Michael Barone - Which is the weaker party?

Which of our two great political parties is the stronger? Maybe it makes more sense to ask which of the two is weaker.

The case that the Republicans are weaker is easy to state. Democrats have won four of the last six presidential elections, from 1992 to 2012, and won a plurality of the popular vote in a fifth. This is a vivid contrast from the period 1968 to 1988, when Republicans won five of six presidential elections.

The case that the Democrats are weaker is not much harder to make. Democrats have failed to win a majority in the House of Representatives, the branch of government closest to the people, in eight of the last 10 elections, from 1994 to 2012. That's quite a contrast from the period, from 1954 to 1992, when Democrats won House majorities in 20 consecutive elections.

But neither side is in as strong a position as the other was in the past. Republicans' presidential vote margins averaged 10 percent in 1968-88. Democrats' margins averaged 4 percent in 1992-2012. As for the House, Democrats won at least 243 seats in every election from 1958 to 1992. Republicans' peak between 1994 and 2012 was 242 seats.

An assessment of their strength going forward depends on how well they are succeeding in maximizing their vote in line with their historic character. For the two parties are not twins.

The Republican Party, through its 160-year history, has had a core support group which is thought of as typically American but which by itself is not a national majority: Northern Protestants in the 19th century, married white people in America today.

The Democratic party, over its 182-year history, has been a collection of out groups, often with little in common, but with majority potential when they stick together: Catholic immigrants and white Southerners in the 19th century, blacks and gentry/university liberals today.

Barack Obama and the Democrats amassed a 53 percent majority in 2008, the largest in 20 years, but barely kept it together in 2012, when he won 51 percent — the first American president re-elected with a reduced percentage of the vote.

Obama Democrats maximized turnout among heavily favorable groups — blacks, Hispanics, unmarried women. They also got small majorities from traditional Midwestern Democratic constituencies — union members and retirees in Ohio and Michigan, dovish-minded German- and Scandinavian-Americans in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

But those margins are tenuous.
Democrats' green-tinged opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and hostility to fracking may hurt in the manufacturing belt, just as their "war on coal" has delivered the Jacksonian belt from western Pennsylvania southwest to Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas to Republicans. Military involvement in the Middle East may dampen dovish turnout.
Republicans have different challenges. The party is united in opposition to Obama policies, and differences over tactics have become muted as Republicans have recoiled from the backlash they suffered after the 2013 government shutdown. Splits over foreign policy have tended to disappear in the wake of the ISIS beheadings.

That leaves Republicans this year well-positioned to hold their House majority and with a better than 50 percent chance for a Senate majority. They are very far, however, from selecting a presidential nominee, with no clear leaders among a dozen or so potential candidates. And while they've consolidated their party core, they're very far from coming up with a set of policies that can appeal to a majority of voters.

Ideally, every party wants a nominee to produce a platform, a set of policies, that works in the primaries, works in the general election and works in governing. That's easy to say, but hard to do. Candidates feel pressure to move toward the wings in primaries, toward the center in the fall election, and toward acquiescence to the status quo once in office.

Conservative thinkers of varying stripes, including some officeholders and presidential potentials, have been producing innovative policies that don't simply copy platforms of the past. Attractive new ideas will likely find their way into candidates' platforms and debates.

Republicans face an uphill task in getting their ideas out because of the hostility or incomprehension of old-line media. They have a lot of hard work ahead of them, with no guarantee of a successful outcome. As for Democrats, they face issues with potential fractures in their disparate top-and-bottom coalition.

So which party is weaker? Your call.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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Sanborn — Zombie foreclosures

It seems there was a surge in residential home closings in August in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered by this report. There were 133 transactions last month at an average price of $321,824. In August 2013 there were 123 sales at an average price of $302,861. For the first eight months of the year, there were 603 sales at an average price of $316,015 compared to 679 sales at an average of $287,037 for the same period in 2013. So while we are behind a little on total sales this year, the average sales price is up just a bit.

According to the MLS data there were just six bank owned sales in August. That compares to 13 bank owned in August 2013 and 15 in August of 2012. So that's a pretty good improvement on that front.

With regard to bank owned property, I heard a term on the radio this week that I don't think I had ever heard before. It's called the "Zombie Foreclosure" and the announcer on the radio promised a full report on it after the break. I am a fan of the Walking Dead so I think I would have remembered it if I had heard "Zombie Foreclosure" before, but with so much find stuff on the news sometimes things slip by. According to the teaser on the radio, apparently Zombie Foreclosures are a big problem in certain parts of the country. All I could think of was trying to kill one of these staggering, putrid domiciles with a bow and arrow like Daryl does on the Dead. How many arrows does it take to kill a four bedroom colonial, you would have to ask?

A Zombie Foreclosure home is not really dead, so don't confuse it with a dead listing which is bad enough. If you don't know what a dead listing is you can ask your real estate agent to explain it to you or look for my article around Halloween. A Zombie Foreclosure happens when a homeowner gets a notice that he is going to be foreclosed on so he packs up his stuff and moves out leaving the house unattended. Then the lender unexpectedly decides not to foreclose. No, it wasn't a sudden fit of compassion. The lender may just have had too much inventory on the books or the cost associated with that property is so high that they don't want the property back.

It is hard to believe, but apparently lenders are not required to let homeowners know that foreclosure proceedings have been halted. I suspect some homeowners didn't send the lender a forwarding address anyway! In any event, the owner is gone and unaware of the situation. The unattended house falls into that Zombie state of disrepair and the owner, who is probably living somewhere outside of Vegas by now, starts incurring additional penalties, fees, and additional property taxes that can severely affect his credit. Not a pretty picture, kind of gruesome actually.

I don't know if there are many Zombie Foreclosures in the Lakes Region right now. An article I read on the internet said that there are over 160,000 Zombie Foreclosures nationally with Florida seeming to top the list of places where they occur with over 55,000 owner vacated homes. I think it has something to do with the heat and humidity down there or perhaps the elderly owners just went out for the early bird special, got confused, ended up on I-95 and are still driving somewhere. Who knows? Let me know if you find a Zombie Foreclosure in Laconia, I wanna see what one looks like.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 9/15/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012

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Bob Meade - Wouldn't it be nice if . . .

— politics wasn't a career but a gift of service to the nation?
— people wrote letters to make their argument and not to make an enemy?
— you could believe what elected officials said?
— people respected every job, no matter how humble or how grand, as essential to our civilization?
— the need for the word "condescension" never needed to be created?
— the word "choice" was never thought of as an end of life option?
— we respected people for what they did with the gifts, talents, they were given?
— people could drink alcohol in moderation, and not become addicted to it?
— decisions of our politicians were made for the good of the country, not for political reasons?
— integrity and honesty were virtues sought by everyone, including politicians?
— we didn't have to watch another two months of political "attack ads"?
— spousal abuse never made the headlines . . . because it never happened?
— every company could have an owner like Arthur T.? He showed every manager/executive in the world what happens when employees are treated fairly, and with respect.
— everyone gave their best effort in school, on the job, or at home, every day?
— we really did judge people on the "content of their character"?
— "race" was never used as a shield against legitimate criticism?
— people recognized that God gave each of them two ears to listen, but only one mouth to talk . . . probably for good reason?
— people realized that Thomas Jefferson was right when he said he believed in luck, and found that the harder he worked, the more luck he had?
— academic tenure was replaced with a merit system based on performance?
— all Federal regulations had to be approved by the Congress and signed into law by the President, and then be subject to review by the Courts to ensure the regulations constitutionality?
— the unborn child could have a guardian ad litem to protect its right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?
— those calling for "proportionality" in matters of war would recognize that proportionality automatically declares the most populous force the winner?
— those who deny the existence of God would try to live their life without trying to deny others their religious beliefs?
— teachers/educators didn't impose their will on issues, especially life or death issues, which should be made by the child's parents?
— the media accurately reported the news and didn't choose sides in the political arena?
— dress codes were the norm in all school settings?
— if teachers' unions and politicians didn't work against the establishment and operation of Charter Schools?
— courtesy was routinely practiced by drivers"?
— there were more multi-children families?
— houses of worship had overflowing congregations?
— automobile ads weren't deceptive and the unreadable "fine print" wasn't buried on some back page?
— politicians would advertise why we should vote for them, instead of why we shouldn't vote for the other person?
— legislatures at the state and Federal levels had to have a "super majority" to pass any tax increase?
— all taxes were date limited, so that every legislator and executive would have to be accountable?
— people realized that virtually every tax dollar collected at the local, State, and Federal levels, emanated from some business enterprise?
— people understood that every "benefit" paid, and every local, State, and Federal employee's wages and benefits, every "grant", and every military cost, was paid for out of those taxes that emanated from those business enterprises?
— we defended our sovereignty?
— people in the middle east would acknowledge Israel's right to exist?
— the Palestinian Arabs would sign U.N. resolution 181?
— people understood how world demographic changes will be the cause for wars?
— our Executive Branch respected the separation of powers?
— politicians didn't "divide" the citizenry, pitting one group against another for political purposes?
— more people would recognize the wonders of organizations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, and support them as they do their good works for others?
— we held people accountable for the wrongs done by the IRS and the Veteran's Administration?
— instead of continuing to blame our country for its past sin of slavery, we recognize that 630,000 people died to right that wrong?
— we understood the overwhelming numbers of people in the world who are in poverty, and recognize that we can't fix all those problems by bringing people here, we need to send our skills and knowledge to those areas and teach and help them elevate their standard of life.
— Marine Sgt. Tamoorisi came home?

There are many other things we can think of that would be "nice" . . . you probably can think of a number of things, too. Think about it and add your "wouldn't it be nice if" things to the list.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)


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James Pindell - After poor primary turnout, it's time to move date

I saw a children's map of the United States recently that I am afraid might not that accurate. Along with the names and borders of states there we also icons representing that particular state's accepted brand.

For Georgia there were peaches. For Indiana, a race car. For New Hampshire, there was a ballot box. It should be a point of pride for Granite Staters that our state is known as an icon for American politics. With the most citizen of legislatures, our spring town hall meetings, and our first-in-the-nation presidential primary, it makes sense that our political culture stands out. But as this past week showed there is a flaw to this line of thinking. Our dirty little secret is that when it comes to our other primary — the non-presidential kind — our democracy isn't so participatory. The good news is that there is something we can do about it that isn't just pie-in-the-sky thinking.

Less than one of out five voters went to the ballot on Tuesday to pick Republican and Democratic nominees for U.S. Senate and governor all the way down to county commissioner. (Keep in mind this ratio is just among registered voters. The voter turnout rate is actually much lower when you include all adults, many of whom aren't registered to vote.) You might see this turnout as pathetic. But it is actually the third highest turnout in state history that we have had on the Republican side, which had most of the contested primaries this year.

Henniker, we have a problem.

The good news is that this is the rare example where amending a law might fix the problem. In 1979, when the New Hampshire Legislature last looked into the date of the state primary, deemed it to be on the second Tuesday in September.

The result is that most of the heavy campaigning takes place in August, when much of the state is tuned out on summer vacation or busy making a buck on summer tourists. In the closing days of the primary, the state's mindset in on going back to school.

This could change if the Legislature decided to simply follow the route of most other states move the primary to something like late May or June. At this date, it is less likely that the primary election will take a back seat to other concerns. This year's primary date was the latest in the country.

In fact, our primary date is so late that it impacts the general election in November as well. This year there are only eight weeks between the September primary and the November election. Tactically, this gives a huge, unfair advantage to incumbents.

Take, for example, the state's 1st Congressional district seat. Republican Frank Guita only had $187,000 in his campaign account just days before the primary and likely spent most of it just to win, leaving him broke. His Democratic opponent, incumbent Carol Shea-Porter, didn't have a primary and was sitting on nearly six times the campaign cash. It is good for democracy that challengers like Guinta have no time to replenish campaign funds to compete with incumbents?

There will be those who will reject moving up the primary date to before the summer. I asked former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg about it this week and wants to keep the primary where it is simply for tradition. I have also heard some rightly point out that with just a 2-year term for governor and Congress moving up the primary will mean more campaigning and less governing.There is also an argument to be made that it will mean campaigns will be more expensive, but that is harder to prove.

However, these factors need to be weighed against the concern of getting more people to vote. We are New Hampshire after all, and the ballot box is the very thing that puts us on the map.

(James Pindell covers New Hampshire politics for WMUR-TV. You can follow his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/politicalscoop.)

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Sanborn — Winni waterfront sales report August 2014

There were 17 sales on Lake Winnipesaukee in August 2014 at an average price of $1,144,029 and a median price of $899,000. There were seven sales over the magic million dollar mark. That's pretty good but not as good as last August when there were 23 transactions at an average sales price of $732,396. For the first eight months of the year there have been 80 sales on Winnipesaukee with a total sales volume of $85.91 million and an average sales price of $1.074 million compared to 85 sales for the same period in 2013 where the total sales volume was $74.86 million and the average price came in at $800,752. So in a nutshell, this year the higher priced homes are selling a little better.

The biggest sale on Winni in August was at 8 Foxwood Way in Tuftonboro. This sale was really about the lot which was 98.6 acres with 822 feet of frontage! However, one must not overlook the two 1935 vintage lodges. One has four bedrooms, a great room with cathedral ceilings, the requisite floor to ceiling fire place, wood paneling, and a sun room looking out at the lake. The other lodge sits back in the trees and has a separate bunkhouse with sunken living room for the rowdy guests. There is an over the water boat house, a U-shaped crib dock, and a three car garage for all the motorized equipment you might have. This property was represented by Randy Parker of Maxfield Real Estate back in May of 2013 at $4.5 million and sold for $3.7 million after 438 days on the market.

The mid priced sale was at 5 Deepwater Point in Moultonborough. This 3,015 square foot, three bedroom, three bath, contemporary was built in 1998 and was meticulously maintained and very well appointed. This is one of those properties that has a true lake home feel when you walk in. It features a beautiful great room with a stone wood burning fireplace, wood floors, and cathedral ceiling, country kitchen with cherry cabinetry, granite counter tops, and stainless appliances, first floor master, and family room in the walk out lower level. The home sits in a .69 acre lot with lush landscaping, mature perennial gardens, and stone walkways. There is 93' of sandy frontage with a large deep water dock that provides ample room for all the toys. This home was first listed in May of 2013 for $975,000, then re-listed with Ricker Miller of BHHS Verani in Moultonborough in May of 2014 for $899,900, and sold for full price in 36 days. This property is currently assessed for $600,300.

The lowest price sale for the month is a really cute 1985 vintage, 979 square foot, two bedroom, one and a half bath camp at 992 Rattlesnake Island in Alton. The property even has an additional bunkhouse where Uncle Zeke can stay when he shows up unexpectedly. This cottage sits on a .78 acre lot with 100' of frontage with a breakwater and dock. There's a waterside deck that provides a great sitting area to take in the 180 degree views. This property was first listed in Sept 2013 for $309,000, re-listed this year with Nancy DePorter of Maxfield Real Estate for $309,000 and sold for $305,000. It is currently assessed at $307,500. Uncle Zeke must be real happy.

There was only one sale on Winnisquam in August and that was in Tilton at 32 Hill Road. This 1920s vintage lake home feels like stepping back in time but it has been tastefully remodeled over the years. It has three bedrooms, two baths, a charming living room with stone fireplace, a nice country kitchen with large pantry, and an old fashioned front porch (or is it back porch?) looking out at the lake. While there is only 20' of frontage on this .39 acre lot it provides access to a great dock and the calm waters of a no wake zone. This home was on and off the market since 2007 when it was first was listed for $499,000. It was listed this spring by Michelle Heally of BHHS Verani out of Londondery for $369,900 and sold for $375,000 after 11 days on the market. It is currently assessed for $238,900.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 9/09/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012

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