Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque du Soleil productions never cease to amaze and the company always finds a way to astound its audiences, no matter how many productions one sees.  A similarly-named company, “Cirque Productions,” creates competitive shows and does a good job with “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

For those of us spoiled by the big tent and large arena events of Cirque du Soleil (including both traveling and permanent shows), the question for a relatively smaller-scale indoor production limited by the stage size of even a large venue is, “How much dazzling can Cirque Productions do with heights limited to 40 feet and lengths limited to 100 feet?” — which is the case for the beautiful Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.  It turns out the production company can do a lot.

Relying on a constant stream of multiple levels of activity, “Holidaze” never stops — with one act seamlessly flowing into another.  And, as expected, some of the feats performed by the cast are as extraordinary as even a seasoned Cirque audience expects them to be.

The physicality of Cirque Productions is ever-present in “Holidaze” but the show uses singing performances to tightly weave together its stories.  There are ample interactions with the audience to make everyone feel they are as close to the production as one can be.  And the individual “dreams,” themselves, can be riveting at times.

Though Cirque audience veterans expect extraordinary feats of physicality — and “Holidaze” delivers — some of the most entertaining moments are unexpected.  One, in particular, does not involve typical Cirque out-of-this-world acrobatics; rather the audience is totally mesmerized when they watch a series of costume changes on stage which seem absolutely impossible to achieve in the seconds the performers are given.  It is one of the most amazing feats seen on a stage.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is a production which no one in the family should miss.  If you see only one holiday production this year, “Holidaze” should be the only one on your list.

Tickets are available through Sunday, December 22nd, at www.DenverCenter.org or 303-893-4100.  Get them before they all disappear just like Cirque magic

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He has been involved in the arts for many years, including serving as the President of the Nancy Spanier Dance Theatre of Colorado, a member of the Boulder Philharmonic Board of Directors, and a cabinet member of the Macky Auditorium Renovation Fundraising Campaign for the University of Colorado.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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The Spider-Web: Why The Obamacare Site Won’t Be Done On Time

[NOTE: This column originally was written on November 1, 2013 --- a month before the HealthCare.Gov Website was scheduled to be fixed.]

The biggest mistake the Obama Administration made when promising the government’s health care Website would be fixed by the end of November was making that promise.  In a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach, the Administration failed to take the time to assess what actually needed to be done to make the site work.

Obama’s decision to bring in some of the nation’s top computer talent to fix the Website would have been a brilliant move had it been made when the planning for the system began.  Those with experience in the high technology world have seen the misery which occurs when a product’s design is seriously flawed and needs to be “fixed.”  The cost of major fixes after release of a product can be ten times the cost of fixing them during the design stage.

In this case, the complexity of the effort appears to never have been totally appreciated by the Administration’s non-technical decision-makers. The biggest challenge was the new system needed to connect and interact with numerous, diverse, and often incompatible existing systems such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Internal Revenue Service, et cetera. This was similar to bringing people together to work as a team, each of whom spoke a different language and none of whom knew a language other than their own.

This lack of appreciation for the new system’s complexity was magnified by (a) the failure to properly test the new system and (b) the decision to require visitors to create an account prior to being able to see the Health Exchange’s offerings.

The failure to properly test the new system was inexcusable.  That testing should have occurred more than half a year ago so there would have been time to make corrections.  Instead it was only partially done and even that was at the last minute.  Problems were identified with too little time to fix them before the system went “live.”  Other problems went unidentified until the public began to use the system.  This demonstrated an extraordinary degree of incompetence by almost everyone involved — from the top down.

Just as irrational was the decision to require visitors create an account in order just to see what was available.  This countered the entire culture of shopping in America.  Online consumers always have been able to view goods and see prices to determine their level of interest before providing any information.  Retailers and other sellers understand a key principle in marketing — “Make it as easy as possible to buy our product or service.”  The Administration, by making consumers work harder, put up a barrier which discouraged people from even exploring what was available.

By demanding highly confidential data, the Administration drove people away.  Given the lack of trust in Government, magnified by revelations of Government abuse of private information, many citizens do not want to share their private information just to window shop.  The Government’s failure to recognize this demonstrated how out-of-touch it was with the American people.

The problems with the new system discouraged those who logged on from completing the process.  As word rapidly spread how broken the system was, others did not even bother to try.  Failing to recognize how forcing users to spend an excessive amount of time on the system would discourage participants, the Government again erred egregiously.

Shopping should be simple.  Users should have the choice of plugging in their income before they shop so they can see what the actual cost of a plan is going to be.  And it should be stated upfront whether the user should enter Adjusted Gross Income or Taxable Income — which is not stated initially (yet another design failure).  Users should be able to view all the plans at once but cannot today.

This begs the question that most plans are more expensive and that, too, discourages people from signing up at all.  This will create further problems for Obamacare if as millions of healthy people — needed to subsidize those with greater medical needs — abandon the health care system.

The high tech geniuses who looked at the problem probably threw up their hands and recommended the Administration start all over but this could entail allowing the current system to limp along for many months while its replacement is built.  Maybe on November 30th the Website will work smoothly but my guess is — no matter what the Administration does — HealthCare.Gov likely will be a mess for months to come.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  As president of a software company, he managed the conversion of over 3 million lines of computer code for a complex statistical software product and was president of an international computers’ users group.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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A Teachable Moment: The Failure Of Amendment 66

In a stunning electoral defeat, Amendment 66 — representing a much-needed re-writing of the byzantine Colorado Finance Act — went down in flames despite seeming to have everything on its side.

Its supporters amassed an extraordinary eight-figure war chest — well over $10 million — which it used to blanket airwaves, e-mail addresses, Social Media ads, and mailboxes — in a dominating effort to convince voters to increase taxes by almost $1 billion annually.  Even more poignant was its lack of a well-funded opposition.  That, alone, made may pundits believe it would pass either due to the enthusiastic response of voters or, at the minimum, it would slip through unnoticed by a disengaged, off-year electorate (similar to the marijuana proposal which voters surprisingly passed in 2012 due, in part, to a lack of organized opposition).  If only supporters voted in a lackluster turnout, the proposal was sure to pass, right?

Who could be against smaller class sizes, returning art and music to the classroom, funding preschool for at-risk kids, imposing tougher standards on teachers’ classroom performance, and helping poorer school districts in desperate straits?  That would be the same as voting against the American flag and apple pie.

The proponents, however, failed to address key issues on the minds of many voters — relying on their money, ads, and organization to win support.  These issues included challenges which have been in the public eye for years but have been intentionally ignored by higher tax proponents.

Many voters do not believe spending more money on education automatically results in a better education for students, proportional to the dollars spent.  And increasing taxes in a sluggish economy did not resonate.  Given the chronically poor results in many school districts across the state and nation, despite major increases in per-pupil spending, many voters understandably question whether or not spending more actually accomplishes much.

Although Charter Schools were included in the sharing of revenue, they continue to remain at a financial disadvantage to traditional public schools.  Mustering support from Charter school families requires a greater commitment.

Changing Colorado’s Flat Tax from a single rate on net income to a two-tier structure was too great a “slippery slope” for voters to risk (i.e., why not three tiers in a few years and then four?).  A true Flat Tax has many attractions.  Going backwards was not palatable.

Many voters were worried a significant portion of the new tax funds would be used to pay outstanding retirement obligations.  They realized this meant the funds would not go into the classroom.

Proponents of more funding continue to make the mistake of “going it alone.”  Years ago, on my public affairs program, two of the guests debated education funding.  One was the President of the Denver School Board.  She wanted more funding for the classroom.  The other was a proponent of funding charter schools and offering vouchers for private schools.  I suggested they both could get their way if they teamed up.

My idea was for the two sides to join forces and seek new tax revenues such as a one penny increase in the state sales tax which would be totally dedicated to kindergarten through high school education funding.  This would include a voucher program for financially disadvantaged families (to give them some of the choices wealthy families already have) and new support for Charter schools to put them on equal footing with traditional public schools.

The proposal would guarantee public schools would always be funded at least at the same level as prior years, even if the schools were to lose enrollment. This should make the public school teachers, administrators, and parents happy because their per-pupil funding would increase.  At the same time, the rise of private schools and increase in Charter schools would foster competition among all schools.  This could only be good for students as each school was pressured to do better.

Until those seeking statewide tax increases for public education decide to join together with their opponents, they are unlikely to succeed.  Now is the time to reach out and develop a plan which will help all of Colorado’s children.  With the failure of Amendment 66, the opportunity is before us today.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He was the valedictorian at Fairview High School in Boulder and received degrees from Princeton and Harvard Universities.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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State’s First-Ever Recall Is A Huge Victory For The NRA: Major Colorado & National Implications Of The Recalls

The successful recall of two Colorado State Senators due to a campaign spearheaded by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations sent a shockwave through Colorado which reverberated across the entire nation.

The successful legislative recalls were the first to ever occur in the history of the State.  One of them took out the sitting State Senate President, John Morse, a former police chief who already was term-limited and whose legislative service was scheduled to end in 34 weeks.  The other recall took out State Senator Angela Giron, who presided over a Democratic-leaning district in Pueblo.

The two State Senators faced irate voters who were upset with their support of what appeared to be relatively modest gun control legislation.  One bill limited the size of gun magazines to 15 rounds in an effort to force a mass murderer to either reload or use additional weapons (but clearly did not impact hunters).  The second bill expanded background checks for gun purchases so it would be more difficult for criminals to buy weapons.

Nevertheless, the NRA and other groups saw the legislation as restricting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens and were concerned this was the beginning of an effort to limit citizen rights.  By targeting these two legislators, the gun rights groups wanted to send a message across the country that, “If you mess with our rights, we’ll come after you.”  That message was sent to every elected official in America on November 10th.

Another shock to Democrats was the fact money not a determining factor — passion was, and the recall supporters had that advantage.  Both sides spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the two hotly contested races so neither had an overwhelming monetary advantage.  This made the NRA win even more impressive.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

Going into the recall elections, Democrats had 20 State Senate seats compared to 15 for Republicans.  The outcome resulted in Democrats having 18 seats to the Republicans 17.

The good news for Democrats is it could have been worse.  Had another recall been successful, Republicans would have gained control of the State Senate.  Gun rights supporters did attempt to recall Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak at the same time they targeted Morse and Giron.  The recall effort barely fell short of collecting enough signatures to force Hudak to defend her seat in a swing district.  Had Hudak faced a recall, it would have been likely she, too, would have been defeated and suddenly Republicans would have controlled the State Senate with 18 votes to the Democrats’ 17.

FURTHER IMPLICATIONS

The results of the recall elections are foreboding for Democrats and represent a new opportunity for Republicans.  While Democrats understandably are urging everyone to “move on,” the reality is the successful recalls provided evidence Republicans now have a tactic which is more potent than many political experts had surmised.

There are many Democrats who supported what the majority of legislators thought was reasonable gun control legislation who now have to be concerned the NRA’s sights may be turned on them for the 2014 elections.  And what is different about the gun rights debate is that it is not about to go away.

The State’s most prominent race — the gubernatorial election — may be the new nexus for the issue.  Incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been one of the most highly approved and most popular Governors in the country since his election in 2010, signed the two controversial pieces of gun control legislation.  He has to be wondering what the impact of his approval of the two bills might have on an election more than 1½ years after their passage.

One of Hickenlooper’s opponents, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, is a long-time 2nd Amendment rights supporter and has made Hickenlooper’s gun control legislation approval one of his major campaign themes.  Political pundits have been surprised at Tancredo’s strong showing in the polls — statistically tied with Hickenlooper in all four surveys published to date — but often have discounted Tancredo’s ability to ultimately gain enough support to win.  The recall election results may cause many of them to change their opinions, especially if Tancredo is successful in making the 2014 election a referendum on 2nd Amendment rights.

THE FUTURE

Colorado was a Red State which evolved into a Purple State.  With a fast-growing Hispanic population and significant influxes of citizens from other states, Colorado is expected to become even more Blue yet the 2nd Amendment issue plays well in a state where many residents hunt and others desire firearms for the protection of themselves and their families.  And many Coloradans see themselves as part of the Wild West.

It seems unlikely a candidate such as Tancredo can secure a plurality of the vote with a one-issue campaign but it now seems obvious the gun rights issue can firmly secure a base which allows him to go after the few additional percentage points he needs to win.

Other Republican gubernatorial candidates such as Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Senator Greg Brophy, although trailing Hickenlooper, also are within striking distance so it appears, with the help of this one issue, Republicans have the opportunity to do something which has not occurred in Colorado for over half a century — defeat an incumbent, elected Governor.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays and at www.HarberTV.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

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THE NRA IS RIGHT!

National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown press conference was seen as bizarre by many observers.  It included the incendiary recommendation that armed guards should be posted at every school.  Many scoffed at the idea and the majority on the Left saw it as a demonstration of the NRA”s lack of sensitivity to or understanding of the seriousness and complexity of the problem America faces — where guns are used to kill over 30,000 people annually.

The USA numbers (+/-10,000 homicides annually) are particularly striking when compared to annual gun deaths in other countries such as Canada (+/-175), Japan (+/-18), England (+/-41), Spain (+/-90), Germany (+/-190), Australia (+/-30).  Adjustments for population differences don’t make us look much better.

Others argued simply posting an armed guard guaranteed little because a person or group plotting an attack could easily take out that person first.  And some questioned the rationality of potentially escalating the situation by having armed personnel at school — possibly resulting in an even greater tragedy if some fraction of those hired to protect schools went berserk.

Despite these objections, the NRA’s proposal could be a good one for a number of reasons.  Here are the arguments for it.

First, having one or more armed guards at a school would reassure parents, faculty, staff, and students that they are being protected to the highest degree possible.

Second, it would give children direct exposure to the concept that their society has people they can trust to protect them.  This could have long-term benefits in regard to the relationship between police officers and the communities they protect.

Third, with approximately 100,000 public schools and 35,000 private schools as well as 7,000 institutions of higher education (both public and private) in the United States, this would generate a minimum of 200,000 and probably closer to 300,000 jobs.

The latter number assumes there would be an average of 1½ full-time equivalents per school, with small schools needing only one FTE and larger ones (especially institutions of higher education) adding an average of four FTE’s to their campuses. There also would be staffing to administer the program.  That easily would get the total number of new positions to 300,000.

Fourth, one of the key sources of staffing for these positions could be Veterans as well as many of the law enforcement officials who were laid off in recent years by state and local governments experiencing budget shortfalls.  There are several hundred thousand looking for jobs.  In turn, this approach would have the additional benefit of giving students the opportunity to meet former members of the U.S. military and law enforcement officers.

Assuming each position is paid an average of $40,000 annually (less than $20 per hour) and there are $25,000 in additional costs such as equipment, training, certification programs, taxes, benefits, vacation and sick leave, office space, other overhead, et cetera), the cost per person could easily be $65,000.

This means, for 300,000 positions, the annual tab would be almost $20 billion.  To fund these positions, all guns would have to be registered in the United States with an initial Community Safety Fee of $350 per weapon and an annual renewal fee of $50 per weapon plus a small tax on ammunition (e.g., averaging 25 cents per shell).

With 10 million weapons sold annually, sales would generate $3½ billion each year.  With almost 300 million guns held by Americans, a $50 annual renewal fee would generate $15 billion each year.  Estimates of the number of rounds of ammunition sold annually vary but assuming an average of 500 shells for new weapons and 100 for existing weapons, this would total approximately 35 billion rounds.  If the fee was set at just 25 cents per round, this would generate almost $9 billion.

The resulting Community Safety Fee total would be approximately $27½ billion annually.  The extra funds would cover the initiative’s start-up costs so schools could get protection right away.  Extra funds also could go towards additional safety equipment (such as metal detectors in high schools) and building modification expenses (such as creating entry vestibules).  Of course, it is possible this annual revenue number would go down over time because some gun owners might trim their collections and not be willing to pay fees for weapons which are worth less than the fees.

To address potential rogue owners, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, would be in charge of ensuring all weapons are properly registered.  To create a disincentive for anyone to cheat, those who fail to register a weapon would be subject to a fine of $10,000 per weapon and $5 per round of ammunition for any unregistered weapon.  Funds generated by these penalties would be dedicated to the Community Safety Program protecting the nation’s schools.

The elegance of this solution is that it allows America to continue its unique love affair with weapons while protecting its children.  While some gun owners may protest at the cost, it is a fair price to pay for a right which the vast majority of advanced nations do not bestow upon their citizenry.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2012 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

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HOW OBAMA WON A RACE HE COULD HAVE LOST

Being an objective journalist does not mean always equivocating, as many believe they have to do.  Sometimes impartial analysis forces one to make certain conclusions that are objective but which displease one segment of the population.  In this case, as a Political Analyst who concluded President Barack Obama was going to win reelection, it was not based on any bias towards the President.  Rather, it was founded on an impartial review of the following facts.  Here is why I believe Obama won re-election despite high unemployment and a relatively sluggish and still fragile Economy.

THE OBVIOUS.

Much already has been said about how Governor Romney hurt his own campaign by dramatically changing so many positions.  The electorate could understand this occurring a few times as a person’s positions evolved but the sheer number of reversals and the significance of the issues made Romney appear to have no sincere beliefs.  This was exacerbated by his attempts to parse Romneycare and Obamacare when most voters realized the latter was a national version of the former.  And, in fact, there may have been more electoral support for Obamacare within key demographics than many pundits realized.

In addition, Romney’s sharp turn to the right, which he believed was necessary to win the Republican nomination, put him on a path which made him less attractive to unaffiliated and uncommitted voters as well as potentially convertible Democrats.  By taking far too long to cast himself in a more centrist mode, when he attempted to do so, it was not seen as sincere.  And due to his position changes, it was difficult for him to appear convincing.  In essence, he undermined his own credibility.

ROMNEY’S OVERCONFIDENCE.

At the beginning of the race, Governor Romney and many of his supporters looked at the economic data and believed it would be impossible for any incumbent to survive the disappointment of millions of Americans in the state of the American Economy.

Furthermore, as a sophisticated businessman and someone who understood economic data, Romney knew it was unlikely the Economy would improve substantially over the course of the campaign.  And he was right, it didn’t.

But it turned out the marginal improvements which did occur were enough to give Obama the ammunition he needed to successfully argue the country was at least headed in the right direction.  Romney underestimated the power of a handful of small numbers (e.g., unemployment slowly going from 9% to 7.8% even though a large part of that excluded people who had altogether given up on finding work and were no longer considered part of the workforce).

The Romney campaign’s overconfidence extended to a belief that it needed to focus on its Republican base.  The reality was that, if Romney did not have his base shored up by August, he was in trouble.  And he failed to realize how serious the problem was.

By selecting Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney focused on his desire to increase his own Republican support but did so at the cost of gaining unaffiliated voters and conservative Democrats.  Ryan’s inclusion detracted from the need for Romney to appear centrist and reasonable.

Ryan’s fiscal plan gave Democrats an entirely new set of targets — again moving the debate away from the state of the Economy and focusing it on accusations of destroying Medicare, helping the rich, eliminating support for students, et cetera.  This was exacerbated by Romney’s call for an additional $2 trillion in defense spending — an unjustifiable plan given the nation’s budgetary crisis, the fact the Department of Defense was not even requesting the extra funds, and the reality that the U.S. was spending almost as much on military-related expenses as the rest of the world combined.

Again, Romney was “playing it safe” — focusing on efforts which engendered additional marginal support.  This was exemplified after the first Presidential Debate when he and his aides saw their polling numbers change dramatically when Romney presented himself as a reasonable, centrist candidate rather the monster the Obama campaign painted him to be for much of the year.

Romney’s problem was his overconfidence prevented him from seeing how late in the process it was and how difficult it would be to become a more centrist candidate.

PREVENT DEFENSE.

Amazingly, both camps spent the majority of campaign assuming their victory was imminent, if not divinely guaranteed.  Romney could not fathom Obama winning re-election given the track record of President’s in similar economic straits.  Obama could not fathom Romney having any chance of winning after having made such a hard turn to the right to win the Republican nomination.  In an era where every candidate’s word is recorded, Obama believed Romney could not escape himself and, therefore, ultimately would be hoisted by his own petard.

The strange result was a tepid, overly cautious campaign for many months.  Pundits complained neither candidate offered anything substantive.  There were no major proposals or detailed white papers proposing specific policies.  Both camps issued vacuous statements and avoided the tough questions.  Columnists begging for specificity found their requests falling on deaf ears.  Those who encouraged either or both candidate to “Go Big” with new ideas and programs were totally ignored.

None of them realized that political campaigns are about winning.  And neither side believed the other could win and, therefore, there was no upside to being specific or taking chances with bold policy initiatives.  The result was the most boring campaigns waged in the modern era.  Discussions and debates were at the margin or did not even occur at all.

Despite polling data to the contrary, both presidential campaigns played the game as if they were ahead the entire time — cautiously not taking any chances whatsoever.  What was bizarre was the reality that neither candidate was so far ahead that he could take this approach.

In sports, a “Prevent Defense” usually is deployed by a team that has a substantial and perhaps even seemingly insurmountable lead.  In this case,

Romney seemed to want to do nothing and, instead, was depending on some external event to propel him to victory.  Even a modest increase in the Unemployment Rate likely would be the death knell for Obama.  Similarly, the collapse of Greece or Spain appeared likely and even the destruction of the euro seemed possible.  Any of these events would have wreaked havoc with the global economy — sending tsunami-like financial and political shockwaves throughout the United States.  None of these materialized either (although many of them still could happen in the coming months).

The rising tension between Israel and Iran, based on the latter’s progress with its nuclear technology, also had the potential to explode, yet the situation cooled off and disappeared as an issue.

In effect, not one of the events which Romney’s camp assumed would happen and would sweep him to victory occurred.  Obama got lucky not only because none of these events occurred but because Romney elected to rely on such external events rather than campaign in a manner which would have engendered victory.

This is reminiscent of many teams who were ahead and played a Prevent D, only to find out they actually were making themselves vulnerable to an opponent who exploited the openings they were given — and turned those openings into gaping holes which they used to score and win the game.

ROMNEY LACKED THE “KILLER INSTINCT.”

Again, a sports analogy is appropriate.  In sports, a Killer Instinct refers to an athlete or team which, when ahead of its opponent, competes even more fiercely in an effort to bury the opposition so deeply that it has no chance of prevailing.  If a team is ahead in a football game 30-0, it tries to increase its lead to 40 points or even more so there simply is not enough time for the losing team to catch up.

Romney’s performance in the first Presidential Debate was overwhelming.  Not only did he do a great job attacking the President while laying out his own agenda and plans, he set the stage for a new dynamic in the campaign.  Polling data suggested voters were impressed with Romney — selecting him as the winner of the debate by 2-to-1 and 3-to-1 margins.

Romney was poised to strike.  Now was the time for him to push even harder by making the case Obama’s foreign policies had failed and his economic plan’s success was so modest it would take decades for the country to return to prior levels of prosperity.

Instead the Romney camp became overconfident and “played it safe.”  At the next debate, Romney parried with Obama but never scored decisively. Obama came well-prepared to the second debate — a sharp departure from the first debate — and Romney failed to exploit a number of opportunities.

And in the third debate, Romney was almost deferential — deploying a strategy befitting a candidate who was substantially ahead.  The irony was he remained behind but did not even know it.

Romney had opportunities to go after Obama on Libya, especially with the disaster in Benghazi.  The fact a U.S. ambassador had been killed was a key point Romney failed to impress upon the American people in the second debate.  He should have been outraged and focused on the fact this was the first time an ambassador had been killed in a third of a century — meaning a majority of Americans weren’t even alive at the time.  Instead there seemed to almost be silence from Romney during the debates when this could have been the focus of a charge of failure.  (When Romney did try to raise the issue in the second debate, he was shot down by the moderator, who inappropriately stepped out of her impartial role.)

Romney could have argued U.S. policy seemed to be failing worldwide, especially given the situation in the Middle East (including Syria), the ascendancy of Iran and its progress towards becoming a nuclear power, the terrible drug-fueled total of 60,000 deaths in Mexico fueled by American drug demand, the heightened friction with Israel, and the deterioration of conditions in both Iraq and Afghanistan despite what may end up being an ultimate expenditure of $2 trillion.

For whatever reasons — possibly the belief the Economy was the only issue that mattered or the Romney campaign’s belief that voters were ignorant about foreign affairs — Romney failed to take advantage of these opportunities.  When he did make an attempt, his follow-up was meager.

Of course, the Obama camp was ready to retort these charges and it is possible Romney’s advisers did not see this battle as worthwhile — especially if some of Romney’s accusations on the campaign trail were not accurate — but the situation  had the potential to open a new line of attack on the President.  By not pursuing it vigorously, Romney lost a significant opportunity to make an impression on voters.

WHY ROMNEY WAS LOSING EARLY BUT DIDN’T APPRECIATE IT.

What the Romney camp failed to recognize was that many voters were casting their ballots well in advance of the November 6th election.  The polls showed Obama ahead in most battleground states.  That meant a plurality or even a majority of votes cast likely were in Obama’s favor.  Hence, during October, Romney was losing the race and needed an even bigger margin of the remaining votes to catch Obama.

His campaign failed to recognize this and, as a result, Romney lost his momentum after the first Presidential Debate.  While some would later argue Hurricane Sandy interrupted the contest and slowed or even stopped Romney’s momentum, the truth was Romney had begun that process in the second debate.  Even without Sandy, Romney’s momentum was fading.

So, by not being aggressive and by not strongly making the case the President’s policies had failed, Romney let Obama off the hook.  The result was millions of votes poured in by mail and at early voting locations with Obama rolling up significant margins.  This made the success Romney needed on Election Day almost unattainable.

Again, by “playing it safe,” Romney forfeited his opportunity to win.  His overconfidence tripped him up and allowed Obama to keep racking up precious votes.  Romney failed to recognize he was changing the opinions of citizens who had already voted.  These people could change their opinions but it was too late to change their votes.

EARLY ADVERTISING.

Another remarkable strategy deployed by the Obama campaign was the decision to begin advertising early in the general election cycle.  The campaign was on the air in the dozen or so battleground states in the spring — far ahead of anyone’s expectations.  This had three ramifications.

First, the effort kept the President’s polling numbers up.  People were amazed at the poor state of the Economy and how Obama’s numbers defied what should have been landslide numbers in Romney’s favor.  These numbers helped keep Obama’s volunteers energized, his base supportive, and his donors writing checks.

Second, the effort forced Romney and the third party organizations supporting him to advertise as well.  This consumed precious resources and, because Obama’s numbers stayed strong, often dissuaded prospective Romney donors from either supporting him as much as they could or even at all.  Hence, the Obama strategy worked as a preemptive strike against the Romney campaign.

Third, and finally and, perhaps, most importantly, the constant barrage of political ads in the battleground states wore thin quickly.  Voters tired of the attacks and, as early as August or even July, began turning out the ads.  Certainly, by Labor Day, no one in the battleground states — where Obama was leading, for the most part — was paying attention.

What this did was dull or even eliminate the opportunity for Romney and his supporters to launch an effective end-of-the-campaign advertising-based attack against Obama.  By eliminating the threat of a successful major assault and reducing it to minor one, Obama’s campaign was able to partially shield itself from the possibility an avalanche of Republican money might materialize towards  the end of the campaign.  Indeed, such an avalanche did materialize but it had little effect on a populace already inured to an unending 24/7 stream of vituperative attack ads.  The Obama strategy worked and effectively neutralized the big money advantage Romney and his allies had as the campaign entered its final few weeks.

SPENDING MONEY WISELY.

Another brilliant strategy of the Obama campaign was to focus on collecting money through the campaign rather than through third party organizations such as 504s, 527s, and other entities.  For the most part, these organizations had some limitations on them in terms of what they could say or with whom they could coordinate.

The biggest factor, however, was the advertising purchase advantage a campaign has over a third party entity.  Political candidates are entitled to a “lowest rate” price from television and radio stations.  This often meant a campaign could buy a 30-second spot for half the price or less than what normally is paid by a station’s regular clients.  And if advertising time was purchased early, the discounts were even greater.

What this resulted in was the Obama campaign creating a Multiplier Effect.  That is, Obama might purchase a television ad normally priced at $15,000 for only $5,000.  The Romney SuperPACs and other third party organizations not only would have to pay the standard price of $15,000 but often faced television station salespeople who would raise the rate to $20,000 or $25,000.  In fact, there were no limits on what the third party organizations supporting either candidate could be charged.

So, although $2 billion may have been spent on television and radio advertising, it is possible the Obama campaign easily stayed competitive in terms of the number and placement of ads, despite the deluge of Republican money supporting Romney.  It even is possible Obama did substantially more with less.”  If this turns out to be true, it will have been a stroke of brilliance by the Obama campaign.

THE WAR ON WOMEN.

Although Romney and Republicans argued the supposed “War on Women” was manufactured by Obama’s campaign and Democratic operatives, it struck a chord with many women who simply want government to respect them and allow them to make their own decisions.

And the truth was a parade of Republican officeholders and candidates continued to make inopportune statements about women, their bodies and rights, contraception, and access to health care.

Whether it was the vaginal probe legislation in Virginia, the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to end its support of Planned Parenthood’s health care for women (due to the machinations of a Republican operative hired by the nonpartisan Foundation), Congressman Todd Akin’s statement regarding “legitimate rape,” an Indiana legislator supporting defunding of Planned Parenthood, Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock’s belief that God intended a woman to have a child even if it came about due to rape, and Romney’s own statements about defunding Planned Parenthood, the truth was an astounding number of Republicans kept giving Democrats ammunition.

Republicans failed to recognize how medieval they appeared and women voters punished them harshly for attitudes which seemed to be throwbacks to the Middle Ages.  Even though the vast majority of Republicans disagreed with the most outrageous statements, the fact they all came from Republicans was far more damaging than Romney and his supporters realized.

What was surprising about the War on Women is Republican strategists had seen the warning shots in 2010 when Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) won his election over Republican Ken Buck due, in part, to several comments on social issues, including ones related to women’s rights.  Bennet bucked the national Republican victory wave and was one of the few bright spots for Democrats in a year they were electorally slaughtered across the country.

The irony was the few races Democrats were winning in 2010 often had their candidates focusing on social issues rather than the Economy.  By giving Democrats anti-women and homophobic ammunition, Republicans occasionally veered off their game-plan and lost.  The shock to political observers was that Republicans worsened their position with a series of even more major gaffes in 2012.  By doing so, Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds moved the debate away from the Economy in 2012 on an even larger scale.

OBAMA’S WAITING GAME.

Obama’s primary strategy, to use a final sports analogy, was to “Run out the clock.”  He knew he was ahead at the beginning of the campaign, as any incumbent President should be, and desperately wanted Election Day to come as soon as possible.

As mentioned, early voting helped Obama tremendously — with some voters casting ballots before other citizens were just beginning to pay attention to the race.

Obama knew he was vulnerable to counterclaims about his “saving the auto industry” because, despite government help, General Motors and Chrysler ended up filing bankruptcy — potentially costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.  Romney missed the boat by arguing the only difference between his plan and the President’s was the investment of taxpayer dollars in a structured bankruptcy.  The President had so convincingly argued the bailout was successful that relatively few Americans remembered the companies both declared bankruptcy anyway.

Obama expected Romney to run commercials which used footage of the President guaranteeing an Unemployment rate drop to 5.4% along with his own statement saying he shouldn’t be elected if he didn’t achieve that goal.  Romney barely focused on the quote or exploited the fact that the statement itself revealed a naiveté about how the Economy works (that is, no one who understands Economics would ever make that kind of specific numerical commitment given the factors which are beyond any President’s control).

Obama’s promise to cut the federal government’s annual deficit in half ended up being so far from reality that it presented another extraordinary opportunity for Romney.  His campaign’s and supporters’ use of that fact came too late to make a difference.

And it all was thwarted, in part, by the fact that none of the dire predictions about hyperinflation or the destruction of the dollar came true.

The final attack with the Reaganesque line, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago” resonated with some voters but was parsed more than many political experts realized.  It turned out Americans were cognizant of how terrible the nation’s situation was exactly four years ago.  While it was true they, as individuals, were not better off, they knew the country was in better shape in the fall of 2012 than it was in the fall of 2008.  And the question began to appear to be so self-centered that many even saw it as selfish — focused on each individual rather than America as a whole.

CONCLUSION: SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY.

In the end, the Romney campaign, with the help of many Republican officeholders, found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory while Obama’s waiting game prevailed.

Some may argue that, had Romney had an additional week or two, he would have one but even this scenario was unlikely.  It was Romney who stopped his own momentum — not Hurricane Sandy, President Obama, or anyone else.  By not realizing how far behind he was in the early voting process and by playing it safe after the first Presidential Debate, Romney forfeited his opportunity to catch up with Obama.  And, as the numbers showed, he never did despite the many opportunities he had to do so.

 

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” viewable nationwide on COMCAST Video on Demand beginning January 1, 2013 and currently seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  He also hosts “Colorado Now! TM” seen Sundays at 8:30 pm on Channel 3.  It can be viewed 24/7 at http://www.Colorado-Now.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com .  (C) Copyright 2012 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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Simpson-Bowles Washington, DC Event Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:  Jana Martin
720-335-1414
Email: Jana@HarberTV.com

AL SIMPSON & ERSKINE BOWLES TO HEADLINE
THE GREAT ECONOMICS DEBATE” HOSTED BY AARON HARBER
 
“What Should Citizens Believe and What Should America Do?”
 
Public Invited to Submit Questions and Attend

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, the Co-Chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also known as the “Simpson-Bowles Commission”) will headline “The Great Economics Debate” on Friday, September 28th, in Jack Morton Auditorium at George Washington University (www.bit.ly/Debate2012).  More details and the schedule are available at http://www.bit.ly/InviteTV.

The event also will feature former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, and Dr. Alice Rivlin, former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank and the nation’s first Director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as well as the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget and a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Unlike other initiatives related to the Federal Budget and the National Debt, “The Great Economics Debate” will be focused on answering questions asked by voters across the country who are constantly hearing conflicting opinions on what would be the best course of action for the country.  Discussion of actual resolutions of those conflicts will be the highlight of the program, which will be recorded for broadcast.

Senator Simpson explained, “This special media event gives Americans the clear opportunity to examine all the facts for themselves.  Our future depends on moving away from biased and distorted information and towards this nonpartisan, fact-based model created so carefully by Aaron Harber.  I earnestly hope many folks will take advantage of this program and either attend or view it.  It’s a powerful force in helping us to build a strong economic future together.”

The public is invited to submit questions in advance of the event by emailing them to Questions@HarberTV.com by the end of the day on Wednesday, September 26th.  Tickets to the event are free but, due to space limitations, all attendees must register in advance.  Registration is now available to the public online at http://www.bit.ly/EconRSVP.  For a detailed invitation to the event, please go to http://www.bit.ly/InviteTV.

The event also will feature extensive Question & Answer sessions and an expert panel discussion focused on solutions to America’s financial challenges – including discussion of what policies would be most appropriate and most effective to aid the Economy. The event will seek to help shape the first Presidential Debate scheduled for the following week.

The television programming produced from the event will be provided to television networks, stations, and channels as well as newspapers and other publications across the country.  As a public service, COMCAST will make the programs available 24/7 to all 60 million of its viewers at no charge via its Video on Demand service.  SiriusXM radio also will make programs from the event available nationally to its listeners and has asked Harber, who has a Talk Radio background, to participate in live programming to take calls from across the country.

Aaron Harber, television host of “The Aaron Harber Show (TM),” will moderate the debate (www.bit.ly/BioAaron).  Harber, with degrees from Princeton University and Harvard University, will assume the role of an inquiring citizen.  Before moving to television, Harber hosted a national Talk Radio show and was selected as one of the top hosts in the country.

The Aaron Harber Show” is a weekly nonpartisan public affairs television program featuring nationally and internationally prominent guests.  It promotes civil and mutually respectful discourse while encouraging viewers to listen to ideas, opinions, concepts, and facts which may conflict with their own personal views. The show is broadcast in Denver (the nation’s 16th largest media market), in other Colorado television markets, and across the State by COMCAST, KCDO-TV Channel 3, ION (KPXC-TV), and also is available online at http://www.HarberTV.com.  The nonpartisan Democracy & Media Education Foundation is the primary sponsor of the event.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Harber, please contact Jana Martin at 720-335-1414 or Jana@HarberTV.com.

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