Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Week To Go

And down the stretch they come! Dirt is flying, but not from horses' hooves, it’s the RNC flinging it everywhere. From 2 second accidental calls to a sex line indicating moral turpitude, to a single black man being accused of liking white meat, the RNC has lowered the bar on decency as far as they can – at least we have to hope they can’t go lower. They have no shame or decency, so anything is possible. With the wonders of Photoshop available to them, God knows what they might come up with in the waning hours.

House Notes: The biggest polling news this week is the second round of RT Strategies/Constituent Dynamics polls. The first round was heavily tilted toward the Dems and a number of intervening polls were less enthusiastic about the Democratic wave. The latest round seems to confirm their first poll and even expands the Dems lead. This can only be interpreted as good news for the Dems. At this point, I’m looking at the Dems ending up at 225, +/- 3. Of course, there’s a huge difference between 222 and 228 – at 222 the Dems would be unlikely to hold n past 2008, but at 228, they could have a chance. Remember, the Dems are taking over a bunch of Republican districts here.

Senate: A little different approach this week. I’ll divide this into three groupings.

1) All Over But The Shouting: PA, OH, RI – these are three different brands of Republicans going down here – the moderate Chaffee, the conservative DeWine, the lunatic Santorum (in whose latest commercial he proudly proclaims that he’s been able to work with Hillary Clinton...talk about desperate). The RI race is closer than the others, but I saw the last debate and Whitehouse dominated. It was amazing to me how much more effective he was at linking Republican Senator = Republican Control = Bush Agenda than Ben Cardin was in his debate. That is why this race is in this group and Cardin’s isn’t. This group gives the Dems 3 of the 6 seats they need to take control

2) Write Two Speeches, Just In Case: MD, MT, NJ – In MT, Tester maintains a small but steady lead. Again, Mr. Burns has not led in a poll since April, and even that looks like a statistical blip. Cardin has the lead in MD and should win, but I’m a little nervous. See last Tuesday’s post for the details.
NJ is a late addition to this group instead of the third group. The three most recent polls have Menendez up by 5 points, which might put it in the first group except that the momentum in this race changes weekly. Oddly, the latest shift has occurred in the face of a $5 million ad buy by the national GOP (most of it filthy). What does it say about the efficacy of these kinds of ads? Are people finally tiring of the slash and burn school of politics? I pray to God that’s the case, not for the sake of my party, but for the sake of our democracy. The same thing seems to be happening in VA, so maybe there is something here.
Taken together, this would be a one seat pickup for the Dems.

3) Bring Lawyers, Guns, and Money : TN, VA, MO – Okay, maybe not guns...although, considering the nature of the Tennessee race, I can think of worse things for Ford voters to have handy. But lawyers and money will certainly be active in the others. In VA, three of the last four neutral polls have Webb up by 3 or more points. The fourth, Rasmussen, has Allen up by 3, but that is down from their previous 6 point margin. There seems to be a clear trend toward Webb here, which is happening in the face of a huge GOP ad buy, featuring salacious passages from a 20 year-old novel by Webb. Incredibly, this has not resonated with the voters as powerfully as the war in Iraq – go figure. I would put this in the previous grouping, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.
If the disgusting GOP ad tactics have had the reverse of their intended effect in VA and NJ, why hasn’t that happened in TN? What does this say of the citizens of the Volunteer state when the ad considered the worst of all of them by everyone this side of the morally bankrupt Ken Mehlman had no impact at all? Yes, Corker disowned the ad, but he didn’t insist they pull it. The CNN poll giving him and 8 point lead seems to be a bit of an outlier. The other three recent polls, LA Times, Rasmussen, and SUSA, have the race at 5, 2, and even – which, if you assume 2 or 3 to be accurate, are basically the same. I have not been alone in saying that Ford’s polling numbers should exceed his actual numbers because black candidates for statewide office always do. Yet the theory behind that is based on a reluctance to tell a caller that you are voting against a black candidate for fear of being thought a racist. Yet in this case Ford’s best numbers are from the two robopolls (SUSA and Rasmussen) and Corker’s are in the two human polls. Some have posited that in conservative areas there is a reluctance to tell pollsters that you aren’t a “values” person – is that the case here? Or are these just random variations? In any case, Ford is probably behind and I’m not spectacularly optimistic. Of course, if you’ve been reading this the last month, I never have been about TN.
Attention all election lawyers: make sure you have plane reservations for your trip to Missouri. Arrive no later than November 8th and bring several changes of clothes, you’re going to be there for a while. Oh yes, and in case you’ve forgotten from last time, the capitol of Missouri is not St. Louis, but Jefferson City, so you won’t get to meet Stan Musial. Let’s look at the recent history of this seat. In 2000, Mel Carnahan won it by a 51-48 margin. He won despite two major disadvantages: John Ashcroft was the incumbent and Carnahan was dead. Carnahan, being dead, was unable to serve (not that he would have been a worse Senator than Ashcroft, smell not withstanding), so his wife Jean was appointed to the seat. She had to run again in 2002, where she lost 51-49 to Jim Talent, who was alive at the time. Talent is still alive and it’s hard to believe that he can win two of these incredibly tight races in a row. Claire McCaskill, on the other hand, lost a nut-crunching (if she had them) race for Governor two years ago, 51-48. It would be awful to be on the losing end of two in a row like that, wouldn’t it? If the VA numbers are real and Webb is ahead, this decides the Senate. That it would come down to the starkest ideological division of any of these races is somewhat amazing. Because of that division, I want this seat more than any of the others, control of the Senate or not. Now this sounds a lot like Florida 2000, doesn’t it? In Florida the counting and recounting had to go through Gov. Jeb Bush and the odious Katherine Harris as Secretary of State. Things are slightly different in MO. The Governor is right-wing Republican Matt Blunt, but the Secretary of State is Democrat Robin Carnahan. That name sound familiar? She’s Mel and Jean Carnahan’s daughter – oh, how delicious would her getting to announce a McCaskill victory be?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Flipping Senators

If the new Senate splits 50-50 or 51-49 Democratic, we would find ourselves in a situation where one Senator switching parties would alter the balance of power. This could be a good time to take a look at this and see who might be up for grabs.
Usually, a politician changing parties is limited to a few specific cases. Either 1) he feels out of step with his old party or 2) his old party is out of step with his state or 3) his re-election chances would be better if he switched – sort of a tactical/craven version of #2.
Add in the reluctance of a recently elected Senator to switch because he a) ran with party endorsement and b) took lots of party money and would be trusted by nobody if he then switched, and we can narrow down the potential jumpers.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, the Nelsons just got re-elected, the two Arkansas Senators seem unlikely to split up, and Salazar is a recent enough electee to not have a good reason. I guess Robert Byrd could switch, but he would probably die if he tried to cross the aisle. Lieberman is just sleazy enough to do it, but he’s running with the express promise to caucus with the Democrats and that could open a really nasty can of worms if he tried to move over. That leaves Mary Landrieu as the lone possibility. I actually thought she was a good possibility for this back in 2004, when it looked like running for re-election in LA as a Democrat could be a dicey proposition. She is quite conservative on a number of issues and would easily fit over there as a moderate Republican. The Landrieu family goes way back in LA party politics and her father, Moon, was Mayor of New Orleans and her brother, Mitch, is Lt. Governor of LA. Still, they might have understood her problem and not disowned her, that is, until Katrina hit. The concept of her joining up with the Bushies at this point is laughable, so there goes the GOP’s last chance as I see it.
On the GOP side, they have very few moderates left. Snowe just got re-elected and Spector owes his re-election in 2004 to the party and Bush in particular, so they’re out. That leaves us with Susan Collins. Collins won easily in 2002, with 58% of the vote and considering Snowe is having no trouble in Maine this year, one could assume she would have little reason to move. The difference between Collins and Snowe is that the religious right sees Snowe as invulnerable. They already have Collins on their RINO hit list for 2008 and are openly lusting for her defeat. She could be in for an expensive primary battle, followed by a serious general election. On the other hand, if she follows the Jeffords route and becomes an Independent and caucuses with the Dems, she gets to run without a primary fight and, following the Sanders precedent in VT, the Dems won’t bother running anyone against her. This is the easiest re-election possible vs. two tough battles – it seems an obvious choice in the strategic sense. She could then form the core of the Whiny Independent Caucus with Joe Lieberman and things would work out fine. Do I think she’ll do this? Not really, but it’s something to root for if things end up 50-50.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Enough Already

I've tried to keep this blog about bigger things than my own personal likes and dislikes, but I've had enough -- I hate the Chevy truck commercial with that incredibly annoying John Mellencamp "Our Country" song. It was on every other inning during the World Series, is on every ten minutes during every football game, and has forced me to watch sports with my remote in my hand so I can turn off the sound the second the music starts. The stunning mediocrity of the song, the images chosen to go with the peurile lyrics ("a time to stand and fight" being illustrated by scenes from Vietnam, of all things), the pathetic attempt to echo This Land Is Your Land, and the lame sing-songy melody are all burrowing a hole in my brain. I hate Mellencamp, I hate Chevrolet, I hate the ad agency responsible for this abomination, and it's starting to make me hate every image conjured up in the service of selling Chevy trucks to the retards they are obviously aimed at. If this is how they think they can sell their piece of crap vehicles, then it's obvious why GM loses billions. On the other hand, if they want to get information out of the prisoners at Gitmo, no need for waterboarding, just keep playing these commercials for them as often as they play them on football games. Just make sure the International Red Cross isn't around when you do it, since it's clearly intolerable cruelty.

Friday, October 27, 2006

If You Could Choose

1 – Democrats win the House, or the Senate?

When I discussed this with my friend Sam (who responds to these regularly) a couple of weeks ago, we disagreed. He preferred the House for investigative purposes, I preferred the Senate for judicial appointments. Upon further review, I go with the House. The House under the GOP has been a right-wing extremist body, forcing all bill negotiations to the right. A Democratic House would change that, although not as much, since the Dems seem to be getting their victory with the aid of many very conservative candidates in the South and Midwest. Also, given that the Dems Senate majority would include the scummy Joe Lieberman, there would be little real control of the judicial vote process.

2- Which tossup Senate race would you like the Dems to win most?

As of this moment, there appear to be five Senate races that are tossups – from East to West: NJ, VA, TN, MO, MT. Late advertising has turned things around in NJ and Tester’s shrinking lead in MT have moved them into that category. From my viewpoint, the Missouri one is the biggest by a lot. This has been a clean race, mostly because these two candidates are clearly separated ideologically. This is a relatively liberal Democrat against an extremely conservative Republican and would be a huge pickup for the Dems, as well as a key border state win. Next on my list would be New Jersey, where a loss would be awful, undoing the turnover in Rhode Island and installing a fresh moderate Republican in a state where Dems should control. Virginia would be nice, since getting rid of the racist Allen would be a good thing for America. On a purely philosophical basis, I’d probably prefer Montana to Tennessee, as Ford is very conservative on social issues, but the Republican campaign in TN has been so scummy that a win for Ford would be a good lesson to them.

3. Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?

Okay, this is a fantasy question, since none of us will have this choice. Still, I’d go with Jen. I know Angelina is hotter, and certainly a good person, as her U.N. work indicates, along with her adoptions; but I find Jen more accessible, she certainly is funnier, and has far fewer tattoos. I also am not into visiting countries that require me to get anti-malaria vaccines. So Jen it is – next time, we can address the choice between Charlize Theron and Uma Thurman.

4. Win in Iraq or win in Afghanistan?

Okay, this is another fantasy question, since we each have a better chance with Jen that the U.S. does of winning in Iraq. But if we define winning down far enough, maybe we can make the choice. As the Taliban gradually retakes Afghanistan, we find ourselves in the embarrassing (and frustrating) position of losing back a country to the guys who supported Al Qaeda – who actually were responsible for 9/11, unlike Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, as Iraq descends into chaos, we find a failed state with the ability to destabilize the region and in the North, create a dangerous situation involving Turkey. As awful as the return of the Taliban would be, Iraq has oil and that sort of tips the balance. Hell, we can always blow up Afghanistan again – it’s only Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two Weeks To Go

As much money as is being poured into commercials, I honestly believe that from this point on, the air war (advertising) will give way to the ground war (organization and turnout). I don’t believe the Republicans have the credibility to sell their “Osama will blow you up if you vote for Democrats” nonsense, and anyone likely to be moved by tax policy is already there. By the way, I agree with Keith Olbermann that the Republican campaign to frighten people into voting against Democrats is a form of terrorism – telling someone they will die if they vote the wrong way is immoral and indecent. Then again, what can you expect from Bush, Cheney, Mehlman, and Rove – the four horsemen of political indecency.
The GOP get out the vote organization is a powerful force and could swing a number of races – probably not enough to win the House. There are just too many close races and the GOP would have to win too many to hang on to control. It’s interesting how that has changed. Earlier in the campaign, say six weeks ago, the question was where would the Democrats find 15 seats? Now the seats are everywhere and the GOP is struggling to find the seats they can nail down. I would be very surprised if they held the majority, In fact, I fully expect them to spin a Democratic majority of 221 or 222 into a “victory”, by comparing it to past Presidential year 6 results. Internally, they would be unhappy at losing control, but would look to 2008 with great confidence, as a bunch of those seats are solidly Republican, lost only because of the perfect storm of Iraq, Foley, and Abramoff.

The Senate:

RI- Chafee still trails consistently and this can pretty much be put in the Dems column.

NJ- Menendez has been consistently ahead in polls for the whole month of October. It’s not a big lead, but stable enough to make me think it’s real. There’s no reason to believe Kean will turn it around and this is a state where the GOP GOTV organization didn’t work in 2004.

NY- Finally, excitement in this race. Did Hillary have some “work” done? Have the Republicans discovered a hidden “anti-cosmetic surgery vote” to be exploited? Didn’t John Spencer die during the final season of The West Wing? Considering this guy’s chances against Clinton, he might as well be dead. His only consolation is that he’s doing better than their gubernatorial candidate (name withheld to protect the helpless). The last poll I saw had Spitzer ahead by 51 points, which would be an historic victory and would make Hillary’s landslide look a whole lot less impressive.

PA- Ding dong the witch is dead. The imminent departure of Rick Santorum has caused great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among the religious right. Good fun for the rest of us.

MD- Are you a betting man? Looking for a big upset to take a shot at? Here you are. Cardin seemed to have this well in hand and why should a Democrat have trouble in MD? The only blip in the polling universe was Survey USA, which back in September, had Steele with a 1 point lead. We can discard that as an outlier and move on. But last week, SUSA returned to MD and had it tied at 46. Once is an accident, twice is a trend. So what’s happening here? Their sample seems reasonable, 51-33 Democrats. The key factor they’re finding is a very large black vote, 25%, for Steele (it was 33% in September). This is unusually large for a Republican, but there are two factors making it plausible here. One, Steele is black. Two, Cardin won a tough primary against Kwesi Mfume, which may have caused some resentment among Mfume’s supporters. Steele has gotten elected state-wide before, so it’s not like he can’t do this. I would be surprised if the upset actually happened, but I am just a little bit nervous.

VA- The bleeding has stopped here. Allen has a small but steady lead and should hold on, barring any unforeseen occurrences. Now the polls are within margin of error, but this is a state where the GOP machine will help the turnout and many of the northern counties use Diebold machines, which isn’t good for the Democrats.

OH- The days of DeWine and roses are clearly numbered. Brown has led outside the margin of error for several weeks. Chalk this one up for the Dems.

TN- Corker seems to have taken a slight lead here – emphasis on “slight”. I tend to believe the lead – this has become a pretty Republican state on the Federal level (there’s a Democratic Governor, but that seems to mean little). The GOP won the last two Presidential races (including one against Gore), and averaged 60% of the vote the last three Senate races – although Alexander only won 54-44 in 2002. I would be more optimistic if Ford had any sort of momentum, but I don’t see it. GOP turnout machine could well be dominant here.

MO- McCaskill is up 3 in the latest Mason-Dixon poll, which constitutes a breakaway in this race. In a race this close, you’d think the GOP GOTV machine would be determinative, except that in 2000, Tallent had about a 5 point lead in the final polling and only won the election by 1, so maybe it doesn’t work as well in MO as in other places. About 25% of the state uses Diebold machines, so that could help Tallent too.

MT- Burns appears to be closing the gap on Tester, cutting his lead from six to three. GOP GOTV operations in Montana feature the fastest horses they can find.

All-in-all, I’m not terribly optimistic about the Democrats getting control of the Senate, but there’s another round of polling to go and maybe there will be good news in places we need it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Local Zeroes and Other Math

While the dictum “all politics is local” has been as far from the Democrats strategy this year as can be, they are well-positioned to take advantage of some non-national situations in creating a congressional majority.
In yesterday’s notes, I mentioned that the sorry state of the Ohio GOP will likely bring down Mike DeWine, as well as turning over the state house to the Democrats. The Ohio Congressional delegation could also have a major shift because of GOP disrepute. There are three Republican incumbents locked in tight battles – Deborah Pryce is actually trailing by 12 in the only poll we have in her district, but that is only one poll. Add Bob Ney’s former seat to that, where the Democrat has about an 8 point lead and there could be a huge turnover there.
New York has a different situation. There the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Elliot Spitzer is headed for a landslide victory of historic proportions, with numbers as high as 71% in recent polls. This can’t help but leave the Republicans a bit dispirited and this is reflected in some House polling data. Incumbents Peter King, Sue Kelly, John Sweeney, and Randy Kuhl are locked in tight races. Tom Reynolds is caught up in the Foley mess
and is down by 15. The Democrat has a double-digit lead in an open Republican seat. That’s six GOP seats in that state, which, if the Spitzer (and Clinton) landslides depress the GOP vote, could well turn over.
If you think about the Democrats problems in Presidential elections, you get a good picture of what the Republicans are going through in the House. Democrats have been in a position of defending a number of electoral votes, while finding very few Republican states to go after, so they have to spend time and money defending PA, NM, IA, MN, MI, WA, OR, and VT, while the Republicans get to focus on OH and FL. At the moment, there are almost no Democrat-held House seats in danger. This means the GOP is playing defense all over the place and with this many tight races, it seems highly likely (in the mathematical sense) that many of them will turn out badly for them. Anything can happen and three weeks is a long time, but things look better every day for a Democratic takeover of the House.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Three Weeks To Go

Idea for a new TV series – CSI:GOP. Each week our crack team of Federal investigators, with at least one hot woman and one moody actor included, raids a Republican Congressman’s office or home in search of clues for corruption. It doesn’t contain murders (yet), but basic bribery, luxury yachts, and illicit sex abound. This week’s episode features Rep. Curt Weldon (D-PA), 10-term congressman and member of Republican leadership. Federal agents raided his daughter Karen’s home in search of evidence because she received nearly a million dollars in lobbying and consulting contracts from two Russian companies and two Serbian brothers linked to Slobodan Milosevic. It seems daddy helped these guys between 2002 and 2004 while Karen was getting rich. Weldon is in a close race in PA and this could well tip it.
The GOP internal polling seems to reflect what I talked about last week, that several key Senate races are slipping away from them. They have reportedly decided to move their national dollars away from DeWine in Ohio and focus on MO and TN. They are going to try a $500,000 ad buy in NJ, to see if they can turn things around there – that isn’t as big as it sounds, since NJ requires ads in the NY and Philadelphia media markets. If it doesn’t work, they’ll pull the plug there too. And then there’s VA, where they are looking nervously at Allen’s slippage and planning to toss more money into that race. Their whole strategy now is to hold onto a majority somewhere, even if it means cutting bait on some incumbents.

House: Things are looking worse for the Republicans as Bush’s approval ratings continue to slide, the Baker Iraq Study Group’s report is leaked, and corruption scandals abound. You can localize races just so much and people are truly souring on these guys. More and more races are coming back into play – add J.D. Hayworth’s seat in AZ and Brian Bilbray in CA to the list, with any number of others possible. The GOP is going to circle the wagons and try to hold on to a slim majority. The Dems will try and reach the magic number of 15, and once they think they have that, attack everywhere. The GOP get out the vote strength shouldn’t be underestimated, but considering how dispirited many of their voters are, they may need to get them to the polls at gunpoint. Fortunately for them, they have lots of gun owners in their midst.


RI- No new polls here, but this is one of the states the GOP is bailing on. Chaffee could still come back, but is bucking a bad atmosphere.

NJ- It still is close enough for Kean to come back, but he’s bucking the trend, which has been steadily toward Menendez and the GOP is less than enthusiastic about his chances. They’ll make one small effort to turn this around, then give Kean a hearty handshake and a copy of Karl Rove’s book.

VA- Last week I said I wanted to see some post-scandal numbers here and now they’re out. Rasmussen dropped Allen’s margin from 49-43 to 49-46, and the Washington Post poll has it at 49-47. The GOP is planning on spending money here, but considering the huge advertising advantage Allen has had so far, it’s hard to imagine extra ad buys helping. In fact, Webb’s advertising is just starting and the lesser money the Dems toss in here could be more effective than the GOP’s. That said, there are remarkably few undecideds left and with the exception of the 9/27 Mason-Dixon poll (the only one where Allen wasn’t leading), Allen has been between 48 and 50%, leaving Webb little margin for error. Again, the GOP organization should be key to getting out the vote and while this race is alive, I am not as optimistic as I’d like to be.

TN- Two polls this week: Rasmussen has Ford up 48-46, SUSA has Corker up 48-46. That’s about as much a toss-up as you would want to see. If I had to bet on this one, I’d bet on Corker. Corker has the GOP money pouring in, the GOP organization pulling the vote, and history tells us that black candidates tend to outpoll their actual vote. Still, three weeks is an eternity in elections and anything could happen here.

MO- There are three polls that have shown up this week which are a little tricky to analyze. There’s an SUSA poll with McCaskill up by 9 – that sounds great but there’s a statistical anomaly in there. There was an extreme imbalance in voters who said they were Democrats and SUSA doesn’t correct for that. I would take that poll with a grain of salt until I see it validated by at least a repeat SUSA set of numbers. There was a Bennett, Petts, and Blumenthal poll that had McCaskill up by 5, but they’re a Democratic polling organization and we are dubious of positive polls of that type. The latest Rasmussen poll has Tallent up by 1 – which I think takes us back to where we’ve always been here, toss-up land.

OH- This one appears to be over. DeWine has a problem other GOP incumbents don’t have. The Republican party is in complete disrepute in Ohio and it is taking them down across the state. Strickland has a 14 point lead for Governor and several incumbent Congressman are also in danger of going down. This, of course, is two years too late, but better late than never.

MT- Latest Rasmussen poll has Tester up by 6 and the GOP is bailing here. Burns just hasn’t gotten any traction and it would be a big surprise if he pulled this out.

This week the ad wars heat up and the ground war begins, with phone banks, mailers, and absentee ballots. Hang tight, election night will be big.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Future Values Voters of America

Sunday’s NY Times had an article about the demographic nature of party affiliation, not by income or ethnicity, but simply by age. They associated the assorted ages in the survey with the Presidential administration in which these voters came of age, using age 20 as the key year. Those who came of age in the Eisenhower and Reagan-Bush years were the most Republican group. The most surprising number was the current generation – rather than going along with the party affiliation of the President, this is the most Democratic generation ever, by a margin of 52-37%, which also makes them the least Republican generation ever. Much credit for this was given to the Iraq war and Michael Barone, who believes the Iraq War is causing a transitory blip in the numbers, pooh-poohs the concept of an emerging party shift. I disagree. Now my disagreement could be based on my belief that the Iraq war is not all that transitory an event, but it’s not. I base it on MTV.
Remember Pedro Zamora? If you saw The Real World – San Francisco on MTV you would. He was a Cuban-American gay AIDS activist, who brought home the disease to an audience of young people in a way no lecture could, although much of his time was spent lecturing to young people (as well as Congress) about AIDS. On the series, we met him and his lover (who was black – in case this wasn’t provocative enough.) One of the others in the cast was a young woman with a strong religious background who was horrified at the thought of gays, but gradually she came to realize that they were people and deserved the right to be happy. Zamora died not long after the series was done. Virtually every edition of The Real World since has included at least one gay person. Now MTV is not in the business of leading their audience – no network is. They reflect their audience and the generation to which they have spoken and the subsequent ones to which they speak are pro-gay rights, pro-choice, pro-open sexuality (see any music video), and basically color blind, in the racial sense. Why would we be surprised that the majority of this generation is repelled by a political party which is anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-sex, and thinks the biggest issues they have to deal with are Janet Jackson’s breast, video games, and internet poker? Yes, the war plays a part, just as taxes play a part in the religious right’s affiliation with the Republicans, but it’s not the big reason – it’s the values, stupid. And the religious right knows this – that’s why they want constitutional amendments to bar gay marriage and abortion; they fear the emerging majority that will simply change the laws to allow more freedom. These young people have little faith in government helping them – Lord knows, given the state of government as they have grown up, they would be crazy to think it could. They do want it to leave them alone. In a sense, they may be the most libertarian generation ever.
In the article, some question whether the Democratic party is positioned to take advantage of any shift, since it doesn’t seem to be attached to policy issues. But those people are looking at policy in a traditional sense – taxes, trade, defense, etc. This is a generation that has grown up with an astonishing range of choice. From cable TV to the internet, they can watch and do what they want when they want and they like it that way. To these young people, only one party can give them the individual freedom they believe in and it’s not the party in thrall to the religious right. They belong to the Democrats, but only if the party is smart enough to embrace freedom, not run from it. Every time a Clinton or Leiberman speaks out about music or video games, these young people roll their eyes and think all politicians are the same (and lame). We have to cultivate them and not fear their values, they are the future of American politics and the best hope for not just the party, but the free, democratic society we all crave.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fun WithThe Future

Sure I could write about North Korea, or Bob Woodward’s book. or K-Fed’s sexist demands on Brittany Spears, but I’m going to pick up my crystal ball for some future fun. On vicepresidents.com there is a ranking of potential vice-presidential candidates for 2008. This list hasn’t been updated lately, so I thought I’d do a little work on it.
First, I’m going to separate the list into Democratic and Republican groups. Then I’m going to make assumptions about who gets the Presidential nomination for each party.


This assumes either Hillary Clinton or Al Gore is the nominee for President.

1. Mark Warner (former Gov.-VA): Left the Presidential race, jumps to the lead here. Popular two-term Governor of a southern state the Dems can fantasize about winning.

2. Bill Richardson (Gov. – NM): Latino Governor of a southwestern state that will be a tight race. Has a great resume and strong centrist credentials. Still has Presidential dreams, but that can only help, as people will get to see him campaign.

3. Janet Napolitano (Gov. – AZ): I don’t know a lot about her, but she is winning a landslide re-election in a southwestern state the Democrats have a possible shot at winning in 2008 and that’s good enough for me. Not being a white male helps her chances.

4. Tom Vilsack (Gov.- IA): Centrist Governor of a tossup state and constantly mentioned as a top of ticket possibility. A Presidential run could help him escape from Warner’s shadow.

5. Bill Nelsen (Senator – FL): Well, that FL is all you need to know about the former astronaut’s appeal. On the other hand, a victory would lose the party a key Senate seat – but that might well be a price worth paying.

6. Former General (and Army Chief of Staff) Eric Shinseki: If he’s a Democrat, he could be a powerful element in attacking the Republican performance handling Iraq. Being a minority doesn’t hurt either.

7. Jon Stewart (Comedian – NY): Only if Man of the Year grosses over $150 million.


This assumes John McCain to be the GOP nominee – and I do.

1. Colin Powell (resume not needed): Won’t want to, but if McCain asks, will have trouble saying no and they would make a powerful 1-2 punch. That he has a different opinion about Iraq only helps, since it demonstrates McCain’s flexibility.

2. Chuck Hagel (Sen. – NE): Another independent-minded Republican with a different take on the war. Solid conservative credentials, with a broad appeal to the center.

3. Mike Huckabee (Gov.- AR): Has some Presidential aspirations of his own. Very strong with religious right and Arkansas could be a state that needs to be tied down.

4. Mitt Romney (Gov, - MA): Republican Governors of blue states have a natural appeal and Mitt has some Presidential aspirations as well. Being a Mormon doesn’t help, since Utah is safely in the GOP column.

5. Rudy Giuliani (9/11 Icon – NYC): Would be higher, but I can’t think of a less likely person to function as a #2 on the campaign trail. Still, has lots of popularity and, well, is Rudy.

6. Condi Rice (Katie Couric’s friend – DC): Was the clear and obvious choice prior to Woodward’s book. Now looks like seriously damaged goods – would McCain (or anyone) really want a running-mate who has to defend her actions prior to 9/11? And her closeness to Bush could actually be a severe liability when discussing Iraq.

7. Dennis Miller (Comedian – CA): Only if Man of the Year grosses $200 million

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Four Weeks To Go

You hear the word on talk shows, read it in newspapers, news magazines mention it, analysts suggest the possibility of it...landslide. I heard one expert analyst talk about a possible 50-seat swing, as others nodded in agreement. These are heady times for Democrats. We’d like to think this major shift was caused by the National Intelligence Estimate, which shows what a horrible disaster our Iraq adventure and policies have been. Or maybe the Woodward book, showing the utter corruption and complete duplicity of every member of the Bush Regime, even including St. Condi herself. Those have helped, but we know this was caused by the Foley scandal – you can debate what’s right or wrong about Iraq, but you can’t debate about lewd messages to underage pages and a House leadership that did nothing about a predator in their midst. Maybe they thought he was most qualified to chair the subcommittee on protecting children – sort of like a corporation hiring a hacker to run their IT security. This has rightly sickened the American people and not even Fox News can save them – trying to blame the Democrats for not publicizing it sooner may be the most desperate thing ever tried. This has reached all the way to the top, as Bush’s poll numbers are dropping fast – record lows of 33 and 34 in the Newsweek and NY Times polls, with nothing above 40 anywhere.
Unfortunately, the election isn’t next week. This gives Rove and his flying monkeys four weeks to fight back and rest assured, they will. You can look forward to the dirtiest, filthiest, most nauseating campaign ever. They will stop at nothing – they have gotten everything they wanted form this pathetic Republican congress, including the rape of the Geneva Conventions and the destruction of habeas corpus. Still, the fear of their extremist judges being held up by the Senate (although Leiberman will help if he can) and potential investigations of their failures from 9/11 through the Iraq disaster will get them to fight to the end. If you watch programs with political ads in them, I suggest having a barf bag handy – it’s going to be a bumpy flight.

The House – Two weeks ago I wondered where the seats the Democrats needed were. Today I see the answer – everywhere. There are three in Indiana alone, one in Arizona, two in Florida, one in Illinois, one in Kansas (!), one in North Carolina, two in NY (including Tom Reynolds, head of the GOP congressional campaign committee), one in Ohio, one in PA, and one in Virginia. There are also a bunch of others, like PA-06 and PA-07 which are GOP seats that had very tight polling before the Foley scandal.
There are four weeks left, which is traditionally an eternity in politics, but that may not apply here. Once people change their minds, once they decide it’s time for a change, it is much harder to change them back.

The Senate –

RI- There hasn’t been a poll with Chaffee actually ahead since June and there are two this month, Gallup (11) and Rasmussen (9) with Whitehouse well ahead. This is starting to look like it’s over to me.

NJ- Menendez seems to be inching ahead here. The two most recent polls (ending 10/2) have him up by 10 (Zogby), and 7 (Fairleigh Dickinson). The two polls on 10/1 have him up by 3 (Gallup) and down by 5 (Strategic Vision). I’m guessing SV is off here and that Kean won’t be able to buck the anti-Republican trend developing.

VA- There is very little question here that the Web campaign has stalled and that Allen appears to have solidified his lead. The one hope that Webb has is that we haven’t seen a poll since 10/2 and that the last week has been so horrid for the GOP that he might get back into things. I’m not that hopeful – if Allen’s own racism hasn’t done the job, why would a House sex scandal finish him off?

TN- Ford seems to have a slight lead, but to say this one is “leaning democratic” might be a bit strong. This is another race where I want to see a major poll after the scandals broke.

MO- If there is a Senate race that could really be changed by the GOP overall collapse, this is it. The margin between these two is nonexistent, and clearly any change in the overall mood of the voters could be enough. You’d better believe that Tallent’s forces are holding their breath waiting for the latest news.

OH- Like Chaffee in RI, it’s been a long time since there’s been a poll with DeWine ahead. You have to go back to a Rasmussen poll on 6/20, and that is out of line with all the other Rasmussen results. DeWine can take hope from a Zogby Poll that had it tied, as well as a Mason-Dixon Poll with a 2 point margin. Brown can take hope from everything else and looks like the favorite here.

MT- No news here either – Burns hasn’t led in a poll since April – the folks out there may have decided it’s time for a change.

This all looks pretty good, huh? So what can possibly go wrong? Well, North Korea just set off a nuclear device and Bush now gets a chance to look Presidential. You think that’s not scary?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Empty Suits

A couple of weeks ago, I referred to both Bob Casey in PA and Tom Kean in NJ as “empty suits”, chosen for their father’s favorable image in their staes, rather than anything about themselves. Anybody who watched the Meet The Press debate featuring Casey and Rick Santorum had a first-hand view of just how empty the Casey suit was, as he actually made Santorum look like the sharper candidate.
I haven’t gotten a good look at the Menendez-Kean comparitives, but Kean started this campaign in an unusual position for a challenger, having higher name recognition than the incumbent, since Menendez had been appointed to that job (replacing Corzine), not elected. That the name recognition was his father’s didn’t matter, people in NJ liked Tom Kean.
Now Menendez is starting to catch up in that and the race may be trending towards him, as there are two polls out today which have him with a significant lead. Fairleigh-Dickenson University/Public Mind has him up by 7 points and Reuters/Zogby has him up by 10 (there’s a Republican poll with Kean up by 5, but in-house polling can be taken with a few grains of salt).
Not all polls give you the underlying data, but Public Mind does. They actually ask open-ended questions, which force people to have something in mind to respond with. The big one is “Is there anything in particular that you like about ...? Is there anything in particular you dislike...?” When asked about Menendez, 6% volunteered something about Iraq/Bush/War on Terror; 31% came up with something else, 42% said “nothing”, and 21% had no opinion. As for his negatives, 15% said ethics/reform/corruption, 21% said something else, 44% said “nothing. On the Kean side, 7% mentioned “ethics/reform/corruption”, 28% found something else, 43% said “nothing” Under dislikes, 7% picked war stuff, 21% came up with something else, 48% said “nothing.” Only 37% of voters could come up with anything they liked about Menendez, only 35% could come up with something they liked about Kean. They weren’t asked to give a discourse on their policies. If they had said “he’s a Democrat” or “he seems honest” or “he has a nice smile” that would have counted. Millions of dollars in advertising have been poured into this race and five weeks from election day, over 60% of the voters don’t have a concrete reason to vote for a candidate. Is this just the result of negative advertising? You would think if Menendez was attacking Kean on war issues, that more than 6% of voters would be supporting him because of those issues -- same thing with Kean and integrity issues. On the overall favorable/unfavorable question, Menendez is 39/34, Kean 38/28 – pretty close to the specific like/dislike version.
Maybe I’m overreacting because I can see the numbers in this race. Maybe every race has similar numbers. You can look at the 72% with reasons to vote for one of the candidates as the actual electorate, the people who will show up on election day. The rest are just giving an opinion that won’t be backed up with a vote. The fact that Kean has lower negatives than Menendez could still be significant in the race. I guess I just wish that in an era of such great divisions between the parties, that the candidates were more effectively drawing the lines for the voters.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Five Weeks To Go

The Dems chances in the House improved with the Mark Foley perversion parade. It’s not just that seat which they now have a shot at, but the possibility of tarring the entire Republican Party with moral laxity. They not only knew about this guy’s activities last year and didn’t reveal anything, they left him as chairman of the subcommittee for protection of children – have they no shame? Okay, they don’t, but if the Dems can’t use this anywhere, they’re more inept than even I think they are.
As for the Senate, trends seem to be inching slightly toward the Dems, leaving the possibility of a takeover quite real.

RI- Basically unchanged, this race is one of the really tight ones. Mason-Dixon poll had Whitehouse up 42-41, so this race isn’t trending for anyone.

NJ- Three traditional polls in the last week of September – Mason-Dixon had Menendez up 44-41, Marist has Kean up 42-37, and Rutgers has Menendez 45-44. M-D has the biggest sample, but all-in-all, it’s hard to see a serious trend here, although taken together, one could assume Kean’s lead has shrunk, if not disappeared.

VA- This race is a battle between reality – news reports of Allen’s racism – and perception – Allen’s incredible advertising advantage, presenting him as a wonderful human being and Webb as a sexist pig. By incredible, I mean a money edge of about 10-1. In June, the reported cash on hand was $6.6 million for Allen, $450,000 for Webb. Since then, Allen has spent $3.5 million, Webb, next to nothing. If the Dems are serious about this seat they need to pour some cash into it -- now. That said, as wonderful as it would be to win this, there are some really tight racees where money could be imperative and clearly pay off. This is the advantage of incumbency, the ability to take bribes for six years...er, take “campaign contributions” for six years.

TN – Rasmussen has Ford up by 5, causing a celebration among the faithful, but Middle Tennessee State’s subsequent poll has Corker up by 1, so let’s put the victory parade on hold for now. The key here is that this is a far tougher campaign than the GOP has faced in this state in a while. It’s been a very long time since a southern GOP seat changed hands. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hasn’t happened since Reconstruction.

MO- One poll has McCaskill up by 1, the other has Tallent up by 1 – this is unpredictable. If TN is big because the Dems never take southern seats back, this is big because they have to start winning border and midwestern seats.

OH- Speaking of midwestern seats, here’s a biggie. Brown seems to be inching ahead and it would be a good takeaway. States like MO, OH, MN, and PA are states where incumbency is huge, since you get to raise a ton of money to defend the seat and put a lot of pressure on any challenger in a state where neither party has a big adavantage.

MT- This is here for consistency’s sake from last week’s post, but it’s looking more and more like Tester is taking control. What a strange state Montana has become politically – solidly Republican in Presidential races, yet with a Democratic Governor and possibly two Dems in the Senate.

A word on polling data – we take these numbers on their face, since there would be little to talk about without that. But Survey USA, which does the most polling, has an interesting anomaly. They poll by autodial with a prerecorded announcer asking the questions. Many people question the methodology, but in the 2004 races, they were at least as accurate as any other poll. The anomaly exists in the Latino vote. They have the Republicans winning a decided majority of the Latino votes nationwide – this would be earth-shaking if it were true. In VA, they have George Allen winning 75% of the Latino vote. Yes, it was only a 48 person sample, but 3-1? Here in California, they have Schwarzenegger getting 46% of the Latino vote (to Angelides 48%) – that ain’t gonna happen. They have Mountjoy getting 35% of the Latino vote against Feinstein – there is no reason why he should be getting any of it. Is there an underlying problem here in the methodology of their polling (and Rasmussen’s as well, but I don’t have their raw data)? Those who speak little or no English can’t be effectively polled by a prerecorded voice in English. Even those with a small language difficulty could bail out of the call. Again, with this same methodology they were very effective last cycle, so it may all even out in the wash, but the numbers are odd and have to give one a little pause.