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Michael Cornfield
Somewhere Inside the Beltway
I teach strategy and message to aspiring political professionals.
Recent Activity
Good conversations today about immigration reform with @GSPMgwu colleagues Roberto Izurieta, Lara Brown, Ron Faucheux and (via Twitter) student Anna Haberlein. My takeaway: the path to citizenship and the GOP path to Hispanic votes will run in sync, starting late 2014 early 2015 with legislation from a Republican Congress and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2014 at duckrabbitpolitics
I rarely quote Tom Friedman. But his column today contains the best advice on how to construct a resumé I have ever seen: pithy, replicable, and equally valuable to those sending and receiving resumés. Friedman's quoting Laszlo Bock, the guy who hires for Google. Here it is: How do you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2014 at duckrabbitpolitics
To judge from the traffic on Memeorandum, the political commentariat is much too busy speculating about the effects of the latest Supreme Court decision on money in politics to come to grips with the real news of the day: an actual and consequential exposé of corruption at USAID. Do yourself... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at duckrabbitpolitics
Today was a great day to be a GSPM professor: the hypothesis of my online graduate student Ridie Chapman received empirical confirmation because I was able to insert a question about it into the latest GWU Battleground poll. I say it here and it comes out there! (Could not find... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at duckrabbitpolitics
Those well-known Washington sources "some Democratic lawmakers and strategists" are paraphrased in today's Washington Post curtain-raiser for the 2014 State of the Union address. The story has them urging the White House "to focus less on academic-sounding discussions of income inequality and to simplify Obama’s message to reflect the everyday... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2014 at duckrabbitpolitics
"How to Win in Washington," today's cover story in the New York Times Magazine, is hyped in the table of contents as "an epic tale of favor-currying, arm-twisting, reputation-wrecking, ego-massaging, confidence-betraying and rumor-mongering." Yum! Alas, I could not finish it. It is a tiny and tediously self-referential tale about a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
No one, not even me, goes to see "World War Z" for edification on the best way to resolve a global crisis. But as with most disaster movies, a doctrine has been knotted into the plot and characters of this summer blockbuster. Usually, as Rebecca Solnit writes, "Heroes are necessary... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
Here's how: after the Jan. 2 tax hikes, a win for the Democrats, now the Republicans have won spending cuts, so in classic negotiation protocol it is the Republicans' turn to make a concession. They are not going to countenance another violation of their no-tax pledge. But they might bend... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
Decades ago the political scientist John Kingdon taught us to distinguish between agenda-setting --talking about issues to call attention to them-- and alternative-specifying --setting down the provisions which will go into a bill or order on a policy topic already getting attention. Last night, President Obama showed he understands the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
WARNING: This blog post may make little sense to readers under 50. Had a long flight and a Christmas gift DVD with me yesterday (Thanks Joy!), so I watched "Living in the Material World," Scorsese's 3 1/3-hour authorized rock-docubiography of George Harrison. It turned out to be perfect for viewing... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
Or meh. Instantly forgettable, B-level Obama reject-the-bad-dichotomies rhetoric. Inaugural Addresses at their best inspire tomorrow's politicians. They have no bearing on negotiations and spin wars with today's politicians. So it really doesn't matter that today's speech was flat. In quick retrospect, Obama's biggest speech of the month was the one... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
I'm sure many of you have seen the film "Lincoln" by now. Even if you haven't, I recommend that you take an hour or so and read the shooting script by Tony Kushner. It is a work of high literary value, tremendously fun to read, and incredibly illuminating in its... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2013 at duckrabbitpolitics
"Look at those old movies. What is the worst thing that can happen to the wagon train? To run out of ammunition. Let us make that national policy." --Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1990. The debate over guns has perked up to a rolling boil, which is a good but ephemeral thing.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
President Obama called for meaningful action in his remarks this afternoon. He will never have a better opportunity to get something done with respect to the spate of mass killings which have crushed our hearts with increasing frequency since the economic collapse. (As Brad Plumer of the Washington Post noted,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
It looks as though Mitt Romney's final vote total will round down to 47 percent. Coincidence? No. As any Pomona College graduate will tell you, it is just another indication of a well-ordered universe. Happy Thanksgiving. Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
Here is a sign of how well bankers, big business, and deficit hawks have dominated public discourse about the budget crisis: Google "fiscal cliff" and you get 750,000,000 returns. "Fiscal slope" summons 4,000,000, and "fiscal staircase" fetches 12,000,000. The basic premise of this blog is that captioning terms matter in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
Here's my selection of the three best and worst moves Obama and Romney made during the campaign. I offer it before the election results color my judgement, as it inevitably will. It's in Powerpoint form because I'm using it for talks (duh). My admiration goes out to all who worked... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
As of today nearly 4.5 million Americans have cast their votes for the 2012 general election. This total includes 748K in FL (8.8% of 2008 total), 323K in IA (20.9%), 103K in NV (12.8%), 644K in OH (11.2%), and 211K in VA (5.6%). Professor Michael McDonald of GMU keeps track... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
1. A TIE. It is not hard to look at a map and jigger the states into a 269-269 tie in electoral votes. (Best site, by far, to play that game.) However, such a result is extremely unlikely in reality, because the actual forces determining the election are not going... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
This blog post is in lecture mode because it's what I'm going to say to my GSPM students tonight in class before we watch the debate together. Of all the activities that politicians engage in, and that political managers advise and allocate for, nothing combines drama and democracy better than... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
The three players in last night's sideshow did a good job of reassuring their primary audiences of their worth. Vice-President Biden demonstrated passion for the middle-class, policy expertise across the board, and derision for the Romney-Ryan version of reality. Congressman Ryan was focused; he sustained the case against Obama and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
My boss, former GOP Congressman Mark Kennedy, made a couple of great points last night in a GSPM class: 1. Obama hasn't had anyone confront him directly in four years. 2. He hasn't had to speak in public and hear only silence from the audience in four years. The popping... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
Put yourself in the mind of someone just tuning into the campaign via the first debate. The president looks like he is somewhere else. The challenger is racing through a Powerpoint presentation without the slides. The moderator is a substitute teacher called back from retirement. Five years ago, in the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
The most important political event in the Americas this week will not take place on Wednesday night in Denver. Rather, it will occur on Sunday in Venezuela, where Henrique Capriles Radonski poses a serious challenge to the autocratic regime of Hugo Chávez in a national election. Several developments could entail... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics
So Romney does the closest he can apparently do to speaking directly with the 47%. He releases a new video in which he talks to the camera and says: "President Obama and I both care about poor and middle class families. The difference is my policies will make things better... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2012 at duckrabbitpolitics