Paul vs. Paul: Popular Economic Minds Debate on Bloomberg TV

Ok economic enthusiasts (I’m careful not to say "geeks" here), here is your Super Bowl. Famed libertarian Rep. Ron Paul against popular economist, author and left-leaner Paul Krugman on Bloomberg TV yesterday. In the comments section, let us know who you think wins this debate (and why) on the Federal Reserve and government’s role in the American economy.

Candidates, Tell Us How You Lead

What’s missing in political debates? OK, that might be a dangerous way to phrase it. But a Governing magazine columnist offers one strong suggestion – that questions about executive leadership and decision-making style would be helpful additions for learning more about the candidates.

If I had my way, every presidential or gubernatorial or mayoral debate would include a required question designed to illuminate the candidates’ executive leadership and decision-making style. Of course, there still could be the usual questions concerning the tax returns of the candidates, or their stand on marriage, or whether they think that food stamps make people overly dependent on government. Above and beyond those questions, however, here are some (by no means an exhaustive list) that I would argue are more important. These suggestions focus on skills and behaviors relevant to governing (as opposed to politicking):

  • What qualities do you look for in members of your executive team? Are there particular qualities that you are seeking for all positions? How important is it that those selected for positions have deep knowledge or expertise in the relevant area? (Does the secretary of the Treasury, for example, have to have Wall Street experience—or would a track record of sound economic judgment, compliance with tax laws and demonstrated management skills be sufficient?)
  • Are you tolerant, even encouraging, of dissenting views? Or are you unable to manage yourself in the face of pushback, and therefore discourage it in those who serve you?
  • More generally, how do you use evidence when you make decisions? When pursuing a particular policy course, will you consult with stakeholders and available data and analysis, both inside and outside of government, prior to making a decision? Which factor matters more: whether an approach has proven effective or whether it keeps a political constituency happy?

There is frequently a tremendous disconnect between what it takes to be elected and what it takes to govern. Sometimes candidates’ campaigns do provide glimpses of executive style, but usually unwittingly. When Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff quit in June of 2011, they cited his lack of discipline as a reason for their mass resignation. But we need more than these rare, chance indicators to go on when we are choosing the people who will run our governments.

The fact that leadership, and executive style, are not discussed in political campaigns is just further evidence of the inadequacy of our prevailing political discourse. As a constituency, we fail to take responsibility for the reality that when we elect a president, a governor, a mayor or a county executive we are electing a leader-in-chief and a decision maker-in-chief. Trying to gain insight into how that leadership would be exercised—and the extent to which data, analysis, and reasoned debate would influence decision-making—seems a topic worthy of at least one question in a campaign debate.

Indiana Could be Factor in GOP Primary

Whether in support of Romney, Gingrich, or even Paul, Indiana Republicans and primary crossovers could play a key role in deciding who the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will be. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports how:

The early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party’s world next month, but Indiana’s May 8 primary could prove more important.

Republican Party rule changes, penalties for early primary states, and candidates with enough money and supporters to remain in the race may all combine to give Indiana Republicans a taste of the campaign fun Democrats enjoyed in 2008.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is among the Hoosier Republicans rooting for a drawn-out nominating process.

"One can conjure a scenario … that might lead to a situation that’s still in play when May gets here, and that’d be terrific," Daniels said. "I thought it was so great when it mattered on the Democratic side last time."

Republicans changed their rules for awarding convention delegates last year hoping to capture the excitement Democrats had as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for months to win the nomination in 2008.

As a result, most early primary states in 2012 will award convention delegates proportionately, based on a candidate’s share of the state’s primary vote, instead of winner-take-all.

In addition, five states that moved their primaries to before March 1 were penalized by the GOP and lost half their delegates.

That means the minimum 1,142 delegates needed for nomination won’t be selected until March 24 and no candidate is likely to win every one of them, putting later primary states with a lot of delegates, such as Indiana’s 46, in play.

Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Ron Paul, said the Texas congressman will strategically compete for delegates throughout the primary process.

"Our campaign has a comprehensive plan to win the delegates needed to either secure the nomination or enter into a brokered convention in Tampa," Benton told POLITICO.

The last time a Republican convention opened without the front-runner in control of enough delegates to win the nomination was 1976 when Ronald Reagan tried to wrest the GOP nomination from President Gerald Ford. Ford lost in the general election that year to Jimmy Carter.

Daniels, who briefly considered running for president earlier this year, believes a brokered convention might not be all bad, even though intra-party fights tend to turn off undecided general election voters.

"At a time when the country is facing just terribly consequential issues, if it led to a good healthy debate about not merely personalities but about what kind of program of change to bring to America, I could convince myself it’s not the worst outcome," Daniels said.

The term-limited governor said he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring at a brokered convention, but he’d enjoy watching it.

"I’ve always said the greatest spectator sport, forget the Super Bowl, if either party ever had a truly deliberative convention in the mini-camera world, it would be spectacular," Daniels said.

Not all Republicans believe the nomination will be up in the air when their convention begins Aug. 27.

Schererville Republican Dan Dumezich, who is leading Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign, is confident the former Massachusetts governor will have the nomination locked up.

"I think we’re going to have an answer a lot sooner than most people think," Dumezich said. "I’m hoping we have one by January 31."

Republicans Slow to Endorse This Year

I’m sure you’re as baffled as I am as to why GOP Congressmen aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to endorse the likes of Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann or Rick Santorum (sarcasm intended). But here’s an interesting article from The Washington Post about how things are unfolding a little more slowly on that front for 2012:

Across the country, most Republicans haven’t committed fully to any of the party’s presidential candidates. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 69 percent on the GOP side said there was still a chance they could change their minds about their choice.

In Washington, an elite focus group of 289 Republicans was even more indecisive.

That group consists of the GOP members of the House and Senate, of whom just 60 — or 21 percent — have publicly endorsed a presidential candidate, according to a list maintained by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

The lawns of Iowa and New Hampshire are still covered mostly with leaves, not snow, so lawmakers have some time left to choose a side. But the endorsement pace has been much slower than it was during the last election cycle.

Across the country, most Republicans haven’t committed fully to any of the party’s presidential candidates. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 69 percent on the GOP side said there was still a chance they could change their minds about their choice.

In Washington, an elite focus group of 289 Republicans was even more indecisive.

As of Nov. 9, 2007, 107 Hill Republicans — 43 percent of the total then serving — had offered their endorsements to a White House contender, according to a Roll Call tally at the time.

The current list includes 36 endorsements for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 14 for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, six for ex-House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), three for Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and one for businessman Herman Cain. That total does not include Paul himself, although his preference appears clear. The same is true for Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.).

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and ex-senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) have yet to receive any Capitol Hill endorsements.

Four years ago, Romney led the way with a similar number, 33, followed by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) with 29, ex-New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with 24 and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) with 21.

New Hampshire Gearing Up for GOP Primary Fight

It’s getting to be that time when politicos all around the country start living on Red Bull as primaries begin heating up — and circus-like cable news debates dominate Twitter conversation. This time around, it’s Republicans working to find a candidate who can defeat a rather unpopular incumbent president. But, of course, if you’ve been watching the debates and/or the latest mini-scandal surrounding Herman Cain, you can see why a GOP victory is far from a certainty. In this Real Clear Politics article, the focus is on Mitt Romney’s efforts in New Hampshire and how other candidates are hoping to stop him.

The former Massachusetts governor has not yet aired advertisements in New Hampshire, instead choosing to conserve his resources for a potentially lengthy primary fight. But Romney’s campaign is leery about being lulled to sleep here, and several other candidates seem poised to give him at least some reason for concern.

Though Michele Bachmann’s New Hampshire campaign remains on life support after the defection of her entire statewide staff, several viable GOP contenders are set to boost their efforts here.

Rick Perry remains mired in the low single digits in state polls, but his campaign has shown no signs of giving up here despite growing questions about whether he should devote most of his resources to Iowa and South Carolina — the two early-voting states that appear to be his most likely vehicles for a national comeback.

The Texas governor is launching a New Hampshire TV and radio advertising campaign on Wednesday, as he joins Ron Paul as the only candidates to air ads here thus far.

Perry’s wife, Anita, will campaign in the state on Friday and Perry himself will likely return by the end of the month, according to aides.

“He’s going to be campaigning hard in New Hampshire, and he has been campaigning hard,” said Perry’s New Hampshire strategist Paul Young.

Though the three-term governor may be able to survive a poor showing in New Hampshire if he exceeds expectations in the other early-voting states, the same cannot be said for Jon Huntsman. The former Utah governor recently moved his national campaign staff to New Hampshire and has banked his underdog candidacy on pulling off a surprise victory here.

Huntsman drew a crowd of almost 200 mostly college-age voters on Tuesday for a speech at the University of New Hampshire on energy policy. In it, he vowed to eventually eliminate all energy subsidies and called for an end to the oil “monopoly as a transportation fuel.”

Not Worth the Paper They’re Printed On?

Legislators take a beating (some of it deserved) at all levels for some of the bills and resolutions they consider that either have little to do with good government or have about as much of a chance at becoming law as I do of starring in the next James Bond movie., which reports on the developments and shenanigans in our nation’s capital, pointed out recently that more than 11,000 bills were filed in 2007-2008, with 460 signed into law. That’s a 23-1 ratio. It went on to compile a list of what it terms "10 hopeless bills." 

A few selections from its list:

Congressional alternates (Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-California). Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rohrabacher has tried to address inadequacies in Congressional succession. Nine years later, the lawmaker continues to keep up the pressure. Rohrabacher’s bill would require the election of an alternative representative or senator during a regular Congressional election. Each candidate would chose his or her alternate, who would then discharge the duties of an acting Member in absence of a Congressional quorum for three days. An alternate could also become an Acting Member if an elected representative or senator died, resigned or was expelled from Congress.

Presidential succession (Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California). Since the 107th Congress, which spanned 2001 to 2002, Sherman has introduced bills to reform presidential succession. In Sherman’s last attempt in 2007, his bill would have modified the presidential succession list to include the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Ambassador to the United Nations, the Ambassador to Great Britain, the Ambassador to Russia, the Ambassador to China and the Ambassador to France.

Three-term presidents (Rep. Jose Serrano, D-New York). Since 1997, Serrano has introduced a joint resolution every Congress — a grand total of seven times — that would repeal the 22nd amendment, thereby removing the current limit of two terms that individual may serve as president. The 22nd amendment, which was ratified in 1951, restricts a president from seeking a third term in office.

Abolishing the Federal Reserve (Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas). This bill would abolish the Federal Reserve’s board of governors and the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, all of which provide input to the central bank on federal monetary policy decisions. If enacted, the legislation would also repeal the Federal Reserve Act, which in 1913 set up the bank as the fiscal agent of the federal government. In effect, the legislation would restore the U.S. to a system of entirely private banking.

The Department of Peace (Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio). This is Kucinich’s third attempt at establishing the Department of Peace as a Cabinet-level position which would pursue peace as a national policy objective and promote nonviolent conflict resolution. To that end, Kucinich’s bill would create eight separate offices within the Department of Peace, including the Office of Peace Education and Training and the Office of International Peace Activities.

In the event of violent conflict resolution, the department would consult with the secretaries of defense and state. Certain functions that already exist within the federal government would also be transferred to the new department, such as the State Department’s arms control operation. The department would be led by the Secretary of Peace who, in addition to leading the agency, would be responsible for creating and successfully implementing a "Peace Day" holiday.

In his 13 years in Congress, Kucinich has crafted his image by laying down the liberal gauntlet. Of the 97 bills that the lawmaker has introduced, only three have made it out of committee and gone onto become law. 

Third Parties Crashed

Third party candidates were hardly Perot-ic in the 2008 general election. Among them, independent Ralph Nader (though technically not in a party this year) garnered the most votes. Somewhat surprising to me, as former GOP Congressman and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr seemed to receive far more media coverage than any of the other candidates. Here are some noteworthy totals (with 97% of precincts reported):

Ralph Nader (Independent): 649,837

Bob Barr (Libertarian Party): 485,400

Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party): 173,202

Cynthia McKinney (Green Party): 141,333

Ron Paul: 19,285

Note: Paul, a Texas Congressman who lost to McCain in the GOP Primary, wasn’t actually running and was only on the ballot in a couple of states (I believe only Louisiana and Montana). Paul actually endorsed Baldwin (a LaPorte native, btw).

(Third) Party Time!

 So you’ve watched McCain and Obama do their thing, go head to head, man to man, "Joe the Plumber" reference to "Joe the Plumber" reference, and you’re still not sure you can endorse either gentleman with your vote? Well, the folks at Free & Equal are hosting a third-party debate (McCain and Obama are invited, but not expected to show) Sunday at 7 p.m., which will be recorded by C-SPAN and streamed at Third Party Ticket.

Just exactly who will be there is still murky, since certified letters have just gone out to all candidates, say event organizers. Ralph Nader, who is on the ballot in 45 states as an independent candidate, has indicated he will show up. Cynthia McKinney, former member of Congress from Georgia and the Green Party candidate, will also be there, according to her website. Ms. McKinney is on the ballot in 30 states. Also invited is Chuck Baldwin, running on the Constitution Party ticket in 35 states.

Mr. Baldwin is perhaps the least known of the group. He’s an evangelical minister and hosts a conservative talk show in the Florida panhandle region. He also has gained the endorsement of Ron Paul, whose bid for the Republican nomination garnered a loyal and enthusiastic following.

The only question mark is Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate. Mr. Barr has made it clear that he will only debate Mr. Nader and no one else.

No word yet if these candidates will be mandated to use the phrases "change" or "my friends" a designated number of times.

Note: According to the Elkhart Truth, Barr will be the only third-party candidate on the Indiana ballot, while Baldwin, McKinney and Nader are eligible write-in candidates.