Why the Rising Cost of Health Insurance Might Lead to a Good Thing

It's getting tough to pay for healthcare. CBS Moneywatch reports that deductibles are rising rapidly as the insurance markets adapt to the new world of the Affordable Care Act. Yet despite these increases, the overall premium you pay to have insurance also continues to rise, leading to a sum total wallop to the wallet of the average American. While this is greatly burdening Americans today, it does present an opportunity for transformation tomorrow.

As the Moneywatch article explains, the high deductibles Americans are experiencing should, in theory, pressure them to make more informed, conservative health spending choices. After all, high deductibles essentially make health insurance more like other types of insurance: protection against catastrophic costs. This means consumers pay for most routine services out of pocket, including urgent care visits, basic prescriptions, routine care, even emergency room visits, up to an annual deductible of, say, $6,000 for a family of four.

This market incentive is good, because when we pay for these smaller costs out of pocket, we are more keenly aware of what we are spending. But there are two major problems still confronting Americans.

The first is that health insurance premiums (the cost to have health insurance) have continued to rise, which isn’t surprising in the post-Obamacare world. The Affordable Care Act made purchasing insurance mandatory, and has required private insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions and most other underwriting considerations. Whatever you think of the ACA, anyone with sense could see that it was likely to increase costs. Simultaneously, the cost of healthcare itself has continued to rise, resulting in a troubling combo: increasing premiums to go along with those increasing deductibles.

In theory, one of the economic goals of a higher deductible is to lower premium costs and incentivize Americans to shop around. They have money in hand now that would have previously gone to pay for their premium, and they use that money to cover healthcare costs until they meet their deductible. But because the money is in their hands, suddenly people feel they are really spending their own dollars, which leads them to be a bit more careful. Absent shrinking premiums, however, the high deductible approach falls short of its best goals, and Americans wind up finding it hard to afford any care at all.

The second problem confronting Americans is outlined in the Moneywatch article. Even though consumers are being incentivized to shop around, they are frequently unable to make informed purchasing choices. Too often, cash-strapped Americans forgo truly necessary care that would save them money in the long term because it seems expensive in the short term. Or they have no expertise or resources for distinguishing between multiple treatment, testing, or provider options, so they just default to whatever their doctors recommend without looking into any options at all.

The rising costs of premiums, higher deductibles, and this lack of consumer knowledge create a bad cocktail. But while the present is bleak, there is great potential for the future. More than anything else, the situation calls for reviewers, counselors, and educators.

? We need Yelp and its kin for doctors, testing centers, and hospitals, featuring both patient reviews and real data (already in the works).

? Doctors need to provide their patients with greater value by shopping around for good deals when referring their patients for testing or specialist care. Your doctor knows the system better than you do, so she and her office can be an advocate on your behalf to help you balance quality and cost and make a wise choice. Enterprising primary care doctors could add this service as a fantastic feature in their overall care package. And any doctor, medical testing lab, or hospital that wants to win the high-deductible future better make sure its price list of services is clean, clear, readable, and easily accessible.

? Finally, we need resources that help ordinary people get informed on the basics of managing their healthcare. There is a room here for a multitude of players. Local government could help by offering free mini-courses at the local library on healthcare saving and spending. Small businesses could improve the health and financial well-being of their employees by pointing them to online resources or bringing in a consultant on healthcare planning. Nonprofits, churches, community associations… there are many institutions that have a great interest in improving the health and pocketbooks of average people.

None of these solutions will drastically change how our healthcare industry deals with the most expensive procedures. Budget-busting treatments will still trigger catastrophic insurance, which obfuscates the entire process. But when combined, the solutions above could completely overhaul the way we approach basic care and medical testing.

All comparisons are imperfect, but it might help to think of the new world of health insurance the way you think of auto insurance and auto repair work. Most people have a car and car insurance. Their insurance kicks in only in the case of catastrophe.

Underneath that barrier, people pay out of pocket for work they think their car needs. Many people have little-to-no knowledge of what their car needs. They rely on auto mechanics, each of whom may or may not be as skilled or honest or affordable as the next.

With auto work, the incentives are in place for consumers to save up for routine maintenance and small repairs, do some research and some shopping around to save money, buy insurance in case of catastrophe, and make careful choices.

Health insurance and health care costs are similar, but on a much larger scale. And the rising costs of healthcare and insurance premiums are making even the most basic, routine healthcare hard to afford right now. Our best hope is for consumers to adapt quickly. If they do, the industry could be transformed over the next several years, and we might be looking at a much leaner medical industry, particularly on the doctors and testing center side. In the post-Obamacare world, this may be a bit of a pipe dream, but we can certainly work for the best in a messy situation.

While We Were Focused on New Hampshire, Obama Proposed Trillions in Tax Hikes

While we were all focused on the New Hampshire presidential primary yesterday, President Obama introduced his final budget plan complete with a whopping $3.4 trillion dollar tax hike for American families. ATR has the details: 

The President’s adjusted baseline predicts revenues of $43.1 trillion over the ten year window, while his proposed budget calls for revenues totaling $46.5 trillion – an increase of $3.4 trillion.

The Obama budget will result in massive new taxes on already overtaxed American families.

Many of Obama’s new tax hikes violate the spirit – if not the letter -- of Obama’s “firm pledge” against “any form of tax increase” on any American earning less than $250,000.

One previously announced tax hike in the Obama budget calls for a $320 billion energy tax increase on the American people. This new tax comes in the form of a $10 tax per barrel of oil that will be passed onto drivers in the form of higher prices at the pump.

Obama's budget has been met with immediate rejection from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"The President’s final budget is clearly about promoting his liberal legacy instead of securing America’s financial future. Why is he wasting his last opportunity in office to tackle the real challenges facing our country? While a $3.4 trillion tax increase and $2.5 trillion in new spending over the next decade might please very liberal voters, they will only make life more expensive for the vast majority of Americans. This document will not prevent American jobs from moving overseas, Medicare from going bankrupt, and healthcare spending from continuing to rise," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady released in a statement. “Later this week, Ways and Means Republicans will have an opportunity to speak with Secretaries Burwell and Lew about this budget. We’re going to express our concerns on specific proposals, including the President’s new oil tax that will drive up energy bills and destroy jobs."

Texas Senator John Cornyn said Obama's budget is "unserious" and dead upon arrival.

“Rather than something that sends a signal that he wants to work with Congress, it basically is more of the same: a $4 trillion budget that is unserious, partisan, and contains reckless spending. And in it, he does include several new proposals, proposals he knows will be dead on arrival here in the United States Congress," Cornyn said in a floor speech yesterday. “At a time when our country is producing more energy domestically than it ever has and just beginning to export that energy to our friends and allies around the world, the President’s budget reveals that he has little interest in growing our energy independence and little interest in jump-starting our economy.”

Keep in mind over his tenure in the White House, all of Obama's annual budget plans have been roundly rejected, usually unanimously. 

Analysis: Trump and Sanders Dominate, Rubio Crumbles, in New Hampshire


MANCHESTER, NH -- This time, the polls were right. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won overwhelming victories here in New Hampshire, beating out their closest rivals by double-digit margins.  Here are five takeaways from last night's First in the Nation primary:

(1) A Socialist Swamp: The Democratic primary was a bloodbath.  Socialist Bernie Sanders absolutely dismantled Hillary Clinton across the board, beating her by more than 20 points.  In spite of heavy, desperate demagoguery, Democratic women in the Granite State sided with Sanders by double digits, led by young women.  Hillary carried voters who prioritize experience and electability.  Bernie blew her away among those who prize shared values, empathy, and honesty.  You think Benghazi, the email scandal, opacity on Wall Street speeches, and Clinton Foundation-related ethical questions aren't taking a toll on even Democratic voters?  This is breathtaking:


That screen grab of exit polling data shows Clinton getting dismantled among the 60 percent of New Hampshire Democrats who value "caring" and honesty as candidate characteristics. There's no getting around it: Her weakness on empathy and trustworthiness and -- relatedly, I believe -- among young voters are dramatic general election handicaps.  So is the gender gap she inspires.  Sanders beat her among women, but he  in New Hampshire for quite some time.  She needs to win a commanding victory in the Palmetto State to prevent a growing sense of unease from metastasizing into full-blown panic.

(2) Tremendous Trump: Donald Trump's win in the Republican primary was comprehensive.  When exit polls started rolling in showing two-thirds of voters in the GOP race agreeing with his controversial temporary Muslim ban, it was clear it was going to be a good night for the bombastic businessman.  When fully half of Republican voters responded that they felt "betrayed" by their own party, it was a fait accompli.  Finalized exit polling tells the story of Trump's romp.  He won by double digits among: Men and women, across all age groups, across all education levels (except for postgraduates, but winning nearly half of all non-college grads), across all income groups, among Republicans and independents, and among "very conservative" and "somewhat conservative" voters (also carrying moderates).  He won across every issue category polled, and led the pack on every personal quality question except for "shares my values."  It was a rout, aided by a crowded, splintered field.  Trump enters South Carolina as a double-digit favorite.  And by the way, unlike Iowa, he outperformed his public polls in New Hampshire.

(3) Rubio Rocked: Here's how I assessed the state of play yesterday: "A silver medal for Rubio here keeps him on pace to make a strong play for the GOP crown, especially as rivals continue to drop out...The field will thin out, and Rubio will take a major step closer to the three-man race he wants. Another bronze would be an under-performance, as the conventional wisdom would take root that Rubio's debate gaffe inflicted real damage, ramping up pressure to over-perform in at least one of the two remaining February nominating contests. Not good, but salvageable. But if the Florida Senator ends up in fourth place or worse, it's a catastrophe for his candidacy."  Well, the Rubio campaign finds itself staring at door number three.  Rubio finished fifth, although essentially in a logjam with Cruz and Bush, both of whose final polling numbers were spot on.  Given what I'd heard from multiple sources about Rubio's meteoric trajectory in New Hampshire internal polling after Iowa, there is now no question whatsoever that his debate confrontation with Chris Christie hurt him.  Badly.  Rubio admitted as much in a strikingly humble, candid speech to supporters:


Rubio's right -- he has no one to blame but himself.  He stepped into a predictable trap under the brightest of lights and dealt a serious blow to one of the central rationales of his candidacy: That he's an exceptionally gifted communicator, a quality that has allowed him to tamp down concerns about his experience.  He undermined himself in a hyper-public way, at the worst possible moment.  That's not on Jeb Bush's carpet-bombing SuperPAC.  That's not on a pugnacious Chris Christie.  That's not even on the press, which showered Rubio with praise after Iowa, then hyped his bad debate moment for days (media narratives giveth and taketh away).  That's on Rubio.  There's still a long road ahead, and Rubio still has a path to the nomination, albeit much narrower than it seemed 24 hours ago; the '3-2-1' strategy, which Rubio's team now tells never came from the campaign, is officially inoperative.  But in order to thread this needle, he's going to have to over-perform in South Carolina and/or Nevada in order to garner any needed momentum into the crucial, delegate-heavy first half of March.

(4) Two Governors Survive, For Now:  Like Jon Huntsman in 2012, Ohio Governor John Kasich more or less lived in New Hampshire for weeks, achieving a solid second place outcome (Huntsman ended up in third with a Kasichesque 16.9 percent of the vote).  But Kasich still lost to Trump by roughly a two-to-one margin, and he has no real capacity to mount a national campaign moving forward.  Jeb Bush, on the other hand, does.  But what his team is casting as an important spring board is ultimately a fourth place finish, narrowly sandwiched between Cruz and Rubio. Try this statistic on for size:


Thirty-five million dollars for fourth place, after spending a fortune in Iowa with little to show for it. Meanwhile, sixth-place finisher Chris Christie -- who, like Kasich, placed almost all of his eggs in the Granite State basket -- has announced that he's heading home to New Jersey to reassess the race.  He's ineligible for this weekend's South Carolina debate, so it sounds like he's likely done.  Elsewhere, Carly Fiorina (four percent) says she's carrying on past New Hampshire with a "wind at her back," whatever that means, and Ben Carson (two percent) continues to confound.  The end feels near for both of them.

(5) 'Not Trump' Coalition In Disarray: The Rubio campaign desperately wanted New Hampshire to lock in their "three-man race" storyline, which would have applied immense pressure on non-Trump and non-Cruz candidates to get out of the way and give Cruz and Rubio the space to take on Trump (and each other) in a significantly winnowed field.  That winnowing has now been delayed indefinitely, much to the delight of Team Trump.  A crowded, distracted and confused GOP field benefits him more than anyone else, although it arguably helps Cruz, too.  Cruz wants a two-man race -- and if the status quo doesn't get shaken up soon, he may get his wish.  Bottom line: New Hampshire just voted for an open Socialist who literally honeymooned in the Soviet Union, and for an f-bomb-dropping nationalistic populist whose campaign is pretty well encapsulated by quotes like this:


What a time to be alive.  I'll leave you with the winners declaring victory:



UPDATE - I discussed the breadth of Trump's win with Megyn Kelly last night:



Report: Criminologists, Economists Find Benefits to Gun Ownership

This past December marked three years since the massacre at Sandy Hook. Commemorating the anniversary, President Obama took to Facebook to pen a post that wondered how we as a nation explain congressional inaction on gun control to the victims' families.  This type of rhetoric has been a common refrain from the president in the wake of other mass shootings since Newtown and the near-daily shootings in cities like Chicago. But despite attempts by President Obama, congressional Democrats, and the gun control lobby to push for stricter gun laws as the answer to gun violence, the nation remains divided on the issue.  

So where do academics stand on the relationship between gun ownership and crime? A newly released survey of experts from the Crime Prevention Research center found that researchers supported what Second Amendment advocates have argued all along regarding concealed handgun laws, gun-free zones, self-defense and crime, and suicide and guns. 

Authors of the report John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, and Gary Mauser, Professor Emeritus of the Marketing Department at Simon Fraser University, surveyed criminologists and economists who had published peer-reviewed empirical research on gun issues. The survey found that differences exist between these two groups of academics, with the economists much more inclined to believe guns makes people safer. Criminologists, on the other hand, do not hold this belief as strongly. They are also more divided on the idea of deterrence than economists. Still, when their responses are combined, the results show that the researchers believe guns are used more for self defense than crime; gun-free zones fail to deter criminals, rather, they attract them; guns in the house don’t increase the risk of suicide; those who hold concealed handgun permits are more law-abiding than the average American; and permitted concealed handguns lower the murder rate.

"Economists and criminologists have very different approaches to research and different political views, but they both generally find benefits from gun ownership," Lott told Townhall in an email. "Economists, on the whole, were much more likely than criminologists to believe that there are benefits from gun ownership.  By a factor of 12-to-1, economists believe that permitted concealed handguns reduce rather than increase murder rates.  Despite their differences, still criminologists also believe this by a factor of just 2-to-1."

Perhaps surveys such as this will help Americans take a level-headed approach to gun control in the future. 

New Hampshire: Sanders Bathes In The Afterglow Of Victory, Unloads on Republicans

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) addressed his rabid crowd of supporters, where he laid out his agenda for America that drastically drags the country towards the left.

He thanked the people of New Hampshire, and congratulated Hillary Clinton and her supporters for a vigorous campaign.

Yet, he also acknowledged the many thousands of his supporters, who worked tirelessly, day and night knocking on doors and making phone calls. He noted that they won because of their energy. Sanders also said that his win sends a message that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people, and not just a handful of wealthy donors and their super PACS.

He noted that his campaign from the outset had no money (and no real organization) in the beginning, but they were going to take on one of the most powerful political machines in the country. Because of a huge turnout, and he channeled his inner Trump by saying “YUGE,” he said we won because we harnessed the energy and the excitement that the Democratic Party will need to succeed.

Sanders said that what happened tonight, in terms of enthusiasm and an aroused electorate, is what’s going to happen across this country. He reminded his supporters that Democrats and progressives should never forget that they win when voter turnout is high; Republicans win when people are demoralized and voter turnout is low.

He also said this win will send notice to the political establishment of the county, that the American people will not accept a corrupt campaign finance system. We will not bring back huge tax breaks for billionaires–and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans win in November. The people want real change.

In reflecting that change, Sanders took pride in the fact that he doesn’t have a super PAC and he will never have one, which drew loud cheers among the crowd. Sanders added that his campaign’s financial support comes from 3.7 million individual contributions, with an average of $27.

In typical Bernie fashion, he said that America was founded on the principle of fairness, and that it’s not fair that we have such a horrible income inequality problem, where the 20 wealthiest Americans in this country own more wealth than the bottom half in the nation.

Sanders also tried to explain to his detractors that he would pay for his free college initiative by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation. He also said that he is going to stop the practice of mass incarceration, and that it was our moral responsibility to work with other countries to transform our energy system that’s more sustainable and cleaner.

The rest of his address was a red meat buffet for the progressive left. He supported a Medicare for all, single-payer health care system. Sanders said that he would defend the nation responsibly (gee, I hope so), and that he was right to vote against the Iraq War. He stressed that we cannot be the policemen of the world.

On immigration, Sanders proposed fixing it, creating a pathway for citizenship to bring these people out of the shadows. He also voiced his support for abortion rights, and for expanding Social Security so people can live with dignity in retirement. Corporations will also pay their fair share in taxes.

The self-described democratic socialist described his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York before saying he’s ready to fight in Nevada, South Carolina, and beyond.

Chris Christie "Taking a Breath"; Think Over Campaign

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will be heading back to New Jersey to 'take a deep breath' and figure out the state of his campaign after his sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.

Due to his sixth-place finish, Christie does not qualify for the debate on Saturday in South Carolina.

While this isn't an outright campaign suspension, it's certainly not looking good for the Christie camp.

Hillary: "I Have Some Work To Do With Young People"

Hillary Clinton’s supporters were still cheering her name after her crushing defeat in New Hampshire Tuesday night during her concession speech. Her voice sounded tired and cracked after a week of campaigning in the Granite State.

“I still love New Hampshire and I always will,” she assured voters.

Clinton's progressive opponent Bernie Sanders beat her soundly and quickly in the first Democratic primary of the 2016 race. She congratulated him and immediately switched her focus to the future.

“Now we take this campaign to the entire country,” she continued. “We’re going to fight for every vote and every state.”

One of those is Michigan. She took a brief detour from campaigning in New Hampshire on Sunday to travel to Flint and speak to residents who were affected by the lead poisoning crisis.

“The kids I met in Flint were poisoned because their governor wanted to save money,” she fumed.

She is ready to work for people who are angry, yet “hungry for solutions,” she insisted.

She admitted, however, that she has room to improve on certain demographics.

“I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people.”

The millennial vote in New Hampshire went to Sanders overwhelmingly - particularly young women. They chose Sanders by a rate of 82 percent to Clinton's 18 percent. 

In fact, the only demographic she did win was voters who earn over $200,000 or more.

She also pledged to rein in Wall Street – another promise that voters are likely to question

Donald Trump Victory Speech Highlights

"So beautiful," said Donald Trump as he walked on to the stage to give is victory speech in New Hampshire.  

Donald Trump thanked his entire family, those who help and volunteered for his campaign, and ultimately the people of New Hampshire.

Trump went on to highlight the main principles of his campaign and acknowledged the other Republican candidates. 

"I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created," Trump said.  "By the way, we're going to knock the hell of ISIS."

"We don't win with anything," he said.  

To close his speech, Trump emphatically expressed his excitement to start campaigning in South Carolina for the primary held on Saturday, Feb. 20.    

Here's Bernie Sanders, Just Shooting Some Hoops

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) celebrated his victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary by shooting some hoops in a gym before his speech.

The image was shared on his official Snapchat account @bernie.sanders.

What a time to be alive.

Twitter users were amused by the candidate's unusual victory celebration:

Hillary Clinton Loses Women in New Hampshire

Despite being told by aging feminists and a former secretary of state that a vote for Bernie Sanders was betraying their gender and risking eternal damnation, women in New Hampshire were feeling the Bern on Tuesday night. Sanders won the female vote by seven points, and won men by 31.

At the time of publication, Sanders had a nearly 20-point lead over Clinton in the Granite State. In the Iowa caucuses, Sanders was narrowly defeated by Clinton.

While the results aren't exactly a shock, as Sanders had been polling extremely well in New Hampshire since August, his success with New Hampshire women is definitely notable. In Iowa, Clinton won the female vote by 11 points, a gap that stretched to 26 points when narrowed down to married women. (Sanders won both unmarried men and unmarried women in Iowa by 10 points and 36 points, respectively.)

New Hampshire has to serve as a wake-up call for the Clinton campaign: women clearly aren't going to blindly vote for another woman, and attempts to make sexism a campaign issue are not going to work.

Total Defeat: Sanders Destroyed Clinton in New Hampshire Primary

Well, it's over:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) certainly used his home court advantage, beating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by almost double-digits. With 15 percent of the vote in, Sanders is leading Clinton 58/40–and destroyed her with voters who held trust/honesty and “cares about folks like me” in high regard. As Cortney noted earlier this evening, only five percent of New Hampshire Democrats viewed the former first lady as honest and trustworthy.

Concerning women, more than four out of five women broke for Sanders over Clinton (82/18). With age, 67 percent of Hillary’s support came from voters over 50; 60 percent of Sanders’ supporters came from those are under 50. Regarding income, the only bracket Clinton won...was Democrats who make $200k or more; Sanders took the rest. 

Again, like in Iowa, it’s the old guard vs. the new order. It’s young vs. old. It’s authenticity vs. charlatanism. It’s honesty vs. untrustworthiness. And in most cases, Clinton is losing to Sanders.

At the same time, it’s a bit remarkable that a disheveled senior citizen, who is a democratic socialist, is driving turnout.

Sanders is celebrating his victory playing basketball with his grandchildren.

Parting Thought: Over 50 percent of Democrats were dissatisfied with the federal government. Is that because a large portion of Democratic voters (41 percent) want a president more liberal than Obama?

Over at the RNC, they're quite happy, of course.

“After an embarrassing showing in Iowa, Hillary Clinton’s resounding loss in New Hampshire is another devastating blow for her campaign. No amount of spin can make up for such a crushing defeat in a state that has for decades been in the Clintons’ corner. It’s clear that the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s reckless conduct as Secretary of State has become a massive liability for her campaign and that even Democrats find her dishonesty and hypocrisy unacceptable. The prospect that Democrats could nominate a self-avowed socialist is growing more probable by the day, and shows how off course Hillary Clinton’s coronation has gone.

UPDATE: The Clinton camp has conceded:(via The Hill):

After splitting the first two contests, an outcome we've long anticipated, attention will inevitably focus on the next two of the 'early four states," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in the memo.

"The nomination will very likely be won in March, not February, and we believe that Hillary Clinton is well positioned to build a strong – potentially insurmountable – delegate lead next month."

Well, on the delegate math, the Clinton crew might be onto something.

58 Presidential Candidates on the Ballot in New Hampshire

Apparently in the New Hampshire primary, all you need is $1,000 or 100 signatures to run for President of the United States.

Along with the nine republican and two democratic candidates that most of us know, 47 other names will be on the ballot for selection on Tuesday.  All told, there are 58 people on the two ballots combined; 30 Republicans and 28 Democrats.

Ouch: Only 5 Percent in NH Poll Say Hillary is Trustworthy, Sanders 93 Percent

We knew it wasn't going to be a good night for Hillary Clinton. But, this early exit poll indicates it's going to be a downright hellish evening in New Hampshire for the Democratic presidential candidate. Democrats in the Granite State were asked to judge the trustworthiness of Clinton and her opponent Bernie Sanders. They were almost unanimous.

Yikes.

Perhaps this poll helps explain why Sanders is ahead in New Hampshire by double digits. Her dismissive attitude toward her email scandal and Wall Street connections may account for why the state is giving her the cold shoulder. 

The numbers to come may be just as painful. 

LIVE BLOG: Battle in New Hampshire

8:03: Bernie Sanders is declared the winner of the Democrat (socialist) primary. Hillary Clinton conceded the race 30 minutes before it was called. 

"After splitting the first two contests, an outcome we've long anticipated, attention will inevitably focus on the next two of the 'early four states," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in the memo.
"The nomination will very likely be won in March, not February, and we believe that Hillary Clinton is well positioned to build a strong – potentially insurmountable – delegate lead next month."

8:00: With 4 percent reporting, Donald Trump has been declared the winner of the New Hampshire primary.

7:42: Traffic to a polling place in Merrimack is atrocious. 

7:27: Video of the long lines:

7:25: There are long lines at a number of polling places around New Hampshire, both for registering and for voting, which isn't surprising since the Secretary of State predicted record turnout earlier today.

7:00: Majority of polls are officially closed and the vote totals are starting to roll in. You can follow live election results here. 6:45: Polling for the first-in-the nation primary closes in 15 minutes as voters anxiously await results.

BREAKING: Donald Trump Declared Winner of New Hampshire Primary; Kasich Comes in Second

LIVE ELECTION RESULTS HERE

UPDATE 10:02 PM: With a sixth place finish in New Hampshire, Governor Chris Christie will not make the debate stage in South Carolina Saturday.

UPDATE 9:08 PM: Governor John Kasich has officially secured second place with 15 percent of the vote. 

After losing Iowa to rival Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump has been declared the winner of the New Hampshire primary. Although still early, Trump is doubling vote counts received by Governor John Kasich, who is sitting in second place. 

You can view live election results here.

According to Fox News exit polling, Trump won among voters who prioritized the economy, jobs, terrorism and wanting an outsider candidate to lead the country. Voters also agreed with Trump's stance to halt Muslim immigration. 

Moving onto South Carolina, where the next primary will be held on February 20, Trump is well ahead in the polls. Polling going into New Hampshire tonight were accurate for Trump.

Stay tuned for updates.

This post has been updated with additional information.

Ben Carson: Yeah, I'm Totally Open To Being Trump's Vice President

Speaking on Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said that he would consider being the running mate of one of his fellow candidates as long as they shared a "significant philosophical alignment." When pressed further, Carson admitted that this includes Donald Trump. He declined to name someone who he would not entertain a run with.

Interesting. While rumors of Carson dropping have swirled since the Iowa caucuses (turns out he was just refreshing his wardrobe), being publicly open to the idea of being vice president cannot be comforting to his supporters.

Like Matt wrote earlier: is it time for Carson to bow out from the race?

First Exits: Independent Voters Break For The Democrats, Could Spell Trouble For Hillary

The first exit polls are out, and most Republican voters were undecided until a few days ago. Moreover, the most recent GOP debates proved to be a very important factor for New Hampshire voters as well. Around a quarter of Democrats came to their decision within the last few days (via CNN):

Republican voters expressed deep worries about both the economy (three-quarters were very worried) and the threat of terrorism (6-in-10 very worried). About 9-in-10 said they were dissatisfied with the federal government, including about 4-in-10 who were angry about the way it was working. And for many, the dissatisfaction extends to the GOP itself. Half said they felt betrayed by politicians from the Republican Party, and about the same share said they wanted the next president to be from outside the political establishment.

Though Democrats voting on Tuesday were less apt to say they felt betrayed by their party or to express anger with the federal government, about three-quarters said they were worried about the economy. About 4-in-10 said they thought life for the next generation of Americans would be worse than life today, and 9-in-10 said they thought the nation's economy favored the wealthy.

Still, Democrats who went to the polls Tuesday -- to vote in a race featuring two seasoned politicians -- were more apt than Republicans to say they wanted the next president to have experience in politics, only about one-quarter said they preferred a president from outside the political establishment.

Only about one-quarter of Democrats said they made up their minds in the final days of the contest, well below the share of Republicans deciding late.

CNN’s political director David Chalian added that regarding independent voters, who make up the majority of registered voters in New Hampshire–they’re making up more of the electorate in the Democratic primary than the Republicans (41/35).

John King added that when it’s Sen. Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton with registered Democrats, it’s a close race. Sen. Sanders begins to pull ahead when independents are added into the mix.

Parting thought: Things could change, as New Hampshire polling isn’t the most accurate (via WaPo):

The truth is that New Hampshire primary polls are frequently wrong in predicting not only the margins of victory but also the winners.

• In 1980, a CBS poll showed Ronald Reagan beating George H.W. Bush by 45 points, though his actual margin of victory was 27 points.

• In 1984, the final Washington Post-ABC News poll had Walter Mondale tied with Gary Hart, and the final CNN poll had Mondale winning by six points. Hart won by nine.

• In 1988, Gallup had Bob Dole beating George H.W. Bush by eight points, and the Post-ABC poll had Dole up by three. Bush won by nine.

• In 1996, CNN-Time showed Dole winning by 15 points. Patrick Buchanan won by one point.

• In 2000, the average of all polls showed John McCain beating George W. Bush by eight points. McCain won by 18 points, more than twice what polls predicted. Though this was a larger average error than in 2008, it was not labeled a “fiasco.”

Why are polls often wrong? It’s not usually because of methodological issues but because of timing. When pollsters conclude their interviews (some by Friday, others as late as Sunday), many voters have not made up their minds. Exit polls show that 30 to 45 percent of voters make their decisions in the final three days of the campaign; 15 to 20 percent do so on Election Day itself.

Stay tuned for more updates.

UPDATE: GOP voters split between wanting an "outsider" over an establishment candidate.

It's Come To This: Trump Repeats Supporter's Remarks On Cruz, Called Him A P**sy

Well, as New Hampshire voters head to the polls, let’s not forget how the Donald christened the occasion by repeating what one of his supporters said about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). At a rally prior to Election Day, a Trump supporter called Cruz a “p**sy,” which drew a mock chastisement from the billionaire business magnate (via the Hill):

[Warning: some strong language]:

Trump: Repeating Cruz Is A 'P**sy' Was 'Like A Retweet'

Language warning: Donald J. Trump shrugged off calling Sen. Ted Cruz a "p**sy" by claiming, "It was like a retweet." Read more: http://trib.al/YJndxyb

Posted by The Daily Caller on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"She just said a terrible thing," Trump said, stopping his own remarks at the arena in Manchester and pointing out a woman in the audience, beckoning her to raise her voice.

"You know what she said? Shout it out, 'cause I don't want to," Trump continued. "OK, you're not allowed to say – and I never expect to hear that from you again – she said ... he's a p**sy."

"That's terrible, terrible," Trump said as the audience erupted into a mix of laughs and cheers and he threw his hands into the air and moved away from the microphone.

Katrina Pierson, a Trump spokesperson, called this incident a free speech victory:

We have a full-blown assault on the First Amendment. Donald Trump has single-handedly brought back freedom of speech. And yes, he did repeat what a voter said. But, at the same time, this is also the “Live Free or Die” state. This is where your rights are really important to you as an individual. And the fact that Donald Trump is out there saying what he thinks and means is important.

So, we have presidential candidates seemingly embracing attacks, like calling each other p**sies, on the campaign trail. At the same time, this is fitting with Trump’s character.

Expanded Medical Marijuana Bill Proposed in Iowa

A bill in Iowa proposed today by Republican State Rep. Peter Cownie would expand the state's current medical marijuana law and would open up the drug to more patients with a variety of conditions, as well as permit people to grow marijuana. Currently, medical cannabis is only available in oil form for people with epilepsy.

Some Republican House lawmakers are supporting legislation that would create a system for manufacturing, distributing and possessing some forms of medical marijuana in Iowa, though it's unclear what type of support the bill will get from party leaders.

The bill would expand the state's current law on medical marijuana, which allows some epilepsy patients to use cannabis oil.

The new legislation would expand it to include more products and patients though it would prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana.

Twenty three states, plus the District of Columbia, permit the use of cannabis for a variety of medicinal purposes.

Friendly Reminder: Bernie’s $70 Billion-a-Year ‘Free College Aspect’ Is Not ‘Awesome’

MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff was on a bus taking New Hampshire voters to the polls in Durham, when he asked first-time voter Grace, whom she was supporting. She was backing Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) due to his democratic socialist leanings, and the fact that the “free college aspect was awesome.” She added that most of her friends are going for Bernie as well.

It sounds like a nice plan, but as with many of Bernie’s policy’s–they’re half-baked. Let’s go back to Kevin James’ May of 2015 column, where he detailed the free college initiative–and how it would fail:

The idea would cost $70 billion per year, more than twice what the federal government spends on Pell grants. And much of that money would provide a free education to students whose families can already afford it.

But even more important than how much we spend and who we spend it on, we should ask ourselves what impact free public college would have on the delivery system of higher education. That is, would free college make higher education more efficient, more innovative and higher quality?

[…]

Right now we have a decentralized system where students can take much of their student aid with them to the institution of their choosing. This enables a wide variety of organizations – public and private – to offer a range of different educational programs.

In contrast, free public college would limit choice as many private institutions, now trying to compete with a highly-subsidized, free public option, would likely struggle to survive. In addition to reducing options, this would significantly reduce pressure on public institutions to serve students effectively.

Many free college proponents would likely point out that by providing aid directly to institutions, the government can actually exert more direct control over how they operate. For example, Sanders' bill would require institutions to reduce their reliance on adjunct professors. But are such top-down controls really likely to create the dynamic and innovative system that we need? By trying to dictate innovation from Washington, such a proposal is more likely to create a system that is rigid, bureaucratic and unresponsive to the changing needs of students and the economy over time.

[…]

… there are a remarkable number of regulatory barriers preventing new and innovative educational institutions from gaining a foothold. Thus, what occurs naturally in other industries – innovative market entrants shaking up the status quo – rarely occurs in higher education. Policymakers must work to clear out unnecessary regulatory underbrush that impedes new options.

Fundamentally, the "price" of free public college is more than the money taxpayers would spend on it. By moving us to a system based largely on public institutions managed through top-down regulation, Sanders' proposal would exacerbate the challenges above, not solve them.

Let’s not kid ourselves; education has a multitude of problems, and James adds that government needs to focus on making things cost less that deliver, instead of just throwing money at the issue–a typical move by Democrats since it’s easy to sell and explain, regardless of the economic consequences. He also wrote that we should “foster more entrepreneurship in higher education,” and force colleges to have more skin in the game, instead of just worrying about meeting enrollment quotas and graduation rates; they should be invested more in the outcome of their students. The huge part of this will come from the entrepreneurial side, which under socialism, cannot thrive.

Here We Go: Voting Underway New Hampshire, Trump and Sanders Are Frontrunners


MANCHESTER, NH -- Coming out of Iowa, a few narratives began to congeal: Hillary is going to struggle to put Bernie away. Trump isn't a mirage, but his support is overstated, and he's beatable. Cruz's ground game is the real deal. Rubio is a legitimate contender. Other GOP campaigns are on life support. So how will the revamped script read after tonight? On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders appears destined for a significant win, battering Hillary in a state that may be in the Vermonter's backyard, but that she famously won in 2008. Thus, the prohibitive Democratic frontrunner will emerge from her first two primary elections having tied and lost to a Socialist. The road ahead will get less arduous for her, but it's likely to be a much longer journey than she'd bargained for. In RepublicanWorld, things are murkier.  The increasingly profane Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to win comfortably. He's up by 17 points in the RCP average. The only question seems to be whether he'll underperform his polls again, not whether he'll prevail at all. Even a few days ago, this may have been less clear. I've spoken to three separate, plugged-in sources who've all told me the same thing: In the days following his surprisingly robust Iowa finish, Marco Rubio appeared to be on track to seriously challenge Trump for first place here in the Granite State.  That's how trajectory looked, they say. But after a debate performance that was at best mixed, featuring a memorably painful exchange with Chris Christie, Rubio finds himself in a dogfight for second place.  New polling has him sitting anywhere from second to fourth, the latter of which would be a disaster for his campaign.  Why the focus on Rubio?  Allahpundit explains:

I’m not overstating it when I say that the nomination may hinge on how Rubio finishes tonight. If he’s a strong second, he’ll be a strong favorite in betting markets to win it all; if he finishes behind Kasich and (especially) Bush, there’ll be mass panic within the GOP establishment about how to stop Trump and Cruz over the next six weeks. If Rubio can’t pull out a win in South Carolina or Nevada after this, he’s likely done, and whether he can win there depends in part on whether he can surprise everyone tonight.

May hinge.  A silver medal for Rubio here keeps him on pace to make a strong play for the GOP crown, especially as rivals continue to drop out.  He'll demonstrate that he can take a hard punch and get right back up.  It'll be off to South Carolina, where Ted Cruz will be lying in wait with a fresh line of attack (which Rubio should be able to parry, assuming he's not once again caught like a deer in the headlights by an obviously-telegraphed hit).  The field will thin out, and Rubio will take a major step closer to the three-man race he wants.  Another bronze would be an under-performance, as the conventional wisdom would take root that Rubio's debate gaffe inflicted real damage, ramping up pressure to over-perform in at least one of the two remaining February nominating contests. Not good, but salvageable.  But if the Florida Senator ends up in fourth place or worse, it's a catastrophe for his candidacy.  This cycle may be too unpredictable to declare his campaign over after that type of outcome, but he'd be in deep, deep trouble.  And because the likeliest beneficiary of Rubio's potential New Hampshire swoon is John Kasich -- who, let's face it, lacks a path to the nomination, even if he comes in second place -- a Marcoplosion might usher the race into a Trump vs. Cruz stage.  (On that note, I recommend Liam Donovan's sharp piece on the GOP establishment's foolish and short-sighted dalliances with The Donald).

As for the other candidates, Ben Carson's tactical decisions continue to point toward an exit ramp sooner or later, especially in light of his indignance over the Cruz campaign's exploitive maneuver in the Hawkeye State.  Cruz, by the way, is almost in a no-lose situation in New Hampshire, unless he really bombs.  An unsurprising middling result doesn't hurt him much with South Carolina up next, but an unexpectedly strong showing (fueled by his ground operation) would give him another burst of energy and momentum. Carly Fiorina, who has campaigned hard, hasn't made many inroads since her sparkling debate showings early in the cycle.  I'm not sure she survives an 'afterthought' finish in New Hampshire.  And despite their big night on Saturday, the remaining trio of governors all need to make big statements here, which can't happen. Chris Christie may be in the most danger, having gone all-in on the Granite State with relatively little to show for it in the polls.  If Jeb Bush finishes behind, say, Trump, Rubio, Kasich, and maybe Cruz, he'll again have poured enormous resources into a state in which he ended up petering out.  Placing in the top three (not beyond the realm of possibility, according to some polls) would be a boost, however, and he certainly has the money and infrastructure to keep truckin' basically for as long as he wants.  At least one governor's campaign will effectively or literally end tonight.  Maybe two.  And possibly even three, depending on how things shake out.

So if the eleventh hour analysis is correct, and Rubio's post-New Hampshire standing is a major cipher to unlocking the dynamics of the remainder of the race, what can we expect from him this evening?  His team has begun downplaying the risky "3-2-1" strategy we wrote about late last month, with the candidate emphasizing slow but steady delegate accumulation.  Is that a sign that they're pre-spinning what they now expect to be a third-place or worse result tonight?  Or is it the same sort of sly expectations management that undeniably contributed to the "Marcomentum" media boomlet after Iowa?  We'll soon find out.  I'll leave you with a few sights and sounds from the campaign trail over the last few days, followed by yet another stark illustration of how certain longstanding political rules of thumb simply don't seem to apply to Donald Trump -- who is running far ahead among an electorate that is known for prizing retail politics and policy depth:


Parting thought (via AP): Who's the "real" Rubio?  The guy who got stuck on repeat at the debate, and who allegedly doesn't react well to setbacks?  Or the guy who recovered well in that same debate, seemed unfazed by mid-interview heckling on national television, and whose charisma is winning over voters one by one on the ground?

Congress Criticizes Obama Budget For Putting Climate Change Ahead of National Security

President Obama’s final budget request is full of the bloated bureaucracy we’ve come to expect. The proposal, which is over $4 trillion, places a fee on oil and raises taxes. Of particular target though is Obama’s plan to fund environmental initiatives at the demise of economic prosperity.

A few specifics:

The economy will continue to grow by about 2.5% over the next decade. Congress will enact a $10-a-barrel tax on fuel oil, raising $319 billion over 10 years. Congress will pass immigration reform, resulting in another $170 billion in new revenue over the next decade. And off-budget war spending will decrease by $636 billion through 2026.

As you can imagine, this request raised more than a few red flags.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) was pleased that Obama’s budget would help his state’s infrastructure, but was concerned about the price Americans will pay with the proposed tax increases.

“A $10 tax on every barrel of oil would cripple Alaska’s economy, which is already reeling from low oil prices. He also proposes to increase taxes on Americans by $3.4 trillion over the next ten years and wrack up $10.6 trillion in new debt, which would total a whopping $27.4 trillion by the end of his budget. This is also unacceptable. Alaskans sent me to D.C. to grow our economy and ensure that the next generation is not saddled with our debt. This budget does the opposite.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul had another reason for being concerned about the president’s proposal. He argues that placing such a high priority on climate change dangerously takes attention away from national security at a time when the terror threat is red hot.

“The President’s budget request does not reflect the fact that we face the highest terror threat level since 9/11,” he said. “While the budget calls for a number of necessary security enhancements, it still falls short where we need it most. Our city streets have become the front lines in the war against Islamist terror, yet the President proposes slashing funding to state and local first responders. The threat at our borders is rising by the day, yet the President proposes cutting the number of border patrol agents. And while I am pleased to see the White House has finally included a few budget lines to address terrorists’ recruitment of Americans, the President’s overall budget still proposes spending billions more on countering climate change than on countering violent extremism here at home.”

Last week, President Obama tried to brag about the latest jobs report that showed an unemployment rate that had dropped under 5 percent for the first time in 7 years. Reality, however, paints a different picture. The real number is more like 10 percent. Oh, and the GDP only grew by .8 percent in the fourth quarter, investors.com reports.

Is it any wonder Congress is hesitating to take advice from the man who presided over this ailing economy?

Testimony: ISIS Likely To Strike in U.S. Within The Year

Testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart warned about ISIS striking inside the U.S. within the year. 

"[ISIS] will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016," Stewart said during testimony. 

NSA Director James Clapper, who was also testifying, warned ISIS is using the refugee stream from Iraq and Syria to disguise fighters and to transfer them into the United States. This is the same tactic intelligence has seen used a number of times throughout Europe. ISIS has also been using refugee camps to recruit new fighters. 

Further, Clapper confirmed ISIS has in fact produced and used chemical weapons in Iraq.

Awkward: Iowa Dems Are Refusing to Release Raw Vote Totals

After last Monday's ridiculously close caucus in Iowa, many Bernie Sanders supporters were crying foul at the results. Now, they have another reason to be suspicious: the Iowa Democratic Party has announced that they will not be releasing the raw vote totals from the caucuses. The party did, however, release the vote totals in 2008.

Despite calls to simplify the caucus process and prevent the errors that plagued this year's caucuses, Iowa Democrats are holding firm to their current system.

Sanders' boost brought him to a quarter of a percentage point within Clinton's number. The winner of the popular vote, meanwhile, remains unclear as state party officials have declined to release raw votes.

The mistakes have also led to calls for the Iowa Democratic Party to change its process, which differs from the Republican Party's method of conducting a simple, secret straw poll. The Democrats use complex math formulas, coin tosses and past voter turnout to calculate numbers from a series of headcounts.

On Sunday, The Des Moines Register quoted a news release by Iowa's Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, who promised to convene a committee that would "improve on our caucus process while preserving what makes it special."

Many, however, are drawing the obvious conclusion that refusing to release the numbers indicates that Clinton didn't win the popular vote in Iowa.

Massive Turnout Expected For Granite State Rumble

Hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire voters are expected to flock to the polls today. Secretary of State William M. Gardner predicts that 282,000 Republican ballots will be cast, along with 268,000 Democratic votes. There are also over 389,000 Independent voters who can vote in either primary (via CBS Boston):

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said he never expected to see anything like the 2008 voter turnout for the state’s first-in-the-nation primary for a long time–but this year, he says, there may be even more activity.

“I expect that we’ll exceed 500,000,” Gardner told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “I think we’ll get up into even 550,000.”

[…]

Independent voters, officially known as “undeclared,” make up 44 percent of registered voters. They can vote in either primary, making them a key group on Tuesday.

Besides Independent voters, USA Today  also mentioned that out-of-state college students could declare residency in New Hampshire, which should boost Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) numbers, given that young voters are overwhelmingly backing him in this primary.

The publication added that there would be something of a “political earthquake” if either Sanders or Trump should lose. The chances of that, albeit very slim, is more on the Republican side, though that still doesn’t mean that people will be watching who will be the runner-up in the GOP contest. The historic high turnout could also help the anti-establishment wings of both parties, and if Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Kasich, and Bush do poorly tonight, they should all consider doing something else than running for president.