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Presidential polls: NC
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: IN IA NC

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News from the Votemaster

Happy 236th Birthday America

Half the Population Does Not Know Supreme Court Approved the ACA

A new Pew poll shows that 55% of the public knows the Supreme Court approved the ACA last week, 30% don't know what it did, and 15% say the Court rejected the law. Considering how much publicity it has had, this finding is astounding (not really) and shows how poorly informed Americans are about major national issues. It is not surprising then that politicians can make up stuff out of thin air (e.g. "death panels") and convince large numbers of voters that it is true. In some cases one can blame the media for not casting enough light on important matters (see next story) but in this case there was wall-to-wall coverage. But if people don't watch the evening news, read a newspaper, or follow the extensive discussion on line, there is not much anyone can do about. How about a mandate--no, make that a tax--to make people vote (like in Australia)? Maybe they would pay more attention then.

Congressional Mandates Go Back over 200 Years

Although it is almost 3 months old now, an article by a Harvard Law professor, Einer Elhauge, about early congressional mandates may be of interest to people who missed it. In 1790, the first Congress mandated that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. (The idea was revived by Richard Nixon in the form of a general employer mandate to provide health insurance for employees, but it didn't pass.) Then in 1792, Congress, with 17 framers of the Constitution as members, passed a mandate requiring that all able-bodied men buy a gun. President Washington signed the bill. In 1798, Congress realized that its 1790 employer mandate didn't cover hospital stays, so it mandated that individual seamen buy their own hospital insurance. The bill was signed by President John Adams.

If Congress can order seamen to buy hospital insurance, can it not order teachers or short-order cooks or undertakers to do so? Arguments that the framers of the Constitution were against individual mandates are clearly untrue: some of them actually voted for one or more and specifically for a health insurance mandate. Furthermore, Presidents Washington and Adams signed bills with mandates that they could have vetoed. It is surprising that although independent authorities have verified Elhauge's story, it has gotten so little publicity although it was mentioned on the Smithsonian Institution's Website last week.

Vacation as Campaigning

Bill Clinton once famously had a poll conducted to see where he should vacation. The voters don't mind candidates taking off Independence Day or a week in August, but the vacation should demonstrate how the candidate is Everyman. Of course the actual candidates, nearly all of whom are quite wealthy, really don't want to hang out on Grandpa's farm (assuming they have a Grandpa and he has a farm), so there is tension between doing something they really want to do and the public perception of it. God help any candidate who wants to visit Paris and spend his time at the Louvre. Clinton's poll told him to go to Wyoming and be photographed riding a horse, so he dutifully did it.

The past three years President Obama has spent his vacation on Martha's Vineyard but this year he is staying in Washington working. He probably thinks that going to such an upscale place during such bad economic times would look bad. And Wyoming is a bright red state with only three electoral votes, so going horseback riding there seems pointless. Colorado is a horse-rich swing state with 9 electoral votes, but vacationing there while so many people are losing their houses to wildfires might seem callous. Picking a vacation spot when the whole country is watching you is tough. Maybe the Obamas could at least spend a day at a nice beach in Virginia, another swing state, with 13 electoral votes.

In contrast, Mitt Romney is vacationing for all it is worth in New Hampshire, a swing state where he owns a house. The national press corps was invited to take pictures of him eating an ice cream (soft ice, vanilla) with his grandchildren, jet skiing, etc. Who knows which flavor ice cream Romney actually prefers, but his aides no doubt told him that Americans prefer vanilla by 3 to 1 over chocolate. Given that voters tend to go for the candidate they like the best, regardless of his positions on the issues, it is essential that Romney improve his likeability factor, and being photographed eating vanilla ice cream with little kids is probably worth more than 100 speeches on economic policy.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
North Carolina 45% 50%   Jun 29 Jul 01 SurveyUSA