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Clinton and Trump strategists still throwing punches

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Donald Trump and Hillary Clintons top strategists sat 15 feet apart from one another on Thursday and it was clear the anger and raw feelings that defined the general election haven't faded.

The ugliest presidential campaign in modern American history continued through a raucous post-mortem at Harvard University, where strategists gather every four years to chew over the recently completed contest from an insiders vantage point.

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The scene on Thursday was fraught, from the moment the top campaigns' top officials sat down across the room from each other. There were interruptions, accusations and plenty of cross-talk for more than two tense hours.

Were not at a Trump rally, Corey, Clinton chief strategist Joel Benenson snapped at one point at Trumps first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

Later, Trumps last campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, cautioned her side of the table, Hey guys, we won. We dont have to respond.

The "we won" line turned into something of a mantra as the night wore on.

Clintons advisers looked pained from the start. They gulped water. They gripped their pens. They crossed their arms. They glared. Then they boiled over.


After 90 minutes, when Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie called Trumps campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, an unbelievably brilliant strategist, an impassioned Jennifer Palmieri, Clintons communications director, jumped in.

If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician I am glad to have lost, Palmieri said. I would rather lose than win the way the guys you did.

Palmieri called Clintons speech in Reno denouncing the alt-right in August one of her proudest moments as shouting ensued across the room.

Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform? Conway snapped back. Youre going to look me in the face and tell me that?

I did, Kellyanne, Palmieri said. I did.

"Do you think you could have just had a decent message for the white working-class voters?" Conway said, adding to no one in particular as the conversation moved on, "You guys are bitter."

"I can tell you are angry, but wow," Conway chided her Democratic counterparts. "Hashtag he's your president."

Clinton adviser Karen Finney retorted, "Hashtag if he's going to be my president he's going to need to show me that white supremacy isn't acceptable."

There was little consensus of what, exactly, led to the Trump victory that shocked the world.

Still, Trumps team insisted they were not nearly as surprised as the rest of the political universe. In fact, Brad Parscale, Trumps digital director, said he had told Trump the Friday before the election that the GOP nominee was headed to victory, even as the public polls suggested otherwise.

Boris Epshteyn, a spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump, arrives at Trump Tower, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Clintons team blamed an tough environment in whicne voters wanted change, Russian meddling through hacked their emails, a media that they said over-scrutinized her and, mostly, FBI Director James Comey. Campaign manager Robby Mook said both of Comeys letters in the races final two weeks galvanized Trumps backers and depressed Clintons supporters.

Trumps team called the summer tarmac meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton a defining moment amid the FBI investigation into her email server. That event just played right into the hands of those Americans who felt there was a culture of corruption, Bossie said.

Conway acknowledged that Clinton had emerged from the two party conventions with momentum but said she lost it with a lackluster August schedule that saw her off the trail and on the fundraising circuit.

CNN's Jake Tapper on stage with Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway and Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook speak during the event titled &quot;War Stories: Inside Campaign 2016&quot; at the Harvard Institute of Poltiics Forum on December 1.

CNN's Jake Tapper on stage with Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway and Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook speak during the event titled "War Stories: Inside Campaign 2016" at the Harvard Institute of Poltiics Forum on December 1. | Getty

She got a good bump but then she almost disappeared, Conway said.

Shockingly, there was almost no discussion of the controversial October tape of Trump bragging of grabbing women by the genitals.

Neither side was quick to acknowledge errors a silence that rung especially loud on the Clinton side of the room.

Her advisers steadfastly refused to admit any specific fault, as Clinton media strategist Mandy Grunwald noted multiple times that any one person's diagnosis of the ultimate problem was likely correct in a race so close.

But they didnt hesitate to point to headwinds that disadvantaged Clinton a phrase used so often that Lewandowski began scoffing at it as Mook repeated it.

Mook identified the WikiLeaks releases of campaign chairman John Podestas emails and Comeys letters as the two points that they never anticipated, but he repeatedly declined to go in depth into his campaigns shortcomings.

No one of those emails that was put out, no one day of that, was a game-changer in the race, however it was a low-grade fever throughout, and that was an enormous strategic disadvantage, he said. If you ask me what was the single greatest headwind we had in the race, it was the two letters from James Comey."


In retrospect, should we have put even more in terms of schedule and perhaps unpaid communications into Michigan, Wisconsin? he added, alluding to two states his candidate surprisingly lost. "Absolutely." Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin combined were decided by less than 100,000 votes.

One theme throughout the conference was frustrations among Trumps foes Republicans in the primary; Clinton in the general election about the media, in particular the blanket coverage Trump received on cable television.

You guys only cover her when she talks about him, Palmieri complained.

On Wednesday evening, Republican campaign managers shouted down and heckled CNN president Jeff Zucker when he said that all candidates had been invited onto his airwaves.

Wrong! shouted Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had worked as campaign manager for her father. Later, Sanders rattled off one statistic from August 2015 that in a 10-day period Trump had been on CNN during prime time for 256 minutes, and Mike Huckabee had been on for 17 seconds.

In fact, Sanders said, she got on television more when she became a Trump adviser than she could get her father on as a candidate.

Mook, in particular, complained about the lack of focus on Trump refusing to release his taxes and the lack of focus on the Russian connection to the hacked Clinton emails. The media didnt seem willing to put that in the proper context, he said.

No one cared, Conway said of Trumps taxes. When Mook insisted it wasnt covered, she responded, That question was vomited to me every day on TV.

Donald Trump met with editors and reporters for The New York Times Wednesday.

The lingering frustrations were also on display on Thursday morning when lead Clinton strategists briefly sparred with two of Bernie Sanders' lead operatives over the result.

"We probably would've won," said Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver.

Conway praised Sanders for softening Clinton up for the general election.

Clinton's team acknowledged repeatedly during the afternoon session that Trump had won, but Benenson stopped when Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio noted how clear it was that the country would vote for Trump considering how many voters believe things are moving in the wrong direction.

"Don't act like you have some popular mandate for your message," said Benenson.

Other Clinton aides chimed in to note that her lead in the national vote is now above 2 million. Both sides erupted.

We weren't running that way, Conway said. We were running for 270."

Grunwald captured the scene with a backhanded compliment as the conference came to a close.

I dont think you give yourselves enough credit for the negative campaign you ran, Grunwald said of Trumps team, saying they had executed a very impressive gassing of her, citing their use of unreported Facebook ads, fake news and the National Enquirer, holding up the final pre-election edition.

When Conway objected, saying Trump had closed the race on a positive note, Grunwald cut in, Take the compliment, Kellyanne.

I would, Conway retorted, if it were one.

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02 Dic 2016
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In a Normal Race, Would Trump or Clinton Win?


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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton arent normal candidates.

Thats obvious to most election watchers. Hardly a week goes by without Trump making a controversial statement or Clinton being hit with negative news about her emails or the Clinton Foundation. And when controversy engulfs either candidate, their poll numbers typically take a hit.

That bizarre dynamic -- both candidates being knocked around by relatively frequent, unpredictable scandals and controversies -- raises an interesting question: Where would the polls go if both Trump and Clinton were controversy-free for a few weeks? Put differently, if the campaign calmed down and the race settled to some sort of equilibrium, who would lead?

Its impossible to answer this question with certainty, but we can get some clues by looking at fundamentals-based models and current polling. These data sources show that theres good reason to think the equilibrium in this race is Clinton holding a narrow lead.

Fundamentals -- This Election Should Be Close

One way to try to get at this equilibrium is by looking at the fundamentals -- factors like the economy and the presidents job approval that set the stage for most elections. In many presidential races, both major party candidates have been viewed as competent, ideologically mainstream and popular enough that their campaigns roughly canceled out each other, allowing these fundamental factors to heavily influence the final outcome.

The fundamentals suggest that this election should be close.

James Campbell at Sabatos Crystal Ball has collected a number of election forecasts (many of which rely partially or fully on fundamentals) made by political scientists and the results are mixed. Some of the models (e.g. Alan Abramowitzs Time for Change) suggest a Republican win, but others (like the Political Economy Model by Michael Lewis-Beck and Charles Tien) give Clinton the edge. But most of these models keep the race within a few points and when averaged they suggest a near tie.

Favorability Ratings Give Clinton the Edge

Those mostly fundamentals-based models are useful, but many leave out a key feature of the race: the candidates. Both nominees are historically unpopular, but Clinton has been consistently less unpopular than Trump. And according to a simple model I made, that difference in popularity pushes the equilibrium of the race away from a near-tie to slightly in her favor.

I used President Obamas net job approval, Clintons net favorability and Trumps net favorability to predict the Clinton vs. Trump national polling (using RCP averages for every number) every day from July 2, 2015 (when RCP started calculating some of these averages) to the end of August 2016. All three predictors had a statistically significant effect on the horse-race polling, and they pointed in the expected direction. That is, better ratings for Obama and Clinton led to an increase in her standing in the horse race while better ratings for Trump shifted the race towards him.

Ive displayed some of the results of the model in the table below. The basic idea is to show how the horse race would look in various scenarios. So if you want to know how the race might play out given a 4.5 percent net approval rating for Obama (which I held constant in this table), a -20 net favorability rating for Trump and a -10 net favorability rating for Clinton (both realistic numbers based on recent polling), you would simply look at the cell in the second row and fourth column. Those favorability numbers indicate a three-point Clinton lead. Cells that are more blue indicate a bigger Clinton win, and cells that are more red signal a larger Trump win.

Before getting to the results, its important to deal with a four caveats, which are detailed in the section below (skip the italicized section you arent interested in the details of the data).

First, some might argue that this model is too inclusive -- that is, the regression is based partially on times when the race was fundamentally different (e.g. the primary season or the conventions). But no model is omniscient, and cutting that data comes at a price. If the model is supposed to figure out what sort of favorability ratings would lead to a Trump win or a Clinton landslide, its best to feed it real data where Trump is ahead or Clinton is riding high. Much of that data comes from conventions and the primary season.

Second, if Trump gains a point in net favorability, that gives him a bigger boost in the horse race than what Clinton would get for raising her net favorability by a point. This seems counterintuitive -- one would think both candidates would gain equally from increasing their respective favorability ratings. Its possible that this is a product of Trumps rock-bottom ratings. That is, when Trump improves his favorability he often brings in wayward members of the Republican base, who are already predisposed to support him. Clintons favorability ratings are also bad, but one could argue that she has a better hold on Democratic partisans, and thus draws from a smaller pool when her favorability rises. Either way, its not the expected result and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Third, Clinton has led Trump in the horse race and favorability for most of the campaign. That means the left-hand side of the table is mostly a projection based on the idea that these same relationships will hold if Trump improves drastically or Clinton nose-dives. That may be the case, but its my sense that the left-hand side of the table likely overestimates Trumps projected margin.

Finally, third-party candidates are excluded because theres more historical data for the two-way race. If we had similar records for the three-way (with Libertarian Gary Johnson) or four-way race (with Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein), using that data might shift the results.

The table shows positive results for Clinton. During the post-primary season, Clintons net favorability has often outpaced Trumps by around 10 points. If those numbers capture the voters base-line feelings about the two candidates, then the equilibrium is a two- to four-point lead for her.

But thats a relatively fragile lead. A temporary shock in the campaign (e.g. more damaging Clinton emails coming to light) could make the race even or give Trump a slight lead. Events like this can shift the poll numbers temporarily, and a short-term shift in late October may not fully wear off before Election Day.

Additionally, if Trumps favorability numbers were to pull within five points of Clintons, the model suggests Trump could be within striking distance or possibly take the lead. The results in that case look somewhat like results of the fundamentals-based models -- a mixed bag where either candidate could have a small lead.

Clinton also has a limited ability to control shifts in the underlying equilibrium. Obamas approval rating is a statistically significant predictor of the horse-race polling, and if his image were to take a hit, her standing might also decrease. Additionally, many of Trumps wounds have been self-inflicted in this campaign (e.g. his comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier). If Trump manages to avoid controversy and appear presidential for an extended period of time, his favorability ratings could change.

The flip side of that lack of control is that the equilibrium may shift in Clintons favor. Trump could make remarks that are more permanently damaging than anything hes said already, and good economic or foreign policy news could lift Obamas numbers even further. In cases like these, the equilibrium could move to a solid Clinton win or a landslide without her lifting a finger.

13 Sep 2016
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Hillary Clinton's Lead Over Trump Shrinks After Controversial Week: Poll -

Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump narrowed to 3 points this week after several days of controversy following FBI Director James Comey's recommendation that no criminal charges be brought against the former secretary of state over her use of a private email server.

While the developments are certainly good news for the Clinton campaign, Comey's critical statement on Clinton's handling of the matter was not positive. Clinton's lead over Trump has deteriorated in the past couple weeks since her lead peaked two weeks ago.

Related: Track All the Latest Polling in Data Points

A strong majority of voters (82 percent) agreed that it was inappropriate for Clinton to use a personal email server during her tenure as secretary of state. A smaller majority 56 percent also said they disagreed with Comey's recommendation that Clinton not be prosecuted for use of the server.

These results are according to the latest from the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll conducted online from July 4 through July 10, 2016. Survey questions pertaining to Clinton's email controversy were added following Comey's announcement.

Last Monday, Comey announced the conclusion of the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state. Clinton had been criticized for mishandling classified information and for her administration's reckless treatment of sensitive information. While about eight in 10 of all voters agree that Clinton's use of an email server was "inappropriate," this number also includes nearly seven in 10 of her own supporters.

While a majority of American voters (56 percent) disagree with Comey's recommendation that Clinton should not be prosecuted by the Department of Justice, these attitudes break sharply by candidate support. Though Donald Trump's supporters nearly unanimously (93 percent) disagree with the FBI's conclusions, a majority (78 percent) of Clinton's supporters agree that she should not be prosecuted. A notable two in 10 of Clinton's supporters, however, said they disagreed with Comey's decision as well.

The email controversy seems to have a meaningful impact on voters' impressions of the presumptive Democratic nominee as 66 percent of voters now say she is not honest and trustworthy including a third of her own supporters. This issue was a sticking point for many Democrats during her primary campaign run and is often attributed in part to Bernie Sanders' ability to remain somewhat competitive with Clinton.

While it is unclear what lasting impacts the investigation could have on her bid for presidency, the email investigation's findings do not appear to have moved Clinton's favorability ratings significantly. When respondents were asked their impression of the Democratic candidate in May, 59 percent of voters said they had either a "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable impression of Clinton. This week, amid intense scrutiny, her disapproval rating is now 60 percent virtually unchanged since two months ago. Trump does not appear to have benefited from Clinton's controversy as he also has a 62 percent unfavorable rating this week; identical to his rating among registered voters in May.

The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll was conducted online July 4 through July 10, 2016 among a national sample of 7,869 adults who say they are registered to vote. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. For full results and methodology, click here.

12 Jul 2016
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Beijing South China Sea claims rejected by court - BBC News

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly IslandsImage copyright Reuters Image caption China has accelerated construction on some disputed reefs An international tribunal has ruled against Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, backing a case brought by the Philippines.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.

China called the ruling "ill-founded" and says it will not be bound by it.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by others.

The tribunal in The Hague said China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights. It also said China had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment" by building artificial islands.

The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed.

The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.

The US sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region ahead of the ruling. Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy has been carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.

Philippe Sands, a lawyer for the Philippines in the case, said it was a "clear and unanimous judgement that upholds the rule of law and the rights claimed by the Philippines".

He called it a "definitive ruling on which all states can place reliance".

However, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua said that "as the panel has no jurisdiction, its decision is naturally null and void".

The tribunal was ruling on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were:

Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting accessChina had "destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea" that formed part of the dispute Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation - one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide.

The BBC's Robin Brant, in Shanghai, says this is the worst outcome for China and its action in the seas hundreds of miles away will be the crucial next step.

In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said China was the first to have discovered and exploited the South China Sea islands and relevant waters, "thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests".

Muted reaction in the Philippines - Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Manila

The press room was packed but the statement from Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay lasted just two minutes.

In four short paragraphs, he explained that experts were now analysing the ruling and called on all concerned to exercise "constraint and sobriety" at what he described as a "milestone decision".

There were no celebrations, hardly even a smile. And there's a reason for that.

This is not the same government that first brought this case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration three and a half years ago, in the aftermath of a standoff at Scarborough Shoal.

Two weeks ago, Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as Philippine president. All the indications are that he is more willing to seek accommodation with the Chinese than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino.

Here in Manila, many believe that the new president may have sought promises of Chinese investment, in return for a quiet, dignified response.

12 Jul 2016
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01 Jul 2016
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