Monday, January 30, 2017

Whither or Wither White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?

The following op-ed first appeared at CNN Opinion on January 25, 2017 

After a brutal first several days for the Trump administration, one has to ask: where was the White House Chief of Staff? Traditionally, the chief of staff performs a number of valuable roles for a president, from advising him on policy and politics to representing him to the media and Congress to making sure the administrative and policy processes run efficiently. But during this difficult first week for the Trump White House, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has been largely AWOL.

Continue reading...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Veepstakes: The Case for Sherrod Brown

The presidential campaign season has reached a point where each of the party nominees need consider their most important decision of the entire campaign: whom to choose as their running mate for a position that is one heartbeat away from the presidency. Potential names are being floated currently in the media and personal info is being vetted by the campaigns. Both nominees will announce their running mates at or before their respective conventions in July. For a number of reasons, Secretary Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, should strongly consider tapping Sherrod Brown, the senior Senator from Ohio. Here’s why.


1. Geography. The Electoral College works in a different manner than a typical election decided by popular vote. Rather, the general presidential election campaign is waged state-by-state in a dozen or less battleground states in an effort to win at least 270 total electoral votes. And no battleground state is more important than Ohio. Simply put, because of the electoral math, it is nearly impossible to win the White House without carrying Ohio. A Republican candidate has never done so; a Democrat hasn’t achieved that since 1960. Even though there is evidence that a running mate does not help carry their home state in the November election, it is possible that in a close election they could make a difference. Having won two elections for Secretary of State, as well as two U.S. Senate elections, Sherrod Brown has proven throughout his career that he is able to run an effective statewide campaign in Ohio.

2. Ideological-Counterbalancing. Secretary Clinton is disliked and distrusted by many in the progressive base who support her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, and who view her as a conservative. Many Sanders’ supporters have indicated through polling and an unrelenting social media campaign that they will not vote for Clinton in the general election. Picking Sherrod Brown as running mate could help salve the wounds laid bare during a rough and tumble primary campaign. Despite being a loyal party insider, Brown is well-known, well-respected, and long supported by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. He also has high name recognition, not only in Ohio, but also in the country among progressives as he is a frequent guest on MSNBC. Besides being popular with progressives, Brown is beloved by the blue collar and union crowd—a demographic presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has made inroads with during the primary season.

3. Background. Does the person being considered as running mate have the necessary experience, intelligence, and temperament to be an effective president from Day 1? This is the most important question any presidential nominee should ask but often they and the media fail to ask it. By virtue of his educational background, his years spent in both state and federal elected office, and his decades spent under the glare of the klieg lights on the national stage, Sherrod Brown is well-prepared to be president. With eight years in the Ohio legislature, eight years as Ohio Secretary of State, fourteen years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and nine years and counting in the U.S. Senate with membership on some of that institutions most influential committees, Brown’s credentials far surpass that of most recent presidents, vice presidents, and potential VPs being discussed in the 2016 election cycle.

For all of these reasons, Sherrod Brown would be a stellar pick for vice presidential running mate. This choice does not come without costs, however. Brown has repeatedly and publicly declared he does not have vice presidential aspirations and wants to remain in the Senate. Also, were the Clinton-Brown ticket to be successful in November, Brown would have to vacate his Senate seat by January 20 thus almost assuredly ceding the seat to a Republican who would be appointed by Governor John Kasich. However, surrendering one Senate seat to the Republican Party would be worth it for Democrats if it means that Brown could help Clinton carry Ohio and, more importantly, a highly-qualified individual would be serving as vice president. Protestations aside, I suspect that if asked, Sherrod Brown would do what he has always done during his long career in public service—serve the people of Ohio and the country as a whole and say yes.

This op-ed originally ran on on May 13, 2016, and in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can access the original here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fmr US Rep. Steve LaTourette Spends a Day at The University of Akron

On April 22, Former United States Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH) spent the day at The University of Akron. A nine-term Congressman who represented a district in Northeast Ohio, LaTourette is president of the Washington-based McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies and more importantly heads up the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group which supports mainstream Republican candidates and office-holders, particularly against Tea Party and far-right primary challenges.

LaTourette spent the entire day at Akron, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Akron Press Club and co-sponsored by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and the new campus organization No Labels of Akron. After that, he spoke to undergraduate and graduate students in my American National Politics Seminar and later that evening visited with Dr. John Green's and Jerry Austin's Campaign Battleground class.

LaTourette is a breath of fresh air--no bullet points and candor at all times.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ohio, the Battleground States, and Candidate Visits During the 2012 Presidential Election

Here is some travel data from the 2012 presidential election. As you can see, Ohio led the way in combined candidate travel, followed by Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Colorado.

Battleground state travel for 2012:

Obama Biden Obama-Biden Total Romney Ryan Romney-Ryan Total Campaigns Combined
CO 15 1 16 7 8 15 31
FL 15 4 19 13 9 22 41
IA 12 3 15 11 7 18 33
MI 2 0 2 2 1 3 5
MN 1 0 1 0 1 1 2
NV 10 1 11 5 4 9 20
NH 7 1 8 6 2 8 16
NM 1 0 1 1 0 1 2
NC 5 1 6 3 0 3 9
OH 21 3 24 15 16 31 55
PA 2 0 2 4 2 6 8
VA 21 3 24 11 9 20 44
WI 8 3 11 3 3 6 17

First term travel by POTUS to Ohio has steadily increased since the early 1980s:

Reagan 9
Bush 41 18
Clinton 18
Bush 43 30
Obama 37

Monday, January 6, 2014

White House Chiefs of Staff, 1969-2014

Below is a list of modern White House Chiefs of Staff (1969-2014) compiled for a book I am co-authoring on the topic.

Chief of Staff          Tenure    President     Party
H.R. Haldeman           1969-7    Nixon         Republican
Alexander M. Haig, Jr.  1973-74   Nixon         Republican
Donald H. Rumsfeld      1974-75   Ford          Republican
Richard M. Cheney       1975-77   Ford          Republican
Hamilton Jordan         1979-80   Carter        Democratic
Jack H. Watson, Jr.     1980-81   Carter        Democratic
James A. Baker III      1981-85   Reagan        Republican
Donald T. Regan         1985-87   Reagan        Republican
Howard H. Baker, Jr.    1987-88   Reagan        Republican
Kenneth M. Duberstein   1988-89   Reagan        Republican
John H. Sununu          1989-91   G.H.W. Bush   Republican
Samuel K. Skinner       1991-92   G.H.W. Bush   Republican
James A. Baker III      1992-93   G.H.W. Bush   Republican
Thomas F. McLarty III   1993-94   Clinton       Democratic
Leon E. Panetta         1994-97   Clinton       Democratic
Erskine B. Bowles       1997-98   Clinton       Democratic
John D. Podesta         1998-01   Clinton       Democratic
Andrew H. Card, Jr.     2001-06   G.W. Bush     Republican
Joshua B. Bolten        2006-09   G.W. Bush     Republican
Rahm I. Emanuel*        2009-10   Obama         Democratic
William M. Daley        2011-12   Obama         Democratic
Jacob J. Lew            2012-13   Obama         Democratic
Denis R. McDonough      2013-p    Obama         Democratic

* After Emanuel left his post to run for mayor of Chicago, Senior Adviser Peter M. Rouse served as interim chief of staff from October 1, 2010, to January 13, 2011.

White House Deputy Chiefs of Staff, 1981-2013

Below is a list of individuals who have served as deputy chief of staff in the White House from 1981-2013. I compiled this information for the book I am co-authoring about the White House Chief of Staff and Office of Chief of Staff. This chart does not exist elsewhere as far as I know.

Chief of Staff
Deputy Chiefs of Staff[1]
Ronald W. Reagan
James A. Baker III
Michael K. Deaver [01/20/81-05/10/85]

Donald T. Regan
Michael K. Deaver [01/20/81-05/10/85]
W. Dennis Thomas [07/15/85-05/87][2]

Howard H. Baker, Jr.
Kenneth M. Duberstein [03/23/87-07/01/88]

Kenneth M. Duberstein
M.B. Oglesby, Jr. [07/05/88-01/20/89]
George H.W. Bush
John H. Sununu
Andrew H. Card, Jr. [01/20/89-02/03/92][3]
James W. Cicconi [01/89-01/91][4]

Samuel K. Skinner
Andrew H. Card, Jr. [01/20/89-02/03/92]
William Henson Moore, III [02/03/92-08/23/92]

James A. Baker III
Robert B. Zoellick [08/23/92-01/20/93]
William J Clinton
Thomas F. McLarty III
Mark D. Gearan [01/20/93-05/93]
Roy M. Neel [05/93-11/93]
Philip Lader [12/93-10/03/94]
Harold M. Ickes [01/03/94-01/20/97]

Leon E. Panetta
Harold M. Ickes (Policy and Political Affairs) [01/03/94-01/20/97]
Philip Lader [12/93-10/03/94]
Erskine B. Bowles (White House Operations) [10/03/94-01/11/96]
Evelyn S. Lieberman (White House Operations) [01/11/96-12/96]

Erskine B. Bowles
Sylvia M. Mathews [01/97-05/98]
Maria Echaveste [05/29/98-01/20/01]
John D. Podesta [01/97-10/20/98]

John D. Podesta
Maria Echaveste [05/29/98-01/20/01]
Stephen J. Ricchetti [11/98-01/20/01]
George W. Bush
Andrew H. Card, Jr.
Joseph W. Hagin (Operations) [01/20/01-07/20/08]
Joshua B. Bolten (Policy) [01/20/01-06/26/03]
Harriet E. Miers (Policy) [06/27/03-02/03/05]
Karl C. Rove (Policy) [02/03/05-08/31/07]

Joshua B. Bolten
Joseph W. Hagin (Operations) [01/20/01-07/20/08]
Blake L. Gottesman (Operations) [07/20/08-01/20/09]
Karl C. Rove (Planning) [02/03/05-08/31/07]
Joel D. Kaplan (Policy) [04/19/06-01/20/09]
Barack H. Obama
Rahm I. Emanuel
James A. Messina (Operations) [01/20/09-01/26/11]
Mona K. Sutphen (Policy) [01/20/09-01/26/11]

William M. Daley
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-present]
Nancy-Anne DeParle (Policy) [01/27/11-01/25/13]

Jacob J. Lew
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-present]
Nancy-Anne DeParle (Policy) [01/27/11-01/25/13]

Denis R. McDonough
Alyssa Mastromonaco (Operations) [01/27/11-present]
Rob Nabors (Policy) [01/25/13-present]
Mark B. Childress (Planning) [2012-present]

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, staffers had the formal title “deputy chief of staff.”
[2] Official title was “Assistant to the President.”
[3] Official title was “Deputy to the Chief of Staff.”
[4] Official title was “Deputy to the Chief of Staff.”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gerrymandering Future Presidential Elections

Every decade in years ending in zero, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives is reapportioned to account for population shifts within the country. As part of that process, many states choose, and some are forced, to redraw or redistrict the legislative lines of both the state and U.S. congressional districts. If this process proceeds in a state dominated by one party and not subject to a non-partisan commission, it usually results in obvious and exaggerated partisan gerrymandering—lines drawn to benefit one political party at the expense of the other. This process is considered constitutional as long as it does not harm the interests of minority or ethnic groupings.

Such was the case in Ohio, a state carried by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and a state where 38% of voters in 2012 identified as Democrats (compared to 31% identifying as Republican) according to 2012 exit polls. Because of the gerrymandered congressional redistricting process carried out by the Ohio Republican Party in the Buckeye State in 2011, 12 of Ohio’s 16 (or 75%) U.S. congressional districts are held by Republicans representing relatively safe districts. Ohio voters have little chance to affect the outcome of congressional elections during the general election season. Most observers know, before the election even occurs, which party will win which congressional district. Regardless of which party benefits from gerrymandering, such a situation in a swing state like Ohio is an abomination. Ohio is not alone and a number of states were gerrymandered in an extreme fashion in 2011 (including Illinois which had Democrats drawing the lines).

As harmful to representative democracy as gerrymandering of legislative districts is, a new movement to essentially gerrymander future presidential elections is beginning. In a number of swing states in which the state legislature and gubernatorial office is controlled by the GOP, efforts are beginning to change the way electoral votes would be won and accounted for. In all states except Maine and Nebraska, electoral votes are currently awarded in a winner-take-all format—i.e., whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote in a particular state wins all the electoral votes. However, in a number of battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin there have been rumblings from GOP elected and election officials that perhaps it is time to alter that accounting method. In Virginia, a full-fledged effort is underway. Why? Because these swing states, despite their swing state status, have been trending towards the Democratic Party for a number of years and all were won by Obama in the last two elections. By shifting the awarding of electoral votes from a winner-take-all format to one based on the winner of gerrymandered congressional districts, a state party could alter the outcome of a presidential election in that state and potentially change the outcome of the presidential election in the country.

Using Ohio as an example, had such a congressional district system been in place for 2012, President Obama would have received just six of Ohio’s eighteen total electoral votes—he carried the four Democratic districts and would have received two more electoral votes (representing Ohio’s two senate seats) for carrying the whole state. Add up potential electoral vote losses in other swing states for Obama and it is a matter of basic arithmetic that the 2012 electoral vote total would have been much closer than the 332-206 result. In fact, Huffington Post crunched the numbers for the entire country. In 2012, had all states utilized the congressional district method currently used by Maine and Nebraska, the electoral vote result would have been: Obama 265 - Romney 273. This despite the fact that Obama would have won a clear popular vote victory. 

Will this effort to gerrymander the presidential election succeed? With media attention and increased public awareness, such schemes to game future presidential elections will likely fail. But it is unclear whether this issue will receive the attention it deserves over the next three years to stave off a successful effort.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Politico's Arena

Well I gotta say I was shocked when I received the email (see below) authored by Jon Harris and Jim VandeHei telling me that now "was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest." After all, Politico Arena contributor's like myself do not get compensated (at least I didn't) and Arena was popular enough this election season alone to account for "12 million page views" according to Politico.

So why kill it? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Politico "will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality." But wasn't the purpose of the Arena to allow for the exchange of opinion and ideas? Perhaps we'll never know why Politico decided to go in this direction but I suspect at some point we'll figure it out. I hope something comparable fills the void or that Politico will rethink their decision.

Here is the unedited email:

A Note to Arena Contributors –

We began the Arena feature – conceived to be a kind of rolling, real-time op-ed page – just over four years ago, in the final two months of the 2008 campaign.

Over these four years Arena has hosted – thanks to the intelligence and good will of contributors – thousands of constructive, serious, provocative and civil debates on issues facing Washington and the nation. Your submissions often made news--picked up  by reporters and columnists at other publications.

Arena's launch reflected a spirit of innovation at our young publication – still only six years old. That spirit, which continues to guide us, pushes us to a certain healthy restlessness. As we contemplated the publication's future in the wake of the recent election, POLITICO editors decided it is time to think more about the role of outside opinion on our site and how to present it to maximum impact. In that light, it seemed to us that now was a good time to put the Arena feature to rest.

We are proud of its content – and the 12 million page views Arena generated in just this last presidential campaign – and want to push forward with something new before the feature becomes familiar and loses any edge.

In the months ahead, our editors, led by POLITICO Editor-at-Large Bill Nichols, will be discussing different ways that outside opinion journalism can fit creatively in a site that remains, in terms of the work of our own editors and reporters, steadfastly committed to ideological neutrality.

In addition to the thanks we give to all you as contributors, we'd like to thank the three terrifically smart and conscientious people who have served as Arena moderators these past four years – Fred Barbash, David Mark, and Erika Lovley.

We look forward to enlisting you in more conversations and debates about issues of the day on POLITICO in our post-Arena future.

With gratitude,

John Harris
Jim VandeHei

Friday, November 30, 2012

From Congress to My Classroom: Zack Space, Part II

In the summer of 2011, former U.S. Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) visited my American Congress and Presidency classes. Elected in the Democratic wave of 2006, Space represented Ohio's 18th congressional district until his defeat in the Republican wave election of 2010. Today, he visited with my upper-level students (mostly majors) currently enrolled in those courses plus students taking my mostly freshman-level Government & Politics in the U.S. course.

As was the situation last year, the students were treated to a display of knowledge, candor, honesty, and humor that is rare for guest speakers, particularly the cautious crowd of current and former members of Congress. All this despite the fact that he had a long drive from Dover early in the morning to make it to my 8:50 Congress class. And unlike some soon-to-be-retiring members of Congress, no speaking fee was required to get him to discuss such varied topics as the fiscal cliff, gerrymandering, campaign finance, and the recent election. Many thanks to Mr. Space for taking a huge chunk out of his day to come visit with my students at The University of Akron.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Obama-Romney Post-Election Meeting: No Bromance Expected

Politico Arena Topic: A Romney-Obama Friendship?

The meeting between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama is the political equivalent of two head coaches of rival sports teams shaking hands after the conclusion of a heated game. Just like the Yankees and Red Sox or Packers and Bears, the handshake means nothing except to signify that at the end of the contest, the combatants can be somewhat civil towards each other but the rivalry will continue.

Unlike John McCain who continued in his capacity as a U.S. Senator following his 2008 defeat, Mitt Romney has no position in government and thus will have absolutely no impact on policy or politics. Democrats won’t need to listen to him and Republicans won’t want to.

I also do not foresee Obama and Romney becoming bosom buddies down the road as Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton did. The 2012 election was a particularly bitter contest (not that all presidential elections aren’t tough) and both candidates seemed to have a high level of disdain for one another. In the end, the meeting will make for a nice photo-op but will disappear quickly from the public consciousness as focus will turn back to the fiscal cliff Washington is staring at through the windshield.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dan Coffey: The Myth of the Ohio Bellwether County

My colleague, Professor Dan Coffey, the primary author of Buckeye Battleground, has written a highly-relevant post that should be of much interest as we enter the final few days of the 2012 presidential election. It is titled "The Myth of the Ohio Bellwether County."

Coffey observes that: "One of the questions that I often get is what counties are the most important bellwethers for Ohio. Many pundits claim that these counties can predict the outcome of the national election and so observers should keep a close eye on them (see here or here). Generally, I point out that this notion is largely a myth and...go through some of the reasons these “bellwether” counties are competitive, but why the impact of these counties tends not to mean that much in helping to understand the presidential race in Ohio."

Instead Coffey argues observers should focus on regions: "it is not really useful to think of individual counties. Rather counties are within regions and regional differences do tell us something important, a point which me and my co-authors make in covering the Five Ohios in our book Buckeye BattlegroundIndividual counties are often driven by the same sets of forces, and aggregating counties into regions provides a better sense of the whole picture.

Coffey's post is located here: "The Myth of the Ohio Bellwether County."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The "War on Women," the Gender Gap, and the 2012 Election

Politico Arena Topic: Will Mitt be damaged by Mourdock's rape comment?

Governor Mitt Romney was already in a bind over his “binders full of women” comment after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University. The gap that he had seemingly been closing among women in this country started to widen after that slip-up. But the latest volley in the “war on women” could blow that gap wide open.

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comment on October 23 in a debate that rape is “something that God intended to happen” is as abhorrent and ridiculous a statement as one could utter and just the latest controversial comment on women that Republicans have offered up (hey Indiana Republicans—you sure you don’t want to bring back Senator Richard Lugar, a person as intelligent and respected as any person currently serving in Congress?).

If Mourdock’s comments were an isolated incident, it may not have had an impact. But starting with Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s comments this spring that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in front of Congress on the topic of contraception, was a “slut” and “prostitute,” it’s been a pretty tough year for the GOP on women’s issues.

Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comment in August that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” has put the modern Republican Party’s views on abortion and women firmly under the media microscope and at the center of the 2012 presidential campaign. Akin has since compared his female opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, to a dog at a recent fundraiser, and subsequently news has broken that he had been arrested several times in the past at the scene of abortion protests.

And Akin and Mourdock are not isolated cases. U.S. Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman from Illinois running for reelection in a very tight race, said in a recent debate that he was against all abortions without exception, even when the mother’s life was at stake because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance….There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

So how does Governor Romney repair the damage? After all, Governor Romney enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock in his senate bid. I don’t think he can at this point. His only hope is that his advantage among men is bigger than his gap among women, a prospect that is highly unlikely.

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