Susan Eisenhower (Photo Credit: Focus Washington)

Susan Eisenhower (Photo Credit: Focus Washington)

Well-known independent voter discusses what the GOP and Dems Should Learn from Americans in the 2016 elections

13 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and Chairman Emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the changing dynamics of the Republican party as well as the impact partisan politics has had on this year’s presidential race.

Susan addressed at length the ongoing leadership crisis this country faces. Although she had always been a Republican, she left the party eight years ago and became an independent. In fact, she endorsed President Obama during his initial campaign as well as his second presidential race. She claims that the party has ideologically shifted tremendously since her grandfather, President Eisenhower held office.

Susan’s grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, represented a form of moderate Republicanism advocating for social progression while remaining fiscally conservative. Unfortunately, in today’s polarized political arena, this ideology represents neither party but instead a combination of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

“The [Republican] party’s changing, and frankly, the party has been changing for a very long time,” stated Eisenhower.

Susan alluded to this year’s presidential nominations as an example of the transitions that are taking place within both parties. “In some ways it was surprising that [Hillary] had the kind of vigorous challenge that she did, and on the same side we had what we thought was going to be an heir apparent in Jeb Bush and it was rather fascinating to watch how quickly that set of assumptions fell through. So what I think it tells me is that both parties are changing, and they’re changing for larger reasons than I think what is currently being analyzed.”

Party politics has become a major obstacle, contributing to the lack of strategic leadership in this country. She emphasized to Chuck that “strategic” alludes to an element of time involved, and strategic leadership is defined by leaders who are trying to achieve long term goals. Susan points out that party politics make it impossible to talk and think about measures for all of America. She laments that the era when our presidents had to get up and articulate a strategy for the entire country is gone.

After declining to say which side she would be taking in this race, Susan says that she sees the United States as in transition, and that she knows much more about it than she did before this election. She recognizes the feeling of frustration emanating from the people of the United States, resulting from the notion that their government system is unavailable to them. The American people want new leadership– strategic leadership—but as Susan points out, the party politics shaking up Washington today makes it difficult to put such bold leaders into office.

 

Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group (Photo Credit | Focus Washington)

Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group (Photo Credit | Focus Washington)

With unprecedented negative views of both major party candidates, Ron Faucheux of Clarus Research Group predicts that the 2016 elections are likely to determine the future of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

 

08 June 2016 (Washington, DC): Ron Faucheux, President of Clarus Research Group, sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss what the polls can show us about the next couple of months of the election campaign now that both the Democrats and Republicans have their presumptive Presidential nominees.

“Polls don’t predict” Faucheux was quick to emphasize, but rather offer a snapshot of the current situation. Despite this disclaimer, following the polls and the Faucheux’s Lunchtime Politics report would have offered an accurate prediction for the winners over the course of the primary elections; in this case, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were seemingly in the cards.

As we turn toward the next couple of months of campaigning and the elections in November, the reputation and potential upcoming blunders of both candidates will play a major role in influencing voters. “We’ve never had two presidential nominees who’ve had such high negative ratings,” stated Faucheux, as both Clinton and Trump currently have negative approval rates of at least 60%. In light of the fact that neither candidate has begun campaigning heavily against each other, their negative approval rating is sure to only go up from here.

The Presidential election will not just be a two-way race, however. According to the polls, “Both Clinton and Trump, at this point anyway, are losing about the same [number of votes to Libertarian and Green candidates] when you go from the two-way race to the four-way race.” Trump has officially welcomed Sanders supporters, but Clinton cannot necessarily expect those voters to come her way.  Voters who don’t want to vote for either Trump or Clinton will need to make the decision to stay home, or cast their vote for a Libertarian or Green Party candidate.

There is a danger this election could wreck either, or both, parties. Both candidates bring major issues to the table. Leaders of the Republican party have expressed decisions not to back Trump, despite his successful campaign; meanwhile, the potential for Clinton to be implicated in or associated with criminal acts surrounding her email scandal spell trouble for Democrats.

As the general election gears up, be sure to subscribe to Ron’s Lunchtime Politics report for daily insights, and stay tuned for more election coverage Focus Washington-style.

On this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi interviews President and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, Behshad Sheldon, about the New Jersey based company’s intention to proceed with plans to develop a manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, North Carolina, despite the enactment of HB2, the controversial law that overturns local ordinances to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.

Sheldon has met with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who shares the view that HB2 is unjust and needs to be overturned. However, the Attorney General argued that Braeburn could help more by advocating from within the state than by protesting through dropping plans to open the facility. The company states they have also been encouraged by the Department of Justice lawsuit filed on May 9, 2016 in NC Federal Court seeking a determination that HB2 violates federal non discrimination law, as well as the Obama administration’s guidelines issued to public schools on May 13, 2016.

19 May 2016 (Washington, DC): In this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi sat with Pierre Ghanem, an Arab journalist covering Washington and the United States, to discuss the Arab world’s reception of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just like many here in the US, Donald Trump’s rise has surprised the Arab world, but officials of Arab countries are unlikely to be caught off guard. Ghanem elaborates, “Trump may be different but government officials are professionals, we can make it work.” However, the Arab street may harbor some resentment after Trump’s numerous offensive remarks about Muslims.

Clinton, on the other hand, doesn’t elicit as many negative preconceived notions. As Secretary of State, she has not been associated with the worst aspects of the Obama administration in the eyes of Arabs; She hasn’t been tainted by the perceived pivot to Iran, as Kerry has. She was also one of the first US officials to focus on Palestine and its citizens, saying that they deserved a state. According to Ghanem, whether it’s Hillary or Trump, the new president will be a welcome relief after Obama whose empty promises and poor leadership in Syria disappointed most of the Arab and Muslim world.  Continue reading »

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Chuck Conconi welcomed Bob Cusack on this week’s episode of Focus Washington. Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of Washington-based publication The Hill, evaluated the irregular political climate of the 2016 presidential election.

According to Cusack, the ascension of Donald Trump has transformed the identity of the Republican Party. By confronting the potential loss of House and Senate seats, “Republicans are coming to grips with reality.” Cusack predicted that Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse Trump by the Republican Convention in July. Despite his limited appeal among Hispanic and women’s groups, Trump surprised pundits by attracting a loyal base of support.

Insecurity among Republicans parallels growing divisions within the Democratic Party. Cusack noted that a contested convention will require critical negotiations between Clinton and Sanders. He predicted that Clinton will triumph over Sanders to receive the Democratic nomination. The Convention will measure Clinton’s success as she attempts to unite her traditional supporters with Sanders voters.

Cusack concluded his remarks by urging caution in predicting Convention results. Thus far, wavering support for Clinton, combined with Trump’s unforeseen political rise, has defied voters’ expectations. This time last year, confidence in particular candidates was unshakeable. To Cusack, a fragmented Republican Party and mounting opposition to Clinton define “the year of the outsider” in which no candidate is guaranteed victory.

 

Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.

As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.

Stan_Chuck

Chuck and Stan in the Focus Washington studio

Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.                                                                       

Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”

Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.

After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.

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2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

05 May, 2016; Washington, DC: For several months now, Donald Trump has been considered the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican side. On Tuesday, that assumption became a reality.

By winning the Indiana Primary, Trump padded his massive delegate lead and is now closer than ever to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination (Trump is now up to 1,056 delegates with 9 states remaining). He has such a commanding lead that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have bowed out of the race entirely, leaving Trump without a single Republican competitor moving forward.

Trump is now +220 to win the White House at BetOnline, his best odds overall since we started keeping track back in early 2015. This means that a $100 bet on Trump to win the White House would pay out $220 if he wins the election.

For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is over. It is no longer a question of “Can Trump win the nomination?” It is now a question of “Who will Trump’s Democratic opponent be in November?”

 

Things are much more interesting on the Democratic side

Hillary Clinton remains a solid favorite to win the nomination (she is currently -1500 at BetOnline, which means you would have to risk $1500 to win $100). However, while the former Secretary of State has won a majority of states and delegates, Clinton still hasn’t clinched the nomination.

After losing the New York Primary, Bernie Sanders was written off by the political and media establishment. He was counted out and left for dead. News pundits and party elites demanded that he drop out of the race and “unite” the party behind Clinton.

But a funny thing happened after New York.

Earlier this week, Sanders shocked the establishment by winning Indiana with nearly 53% of the vote, proving all the doubters wrong who told him to quit and exit the race.

While his path to victory remains narrow, Sanders is primed for a big 4th quarter comeback. Of the 13 remaining contests (9 states, 3 territories and Washington, DC), many favor Sanders.

According to the latest polling, the Vermont Senator leads Clinton in West Virginia and Oregon. He is gaining in Kentucky and New Mexico. He could sweep Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota as well.

If this happens, it will create a showdown for the ages in California, the largest state in the country (California doesn’t vote until June 7th). Sanders has vowed to run an “unprecedented grassroots campaign” in the Golden State and has already sent dozens of his top staffers to set up the campaign infrastructure.

Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 300 pledged delegates. If he can pull off a string of late victories he will close the gap substantially heading into California, where 475 delegates are up for grabs (more than enough to flip the race in his favor).

If this scenario holds true, neither candidate will have the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination, which means the Democrats are headed for a contested convention in July.

 

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Will There Be A Democratic Contested Convention?

Sanders can take some solace in the fact that the last Democrat to win a contested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the godfather of the Democratic Socialist movement that Sanders now champions.

Many have predicted that in the case of a contested convention, Sanders’ army of revolutionaries will flood the city of Philadelphia, exerting massive pressure on super-delegates (party elites who can change their vote) to switch from team Clinton to team Sanders.

Also aiding Sanders is the fact that super-delegates in states that Sanders won big will face enormous backlash if they side with Clinton and go against the will of their constituents. They will also be inundated with polls showing Sanders as the stronger general election candidate (nearly every national poll shows Sanders beating Trump by much larger margins than Clinton).

While Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are only slightly better than Trump, Sanders remains a massively popular figure nationwide. He is the only candidate left in the race with a net-positive favorability rating. He also appeals to a much wider audience than Clinton. Sanders has incredible support among young people and independents, two constituencies that are key to winning the general election in November.

Long story short, if you believe Sanders can shock the world and pull off the upset, you should place your bet on him now, as his numbers are sure to improve with a series of wins down the stretch. Simply put, Sanders’ value will never be higher than it is now.

We are already starting to see this trend take place. After winning Indiana, Sanders’ 2016 odds rose from +2000 to +1400 at BetOnline, while his nomination odds rose from +1400 to +1000. This means that a $100 bet on Sanders to win the nomination would pay out +1000, while a $100 bet on Sanders to win the White House would pay out $1400.

On the flip side, if you view the Sanders comeback as a progressive fantasy that has no shot of actually taking place, you shouldn’t place your bet on Hillary right now, as her odds are sky-high (she is currently -240 to win the White House at BetOnline. This means you would have to risk $240 in order to win $100). More closely, you would be better suited to wait for Sanders to win a few contests, which will deflate Clinton’s odds, giving Hillary backers a better price.

What do you think?

Is Clinton still a shoo-in? Can Trump win in November? Or will Sanders pull off the greatest upset in modern political history?

 

Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights

Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don't have a secure food source. UPA's Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don’t have a secure food source. UPA’s Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families. (Photo credit: UPA)

Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.

Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.

To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/

2016 Presidential Election Odds: Trump, Clinton, Cruz and Sanders21 April, 2016; Washington, DC: At Sports Insights, we have been tracking the 2016 election for some time now. However, we do not focus on the polls or what the pundits are saying, we focus exclusively on how the oddsmakers are assessing the race. Our goal is to highlight to our members which candidates are providing value so that they can make the smartest “futures” bet possible.
 
(A futures bet is a wager on a game or event that will not take place until several months or years in the future. For example, right now the Patriots are +600 to win next year’s Super Bowl (odds via Bovada). So if you put a $100 futures bet on the Patriots right now, you would win $600 if the Patriots win the Super Bowl).
 
 
At the time, Hillary Clinton was a +105 favorite to win the presidency (odds via Sportsbook). This means that a $100 futures bet on Clinton would pay out $105 if she is elected president.
 
Jeb Bush was the runner-up at +850, followed by Marco Rubio (+1200), Scott Walker (+1500), John Kasich (+3000) and Paul Ryan (+3500). Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz were all listed at +4000.
 
Interestingly, Bernie Sanders wasn’t even considered a legitimate candidate at the time. He opened at +6500, well-behind fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren (+5000) and Joe Biden (+5000).
 
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that Donald Trump wasn’t even listed at all. Simply put, the idea that Trump could become president was so unimaginable back in May of 2015 that the oddsmakers didn’t even provide him as a betting option.
 
Much has changed over the course of the past 12 months.
 
After her big win in New York, Clinton is now a -1500 favorite to win the Democratic nomination and a -275 favorite to win the White House (odds via Bovada). That means if you want to bet Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, you would have to risk $1500 to win $100. If you want to bet Clinton to win the presidency, you would have to risk $275 to win $100.
 
On the Republican side, Trump is the clear-cut favorite. Back in June of 2015, Trump debuted at +4000 to become the next president (odds via Sportsbook). Now, following his blowout victory in New York, Trump is down to +350, best odds of any Republican and second-best odds overall behind Clinton. (Trump is a -225 favorite to win the Republican nomination).
 
In other words, the oddsmakers are predicting a Clinton vs Trump showdown in November. 
 
Beyond Clinton and Trump, only three other candidates remain in the 2016 conversation.
 
The first is Sanders. 
 
While the media ignores him and the establishment does everything they can to defeat him, Sanders has succeeded in energizing the liberal base and creating a political revolution. After debuting at +6500 to win the presidency, Sanders is now down to +1200, tied for the 3rd-best odds overall behind Clinton and Trump. He is +700 to win the Democratic nomination.
 
The second is Cruz. 
 
Like Sanders, Cruz is +1200 to win the White House. Despite Trump’s massive win in New York, he still may not receive the 1237 delegates needed to win the nomination. This leaves a (small) opening for Cruz, who has become the de-facto alternative to Trump. Cruz is +225 to win the Republican nomination.
 
The third is Kasich. He is currently listed at +3300 to win the White House and +1000 to win the nomination, which means he is a considerable longshot in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Simply put, Kasich is hanging by a thread, but he is still in the conversation.
 
Overall, Democrats are listed as a -280 favorite to win the White House, regardless of who the candidate is. Republicans are a +240 underdog (odds via BetOnline).
 
A couple variables to keep in mind: Clinton is currently being investigated by the FBI over her unprotected email server. Rumors are swirling that a decision whether or not to indict Clinton will be coming down in May. If Clinton is cleared of wrongdoing, her path to the White House is close to a done-deal.
 
However, if she is indicted, it changes everything. Clinton would be forced to exit the race, thus handing the nomination (and likely the presidency) to Sanders. If you view this is a legitimate possibility, you may want to place a futures bet on Sanders now. At +700 to win the nomination and +1200 to win the White House, Sanders backers would receive a huge payout if he can pull off the upset.
 
A similar wild-card scenario exists on the Republican side.
 
Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, is being listed at +15,000 to win the presidency and +5000 to win the Republican nomination (odds via BetOnline). Although his odds of winning are minuscule (he hasn’t even entered the race), the fact that Ryan is being listed as an option shows that oddsmakers are bracing for the possibility of a brokered convention in June.
 
 
Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights
 

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