Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vigo County

Vigo County, IN is a bellweather county. Only 6 counties in the US have been right in every election since 1960. Vigo is the county which is has been closest to national vote. With 91% of the precincts reporting, Obama leads 56-42.

Landslide coming

This is going to be a landslide folks -- a huge one. Indiana is "too close to call", in NC, Dole source said she's done, buried in a "tsunami".

Waiting On Line

I just got back from voting and there was, for the first time ever, a line. Normally I walk right in, this time there was a 45 minute wait. The weather is nice here in Southern California, but it still is amazing that the turnout is so high.
There was a black couple on line who took pictures of each other standing there. I said to the man, "Something to show your grandchildren?" He smiled and said "yes". I said to him, "I've told people that I can't imagine any African-American not voting today and keeping every evidence of having done so." He said, with a slight accent, "I flew in last night from England. I went to the embassy to vote, but they told me I had to have registered a while ago to do that. So I purchased a ticket, which was quite expensive at the last minute, and flew back here." I said, "and it's not like your vote matters that much -- you just had to bear witness." He said, "yes, I did."
As I left, I saw his wife taking his picture again,this time with him smiling and pointing to his "I VOTED" sticker. It was a special moment for him and for me too.

What To Watch For

Here are things to watch for tonight:

1. How votes are being reported
With so many early votes, how they are reported is key to understanding what is happening. Will NC show us all the early votes as soon as the polls close? If that is the case, then Obama will have a huge lead. Will states report the early voters differently from absentee mail-in ballots? Will they be able to accurately estimate turnout when they say some percentage of a precinct has reported? This will lead to…
2. Network confusion
They have tried to do “exit” polls of early voters, but that doesn’t mean they’re representative, nor do they know what percentage of voters they actually are. Exit polls generally suck, but in this case they will be worse than usual. Ignore them – I know you like looking at Norah O’Donnell, even when pregnant, but turn off the sound or check another network for real information. There is nothing of any value there. What the polls will do is confuse the networks when they try calling states. When their data conflicts with actual numbers, they are stumped. Add in the complete impossibility of estimating turnout within demographics – most specifically young and black voters – we will hear all sorts of hedging. Some early voting states may be easy to call, some may have to wait until they are confident of the total vote. In a sense, this could make things more fun.
3. Delays and more delays
Poll closing times will change constantly. I expect relatively few states to close when they are supposed to, because turnout will be massive. Long lines, needless challenges by Republican scum, and ballot shortages will result in many visits to judges by lawyers. Also there will be serious problems with voting machines – as always, fixing problems cause yet more problems. The most common visual of the day/night will be a reporter standing in front of a long line of people, many of them upset. This will also present many fine opportunities for helicopter shots of long lines winding around the block.
4. Indiana
Everybody is talking about all sorts of tip-offs, here is a simple one: look at Indiana. If the networks announce it as “too close to call”, Obama will win decisively. If it’s “too early to call” we don’t know what it means, as it means their polling data is in conflict with the votes coming in, or it’s just below their threshold for a call.
5. The phrase “History is being made today/tonight”
You want a drinking game? Use that phrase and see if anyone can see the TV set by the time polls close on the west coast.
6. Republicans spinning this defeat
GOP talking points will feature such excuses/explanations as:
It’s the stock market’s fault – the collapse made it impossible to get our message out
It’s the media’s fault – they were biased and we couldn’t get our message out
Obama bought the election – he broke his word to use public financing and corrupted the system (this will be the hardest one to use with a straight face, but they will)
People didn’t vote against the Republicans, they voted against Bush, who wasn’t on the ballot
We lost our way, forgot the governing principles of Reagan, so we’ll spend the next two years fighting for smaller government and a balanced budget against the big-spending Democrats.
Osama Bin Laden is happy tonight (this will be said by some losing Senate or House candidate and picked up by media, then danced around by other Republican operatives)

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Numbers and Notes -- Senate Predictions

The amount of polling this cycle has been amazing, almost as amazing as the quantity of analysis of them. I was pretty successful last time around, so I figure I’ll toss my opinions out there again.
In a landslide year, there is usually one result which comes out of nowhere. Of course, with all the polling and analysis, there is nothing which will really surprise anyone. The Dems need to turn 9 seats to get to the magic number of 60. Frankly, this is purely symbolic and meaningless in reality. On some big issues, like the war, those 60 won’t hold, as Lieberman and several others won’t support the majority. On court appointments, the 60 is pretty unnecessary, as a number of Republicans – Spector, Snowe, Collins, and Hatch (who believes Presidents should be able to appoint anyone who is qualified) are unlikely to join a filibuster. Other issues will be decided on their own merits, with votes going both ways.
The Republicans are purely playing defense, as there are no Democratic seats in danger. Even Mary Landrieu in LA seems safe. The following seats figure to switch:
NH: Jeanne Shaheen has gradually pulled ahead, helped by what appears to be an Obama landslide in NH.
VA: Mark Warner’s election has never been in doubt. Even as well known as he is, I wonder how many people will vote for him thinking he’s John Warner? Just asking. As an aside, John Warner is a loss for the Senate. He was a conservative, but a man who truly cared about the Constitution and the country, rather than just his party and religious fundamentalists. Not only are the Republicans losing moderates, they’re also losing decent conservatives.
NC: This race seems to have solidified for Kay Hagan late, perhaps helped by a reaction to a Dole ad which a former Jesse Helms strategist said goes too far. That’s right, a Jesse Helms strategist was offended – I didn’t think that was possible, given the nature of the last Helms campaign, but Dole has accomplished it. I personally believe this country would be better off with an atheist or two (or fifty) in the halls of Congress, but you could see how a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher (which Hagan is) might be offended by the accusation. Dole is a sleazy bitch and has been inept at every political job she has ever held – especially as head of the GOP Senate campaign committee in 2006. This will be a very nice win.
AK: Let’s complete the list – don’t get caught with a live boy, a dead girl, or convicted of a felony before your election. This is Ted Stevens’ election to nowhere. Good riddance.
OR: Gordon Smith (another decent sort of conservative) is getting buried in the wave. He spent much of this campaign telling people how good a friend of Barack Obama he is. It hasn’t worked.
NM: Tom Udall is winning easily – nothing to see here.
CO: Mark Udall is winning easily. Biggest excitement in these two races is which Udall has the biggest margin of victory. They’re both up by double digits, Tom is a few points ahead in the recent numbers.
Alright, that leaves the Dems at 58 (including the two independents). This leaves us with four races to look at.
KY: Mitch McConnell has been locked in a tight struggle in a battle reminiscent of Tom Daschle’s defeat as minority leader. The problem is that Bruce Lunsford is in a state where he has no real help from Obama coattails. The most recent polls here have McConnell opening up a lead and it looks like he’ll survive.
MS: There are two races here, the one which seemed to be in doubt was the one for Trent Lott’s seat, which is the appointee, Roger Wicker is the temp appointee, while former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is the Dem trying to do the impossible. The polls here are going the wrong way for the upset, with Wicker pulling well out ahead in the late polling. It would require a spectacular black vote and even then it might not be enough. Musgrove’s problem is that he’s barely running ahead of Obama, which doesn’t seem like a good omen.
GA: This one has been a real battle, very tight, and if the Democrats could pick one, this might be the one to win, because Saxby Chambliss is scum. For those who don’t remember, he won this seat by attacking Max Cleland’s patriotism. It appears to have moved a couple of points in Chambliss direction in the closing days, but there are still a few things Martin has going for him. First, Obama has closed ground late here and if there is a huge turnout edge for him, could pull off the upset. Unlike KY, there are Obama coattails here and they could take Martin in. Second, Chambliss is stuck under 50%, a dangerous place for an incumbent to be. Third, this state requires you to get 50% to get elected, so even if Martin doesn’t win, it could result in a runoff. Frankly, I’m not excited about the runoff possibility, since I think a significant number of Obama voters won’t show up a second time. But make no mistake, it would be a lively (and expensive) battle.
MN: Anyone who thinks he knows what is going to happen in this race is basing it on instinct, rather than data. The most recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll has Obama +11 and Franken +4. The most recent Rasmussen poll has Obama +12 and Coleman +5. Research 2000 has Obama +15 and Coleman +3. The last PPP poll has Obama +16 and Franken +5. Add in a real independent candidate in Dean Barkley, who actually had this seat for a few months following the tragic death of Paul Wellstone, and it becomes a real mess. Coleman is the kind of politician who wears well in MN – not a doctrinaire conservative, but a moderate who can go in either direction. In all honesty, my opinion of this race has always been that I’ll believe Al Franken gets elected to the Senate right after Norm Coleman officially concedes. It still is my opinion, but, for old SNL fans, this election night could truly be all about him, Al Franken.
Maybe the Dems will pick up one of these seats, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am somewhat frustrated that we didn’t go after Susan Collins in ME. There is no excuse for our Senate candidate to be running 30 points behind our Presidential candidate. I also thought Texas might have been in play, but Cornyn seems to have gotten control of that race back from Noriega.
All in all, I’ll say we finish at 58 and hope for a GA or MN to come our way.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

NUmbers and Notes: Obama-McCain Predictions

I haven’t done much analysis of the numbers during the campaign because, frankly, others have done the job better than I could have, If you aren’t reading fivethirtyeight.com, you’ve missed a lot in this election season. But I figure I should toss in my two cents worth on the elections, so here goes.
Unlike two years ago and four years ago, this election lacks a lot to analyze deeply. It’s not going to be close on the Presidential level, and the Senate races are, for the most part, pretty easy to peg as well. Still, the question of how big the Obama victory will be is still interesting. The magnitude of this victory has been amplified by the economic crisis, the abysmal McCain campaign, the horrid choice of Palin, and the money differential between the campaigns, which is huge. The Obama campaign has also made the victory larger by running the best campaign in modern history, designed to take advantage of every break, creating organizations of volunteers in nearly every state, much to the consternation of the Clintonite wing of the party (as opposed to the Dean wing), which believes in focusing all your efforts on the states you need to win. That failed them in the primaries and the biggest story of this election may ultimately be the rebirth of the party in regions where Democrats had been buried recently. We have Dean and Obama to thank for that and one has to hope Howard Dean gets the respect and praise he deserves in the wake of this huge win.
Obama starts with the 252 electoral votes Kerry won – all of them are safely his. He has sizable leads in Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico, which total 21 EV among them, which for those of you who are arithmetically challenged, makes for a total of 273 – sufficient for the balloon drop and hundreds of cars to be overturned in Detroit.
So now the question is how big will this be? Let’s travel around the map:
Highly Likely Wins:
VA (13 EV): This state seems to be tightening a bit, but even in the closest of polls (4 points), Obama is over 50%.
NC (15 EV): The polling data has it very close, but Obama is way ahead in early voting. This is one of the states where the immense black vote turnout has made things difficult for pollsters – exactly how big will it be? I think as big as possible and it’s why I put this state in this group. I also think NC is a state where the nauseating campaign run by McCain-Palin, with talk of “pro-American” voters and guilt by association has worn very poorly among independent voters.
FL (27): Of the last ten polls in FL, Obama was ahead in 9, with the tenth tied. There is no reason to believe McCain is about to win here.
OH (20): The last 12 polls here have Obama ahead, with margins from +4 to +10. It took a while, but Ohio finally came in line with PA. In fact, due to all the effort the McCain campaign spent in PA, he may actually come closer there than in OH. He ain’t winning either.
NV (5): The last poll to show McCain ahead here was in September. There have been 16 polls since that time, only one of which has the margin less than 4 points. This is also one of the states in which Republican votes may be depressed by early voting results, as the loss of VA, NC, PA, and OH will not leave the marginal McCain voters much reason to leave their homes, rather than sedating themselves.
If you’ve been counting, that leaves us at 353. I would be surprised if Obama goes under this number. On to the real toss-up states:
IN (11): This state is too close to call, but it’s starting to look like it’s drifting toward McCain. On the other hand, of the four most recent polls, two are tied, one has Obama up one, and the fourth has McCain up 3. The fly in the McCain ointment here is that Obama has a far superior ground game in this state and that could overcome a slight McCain advantage.
MO (11): Like the 2006 Senate race, this is a flat out guess. This is a tough state for the Dems to win, but MO is never wrong and since we know who is going to win, why would they land on the wrong side of this? Polls seem to be giving McCain a slight edge recently, but too small to really withstand the ground game.
ND (3): Another toss-up and the late burst of advertising by Obama tells you it’s close enough for them to win. And, like NV, GOP voters could decide to stay home after early results depress them.
NE (1): Nebraska, like Maine, awards its EV by Congressional district, as well as overall. The CD which includes Omaha is very much in play. This has never happened before, so it’s hard to believe it will now, but this is a unique election and the wave could roll over Nebraska.
The “Super-Duper Landslide” States:
GA (15): In the immortal words of Deep Throat “follow the money” – along with ND and AZ, the Obama campaign has tossed a late bucket of money into GA. It’s a long shot, but there are those two Insider Advantage polls, the first had Obama up by 1, the second had McCain up by 1. A huge black vote here could provide the upset. Add Bob Barr to the mix and disgruntled Republicans could vote for him and give it to Obama.
AZ (10): Anyone else surprised at how many EV Arizona has? This time it’s not just late Obama money we get to follow, it’s late McCain money too. Losing is one thing, being humiliated is another. I will be surprised at this happening, but like GA, it’s possible. Again, it could be over early enough to depress the vote here.
MT (3): Sort of like ND, with a little less favorable polling data. McCain has a 4 point lead here, but again, enthusiasm may wane late and the Dems will turn out the vote for Gov. Schweitzer in any case, so there is a surprise possible here.
If Obama wins all of these votes, he’s at 407. I’m going to say he wins one of IN and MO, ND, and, just for laughs, the NE EV. That leaves him at 368.
I’ve been wavering on a popular vote prediction. I keep expecting it to be in the five point range, with a little traditional tightening leaving it there. I’m starting to drift upwards a bit, thinking that the polls have been underestimating the black vote and that there will be some small loss of GOP voters in the western states. I would be more confident of the latter if there weren’t two right-wing propositions here in CA to pull the religious right loonies to the polls. I’ll call it 52-45, with Obama not only getting more votes than anyone ever, but setting a record in that stat which may not be broken for 30 or 40 years.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land

The thought just crossed my mind that it's extremely likely that the first state to be declared for Barack Obama on election night will be Virginia. Virginia, cradle of the Confederacy, will begin the landslide election of the first black President. Now, to be fair, Virginia has led the way on these points before, being the first state to elect a black Governor, Douglas Wilder, who is currently the Mayor of Richmond, former capitol of the Confederate States of America. Still, it has been 44 years since a Democrat won VA, and Obama's victory there would be a wonderful way to start the evening, and one which will certainly be noticed by those who know history. Okay, it'll be noticed by Keith Olbermann -- I make no assumptions about the nitwits on the other networks.

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Friday, October 10, 2008


Due to the complete collapse of its banking system, Iceland is in trouble. This morning, it assured everyone that it is not bankrupt. I think we all have the same reaction: can’t Bjork do something about this? Since the warbling gamin has been silent on this issue – and seriously, is she any less authoritative than Bush or McCain on economic issues? – we are left to see what this has done. It seems the Brits have invested a lot in Icelandic banks, which had aggressive interest rates which drew in a lot of money. Local governments in the UK have deposited some $1.36 billion in Icelandic banks. Now Iceland has taken over the banks to prop them up, but they haven’t done anything for depositors. So the British government has frozen Icelandic bank assets in the UK, so they can get some compensation for investors. Lots of local governments and charities may get next to nothing back.
So what does this mean to Americans, who, after all, all Americans care about? Well, it’s indicative of how dangerous everything is out there. Most of us have pension plans which have investments, investments which are less designed for safety than for maximum return. Most private pension funds are under funded, hoping that rising payouts from equities will make everything work. All the people with 401k plans and IRAs are a lot poorer today than they were 10 days ago. The closer you are to retirement, the scarier this is. Even conservative 401k management, based on index funds and blue chips, has failed, with losses which can only be described as catastrophic.
This is all the result of a system where investing in stocks and their prices is the driving force in the market, rather than investing in companies and their success. And even when the success of companies is important, it is only short term success, not long-term success, growth rather than stability. This is a dangerous way to run an economy, and this month has demonstrated the results. If it was just in the US, it would be bad, but it’s in much of the world, and that is a multiplier. Iceland is not alone and neither are we.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart

I don't normally reprint things, but this, from www.adennak.com, was too wonderful to not bring to you.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Is It Over?

Today, reports surfaced that the McCain campaign has pulled out of Michigan, canceling all media buys and stopping sending out mailers, while moving most staff to WI, OH, FL, and other more hospitable states. Considering that MI was a close state in ’04 and that Obama had shown some weakness there because he hadn’t campaigned during the primary, this is a very bad sign, to put it mildly. Based on current polling data (and there’s a ton of it) McCain is in extremely bad position, somewhere in the Dole zone.
What has caused this dramatic shift? First, the economic problems have put the focus on the area where McCain is weakest. Second, Sarah Palin is beginning to scare people. Third, McCain’s campaign suspension stunt looked foolish and desperate. And fourth, and maybe biggest, the debate went really badly for him.
Now the punditocracy felt it was at worst a tie, but on an issue by issue breakdown, they seemed to think McCain did better. The MSNBC nitwits, led by nitwit-in-chief Chris Matthews, felt that Obama had spent too much time agreeing with McCain, while McCain, smartly, never agreed with Obama, even when he had the same position. Matthews, with that senescent point of reference he specializes in, pointed out that Richard Nixon did that in his debate with JFK and that didn’t work for him. Now no one remembers that except Chris, and that wasn’t the key to that debate anyway. The key to that debate was Nixon sweating and seeming uncomfortable, while JFK looked cool and calm. Those who listened on the radio – yes, people did that then – thought Nixon won. So too in this debate – it wasn’t about individual answers, it was about what the demeanor and attitude of the candidates was. Remember, both candidates will almost certainly reinforce support within their own party. The key audience is the independent voters and the moderate edges of their own parties. I like to call them the “Kumbaya Voters” – they believe everything could be solved if the politicians were less partisan and just got along.
Every time McCain smirked during an Obama answer, his disrespect offended the Kumbaya voters. Every time he said “you don’t understand” to a man who clearly did, he lost votes. And every time Obama agreed with something McCain said, before modifying it slightly, Obama was the living embodiment of the bipartisan candidate they wanted. That McCain refused to ever look at Obama (which Matthews and company seemed to endorse) was also an insult which these voters noticed. Every poll following the debate showed that independents thought Obama won and his positives have increased while McCain's negatives have increased since then. While Obama looked calm, cool, and Presidential throughout, McCain came off as hostile and condescending, and frankly, more than a little crotchety – never a good thing for an old man.
Tonight is the VP debate, eagerly awaited by all fans of politics, as well as all fans of comedy. The punditocracy will emphasize the expectations being low for Palin. Frankly, they’re too low. At this point, after her pathetic performance with Katie Couric, any mistake, fumbling, or general show of ignorance, will merely confirm the expectations. She has to be nearly perfect tonight. If I was coaching Biden, I would have shown him the Obama-McCain debate, pointing out every McCain smirk and saying “don’t do that – or even smile, when she’s speaking”. And never say “you don’t know” or “you don’t understand” – be respectful and let her hang herself. All comments about the other side should be a reference to the McCain-Palin ticket, the stupider the comment by Barbie, the more it should be tied to McCain and Palin. The debate is not about Biden, just don’t make anyone notice you instead of her.
So is this race over? There’s a month to go and that’s a lifetime in politics. At this point though, it will require something huge to change the momentum – something McCain can’t do himself, since he’s already tried so many things. Settle in and enjoy the ride.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why-O, Why-O, Why-O?

Why is Barack Obama behind in Ohio? This, to me, is the most interesting question of the election at this point. For the last week he has been trending upward nationally and strengthening his position in a number of states, yet Ohio is still in the McCain column. To be fair, Michigan has been a bit of a laggard for him as well, and Pennsylvania has tightened up, but Ohio is the one state in that region where John McCain is ahead, and that seems strange. Republican economic policies have hit OH hard. The Ohio GOP is in disrepute. Dems control the governorship, the legislature, and the US Senate seats. Yet somehow, McCain is ahead there. I freely admit that I thought Obama would have little trouble in Ohio, given the conditions I just stated, so I am thoroughly confused by this state of affairs. This has been a tight state in every Presidential election, with the Republicans in far better shape as a party than they are now, so why is McCain running better than Bush did?
The only answer I can come up with is the primary. While, for the most part, the Democrats have come home – although Obama is running behind where he should be in some states among Dems – they weren’t the only ones who saw the anti-Obama ads during the primary. Perhaps the ton of money poured into OH and PA has had a negative effect among Independents. McCain has led among them in OH, and still does. Perhaps that is the residual effect of Clinton’s poisoning the well for a month. The debates will be Obama’s chance to get these people on his side, or at least even things up among them, which should be sufficient for him to win there. He can win the election without Ohio, but it’s a lot easier if he has it.

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