This Infographic Shows How Obamacare Might Be Just One Big Expansion of Medicaid

Kelsey Harris /

Spoiler alert! When it comes to covering the uninsured, Obamacare has proven itself to be one giant expansion of Medicaid. A new report released Wednesday reveals the total coverage increase for the first half of 2014. While total coverage increased by 8,538,327 individuals, enrollment in Medicaid accounted for 71 percent of that growth. Check out the infographic below for the full breakdown of the numbers.


Infographic by Kelsey Harris

Infographic by Kelsey Harris

>>> The Full Numbers: Obamacare’s Enrollment Increase Mainly Due to Medicaid Expansion

Meet the New Class Warrior in Chief - Daily Signal

Meet the New Class Warrior in Chief

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith /

We learned last week that new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is not so much our nation’s central banker as class warrior in chief.  In a widely publicized speech Ms. Yellen parroted all of the left’s talking points on the divide between rich and poor.  “The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” she lectured.  “It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.”

Actually, that’s a factually dubious claim given that the 1980s and 1990s saw wide gains for the middle class and even those at the bottom of the income pyramid.  Middle income families saw a  more than 30%  inflation-adjusted rise in income in those years. From 1982-1997 those who started out as poor actually saw faster income gains than those who started out as rich, according the U.S. Treasury Department study on income mobility.  Upward mobility defined that era of broad-based  prosperity.

Ms. Yellen also failed to note that the income gap is widening today because this has been the slowest recovery from a recession since the 1930s. Compared the other economic recoveries since 1960, Our national output is about $1.6 trillion (in inflation-adjusted dollars) behind; and compared to the Reagan recovery in the 1980s, we’re now $2.2 trillion behind, according to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

Ms. Yellen never mentions that Obamanomics has made inequality much worse.  Almost all of the income gains under Barrack Obama have gone to the top 5% in income.

Her silence on this point shouldn’t be too surprising because she has supported most of Obama’s economic policies.  She has also been a cheerleader of the Fed’s easy money policies which have benefited those at the top and almost no one else.  She never spoke out against the nearly $8 trillion in debt spending since the end of 2008, the big tax increase on investment in 2013, the expansion of welfare benefits, and other policies that have backfired.  One could argue the best way to reduce inequality is to repeal everything that President Obama has done since he entered office.

The real estate bust also exacerbated inequality, she concludes.  “Since housing accounts for a larger share of wealth for those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution, their overall wealth is affected more by changes in home prices,” she says. “Homeowners in the bottom half of households by wealth reported 61 percent less home equity in 2013 than in 2007. The next 45 percent reported a 29 percent loss of housing wealth, and the top 5 lost 20 percent.”  Again, this is because of federal housing policies at FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac that encouraged mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them.

Ms. Yellen conveniently failed to mention the role the Federal Reserve that she runs played in allowing unqualified borrowers easy access to mortgage loans to purchase homes at prices inflated by the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies.

According to Ms. Yellen, “Public funding of education is another way that governments can help offset the advantages some households have in resources available for children.” But if money were the answer the problem, districts in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC would be leading the way in performance. After all, these districts spend more than the national average. Why do they have some of the worst schools with the highest dropout rates?

Yellen is correct to point out the failures of our public education system. Young adults from economically challenged backgrounds are certainly being deprived of opportunities which could propel them forward.  School choice programs to allow the poor and minorities better education options are working and should be expanded, but Ms. Yellen dared not take on the teacher unions.

It wasn’t all bad. At one point she noted:  “it appears that it has become harder to start and build businesses.” That’s for sure. The United States has steadily dropped in the rankings of economic freedom, as our colleagues at the Heritage Foundation has documented.

But Ms. Yellen ignored most of the ideas that truly will ignite growth and raise incomes for the poor.  Marriage, the dignity of work, income tax cuts to promote investment here, cutting our corporate tax, replacing welfare with work, preparing our workers with the skills they need to fill millions of unfilled jobs. These are the “values rooted in our nation’s history,” to borrow a phrase from the Fed chief, that could allow the poor to rise up.

This might have been an occasion for Ms. Yellen to use her new perch as Fed chief to boldly challenge the whole litany of tired liberal talking points on inequality. She could have warned that when we focus on economic fairness and not growth, we get neither – as the Obama years have demonstrated.

That’s so disappointing because we’ve tried all of these ideas for five years, and we still have record income inequality.   The nation’s Fed chief ought to be a loud and clear voice for growth – not class envy.

Originally appeared on

Workers Stuck Paying Plush AFL-CIO Exec Salaries - Daily Signal

Workers Stuck Paying Plush AFL-CIO Exec Salaries

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart /

AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., used money taken from workers to pay its officers and employees an average of $89,328 during fiscal year 2014.

Including every individual for whom AFL-CIO who reported a gross salary to the U.S. Department of Labor — from president Richard Trumka on down — the union coalition spent more than $35 million on compensation for three officers and 391 employees.

In 26 states and the District of Columbia, private-sector workers can be forced to pay AFL-CIO affiliates as a condition of employment. Public-sector workers can be forced to pay union fees in D.C. and 23 states, although thousands of Wisconsin and Michigan workers have exercised their privilege to opt out as a result of recent reforms.

Millions in tax dollars make their way to AFL-CIO each year, as the union coalition’s largest affiliates are American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and American Federation of Teachers.

This explains AFL-CIO support for bigger government, but AFL-CIO headquarters pay stands in contrast to the organization’s politics.

AFL-CIO backed the fringe-left Occupy Wall Street movement launched in late 2011, and it continues to embrace the group’s “99 percent” rhetoric. Solidarity with low-income workers is a major theme of AFL-CIO efforts to increase union membership, grow government and hike corporate taxes.

People’s World, a publication of Communist Party USA, reported that at an April 15 press conference unveiling the 2014 edition of AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch report, Trumka said the pay of top CEOs keeps increasing “because the system is rigged.”

“They’re cannibalizing their customer base,” Trumka added. Using money paid to AFL-CIO by its dues-funded union affiliates, Trumka was paid a total of $322,131 during AFL-CIO’s 2014 fiscal year ending June 30.




How Grade Inflation Hurts College Students’ Futures - Daily Signal

How Grade Inflation Hurts College Students’ Futures

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth /

The scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is principally about academic dishonesty. But it highlights an institutional failure at almost all American colleges that dissuades students from pursuing the best career possible. Some academic departments systematically inflate students’ grades. And many of those departments give students the least rigorous preparation for the labor market.

Part of college is learning what you’re good at. Students use freshman-year courses to gauge their interest and aptitude in different majors. A student who receives an A in writing and a B in calculus might conclude that she’s a better writer than mathematician. But what if she actually earned the average grade in both courses?

Plenty of students who start in difficult fields such as math decide to scale back their ambitions. That’s fine if it’s a personal choice–but not if they’re doing so because they got deceptive messages from their graders.

Women appear to be more sensitive to these grading messages than men. When Wellesley, an elite college for women, instituted a sensible grading system across all majors, the number of students majoring in the previously “easy” disciplines declined by 30%! Colleges that refuse to tackle grade inflation bear some responsibility for the fact that women, on average, end up in lower-paying fields.

Colleges will always have borderline students who hunt for the classes most likely to pass them and keep them enrolled. Educational institutions have a responsibility to ensure that the classes students are most likely to pass are the ones where they have a comparative advantage–not the ones where the faculty is most permissive.

Originally appeared on

The Obama Administration Is Great at Talking Big–And Not Following Up - Daily Signal

The Obama Administration Is Great at Talking Big–And Not Following Up

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund /

The Obama administration has responded to the Ebola epidemic by talking big. It does that well. From the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti to Syria’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, the administration has made a lot of splashy responses. But making a splash isn’t the same as being serious.

Take the Haitian earthquake, which killed more than 300,000 people. The initial U.S. response, led by the Department of Defense, saved many lives, though analysis by the Rand Corp. found that our success was mostly due to luck: if different buildings had collapsed, the U.S. response would have been much more compromised. But the U.S. mission ended in June 2010.

That left the ongoing United Nations mission in charge. By late 2010, UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal had caused a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 8,000 people. In early 2010, Haiti seemed so important that it got a line in Obama’s State of the Union address. But by late 2012, the United States had disbursed less than a third of its promised aid. The administration ignored the UN’s failure and moved on.

In 2011, after an online video went viral, Obama deployed U.S. forces to Uganda to hunt down Joseph Kony, the murderous leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. In March he reinforced that mission. It would be good to eliminate Kony’s small band of killers. But with neighboring South Sudan on the verge of genocide, Kony is little more than an infamous symbol in a region with far more serious problems.

The pattern is the same. A foreign problem makes the administration look bad, so it responds in a big way. But its efforts don’t focus on substance. They’re merely public relations.

In 2011, the United States provided most of the muscle for NATO’s intervention in Libya, which Obama justified on the grounds that it was necessary to stop then-leader Moammar Gadhafi’s “brutal repression.” But the United States had no plan for what to do after it overthrew Gadhafi. Today, Libya is a failed state, with an elected parliament on the run from local and Islamist militias.

In 2012, Obama issued his “red line” on the Syrian use of chemical weapons. When the Syrians crossed it a year later, Russia, which wanted to protect Syria, made a deal with the United States to destroy the weapons Syria declared. But that did not stop Syria’s use of chemicals: The Bashar Assad regime simply switched from sarin gas to chlorine. The problem was never sarin: It was Assad.

In 2014, first lady Michelle Obama joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on Twitter. The girls are not back. More significantly, the Islamist terrorists who kidnapped them are still advancing in northeastern Nigeria. But now Ebola is the fashionable concern.

The Ebola epidemic has been raging since March, and the World Health Organization declared it an emergency in August. But a month after Obama said the disease was “spiraling out of control,” the U.S. military effort in West Africa is barely getting off the ground.

There are a lot of smart, dedicated and brave people doing their best to stop Ebola in West Africa today. And Ebola, like all of the problems Obama’s faced, is hard to cope with, much less to solve.

But under Obama, even when the United States acts, it has no attention span. His actions — like Friday’s appointment of an “Ebola czar” — focus on symbols, and lack a competent, sustained follow-up. The point of his announcements is to win a quick burst of applause and then get the issue out of the headlines.

As the Ebola epidemic shows, the problem with trivializing foreign crises is simply this: They’re not trivial. They affect us. And when we forget that, it’s not just foreigners who die. It’s Americans.

Originally appeared on

Will It Make a Difference Which Party Controls Congress in 2015? - Daily Signal

Will It Make a Difference Which Party Controls Congress in 2015?

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund / Genevieve Wood /

Does it matter which political party controls Congress come 2015?

Turn on any news program covering the mid-term election and you’ll get a steady stream of “horse-race” reports: which candidates are up, which are down, how many seats are leaning Democrat or now safely in the hands of the GOP. Pollster after pollster will eagerly tell you how many Senate seats each party will end up with — then revise those numbers day after day — right up until the polls close on Nov. 4.

Granted, the non-stop prognosticating makes for good graphics on TV – maps lighting up blue and red, Republican strategist Karl Rove’s white board showing numbers and percentages scribbled across it. But how often have you heard a discussion as to what difference it will actually make if the GOP wins control of the Senate or, for that matter, if the Democrats manage to hold on to it?

It’s a question Republicans should be prepared to answer if they do win in November — especially if they hope to be victorious again in 2016.

Polls show voters are no more enamored with the Republican brand than the Democrat one. The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows only 46% of likely voters prefer a GOP-held Congress, with 44% preferring a Democratic-controlled one.

Rather than lay out a particular vision of how life in America will be better if voters put its candidates in office, the GOP seems more to be counting on the fact that voters are unhappy with President Obama. Only 42% of respondents in the latest NBC/WSJ survey say they approved of the job he is doing.


And that is why many Democrats, including those running for office this year, must have shaken their heads when the president recently went out of his way to say that, while he is not on the ballot, his policies are. To many voters, Obama and his policies are one in the same, and the GOP has been bending every effort to try to nationalize the election and make it a referendum on Obama.

But if you take Obama out of the equation, what’s left?

On the campaign trail, many a Republican candidate has railed against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. But will a GOP controlled Congress repeal it? If not, what would they do about it?

Many candidates have spoken with great passion about the fact our southern border is not secure and that Obama has gone around Congress to delay deportations for millions here illegally. Will a GOP controlled Congress block the president on such moves?

For years, Republicans in Congress have pushed for development of the Keystone XL pipeline that they say will produce cheaper energy and more jobs for Americans. Will a GOP Congress pass the measure and put it on the president’s desk?

In politics, winning an election is simply step one. It’s what you do with that victory that truly matters.

Originally appeared in USA Today.

Citizen Groups Organize to Reduce Voter Fraud - Daily Signal

Citizen Groups Organize to Reduce Voter Fraud

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund / Genevieve Wood / Carlo Maffatt /

LAS VEGAS  — Your next representative in Congress could end up being, well, somebody like Mike Monroe, if something isn’t done about the electoral system, critics say.

Fed up with voting machine discrepancies, some folks are taking matters into their own hands and are organizing grassroots efforts to reduce voter fraud and electoral errors.

Citizen Task Force for Voting Rights is trying to tackle the vulnerabilities by alerting and educating voters to call in any irregularities with voting machines and election systems to their election fraud hotline.

Retired Air Force Col. Robert E. Frank, chairman and founding member of CTFVR, said he wants to make voters more aware of the system’s glitches and inspire them to demand independent audits.

The group’s impetus for action came last June when Monroe, a virtual unknown in the highly competitive race for Congress, made Nevada history by taking 22 percent of the vote in the GOP primary for the immense 4th Congressional District, which covers northern Clark County and six rural counties.

A computer glitch has been suspected, though no wrongdoing was discovered in the election, which displaced popular candidate Niger Innis, who had a 10-point polling lead, and handed  the party’s nomination to state Rep. Cresent Hardy. Innis is the spokesman for the civil-rights group Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Innis asked Secretary of State Ross Miller to investigate the incident. But Innis was told no investigation could be initiated unless he could provide evidence of a computer flaw. He also would have had to pay a $40,000-per-candidate fee. That money would have to come from other sources since state law prohibits using campaign funds for ballot recounts.

Both Innis and Hardy spent around $150,000 during the campaign. Monroe, a handyman and construction worker, didn’t campaign, raise or spend any money, debate, go door-to-door or give any media interviews. Few had ever even seen a photo of him.

In spite of his laissez faire approach, Monroe won Esmeralda County, among others, with 40 of the 100 registered votes.

Resident Roderick Myers succinctly sums it up: “It is impossible to happen here.”

“We all know people here vote for Niger or Cresent. Nobody here has even heard of Mike Monroe. We tried to locate the 100 (registered) voters, but could only find 14, and none of them knew who Mike Monroe was. All gave their votes to Niger or Cresent.”


Facing Bleak Prospects, Va. Millenials Want Government Both to Do More and Get Out of the Way - Daily Signal

Facing Bleak Prospects, Va. Millenials Want Government Both to Do More and Get Out of the Way

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund / Genevieve Wood / Carlo Maffatt / Kathryn Watson /

That much-mentioned, so-called millennial generation in Virginia is facing an uphill economic climb.

The average student loan debt of 18- to 35-year-oldspolled by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy is $33,500. Four out of five say they believe the economic challenges they face are greater than the ones their parents did at the same age,according to poll data released Thursday.

Of those polled, 31 percent listed jobs and the economy as their top priority, followed by education (12 percent) and health care or health-care reform (9 percent). A whopping 58 percent are skeptical the government is working to solve the problems they face.

Still, even with an average of $33,500 in student debt, millennials were more likely to list marijuana legalization and drug reform — a key component of Libertarian Robert Sarvis’ campaign — as their top priority (6 percent), than to mention the cost of education as their top concern (3 percent). A small percentage (1 percent) listed government regulation as their top concern, while 8 percent said budget and tax issues ranked highest.

In other words, millenials want government to help solve their problems, but also want it to get out of the way.

Although Virginia millenials generally consider themselves to be more liberal than their parents and 47 percent said they’d vote for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner if the election was held that day, there’s another strain emerging in the poll — a libertarian-leaning one. Of the millenials polled, 24 percent said they’d vote for Sarvis, more than double the amount who said they’d vote for Republican Ed Gillespie (11 percent).

For comparison, a CNU poll of registered Virginia voters of all ages earlier this month read like this — Warner, 51 percent; Gillespie, 39 percent; Sarvis, 3 percent.


If a Republican Justice Department Did This, It Would Be Attacked as Borderline Racist - Daily Signal

If a Republican Justice Department Did This, It Would Be Attacked as Borderline Racist

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund / Genevieve Wood / Carlo Maffatt / Kathryn Watson / Hans von Spakovsky /

Attorney General Eric Holder has waged a litigation war against voter-ID laws as well as state efforts to reduce early-voting periods and eliminate same-day voter registration. These practical reforms, he huffs, are intended to suppress the votes of minorities. But the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and a number of civil-rights groups against North Carolina over such measures is unintentionally revealing. The filing makes it clear that these self-appointed champions of minorities have a thoroughly patronizing attitude toward black and Hispanic Americans.

As John Fund has succinctly explained, early voting, a relatively new phenomenon, is a bad idea for several reasons. It increases the expense of campaigns and elections, diffuses the effectiveness of get-out-the vote efforts (potentially hurting turnout), and encourages voters to cast ballots before they have all the relevant information about candidates. Same-day registration is a recipe for fraud, since it prevents election officials from checking eligibility and the accuracy of voter-registration information before the voter casts a ballot.

There is no constitutional right to either early voting or same-day registration. Indeed, many states have neither. Failure to offer these options does not constitute racial discrimination, nor is it discriminatory to shorten an early-voting period to ten days (from 17), as North Carolina has done. Early voting is a costly administrative headache for election officials. That reducing it is de facto racism is the bizarre claim being pushed by the U.S. Justice Department, the NAACP, the ACLU, and others in their suit against North Carolina.

Why are such measures supposedly discriminatory? According to the “experts” hired by the Justice Department and the NAACP to testify in the North Carolina lawsuit, they’re discriminatory because African Americans are “less sophisticated voters” and can’t figure out how to register and vote. No, really, that’s what they said.

At the preliminary injunction hearing in July, before Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, the government produced Professor Charles Stewart of MIT’s political-science department. According to the transcript of that proceeding, when Stewart was asked why he believed that eliminating same-day registration (which only eleven states have) was discriminatory, he said that same-day registration provides “a mechanism and a time that’s well situated for less sophisticated voters, and therefore, it’s less likely to imagine that these voters would — can figure out or would avail themselves of other forms of registering and voting” (emphasis mine).

And who are those “less sophisticated voters” who can’t “figure out” how to register to vote? They “tend to be African Americans,” according to Stewart. He added that “people who register to vote the closer and closer one gets to Election Day tend to be . . . less-educated voters, tend to be voters who are less attuned to public affairs.” Stewart said that these voters “tend to be African Americans.” Of course, the voter-registration data in North Carolina directly contradicts this, since Stewart was forced to admit that blacks in North Carolina actually “were registered at a higher rate than whites” before Election Day in the 2012 election.

Stewart leveled the same type of criticism at a measure to reduce the number of early-voting days. African Americans would be deterred from voting, he said again, because they are “less sophisticated voters.” He denied that he was racially stereotyping blacks — even when he said that they have a harder time figuring out how “to navigate the rules of the game.” He admitted that he did not survey black voters in North Carolina to ask them “directly about understanding the rules of registering and voting.”

Stewart is the same expert the DOJ used in its unsuccessful 2012 challenge to South Carolina’s voter-ID law. There, he testified that the law would have a “disparate impact” on black voters. But a federal court was not persuaded by his “expert” testimony, and the law was subsequently implemented without any of the problems predicted by Stewart.

Back in North Carolina, Stewart was further embarrassed when he was forced to admit during cross-examination that, in testimony in another lawsuit, challenging Florida’s reduction in early voting days, he had predicted a “disparate impact” on black voters and his prediction there, too, turned out to be wrong.

The NAACP’s expert was another professor, Barry Burden, of the University of Wisconsin. Burden claimed that blacks and Hispanics are less able “to pay the costs of voting” because of the “stark differences between whites, on the one hand, in North Carolina and those of blacks and Latinos in North Carolina.” By costs, Burden was referring to “the time and effort that a voter has to put in in order to participate.” That includes “locating the polling place, getting the right paperwork, understanding who the candidates are, becoming informed.” From his testimony, it was clear that Burden did not think that blacks and Hispanics have the same ability as whites to accomplish basic tasks such as locating a polling place, filling out a one-page voter-registration form, and learning what issues candidates support or oppose.

In all of their analyses, neither expert bothered to compare voter registration and turnout across states. As Thomas Farr, representing North Carolina, pointed out in his cross-examination of Burden, had they done such a comparison, they would have had to explain how the “Obama campaign was able to achieve high black turnout in Virginia comparable to North Carolina.” Virginia has neither same-day registration nor early voting.

The experts’ patronizing and dismissive attitude toward black Americans and other minority voters mirrors the fundamental nature of the litigation filed by the Justice Department and the NAACP against North Carolina. According to them, minority voters are “less sophisticated” and don’t have the same ability as white voters to register to vote, to even find their polling place, or to be informed about the candidates and the issues in the election. This is not much different from the attitudes one heard in the South during the Jim Crow era, when blacks were frequently seen as lazy and unable to competently function in society.

If a Republican Justice Department had made these arguments, it would have been properly criticized for making such assumptions and castigated as being, at best, borderline racist. Such views insult American citizens of every color, all of whom have the same opportunity, ability, and right to participate in our great republic.

Originally appeared on

In New Jersey, an Uphill Race for Senate Based on the Gold Standard - Daily Signal

In New Jersey, an Uphill Race for Senate Based on the Gold Standard

Kelsey Harris / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / Jason Hart / Salim Furth / Ted Bromund / Genevieve Wood / Carlo Maffatt / Kathryn Watson / Hans von Spakovsky / Kevin Mooney /

“Hands Across New Jersey.”

That was the name given to the grassroots movement that came together in response to the $2.8 billion tax increase New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio pushed through after taking office in 1990.

Florio, a Democrat,  had said throughout the campaign that he saw “no need for new taxes.”  When he went back on his word, the state erupted.

Bumper stickers such as “Impeach Florio” and “Florio Free in ’93” were distributed widely across the state at Hands Across New Jersey rallies. The movement officially was non-partisan, but its activism worked to the advantage of Republican candidates.

Jeff Bell wants to bring about a similar explosion to shake up New Jersey’s political status quo.

Bell is in an uphill fight to unseat Cory Booker, the incumbent Democrat, in the Nov. 4 election for U.S. Senate.

Booker, 45, the former Newark mayor who prevailed in a special election last year to fill the remainder of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s term after his fellowDemocrat’s death, is well-known, well-funded and widely expected to win handily.

But Bell, a political lifer who knocked off four-term incumbent Clifford Case in the Republican primary for Senate in 1978 only to lose to Hall of Fame basketball player, Rhodes Scholar and Princeton grad Bill Bradley, thinks he might still have a chance to catch lightning in a bottle in 2014.

“Timing matters for Republican candidates in New Jersey,” Bell, 70, says during a fundraiser late last month in Lawrenceville, N.J. “I’m blessed with timing because [President] Obama’s numbers have collapsed in a state that he carried twice. Obama actually did better here in 2012 than he did in 2008. That makes the race look impossible. But his collapse in this state is greater than it is in other parts of the country.”

Obama a Drag on Booker?

Indeed, polls earlier this month showed Obama reaching an all-time low in the Garden State. A Monmouth University-Asbury Park Press poll found 41 percent of registered voters in New Jersey approved of  the president’s job performance and 54 percent did not.

That’s a precipitous drop from 2012, when Obama got what some pollsters described as a Hurricane Sandy bump contributing to his 17-point margin of victory in the Garden State, up from 15 points in 2008.

And Booker “can’t separate himself from the president,” Bell says. He’s “an Obama clone … in lock step with Obama.”

The Real Clear Politics average has Booker up by about 12 points. A closer look at the polling of voters who say they have made up their minds, though, has Booker up by just five points, according to an analysis in The Weekly Standard.

That’s a big part of why he has agreed to only one debate with Bell, set for Saturday night. A debate for Booker is nothing but an opportunity to make a mistake.

Appeal to Independents

Tying the opponent to an unpopular president may work in some places, but it’s unlikely to be enough in New Jersey. Registered Democrats there outnumber Republicans by about 700,000.

Most voters are unaffiliated, however, and Bell says his “special plan” to restore America’s economic vitality that will appeal to those independent-minded voters.

Bell favors returning the U.S. to the gold standard for the first time since 1971. The basic idea is to attach the value of the dollar to a fixed amount of gold; no more currency would be  issued on the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

The gold standard, Bell argues, would help to stabilize prices and put an end to the Federal Reserve’s “irresponsible” policy of near-zero interest rates, which he calls a “hindrance to middle-class prosperity.”

The Fed has made it difficult for typical  citizens to preserve and grow their savings with interest rates so low, Bell says. Small business owners haven’t been able to acquire loans from banks, he adds, because they’re not willing to take the risk with such low returns.

It’s one thing to try to win as a Reagan Republican in deep-blue New Jersey. It’s another to try to animate middle-class voters around an esoteric aspect of monetary policy.

But Bell insists this is an issue that should interest rank-and-file voters.

“I’m offering a solution to a problem that affects middle-class people,” he says, adding:

“They may not be talking about the gold standard right now, but they are aware of the problems the gold standard would address–rising prices at the grocery store, the gas pump and college tuition. If you like the way things are, you have Cory Booker. But if you think outside of the box, and are opposed to the status quo, then I have a plan.”

Two voters, hearing Bell speak on the issue at Rider University in Lawrenceville, offer critiques that illustrate the challenge and opportunity of his message.

“I’m not sure he’s going to be able to reach young people with this message,” says David Kimball, a junior with a double major in history and politics who credited Bell for putting a specific idea on the table. “The municipal property taxes are what affect my business, not so much what might happen at the state or federal level.”

But Joe Teti, a retired businessman from the Rider class of 1965, says Bell “described the goal standard in a way that matters to the man on the street.”

Booker, who declined comment for this report, has expressed opposition to the gold standard in the past. Bell thinks he knows why.

“I don’t think Booker has a firm understanding of the issue,” Bell says. “He just has an appeal to authority. He points to economists who are opposed to the gold standard. But economists are often wrong.”

A Fighting Chance?

Booker appears to be taking no chances with Bell.

The incumbent Democrat, whose fundraising prowess on Wall Street is well documented, had $3.5 million in cash on hand as of June 30. By that time, Bell had raised only about $300,000 in all.

Gov. Chris Christie has held two fundraisers to help Bell. But Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, spent much of the year out of the state stumping for other candidates and raising his own profile for a possible 2016 presidential run.

Bell says he debated Bradley 21 times when they squared off in 1978. He recalls Bradley’s willingness to engage with opposing points of view, which he says is sorely lacking in Democratic candidates now.

“The Democratic Party and the left are not used to debates,” Bell said during the Sept. 29 forum at Rice. “They don’t like debates because they assume they are correct, so they are not tested.”

The Christie Factor 

But if Booker won’t debate an he fundraising mismatch doesn’t abate, can a Reagan Republican who wants to take America back to the gold standard prevail?

Christie manages to win in New Jersey as an unapologetic conservative. The pro-life Catholic governor with the ample waistline and direct manner of speaking won re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote despite vetoing funding for Planned Parenthood five times.

Christie not only improved his margin of victory, he won majorities of women and Hispanics.

But the governor is a “remarkable talent” who is “spontaneous on stage and can hold an audience,” Bell says.

And Bell knows he is a 70-year-old former think tank executive and two-time Senate loser who hasn’t been on a ballot in 32 years.

But not all is lost. New Jersey, one observer of  state politics notes, is not as monolithically blue as often portrayed.

“While the media describes New Jersey as a deep-blue state, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of Republicans,” says Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics and a political science teacher at Rider. “Bell will certainly win 40 percent of the vote. The question is, how much above 40 percent can he get, and can he make it a single-digit race?

New Jersey has some history of underfunded Republican candidates for Senate turning in unexpectedly strong challenges against well-funded opponents.

Steve Lonegan rallied to within 11 of Booker in 2013. Robert D. Franks, a former Republican congressman, came within a few percentage points of upsetting Democrat Jon Corzine in 2000 despite being heavily outspent.

And, in 2002, Republicans almost got a free Senate seat when then-Sen. Robert Torricelli ended his re-election campaign because of ethical allegations 35 days before voters went to the polls. State law forbids replacing a candidate within 51 days of an election, but a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling made it possible to switch out Torricelli’s name for that of Lautenberg, who had retired from the Senate in 2000.

But it’s the 1990 Senate race, the one coinciding with Hands Across New Jersey  rallies, that Bell views as the most instructive to this moment.

Christine Todd Whitman, a former Somerset County Republican freeholder, almost upset Bradley in that race. She would unseat Florio a few years later in the 1993 governor’s race.

“Whitman ran on one issue back in 1990, and that was the Florio tax increase,” Bell says. “Bradley would not take a position on the tax increase, and there’s no question that it hurt him.”

Could Jeff Bell pull it off?

“Bell has always been ahead of the curve,” says Dwokin, the political science professor, says. “He ran as a Reagan Republican pushing for tax cuts before Reagan was the Republican presidential nominee. Who knows? Maybe two years from now we will all be talking about the gold standard.”