Biden is kind of right on this one…

Vice President “Diamond Joe” Biden had plenty of choice comments last night while he was helping Ed Markey raise some scratch in Massachusetts.  One of them isn’t so crazy:

“There’s a big difference in this race,” Biden said, according to the pool report. “Barack Obama’s not at the head of the ticket. And that means those legions of African Americans and Latinos are not automatically going to come out. No one has energized them like Barack Obama. But he’s not on the ticket. So don’t take this one for granted.”

Leaving aside for a moment the unintentional racism of assuming minority groups vote as a bloc for members of other minority groups, Biden is right on one point: much of the Democrats’ success over the previous six years came in large part due to voters excited about President Obama himself.   Yes, the 2012 campaign team made unprecedented use of data to identify supporters, but they did so in the name of an exciting candidate.

Edward Markey doesn’t excite people they way Obama does.  Joe Manchin, Max Baucus, and Tim Johnson probably wouldn’t, either, which is a big reason they aren’t running for re-election in 2014.  Corey Booker might, but outside of him or a similar candidate rising through the ranks, the Democrats won’t have candidates who can duplicate Obama’s success.

That’s not an indictment of the Democrats yet – politicians like Obama don’t come around all that often, and the Republican ranks only have a few political rock stars of their own.  But it will become an indictment if Democrats feel like Obama will carry them to victory again in 2014 and 2016.

Massachusetts declines voting rights, thanks very much

My first vote for President meant nothing – I cast my ballot for George W. Bush on a November evening in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Despite all the late returns in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and – most infamously – Florida, I knew my vote didn’t really count in a state where the Democratic machine was so strong.

In 2012, that ballot might count even less, thanks to a new law.  Massachusetts will throw its Presidential electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote, assuming enough states agree to do the same. It’s a convoluted law which likely won’t change much in the short term.  The long term goal of movements to circumvent the electoral college is to put every state in play – which will be a boon for campaign donors looking to wield influence as campaign spending skyrockets.

But more significant is that the state which led the charge against taxation without representation is now a pushover.  Blue suits on Beacon Hill have done what redcoats on Bunker Hill couldn’t: subject the governing decisions of Massachusetts citizens at the whim of others.

If the current Massachusetts legislature had been fighting the Revolutionary War, we might all be speaking… well, never mind, you get the point.

John Kerry back on the campaign trail

Sen. John Kerry emailed his campaign supporters yesterday imploring them to get to the polls… and cast their vote for Kevin Youkilis in MLB’s All Star Game Final Vote.  The senior Senator from Massachusetts used the occasion to take a swipe at the Yankees:

Youk deserves to be in the All-Star Game — while the team has grinded [sic] it out in spite of injury after injury, he’s been a rock. But now he needs to win a fan vote to make it to Anaheim next week.

“The stakes are also just a little personal: in the fan voting, currently Nick Swisher of the Yankees is in first place. Swisher’s having a fine year, but Youk is better in just about every category, batting average, slugging, home runs, everything, and he plays Gold Glove defense to boot. Please don’t let anyone say that Swisher beat Youkilis because Sox fans have gone a little soft after ’04 and ’07. Let’s show we’re still the most ravenous fans in baseball.

Give Kerry points for acknowledging Swisher’s year so far.  That’s the closest thing to real bipartisanship we’ve heard from Washington this year.  However, he may be a little insensitive – that “ravenous” fan base has caused problems in the past.

The fan voting has drawn some attention to MLB’s strides in advanced media (they wisely don’t call it “new media”).  Swisher has been active on Twitter for a while, and his 1.2 million followers offer a ready-made network for an online vote.  The voting by text message feature is available only to Sprint customers, making cell phone coverage maps an issue – which looks like a drawback for Texas’s Michael Young and Minnesota’s Delmon Young.

However, anyone handicapping the race must acknowledge that the excitable Red Sox Nation Kerry references is a study in how offline enthusiasm can turn into online action.  The tech-savvy city of Boston has done well in online All-Star balloting since Nomar Garciaparra edged out Derek Jeter in the fan vote to start the 1999 game.

But of course, like so many of the other pressing issues that face our nation, John Kerry is wrong (if only because Swish’s endorsement deals are more wholesome than Youk’s).   You can answer by casting your vote for Swisher – and like some Boston elections of yore, you can vote as many times as you like.

When Supreme Court nominations stop being polite and start getting real

The Elena Kagan pick has been a perfect, hand-in-glove fit with the criticisms that Washington DC has grown out-of-touch with the rest of the nation.  The prospect of an exclusively Ivy-educated Supreme Court has sparked questions about Eastern corridor elitism.

Of course, not helping was that Senator John Kerry picked a Politico Arena discussion board – ostensibly set up to discuss whether the nominee is too steeped in “Ivy League education and elite positions in government” – to sing Kagan’s praises from their time working together on high stakes tobacco legislation in 1998.

Kagan’s camp could not have asked for a worse messenger with a worse message:

“Massachusetts has been Elena Kagan’s adopted home, but it’s not for such home state boosterism, parochial reasons why I think she’s a terrific choice.

No, it’s because I got to know her well not in Boston, but here in the Senate.”

That’s John Kerry, who connected so poorly with voters in 2004, the poster child for liberal elitism.  And his comments have nothing much to do with the topic: he’s essentially adding his two cents to a discussion about Euros – and helped keep alive the notion that Kagan is an insider pick.

Screwing strippers

At the end of last week, The Daily Caller published a two-part, uh, exposé on court-mandated reforms to the exotic dancer trade in my adopted home state of Massachusetts.   It’s relevant because a recent court ruling mandated that strippers could no longer consider themselves “independent contractors,” and instead must be full-time employees of a club.

(At press time, there’s no word on how this affects “amateur night.”)

Massachusetts law is designed to carefully scrutinize independent contractors – even if they keep their clothes on – to make sure businesses aren’t getting away with something.  The reasoning is that most workers would prefer to be full-time employees instead.

But it turns out, that isn’t always true.  Independent contractor status allowed strippers to work multiple clubs, set their own pricing for things like lap dances, write off commuting expenses, and – most important – pocket much of the money they received from customers, save for what they would pay in taxes.  Strippers are now guaranteed a nightly payout – an assurance they did not enjoy as independent contractors.  Previously, though, an astute practitioner of the burlesque could use the aforementioned freedoms to earn a much bigger payout, without having to share every single tossed their way with the owners of the runways.

As it turns out, the most successful strippers are the ones that are best at math.  Oddly enough, that was never an answer back in school when people asked when they’d have to use algebra.

The  Massachusetts Stripper Story isn’t about women removing their clothes.  (It may, however, be why the story gets read.)   This is about laws meant to protect workers – laws like compulsory unionism, minimum wage, and overtime – that actually limit workers’ ability to work.  Limiting things like independent contractor status really limit employee innovation and entrepreneurship – the ability to find a market for your skill and make money off it.  It has potential implications, for instance, for freelance writers.

With national employment in the state it’s in, workers need flexibility to make as much money as possible.  Creative thinking like that should be rewarded.

(Lest anyone think this is a partisan story because Massachusetts Democrats were behind the independent contractor ruling, Republicans apparently have their own issues with punishing strippers.)

Where are the Massholes on health care?

Democrats like to throw it back in Scott Brown’s face that he voted for the Massachusetts health bill back in 2006.  Mitt Romney gets it thrown back in his face a lot, too.  That bill was the Mogwai to the current Gremlin of a proposal that Congress is trying to pass-without-passing.

Those critics don’t like to mention the problems Massachusetts is having now.  And Romney and Brown aren’t about to issue the mea culpa the country needs to hear now.

As Bay State native Dan Flynn chronicles, the Massachusetts plan has increased coverage but also insurance costs.  State treasurer Tim Cahill, a Democrat turned Independent, railed against the plan.

“This has been tried, and it failed,” Romney or Brown could plead of the current incarnation.  “In Massachusetts, we tried this.  It cost the state more, it cost patients more, and though there were more people insured they got less care for their money.”  They might even quote Franklin Roosevelt: “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.”

What can Brown do for you?

If you’re a Massachusetts Republican, he might be able to convince you to run for office.  The Bay State GOP is reporting an increase in candidate recruitment and town committee organizing.  That’s no small task.  While statewide Republican candidates have been successful in Massachusetts, the party has not been able to make a dent in Democratic infrastructure on a local level.  They haven’t had enough votes in the state legislature to maintain a governor’s veto since 1992, and they haven’t held a Congressional seat since 1998.  Many of those races were unopposed – after all, why would someone take a leave of absence from their job and flush months of time down the toilet just to lose by nine points to John Olver?

For the Mass GOP, Scott Brown’s victory has already been more promising than William Weld’s, Paul Cellucci’s, and even Mitt Romney’s.

Viva la revolucion

Patrick Ruffini, one of the consultants who helped Scott Brown take back the people’s seat in Massachusetts, wrote an extensive wrap-up of the campaign’s online fundraising in the last month.   The whole thing is a good read, but his assessment of the recent online innovations of each party at the very end is intriguing:

As we have written in the pages of the Washington Post, during the right’s online wilderness years (this “wildnerness” being the mirror image of being in power in Washington) many pundits wondered whether the right was at a permanent structural disadvantage online… [N]ow that the right has needed to use grassroots tools to break the Democratic lock-hold on Washington, they’ve done it in a big way. And it’s happened much faster, and with greater early electoral success, than the evolution of the liberal “netroots” which didn’t really take off until the end of Bush’s first term.

Much has been written about the Massachusetts race, and most of it is an exaggeration.  But the studies of Brown and Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell successful use of online tactics in winning campaigns underscores a running theme – like President Obama, their innovative campaigns were seeking to win an office held by the other party.  All three were on the outside looking in.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  Political parties are made up of politicians, so of course they tend to be risk-averse – unless they have no office to risk.

The Obama Triangle?

Our President is establishing a bad track record.

Much has been written and said on his drop in the polls over the last year, but his track record in trying to lend a helping hand has been particularly disturbing:

  • In 2009, President Obama campaigned in New Jersey for incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine and in Virginia for Democrat Creigh Deeds.  Both tied their campaigns to the successful 2008 Obama campaign in varying degrees; both lost.
  • In 2010, the President entered the Bay State to give Democrat Martha Coakley a boost in what was, according to the polls at the time, a dead heat.  We know how that turned out.

Untold Tales of Massachusetts

In discussing the Scott Brown victory with friends and colleagues over the past few days, some angles of the race incredibly haven’t been picked up by the endless mainstream news media coverage.

#1: Specter’s Swap caused the Bay State flop

A casual conversation with a veteran campaign operative brought up an interesting angle to Brown’s victory: that  Arlen Specter may have unwittingly delivered this seat to Republican control with his April party switch.

Back in April, Specter’s switch didn’t just make the rallying cry of “The 41st Vote” relevant, it also eliminated the Republican primary between the liberal Specter and conservative Pat Toomey.  Remember Toomey had just barely lost a 2004 primary challenge and was poised to overtake Specter in 2010 – if he had the right resources.

If you were a conservative donor somewhere outside of Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, to whom would you donate money if you had to choose: a well-known candidate who had legitimate shot to help return the Senate to its roots, or a long-shot barely-known state senator trying to take Ted Kennedy’s seat?  Specter’s swap in April made Brown the best investment when his nine point poll deficit was announced earlier this month.

Who said Arlen Specter never helped the GOP?

#2:  Speaking of polling…

Remember how Democrats were roundly criticizing Rasmussen polls for supposedly being skewed in favor of Republicans?  Well, it was Rasmussen who first signaled that this race may be closer than the conventional wisdom would suggest it could be.

#3: Jack E. Robinson helped break the “color barrier” for the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation

No, it isn’t THAT Jackie Robinson, and that “color barrier” is, of course, blue.  Robinson has been a Republican candidate for multiple state offices since his 2000 challenge of Ted Kennedy, but is considered something of a joke among Massachusetts Republicans.  Yet Brown took him at least semi-seriously in their primary match-up.

The contested primary was no contest – Brown won 89% of the vote.  But Mike Rossettie, who blogs at RedMassGroup (and used to run the political machine that was the UMass Republican Club) made the point that the primary was an opportunity to campaign, drum up name recognition, and win endorsements and free media.