behavior.” Continue reading GOP Proposal Would Repeal Drunk Driving Laws

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Downstate Democrats Lose in Proposed IL State Representative Map

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I wasn’t going to write about redistricting for the Illinois legislature but I’m surprised that news outlets are missing this story. Although Democrats are in charge of redistricting, the proposed map for the Illinois state House of Representatives would unnecessarily limit the number of downstate Democrats and cede most of rural Illinois to Republicans.

In several areas that could support two Democratic leaning districts, the proposed map instead creates one super-Democratic district. These districts would be very easy to defend, but at the cost of keeping the downstate Democratic legislative caucus small and impotent for the next ten years.

The most obvious example is in the Quad cities, which has traditionally elected two Democratic state Representatives. Drawing two districts that are over 55% Democratic would be simple, but the most Democratic areas of Rock Island/Moline are lumped into one district instead.

The same thing happens in Decatur and Springfield. Decatur can support its own Democratic House district. A new Democratic leaning district that doesn’t include incumbent Republican Raymond Poe could have been created in Springfield as well. Instead, the most Democratic parts of both towns are drawn together, and a new Republican district would be created in southwestern Sangamon county. There would only be one oddly-shaped, heavily Democratic district where there could be two. Continue reading Downstate Democrats Lose in Proposed IL State Representative Map

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Have Republicans Already Lost the 2012 Presidential Election?

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I was already thinking along the lines of the title when I got word via “The Hill” that one of Tim Pawlenty’s hometown Minnesota newspapers put the news of Pawlenty entering the Presidential race on its obituaries page. To me, that is the quintessential metaphor for the actions and chances of the Republicans vying to unseat President Obama.

Most of what would have been serious contenders for the Republican nomination have declined to run. On that list is Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels, among others. They seem to understand that beating Obama will be difficult if not impossible, and that the chances would be much better to run in 2016 against a non-incumbent. Every single person currently running for the Republican nomination is unelectable. They are so far from what it would take to be electable that one wonders why they are even bothering or why anyone would donate money to their cause. Let’s run down the list:

Newt Gingrich

You could write a book on all the mistakes Newt Gingrich has made and problems he has had since declaring his candidacy. I’ll concentrate on some of the worst ones.

Recently it came out that Gingrich at one time owed half a million dollars to Tiffany’s for jewelry purchases. The issues that raises are pretty obvious. How does someone like that relate to everyday Americans? Isn’t someone who would spend that amount on jewelry superficial? Et cetera. The impact of all of that could have been blunted by a good explanation or dealt with by a good apology, but instead Gingrich gave a non-explanation, calling it a “regular revolving account” when asked about it, and giving no other details. If he cannot deal with an issue like that in a straightforward way, how is he going to deal with difficult decisions he makes as President?

Last week, Gingrich criticized the Ryan plan, the budget plan the entire Republican Party has gotten behind to oppose President Obama’s budget. The Wall Street Journal followed with an article accusing Gingrich of throwing fellow Republicans “off a Grand Canyon rim” and then there was video of Newt being chewed out by an Iowa Republican voter for attacking Ryan’s plan.

Gingrich’s flip-flopping on intervention in Libya is mind-numbing. This video by TPMTV shows about twelve separate changes of direction by Newt in a four-week period on what he believes regarding how we should handle Libya. With this kind of a track record, can anyone imagine Gingrich acting decisively as commander-in-chief?

All of the above regarding Gingrich is bad, but it is worse considering where he starts the nomination process, and that is with the reputation of excoriating Bill Clinton for having an affair while simultaneously carrying on an affair of his own and having two marriages end because Newt started affairs with other women. That kind of hypocrisy is serious and would be an obstacle all by itself to getting a party’s nomination, let alone winning a general election. Combine that with the rest of his issues and Gingrich is going nowhere.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann’s chances for the nomination and general election can be summed up in two words: “Tea Party”. She has aligned herself very tightly with the Tea Party. She proclaimed herself chairperson of the House Tea Party Caucus and delivered the “Tea Party Response” to the President’s State of the Union address. While that could be seen to be a positive thing 18 months ago, the Tea Party is now very unpopular in the country and seen by the Republican establishment as an annoyance at best and the reason they didn’t win back the Senate in 2010 at worst. The bad news for Bachmann is that the Republican establishment has a stranglehold on the GOP Presidential nomination process. Nationwide, opinion polls regarding the Tea Party show that the Tea Party is viewed negatively by anywhere from 15-50% more people than view it positively. Anyone tied to the Tea Party is unelectable. Continue reading Have Republicans Already Lost the 2012 Presidential Election?

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TSW #11

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“There is one major difference between leftist and religious doomsday scenarios. The religious readily acknowledge that their doomsday scenario is built entirely on faith. The left, on the other hand, claims that its doomsday scenarios are . . . → Read More: TSW #11

Illinois Congressmen, Farm Bureau, Spread EPA Conspiracy Theories

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I enjoyed Kate Sheppard’s article at Mother Jones, “The Right’s Top 5 EPA Conspiracy Theories.” It was less enjoyable to remember that I’ve heard several of these conspiracy theories spread by Illinois members of Congress . . . → Read More: Illinois Congressmen, Farm Bureau, Spread EPA Conspiracy Theories