Short hits: Travel, change, and some politics and policy

1. One of my favorite travel blogs, Vagabond Journey, is run by Wade Shepard, an American who has been traveling the world for years, and is now doing so with his wife and young child. Shepard is smart, savvy and goes beyond typical tourist tips in so many ways. Here, for instance, is an incredible post called, “How to Engage and Appreciate All Places When Travelling.” Or take a gander at this look at a repurposed pressure cooker being used on the streets of China, which is fascinating in its technical details and on what it says about cultural and economic change.

2. Another kind of change involves taking a new job. Maine’s Dr. Noah Nesin is making the leap into new territory. After seeing his father work as a country doctor and considering a different direction, he became the same sort of physician. And now he’s moving to an administrative position “to shape the delivery of medical care now to conform with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Nesin said he strongly supports.”

Best of luck, Noah! Mazel Tov! And I look forward to chatting with you sometime about how changes in the health care system and health policy are affecting the delivery of care in our state.

3. With the impending arrival of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Republicans are calling for the sorts of changes in Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Not only were these rejected at the polls, but, as Jonathan Cohn points out, it overlooks the cost-control elements in the Affordable Care Act.

It’s arguably the most ambitious effort to reduce the cost of medical care in history. It captured some of the obvious sources of savings, such as overpayments to insurers that offer a private coverage alternative to Medicare beneficiaries, and it launched dozens of pilot programs, testing out schemes to make health care more efficient—everything from reducing payments to hospitals with high rates of inpatient infection to “bundling” payments so that Medicare isn’t simply providing financial incentives to perform more tests and treatments.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that, on net, Obamacare will reduce the deficit [pdf]. And that’s based on conservative assumptions: The CBO didn’t assume huge savings from those pilot programs. If those pan out, the deficit reduction will be even greater.

4. Regarding that fiscal cliff, journalist Michael Grunwald asks his fellow reporters to pay attention to the vastly different things being said by Republicans during the campaign compared to what they’re saying now.

It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

Know of a similarly detailed discussion about Democrats? If so please post the link in comments.

5. Every campaign targets certain groups of voters. As William Saletan points out, Romney campaign strategists have been bragging about how well they did with the groups they targeted.

But it turns  out, that wasn’t very good strategy.

Romney won the groups he targeted, and his team continues to point out proudly that he won them. But mathematically, these groups no longer decide elections. In a Nov. 12 memo, Romney’s polling firm asserted that “our research did what it is designed to do—provide strategic counsel to campaigns about key target groups and messages designed to help them win.” But what happens when the “key target groups” aren’t key? You can exclude blacks, Latinos, surplus Democrats, and people who earn less than $50,000 from your target groups and your poll analysis. But you can’t exclude them from the election.

6. A lot has been written about how the Romney campaign, including its top candidates, were surprised that they lost. Internally, their pollsters were simply less sophisticated and competent than the Obama campaign’s polling operation.

Moreover, given that Obama was consistently ahead in Ohio, they should have realized that Romney had no chance of winning.

If you’re interested in campaign polling, give this piece a read.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.