So long 2012….

2012 was yet another interesting year for me.

It started in the fields of Iowa covering the Republican Caucus and ended in Richmond, VA covering the ‘fiscal cliff.’

I said goodbye to KWQC and some great people in the Quad Cities and said hello to some equally great people at WTVR in Richmond, VA.

I went on vacation with some college buddies to Boston-finally went to a game at Fenway Park and fell in love with Nantucket.

I shot 69 for the first time. A very special moment as I did it playing golf with my dad.

I was a tourist in Chicago for the first time and had a blast.

I was fortunate to cover President Obama and Mitt Romney on several occassions across several states-even interviewing Vice President Biden in March.

Played my first TPC Golf Course (John Deere Classic) and had a blast covering the PGA Tour for a week. Made me think about working at the Golf Channel.

I returned to Washington for the first time since graduation and went to my first CUA homecoming. Had way too much fun.

Was able to spend quite a bit of time in Youngstown and, as always, enjoyed my hometown. Had an especially fun night with Cardinal Mooney alumni in November.

Saw lots of good movies. Batman, Bond, Lincoln, and Jack Reacher top my list.

Favorite books? Lost Symbol and Destiny of the Republic.

Goals for 2013?

Read more books.
Hit the gym more.
Cook healthier.
Buy a new flat screen TV.
Live in the “now.”
Be a better friend to the ones I got while never hesitating to meet new people.
Volunteer more.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Have a fantastic New Year and here is to 2013 being the wildest year yet!

JSG

Why aren’t we talking about School Doors?

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut lots of things are being discussed.

How can we prevent this from happening again?

Will some form of gun control help?

How can we better diagnose mental illnesses?

Should teachers be armed with guns?

Regardless of your political philosophy or opinion those are questions being asked (and in some cases answered) by politicians and the public at large.

I however would like to add another potential reform to the conversation: School Doors.

It appears as though we now know how Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary, by shooting his way through glass (either the door’s glass or the glass of nearby windows).

Banning assault weapons or improvements in mental diagnostic practices will never stop a madman from shooting his or her way through glass if they so desire.

So why not take this oppurtunity to examine where we place windows and what type of doors are installed at schools. After all, following 9/11 pilot doors on airplanes were looked at and changed forever.

I go to a lot of schools for work and I find that most have some sort of policy regarding visitors entering the building. Some lock the door, some use buzzers, some have volunteer parents as “door monitors.”

Ironically, many schools that use the buzzer system or the locked door system have a glass door. What’s the point of having the door locked if it can so easily be broken by gunfire?

I personally am not a proponent of metal detectors or armed guards at schools (although I understand why, in some cases, those procedures are neccessary). I believe that if we treat schools like airports it creates a culture of fear that is difficult to break.

But I do think treating school doors like airplane pilot doors could be a nice comprimise. I do not think students will feel they are “threatened” by them and I believe it will make it harder for gunmen to enter schools.

What do you think?

Victory for the Left; Obama Supports Gay Marriage

I usually don’t post on weekdays – but today’s announcement by President Barack Obama warrants my commentary.

By declaring he supports gay marriage, Obama has created energy.

Energy is being created on the left (early estimates show the President has raised millions since the announcement on ABC News).

BUT

He has also created energy on the right.

The Republican party will rally behind this issue. After all, America is squarely divided on this issue.

Romney will declare it as a war on traditional marriage. The issue will also mobilize a group that will decide this election: Catholics.

Catholics are a fickle group of individuals that tend to vote with the winning candidate. Bush won them in the past and Obama won them in 2008.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops, has already blasted the President in a statement this afternoon. We know what Bishops have said against the President regarding abortion and contraception in the past, what will they say now?

Time will tell.

In fact time will tell about a lot of things.

For instance, why announce now?

Did Biden on Sunday slip up or was he sent out there on the talk shows to test the waters?

Will Obama advocate for gay marriage laws in states?

Who in the White House objected to this major policy switch?

I guess this post provides more questions than answers right now.

But I think today’s move has a lot of politicos wondering why the president would endorse a divisive issue during an election year. Conviction? The right thing to do? Or a belief that this move will help him win?

Till next time-

JSG

P.S. Interesting that Obama does this the day after North Carolina (the state he will accept the nomination in) banned gay marriage?

Why Democrats Should Be Less Cocky and Republicans More Enthused

Why Democrats Should Be Less Cocky and Republicans More Enthused

So in the history books for the election of 2012, we now know whose pictures will be prominently displayed.

Next to the incumbent President Barack Obama, a portrait of the former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney will be placed (We have yet to learn who will get the caption of “winner”).

In my job, I have covered both of them. I have sat down with Romney in coffee shops and I have seen Obama deliver impassioned speeches on University campuses (full disclosure I have also seen Obama in a more professional capacity as a former White House Intern).

Most importantly, I have talked to their supporters – their ticket to either ascending to the presidency or staying there.

One thing is clear to me that probably is not a shock to many of you: Democratic supporters seem to be more confident their candidate will win in November than Republicans.

I get that sense from Republicans I have talked to with the attitude of “I’m just waiting for 2016.” I get that attitude from Democrats who say “We’ve got this thing locked up.”

I am not writing to refute that belief.

I am writing because I believe, as an objective outsider, that Romney does have a path – a path that should worry more Democrats than it currently is.  On the same token, that path should excite more Republicans believing “Hey we actually have a chance!”

First, lets take the electoral college.

After the 2010 census, congressional seats were reapportioned as is called for by the constitution. But where did those seats go? Answer: Republican States.

The state of Texas went from having 34 electoral votes in 2008 to 38 in 2012. Does anyone think Obama will win Texas? Certainly not – Romney just picked up 4 electoral votes and he hasn’t spent a dime.

Georgia – another red state from 2008 – they gained one.

South Carolina – a solid GOP stronghold – one more electoral college vote in 2012.

Utah and Arizona – both republican in 2008 – also with one more vote this election year.

Where did these electoral votes come from? Places like New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio – all states Obama had no trouble winning four years ago.

So my first argument in favor of a Romney path to the presidency is simple – the census gave republicans an edge.

Secondly, let’s take a look at the popular vote from 2008 (yes I know the electoral college is all that matters but humor me!)

Obama: 53 percent

McCain: 46 percent.

53 percent! 53 percent! 53 percent! (I’m told repeating things emphasize them).

Yes Obama crushed McCain in the electoral college 365 – 173; however he only won a majority of voters by three percent. Does anyone think more people nationwide will vote for Obama in 2012? A popular vote victory is certainly plausible for Republicans in 2012.

Finally, lets take a look at key state demographics. After all, a presidential election is not a nationwide campaign but rather a series of statewide contests.

Obama seemed to win everywhere that mattered in 2008. He won FL, OH, NC, VA, PA, etc.

BUT –

This go around the Democratic party has been depleted in a lot of those states.

Why don’t we start with NC – after all that is where Obama will accept his party’s nomination this September.

NC’s unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. Its Democratic governor isn’t even running for re-election because she is so unpopular. The executive director of the state’s Democratic party just resigned over sexual harassment allegations. The state looks poised to ban gay marriage and civil unions and republicans look confident to win the gubernatorial race and several congressional seats.

Yes, Obama is still leading in NC, but all of those problems are bound to catch up with him. Those 15 electoral votes are certainly in jeopardy even though Democrats will drop millions into the Charlotte economy later this year.

Let’s move to a place I know a little bit about as a native son– Ohio.

In 2010, Democrats were voted out of office in droves. Ohio Democrats in Congress are about as difficult to find as a seat during rush hour on the Metro in Washington (my DC readers will like that one).

Since that time the Ohio economy has actually picked up. Ohio consistently ranks as one of the top job producing states in the country in the last several months.

While it is unclear whether voters will attribute the shift to Republican Gov. John Kasich or to President Obama, the real kicker that might turn Ohio red in 2012 is a guy named Rob Portman.

Senator Portman was elected in 2010 and is reportedly on the short list for a Vice Presidential nod. Putting an Ohioan on the ticket would certainly put the state’s 18 electoral votes in play.

FL –

They too have gained electoral seats this year. This will be close simply because it’s always close. My gut tells me Romney will pick an Ohioan or a Floridian as his vice presidential nominee – if that’s the case Senator Marco Rubio could swing 29 electoral votes into the Romney column very easily.

IA –

Okay I know what you’re thinking – it only has 6 electoral votes.

You’re right it does – one less than in 2008 when Obama won it. However this election could come down to the Hawkeye State.

Obama won it comfortably in 2008 but trust me – I live here – having presidential candidates cross your state for years telling you how horrible the president is doing will make even the most steadfast liberal rethink his positions. Iowa is in play.

IN –

Come on does anyone actually think Obama will win this again? Might as well hand the 11 electoral votes to Romney right now.

VA –

Okay Old Dominon is going to be interesting. In 2008 Obama was the first Democrat to win it in a generation. While he leads in the polls currently – the Commonwealth has a very popular and able governor in the form of republican Bob McDonnell. Factor in him with a little bit of history and Virginia could be the catalyst to a Romney Presidency. (Objectively I believe Romney must win VA to have a chance – thus I make this state the most important one for his campaign).

Alright so I have provided some analysis, some context, and my belief as to why Republicans should be more enthused and Democrats less cocky.

(I haven’t even mentioned the economy by the way and the fact no president has won reelection since FDR with an unemployment rate higher than 7.2%.  Today’s unemployment rate sits at 8.1%).

My rationale in writing this was simple – this election will be won by whoever wants it more (No not Obama or Romney because believe me they both want it but rather which group of supporters want it more).

As someone who actively participated in the 2008 election as a college student, I see a major energy gap this go around – Democrats and Republicans are lethargic.

Thus I hope you get off the couch and do what you need to do to get your candidate elected.

Democrats – you could lose this thing.

Republicans – you could win.

Get to work.

Till next time –

JSG

Santorum, Brokered Conventions, and Democratic Depth

Santorum, Brokered Conventions, and Democratic Depth

Whenever I talk to political reporters either via Facebook Chat or Email or through the occasional “tweet,” somehow the topic nowadays always includes Rick Santorum. Yes, we marvel at his current standing in the polls (more on that later), but most of all we recall the “early days” of the Santorum candidacy.

When I had the pleasure of interviewing the former Senator at Scott Community College in the Quad Cities, he showed up in a Honda Accord. No, not a brand new Honda Accord but one that I would ballpark as being at least ten years old.

He was in the passenger seat, an aide was driving, and his daughter was in the back.

There was no motorcade, no campaign bus, and to be honest there was hardly any supporters at the event.

He was wearing the same suit jacket and blue shirt that I had seen him in a week prior and his daughter who was taking the semester off from college said to her dad that he looked tired.

They were there to speak to a class at the college and to be interviewed by yours truly.

This is what I think of when I think of the Rick Santorum Presidential Campaign. Nothing fancy, hardly any money, and reminiscent of a campaign for president of student council as opposed to president of the United States.

Regrettably, looking back my questions centered around an incorrect perception that he would not be in the race much longer.

However, as I try to make sense of his ability to succeed with the Republic Electorate, I am no longer suprised. After all, all of the signs of a successful candidacy were there – I (along with pretty much everyone else) just didn’t see them.

A) He can debate.

In a campaign season that I think will be defined by the number of debates the republican challengers had to undergo, clearly the candidates that were going to succeed must be able to battle with the best of them. Newt Gingrich rose to the polls on multiple occasions because of his ability to grab the sound bite on the debate stage.

But Gingrich wasn’t the only person able to impress conservatives in these “made for cable tv debates.” Santorum showed off the lawyer in him on several occasions. He was one of the only candidates to actually ask a question to another candidate – seeming to set them up like a lawyer would during cross-examination. He was able to hit Romney hard several times using this method and thus able to impress those with checkbooks who fund candidates as well as voters who support them.

B) He valued Iowa

While this was my first Iowa Caucus, veteran reporters told me it was shocking how infrequent the candidates were campaigning in Iowa.
Politicos I talked to say this is because candidates no longer need to have a campaign office and staffers in every city. Campaigns can be run nationally and via the internet and through cable TV.

But while Romney was out in CA or Gingrich in DC, Santorum was living, yes living, in Iowa. He spoke to anyone, anywhere, and bet his candidacy on the state.

That is a good bet.

It baffles me that some think they can get away with not campaigning in Iowa and still win the nomination.
For some reason, winning Iowa matters. It keeps you in the race and even if you don’t ultimately win you probably will end up like Huckabee with a million dollar Fox News Contract.

For a guy that never has had a lot of money – he bet what he had on the right state.

C) He has an Economic Plan That’s Different

While I love talking about different tax rates involving capital gains or discussing the pros and cons of offshore drilling to generate jobs, for most people “tax talk” is boring.

People don’t think that a reduction in corporate taxes benefits them.

Every candidate I interviewed I asked them the question “what sets you apart?” Yes it’s a general one and probably not my best Tim Russert impression – BUT – I think it’s an important one. Almost all of the responses bored me and I know my viewers as well but Santorum’s was different.

He talked about manufacturing – getting blue-collar jobs back to places like Dubuque or Cedar Rapids. While you can debate the rationale behind how he is going to do this, the mere fact he was talking about blue-collar jobs hit me. I remember thinking “this guy actually has an economic message different than some of the others.”

His plan speaks to blue-collar communities who want to believe the glory days of manufacturing can return to the U.S.A. After years of so-called “straight-talk” by conservative politicians saying those jobs would never be coming back – Rick Santorum was tapping into the Pathos of the electorate. And if you are like me and believe Aristotle was right that Pathos is the key to dominating Rhetoric – then again the Santorum Surge shouldn’t surprise you.

D) GOP Voters Tried Him at the Right Time

This Republican Primary Season reminds me of when I go shopping at a really expensive suit store. I never buy anything but I try on as much as I can before the tailor gets frustrated with me.

GOP Voters have been like that, trying on every “suit” in the room. First there was Pawlenty, then Bachmann, Perry, Cain and so on. Yes, Romney was always at the top but a good portion of the republican electorate still refuses to try him on for size. Santorum,for whatever reason,was one of the last to be “tried on” by GOP Voters just in time for primary season. (Poor Jon Huntsman never got that far).

So in conclusion, just like the guy with the hot putter on Sunday usually wins the golf tournament, the person who gets noticed right before election day can do very, very well.

So now you know why I think Santorum has been able to stay in this race. He is a great debater, with sharp political IQ, who has an economic message that resonated at the right time.
I don’t know where his candidacy will end up but I do know his ability has the potential to do very well in states like Michigan, Ohio, and of course his home state of Pennsylvania. His campaign must be analyzed by political experts because there are a lot of lessons that people wanting to run for president should know.

Brokered Conventions.

My final two points in this blog post (if you are one of the few still reading) will be shorter than my first.

Political Junkies are talking about the possibility of a brokered convention. Perhaps its just because most of the political elite weren’t around during the last one for the GOP (1976 Ford/Reagan), but I actually think it is a real scenario that Democrats should be scared of.

While I think it is unlikely that Tampa will come around and a candidate isn’t the clear nominee, I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case. Under the proportional rule change, republicans are giving out delegates evenly this year as opposed to previous years when it was a “winner take all strategy.” And when you factor in the ego of a Gingrich who says he’s in it till the convention (while that would be considered rhetoric by most politicians I actually believe him) and the crusade for liberty that Ron Paul is on, I think it’s a real possibility that no candidate will have the 1144 delegates needed to be the nominee come convention time.

If that’s the case – Democrats should be worried. Here’s why.

I think that republicans would cut back room deals that would ultimately produce an “outsider” like a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie being the nominee. With Romney getting the Vice Presidential nod and Santorum lets say getting promised the Attorney General Post.

Alright maybe you think I’m crazy but think of how united the GOP would be coming out of that convention. They would be energized like they were for a brief time following the game changing moment after Sarah Palin spoke at the 2008 convention in Minnesota.

Yes its unlikely, but its a possibility that Democrats should be scared of.

Democratic Depth

I’m a huge baseball fan. I love the feeling of opening day and I am eagerly awaiting spring training. I love how baseball columnists and commentators are talking about depth charts this time of year and I have seen MoneyBall a few times which makes me love the job of a baseball scout.

Naturally, I have been “scouting” the depth of the democratic field and let’s just say I’m a bit concerned for them.

Don’t get me wrong they have a solid lineup going into 2012. Obama, Biden, Clinton are the Jeters, Pujols, and Prince Fielders of politics. They are going into the 2012 election with a solid lineup. BUT just like any baseball scout is thinking about the season two or three years down the road – democratic operatives have to be nervous about their prospects going into 2016.

Think about it, the GOP is going to be coming at you with names like Rubio and Christie and perhaps Paul Ryan. Jindal will be there as well. What will the Democrats starting line up be?

Assuming that Hillary Clinton is true to her word and that she is out of politics, Biden’s age is accurate, and Obama wins re-election in 2012, who are the democratic stars?

Congress is ruled by 60 year plus legislators (Schumer, Pelosi, Reid) that prevents any Congressman or Senator from gaining recognition.

I guess the party would have to look to Cuomo in New York? O’Malley in Maryland?

Yes 2016 is far off but if the Democrats are going to have a chance in political hell to win they’re going to have to start developing some talent and improve their depth charts.

Thanks for reading.

Till Next Time,

JSG

Florida, Foreign Policy, and POTUS

FLORIDA

Florida, Florida, Florida. I can still remember my hero in political journalism, Tim Russert, say those words.

Florida is again on the minds of political wonks as it holds its primary tomorrow.

Now FL is a crucial state for the general election, and obviously a crucial state for the GOP Nomination process. BUT- it shouldn’t be – at least not now.

Let me explain.

Early states are suppose to be places where all the candidates can compete on an equal playing field (or as equal as this Super-Pac era of politics will allow).

With large scale Media Markets all over the state – it is pretty much impossible for Rick Santorum or the candidate like him in the future to campaign there. (I know what you are saying, he doesn’t have a chance to win the nomination but let me remind you he comes into FL with the same record as Romney and Gingrich).

Apart from the cost that campaigning in FL demands, it is too big of a state for candidates to get to know the issues and the places personally. I checked out Politico’s Map of where the candidates are today and they are all in the Tampa’s and the Jacksonville’s of the state. With just a few days in between SC and this contest, there is no time to get to know the rural back roads of FL like the candidates did in IA, NH, and SC.

As far as the actual politics of FL goes, it looks like Romney is on his way to a victory there. But don’t count out Gingrich for another resurgence in later states. We in the media have already predicted him politically dead three times now – who knows how many political lives this guy has in him.

FOREIGN POLICY 

I spent the weekend doing something I have not done in a while. Really, read up on Foreign Policy.

In high school, that was my thing as a competitive international extemporaneous speaker of the National Forensic League. I use to be able to name world leaders in countries most don’t even know exist.

Call it burn out or what have you but since my high schools days (skip to 13 minutes in to see my geeky high school self) I haven’t paid much attention to the issues facing the global community.

Call it a new years resolution or a lenten promise (hey, I’m a Catholic!) but I vow to read “The Bible” as my high school extemping friends would call it (The Economist) more often.

I am not going to write much on my foreign policy thoughts right now but I will share two links.

1) Great look at Syria Conflict

2) Facinating report on racism in Brazil.

Give them a read and let me know what you think

POTUS

Image

I had the honor of covering President Obama’s visit to Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday. Just hours after his State of the Union address.

It was the first time I saw the President since I left the White House in January of 2011 and it is always a great thrill.

The invited audience was obviously very “Pro-Obama” but in talking with the crowd following the event, I was reminded of what got him elected in the first place. The ability to inspire.

Every single person I talked to walked out of the Conveyor Manufacturing Plant more hopeful than when they went in. If he can do that more than his opponent in the general, that is what will win him re-election. After all, this election maybe about the economy but in actuality presidential elections are about who can inspire and paint the American dream better.

Till next time,

JSG

 

 

1/24/2012 “The SOTU is Getting Stronger”

President Barack Obama delivered a very strong State of the Union address on Tuesday to a very divided United States Congress.

He seemed to offer rebuttals to some of the attacks he has been getting on the campaign trail-and painted a very optimistic portrait of America.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the speech was how he intertwined the past with the present.

That, in my opinion, is his recipe for re-election. He must somehow remind people of the world before him, of what would of happened to the auto industry, to wall street if it hadn’t been for his polices. He must remind voters he killed Bin Laden and that he ended the war in Iraq. If he is able to get voters to listen to stories of yesteryear while he orates America’s optimistic future, he will be delivering another SOTU in 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and 2016 and one more for good measure in 2017.

BUT….

If he cannot get Americans to recall the nation before him he will struggle. If American voters are more focused on the now, he will face a tough battle.

American voters have indicated impatience in the last several elections. I attribute this to what I call the A.D.D. culture of America. We crave information now. Socially we need to get that text immediately, need to know the latest tweet.

Because America is impatient, I tend to think this characteristic has made its way to the ballot box.

In 2006, a swing election put Democrats in charge of Congress.

In 2008, another election of change putting Obama in the White House

In 2010, a sweeping reform putting Republicans in charge of the House

In 2012, history is yet to be written. However if its anything like 2006, 2008, and 2010 it is bad news for the President.

Two quick final thoughts – Obama should of mentioned something regarding Sen. Kirk. His stroke is a sad reminder of how sadness can strike anyone, anytime. Finally, Mitch Daniels dominated the GOP Response, one of the best I recall since Obama became President.

Till next time,

JSG

Blog Post 1/23/2011: Debate Asks Interesting Questions – Produces Boring Answers

“One of the most fascinating things about America is that cane sugar hides behind beat sugar.”

That statement by Newt Gingrich was actually said during the NBC News Florida Debate on Monday.

While personally I like the “do not applaud” rule for audiences, the lack of energy from the crowd only augmented the fact that the debate failed to produce any real fireworks (at least in comparison to the John King-Gingrich exchange last week).

While the candidates were mostly putting the average voter to sleep on Monday night, there were some interesting moments.

1) The Freddy Mac exchange that Romney had with Gingrich was clearly Romney’s strongest attack on Gingrich of the evening. In the early moments of the debate Romney tried to hit Gingrich as well, however it came off akward. Newt Gingrich’s relationship with Freddy Mac is a major issue that Gingrich will have to overcome with conservative voters. After all, Freddy Mac is a term that resinates with a lot of them.

2) Best Question of the night was clearly the question by Beth Reinhard of the National Journal on the Spanish Language and the campaigns. She pointed out the irony that conservative candidates want to make English the official language even though they are courting Hispanic voters with Spanish websites and commercials. Great question!

3) The Fidel Castro exchange was also quite interesting. Brian Williams asked about a post-Castro Cuba. Any foreign policy expert would say that is a real conundrum that will face America in the coming years. Both Romney and Gingrich seemed to rejoice at a Castro death with Gingrich saying he would support covert operations in Cuba. A very interesting question that is very relevant to FL.

4) Santorum’s performance was just not as solid as he needed. Santorum does not have alot of money, he can’t afford to buy a lot of ad-time in markets like Miami and Orlando. He needed a stronger performance in this free media setting.

5) “Self Deportation” That is Romney’s Immigration policy? That left a lot of politicos (like me) questioning what that is. Look for more followups in the news tomorrow.

Another Debate Now Over – As Well as my first post!

Till Next Time,

JSG

Joe’s Blog

Hey Blog-World!

I will use this space primarily to opine on my two passions: politics and public policy. But I wouldn’t rule out a pop culture or religious post every now and then.

I hope to keep this blog current and timely. When I miss the occasional day or two I sincerely apologize (hey, I have a pretty busy day job!).

To view my posts just scroll over the archive date on the right

Let me know what you think-comments of all kinds are welcomed and debate is encouraged.

In Good Faith,

JSG