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2012 Elections From Closer Up

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So, I know it's not as if there haven't been plenty of 2012 scenarios floating around the past months/years, but since the midterm elections just happened and we have, perhaps, a better handle on how things will unfold over the next couple of years, and also on who the candidates are likely to be, I thought I'd have a go at making one of my own. Part of my point is also testing a model I cooked up for predicting election results based purely on demographics; that is, you look at the racial/age/religious/etc. fingerprint of each of the 50 states + DC, assume that each demographic group's voting patterns are constant across the nation, and then see how each of the states' overall percentages turned out. When I tested my model on the 2008 Presidential election, it had about an 88% correlation with the actual results, and only predicted the wrong winner in 7 states (AZ, CO, LA, MO, IN, IA, and GA, three of which are obvious home-state effects). I've cooked up a version of this model for the 2012 Republican primary, and I think it does a pretty good job of capturing the overall dynamic, which is good.

Here's my storyline, so to speak, for what I'm assuming happens between today, November 16th, 2010, and the beginning of the election cycle:

During the "lame duck" session of Congress, as John Boehner's Republicans waited to assume control of the House, the Democrats cut a deal with Republicans in which all Bush tax cuts were extended until after the 2012 Presidential election; in exchange, Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling and pass an extension of unemployment insurance. No other major policy changes, including repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, were passed by the Congress.

Essentially no major legislation was signed into law during 2011. The House of Representatives passed a bill repealing Health Care Reform several times, but the bills were never considered in the Senate. Other Republican legislative proposals met a similar fate, though none were as significant. Many House committees also launched investigations into various aspects of the Obama Administration. In the Senate, an early attempt to abolish the filibuster failed when some moderate Democrats refused to support it. Thereafter, the Senate did more or less nothing for its term, since any policy Democrats could have fought to pass through the Senate would have simply been ignored by the House. Several standoffs on appropriations bills, during which a shutdown of the federal government seemed possible, were diverted at the last minute.

With a divided and inactive legislature, President Obama took somewhat more Presidential initiative than he had since the very beginning of his Administration. He issued an Executive Order halting implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He followed through on his promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. The Obama EPA began a policy of direct regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

With this background, the 2012 Presidential election begins. A broad Republican field is running to take a shot at the President they regard as vulnerable, while Obama faces only trivial challengers. Can the Republicans take back the White House after only four years out of power? Or will Obama bounce back from his midterm defeat, perhaps stronger than ever?



President Barack Obama, D-IL

Mr. Jimmy McMillan, D-NY

Mr. Alvin Greene, D-SC

(I meant it when I said trivial opposition. Also, I would like some sort of high-profile challenger to Obama, off by default, in the event that the wars are going badly LBJ-style. Any ideas? Who's our Gene McCarthy-in-waiting?)


Governor Mitt Romney, R-MA

Governor Sarah Palin, R-AK

Governor Mike Huckabee, R-AR

Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-GA

Governor Haley Barbour, R-MS

Governor Tim Pawlenty, R-MN

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Governor Rick Perry, R-TX

Governor Mitch Daniels, R-IN

Governor Gary Johnson, R-NM

Tea Party (want to see this included?):

Governor Sarah Palin, T-AK (off by default)

Other ideas for minor-candidate Tea Partiers?

Other Independents:

Are not my strong suit. People got ideas about actually probably 2012 minor-party types?

Issues and potential events, for which I have a variety of what I think are interesting ideas if I can ever figure out how to get events to not crash the game, will probably come in a second post, especially if anyone replies to this one.

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Gary Johnson could go for the libertarian wing of the Tea Party. Maybe Marco Rubio could be an Obama-type candidate.

For the Dems, I would put Mark Warner off as a Blue Dog candidate. Maybe Alan Grayson as a fringe off candidate.

Is Rubio really going to run? I'll have him as a VP choice, no question, and I think he'll be a major player over the next decade, but it's kind of, like, soon, isn't it? He'd've spent all of one year as a Senator before the Iowa caucuses, one-third of what Obama himself did, and was criticized for by various persons.

And yeah, I hear Gary Johnson just plain is going to run, and will do so as a genuine libertarian (even more genuinely libertarian than Ron Paul, or just about any Tea Party candidates.)

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Issues, as well as my thinking on them. If anyone has any corrections or suggestions, I'd love them, especially as to right-wing positions that I may sometimes be insufficiently sympathetic to.

Afghanistan, High Profile: The positions on this one are fairly simple, I think: right-wingers favor an escalation and/or expansion into Pakistan, left-wingers favor quicker and quicker withdrawals.

Debt & Deficits, Medium Profile: I'm thinking this will be about the long-term debt, as opposed to the issue of whether deficit spending in the current economy is wise. Lefties are going to favor cutting defense spending, raising progressive taxes; righties favor slashing non-security spending overall, possibly including more tax cuts (which is what they are saying currently).

Economy, High Profile: This is about the immediate economy. Basically, the left-wing solution is fairly simple, more and bigger Keynesian fiscal stimulus. The right-wing position is something like, do nothing, the recession is natural and should not be messed with. In-between are things like being pro-unemployment insurance etc. but not big stimulus.

Education, Low Profile: This feels like a pretty simple federalism issue now. Far-right position is "abolish the D.o.E., get the federal government completely out of education." I'm actually not solid on what the left-wing positions are on this issue, since it's kind of complicated and manifold, so if anyone has any ideas how to fit charter schools, standardized testing, anti-standardized testing, big spending on public schools, etc. onto a one-dimensional line, I'd appreciate it.

Energy and Global Warming, Medium Profile?: Right-wing position, global warming is a hoax, let's keep consuming fossil fuels! Left-wing position, major carbon tax/GHG regulation/spending on renewables. In between, nuclear energy, cap-and-trade.

Financial Reform, High Profile?: The left-wing position on this one seems fairly clear, i.e. stringent regulations like Volcker, CFPB, etc. I think there are two right-wing positions, though, and I'm not sure how they fit together: one side was/is perfectly happy with "lemon socialism" bailouts, and passed them in the first place, while the other wants the true laissez-faire and let-them-fail.

Foreclosure Crisis, Low/Medium Profile: Simply put, right-wing pro-creditor, left-wing pro-debtor. Also, far-left position: "The rent is too damn high!," created specially for Jimmy McMillan.

Gay Rights, Medium Profile: Left-wing wants full, total equality, possibly as a constitutional right. Gradually drop various components (marriage per se, DADT, civil unions, hate crimes legislation, etc.) get dropped off moving to the right. I might keep something like "homosexuality is a sin" as the far-right position.

Government Reform, Low/Medium Profile: Left-wing is campaign finance reform, filibuster reform. Right-wing is earmarks, perhaps term limits though we've heard less about them recently.

Gun Control, Low Profile: Similar to the usual on this matter. Possibly Far-Right position about a Second Amendment rebellion in the near future, since some have talked about that?

Health Care Reform, High Profile: Left-wingers want to keep PPACA or expand it, to public option or single-payer; right-wingers want to pare it down or repeal it outright. Maybe include some conventional right-wing ideas like malpractice reform in the center-right zones?

Homeland Security, Medium Profile?: Left-wing wants no intrusions into privacy, criminal justice system for homeland security; right-wing wants the opposite.

Immigration, Medium Profile: Fairly standard and linear. Deportation and border security on the right, path-to-citizenship and/or amnesty on the left.

Investigations, Medium Profile?: Left-wing wants to investigate Bush Administration using Justice Department; right-wing wants to investigate Obama using Congress. Extremes want to indict Bush or impeach Obama. I'm open to the suggestion that this doesn't deserve to be in there, but I think it's a useful one. Also, I might be planning to have events related to it.

Iran & North Korea, High Profile?: Right-wing wants to invade, possibly both. Not entirely sure what the left-wing position is, but it's more friendly/diplomatic.

Tax Reform, Medium Profile: Liberals want more progressive income taxes etc., conservatives want either less progressive income taxes or shifting toward consumption taxes.

Trade, Low Profile?: Not sure exactly what to do with this. I know there are issues surrounding China and/or Germany running their big trade surpluses and China in particular manipulating its currency; there are also the same old divides about free trade vs. fair trade/protection.

Welfare State, Medium Profile: Liberals want to expand it (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), conservatives want to shrink it and/or abolish it at the margins.

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Russ Feingold has been named a possible challenger among several of the topic sheets that have popped up here. I have no idea what he plans to do now that his career as a Senator is ending, but if he is dissatisfied enough with Obama, he could run against him in the primaries. He has the grassroots support, is more popular among the Liberal faction of the Democratic Party, and has a strong level of integrity. Basically, this man is going to be as close to Eugene McCarthy as you are going to get, though possibly more eloquent.

From what I have read, Mark Warner, despite being within the Conservative Wing of the Democratic Party, does not have many qualms "currently" with Obama's Presidency. Doesn't mean that it will always remain that way, but as long as Barack keeps playing toward the center of the Democratic Party, and the situation is not catastrophic, Warner will likely sit it out until 2016; he won't have to face an incumbent President and the enviroment should be more favorable for the Democratic Party.

Afghanistan is going to become a MAJOR problem in your time frame if the withdrawal is followed through, and it is for this reason that I believe the bulk of our men are going to remain in Afghanistan by the time 2012 rolls around, rather than keeping to our timeline on withdrawal. Maybe an event series that keeps Democratic momentum on the issue low (Obama VERY LOW) to represent increasing casualties and public disapproval of the war? As it is, those that do support the war are typically not going to vote Democrat.

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My list of potential candidates is:


President Barack Obama of Illinois

Mr Alvin Greene of South Carolina

Mr Jimmy McMillan of New York

Former Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin

Former Governor and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean of Vermont (He hasn't been exactly over-the-moon with Obama's Presidency)

Mr. Michael Moore of Michigan (As above)


Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts

Former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska

Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia

Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota

Senator John Thune of South Dakota

Governor Rick Perry of Texas

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana

Former Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico

Congressman Ron Paul of Texas

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York

Mr Donald Trump of New York

Third Party Candidates:

Mr Ralph Nader of Connecticut

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York

Former Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota

Mr Lou Dobbs of New Jersey

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My take: Michael Moore doesn't want to be President, Dean and/or Feingold are both good challengers from the left though I doubt either of them will actually run (and they will *definitely* be off by default), Ron Paul is too old (like, he'll be 77) and Johnson's playing his part, same of Nader (he'll be 78). Huh, Trump is seriously considering running for President. Would he do so as a Republican? I don't want him anything other than off by default; he's too eccentric a possibility to throw into the mix. I'd almost prefer to keep all of the non-politicians out of the parties, to make it simpler. And since, in part, my idea in this scenario is to be a little bit realistic, I sort of want to err on the side of not including random wild-cards like Trump or Ventura.

Another problem is, for each hypothetical eccentric billionaire I want to include, do I need a whole new party? That seems kind of excessive.

Also, I seriously do want some help on making events work. I have some ideas, but every time I've tried to put in any events in my other scenarios, the whole game just crashes, instantly.

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Please, please add Chris Christie (R-NJ) as off-character.

And maybe add Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as off-character for the Dems, as well.

Just for the fun of it.

Any time schedule?

As for the primaries and delegates. Not yet. The Ohio Plan is considered by the GOP, but I don't think that any final conclusions have been drawn.

You could always just use the 2008 numbers and change them once the new ones are out.

And Wikipedia and 270towin.com have a projected after-census electoral map.

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Please, please add Chris Christie (R-NJ) as off-character.

And maybe add Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as off-character for the Dems, as well.

Just for the fun of it.

Any time schedule?

As for the primaries and delegates. Not yet. The Ohio Plan is considered by the GOP, but I don't think that any final conclusions have been drawn.

You could always just use the 2008 numbers and change them once the new ones are out.

And Wikipedia and 270towin.com have a projected after-census electoral map.

Actually the national committee rejected the Ohio plan. Click here to read about the scheduling rules they did adopt.

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I've thought of Stewart vs. Colbert, or even a Colbert v. Colbert "formidable opponent" strategy. The thing is, though, I want this to be a *serious* scenario, based on what it looks like the 2012 race will really be, at a fairly non-removed distance.

As for timeline, I am theoretically very busy indeed for the next couple of weeks, so I don't really know exactly.

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I expect the Federal Reserve to be a significant issue in the next election cycle. In 2008, only Ron Paul attempted to make the Fed into an issue. Then, the economic crisis began late in the general election that year, which many people have blamed on the Fed's policies. In 2009, the Fed obtained a much higher profile as over 300 members of the House endorsed Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed and Time Magazine declared Ben Bernanke (the Fed chairman) its "Man of the Year." Supporters of Bernanke believe that his first round of quantitative easing ("printing money" in large amounts) in December 2008 saved us from a 2nd Great Depression. However, Bernanke received record opposition to his reconfirmation, as his critics believe that his policies have only made things worse.

Recently, Bernanke's announcement of a 2nd round of quantitative easing (QE2) with the deliberate intent of creating inflation (arguably, we already have significant inflation, as anybody who has bought food or gas recently is aware of the higher prices for these items, effects which have nothing to do with "QE2"), which he believes will get the economy going, is very controversial. This is highly unpopular within the Tea Parties (Palin has repeatedly criticized the Federal Reserve), but is even being criticized by many relatively centrist Republicans. When QE2's inflation kicks in, probably late in 2011, Bernanke better hope that it turns the economy around, because if we have 10% (or worse) unemployment and inflation of 10% (or worse), the attacks on the Fed by the most radical elements of the Tea Party will resonate with ordinary Americans.

The "politicization" of the Fed will only increase during this presidential election cycle. Ron Paul will be the chairman of the domestic monetary policy subcommittee in the House. This subcommittee primarily deals with commemorative coins, but Congressman Paul intends to use it to further his goal of discrediting and abolishing the Federal Reserve.

On the Fed issue, the "far-left" position would be to abolish the Fed and have the Treasury print massive amounts of money. The more moderate left and the center would be pro-Fed (and, of course, alarmed at the recent "politicization" of this institution). The center-right position would be moderately skeptical of the Fed (against QE and pro-audit, but not strongly anti-Fed). The "far-right" position would be to abolish the Fed and adopt hard (gold/silver) money.

On foreign policy and "security" issues, there are more nuances to both sides. There are many on the right who are against the Afghan War (right-wing opposition to war is for different reasons than left-wing anti-war sentiment; while the left tends to be anti-war because the UN doesn't endorse the war effort and for other internationalist or pacifistic reasons, right-wing opponents of the wars tend to oppose them due to their opposition to internationalism and their belief that the wars do not make us safer). There are many on the right who favor reducing the defense budget (including Senator-elect Rand Paul and Senator Coburn). Likewise, the recent TSA scandal has been pushed almost entirely by the right (although the TSA is also opposed by the radical left, such as Ralph Nader). Most Democrats are supportive of the TSA and are ridiculing the opponents of the scanner machines, accusing them of being "prudes."

I personally believe that the anti-war candidate in 2012 will come from the ranks of the Republican Party. Either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson will run and will be the anti-war candidate while fusing opposition to war with the Tea Party movement. I think Palin will probably be the Republican nominee, but I think the 2nd most likely outcome will be the nomination of either Paul or Johnson (whichever runs). For some reason, I just can't see Mitt Romney as the nominee, although I guess Huckabee is probably the most likely nominee from the "RINO" wing of the Republican Party. If the economy is as bad as I think it could be in 2012, Obama will have as much chance of re-election as Herbert Hoover, no matter who the Republicans nominate.

Maybe I'm wrong in my predictions, but I did see the rise of the Tea Parties back in late 2008 when everybody thought that the Democrats would be in the majority for 40 years and Obama would be the most popular president ever. I've also had a fairly good track record on the economy, as I saw the crisis coming for a year or so before it happened and I thought that the stimulus, bailouts, and QE1 would fail to revive the economy.

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The Fed is way too wonky to be a big issue; 10% inflation is not happening, given that we are currently a hair's breadth away from deflation; Ron Paul will be 77; Gary Johnson disagrees with the Tea Party on a vast array of issues; as of a year ago (sorry, couldn't find any more recent polls that split it by party) 61% of Republicans favored Obama's escalation of Afghanistan and 61% of Democrats opposed it; Mike Huckabee is not a RINO; the liberals I listen to aren't particularly thrilled about the TSA, and treat it as a matter requiring serious deliberation while the right-wing slant, I believe, is to favor racial profiling; no one on the left wants to "abolish the Fed and print massive amounts of money;" and for what it's worth Paul Krugman also predicted that the stimulus, bailouts, and QE1 would fail to revive the economy, on the grounds that they were too small.

I will also add that, to the extent that some people commonly considered right-wing favor reducing the defense budget, that makes them moderates and/or gives them libertarian points. Traditionally militarism is a right-wing affair, and wanting to reduce the militarism in this country is a left-wing affair. Were I including Rand Paul, and if I had a separate issue for military spending (which I don't think I do), I would have no trouble putting him something like Center-Left on it.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm getting around to working on this again, some. I have some ideas for "events" that I want to include, but the problem is that I've never in my life successfully created an event without having the game crash around it. Can someone tell me how to do events properly, or what some common pitfalls are?

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I'm getting around to working on this again, some. I have some ideas for "events" that I want to include, but the problem is that I've never in my life successfully created an event without having the game crash around it. Can someone tell me how to do events properly, or what some common pitfalls are?

Also be sure not to add to many events, or they will refuse to trigger. I had created a system of events for a custom 2004 scenario so as to keep Bush from attaining his God status by the end of the primaries, but most simply refused to trigger. However, I know it was not a problem in the set up, since they would trigger at random, and different ones each run, even though they are identical and are set to trigger no matter what.

If you crash the game again through an event, post what the data for the event was here, and I'll look through it and tell you if there are any errors.

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...Traficant? Maybe, that's a possibility. And maybe have Ms. Palin off by default in the Tea Party (since we don't have the Lieberman option) and have Palin as the nominee give the party a massive boost in most states. (Well, to be honest, all states. Even in, say, Rhode Island or Vermont, Palin would do better than *Traficant*.)

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...Traficant? Maybe, that's a possibility. And maybe have Ms. Palin off by default in the Tea Party (since we don't have the Lieberman option) and have Palin as the nominee give the party a massive boost in most states. (Well, to be honest, all states. Even in, say, Rhode Island or Vermont, Palin would do better than *Traficant*.)

He does Tea Parties and he got 20% of the vote in his recent house run, of course, he'd be extremely weak, but that'll be the state of the tea party as soon as the GOP accepts that they are a liability.

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Ron Paul (R?-TX) anyone?

Ron Paul will be 77 in 2012, which is not actually too old to make a gadfly campaign but in any event I think he'll be busy having actual power as the Monetary Policy Subcommittee chair. Also, Gary Johnson's running, and he'll be running as a genuine libertarian, so I've got him in the Paul niche.

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Some notes on my part:

Jimmy McMillan is now running as a Republican. God knows why, but something about taking on a President in the Primaries turned him away from that route.

Alan Grayson, former Democratic Representative from Florida, is considering challenging Obama for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination. Could easily become the Left's Dissenting candidate. I imagine him doing no better than Patrick Buchanan; no way he manages to upset the President, but he does have some respectable showings for one challenging a sitting President.

Donald Trump has made it quite clear through unofficial channels he is going to run for the Republican nomination for President. He is and will be polling low, at least initially. However, he does have plenty of cash on his person, and can advertise just as well as any other one of the major candidates. Execution of his campaign however is what is up in the air.

Herman Cain is very likely to be running for President. Basically, he is what Alan Keyes wanted to be, though Cain does not have any political experience whatsoever; Keyes at least ran for public office. Anyway, from what I hear, he may be the Huckabee of 2012, performing better than expecting, but not really coming close to actually claiming the nomination.

Michele Bachmann is making some noise, indicating she may run for the Republican nomination for President. This creates a problem in that both Sarah Palin and Bachmann appeal to the same group of voters, among other things.

Rick Santorum is likely to run. He certainly has been one of the more active campaigners, and has visited the upcoming primary states more than any of the other prospective candidates.

Rick Perry won't run. He has taken a Shermanesque stance, though he does not have to worry about a massive draft effort.

Michael Huckabee is an interesting case. There is about a fifty fifty chance that he will enter the primaries. He may be polling the best among the Republican candidates against Brarack Obama, but he suffers from regionalism and other major candidacies. For the sake of the scenario, I would say that he does not run, until further information comes out proving otherwise. Haley Barbour and Cain will then fight over Huckabee's supporters.

Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki both have made some noise about Presidential runs, but they likely will do no better than Rudy did in 2008, at best.

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is planning on running. He likely won't get anywhere, but he definitely has a base, however small.

Jon Huntsman is also interesting. While like Donald Trump he would initially poll low, actually maybe even lower, he has good relations with the business community, meaning he can bring in a lot of money for his candidacy. However, I don't think he will actually run. Still, a good possible off candidate.

Joe Arpaio would make a wonderful joke candidacy.

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