Tag Archives: Florida

Independents are becoming more important. Less people are showing up.

I find this colorful infographic from Third Way fascinating. I think an increase in “independents” as a portion of voters is a good thing since ideally that means the voters are more informed and less party loyal when they head to the polls. However, I find it concerning that the overall numbers across the board are down, indicating that dissatisfaction with the current political options may be driving down participation. If you don’t participate, you’re not going to make any sort of a change or encourage better options to come along, and that concerns me.

-Matt

thirdwaythinktank:

Check out this infographic created by our very own Bill Rapp and Michelle Diggles to demonstrate the rising number of independents in swing states as we approach the 2012 election.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Florida, Iowa, Politics, South Carolina

Why Komen Should Think Twice

Many of you have probably read about the Susan G. Komen Foundation cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and other breast health related services. Before I offer my thoughts on that issue, I know I’m likely to annoy and potentially offend some people with this post, and I do think that is unfortunate. However, I’ve been pretty close to this issue in the past and I feel that politics are in this case having a direct negative affect on the healthcare of women, so I felt like offering my opinion. I’d like to thank a blog I follow, Cognitive Dissonance, for bringing this issue up and encouraging discussion about it. Although I think most of you will discover our blogs tend to be on different sides of the political spectrum, I think her thoughts are also worth a read.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me explain my involvement on the issue from the Komen side of things. Yes, I was formerly a member of the steering committee for a regional Komen affiliate. No, that affiliate did not give any grants to Planned Parenthood offices. No, I have never worked with any Planned Parenthood office in any capacity, Komen or otherwise. No, I did not receive financial compensation for my work with that Komen affiliate. My position was purely dedicated to the regional Race for the Cure and organizing and recruiting volunteers for the event, so I don’t feel there is any conflict of interest on this issue. I do think my past work with Komen and my current status as a medical student shows my commitment to the well being and health of women, and I hope most of you will take that into account when considering my opinion.

To provide a quick summary of what happened, feel free to read this article at NPR regarding Komen’s decision to cut off grants to Planned Parenthood: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/31/146160911/susan-g-komen-halts-grants-to-planned-parenthood . Basically Komen has been providing grants to a handful of Planned Parenthood offices in low income areas of cities across the country to specifically offer breast exams and education to women in their communities for several years.   The grant funds were restricted to these purposes and monitored to ensure the grant recipients used those funds for the sole purpose of breast exams and education. I’m sure all of you know Planned Parenthood’s reputation as the nation’s largest “abortion provider” and generally speaking, that’s probably true. But my personal feelings aside on their involvement in abortions, I do realize that they are often one of the few healthcare facilities of any sort in very low income areas. Many of the women they see do not have health insurance and do not keep regular appointments with their primary care doctor, if they have a primary care doctor at all. Regional Komen affiliates started offering these grants to Planned Parenthood offices in their areas because they saw the need these women had for breast exams and recognized a lack of infrastructure in their neighborhoods to provide these services to them. They also saw the data showing these women often don’t catch their breast cancer until it is much farther along than women who get routine breast exams and as a result their outcomes were much worse. Was it an ideal partnership? No, probably not. But this partnership did allow thousands of women to get a free breast exam and learn more about performing self exams and breast cancer in general that otherwise wouldn’t have had access to these resources. The offices would be listed and publicized as offering these exams for women and word would get out to the community that a free exam was available in their neighborhood. These aren’t just women that were coming to Planned Parenthood for abortions or other reproductive health reasons (not that it should matter if it was, those women need access to breast exams too), these exams were available to everyone in the community. Komen had strict rules about how the Planned Parenthood offices promoted these exams and how they had to be independent of their other services. So why are the grants being cut off? That’s where it gets political.

The Komen national office recently adopted a new rule that they could not provide grant funding to any organization under investigation by local, state, or federal authorities. Sure, I thought, that sounds pretty reasonable: Why would Komen want to allow their funds to go to any organization that might be misusing them? It’s when you start reading the articles and looking into it further that you see this rule was adopted just around the time that Planned Parenthood was put under investigation by Representative Cliff Stearns from Florida. It could be coincidence, and the rule itself sounds logical, but you also have to think about the amount of political and religious pressure Komen has been under for the last few years to cut off funding to any Planned Parenthood offices. I know Komen is saying they’re cutting Planned Parenthood off because of the investigation (which may or may not be legitimate, I haven’t looked into it), but I find that hard to believe since they’ve also purged any mention of their involvement with Planned Parenthood and their explanation pages about the grants from their website on the same day they made the announcement. They’re not just cutting off the grants, they seem to want people to forget they ever provided the grants in the first place, and to me that sounds like they are caving to political pressures.

I dealt with my own concerns about Komen’s involvement with Planned Parenthood even before I worked with my regional affiliate, but after looking into it I decided that the grants were being used for good purposes and were in no way endorsing or supporting abortion. I think the religious organizations, some of which I generally respect, that have painted pictures of these grants as being Komen supporting abortion should be ashamed of themselves. They’ve boycotted Komen, made newsletters claiming Komen is funneling money to abortion providers (a deliberate or lazy twisting of the facts at best), and gotten thousands of pro-life people very riled up against Komen knowing those people won’t put in enough research to learn the whole truth behind the grants. They like to claim that these few regional affiliates that provided the grants (around 19 in total, it’s not as if a lot of affiliates were even providing grants to Planned Parenthood in the first place) could have given the money to other types of healthcare facilities in the low income areas of their regions to accomplish the same purpose, but I think that’s very short sighted and unrealistic. I’ve seen how Komen works when deciding who to award their grants to and there are always far more applicants than there are funds. If these affiliates were giving the grants to Planned Parenthood offices in their communities, I’m confident it is because they felt it was the only place these women would be able to get the care they needed. People need to face the facts and take a drive through the poorest parts of their community and tell me what they see. Yes, there are the occasional free clinics, but are they open every day? Do they have the necessary facilities and staff that are trained or can be trained to provide breast exams on a daily basis? Are there any churches, community centers, or other local non profits with the necessary facilities and staff? I think you’ll find the answer to all of these can be no in a lot of poor areas and a place like Planned Parenthood may simply be the only option. There are broader social concerns that this should also raise for those of us that aren’t a fan of Planned Parenthood but see the lack of other providers in these communities, but the bottom line is these grants went to a good cause administered through a politically divisive organization and the politics seem to have come crashing down on Komen in a way that forced their decision. Even the most adamant pro-life among us should take a good look at what was actually going on here and re-examine their position on Komen and these grants, because I fear they’ve cost thousands of women ready access to breast exams and I don’t see any way that is morally defensible.

As always, I’m interested to hear your opinion on these issues.

-M

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Filed under Komen, Politics

What Did We Learn in Florida? Ugly Politics Work… And They Don’t.

With the results in and the pundits having a field day making wild claims on TV about what Florida means for the rest of the primary season, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The real question isn’t what Florida means for the rest of the primary season, but what did we learn from it? Did Romney finally show he can unite the Republican party and beat President Obama? Is the style we saw in Florida from Gingrich and Romney going to continue? I offer my thoughts:

What did we learn?

We learned that Romney intends to win this process by any means necessary. He didn’t just take off the gloves, he put on boxing gloves and wrapped them in barbed wire. He and his Super PACs spent an absolute fortune, pundits are saying he outspent Gingrich by $15 million in Florida (that means he spent a minimum of 4x more in Florida than Newt), and they spent almost 100% of it on purely negative ads trashing Gingrich. The attack ads (some of which were immediately disproved by Politifact and other sources, but people don’t normally look into things that well) aren’t a new tactic, we saw how well Romney’s negative tactics worked in Iowa when he demolished Gingrich there. What was a new development was how personal he got on the campaign trail. We didn’t see the Romney that promotes his business and leadership experience in Florida, we saw a new Romney that focused his energy on lashing out against Gingrich and pointing out his past in Congress and as a consultant and using that as a platform to make attacks against him. I wondered if Romney would go for the throat after being put on notice in South Carolina, but I underestimated how far he was willing to go with it. We also saw a different side of Gingrich than we’ve seen to date. The skilled orator who highlights his past as a political strategist and conservative while promoting his “grandiose” ideas was missing in Florida. We saw a Gingrich that appeared uncomfortable while under constant attack and failed to defend himself in an effective way against the attacks, whether they were true or false. He appeared frustrated, defensive, and angry and lost his focus on the issues and passion for his ideas we’ve seen so far. The other candidates, Santorum and Paul, barely register as having done anything in Florida. And before you start yelling at me, yes, I know both of them appeared at some events across the state and participated in the debates. Paul wisely skipped Florida to avoid wasting money and Santorum did what he could with the shoestring budget his campaign has been reduced to. We already knew Ron Paul was in this for the long haul, but it now appears Santorum is going to stay in the race as long as he can despite being flat in the polls too. I still don’t think this can continue all the way to the convention despite his claim that it will- Santorum simply doesn’t have the money or the loyal base of Paul to make it that far. He will have to win another state if he wants to build any momentum back up, and although that’s possible, I don’t think it’s too probable.

Did Romney show us he can unite the Republican Party and beat President Obama?

In a word- No. Romney had his strongest performance to date which is certainly important, but he still has a long ways to go to prove he can unite the Republican base and still appeal to any independents in a general election. Florida was a mixed bag for him. Yes, he won the primary and the delegates, but at a great cost. Not only did his campaign spend more than quadruple the amount of money campaigning in Florida than Gingrich (Santorum and Paul won’t register on the spending scale compared to either in Florida), he also lost a lot of his appeal to independents and potential Democratic defectors with the way he spent the money. Polls now show Romney’s likability numbers have been dropping since his scorched earth attack ad strategy started, and most surprisingly polls now show that Floridians would rather vote for Obama than Romney. This puts a whole new kink in the whole process. It has been assumed up until now that Romney was the most electable candidate and polls to date had shown him as the most likely to beat Obama, but that image of inevitability could be shattered if the way he wins the Republican nomination makes him so unlikable he can’t beat Obama. Romney is going to have to find a new way to beat Gingrich if he wants to be the nominee, because his constant negative attacks are taking a toll on his electability and overall appeal. Jabs here and there are fine and are pretty effective, but his current plan is a two edged sword and it will end up cutting him as badly as it cuts his opponents if he isn’t careful.

Is the style we saw in Florida from Gingrich and Romney going to continue?

No, I don’t think so. Gingrich’s concession speech (well, there wasn’t really any concession going on in it but I’m not sure what else you’d call it) after the results were almost all in was probably a signal of how his campaign will be run from here on out. He knows he didn’t handle the attacks well in Florida and that his own counter attacks failed to do any real damage to Romney and he needs to adjust his strategy if he’s going to be the nominee come August. I think Gingrich will stick to what he does best: promote big ideas, rail against Obama and the media when it’s beneficial to him, and lay out his vision for “rebuilding” America. He’ll have to get some jabs in against Romney here and there, but he needs to appear to rise above the attacks to beat them and I think he now knows that. Romney’s campaign machine is too big and well funded not to know that although they won the delegates in Florida, their current direction could cost them the election in November even if it succeeds in getting them the nomination. I think you’ll see Romney focus more on railing against Obama and trying to paint himself as someone the “common man” can connect with, because right now he’s still not making them believe he is the one that can make the economy work for them again. I think too many of his Gingrich attacks have been called out in Florida and Newt will theoretically be wiser from the mess of Florida and be better prepared for future grilling by the Romney ad machine, so there’s no logic in continuing in the vein of relentless negativity. The Super PACs for both will probably keep the anger dialed up for the rest of the process though, and the candidates will of course claim there’s nothing they can do about that.

So, like I said after South Carolina: Things are getting fun, and it will be interesting to see where things head. Luckily for my study habits February is a pretty slow month for the campaigning, but let me know what you think and I’ll do my best to respond.

-M

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Filed under 2012 Election, Candidate, Florida, GOP, Newt Gingrich, Politics, President, Republican, Romney, Ron Paul, Santorum

Will the Debates Matter in Florida?

With the days until the Florida primary counting down, the debates were once again being closely watched as a potential way for the top two candidates to steal momentum from the other, or even for one of the come from behind candidates to make their case to the voters. I missed Monday’s debate (I know, for shame!) but I watched last night’s performance with some interest and was a bit dissapointed that it seemed pretty balanced overall. Not that being balanced in performance is a bad thing, it just means that last night’s debate, unlike the South Carolina debates, probably isn’t going to significantly help or hurt any of the candidates, and that makes me wonder if the debates will even matter in Florida after being so critical in SC.

As far as who did well last night, it’s hard for me to say anyone “won” since no one had a spectacular night and they were all a bit mixed.

Romney got some good hits in on Gingrich (hypocritical hits, but I count them as good since Newt didn’t hit back effectively to point out the hypocrisy) early and then got back to stumbling over things when diverted from his talking points. is actual performance in questions was pretty mediocre, but his fake moral high ground card may help him out as long as people don’t watch his ads or listen to him speak at events.

Gingrich was on the defensive all night and that’s a weaker position for him than the offensive, but he seemed to handle the immigration and particularly Israel answers well and that gave him some momentum to close out on. There are two things Newt needs to do if he wants to keep momentum on his side though, and he’s not doing them well right now. The first is he needs to stop making outlandish attacks he’s not willing to back up. Calling Romney anti-immigrant was a risky play and it backfired. He needs to pay attention to Romney’s style- make small numerous attacks that are difficult to counter and then pretend to be morally superior after your attacks. He also desperately needs to be able to counter Romney’s attacks more effectively. Romney successfully countered Newt’s attacks without having much more substance or any more truth to his statements than Gingrich’s attacks had, and unless Gingrich can follow up Romney’s attacks with some solid facts or an effectively pointing out Romney’s hypocrisy on that issue he’s going to appear to be the weaker candidate. I’m sure his debate coach or campaign staff are telling him this too, I just hope he listens or this won’t be a two or three man race for long.

 

Santorum came across much stronger than normal because of his “get back to the issues” plea (you know he had that one up his sleeve waiting for an opportune moment- he’s seen how Newt capitalizes off calling out media fluff questions and he wanted a piece), but when asked to explain his own views he stumbles around and doesn’t appear prepared. It was also more than a little amusing to see him call for civility and ending attacks and then turn around and use his questions as an opportunity to attack Romney and Newt. He’s desperate to do well enough in Florida to regain enough momentum to continue his campaign and it shows.

 

Ron Paul didn’t have to do much defending and people still like his message about constitutional freedoms and the money supply and such, but he also didn’t earn any new points or followers since it was pretty much the same old thing all over again. He has his strong anti-establishment young voter base, they’re not going anywhere, but they’re also not going to matter in Florida since it’s an all or nothing state for delegates. The only thing that he might be able to do is kill off Rick Santorum’s campaign, but he would need to build a bit more support in Florida to do that. I do think that his message will resonate with some of the elderly voters that remember the “good old days” of cheaper healthcare, not being groped at the airport, and retirement accounts that were solvent, but the elderly vote is probably more likely to gravitate to Romney (partly for looks/style and success in business) and Newt because they make more loud statements about how to fix things than Ron Paul effectively delivers.

 

It’ll be interesting to see how Florida plays out. I have no idea who will win- Newt has used debates to his advantage thus far, but his performances this week have just been average and that may not be enough to overcome the pre-existing Romney machine advantage in the sunshine state, which is what he needed to do. Romney has done well enough in debates and has been scathing enough in his attacks against Gingrich in Florida events that he may not be gaining new support per se, but he’s not giving people a reason to vote for someone else and that’s probably all it will take with the others fighting for whatever’s left. Newt and Romney will be fighting each other, barring some miraculous Paul or Santorum performance in Florida, for at least a few more states, but Gingrich needs to stay pretty even with Romney in Florida to keep momentum on his side. I do think that Florida might be enough to kill off Santorum if he comes in last- he’s out of money and out of momentum and he needs something to put some new life back in his campaign if he’s going to be able to continue in Nevada and beyond. If Ron Paul, who’s not even actively campaigning in Florida, beats him there then I think he’ll have no other option but to drop out. Paul has the luxury of a pretty steady money supply and loyal followers, so he’s going to be around as long as he possibly can.

-M

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Filed under 2012 Election, Candidate, CNN, Debates, GOP, Newt Gingrich, Politics, Romney, Ron Paul, Santorum