Derek Hunter
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Worth Its Weight In...Straw

With all the news of doom and gloom and threats to halt Social Security checks, you might not have noticed there is a political event coming up that the media will inevitably hype - the Ames Straw Poll. Some Republican Presidential candidates will be falling all over themselves to get a few people to vote for them in a meaningless “event” in the small town of Ames, Iowa.

Why do I say it’s meaningless? Because it is. A look at the history of the Ames poll shows no correlation between the winner and the eventual nominee. More importantly, it shows no correlation between the winner and the winner of the Iowa Caucus. It’s pointless, unless your goal is to waste a lot of money.

The poll started in 1979, so there’s no storied history here, no long tradition of...well, anything. But let’s pretend for a second, shall we?

Here is a list of the winners of the Ames Straw Poll since it started: George HW Bush (1979), Pat Robertson (1987), Bob Dole and Phil Gramm (tie) (1995), George W Bush (1999), Mitt Romney (2007). Notice anything? Only 2 candidates won the nomination that election cycle. Moreover, only 1 1/2 of them went on to win the Iowa Caucus that cycle (Dole ‘96, W Bush ’00).

So what’s the point?

Some would argue momentum or fundraising, but there is no momentum from it. And, given its record of meaninglessness, the number of people who give based on it is insignificant. Yet, for reasons unknown, candidates take it seriously. Tim Pawlenty is dumping a million dollars into Iowa ahead of the poll. Why? His hiring of Sarah Huckabee, daughter of 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee, might have something to do with it since she helped with the 2008 caucus. But Huckabee lost the nomination, so why follow that model?

Maybe he and the other participating candidates (some aren’t even playing in Iowa) think it will give them momentum going into New Hampshire. Does it? Let’s take a look.

Here are the winners of the New Hampshire primary since 1980: Ronald Reagan (1980), George HW Bush (1988), Pat Buchanan (1996), John McCain (2000 & 2008).

Notice anything when compared to the list above? No one has won both. More importantly, the New Hampshire primary has a much higher success rate when it comes to predicting the eventual nominee. Only once when there wasn’t an incumbent Republican president has Iowa picked the eventual nominee in both the straw poll and the caucus. New Hampshire has chosen the eventual nominee three times out of five – a batting average Iowa, even with its Field of Dreams, has not touched.

In many ways campaigning in Iowa, spending a lot of money and time there, is akin to fighting tooth and nail for the votes of the people of France - it’s equally as meaningful and even if you win it you’ll probably end up surrendering.

So what’s wrong with Iowa? For one, it’s Iowa! Have you ever driven through Iowa? They’re fine people, great Americans, but they aren’t indicative of the majority of the country. For example, the most fun thing to do in Iowa is to visit the Field of Dreams baseball diamond built in a cornfield. The second most fun thing to do is Iowa is to not go to that field. It’s probably a mean way to say it, but there isn’t a lot to do in Iowa.

They’ve also elected Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin to the Senate for decades, not exactly the most conservative state. Iowa gets billions in farm subsidies, making their economy dependent upon federal money rolling in from Washington. In order to get their support, candidates have to promise to keep that gravy train rolling. That’s not exactly going to endear a candidate to conservative voters in other states.

Unless there is some sort of superman candidate who combines charm and charisma with conservative principles and the ability and courage to articulate them to Iowa voters, doing well in Iowa is nearly a kiss of death.

This isn’t to say Iowa is a lost cause in the general election. There’s a world of difference between a caucus that requires hours and hours of commitment while arguing with friends, family, neighbors and strangers, and a general election where you just go in, vote and leave.

So statistically, it’s not only the Ames Straw Poll that is a waste of time, it’s the Iowa Caucus in general. Still, millions of dollars will be poured into media and campaigning there, pundits will get a lot of face time on cable news over it and someone will get a few days of “glory” before the reality of, well, reality sets back in.

A Quick Note on the Debt Ceiling. This isn’t a story as much as it’s an observation. I’m not writing on the debt talks because it’s too fluid a situation, anything I’d write on it from a current events point of view stands a good chance of changing between when I submit this column (Friday) and when it actually runs (Sunday). For those of you interested, I wrote this on Thursday. But there are some things associated with this debacle that are worth noting.

1) If there is no deal by August 2nd, the drop-dead date hyped by the President and Democrats, and we don’t have an economic collapse, history should refer to this time as Y2K11.

2) We have learned from looking at the polls just how ineffective Democrats and the media are at scaring people. Despite the efforts of “progressives” like the “vile” Debbie Wasserman Schultz claiming Republicans could spark chaos and they want a dictatorship, the Constitutionally clueless James Clyburn actually advocating for a dictatorship, or the former Speaker Nancy Pelosi claiming liberals are “...trying to save life on this planet as we know it today,” this stupidity isn’t taking hold. Sure, there are always some who believe the Earth blowing up is just a failure to pass a government program away from happening, but most people have enough common sense to know better.

3) Republicans hold out on principle, Democrats hold out for payoffs. The House of Representatives passed yet another bill to raise the debt ceiling, their third, and the Majority Leader in the Senate, in the interest of the bipartisanship he’s called for, said it was “Dead on arrival” and immediately ignored it. Compare this to the Obamacare vote. Remember the Democrats who held out their support until they got payoffs? The Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, etc.? The final holdouts in that vote were bought off, bribed with our money. This is the exact opposite. You can’t bribe someone for a vote to cut spending. Boehner might be able to get them with some other promise of a vote on this or that pet issue or idea, but anyone who takes a sweetheart deal shoveling money into their district would see their political career over faster than they could say sell-out. That’s what makes this situation unique in Washington. Politicians, who have no personal incentive to spend less (let’s not pretend they care about the future or even their kids or else they wouldn’t have brought us to this point), are expected to spend less because it’s the right thing to do. They talk a good game, but you’d find more genuine sincerity at a professional wrestling match.

4) The President of the United States is in way over his head. Electing a President whose only accomplishment is getting elected President was a mistake. Barack Obama was know for voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate, the US Senate and now the White House. You don’t have to be a CEO to be a good President, but you can’t be the kid sitting in the back of the classroom hoping against hope the teacher doesn’t call on you. Leadership is doing something, not telling others they should while you golf. He has no plan because he either has no clue or no desire to cut anything...or both.

5) Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi believe in their big government liberalism much more than Mitch McConnell and John Boehner believe in limited government. Democrats have held firm, Republicans have not. Republicans have been jumping through flaming hoops like neglected children desperately trying to get their parents attention and approval while the White House and Congressional Democrat Leaders have stood on the sidelines, arms folded, smoking cigarettes and wishing they’d never had kids. Republicans have plan after plan, Democrats have offered rejection and vague ideas. Obama, acting like a mob boss, won’t put anything on paper. If Republicans had any ability to communicate they could’ve painted Democrats into a corner and forced their hand. Instead, Republicans act like the really hot girl with no self-esteem who thinks she’s ugly. In 2010 the American people asked her out, but she’s afraid it was part of some sort of prank. Perhaps Republican Leadership needs a extreme makeover...

Here are some staggering numbers that are important to know.

1) The government spends $10 billion a day, $4 billion of which is borrowed.

2) The interest on our national debt is $29 billion per month. AGAIN: The interest on our national debt is $29 billion per month.

3) In Fiscal Year 2001 the federal budget was $1.86 trillion. In 2011 the federal budget is $3.82 trillion. That’s more than double in 10 years and STILL not enough for some liberals.

Finally, all this talk of cuts aren’t cuts at all. While they won’t mention it, everything these politicians are talking about are not only theoretical, since no Congress can bind any future Congress when it comes to spending, they aren’t cuts at all. They’re talking about spending more, just slightly less. While normal human beings hear someone is cutting spending and thinks they’re actually going to be less than before, language is like clay in Washington and can be made into anything you want it to mean.

Here’s how to think of it. Say you went on a date and spent $100 on dinner. The next week you’re going on another date and think you’ll spend $150 on dinner. Then you go on the date and actually end up spending $125 on dinner. Would you say your dinner budget was cut by $25, or would you say it was increased by $25? Keep in mind that you’re broke and this is all on credit cards. You’ve added $125 to your debt, but $25 less than you expected you might.

In reality you should probably be eating at less expensive places, but in Washington-speak you just saved $25.

Further, what you end up being is dependent upon your date, who is future Congresses in this analogy. You can plan and hope to spend whatever you want on the date, but if your date wants the most expensive thing on the menu and orders a bunch of drinks, there’s nothing you can do about it. Just like this Congress can’t bind a future Congress on spending, you aren’t going to tell your date, “Hey, how about you just get the soup and a glass of water?” So if you end up spending $175 on the date, that’s what you spend, even in if you only planned on spending $150.

The only difference between this “date” and what’s happening in Congress is you may only have hope on the date, with Congress we’re guaranteed to get screwed.

Also-Ran Stories

Because He’s Just That Important. Two weeks ago the world had never heard of David Wu, and the world was a better place for it. The disgraced tiger suit wearing Democrat Congressman from Oregon was forced to resign after he admitted “an aggressive and unwanted sexual encounter” with an 18 year old daughter of a donor. What exactly is meant by “aggressive and unwanted sexual encounter” remains to be seen, but it sure doesn’t sound like an forceful handshake. But fear not, America, David Wu won’t hang you out to dry. He’s not actually going to resign until the debt ceiling issue is resolved because he’s just that important! Democrats are happier than you could know that this latest scandal hit them this week when the media are paying attention to other things. But why not call for Wu to get the Hell out of Dodge now? Where is the push to get him out ASAP? There isn’t one. Pelosi said she’s just too busy to comment on it, and the media said “ok” and dropped the issue. How the leader of the Democrats in the House is too busy to comment on something that sounds just this side of rape I don’t understand. We’re always told that President Obama, in his role as Golfer-in-Chief, can govern while playing more golf than the PGA tour. Surely Nancy Pelosi can talk into a microphone and say “He has to go NOW!” His vote doesn’t matter, his tenure in the House hasn’t mattered, so why can’t Pelosi multitask and tell him to get out? Because that would be a story, and right now this scandal isn’t being noticed. So Pelosi and the Democrats would rather focus on attacking Republicans than have the media focus, even for a day, on them ridding themselves of a sexual predator. I always knew Democrats missed the Clinton years, I just never thought they’d recreated that part of them.

The Rules I Helped Into Being Are For The Little People. George Soros, the billionaire who has a hand in funding nearly every fringe left-wing group on the planet, has decided he doesn’t like the new financial regulations the groups he supports helped bring into being. Daddy Sorosbucks, as he is affectionately known by the flying monkeys at Media Matters, is giving up his hedge fund and will just manage his family’s personal wealth to avoid prying eyes of regulators seeing what he does. Calling Darth Soros a hypocrite is pointless, there’s no penalty for being a hypocrite if you’re a liberal. In fact, liberal hypocrites profit from their hypocrisy. They rail against the rich while making millions of dollars (Michael Moore). They own wineries that are non-union while demanding workers elsewhere have the right to organize (Nancy Pelosi). They demand an inheritance tax while their family’s wealth is protected and sheltered in trusts (Ted Kennedy). Or rail against the “military industrial complex” while taking a check from the Pentagon (Noam Chomsky). All this is documented in this book. So now that Soros, who is an eye patch and persian cat away from being the perfect Bond villain, has taken potential prying eyes the regulators he so loves off his fortune, the world anxiously awaits the next currency he collapses. The smart money is on the dollar...unfortunately that smart money is the Yuan.

And In The End...

What Do You Mean I Can’t Name My Kid “Plunger Fanbelt”? Hollywood and regular weirdos have a habit of naming their kids strange things, like “Apple” or “Pilot Inspektor,” but New Zealand has had enough. The island nation has now outlawed weird baby names because, well, they’re weird. Like so many things, giving a kid a weird name may be good in theory, but there has to be some sort of standard. You can call the kid whatever you want, we’ve all had nicknames, but naming a kid “Lucifer” or “Question Mark” probably isn’t the best idea...unless your goal is to raise a boxer or a punching bag. Also, if you expect any help from your kids in the future, in your retirement years, it’s most likely not the best idea to call it Adolf Hitler. Yes, the world has too many people named “Bob” “Jennifer” and “Brad,” and I’ve never personally met anyone name “Mitch” I didn’t get a skeevy feeling from, but then I’ve never actually met anyone named “Joker” or “BumBum.” I’d kind of like to keep it that way.

It’s Hard Out There For A (Climate) Pimp! I’ve written too much already, but this story is worth noting. Seems the more we learn about Al Gore’s money-making scheme the more it seems like it’s just that. Keep pushing, Al, keep pushing.

That is all, go about your week.

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Derek Hunter

Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.