Posts Tagged presidential election

What’s My Line?


There is an old television game show entitled “What’s My Line?” The game featured celebrity panelists questioning contestants to determine their occupations.  Let’s play a Pennsylvania version of the show: Who are Otto Voit, Joe Torsella, John Brown, John Rafferty and Josh Shapiro?  The answer is they are all currently running for statewide office in Pennsylvania.

Next question: Can you correctly identify the office for which they are running?  The answers are Voit and Torsella are running for state treasurer; Rafferty and Shapiro for attorney general; and John Brown, along with incumbent Eugene DePasquale are running for auditor general.

When it comes to statewide offices in Pennsylvania it is either feast or famine.  This year’s ballot will feature a veritable buffet for voters from President of the United States to U.S. Senate to the already mentioned three statewide constitutional offices. But next year statewide politics goes on a strict diet with only appellate court seats on the menu.

Voters respond accordingly.  Turn-out for the 2012 election topped 58% in Pennsylvania.  The following year, 2013 sported only one statewide race – a seat on the state superior court – and voter turn-out plummeted to less than 17%.  As a side note, that 2013 judicial race was won by Victor Stabile who has the distinction of being the only Republican to win a statewide election in the past four years.

In 2012, President Barack Obama powered a sweep of statewide offices as Democrats were elected state treasurer, auditor general and attorney general. It was the first time since attorney general was made an elected position back in 1980 a Democrat won that office. Four years later, however, former Attorney General Kathleen Kane and former state Treasurer Rob McCord have been convicted of high crimes and await sentencing.  Auditor General DePasquale, it should be noted, has served scandal free.

Corruption in these statewide constitutional or “row” offices is unfortunately not uncommon in Pennsylvania.  Former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer was recently indicted for alleged improprieties dating to her time in office.  Going back a bit further, former Auditor General Al Benedict and former state Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer were convicted of crimes. Benedict admitted his guilt, Budd Dwyer died proclaiming his innocence.

Of course it is impossible to know whether or not a candidate will be honest in advance, but it is clear the currently system has not provided voters with the opportunity to learn enough about the candidates.  While tens of millions will be spent on this year’s U.S. Senate race between Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty, candidates for the row offices will likely be lucky to have a couple of million to present their credentials to voters.

It is unreasonable to expect voters to pay attention to who will be state treasurer, auditor general or attorney general in a year when a presidential campaign dominates the news.  You aren’t going to see Otto Voit and Joe Torsella on the front page of the paper every day – in fact they’ll be lucky to be in the paper at all.  And no television station is going to go live and lead from an appearance by these candidates.  Many voters will go to the polls not even knowing their names, much less with a full understanding of their credentials and plans for the offices they seek.

This will continue to be the case for however long these offices are filled in a presidential election year.  So here is a thought: move the election of these three offices to the year following the presidential election.  In the four year cycle of elections the “off year” following presidential balloting is the lowest profile year.  Only statewide appellate court seats are on the ballot, and – except for home rule counties – there aren’t even county commissioner races to capture voter interest.

By moving the election of the treasurer, auditor general and attorney general to the off year they would become the marque races.  The news media could devote more attention to the candidates.  Fundraising would be easier.  Party activists could devote more time to their campaigns. Voters would be able to focus.  They would go from being a side salad in the electoral buffet to the main course.

With a brighter spotlight on these offices we would hopefully end up with more voters at the polls, and fewer of the officials elected in jail.

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

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

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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: How you win the game matters


There is a saying in sports that it isn’t winning or losing that matters, it is how you play the game. In professional sports appropriate conduct is required. The NFL will flag players for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct. Behave poorly in pro baseball and you are tossed from the game. Ask Lance Armstrong what happens if you get caught cheating. Fair play is as important, if not more important, than the outcome of the game.

Sporting contests, of course, have an organization that sets the rules along with referees or umpires to make sure they are followed. In politics, however, the prevailing cliché is more like winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Unlike professional sports, nobody polices the event so elections become more of a back alley brawl than a serious discussion of the issues.

In some ways voters themselves act as referees. Attack a candidate for controversial votes, such as a middle-of-the-night pay raise, and the electorate may reward you with a win. Dredge up pictures of the candidate doing drugs in college, and the personal attack might be called out-of-bounds by voters.

Even in victory how the race was won can have a big impact on a candidate’s ability to serve once elected. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an election win can hinder the new office holder, and sometimes the tactics used to win the race will poison the well.

In 2000 George W. Bush won one of the closest and most disputed elections in American history. In his case it wasn’t the campaign itself or how it was conducted that created ill will; it was the closeness of the outcome. Not only did Bush lose the popular vote, winning election in the Electoral College, but it took a highly controversial ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States to bring the election to a resolution. Bush took office amid extreme partisan bitterness. Democrats never fully viewed him as a legitimate president, creating a deep divide that abated only temporarily in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

The 2012 Presidential Election is a prime example of how unsportsmanlike tactics tarnished a win. Mitt Romney prevailed over a number of primary opponents by incinerating the front-runner of the day with negative ads. First Herman Cain, then Rick Perry, blow up Newt Gingrich and then finish off Rick Santorum. It worked as far as gaining the nomination, but in the process voters learned little if anything about Mitt Romney. He never laid the groundwork for his own election, he merely ran up the negative on his opponents. Going into the General Election campaign he was ripe for the picking by Barack Obama.

And the Obama Campaign was ready for the challenge. From the moment it became apparent that Mitt Romney would be the nominee the Obama machine opened up its guns painting the former Massachusetts governor as a vulture capitalist. They turned what should have been his biggest asset as a candidate – successful private sector job creating experience – into his biggest negative. When most voters got their first unfiltered look at Romney in the initial presidential debate, and saw he didn’t have horns and a tail, the Obama strategy almost collapsed. Almost.

Instead, Obama doubled down. He stayed on the attack through the closing hours of the campaign. Unlike his 2008 election which sounded the aspirational theme of hope and change, his 2012 re-election effort was shrill and negative. As a result, the president heads into a second term having divided an already polarized electorate even further.

Now, Barack Obama must govern. Having won re-election through effective class warfare and demonization of the American system of free enterprise, he must deal with those of the other party who believe in growth and opportunity and who now deeply distrust the man who will sit in the White House for the next four years. Worse, the job creators are offended and scared of the taxes and regulations that surely will come. Thus the very people who can pull America out of the lingering economic downturn will play defense rather than join the team.

Former President Jimmy Carter called it a malaise. And that will be the legacy of the second Obama Administration. Yes, Barack Obama won the election. But he won ugly. And, as George W. Bush learned a decade ago, there is a price to be paid for how you win the game.

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

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The Circle Game


By Lowman S. Henry

After the longest and most expensive election cycle in American history we are

. . . right back where we started. President Barack Obama has been re-elected by a narrow margin – even more narrow than his 2008 victory over John McCain, Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate – although holding less than the magic 60 votes needed to move legislation; and the GOP has maintained, even increased its hold on the House of Representatives.

Voters have opted to gridlock the federal government. Given President Obama’s razor thin 2.5 million vote win in the popular count, and the GOP’s failure to capture control of the Senate, Congress will continue to be polarized and paralyzed. Thus in the coming weeks as the nation faces a series of critical fiscal tests including raising the debt ceiling, dealing with the expiration of Bush era tax rates and the need to enact a 2012-2013 budget, the national government will be deeply divided.

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat, pressure will be on Republicans to cave and compromise. They should not. This election was not a repudiation of conservative economics. If anything it was a continuation of the deep, even division among the American electorate that was ushered in at the beginning of this century when the 2000 Presidential race ended up essentially tied.   The re-election of President George W. Bush hinged on a few thousand votes in Ohio; the movement of less than a half million votes in a few key states powered Barack Obama’s victory in 2008; and, less than 100,000 votes in three or four key states decided Tuesday’s election.

Thus voters have been remarkably consistent over the past four presidential elections. The big swings have come in the composition of Congress, with Democrats affecting wave elections in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP staging a historic resurgence in 2010. This year, voters appeared to have sated their appetite for legislative change and embraced the status quo.

The 2012 election was not an electoral repudiation of either party, rather it served as validation of each.   In short, there is no consensus among the electorate on a way forward. Under those circumstances we should not expect our elected officials in Washington to arrive at one. Republicans were put in office by their voters to rein in government spending and reduce the federal deficit. Democrats embraced a tax and spend approach and have been rewarded by their constituents. It is unlikely either side is going to back down because to do so would be to alienate the very voters who sent them to Washington in the first place.

In the days and weeks ahead the failure of the GOP to capture the White House amidst dire and deteriorating economic circumstances will be the subject of much discussion, debate and finger pointing. But, Republicans should resist the urge to be swayed by denizens of the Left who will claim the party’s historic conservative economic principles caused that failure. It did not. Mitt Romney was never a disciple of the Right and his rejection at the polls was not a rejection of conservative principles.

In fact, perhaps the time has finally come for the national GOP to realize that nominating moderates for President simply does not work. Despite the fact he performed admirably throughout the campaign, Mitt Romney was never an effective spokesman for the conservative wing of the party. Aside from a pivot to the Right in the early primaries he did not try to be. He was nominated in an effort to appeal to independents and to moderate voters. In the process, the GOP did not develop the bold sharp contrast needed to convince the broad electorate to fire a failed president.

This is the fourth time in recent decades this strategy has failed. George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and now Mitt Romney in 2012 all fit the moderate mold. All lost. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush flew the conservative flag, and won. With Barack Obama the Democrats were not afraid to embrace their party’s left-wing ideology. They won because they stood for something, just like Reagan and George W. Bush did in achieving their victories. The GOP sacrificed its core message and lost.

And so, here we are back where we began. Hopefully – finally – some lessons will be learned. As we move forward, Republicans in Congress must embrace the GOP’s core ideology, start drawing those bright lines of distinction and put together a strategy for effectively communicating it to the American people.

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

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

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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.

Methodology

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 www.lincolninstitute.org.

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

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Republicans Are From Mercury, Democrats Are From Pluto


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   — Declaration of Independence

Those words, written by Thomas Jefferson, set forth the foundation upon which 13 struggling colonies declared their independence from England, then the world’s preeminent power, and launched the great experiment known as the United States of America.

For centuries the concept of divine right, that basic human rights are bestowed upon us by God, and not derived from government, has been at the core of America’s system of government. But now, one political party – the one which ironically counts Thomas Jefferson as one of its founding fathers, has abandoned that philosophy preferring instead to credit government as the source of our rights.

It is a profound paradigm shift, and one that captures in a nutshell the differences between the two political parties competing for control of the federal government this November. We have arrived at a critical juncture, for this election will determine whether the foundation laid by Jefferson, Washington, Adams and our Founding Fathers will continue to undergird the American existence, or whether we will abandon that course for new and uncharted waters.

A recent Lincoln Institute survey of delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions found the GOP continues to adhere to its belief in natural right – that our rights are bestowed upon us by our “Creator,” while Democrats view their rights as having been granted to them by government. Ninety-eight percent of Republican delegates/alternates said our rights are God-given, while 71% of Democrats believe our rights are derived from government.

Back in the 1990s there was published a best-selling book entitled Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus.   The point of the book was to illustrate the wide gulf that exists in the manner in which men and women view relationships, and the world at large. Applied to the current divide between the political parties, an apt title would be Republicans are from Mercury, Democrats are from Pluto.

There is little common ground. Further illustrating the divide is the way in which delegates/alternate delegates from the two parties view the role of government in society.   Ninety percent of the Republicans surveyed said government is an adversarial force, while 94% of Democrats believe government is a positive force. That theme played out in issue after issue throughout the survey.

By wide margins Democratic delegates/alternates feel the Obama Administration’s policies have made America more secure. By equally large margins, Republican delegates/alternates believe Obama foreign policy has made the nation less secure. The delegations are polarized on the President’s handling of the war in Afghanistan, with 83% of Democrats saying the administration is on the right track and 92% of Republicans saying it is on the wrong track.

The divide between the delegations is wide on the economy. Eighty-eight percent of the Democratic delegates/alternates surveyed say the economy is on the right track, while 100% of the Republicans say the economy is headed in the wrong direction. In terms of expanding the Bush era tax rates, 70% of Republican delegates/alternates want the cuts made permanent for all Americans, 80% of Democrats would let the cuts expire for those earning above $250,000 per year.

Enactment of a Right to Work law produced a rare area of agreement between the two delegations. Ninety-six percent of Republican delegates/alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, which means that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a union. Fifty-four percent of Democratic delegates/alternates agreed. The two delegations also found common ground on privatization of Pennsylvania’s liquor stores with 96% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats supporting such a move.

Finally, the delegations self-describe themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Ninety-eight percent of Republicans classify themselves as conservative, and 2% as moderate. Sixty-seven percent of Democratic delegates/alternates identify themselves as liberal, 27% as moderate and 6% as conservative.

The picture to emerge from the surveys: voters in November will have a crystal clear choice between the two candidates and the direction in which they would take America over the coming four years.

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

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

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PA GOP National Convention Delegation: Government An Adversarial Force


Ninety-eight percent of delegation is conservative, just 2% moderate

“Our rights come from nature and God, not from government. That’s who we are. That’s how we built this country. That’s who we are. That’s what made us great. That’s our founding. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.”

Those were among the first words spoken by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin upon becoming Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate. Those few sentences cut to the core principles upon which America was founded and resonated with a Republican Party base longing to rekindle the fervor of the Reagan years.

A Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research survey of Pennsylvania Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention found Ryan’s words struck a chord. Ninety-eight percent of those responding to the survey agreed that our basic rights as Americans are God-given, while just 2% felt such rights were granted by government.

The Pennsylvania delegation also strongly views the Federal government as part of the problem, not part of the solution, with 90% saying the federal government is an adversarial force, and the rest believing the federal government is a positive force.

National Issues

In terms of the issues facing our nation, Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation rated the most serious problems as: the economy, federal government spending, federal budget deficit, Obamacare, and the unemployment rate.   Rated as the least serious issues were global warming, gay marriage, the mortgage/banking crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and abortion.

Pennsylvania’s GOP delegates/alternate delegates were strongly united in their view that the Obama Administration’s foreign policies have made the United States less secure with 89% holding that opinion. Even more, 92% disapproved of the President’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. There is less agreement on two other pressing foreign policy issues. Seventy-three percent think the United States should intervene militarily in Syria, but 28% disagree. Sixty-one percent believe America should intervene militarily to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, with 39% in disagreement.

On no issue, however, is there more agreement among the delegation than on the economy. Unanimously, 100% view the economy as off in the wrong direction. And, 93% place the blame squarely on President Barack Obama. Sixty-one percent also fault congress, and 59% place blame on the Federal Reserve. Twenty-six percent hold former President George W. Bush culpable for the nation’s economic ills.

Speaking of the former president, 70% of Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation believes the Bush-era tax rates should be made permanent for all Americans regardless of income. Nine percent want the tax rates made permanent for families earning under $250,000 per year. Another 13% think the Bush era tax rates should be temporarily extended for all Americans. Only 4% support reinstating the pre-Bush tax cut rates. The delegation is split over the future of the payroll (Social Security) tax cuts. Forty-eight percent favors extending the Obama payroll tax cuts, 52% oppose any extension. Wide agreement returns among the delegates on the subject of cutting rates on capital gains, with 83% supporting such cuts. Eighty-nine percent supports eliminating the estate or “death tax” entirely, while 7% favor cutting the rate.   Ninety-three percent of the delegation supports lowering personal income tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth.

Spending cuts are the weapon of choice for balancing the federal budget. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention favors spending cuts only to reduce the deficit. Another 26% support a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Not a single respondent supported only raising taxes to reduce the deficit. There is also strong opposition to raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling. Ninety-six percent oppose raising it. Unanimity among the delegates was also achieved on the issue of allowing younger Americans to invest a portion of their Social funds in personal savings accounts outside the current Social Security system, with 100% in agreement. Sixty-seven percent think Social Security will be around for future generations of Americans, but with substantial changes. Thirty-four percent believe the system is headed for bankruptcy.

Seventy percent of the delegation supports term limits on members of Congress, while 30% oppose term limits. A sizable majority of the delegation, 81%, also believes that earmarks, or specific spending directed by Members of Congress, are wasteful spending. Twenty-three percent feel earmarks are an appropriate way to allocate funds.

State Issues

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research also asked the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention their views on a range of state issues.

On the subject of taxes, 58% said that the state personal income tax rate is too high, 39% say it is about right, and 6% say personal income tax rates are too low. However, 92% of the respondents said business taxes are too high, and 8% said they are about right. Nobody thought business taxes were too low. Seventy-five percent said they would not support an increase in the state gasoline tax to fund infrastructure (highway) improvements. Twenty-five percent would back higher taxes for that purpose. Sixty-percent also oppose an increase in vehicle registration and/or driver license fees for highway improvements. Forty percent said they could support increasing fees for such a purpose.

Seventy-one percent of the delegation said they feel the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, counties and local government to fund services is unfair to most segments of their community. Twenty-nine percent see property taxes as fair. Fifty percent of the delegates/alternate delegates participating in the poll said they would favor a more broad based state sales tax at the current rate as a means of replacing real estate or property taxes. Twenty-six percent said they would support replacing property taxes with a combination of local sales and earned income taxes while 18% percent would back local sales taxes only. Another 13% would support increasing the state sales tax rate to replace property taxes.

In terms of public education; 65% of the delegation feel the Corbett Administration’s cuts in K-12 public education are about right; 19% say they are not deep enough and 17% say the cuts are too deep. Eighty-six percent of the delegation supports the concept of school choice when that involves giving vouchers or grants so that students can attend a public school in a district other than their own.

There is also concern over the level of the Commonwealth’s indebtedness. Ninety-six percent of the state’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention believes the commonwealth’s debt load is currently too high. Another four percent say debt levels are about right. When it comes to Pennsylvania’s general fund budget, 63% say overall state spending is too high, 35% believe it is about right, and 2% say it is too low.

Labor power issues have been at the top of the agenda in many states. Ninety-six percent of Pennsylvania’s national convention delegates and alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, meaning that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a labor union. Eighty percent support a ban on allowing public school teachers to strike.

Finally, there was unanimous opinion behind a proposal to privatize the state’s liquor store system. Eighty-four percent of the delegation strongly supports such a ban, with 16% somewhat in favor.

Ideology

When asked their political ideology, not a single member of the Pennsylvania Delegation to the Republican National Convention admitted to being a liberal, with just one claiming to be a moderate. Ninety-eight percent of the delegation labeled themselves conservative, with 58% saying there are very conservative.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted its survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention electronically from August 14, 2012 thru August 22, 2012. A total of 56 members of the delegation participated in the poll. Complete numeric results are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org

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In The Fullness Of Time: Let the Presidential nominating process unfold


The 2011 General Election has yet to be held, but already the mainstream media and its associated pundits are decrying the fact no one candidate has emerged as a prohibitive favorite for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Of course, not a single actual vote has been cast in the nominating process and the first caucus and primary balloting is about two months away.

Such angst is fed by the Left’s desire to narrow the field to a single target, someone who can be investigated, pummeled and scorned in the months leading up to the GOP’s quadrennial nominating convention late next summer in Tampa, Florida. With seven or eight candidates vying for the affections of primary voters, it is hard to draw a bead on the eventual winner since we don’t yet know who that person will be.

Such “nattering” should be ignored. There is a well-established process for selecting a presidential nominee and that process must be allowed to unfold. The nomination of a candidate for President of the United States is steeped in tradition; it requires a candidate to master all the elements of campaigning: retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire, fundraising ability to compete on Super Tuesday, and organizational skill in acquiring the delegates who ultimately select the nominee.

Aside from the mechanics, the process currently unfolding allows voters to examine every nook and cranny of the candidates’ record, platform and personality. It allows a Rick Perry to stumble through early debates, or a candidate like Herman Cain to gain attention, while the other side is also focused inward. Mitt Romney can refine his defense of Romneycare, Newt Gingrich can advance real policy options, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul can duke it out as the undercard, and voters can learn John Huntsman actually governed a state.

On the other side of the coin, candidates who have been suddenly thrust onto the national stage have not fared well. George H.W. Bush picked a little-known young senator from Indiana who bounded onto a stage in New Orleans like he had just been told to “come on down” on The Price is Right. Dan Quayle immediately found himself in a service record controversy that threatened to derail the entire 1988 Republican National Convention and his image never recovered. In 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin energized the party’s conservative base, but her post-Labor Day emergence set up a vetting by the news media that exposed all her negatives at precisely the time millions of Americans tuned into the campaign.

There is every reason for Republicans to take their time in arriving at an eventual nominee. President Barack Obama is among the most vulnerable of incumbents at this point in a first term. With unemployment running at unacceptably high levels, and the economy struggling to not slip back into recession, the Republican Presidential Nomination has high value in that the one certainty of the 2012 campaign is that it will be highly competitive.

Aside from when an incumbent sits in the White House, political parties almost never arrive at a nominee ten months prior to their convention. Just four years ago, the GOP had a highly competitive contest that was resolved in John McCain’s favor in early February. And, we should not forget that Barack Obama himself did not clinch the Democratic nomination until after a protracted struggle with Hillary Clinton that did not end until mid-June. He, of course, went on to win the election.

Republican voters in Pennsylvania would actually benefit from a nomination fight that goes deep into the primary schedule. As usual, Pennsylvanians will not vote until late April – after all the other major states and most of the smaller ones. Typically the nomination is decided well before anyone in Penn’s Woods gets to cast a vote. But, in a multi-candidate field with the current front-runner polling at less than a third of the vote, it is possible Pennsylvania could be a factor. Four years ago the Obama/Clinton fight energized state Democrats – creating a surge in voter registration that has benefitted their party ever since. A competitive presidential primary in Pennsylvania would be a healthy tonic for the state GOP.

Thus there is every reason for Republicans to take their time and not allow outside interests to affect the pace of nominating a presidential candidate. It is important that the party gets this one done right, not quickly. The candidates need more time to build their campaigns and communicate their messages; voters need more time to learn about the candidates. And, at some point we will collectively make a decision – a decision upon which literally hangs the fate of the nation.

Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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