Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year in questions

Here's the NY Times' annual year-end quiz (printable PDF version here). It's really tough. Sadly, there are probably some people out there who know how many electoral votes each state has off the tops of their heads. Equally sadly, I am not among them.

Answers are coming out tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Franken decade

I seem to recall hearing Al Franken on Air America shortly after the 2004 election. He was predicting that he would run for Senate in Minnesota in 2008 and that he would defeat Coleman and that Democrats would have a majority in both houses. Since the 111th Congress would take office about two weeks before the presidential inauguration, that would give them enough time to impeach Bush. And when asked why they were impeaching Bush, who'd be out of office in two weeks, Franken would reply, "Because we can." His goal was to remove Bush from office and get him back to drinking before inauguration day.

It looks like Franken's fantasy is coming true. Think he'll follow through on his promises?

Monday, December 29, 2008


There are limits

As the photo at left will attest, my son and I disagree about the entertainment value of the Star Wars: Clone Wars series. My son, of course, loves it. He's also a big fan of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and he finds Jar Jar entertaining, so I assume that there's something wrong with him.

However, I was pleased to learn that even he has his limits. I stumbled across the complete Star Wars Holiday Special on Google Video recently, and he expressed interest in watching it. Even he complained that it was horrible after just ten minutes and refused to watch the rest. So I'm proud.

But I post it here for my faithful readers and dare you to watch it. I'll bet you won't even make it to the dancing chessboard scene, no less the cameos by Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman. Still, the commercials are awesome.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back from vacation

I just got back from a big family trip to Cabo San Lucas. This was never the kind of vacation I used to take, either as a kid or as a pre-fatherhood adult. But as a destination to travel to with parents and small kids, it happens to be quite nice. I went a week without doing any work at all. I actually read a novel. I (legally) smoked Cuban cigars and drank scotch. In a hot tub. I ate lots of Costco flan. I watched whales from the balcony of our condo. I hung out with my extended family and basically just relaxed.

Here's a photo from the balcony at sunrise. Granted, had it not been for the kids waking up at obscene hours, I wouldn't have seen the sunrise at all, but if you've got to see one, this isn't bad:
I'm particularly proud of this shot I got of a bird of prey carrying a fish out of the sea:

Anyway, sorry about the light posting in the last week, but as you can see, I was quite busy doing nothing.

The Giulianization of Caroline Kennedy

It's nice that's she's giving interviews now. But is she serious about this claim?
Between bites of a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, Kennedy said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and her work for Barack Obama's presidential campaign inspired her to act on her public service impulses.
Four congressional election cycles have transpired since 9/11, all without even a hint of a Caroline Kennedy candidacy. She might as well say that she was inspired to run for office because of her father's death, or the sinking of the Lusitania.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Pastor Rick gambit

Sorry, folks (especially Ari), for the light posting during the holidays. Family does have a way of consuming one's blogging time.

At any rate, a quick thought that I've been stewing over since Obama's announcement last week that Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will offer the opening prayer at next month's inaugural ceremonies. As I recall, President Clinton made numerous outreaches to the conservative evangelical community during his presidency. He spoke at evangelical churches. He encouraged prayer in public schools. Many of these attempts, while no doubt political in nature, were, I believe, sincere. That is, Clinton is a commited Christian and believed that he had a common spiritual agenda with many of the religious right. What's more, these outreach attempts had costs within Clinton's own coalition. Many on the left (e.g.: supporters of abortion rights, defenders of secular public schools, etc.) were not comfortable with such efforts and felt just that much less enthusiastic about defending Clinton as a result.

In the end, Clinton's efforts amounted to roughly nothing. If anything, the religious polarization of the nation only grew, with self-described evangelicals voting even more Republican. And it's not as though the conservative Christian community offered forgiveness or absolution during the impeachment. Meanwhile, Clinton gave some bipartisan legitimacy to ideas and individuals that had properly been considered conservative while disappointing his own supporters.

I get the impression that Obama is going down that same route. I don't think it's smart politics to reach out to Pastor Warren, simply because it angers his own coalition members (notably including, but not limited to, gays and lesbians, whom Pastor Warren has compared to pedophiles) while begging the support of a community that will likely attack him ferociously throughout his first term and his reelection campaign. Perhaps he did it as a personal favor to Warren, who has extended some courtesies to Obama at key times in Obama's career. This is fine, but there are far less public ways for a president to return a favor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Data Desk

If you haven't used it, Data Desk is an awesome statistical program. It's very simple and rather limited (it doesn't do logit or probit, for example), but there are few better ways to simply play with a dataset. It's very easy to visualize data and to drag variables in and out of equations. I recommend it highly.

At any rate, I bought a copy of Data Desk 6.0 my first year in grad school (ten years ago). Pretty much since that time, they've been promising to put out version 7.0. I figured maybe they'd add some nonlinear regression methods or something. Well, according to the latest press release, here are the new features in version 7.0:
  • Vertical icon windows that can be resized so that icon names are completely visible
  • Dynamic attachment to external OLE DB and ODBC-compliant datafiles (Windows only)
  • A web query tool that allows you to search for meta data on the web
  • Wizards that offer assistance with menu commands
  • More control over the look of plots, tables, and the desktop
  • The ability to export plots as PNGs and tables as HTML
  • Many new plots and statistical tools
  • New functionality to existing commands
Ten years for that? Come on.

Rethinking Vanilla Ice

My kids are really into the song "Ice Ice Baby." I know, it's my fault. But they play it all the time, and I've been listening a lot to the lyrics. Check out this part, which describes a visit to A1A Beachfront Avenue:
Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis
Rockman lovers driving Lamborghinis
Jealous cause I'm out geting mine
Shay with a gauge and Vanilla with a nine
Reading for the chumps on the wall
The chumps acting ill because they're so full of eight balls
Gunshots ranged out like a bell
I grabbed my nine -- all I heard were shells
Falling on the concrete real fast
Jumped in my car, slammed on the gas
Bumper to bumper, the avenue's packed
I'm trying to get away before the jackers jack
Police on the scene, you know what I mean
They passed me up, confronted all the dope fiends

If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it
Okay, near as I can tell, Vanilla was out with some friends, armed with a 9mm, and they came across a party at which there were a bunch of coked up idiots who started shooting up the place. Now let me just suggest that if there are dope fiends spraying a party with gunfire, that's a problem, a problem which Vanilla didn't solve. So I don't know why he keeps promising to solve problems.

That said, Vanilla was armed and could have done something really stupid like try to take out the bad guys. On top of that, there were scantily clad women at this party, a situation that can encourage risky behavior among straight men. But Vanilla didn't follow that path. He got the hell out of there and let the police deal with the problem. That's actually a really smart thing to do in this situation. So Vanilla may not be a real problem-solver, but he's not an idiot. Word to his mother.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Random Task

Could you hit the president with a loafer? Give it a shot. My best score so far is 11.

The electors meet

The Colorado Democratic Party held a reception yesterday for the state's nine electors, who cast their vote for Barack Obama, and I got to speak with a few of the electors. The electors met at the governor's office, were sworn in by the state's chief justice, and then each cast their individual votes. The outgoing secretary of state (Mike Coffman, a Republican who just got elected to Congress), certified this vote with the lovely document you see at left. Each elector got a copy of the document, and the originals were sent to the U.S. Senate, which will certify the vote, and to the National Archives.

I've been teaching about the electoral college for a lot of years, but I had to sit down and talk to some electors before I had a sense of what actually goes on. I was a bit disappointed that the entire college doesn't actually convene somewhere. I know they wouldn't actually deliberate, but it would be a nice nod to the intentions of the framers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Please don't anoint Caroline

Caroline Kennedy really wants to be appointed the next U.S. Senator from New York. As a lifelong Kennedy fan, let me cast a no vote here.

I certainly have nothing against her. She seems very pleasant and intelligent, and from what I can glean of her political beliefs, they're very much in line with the mainstream Democratic views. But her primary political achievement is not dying horribly. Also, excellent breeding. That's just not enough for my tastes.

I'd have no problem with her running for a House or Senate seat. If she wants to try the political arena, she's got the name recognition and money to start at a pretty high level. And she can see if she likes the gig and if voters respond to her. But appointing someone who has never run for anything or held any position of responsibility to high office strikes me as bad. That doesn't mean she wouldn't do the job well. (RFK was a pretty good attorney general, despite getting the job through shameless nepotism.) It's just symbolically bad.

I really like the Obama narrative that a mixed-race kid who grew up in a fatherless home in Hawaii on food stamps could, through luck and pluck, get himself into Harvard, into the Senate, and into the White House. I know it's not really reflective of the level of social mobility of our society, but it's a good symbol to have out there. Anointing Caroline undermines that.

Ken Salazar to Interior

This sounds like a good appointment to me. I was concerned about Ken's brother being nominated to Agriculture, but it looks like that's not happening. John's congressional district would, I think, probably go Republican in a special election. But a reasonably strong Democratic appointee to fill out Ken's Senate term could probably hold onto the seat in '10.

Who should get that appointment? Personally, I'm hoping that state Sen. Ken Gordon gets appointed to secretary of state and that outgoing speaker Andrew Romanoff gets the U.S. Senate seat. I understand he's eager to get back to private life and even passed up an easy run for state senate this year, but he's also a skilled pol and it would be really hard to pass up an opportunity like this. One small problem -- Romanoff endorsed Hillary. But that might be water under the bridge at this point.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Honestly, what kind of a man throws a shoe?

From now on, all visitors to the president will be barefoot.

Adding: The thrower had really good aim and a very short "reload" time, suggesting to me that this was not his first time throwing a shoe. Have you ever thrown a shoe? It's kind of hard to get a good grip unless you really know what you're doing.

Also, Bush's reflexes were excellent.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Plus ça change...

1860 cotton production (marked by dots) and the 2008 county presidential vote (blue for Obama, red for McCain).(via The Monkey Cage)

McCain could still pull this one out

The electoral college "convenes" on Monday, and Obama electors are still being pressured to change their vote. It sounds like this pressure is coming from a few dozen people who are convinced that Obama isn't a native-born U.S. citizen. Still, I wonder how much of this sort of elector-targeted campaigning typically goes on after a presidential election.

Appalachian corruption

Hey, remember all those stories during the primaries and caucuses about Appalachia? Even in some midwestern states where Obama was doing quite well, he kept losing to Hillary in the Appalachian counties, etc.

Well, check out this interesting little map from USA Today charting levels of corruption in state government. It suggests that there's a disproportionately higher rate of government officials being convicted in a lot of states following the Appalachian Trail.

What's up with this?

Also of interest is that Illinois doesn't stand out as particularly corrupt in this map. Perhaps because they have relatively few convictions. Still, it's surprising, given that, as John Stewart points out, you have a better chance of going to prison if you get elected Illinois' governor than if you kill someone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Senate seat for sale

Two good things seem to be coming out the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on charges that he was trying to sell Obama's old U.S. Senate seat. The first is that Obama apparently wouldn't play ball. Obama had a preference for a successor, but he wasn't willing to pony up money for it, which made Blagojevich mad. So Obama passes the (admitedly low) bar for being a clean Chicago pol. Regardless of whether you like Obama or not, it's probably to everyone's benefit that the incoming president doesn't have to take office with an enormous pay-to-play scandal wrapped around his neck.

The second bonus is that we might get some real evidence on what a Senate seat is worth. Groseclose and Milyo did a nice study a few years back that took advantage of a change in campaign donation laws to figure out the price of a seat in the U.S. House. Members were allowed to keep the funds they'd raised for campaigning if they agreed to retire. Groseclose and Milyo found that the average member was willing to walk away from his House seat for about $3 million, although there was considerable variance on this figure.

So maybe we'll find that Blagojevich received a lot of offers, and maybe even was willing to negotiate a bit. This could be quite informative.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not machines, but not nothing, either

One of the frustrating features of the literature on party organizations is the tendency to divide the country into areas that have political machines and areas that are disorganized. From my own field research, I know that there are other forms of political organization out there. They may not be classic Tammany-style machines, but they're not anarchy, either. But there haven't been many efforts to examine these organizations and figure out what they do to control politics. (Ehrenhalt does a nice job showing different kinds of organizations in different cities, but doesn't really offer any sort of theoretical explanation of why one type of system would exist some place but not in others.)

Jessica Trounstine's new book, Political Monopolies in American Cities (Chicago), makes a really nice contribution to the parties literature by helping to fill in this hole in our understanding. She compares classic machines like that of Richard Daley in Chicago with "reform" organizations that have run cities like San Jose and San Antonio. She shows that reform and machine politics are really just two sides of the same coin. Both are forms of political monopoly -- they control access to power in their cities and use tools of electoral bias (e.g.: the systematic disenfranchisement of groups of citizens potentially hostile to the regime) to perpetuate their rule.

Reform coalitions are a bit different from classic machines, though. Reformers usually have the explicit support of the business community while machines are usually backed by working class groups; reform supporters are often of native white Protestant stock while machines are kept in office by a hodgepodge of ethnic and racial minorities, etc.

But what these groups have in common is a similar life cycle. When they first come to power, it is usually by legitimate means, advocating for some segment of the population that feels underserved by the the government and winning over a majority of voters. Organizations often turn to anti-democratic tools to preserve their power once in office. (In an interesting finding, Trounstine shows that party machinery is more likely to emerge not when immigrants are flooding into a city, but when they stop doing so; the machine needs to limit challenges to its rule if it can't count on a steady immigrant vote.) That's when the monopoly organization starts channelling government benefits to just a few core groups and limiting the ability of other groups to participate in voting or otherwise influence government.

While the monopolies under study in the book thrive for decades, they all eventually die. Trounstine's chapter on the death of organizations is quite fascinating. Often, these organizations simply can't adapt to some new exogenous shock -- such as the Voting Rights Act or the Shakman rulings -- that make it harder to disenfranchise voters or to hire and fire city employees based on political allegiance. Sometimes, the very fact that these groups are so insulated from political opposition means that they don't see strong public resistance rising until it's too late.

This is a rich book for party scholars, and would make for great discussion in a graduate level class on parties or local government. The book is certainly accessible for upper division undergrads, as well -- I plan to discuss some of it with my parties class next quarter.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More on turnout

One problem with the turnout graph I posted earlier is that it uses the 2004 turnout rate as the baseline. Of course, some states had atypically high turnout that year because of hotly contested gubernatorial and senate races. So I've created the scatterplot below, which measures each state's turnout over the average turnout in the past three presidential elections.Once again, the biggest turnout spikes occurred in southern states. The trendline suggests that the biggest turnout increases came, unsurprisingly, in the battleground states. There's somewhat less of a turnout spike in the more liberal states and much less of a turnout spike in the more conservative states.

A regression analysis, incidentally, shows that the turnout increase correlates positively with the percent of the state that is African American and negatively with McCain's share of the vote. Both these variables are statistically significant at the .01 level.

John Salazar being considered for Ag Secretary

This strikes me as a mistake.

Colorado Congressman John Salazar is on the "short list" to become secretary of agriculture under President-elect Barack Obama, sources have told The Denver Post.[...]

If Salazar is chosen, then confirmed, it would scramble the political map in Colorado, leaving his seat to be filled through a special election, the date for which would be set by Gov. Bill Ritter. It also would assure Colorado, a swing state that helped propel Obama to victory, a seat at the new president's cabinet.

Salazar's district -- which covers roughly half the state, from Grand Junction to Pueblo -- is a pretty conservative one. The same year that Salazar won that seat, Bush beat Kerry in that district 55-44. My feeling is that last month was the high water mark for the Democratic surge. From this point on, Democrats begin to be perceived as the party in power and start taking some heat for their decisions and the condition of the country. The odds of Dems holding onto Colorado's 3rd CD are pretty good if Salazar stays in office. They're considerably weaker in an open-seat special election. I'm surprised the party is considering this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Batman vs. Shark

Possibly one of the saddest moments during my adolescence was learning that the Batman TV series was actually a comedy.

(h/t FYS)

Voter turnout: the big fizzle

Voter turnout was the surprising disappointment this year. For all the talk about Obama's turnout machine, nationwide turnout was only up 1.5 points over the 2004 figures, according to Michael McDonald's estimates. Assuming those figures are close to accurate, here's how it looks at the state level, plotted against the state's vote for McCain: The states with the greatest turnout increases are almost all Southern states. This is consistent with some sort of race effect: high black mobilization combined with some sort of white backlash, possibly compounded by early voting (which took place in VA, NC, and GA). Also, Georgia and North Carolina had hot Senate contests.

Interestingly, the non-Southern battleground states (e.g.: CO, MO, NV, PA, MN) didn't see much of turnout increase at all. Ohio is actually down from 2004.

Also, note the ideology effect: there's a big dropoff in the turnout trend as you get above a 55% vote share for McCain. This suggests a depressed conservative base that failed to turn out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What does the Department of Commerce do?

So Obama is nominating Bill Richardson to be Secretary of Commerce. Well, Richardson has a lot of cabinet experience, and this is good for the whole team of rivals motif, so, great! Of course, it would be helpful to know what a Secretary of Commerce does if we're going to evaluate Richardson's fitness for the job.

True story: When I worked at the White House, I was in a quarrel with some relatives about what exactly room temperature was. I thought it was 72˚F, someone else thought it was 68˚F. So I figured, hey, I work for the federal government; I must have access to the truth here, right? So I browsed through the federal directory and found the Weights and Measures division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is housed in the Department of Commerce. I put in a call to a scientist there and asked what room temperature was. He said that that was not his jurisdiction and suggested I call another scientist there who was "in charge of boiling point and freezing point." So I got that scientist, who told me that there was, in fact, no scientific measurement of room temperature. It's just a convention, usually ranging between 68 and 72.

I love that there's a federal scientist in charge of boiling point and freezing point. You don't want to outsource that job.

Anyway, that was my first ever interaction with the Department of Commerce. My other one has been to frequently download economic performance data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. I greatly appreciate having access to these data, although I imagine the Department of the Treasury could provide this service just as well.

I know Commerce handles trademarks and patents, which are a good thing. But again, could that be run by someone else? Labor? Treasury?

For all the libertarian talk out there about eliminating such agencies as the Department of Education or the IRS, why does no one talk about Commerce?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Delegate defections

I don't know why I didn't examine this until now, but the Green Papers has the record of all the state delegate votes cast at the Democratic National Convention, at least until Hillary Clinton proposed suspending the roll call and nominating Obama by acclamation. In the scatterplot below, I compare Clinton's share of the Obama + Clinton pledged delegates leading up to the convention with her share of actual floor votes cast by state. The diagonal line is the baseline for Clinton's delegate support. If a state is above the line, she got a larger percentage of the delegate vote than her share of pledged supporters in that state.
Alaska, in fact, was the only state in which Clinton got more than her expected share of supporters. Everywhere else, she lost supporters, although the degree to which her supporters defected varied substantially by state. Colorado's Clinton-pledged delegates largely stayed with her; 15 of the state's 19 Clinton-pledged delegates cast a vote for her. She lost all of her supporters in places like Arkansas, New Jersey, and American Samoa. I'm frankly curious as to why so many delegates would stick with her in places like Colorado, Connecticut, and Guam, when they'd abandon her elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sign o' the times

There's a cute family-run farm just north of Denver where you can go pick your own fruits and vegetables throughout the summer. After this year's harvest, they announced that they would make their dregs available for free to locals. They had to shut down the giveaway early when 40,000 people showed up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I'm glad we're finally seeing some Doris Kearns Goodwin blowback. Not that I have any problem with her Team of Rivals book. Of course, like most pontificators, I haven't read it. It's like Robin Hood, the book that everyone knows but nobody has read. But the basic idea, that a cabinet filled with egotistical rivals who offer a president a wide range of perspectives is fundamentally good for the country, isn't a bad one. And maybe that's a good model for Obama to be following as he staffs up his own administration.

But one problem with this idea is that it soft-pedals some of the problems Lincoln faced by pursuing this strategy. As Matthew Pinsker points out:

Out of the four leading vote-getters for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination whom Lincoln placed on his original team, three left during his first term -- one in disgrace, one in defiance and one in disgust. [...]

Only Seward endured throughout the Civil War. He and Lincoln did become friends, and he provided some valuable political advice, but the significance of his contributions as Lincoln's secretary of State have been challenged by many historians, and his repeated fights with other party leaders were always distracting.
I also have a general issue with the constant comparisons between Obama and Lincoln. Now, we know Obama is an astute scholar of Lincoln and we can glean much about the president-elect's intellect from that. (I know Susan Schulten is working on an article on this topic and I look forward to reading it.) Also, Gary Wills' comparison of Obama's race speech and Lincoln's Cooper Union address was a really good one.

But I grow concerned when the comparison are less about the men and more about the times. The usual argument made is that both men were elected by a deeply divided nation, and hopefully Obama has the sort of skill necessary to bind up the nation's wounds.

Humbug. America today is divided in the sense that it's filled with liberal and conservatives who disagree deeply about the sorts of policies its government should enact. The differences are substantive and real, but they are neither violent nor insurmountable. There's a broad acceptance that elections are a fair way to settle these differences. Many people are upset about Obama's election, but they accept it as legitimate. They'll fight his proposals largely through legal and political means and will try to run candidates against him the next chance they get. This is not a crisis. This is democracy.

By comparison, imagine if a large group of armed South Carolinians, with the explicit support of their state government, were surrounding a U.S. Army base demanding that the American soldiers inside surrender to them. And imagine they rejected the legitimacy of the incoming president and vowed to destroy the nation because they believed the new president was hostile to their values and traditions. And ten other state governments seemed prepared to join them in this effort. Now that's a culture war, and that's what Lincoln faced in November of 1860. That's a lot different from sushi eaters and Tim LaHaye readers not understanding each other's lifestyles.

That's all I'm saying.

Thanksgiving recipes

Vivian was kind enough to post all of last year's Thanksgiving recipes on her blog. We'll likely repeat most of these receipes, although this year I plan to use Alton Brown's brining recipe for the turkey. Let me put in a special plug for the Martha Stewart chocolate pumpkin pie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

They only look dead

Nate Silver asks if talk radio has killed conservatism. It happens to be an interesting post, with a really nice discussion about the skills necessary to be a good talk radio host, so I encourage you to read it. But the general thrust of the argument is one I've heard from a lot of sources lately, that the GOP lost handily in this past election because of something they did wrong during the campaign. In this case, it's because they used talk radio to stimulate a base but not to convert moderates. Yet in 2004, people were arguing that this sort of approach was the reason the GOP was winning. It could reduce its arguments to simple catch phrases and convey those messages as marching orders to tens of millions of people every day.

Let me just suggest that the GOP's victories in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and the Democrats' victories in 2006 and 2008, had far less to do with salesmanship than with product. Yes, Obama ran an unusually brilliant and disciplined campaign, and McCain's was pretty weak by comparison, but the results of the election probably wouldn't have been dramatically different if the campaigns had been of equal quality and funding. You can explain an awful lot of these elections by looking at the fundamentals. People this year were, on balance, upset with the Republicans because of the economy and the Iraq War, so they figured they'd try something different.

The Republicans are trying to recalibrate their message and figure out what went wrong this year. Were they too moderate? Too conservative? Too old fashioned? Too exclusive? Self-assessment is good, but the simple fact is that even if they run the same kinds of campaigns in 2010 that they ran in 2006, they'll probably do a lot better than they have in recent elections. Unless Obama can dramatically turn around the economy in the next two years, voters will direct their anger toward him and his fellow Democrats, and Republicans will pick up seats. The president's party almost always loses seats in midterm elections, anyway.

A decade ago, E.J. Dionne wrote They Only Look Dead, which argued that liberals would eventually run the government again. And of course, he was right. He could pen the same book with the same title about the GOP today. They'll be back.

Obama's prospects

From what we know about Obama's cabinet, this looks to be an administration set on getting things accomplished. The choice of Tom Daschle for HHS secretary was, I think, particularly shrewd. As Ezra Klein points out, Bill Clinton anointed his wife and Ira Magaziner to spearhead the health care reform effort in 1993. Both were brilliant in terms of policy, but neither had any idea how to get something through Congress. Daschle knows how to do that.

Obama will also have some leeway with the Congress -- probably more than most presidents have. Yes, Bush had two houses of Congress of his party, as well, but the GOP didn't have nearly the majorities that the Democrats currently enjoy. Bill Clinton had about as many Democrats in the House in his first two years as Obama will have next year, but it was a very different Democratic Party back in 1993*. The party has largely purged its moderates (as have the Republicans).

Beyond that, aspects of this year's election may extend Obama's honeymoon period, as my fellow Klugie Greg Koger notes:
In “real change elections,” Koger observed, “a president can have continued success for two years or more.” Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson are clear examples of this, and the election of Barack Obama has all the marks of being another such change election. Despite the natural tensions that exist between a president and Congress, Obama has a special opportunity for success with Republicans in such disarray after two successive election setbacks. Koger added that a president “needs to choose an agenda that can be signed into law” and “minimize intra-party conflicts.” He can do this “by putting the onus on Congress to determine when and how to pass agenda items that have salience, net political benefits for the party.”
Obama will have an even easier time if the Democrats get to control 60 Senate seats. That, however, would require the Dems to take the Minnesota and Georgia races and for Lieberman to be a reliable vote. Any one of those things might be possible, but all three is a real stretch.

*Update: Some evidence. According to Keith Poole's numbers, the Democratic caucus has moved leftward since 1993. The median DW-NOMINATE ideal point for Democrats in the 103rd House (1993-94) was -.337. Last year, it was -.42. Plus, the standard deviation has shrunk in the same time period from .181 to .158. House Democrats are now more liberal and more ideologically similar to each other than they were 16 ago.

Use a cassette player lately?

I found a 30+ year old cassette in my house the other day and thought it would be a good idea to convert it into an electronic format using a digital recorder. Easy enough -- all I'd have to do is find a cassette player. That's actually really tricky. I have an old Sony tape deck, but it turns out I haven't actually played a tape on it in at least five years. I put the tape in and the spindles wouldn't turn. Then the eject button wouldn't work so I had to pry the tape out.

Next I tried my old alarm clock with the built-in tape deck. I pushed the eject button to open it, and the door flew off the machine and fell behind my night stand. The tape deck still worked, and I was able to make the conversion, but I hadn't realized how dead that medium was, at least around my house.

The pity is, I've got hundreds of these tapes in storage. Some of them actually have pretty good material on them, like a 1977 live recording I have of Peter Gabriel singing Marvin Gaye's "Ain't that Peculiar?". I have lots more good stuff on vinyl, but I worry less about that since those records will pretty much last forever. I can always dig up a turntable to play them or convert them to MP3 if necessary. But the cassettes are decaying. As are the players, apparently.

I might as well have a closet full of wax cylinders.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hillary's choice

It's not totally obvious to me whether it would be smarter for Hillary Clinton to remain in the Senate or to become Secretary of State. She could stay in the Senate as long as she wants, and maybe she could wind up majority leader in the not-too-distant future. Yes, some people stay in the Senate for decades without really affecting much, but that doesn't strike me as Hillary's style. On the other hand, Secretary of State is a real legacy job, even if it only lasts a few years. She's already known around the world, and she's not a bad person to represent the country.

I suppose the two main concerns about her moving to State have already been made by others. The first, as Jon Stewart noted, is that the only area of substantive disagreement between Clinton and Obama has been foreign policy. Seems like Obama's just asking for trouble. The other concern was capably expressed by Josh Marshall:
I think we should consider that during her time on the national stage Sen. Clinton has been at the helm in two big undertakings -- had two big executive leadership tasks. One was health care in 1994 and the other was her presidential bid in 2007-08. Each was something of a trainwreck from an executive-level management perspective. And the State Department is a notoriously intractable bureaucracy.
What's so bad about the Senate?

I'm somebody now

My book has an ISBN number and an Amazon page. Big day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cool finding of the day

Over at the Monkey Cage, we find a study by Markus Kemmelmeier and David C. Winter that suggests that when you show Americans an American flag, it makes them more nationalistic, but not more patriotic:

Kemmelmeier and Winter conducted a pair of experiments in which the participants (undergraduate students) were asked to complete a questionnaire either in the presence or the absence of the American flag. The questionnaire contained items tapping both patriotism (e.g., “I’m proud to be an American” and “I would describe myself as a patriot”) and nationalism (“We should do anything necessary to increase the power of our country, even if it means war” and “In view of America’s moral and material superiority, it is only right that we should have the biggest say in deciding United Nations policy”).

In the first study, patriotism and nationalism turned out to be positively correlated, but the key finding was that when the participants were in the presence of the flag, the participants’ sense of patriotism wasn’t significantly enhanced, but their degree of nationalism was.

Nationalism, of course, has both positive and negative attributes. But Americans seem to have it in spades. And if greater nationalism can lead to more warlike behavior, and since we're currently engaged in two active wars, maybe we should ease off the flags for a bit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs.

Obama quits the Senate

Well, it was a fun four years. But how is he going to justify the two-month gap in his résumé?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Was Sen. Geary set up?

This is a question that's plagued me for years. In Godfather II, Michael Corleone needs a gaming license from Nevada Senator Geary. Geary decides to squeeze the Corleones for the license. Michael refuses to play ball, saying he won't pay more than the license is worth and would rather pay nothing for it. So the two part ways. Some time later, Sen. Geary wakes up in a Corleone-run hotel next to a dead hooker, unable to remember the night before. The Corleones protect Geary and keep the press from finding out about the incident. In return, they get their gaming license, and Geary becomes a close friend of the family, going on Cuban junkets with Fredo and saying nice things about Italian Americans during Michael's trial.

I guess it's all a little too convenient and coincidental. But did the Corleones really set him up? Did they give him some sort of amnesia-inducing drug, slice up a prostitute, and put the body in his room? That's quite a bit to orchestrate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gays drifting rightward?

Charles Franklin compares the 2004 and 2008 exit polls among dozens of demographic subgroups in an interesting series of plots. The upshot is that Obama very broadly out-performed Kerry. He increased the Democratic vote share in just about every demographic category, with the exception of small town residents and gays.

One could probably ascribe the slight decline in Democratic voting among small town residents either to Obama's "bitter" comments back in the spring or to the choice of former small town mayor Sarah Palin for the Republican VP slot. But I'm particularly curious about the voting patterns for gays and lesbians. Keep in mind that this is still a very loyal Democratic group, preferring Obama to McCain by 70-24. But why would Obama have lost some ground among this group compared to Kerry's performance four years earlier? I found this particularly surprising since Obama's policy stances on same-sex issues are pretty much identical to Kerry's.

Two guesses, one about composition and the other about policy:
  1. More Republicans are out of the closet. It's getting steadily safer to be openly gay, even among conservatives. Therefore, the group of people calling themselves gay in exit polls now contains more Republican voters than it did four years ago. Weighing against this theory is the fact that the number of people identifying themselves as gay hasn't changed appreciably in the past four years; four percent of respondents in both exit polls claimed to be gay. But it's possible that the mix has changed somewhat.
  2. The stances of the Democratic nominees may not have changed since 2004, but the expectations of the gay and lesbian community have. Gay marriage was still a pretty toxic topic just four years ago. No one expected Kerry, even if he'd felt particularly courageous, to support it. Today, it's lost some of its toxicity. Obama's stance against it seemed more cowardly this year.
What do you think?

Update: Alert reader JHB notes that the 2004 Republican Party ran on a pretty explicitly anti-gay platform, while the McCain campaign this year really didn't touch those issues. This could have mollified anger toward the GOP somewhat among moderate gays and lesbians.

We Have Lasers

When I next teach my film class and talk about depictions of the future, I'll have to remember this website, which chronicles that wonderful era in the 80s and early 90s when it was considered appropriate to have lasers in the background of children's school portraits. What were we thinking?

(h/t M4H)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lessons of 2008

After 2000 and 2004, the Democrats finally figured out the key to winning southern states: stop putting southerners on the ticket.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My friends, it's on

This is so how we should have decided the election:

From MFH

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How a state goes from red to blue

One of the thing that surprised me about the graph on the left (see more on this here, here, and here) was that Colorado appeared fairly unremarkable. The average increase in the Democratic vote between 2004 and 2008 across all states was 5.85 points. Colorado was right near the mean with a Democratic vote surge of 5.79 points.

This surprised me because Colorado has been identified (along with Virginia) as one of the states whose political terrain is shifting leftward most quickly. The Centennial State was considered a pretty reliable Republican vote in presidential elections for many years. And then suddenly the Dems pick up a Senate seat and take over both state houses in 2004, and then they take the governor's mansion in 2006, and then they vote for Obama for president and Udall for Senate in 2008.

The story that pundits and observers (including me) have been telling is one of interstate migration. Liberal left-coasters who can't afford housing in LA, SF, or Seattle are moving to the Denver area, driving the state further to the left. Yet the election returns don't support that story. Colorado just voted more Democratic like the rest of the country, because its voters were angry at Bush and scared about the economy.

The graph below is a scatterplot of the 2004 and 2008 Democratic presidential vote shares among Colorado counties. The diagonal line is the 2004 baseline.Each county moved an average of 5.25 points in the Democratic direction. The regression has an R-squared of .98, meaning if you just had taken each county's 2004 Democratic vote share and added 5.25 to it, you could have come really close to predicting how it was going to vote this year.

That said, there are slight differences among counties. Notably, the more liberal counties shifted slightly more leftward than the more conservative counties did. I looked to see if the fastest growing counties had shifted more, testing the idea that it was liberals migrating to Colorado who caused this shift, but no, that didn't seem to matter. Nor did the percentage of the county that was African American.

Here's something interesting: the presence of an Obama campaign office seemed to make a difference. Amazingly, the Obama campaign had offices in 27 of Colorado's 64 counties -- a serious investment of capital. As the boxplot below suggests, they got a good return on the investment: the Democrats surged comparatively more in those counties where Obama had set up a shop:
A regression analysis shows the presence of an Obama office to be a statistically significant predictor of the increase in Democratic vote share, associated with a 1.8-point increase in the Democratic vote for president. However, it's conflated somewhat with the ideology of the county: the Obama campaign chose to set up shop in more liberal counties. Even with the Kerry vote in the regression equation, though, the Obama office variable is still statistically significant at the .05 level.

So why has Colorado gone from red to blue? The evidence suggests that a general national trend toward the Democrats is the best explanation. Colorado was red, but only barely, four years ago, so when everyone moved left, they were one of the first to cross the red/blue threshold. Also, the evidence suggests that campaign matter, at least on the margins.

Update: In the comments at Monkey Cage, Andrew Gelman has been questioning my honor due to my use of a boxplot. So here's the same graph only done more like a scatterplot. Maybe this is better?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Colorado: getting weird

Perhaps someone who's lived here longer than I have can explain the following results of the 2008 election in Colorado:
  • The state votes Democratic in a presidential election for the first time in 16 years, yet Republicans actually pick up House seats for the first time in 14 years.
  • Colorado becomes the first state to reject Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiative, but at the same time it wouldn't pass a modest tax to benefit special needs children.
  • A white Coloradan (Udall) wins statewide with a smaller vote share than a black Chicagoan (Obama).
  • Bernie Buescher, the presumed next speaker of the state house, loses his reelection bid.
Weird. Meanwhile, Colorado has become the first state to have African Americans running both its state legislative chambers. Pretty cool.

Good point

Campbell Brown:
To those top McCain advisors who leaked the little story about seeing Sarah Palin in a towel. To those who called her and her family “Wasilla Hillbillies” while using her to stoke class warfare with redmeat speeches and an anti-elitist message. To those who claim she didn’t know Africa was a continent. To those McCain aides who say she is the reason they lost this election… can I please remind you of one thing: you picked her.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama and Udall

Colorado results, by county, for Obama v. McCain:Colorado results, by county, for Udall v. Schaffer:Pretty darned similar. With the exceptions of Chaffee, Mineral, Grand, and Garfield counties, which Udall won narrowly and Obama lost narrowly, the two Democrats ran pretty closely statewide. Obama ended up winning about 45,000 votes more statewide than Udall did, largely by getting a bigger vote in the more liberal counties, Denver and Boulder. This is somewhat surprising considering that a) polls had the presidential race closer than the senate race; b) Udall represents Boulder in Congress; and b) Udall is a white Coloradan while Obama is a black Chicagoan.

I'm guessing you can explain this with ballot roll-off. Obama received more votes statewide than Udall, and McCain received more votes than Schaffer. There were some voters who were just interested in the presidential race and didn't bother with the senate race. This roll-off seems to have been high in Denver, the only county in Colorado that's more than 10% African American.

What it means

One question I've been getting from reporters, students, and some family and friends is what does this election mean? I can't help thinking that, as a political scientist (or at least as the kind of political scientist that I am), I'm ill-equipped to answer this question. I can tell you that it showed the importance of political fundamentals like war and the economy relative to the choices made by the campaigns. I can tell you that it marked a Democratic surge but not a realignment. I can tell you that the Bradley effect amounted to bubkes.

But what does it mean? The interviews I've seen of African Americans in Chicago, New York, DC, and Atlanta with tears streaming down their faces proclaiming that November 4th was the greatest day in our nation's history tell you far more than I could. Yes, Obama's policy choices and strategic decisions mattered during the campaign, but in many ways, Obama's decision to run for president was like JFK's decision to commit America to going to the Moon. Both promised to benefit our nation in many ways, but it was no small thing to just see if we could do it. Race was considered a secondary issue during the campaign, but how could it not be central to the way we think about Obama's victory? How many days in the past 500 years have African Americans had cause to cheer and cry and embrace openly in the streets like they did on Tuesday?

Obama's presidency will surely receive thorough analysis by the likes of me. But this is a guy who has changed the country, and a fair chunk of the world, just by being elected. I'm out of my depth here.


Ezra Klein observes this unfortunate phrasing from Maureen Dowd:
Some people said that a President Obama would make the White House the Black House. The opposite is true: Barack Obama has the chance to make the White House pristine again.
Because black is the opposite of pristine. Jeez, Maureen. Get a job.

Dissecting the Obama Campaign

People will be writing books about this campaign. It managed to pull off two seemingly opposite things at the same time. First, it appeared to be a completely open-source organization. Volunteers who kept showing up were put in charge of other volunteers. It grew virally. People like and this guy could make campaign theme songs and videos on their own without approval of the campaign that were not only not embarrassing but actually helped. The campaign distributed an iPhone app so that people could make phone calls to voters, all without giving them any formal training. Tens of thousands of people were trusted to speak on behalf of the campaign.

And yet this seemed to be one of the most disciplined and tightly-run campaigns in history. Everyone, from the candidate on down (possibly excepting Joe Biden), stayed on message. Internal disagreements stayed internal. A strategy was agreed upon early and clung to religiously. There were shockingly few gaffes or miscalculations.

How did they manage to be so open-source and hierarchical at the same time? Or was it more like Macintosh, making you feel like you're a part of a community but in fact making decisions for you?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voter turnout up

Graph courtesy of Andrew Gelman.

Campaign effects?

The returns aren't quite all in, but from CNN's latest numbers, John McCain won 46.9% of the two-party vote. Back in the middle of the summer, I predicted McCain would get 47.7% of the two-party vote. That's pretty close.

Now, my point here is not to brag -- many political scientists forecast roughly the same thing. The question is, why were we able to do this? How could we come so close to predicting what would happen just using variables like the economy, incumbency, and the current president's popularity? And if we can do this, what does this say about the role campaigns play? The implication is that campaigns don't amount to much.

If ever we should have seen campaigns mattering, it was this year. I can't recall a presidential election in which there was such an asymmetry between the two major campaigns in terms of money, skill, message discipline, enthusiasm, volunteerism, and basic competence. And yet that all apparently amounted to less than one point.

Of course, maybe the campaign asymmetry really did matter, but the effect was countered by Obama's race, McCain's history of moderation, etc. But still.

The fact that the poll trends were essentially flat throughout October, amid the debates, Joe the Plumber, William Ayers, cries of socialism, and everything else, suggests that the fundamentals really held despite all the sound and fury.

Race and the vote?

John Zaller and Andrew Gelman note that the few states in which Obama underperformed relative to Kerry were Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, as we can see in the chart I posted below. (Also note this map.) I can't help noticing that those were Southern states that allowed early voting. I'm wondering if seeing long lines of black voters over several weeks generated some kind of backlash among whites.

Exit poll gem

Among the quarter of Americans who said they were "scared" by the prospect of an Obama presidency, 4% voted for him. I guess they just love the rush.

Obama vs. Kerry

I'm just starting to gather my thoughts from last night, and I'm also trying to put together some data. David Leip was kind enough to update his brilliant website with yesterday's election results. No turnout figures yet, and I'm not sure all the vote counts are complete, but it's still really helpful.

Anyway, here is a scatterplot showing how Obama did by state relative to Kerry's performance four years ago. The diagonal line is the Kerry line, and Obama exceeded it in almost every state by an average of around 3.2 points. Note the big home state advantage in Hawaii.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

At the Obama office

I'm doing some volunteering today -- canvassing and phone calls. Just
anecdotal, but this seems way more organized than Clinton-Gore '92,
and that was a well run campaign.


See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Show me

Hey, Drew puts Missouri in the Obama column, by a hair.

Why weren't you polled?

If you're still suspicious of election polls because they, for some reason, haven't contacted you, consider this. With all the daily tracking polls going on this year, 2,077,765 people were polled, by one estimate. While it's an extraordinarily high number, it's still less than 2% of the the number of people who will vote this year. 98% of voters were never asked their opinions.

Co. Springs Gazette: Don't Vote

Wow. I mean. I just... wow.
People who don't vote play a positive role by not polluting election results with ill-informed decisions....

Ill-informed voters... do themselves and their country a giant favor by respectfully declining to vote. It requires no apology, no explanation. It's the noble, righteous and patriotic choice.
Compare this argument with Rachel Maddow's claim that long voting lines are a new form of the poll tax.

John Kerry says that, by and large, Democrats want more people to vote and Republicans want fewer people to vote. Could it be that simple?

The Big Day

I woke up this morning in the middle of a 1992 flashback. I was a GOTV organizer for the Clinton/Gore team in Phillipsburg, NJ* that year. I'd spent the second half of October putting together teams of volunteers** who would be walking precincts on election day. I didn't need to be at work until 10 on election day, though, so I woke up rather leisurely and spent a lot of time just thinking about what the day would mean. The polls had been closing slightly, and no one was really sure what would happen with Perot's voters, but it still looked pretty good for Clinton, and I was proud and honored to have played some part in that.

Anyway, I had that same vibe this morning. Then I got in the car just as the radio started playing Springsteen's "Glory Days," which felt strangely appropriate. The kids and I rocked out for a while.

So while there's still some uncertainty and anticipation in the air, let's just enjoy a few moments, okay?

*Yes, New Jersey was once considered a swing state. Prior to 1992, it hadn't gone Democratic since 1964.
**We paid our "volunteers" $25 a shift, if you can believe that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hot Jew-on-Jew action

Somehow I'd failed to notice the fact that Norm Coleman and Al Franken, both running for Minnesota's Senate seat, are both Jewish. How many Senate elections have featured a Jew running against a Jew? And why Minnesota?

The returns are in

Obama takes Dixville Notch, NH, 15-6. Even LBJ didn't pull that one off.

Update: Nate Silver points out that the Dixville Notch vote is predictive of approximately nothing.

Student predictions

Here's the distribution of electoral vote predictions made by the students in my freshman seminar class:

My predictions

One of my graduate school mentors suggested that it was good for scholars to make predictions. It involves a little bit of risk by having us put our presumed knowledge of political events up for public scrutiny. We're required to actually think about stuff and put our ideas out there. There will always be random events that affect elections, but political scientists should be able to get pretty close in their predictions.

With that in mind, here's what I'm guessing will happen.

Way back on August 1st, I predicted that Obama would get 52.3% of the two-party vote, with McCain getting the remaining 47.7%. This still strikes me as pretty reasonable. Yes, there's a fair amount of polling evidence out there suggesting that Obama will win by considerably more, but I've found more often than not that my early predictions tend to be closer to the truth than the ones I make up just before the election, so I'm sticking with that. I'm guessing that Nader, Barr, and others pull roughly equally from the two major parties. So the final vote share will be Obama getting around 51 and McCain getting around 47.

My electoral map prediction is reproduced here:
If I were drawing it again today, I might reverse Ohio and Florida, or maybe give both to Obama. But I'll stick with this, giving Obama 318 EVs to McCain's 220.

I'll concede that I haven't paid enough attention to House and Senate races. Still, just from what I've been able to read, I'll guess that the Democrats pick up 20 House seats and 7 Senate seats, including Alaska's.

Dems will hold onto the Colorado state House and Senate. The personhood amendment will fail. The Earth will continue to revolve around the sun and men will continue to act goofy in the presence of women.

More on cellphone bias

Interesting graph from 538:The graphs shows Obama's advantage over McCain as measured in various recent surveys. The yellow-orange bars represent those polling organizations that contact cellphone users for their samples. The implication here is that most polling organizations could be pretty significantly understating Obama's true level of support by failing to contact cell users.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The big guns out in Colorado

Spotted over Invesco Field during today's Broncos game:Ouch.
(Via Coloradopols)

Poll closing times

A helpful chart here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The infomercial

Am I the only one who just wasn't all that impressed by Obama's 30-minute ad buy on Wednesday night? I mean, the production value was very high (it did look like an episode of Friday Night Lights), the profiles of the struggling families were good, and the live speech part was nice. But a lot of it was just his biographic film, which is great, but was already seen by pretty much everyone during the convention. Plus, there just wasn't much new in there (except that he's apparently now giving you a tax cut if you make less than $200,000, rather than $250,000 -- why isn't McCain exploiting that?).

Now, I get the reason for not putting much new in there. Obama's got his message down. It's gotten through and it's working. He's ahead. There's no need for him to shake stuff up at this point. It's just a matter of closing the deal, restating his message and keeping it professional. And he certainly did that. But I guess I was just hoping for more sizzle.

Passing the time until Tuesday night

If you have any spare time between now and Tuesday night, I strongly urge you to get out there and make phone calls or campaign door to door for the candidates you care about. That stuff works. If you can't do this, but you're obsessed anyway, I imagine you'll be trolling the internet for the latest opinion polls and projections. Here's my list of sites I visit roughly every 15 minutes to check for polling and forecast updates:
  • -- Great maps and charts, along with helpful links to each of the latest state and national polls.
  • -- Constantly updated polling averages, along with a wide ideological array of news analysis articles.
  • -- This has been a real gem this year and a welcome addition to the field. Nate Silver brings his wizardry from the world of sports analysis to politics, using a sophisticated series of equations to eliminate the biases among individual polling houses to effectively forecast elections in each state. Nice bits of polling analysis, too.
  • Drew Linzer's Poll Tracker -- Drew tries to keep it simple by doing Bayesian updates on all the tracking polls in the battleground states. He also uses these numbers to estimate the probability that the candidates will win each state.
Any other good ones I'm missing?

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Some squirrel nibbled the continent of South America on one of my pumpkins. It's freaking me out.

The message is getting through

My six-year old son picked up a toy jaguar this morning and announced, "I'm jaguar, and I approved this message."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Picking on Palin

A month ago, I wouldn't have thought Obama would go after Palin. But she's clearly become a vulnerability for McCain, which Obama exploits in this ad:

It actually harkens back to this ad from 1988, one of the few moments of harshness from Dukakis:

More impersonators!

Apparently, the Musgrave approach of hiring an impersonator of your opponent is catching on. Liddy Dole is doing the same thing, using an impersonator of her opponent to say, "There is no God."

I half hope some of these ads work. This promises an incredibly fun trend in political advertising.

"A Very Small Group of People"

This article probably ran on the front page of today's Denver Post because it's another case of Republican in-fighting in advance of a likely electoral rout. But it also happens to be a great parties story.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis wanted to run for Colorado's open Senate seat this year but was pressured out of doing so by both state and national Republicans, who had already settled on former Rep. Bob Schaffer for the nomination. The article makes it sound like kind of a personal thing, since Schaffer was once roommates with Sen. John Ensign, chair of the NRSC. But you could also see it as an ideological miscalculation: Schaffer is much more conservative than McInnis,* but the state GOP figured it could get an actual conservative into statewide office this year.

*In the 107th House, Schaffer's 1st dimension NOMINATE score was .849, McInnis' was .495. Those scores run from -1 to +1, with +1 being the most conservative position.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New ad technique

This is a truly impressive ad. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, running for her political life in Colorado's 4th CD, is attacking her Democratic challenger, Betsy Markey, by using a Markey impersonator in an ad. I really don't recall seeing anything like this before.

The possibilities are limitless. Maybe McCain could run an ad in which an Obama impersonator sets bombs next to preschools while screaming "God damn America!" And Obama could run ads in which a McCain impersonator stands there and says, "I'm a stupid moron, with an ugly face, and a big butt, and my butt smells, and I like to kiss my own butt."

The Rev. Wright, at last

The National Republican Trust PAC is funding an ad about Rev. Wright. McCain has said this issue was off limits. What does McCain do now? Distance himself from it? Defend it? Got me curious.

Tightening up? Not so much

Chris Bowers at Open Left helpfully notes that the real trend of the past four weeks has been stasis.

(h/t Atrios)

Luke was an idiot

Here's a nice list of five reasons why Luke Skywalker was an idiot. I agree with four of them (one of which I described at some length here). I disagree that Luke made a bad decision by not joining the Dark Side, as Luke had a pretty good prospective career ahead of him as the next Yoda.

Fear of a Black Electorate

I'm wondering if there's some nefarious interplay between white fear and early voting. According to a discussion on yesterday's "Meet the Press," African American turnout has been enormous in Southern states that allow early voting, such as Georgia. What is the reaction of whites voters with less than positive views toward blacks who see blacks turning out to vote in enormous numbers? They might not be able to do anything about it when everyone votes on the same day. But when you have a few weeks to organize an opposition, does high black turnout stimulate high white turnout?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

100,000 people

100,000 people turned out to see Obama in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver this morning. My wife got some great shots, including this one:This was also a great opportunity for me to start indoctrinating the kids:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Clever stuff out West

Via Ezra Klein, here's an ad that's currently running in California against Prop. 8, the initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriages, which are currently legal:

A silver lining for McCain?

Sunshine Hillygus recently came to visit my school and gave some wonderful lectures on the 2008 election. She suggested a few things that, while hardly suggesting an impending McCain victory, do give Obama supporters reason to be cautious in their optimism. Among her points:
  • The enthusiasm gap is a double-edged sword. Yes, Obama supporters are far more enthusiastic than McCain supporters. That might give them a turnout advantage, but it also means that Obama supporters are more likely to respond to surveys than McCain supporters. So Obama supporters could be over-represented in most of the polls.
  • The independents include a lot of former Republicans. There's been a sharp decline in the number of self-identified Republicans in recent years. That doesn't mean they've become Democrats. More likely, they're conservatives who are disillusioned with the Bush administration and are now calling themselves independents. With Bush off the ticket, these conservatives are likely to come home to the Republican Party.
  • Obama's biggest supporters are still those who don't turn out to vote as much. Younger voters, poorer voters, and African Americans just don't turn out to vote as much as older, wealthier whites.
All these things may be true, although there are still a number of reasons why polls may be understating Obama's true support levels (i.e.: the pollsters are missing cell phone users and lots of first time voters, etc.). I tend to think that these things will balance out and the election results will closely mirror the polls. But her points are well taken.

So much for that theory

74% of American Jews are supporting Obama. This is just about how Kerry did among Jews in 2004. Gallup breaks it down nicely.

(h/t John Sides)

Wassup, Eight Years Later

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Planning Election Night

In a move of inspired cockiness, Robert Farley combines recent state-level polling with the state poll closing times to estimate that Obama will have passed 270 electoral votes by 9pm EST, or 7pm here in Denver. I'm not even supposed to be at my election returns watching party until 8.