Senate WrapUp

Sorry for the length of this, but with 36 races to cover, even a brief recap takes space. Most of these numbers come from Rasmussen, with Real Clear Politics filling in where current Rasmussen data is missing.

In one of the most interesting races this cycle, in Alaska, a disgruntled primary loser mounting a write-in campaign is trailing the Republican who beat her by only a point (35-34%). Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller are taking it down to the wire with Democrat Scott McAdams running a poor third at 27%, Undecideds showing at 3% and respondents wishing for another candidate comprising 1% of returns. The first post-primary poll (August 31) showed Miller leading McAdams 50-44%, with 2% undecided and 4% wanting some other candidate. By September 19, after Ms Murkowski announced her write-in campaign, she was pulling 27% of the poll, having taken 8 points from Mr Miller (now at 42%) and 19 from Mr McAdams (now at 24%). Undecideds stood at 5% and Other at 1%. But now (October 13), she continues to pull from Miller (down from September to 35%) while Mr McAdams has gained three points to 27%, two of them from the Undecideds. I can’t move Alaska out of the Toss Up category.

Alabama is solidly in Republican hands with Richard Shelby leading Democrat William Barnes 58-30%, with Undecideds at 8% and Other at 4%. If all 12% of those break for Mr Barnes (which never happens), he’ll still lose handily.

Likewise, Arkansas is solidly in the Republican camp – John Boozman leading Blanche Lincoln 55-37% (Undecided 5%; Other 3%). Ms Lincoln has never recovered from her disagreement with her constituents over ObamaCare (the obvious buying of her vote).

John McCain looks safe in his Arizona seat (54-33%, 6% Undecided and 8% Other). Rodney Glassman, the Democrat, has hovered in the 30s since the primaries, never really mounting a serious challenge to Senator McCain.

In California, Senator Boxer is involved in her first tough election since she’s held office, leading ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina 48-46%, with 3% Undecided and 3% Other. Ms Boxer’s 7-point lead just post-primary, dwindled to a 5-point deficit on September 6, and she now enjoys a 2-point lead, down two points from a month ago. This race has not stabilized yet, leaving the Golden State as a Toss Up.

Republican Ken Buck in Colorado just slipped into the margin of error, leading Democrat Michael Bennet 47-45% (4% Undecided and 4% Other). He has been leading Mr Bennet by as much as 8 points, but the race has been tightening since the primaries. Because of Mr Buck’s never-behind record, I’m listing this race as Leaning Republican.

A Democratic bright spot shows up in Connecticut, where Richard Blumenthal leads Republican ex-WWA CEO Linda McMahon 56-43%, with 1% Undecided and 1% Other. Delaware is another, where Democrat Chris Coons leads Republican Christine O’Donnell 51-40%, with 4% Undecideds and Other at 5%.

In Florida, it looks like Marco Rubio (50%) is going to survive the two-pronged attack from Democrat Kendrick Meek (19%) and Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist (25%). Undecideds and Other both stand at 3%. Governor Crist, it seems, is taking more support from Mr Meeks than he is from Mr Rubio.

In another 3-way, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson is leading Democrat Michael Thurmond 53-38%, with Independent Chuck Donovan at 5% (Undecided 4%, Other 1%).

In Hawaii, incumbent Dan Inouye (D), the only Senator Hawaii has had in that seat, is leading Republican Cam Cavasso 53-40%, with 4% Undecided and 3% preferring some Other candidate.

Republican incumbent Charles Grassley is leading Democrat Roxanne Conlin 55-37% in Iowa. with Undecideds at 5% and Other at 3%. Also solidly Republican is Idaho, where Mike Crapo is leading Tom Sullivan 63-24%, 7% Undecided and 6% preferring Other.

Illinois is another race coming down to the wire, with Republican Mark Kirk leading Democrat Alexi Giannoulias 44-40%, and Green candidate LeAlan Jones polling at 4%. Undecideds are at 5% and Other rather high at 8%. This race, while always led by Kirk, has never left the margin of error. I’m listing Illinois as a Toss Up, even though Kirk has never trailed – Illinois is Blue state and this is Chicago’s Barack Obama seat that is being filled.

Back in the Republican column with Indiana, where Dan Coats leads Brad Ellsworth 52-34%, Undecideds high at 9% and Other standing at 5%. Also solidly Red is Kansas with Jerry Moran holding a 33-point lead over Lisa Johnston (61-28%), with Undecided at 6% and Other at 5%.

In Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul holds a 47-42% lead over Jack Conway, this poll (October 18) was taken just after their televised debate, and this represents Mr Paul’s slimmest lead yet, although it’s still outside the margin of error. This probably represents a post-debate bounce for Mr Conway, but as polling won’t be done in Kentucky between now and the election, I will place this race in the Leaning Republican column.

There is no love lost between Louisiana’s voters and Democrats after closing off all deep water oil platforms post-BP. Republican David Vitter leads Democrat Charlie Melencon 54-33%, with 7% Undecided and 5% preferring some Other candidate.

In Maryland, Democrat incumbent Barbara Mikulski leads Republican Eric Wargotz 55-39% (Undecided 3%, Other 3%).

Roy Blunt’s 11-point lead has the Democrats pulling their national TV money out of Missouri to better concentrate on other races. The Republican son of a governor leads Robin Carnahan, the Democratic daughter of a governor, 52-41% with 3% Undecided and 4% Other. In North Carolina, Republican Richard Burr leads Democrat Elaine Marshall 52-38%, with Undecideds rather high at 8% and Other at 2%.

Republican John Hoeven leads Democrat Tracy Potter by nearly 3-to-1 at 72-25% in North Dakota, and 3% are Undecided.

New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte has a 51-44% lead over Democrat Paul Hodes. 2% are Undecided and 3% prefer Other.

Nevada is one of those races that we’ve all been watching since the Republicans nominated the only Republican who Harry Reid could actually beat. As of October 25, Sharron Angle leads 49-45%, right at the margin of error. Undecideds are at 2% and Other is at 4%, so either could cover by however these uncommitted break. I would normally list Nevada as Leans Republican, but Ms Angle’s penchant for saying stupid things leads me to carry Nevada as a Toss Up.

New York is, as usual, solidly in Democrat hands, Kirsten Gillibrand enjoying a 54-33% lead over Republican Joe DioGuardi. And Ohio is solidly in Republican hands, Republican Rob Portman leading Democrat Lee Fisher 57-34%, splitting these two very important electoral states split leading up to 2012.

Republican Tom Coburn leads Democrat Jim Rogers in Oklahoma 68-26%, while Oregon is going Democrat, with Ron Wyden leading Jim Huffman 47-37% (although a large segment [16%] is still either Undecided or prefers some Other candidate).

In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey still leads Democrat Joe Sestak, but the race is still within the margin of error at 48-44%, and a rather large 7% are still Undecided. Both have served in elective office before, so Pennsylvanians know their records, and how the Undecideds break could settle the election. Leans Republican.

Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican has been an outspoken critic of the administration, and has a 37-point lead over Democrat Alvin Greene (58-21%), and even if the huge 15% Other bloc all went with Mr Greene, Mr DeMint still wins. Utah also falls in the Republican camp with Mike Lee leading Sam Granato 61-28%.

Patrick Leahy, one of the country’s best known Senators, has a commanding lead over his Republican rival in Vermont, Len Britton, at 63-32%.

In Washington, Republican Dino Rossi is giving incumbent Democrat Patty Murray the toughest race she’s experienced, but trails 46-49% with 5% either Undecided or Other. Leans Democrat.

Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold is trailing in Wisconsin 46-53 behind Republican Ron Johnson, with only 1% Undecided. Republican. The race for West Virginia’s seat vacated by Robert Byrd’s death has Republican John Raese leading popular Democrat Governor Joe Manchin 50-43%, with 7% either Undecided or preferring Other. Also Republican.

As far as I can see, Wyoming has not been polled during this cycle. Not sure why. Wyoming tends to be a rather conservative state, but in the absence of polling, I will list it as a Toss Up.

Final totals come up as:

Toss Up: 5 (Alaska, California; Illinois; Nevada; Wyoming)

Leans Republican: 3 (Colorado; Kentucky; Pennsylvania)

Republican: 20 (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana; Kansas; Louisiana; Missouri; North Carolina; North Dakota; New Hampshire; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Utah; Wisconsin; West Virginia)

Democrat: 7 (Connecticut; Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland; New York; Oregon; Vermont)

Leans Democrat: 1 (Washington)

If all of the leaners and toss ups go Democrat, the Republicans will pick up a net gain of four seats. If the leaners go the way they are leaning and the toss ups split, Republicans will pick up 14 seats (and control of the Senate). So the likely range appears to be somewhere between four and fourteen Republican seats being picked up by the Republicans, making the mean a 9-seat win (giving control of the Senate to Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote). This is outside my six-to-eight seat margin that I have been projecting, but I think it’s realistic. Based on these results, I will call for a 9-seat Republican gain in the Senate.

Mexico Update

According to STRATFOR[1] analyst Scott Stewart, the September 30 shooting death of US citizen David Hartley on Falcon Lake – which straddles the US-Mexico border between Loredo and McAllen – was a mistake committed by low-level member(s) of the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization[2]. There’s a government crackdown and an inter-cartel war raging just south of our border.

The highly publicized smuggling routes out of Nogales into Arizona, and the heavy trafficking through Falcon Lake into Texas are testaments that the fence works. Infiltration and exfiltration between the United States and Mexico is being increasingly funneled into unfenced border areas remote enough to evade the minimal border patrols that we mount. This raises or lowers the intrinsic value of the various territories controlled by the various Mexican drug cartels.

At its height, the Gulf cartel’s power came from its enforcement arm, Los Zetas, who have a well-documented relationship with Los Kaibiles, (Guatemalan special forces deserters turned criminal muscle), and have established training bases for the equipping and training of recruits. Today, however, the cartel and Los Zetas are separate entities, with the latter being the dominant organization and controlling much of the Gulf cartel’s former territory[3], which borders Texas from about Nuevo Loredo to the Gulf coast.

Shortly after his inauguration in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out effort to target the cartels, which he viewed as a major threat to Mexico’s security and stability. Since, the government’s effort has weakened and fragmented some of the major cartels (namely Gulf and Sinaloa), but this government progress has upset the balance of power among the cartels. Former cartel allies have been pitted against each other in bloody battles of attrition as rival cartels have tried to take advantage of their weakened competitors and seize control of smuggling routes.

In January, the Los Zeta leader died in an altercation with a group of men reporting to the Gulf cartel. Los Zetas gave the cartel an ultimatum to hand over the shooters by January 25, and when the deadline passed they ordered the kidnapping of 16 known cartel members in the Ciudad Miguel Alemàn area (just down stream of Falcon Lake), and the war was on.

The Gulf cartel reached out to their longtime enemies, the Sinaloa federation, and asked for their assistance in dealing with Los Zetas. Together with another enemy of Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana (LFM), they joined forces with the Gulf cartel to form an organization known as the New Federation, with the stated goals of the of destroying Los Zetas, along with the remnants of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization (the Juarez cartel). A move by the New Federation to destroy the remnants of the Arellano Felix Organization (the Tijuana cartel), now very weak, would allow the organization to dominate Mexican drug smuggling routes into the US.

These operations have resulted in some 40 Los Zetas leaders being arrested or killed, in addition to hundreds of their soldiers. As with all insurgent groups, replacement of key or otherwise well-trained personnel is difficult, and in reaction to these losses, members of street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, (MS-13) have been recruited to replace the KIAs[4]. Such replacements come with a price, however. The original Los Zetas were defectors from Mexico’s Special Forces Airmobile Group, and were very well-trained and well-disciplined. Los Zetas reportedly have hired military instructors from a variety of countries to train their new recruits. But the new generations of Zetas and Zetitas are simply not as well-trained or well-disciplined as the original Zetas. This basic level of training for new recruits has also suffered in recent months as the group has been under tremendous pressure to replace members who have been killed while some of its training facilities have been seized by the authorities. This means the organization has been compelled to use soldiers with very little training who are far less tactically adept than their Zeta masters. They are little more than thugs with guns.

And that brings us back to David and Tiffany Hartley. It seems likely that a patrol by one or more of these Zetitas mistook the Hartleys for a rival patrol and opened fire, killing David and missing Tiffany. According to sources within Mexico, Los Zetas leadership was furious, that more senior personnel have recovered and disposed of David’s body and “disciplined” the inexperienced shooter(s). We won’t see them around any more. The net result is that Mr Hartley’s body will likely never be recovered, and no one will be brought to justice for the shooting. This case is probably as closed as it’s going to get.

[1] Strategic Forecasting Incorporated (STRATFOR), dubbed by Barron’s as “The Shadow CIA,” it’s one of the world’s leading global intelligence firms, providing clients with geopolitical analysis and industry and country forecasts to mitigate risk and identify opportunities. STRATFOR’s clients include Fortune 500 companies and major governments.

[2] See Scott Stewart, The Falcon Lake Murder and Mexico’s Drug Wars, STRATFOR, October 21 2010.

[3] See Scott Stewart and Alex Posey, Mexico: The War with the Cartels in 2009, STRATFOR, December 9 2009.

[4] These young street gang recruits frequently are referred to as “Zetitas” or little Zetas.

the Monetary Problem with the Fiscal Problem

Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is talking about artificially inducing inflation in order to stave off deflation – a persistent and generalized downward spiraling of prices which would depress consumerism (buyers waiting for prices to fall further, delay purchasing – the bigger the ticket [houses, cars, etc], the more they will wait), freeze wages (employers can’t really cut wages without depressing workforce morale, and unions won’t allow it anyway), and the resultant cut in profit margins would reduce revenues to the government. The resultant increased deficit feeds the moribund economic outlook, further depressing economic activity, and so on.

The Lord of the Flies aspect to all of this is that Washington threw over a trillion at the economy saying it would stimulate economic recovery, and is now faced with having to do it by artificially inflating (read: devaluing) the currency. In a tacit admission that “stimulus” didn’t work, they seek a monetary cure for their fiscal ineptness.

We’ve heard that corporations and banks are sitting on their “stimulus” money rather than spending and lending it. Why? Because the administration is asking businessmen to act like businessmen while serially punishing them for making a profit and hiring people. Corporations and banks will only risk capital if they have a reasonable expectation of the playing field – what is the outlook for regulation, taxes, interest rates, and so on. If they are forced to operate in the dark, they will sit on cash, preparing for the worst.

After TARP came north of a trillion dollars worth of bailouts and stimulus. Congress then did something utterly inexplicable. They passed a total revamping of the healthcare industry that is not only stupefying in its complexity, stunning in its cost, and draconian to hiring, it was, financially, also at exactly the wrong time. An actual recovery requires a business atmosphere that encourages production and hiring, both of which the combination of TARP, bailouts, “stimulus” and ObamaCare precludes.

Cap-and-Trade – a plan to make energy punitively expensive – sits in the Senate awaiting passage. Card Check – the removal of secret ballots in unionizing workplaces – was advertised as next on the House agenda. EPA was threatening to declare CO2 a taxable emission. In this environment, business anticipated a long season of uncertainty from Washington.

With half of the “stimulus” money sitting in corporate and banking coffers, and half of it not yet spent, there’s little wonder that it didn’t work.

So now the Fed wants to stimulate inflation in order to stimulate the economy, which, if it actually works, will unleash the pent-up cash being held by corporations and banks, which will, of course, exacerbate inflation. There is every possibility that the next administration will inherit a Carteresque economy of double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and double-digit unemployment, with the added benefit of trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.

How’s that HopeyChange thing workin’ for ya?

There be Dragons Beyond this Point …

Pre-Colombian maps of “the world” sported this phrase just westward of the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar) because no one had sailed out there, and ignorance always breeds fear and myth. Just look at how a neighborhood organizer views the greater world – fear: “I’ll gladly throw away my European ballistic missile defense if you [Russia] just play nice in Iran (they haven’t)”; and myth: “The Muslim world will forego religious and familial allegiances if the Great Satan just reaches out in friendship (they haven’t).”

I’ve called for a new Grand Strategy in these pages before, but now, particularly in view of the revelations in Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, we will be in desperate need of any cogent foreign policy by the time President Obama has ignored the outside world for four years. Our president fears disgruntled Democrats far more than rabid fanatics killing our troops and plotting mayhem here – or for the welfare of our allies, for that matter.

He has never believed in “the Good War”; he doesn’t believe in any war. He only believes in the neighborhood.

This lack of a bigger picture yields a disregard for the leadership of the free world, which he inherited from every post-World War II president, whether he wants it or not. Someone has to guarantee the command of the commons (air- and sea-lanes of the world) lest they taken ad hoc by those whose goal is area denial rather than free trade. The primary instruments of American power projection are carrier strike groups, which President Obama wishes to atrophy by neglect. Someone must represent the West against the relentless encroachment of Shari’ah, lest British Common and Napoleonic Law be subverted by 7th-century tribal law, which will be the net effect of our flaccid response to demands of conciliation to Muslim traditions within our way of life[1]. Someone must maintain the West’s dominance in space, lest that role be taken by whomever can, which will result from President Obama’s reassignment of NASA to the role of weather-watcher.

The point is, that with an administration consumed with advancing a decrepit liberal agenda on an unwilling people, the fruits of a century of Western gains against the world’s statists are withering on an untended vine. Evil can only succeed if good people do nothing, and on the world stage, we are intentionally doing nothing.

It would be bad enough, if excusable, were this just a case of on-the-job-training – of a novice desperately trying to learn – but it’s not. We are living the case of a novice who just isn’t interested; who sees foreign affairs as an inconvenience to his “fundamentally changing America”. Mr Obama had a vision, and that was to get elected to the presidency. Now that he’s there, it doesn’t appear that he knows what to do with it.

That’s dangerous for the rest of the world.

[1] See J:-Drive/Abu Bakr Naji, the Management of Savagery, William McCants (trans), John M Olin Institute for Strategic Studies [Harvard University], 23 May 2006. This is a document produced by al Qaeda that articulates how they intend to conquer the West from within and from without. Relying heavily on the Qur’anic principle of “converting or killing” infidels, the tome describes the gradual conversion by infiltrating Islamic law into the West while killing unbelievers traveling outside the West.

the Great Divide

Daniel Patrick Moynihan[1] once said that “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society; and the central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Barack Obama’s promise to “fundamentally change America”, and Republican revulsion at the thought, bear witness to the wisdom of Mr Moynihan’s remark.

We conservatives believe that it is the American experiment – removing power from the state and investing it in the individual – that gives Western Civilization vitality and longevity. America doesn’t need “fundamental” change. We need, any society needs, guidance around the edges … tweaking of the controls. But not a do-over on how America works. It is precisely a highly centralized, one-size-fits-all, “we”-know-best approach to governance that America rebelled against, and produced history’s most successful society.

Some say that America was an accident in time – that our founding at the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the happy presence of a continent of resources was why America succeeded. Yet Europe, China and Russia had well established societies and a continent of resources at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, yet it was American society that rose from the mist into a world power in an historical eye-blink. It was American ingenuity and industriousness that defeated two highly centralized economies and better-equipped militaries in World War II. It was American inventiveness that produced the electronic digital computer and went to the Moon. It is the American free market that still produces 90% of world’s medical advances and new cures.

We don’t need “fundamental change”.

Toss a pebble into a pond. The ripple that begins by surrounding only the stone eventually surrounds the entire pond. As we go through this veil, we will be judged, not by the stone of our intent, but by the ripple of our actions. We need to get back to teaching our children that their future is in their own hands, not the government’s. That their job, as a child, is to get an education so that they may participate in their own future. That people are responsible for their own actions.

My brother is not my keeper. He is my brother.

[1] Those of you too young to remember New York US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan missed the last gasp of Democrats who were statesmen rather than ideologues. He and Massachusetts US Representative Thomas “Tip” O’Neil were the last of a breed of dedicated liberals who sought the council and compromise of their conservative brethren in the chambers of Congress and Oval Office. Both were pleasant, witty and profound thinkers who honestly had the interests of the United States as their first motive, not a desperate clinging to office that so epitomizes the current Members on both sides of the aisle.