Guest Post by Experienced Washington Hand
Neil Offen would qualify as an “experienced Washington hand.” He was Secretary General of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations and CEO of the Direct Selling Association until he retired in 2011. In those roles he looked after his members’ interests in Washington.
He now serves as a board member of Nu Skin Enterprises and Christel House International.
He has more than 40 years experience in Washington, which more than qualifies him to make the observations that he has kindly permitted me to share with you.
We have also been friends for several years. The rest of this article is his take on the coming election.
Many of you, especially those of you abroad, have asked me on a number of occasions for my assessment of the press coverage of the election and my prognostication for the results in November.
The following are my off the top of my head opinions.
1. Traditionally, US presidential campaigns become the focus of the electorate after our Labor Day holiday, a day that signals the end of our summer vacation period. Folks, except for those of us who are political news junkies, are too busy with summertime activities and vacations to bother to focus on news, including political items…except for the convention shows, which reportedly draw 8%-10% of the population. Polls now are relevant primarily for fundraising and strategy purposes. For example, if they meant more than that at this stage both McCain and Romney would have been elected president.
2. As to how people get their news, in these days of the 7/24 news cycles, most Americans gravitate to the news sources that reflect their predispositions, e.g., conservatives are drawn to Fox News, liberals to NBC and MSNBC. CNN is considered left of center in its orientation and coverage. On radio, the talk show jocks, who are mostly conservatives or worse, serve up opinions as news. NPR is considered left wing and for elitists.
3. There are very few newspapers that do true, objective journalism and have reputations for it. Except for a few papers in major cities, local newspapers are generally an embarrassment, using the AP for a few national news stories. Nationally you have the Post, the Times (our national paper of substance) and then USAToday and the Wall Street Journal (an excellent national paper with the newsroom truly separated from its editorial staff).
4. Most newspapers and news magazines are in financial distress. Even the flagships like the Washington Post (saved by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame) and the New York Times are having financial difficulties. Advertising has been on the decline for years. The ability of newspapers to have sound staffs and resources to conduct in-depth research or investigative journalism has been eviscerated to a very shameful degree.
5. Television news is still dominated from the number of viewers point of view by the four major broadcast networks with the big three nightly news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC, the major sources of information for the public. Not sure how Fox stacks up in the ratings.
6. Twitter, social media and the other Internet communications vehicles are a bit unknown to me re their political impacts. My daughter is worried about Trump’s huge Twitter following, millions more than Hillary has. I responded to her asking aren’t these mostly young people and, if so, will they vote in November? Also, wouldn’t many of them be on his twitter network more for its entertainment value rather than for solid information? I just don’t know enough about this communications vehicle and it does concern me. I do know that young people have a bad record of voter turnout in this country but who can say this time around. I worry that Bernie’s people will sit out November 8, perhaps costing millions of votes that otherwise might have been Hillary’s.
7. Finally, our president and vice president are elected by our Electoral College, which consists of the votes of our 50 states and the District of Columbia. There are 538 electors, based on the number of Representatives and Senators in Congress in each state plus three votes for D.C. With the exception of two states (Maine and Nebraska), it is winner take all in each state based on the popular vote. Having said that, most states are overwhelming red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) in every presidential election. Consequently, only a few states are normally in play (called battleground states) and are critical for a candidate to win. This election, I have grouped the states in play in the order of importance as I see it. They are Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, followed by North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado and then Wisconsin and Nevada. Others perhaps in play might be Iowa and Minnesota. The candidates will be focused on the first four and the next three. The states not mentioned will be generally ignored, though Trump might try to steal NY from Democratic-Hillary grasp. I have trouble believing that Trump can win Florida, Virginia and Ohio (the latter being absolutely crucial for Trump to win).
As I have said numerous times, I believe Trump will self-destruct, which he now seems to be doing. I truly believe he has clinical mental problems. While I do not think many Republicans will vote for Hillary, I believe that some will vote Libertarian or not vote at all. I also fear that many, if not most, Bernie supporters will stay home and not vote. Latest talk in DC today is whether Trump might eventually drop out (unheard of but this is a unique campaign). Mainstream Republicans are beside themselves in frustration and anger. Mainstream news media outlets are all over the Donald. Republican Party leaders are beginning to condemn him. Veterans groups as well. Everyone has a theory as to how this could happen, none of which reflect kindly on the Republican Party.
Last thought: Dems take the Senate and some gains in the House but not enough to take back control (due to gerrymandering and campaign financing). In any event, Washington will continue to be fairly dysfunctional due to our system of checks and balances, which I sincerely thank our founding fathers for concocting!
Hope the above proved interesting. Got to get back to CNN and my political incoming emails.
Warm regards. Neil