Thursday, March 29, 2012

Skittles and Broccoli

Every once in a while, a week comes along that brings clarity and definition to the world and enables us to find meaning in the beautiful things that make up our lives.

Perhaps next week will be such a week.

For the parents of Trayvon Martin, this was a week that saw the world finally notice the tragedy that befell their child. It's a story that is easily told but terribly difficult to understand:

The circumstances - an unarmed teen carrying Skittles, a gated suburban community and a man with no official authority - along with simmering economic frustrations in the nation's African-American community turned the death into a social touchstone. Social media, black radio and cable television drove the debate about racial profiling and the state of black males, helping give rise to an indelible image that seems to be everywhere: Trayvon Martin and his hoodie.

It shed light on the Florida Stand Your Ground Law, which essentially allows people with guns to decide who's a threat and who's not, and to allow suburban vigilante justice in the guise of neighborhood watch. And as more evidence comes out about what might have happened on that fateful night, more questions are raised. Finally, what about Wrigley, the company that makes Skittles? That's complicated. Sales are up, but for all the wrong reasons.

As if the Martin story wasn't complicated enough, this was also the week of health care. Ironic, no?

Enough words have been senselessly killed since Monday in an effort to describe, analyze, parse, interpret, divine, enunciate, explicate and pontificate on what exactly the justices meant, when it's fairly clear that the conservatives would rather make love to a broccoli stalk than rule the law to be constitutional.

And the broccoli bit is the heart of the problem. Is it just me or did anyone else get the sense that Antonin Scalia didn't merely complain about having a 2,700 page law to leaf through, he never actually read any of the briefs related to it? How else to explain his repetition of the broccoli conundrum that was standard fare in the mainstream press for the past 6 months? Or his mis-citation of the Cornhusker Kickback, which was troubling enough for a man of his intellect?  I thought the justices were supposed to focus on the law, not repeat the  talking points that radiate from all corners of the Cable News/Twitter/Blogosphere Axis.

At least we'll know the outcome of the health care law at the end of June. After that, President Obama and Mitt Romney can adjust their campaigns and move forward with their lives.

Trayvon Martin's parents might not get that kind of closure for many months after that. And they'll always have more questions than answers.

Justice indeed.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Things I Know: Health Care, Tim Tebow, Mitt Romney

I know that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld by the Supreme Court.

How do I know this?

Because before it was a good Democratic idea it was a good Republican idea. I'm sure the GOP vetted the law as an alternative to the Clinton health care plan. I'm sure that Mitt Romney and his attorneys vetted their Massachusetts plan before they proposed, passed and signed it. I also know that the Obama Administration is not "rolling the dice" on the law in the months just before the election. They have reasonable, rational motives in doing so because they know that the law, if the court relies on precedent, will be upheld.

I know that the Tim Tebow trade will end up to be a disaster for the Jets, and that the entire nation, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa will enjoy watching the nuclear meltdown that will occur next season.

How do I know this?

The team just signed Mark Sanchez to a contract extension and has now traded for another, more charismatic player who manages to confound the football experts with his unorthodox style and steely determination. The Jets have also said that Tebow will be involved in the offense during the season. What other backup quarterback gets that kind of promise? Answer: A quarterback who will be given every available chance to take the job from the starter. All Mark Sanchez has to do, assuming he keeps his job coming out of training camp, is to throw a couple of interceptions or lead the team to two first half field goals (only) in the season opener, and you can bet that everyone from Billy Graham, Jr. on down to the local church ladies will be calling for his head. And St. Tim will be ready. This won't be a season; it will be a reality show. As a triumphant Giants fan, I can't wait.

I know that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. So do you. So does the general media. So does the right wing media. So does Intrade. So do the Vegas odds-makers.

How do I know this?

Mitt is the only rational, reasonable Republican candidate of the bunch. He's said some gaffey-type things, but most people are either shrugging them off or comparing them to the scary-ee things that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are saying. Remember your history lessons. The United States doesn't elect radicals to the highest office in the land. Of course, the Democrats thought Barry Goldwater was a far right kook and the Republicans thought that Walter Mondale was a socialist, but they were both wrong. Mitt's a moderate who ran a liberal state in a moderate way and achieved some moderate success in Massachusetts. he's not a religious zealot and he doesn't have the anger issues that the other candidates have. Of course, how can you be angry when you make about $20 million dollars per year?

These are but three of the things I know. I welcome what you know. If you're really in the know, you'll go to and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Knowledge is power.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Post-Illinois: Mitt Wins. It's Over

That's it. Doesn't matter what happens from here on out. Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee. Rick Santorum will make speeches and say things that only an ultra-conservative will agree with. Newt will write another book about his campaign.

Here's the skinny:

                       Predicted        Actual
Romney            48%              46.7%
Santorum          31%              35.0%         
Gingrich            11%               9.3%
Paul                   9%                 8.0%

Really. Can we talk about something else now? How about art, Mrs. Robinson?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mitt Be Illin'(ois)

If there ever was a good time for the Romster to win a solid victory, this would be it. And, as luck would have it, he will win the Illinois primary going away. With the latest polling showing him with anywhere from a 10-15 point lead, this one will not be nail-biter. Neither will the nomination battle. No brokered primary either. I know. I'm no fun. But then again, neither is Mitt.

The GOP has tried to move on from contraception to the economy, but the darn economy keeps improving, car sales are up, jobs are being created and consumer confidence is on the rise. Mitt's been reduced to saying that he could do a better job with the recovery. Rick's given up and says the real issue is freedom.

So here's how it will go down tonight:

Romney            48%
Santorum          31%
Gingrich            11%
Paul                   9%

A convincing win for Romney. More stories about how conservatives aren't crazy about him. On to Louisiana.

For more, please go to: and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Post Primary Blues: The GOP's Gone South

Rick pulls off the daily double and the race pushes on. I can't say as I'm terribly surprised but the results certainly were a sharp rebuke to Romney and his claims to be a conservative. Perhaps in the fall, when he's the nominee, this will help him as moderate voters will determine this election.

The results:

                    Predict             Survey says!
Gingrich          33%                  31.3%
Romney          32%                  30.3%
Santorum        29%                  32.9%
Paul                 6%                    4.4%

And Alabama

Romney          32%                  29.0%
Gingrich          31%                  29.3%
Santorum        30%                  34.5%
Paul                 6%                    5.0%

The GOP will win these two states in the fall, so no worries there. Newt Gingrich has promised to fight on, but he's lost any claim to being the conservative alternative to Romney and can only be a spoiler. Santorum can say all he wants about being the nominee, but I don't see him winning any of the big, less conservative states still to come. If he can manage to pick off a couple (IL, NY, CA), then we'll talk. My take is that this positions Rick as a possible VP candidate if he has enough delegates and clout to force the issue in Tampa.

I'm sure that recent polls showing president Obama to be vulnerable (again and still) have emboldened conservatives not to settle on a candidate they don't want. The remaining question is whether they want to go all in for Santorum.

For more, please go to: and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Polling Report: Special Missibama Muslim Edition

Just when I was going to recognize the modern south and how much attitudes have changed, along comes the story that Republicans in both Alabama (45%) and Mississippi (52%) believe that President Obama is a Muslim.

I try to be nice. I try to keep my focus on politics and public policy. I try to be fair. But really, what can you say about such blatant ignorance, fear and outright hatred? And these Republicans are going to go to the polls tomorrow to have a say in who's going to run against him in the fall.

The latest numbers in Mississippi are here. Gingrich is in front by a hair and I expect him to eke out a victory. Alabama's numbers are here. For the moment, Romney has a slim lead and I think he'll win.

To the predictions:

First, the state where the majority of GOPers believe Obama to be a Muslim

Gingrich          33%
Romney          32%
Santorum        29%
Paul                 6%

For their slightly less anti-truth neighbors

Romney          32%
Gingrich          31%
Santorum        30%
Paul                 6%

These southern states will vote GOP in the fall, so I don't see that there's much fuss about which candidate is more conservative than the others. If Romney wins both states then he can claim a mandate and I would think Gingrich would drop out. If Santorum wins both, he can claim two major victories and renewed strength. Romney will ultimately be the nominee, but a Rick for VP movement is a distinct possibility.

I hope the news outlets let us know who gets the Muslim vote.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Q. Are We Not Teachers? The Devolution of Education

We seem to have come to a critical point in the education deform movement. No, that's not a typo: I don't mean reform, I mean deform, because the people who want to use unreliable and faulty data to evaluate teachers and deny educators their negotiated due process rights are not reformers and never have been. They are out to twist education from a public responsibility to a privatized option whose purpose is to serve the needs of their wealthy supporters at the expense of unions and educators who know best how the system works and how it can best serve children.

It's high time that policy makers, including Governors, Commissioners of Education (including ACTING Commissioners) and government officials respect the fact that educators know what works in the classroom and that they need to be intimately involved in the decision-making process. If you don't include the stakeholders, any efforts at improving education will ultimately fail. We need to be loud and clear about what's at stake, and to call for real reform that benefits parents, students and teachers. Please join me in expressing your concern about the direction that education reform is taking. We are headed down the wrong path.

Every word in this sentence is a link to an article that details the folly of using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Yet, that's exactly what the deformers want to do.

If what happened in New York City isn't scary enough, consider this: Under the Value Added Model, teachers will be distilled down to a number and that number will stay with them for every year in which they teach. If the number is considered good, they'll be OK, but if that number decreases, be ready for a storm that will make Katrina seem like a drizzle. Parents will want the teacher with the 86 rating, not you and your paltry 78. And just why were you a 92 last year but an 83 this year? It will be bad. Teachers will be two-students-who-ate-lousy-breakfasts-on-test-day away from being the teacher that nobody wants for their child.

In New Jersey,  there's a bit of controversy over a  proposed teacher tenure bill because it would grandfather in all teachers who are currently working in schools. Never mind that those teachers have already been vetted during their 3 year probationary period. Governor Christie believes that New Jersey's teachers as failing (even when they're not) and that the NJEA lies about everything.

For the record, I have no problem with my dues money going to pay for advertisements and political action that calls out a governor who knows next to zilch about teaching or education or reforming or being diplomatic or appropriate or how to be a role model for anyone other than your average bully. And in a delicious irony, our bully-in-chief  signed an anti-bullying law that he refused to pay for and that was declared unconstitutional. Of course, there's money for Christie's tax cut proposal, but so far the response has been lukewarm at best.

Right now the deformers have the high ground. We know that the education and teacher bashing model is working because morale among educators has reached a new low. And that's exactly what our society needs in a world of hyper-competitiveness, where education and skills will be the coin of the realm. Having a teaching staff that knows it's unappreciated by the various elements who want to undermine public education is a sure fire way to keep American students undereducated for the future. And it's a terrific strategy for  attracting and keeping the smart, creative, energetic, technologically savvy people we'll need in education now and in the future.

The time is growing short for educators to take the lead and turn the deform movement into an actual educational reform movement. Get involved and let your voice be heard.

Are we not Teachers?

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    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Super Tuesday's Pedestrian Wrap-Up

    Keep the lights on. Mitt Romney, unable to shut down Rick Santorum yesterday, now faces increasing questions about his ability to carry the key Midwestern states in the fall. Just when I though it was over, the campaign muddles on.

    The anti-climax came early yesterday with the news that Newt had won Georgia and Romney had won Virginia, Vermont and Massachusetts. Then came the important news. How did we do?

                               Predicted                                Won
    Romney       VA, VT, MA, ND, OH     VA, VT, MA, AK, ID, OH
    Santorum     OK, TN                           OK, TN, ND
    Gingrich       Georgia                            Georgia
    Paul             Alaska, Idaho                   Zip

    The Ohio numbers:

                         Prediction               Actual
    Romney            38%                     38.0%
    Santorum          35%                     37.0%
    Gingrich            15%                     14.6%
    Paul                  10%                       9.3%

    Not a bad call.

    This means that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee for president, but it's going to take him longer than he and the party wants for him to end this race. For someone who just won 6 out of 10 contests and the most delegates on a very busy night, it sure feels like less than a crowning achievement.

    For more, go to: and Twitter @rigrundfest  

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Polling Report Double Issue Centerfold: Presidential Race and Super Tuesday Edition

    Fans of the blog already know that on the 6th of every month I take a look at the polling for the 2012 presidential election. This month is like Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day because today is also Super Tuesday, so I've combined the two into one mega look at the race. No, it doesn't get any better than this.

    Obama Job Approval

    February was a "what goes around comes around" month. President Obama saw a steady rise in his approval ratings through mid-February, due in large part to the improving economy and the viciousness of the GOP primaries. For the last 10 days, though, he's come back to earth a bit.  The latest RealClearPolitics Index of his job approval is here. His approval rose from 46.6% to 48.1% and his disapproval numbers also rose slightly from 47.6% to 48%. There seem to be two outliers in the Index: The Rasmussen Daily Tracking, which at one time had Obama +4, now has him at -9, and the Politico/GWU Battleground, which has him +8. Take those two out and smooth the remaining numbers and you have a net plus for the president since February 6.

    I suppose you could read the numbers two ways. In one interpretation, he is steadily climbing as he campaigns and runs ads, while in the other he's in trouble because after 3 years, he still can't claim a majority of the voters as approving of his performance. Allan Lichtman was sure about Obama's reelection as far back as two years ago. We'll see if he turns out to be right.

    Head-To-Head Match-Ups

    My assumption is that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee, because he's really their only hope. With that in mind, here are the latest numbers in that match-up showing Obama with an overall 49.1%-44.4% lead. This is an improvement over February when his lead was 2%. 

    The Ballots

    The only change in the Electoral College map is that Wisconsin has been moved into Obama's column because of his +10 lead in the latest PPP poll, giving him a lead in states that add up to 227 electoral votes with the Republican at 181. has Obama winning 285 electoral votes this year according to their model. We'll follow them throughout the campaign.

    The latest NBC News/Marist poll has Obama beating Romney in both Virginia (+17) and Ohio (+12). If these numbers hold, there are very few scenarios for a Romney victory. If Obama wins Ohio, the assumption is that he'll win Pennsylvania. Even if Romney wins Florida and North Carolina, that's not enough. At this point, I would say that NBC's numbers are a bit optimistic for the Obama campaign. Stay tuned.

    Republicans now lead the Generic Congressional Ballot by. 0.2%, but that was before Olympia Snowe announced her retirement from the Senate. The Congressional numbers will fluctuate throughout the spring. When we get definite candidates for each race, it should come into sharper focus.

    Super Tuesday

    No matter how you slice it, this was a terrible week for the Republican candidates, the party and its message. The fallout from Michigan showed that Mitt Romney's popularity took a hit. From the article:

    The latest ABC/Washington Post Poll gives him a favorability of 33% and an unfavorability of 46%; a recent Politico poll puts his unfavorability above 50%.

    Then of course there was the distraction of Rush Limbaugh's remarks about Sandra Fluke, the ongoing debate about the contraception issue, which lost a Senate vote, Olympia Snowe's retirement announcement, and the advancement of marriage equality bills in Maryland and Washington. This allowed President Obama to take the high road and appear presidential, which is the last thing the Republicans looked like.

    So let's get to the skinny.

    It's all come down to the delegate count now as Mitt tries to push his way to the magic number of 1,145. He'll pick up a bundle on Tuesday and will separate himself from the field. I have a suspicion that if he does very well (defined below), GOP operatives will ask Santorum and Gingrich to step aside for the good of the party. Since neither one knows what that is, they might stay in the race.

    Here's a link to the states holding elections and the delegates at stake. Here's my take on what will happen:

    Gingrich wins Georgia. No surprise, doesn't matter. Extra good day if he also wins Oklahoma and/or Tennessee.

    Paul wins Alaska and Idaho.

    Santorum wins Oklahoma and Tennessee (barely). If he doesn't, goodbye.

    Romney wins Virginia (the other two aren't on the ballot, and neither is Rick Perry), Massachusetts, and Vermont. If he can pick off any of Alaska, Idaho or North Dakota, a good night. Tennessee or Oklahoma, a great night. Ohio, a super night. All of the above, lights out.

    Which brings us to Ohio. This is the key to today. If Santorum wins, he can damage Romney even more and claim that, since he'll win Pennsylvania, he should be the nominee (he won't be). A Romney win ends the game.


    Romney            38%
    Santorum          35%
    Gingrich            15%
    Paul                  10%

    Romney wins it sooner rather than later. GOP elites breathe easier. You can follow me at: and Twitter @rigrundfest