Posts Tagged candidate

Time to Move the PA Presidential Primary

The 2016 Presidential race has officially begun.  Over the past couple of weeks Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton have formally announced their candidacies. The field of Republican candidates likely will total a dozen or more.  Hillary Clinton’s early stumbles make the entry of former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley more likely.

With no incumbent president in the race, voters in both the Republican and Democratic primaries will actually have a choice in 2016.  It is a contest voters in Pennsylvania will likely watch from the sidelines.  By the time our state’s late April primary is held results of primaries and caucuses elsewhere will have determined the eventual nominees.

Only one time in recent years, 2008, has the Pennsylvania primary actually mattered.  That year Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the Democratic nomination until June before Mrs. Clinton conceded.  Democrats had a choice, but John McCain had been ordained the GOP nominee months earlier.

Every four years the debate begins anew about Pennsylvania’s lack of clout in the presidential nominating process owing to the lateness of its primary.  And, every four years absolutely nothing is done to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state in the nation.  More so than perhaps any other state we are a microcosm of the nation as a whole.  With Philadelphia we have a large eastern city, while Pittsburgh has more of a mid-western orientation.  We have large, thriving suburbs and expansive rural areas.  Our population is diverse. Statewide elections in Pennsylvania tend to be competitive with both parties having shown recent success.

An early primary in Pennsylvania would be a much more accurate indicator of voter preference than Iowa or New Hampshire which are smaller and less diverse.  Those two states lead off the balloting in late January.  February 2nd is shaping up as a mini “Super Tuesday” with New York, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah holding primaries on that date.  It would be an ideal time for primary voters in Penn’s Woods to go to the polls and give us a real say in the nomination process. Instead, nearly three more months and 24 other states will hold primaries or caucuses before Pennsylvanians vote. All of this means Keystone state voters will have virtually no say in which candidates the parties nominate.

Making matters worse, Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries are essentially beauty contests in that the outcome of the balloting has little or no impact on the selection of delegates to the party nomination conventions.  Delegates are selected in separate elections, and/or by party state committees meaning presidential candidates must line up slates of delegate candidates months before the primary. This is a process they tend to by-pass in favor of focusing their efforts on the early primary and caucus states.

Moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date poses a logistical challenge.  It would require holding a separate primary in February for presidential balloting and a regular primary in May for selecting congressional and legislative nominees. Or, the entire process could be moved from April to February. Holding two primaries would increase costs, while holding congressional and legislative elections in February would advance the start of the process into the previous year’s holiday season.

The cost of an additional primary must be weighed against the economic benefits it would generate.  New Hampshire public radio, based on a study of the 2000 presidential primary when both party nominations were up for grabs, estimated the economic impact at $230 million. The economic benefits to Pennsylvania, a much larger state, would be significantly higher.

Dollars aside, the major drawback to Pennsylvania’s late presidential primary is the absence of our voters having any real say in the selection of party nominees.  We are a large state and we deserve better, but it is a problem nobody in Harrisburg seems willing to address.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited

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This Week on American Radio Journal: Congressman Paul Ryan Talks Renewing America

Radio Program Schedule for the week of August 30, 2014 – September 5, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Jim Phillips of the Heritage Foundation about the origin and goals of the terrorist group ISIS
  • Barney Keller of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the strange alliance of big business and Left-wing Democrats in support of the Export-Import Bank
  • Eric Boehm and Benjamin Yount have a Watchdog Radio Report interview with Congressman Paul Ryan about his new book The Way Forward: Renewing the American Ideal
  • Col. Frank Ryan, USMC (Ret.) has an American Radio Journal commentary on a possible major correction in the stock markets

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association along with Kevin Shivers and Neal Lesher from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business have a Capitol Watch look at the Tom Wolf tax plan
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on why a third Mitt Romney presidential run would be bad for the GOP

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

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Pledge or Principle?

By Lowman S. Henry

Much ado has been made in recent weeks about the impact of the no tax pledge spearheaded by Americans for Tax Reform. Those who view the pending expiration of Bush era tax rates, and the fiscal sequester resulting from Congress’ inability to deal with the situation last year as a revenue problem, rather than as a spending problem have made the pledge and its purveyor, Grover Norquist, out to be the major stumbling block to a solution.

The narrative surrounding this near hysteria on the Left centers on portraying Norquist as some sort of a K Street puppeteer controlling U.S. Senators and congressmen from behind the scenes. These elected officials, having signed the pledge, now find their strings being pulled by a man bent on enforcing a far right political agenda. For the good of the country, so the theory goes, they need to break the pledge and enact higher taxes upon the populace.

This begs the question: to whom was the pledge made? Most, if not all, of the pledge signers did so in a public way to demonstrate to voters their belief that Washington spends too much with debt and entitlements out of control. Their pledge not to raise taxes was made not to Grover Norquist; it was made to their constituents. Norquist’s apostasy is expecting candidates, once elected, to actually keep their campaign promises.

Having pledged to voters that they would not raise taxes, hundreds of candidates were subsequently elected to office. They were put there for the precise reason that voters want them to curb spending. It is true that President Barack Obama won re-election while promising tax hikes. But, voters also re-elected a Republican majority, most of whom made holding the line on taxes a key component of their campaigns. They were sent to Washington to cut spending, not to raise taxes. The pledge simply reminds voters of that fact.

Once again the main political problem is that conservatives have allowed the spending interests to define the debate. We don’t face a “fiscal cliff,” we face a spending cliff. It is crystal clear that without significant entitlement reform, especially in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, neither government spending nor the ballooning federal deficit can be brought under control. But just as Republicans refuse to raise taxes, Democrats refuse to reform entitlements. It is a product of mainstream media bias that the intransigence of the Left on entitlement reform results in no political penalty.

Like a junkie shooting up in police custody, the Democrats are so addicted to spending that in the midst of this crisis they have proposed $50 billion in higher spending. The latest so-called stimulus put on the table by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner graphically illustrated the unwillingness of the Obama Administration to veer from its tax-borrow-spend approach to governing. The proposal was so ridiculous Republican negotiators literally broke out in laughter.

The more absolute becomes the Democrat’s refusal to cut spending or to reform entitlements the louder the attacks are on the no tax pledge.   But the pledge is simply a manifestation of long-held Republican principle, at least among those Republicans who still have principles. Historically the GOP has been an anti-tax party. Its candidates have been punished by the electorate when they have veered from that course. Examples of this being the breaking of his “read my lips” promise by former President George H.W. Bush and the ousting of a spendthrift Republican majority from Congress in 2006. Conversely, Republicans have won while cutting or promising to cut taxes. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both did so, and the GOP swept back into control of Congress in 2010 based largely on Tea Party-style fiscal conservatism.

Thus the pledge is not simply a way for Grover Norquist to control Congress. Rather, it is a manifestation of the Republican Party’s long and deeply held conservative economic principles.   It is a promise to voters that those principles will be transformed into public policy.   Those who have signed the pledge – and even those who have not – will ultimately answer not to Norquist for their abandonment of principle, but rather to the voters who elected them.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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PA Economy Trying to Gain Steam: Lack of access to capital hindering economic recovery

By Lowman S. Henry

Pennsylvania employers are expressing greater optimism about the direction of the state’s economy, but underlying factors such as the difficulty in obtaining needed capital continue to hinder the economic recovery. The Fall 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. also found the number of employers adding to their workforce has almost doubled over the past six months, however, the number of employers cutting employees has also significantly increased.

The good news in the survey is that the number of businesses saying they have increased their workforce has jumped from 13% in the Spring 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey to 24% in the current poll. But, the number of companies reporting fewer employees also increased from 20% last spring to 27% in October. The number reporting employing about the same number of workers dropped from 66% to 48%. These numbers reflect national trends which find employment levels rising, but not at a sufficiently fast pace to turn around the faltering economy. Looking ahead, 28% of the business leaders surveyed say they plan to hire more employees, 14% expect to further cut their workforce and 53% say the number of people employed by their business will remain about the same.

Overall perceptions of the state’s business climate remain consistent with the mood reported by employers in last spring’s survey. Twenty percent say, in general, business conditions in Pennsylvania have improved over the past six months. That is up from the 17% who reported improved business conditions in the March poll. But, the number of employers saying business conditions have gotten worse over the past six months also rose from 30% last spring to 35% in the current survey. Forty-four percent said business conditions remain “about the same,” which is not good considering confidence has been at a low ebb for the past four years. Looking ahead, employers are not expecting business conditions to improve significantly. Twenty-five percent expect the economy to get better, 27% say it will get worse and 44% expect business conditions to remain about the same.

A relative bright spot in the survey are sales numbers. Thirty-one percent of the business leaders polled said sales at their company have increased over the past six months, while 32% said sales have decreased. That is an improvement from six months ago when 35% reported decreasing sales and 28% reported sales increases. Looking ahead, 37% forecast rising sales over the coming six months and 16% expect sales to drop.

Job Performance Ratings


Pennsylvania’s business leaders continue to give low marks for the performance of our national and statewide leaders. Seventy-two percent give a negative performance rating to President Barack Obama; 59% hold Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a negative light and 43% say Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is doing a poor job.

Statewide elected officials don’t fare much better. U.S. Senator Pat Toomey gets the highest job performance rating – 45% positive, 28% negative – with Governor Tom Corbett narrowly in positive territory with a 40% positive compared to a 39% negative rating. U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. is given a 61% negative rating by the business community against a 23% positive grade.

As for legislative bodies, 72% hold a negative view of the U.S. House of Representatives with 23% giving that chamber a positive rating. Eighty-seven percent gave failing marks to the U.S. Senate with 8% holding a positive view of the upper chamber. At the state level, 59% hold a negative opinion of the job being done by the state Senate, with 22% holding a positive view. Fifty-eight percent say the state House is doing a poor job, compared with 21% who give that chamber a positive rating.

Federal Monetary Policy

The economy is showing some signs of trying to break free of what has been a historically slow recovery. One of the factors inhibiting economic growth continues to be businesses’ ability to borrow funds or access capital. Forty-one percent reported it has become more difficult over the past year to access capital, 21% of those reporting it has been much more difficult to do so. Conversely, 14% said they have found it easier to borrow capital. Twenty-six percent said their access to capital remained about the same, however past surveys have shown access to be problematic. Another 15% reported no need to borrow funds.

The Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing, or increasing the nation’s money supply to spur the economy is viewed largely in a negative light by the business leaders responding to the 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey. Fifty-five percent said they disagree with the Fed’s policy of printing money, while 38% agreed.

State Issues

Among the major problems facing the next session of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly are the growing financial difficulties of various government pension programs including those for state employees, teachers, and various municipal pension programs projected to develop significant shortfalls.   To deal with those shortfalls, business leaders suggest requiring higher employee contributions (79%), cutting benefits to retirees (45%) and diverting spending from other areas to cover the shortfall (26%). Another 10% said taxes should be raised to cover the shortfall.

Currently, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employees participate in a defined benefits pension system. Eighty percent of the business leaders polled support moving state employees into a defined contribution system, just 5% support keeping state employees in the current defined benefits system while 9% favor giving state employees the option of choosing either.

Another significant problem awaiting action by Governor Tom Corbett and the General Assembly is the state’s growing transportation funding crisis. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and various mass transit agencies all say they are experiencing a lack of funding to maintain and to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure. To deal with that problem, 84% of those responding to the Lincoln Institute’s survey said the agencies should cut administrative overhead. Thirty-nine percent would support an increase in vehicle registration fees to inject more funding into transportation; 35% would support an increase in the gasoline tax. Thirty-two percent said spending in other areas of the state budget should be cut and diverted to transportation. Seven percent would support an increase in general fund taxes. Another 14% suggest the funding crisis is overblown and no additional funds are needed.

The General Assembly is considering a plan to end the state’s liquor store monopoly and place distribution and retail sales of wine and spirits into private hands. Eighty-three percent of the business leaders surveyed said they support liquor store privatization – 71% said they strongly approve. Thirteen percent disapprove of the proposed change.

For two years in a row Governor Tom Corbett has proposed and the General Assembly has approved state general fund budgets that held spending at a rate where no additional taxes were required. Forty-five percent of the survey’s participants said state spending should be cut still further, while 39% believe state spending is currently at an appropriate level. Ten percent think taxes and spending should be increased.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is planning a post-election or “lame duck” session to pass legislation. Fifty-two percent of the business leaders polled said such sessions should not be held, 41% think they should.


The Fall 2012 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. from October 10, 2012 thru October 31, 2012. A total of 182 business leaders participated in the poll. Of that number, 70% are the owner of their business; 25% are the CEO/COO/CFO; the balance are a local or state manager. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents are based in southeastern Pennsylvania; 20% in the southwestern part of the state; 18% in Southcentral Pennsylvania; 7% in the Northwest and 7% in the Northeast; 4% in the Lehigh Valley and 3% each in Northcentral Pennsylvania and the Altoona/Johnstown area. Complete numeric results are available on-line at

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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