Friday, October 31, 2008
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.
- Pollster.com -- Great maps and charts, along with helpful links to each of the latest state and national polls.
- Realclearpolitics.com -- Constantly updated polling averages, along with a wide ideological array of news analysis articles.
- Fivethirtyeight.com -- 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.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It actually harkens back to this ad from 1988, one of the few moments of harshness from Dukakis:
I half hope some of these ads work. This promises an incredibly fun trend in political advertising.
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
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."
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
- 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.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
But this race shouldn't be over. I haven't seen this week's polling, but the most recent ones I saw had this race pretty tight, and Musgrave is usually a strong closer. I'd be curious to see the NRCC's calculations in writing this one off.
I'd bet the Republicans would really like to have another $150,000 to throw around in some competitive races right now.
My impression is, if you've decided a state is unwinnable, and you have dwindling campaign resources, you do not spend any of those resources in that state. Candidate time is a precious resource. Why are they wasting it here?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
- If the RNSC is really hurting for funds and needs to protect incumbents like Liddy Dole, why are they wasting money by sending pro-gun, pro-Republican mailers to me? How lousy are these lists?
- There is very little stuff specific to Udall or Colorado in the mailer. It comes off like a cookie-cutter guns mailer, onto which one can paste pretty much any Democrat's picture. I'm guessing that's what it is. Pretty cheap.
- Why is Udall wearing a pink shirt? Are they suggesting that, in addition to (or because of) his support for handgun control, Udall is gay? That's a reach.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
What does McCain do in this situation? One possibility is deception: trying to confuse the opponent into thinking you're fighting where you're not. That could explain what's been going on in Colorado.
As Coloradopols has been noting, yesterday some McCain staffers virtually conceded Colorado to Obama, suggesting they would mount a last-ditch effort to re-take electoral vote-rich Pennsylvania instead. Then this morning they said they're still fighting for Colorado. This comes on the heels of the RNC saying they were giving up on the Bob Schaffer Senate campaign and then that they weren't giving up on it.
The pessimistic Democrat in me tends to see such moves as part of a brilliant plan of strategic ambiguity. Democrats can't figure out where to fight the Republicans, who keep changing the battleground. Of course, it's always possible that the Republicans, following McCain's piñata approach to campaigning, are completely floundering right now and can't figure out what they're doing. I couldn't help but notice that the guy who denied McCain's pullout from Colorado is regional spokesperson Tom Kise, who is probably the first guy cut from the payroll if the rumor is true.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I agree with everything he said, but for Powell's endorsement, he gets comments on blogs that I normally really like for their elevated discourse comments like "Well, blood must be thicker than water." Well, fuck you. The corn in Colin Powell's crap has more patriotism than you claim to be espousing, so if you are unable to listen to what this hero says and write it off to a 'black thing', then you deserve every marginalization that's coming your way.
Successive moments in the ceaseless march of airport security have been... oddly interpreted: The shoe bomber failed, but now we all remove our shoes. The liquid bombers were a joke, but now we can't carry toothpaste on a plane. In Goldberg's article, he says we've built a security state around yesterday's threats. That's true, but it almost gives us too much credit: Much of the security state is built around yesterday's failed threats. It's like hearing a robber deterred by your deadbolt and responding by replacing your door with six inches of heavily fortified, extremely expensive, steel. And our strange decisions create new vulnerabilities: The awkward and slow screening system means more travelers are gathered at security checkpoints. But the screening happens at the end of the checkpoint. Until then, travelers are utterly unexamined. A suicide bomber could walk into that line and murder hundreds, having much the same effect on national travel as if he'd downed a plane.
But why the sudden turnaround? I was somewhat surprised to see the jump in McCain's numbers right after the third debate, which the public overwhelmingly determined to be an Obama victory. Is it possible that the Joe the Plumber gambit is working (although evidence says otherwise)? Or maybe some conservative independents, even if they thought Obama won the debate, liked the pugnacious McCain, and it made them feel better about the Republican ticket. Or maybe McCain's robo-calls are getting some traction.
It's just frankly hard to know at this point. The most recent round of polls have Obama up slightly and McCain down slightly, on average, since yesterday, but the individual polls are all over the place. And it'll be a day or two before the polls capture the effects of Powell's endorsement (although I'm guessing it'll be pretty modest, if even detectable).
The important thing to keep in mind is that McCain is likely to get at least 45% of the vote. Does he get there by convincing the undecideds to back him, or does he pull it from Obama's share? That strikes me as the key question. Keep your eyes on Obama's numbers. Also, watch the state numbers.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I feel pretty confident about most of these states, but I remain unsure about Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. Obama's numbers in Ohio have been running two to three points behind his national numbers, and I'm just not sure whether he'll pull it out, although I think he has a slightly better shot at holding Florida.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Now, of course, from what we know about him, Joe the Plumber looks nothing like the median voter in this country. He's a self-described conservative and a registered Republican. Folks like that are currently in the minority. Obama never had much of a chance of winning him over. But at least for a few days, it changes the story to McCain's advantage.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I have mixed feelings toward TR. I find his obsession with manliness and proving oneself in battle to be embarrassing. At times, he sounds like a teen-aged Klingon impersonator at a Star Trek convention. So it's nice to know he could occasionally back up his tough talk with some true bad-assedness.
I just heard David Gergen on CNN basically saying that it's over. McCain's best strategy, he said, is to pull all his negative ads, go positive to improve his own legacy, and devote what resources he can to saving as many Senate and House seats as possible for the Republicans.
It seems clear that whatever could cause McCain to win this election will not actually come from the McCain campaign. The major shifts in this race have largely come from outside events, most notably the economic meltdown and bailout bill. Arguably, McCain should be campaigning as though the race were closer. That means running aggressive ads, maintaining a ground game in places like Florida and Ohio, etc. If the game-changing event comes, he'll be prepared. If it doesn't, he wasn't going to win anyway.
What might such a game-changing event be? Basically, anything that takes Americans' minds off the economy, such as...
- Bin Laden releasing a tape essentially endorsing Obama.
- Russians invading Alaska, held at bay by stick-weilding hockey moms.
- Photos of Obama with a goatee holding an AK-47 by an open window are released.
- Joe the Plumber strapping himself to a bomb and blowing himself up inside an Ohio sewage plant.
Monday, October 13, 2008
If you never watched "V" back in the mid-80s, it was just an awesome mini-series about a race of technologically advanced aliens who come to visit Earth and share their discoveries with us. It turns out they have a much darker agenda, though, which involves eating us and stealing our water. Oh, and they're lizards. Anyway, it's got lots of stuff in there about patriotism, control of the masses, resistance to oppression, etc. Lots of good politics and Holocaust parallels. The original miniseries eventually spawned "V: The Final Battle," which was a pretty entertaining conclusion to the series with a ridiculous ending. Then that spawned "V: The Series," which sucked in about 80 different ways. But I'm hopeful for the new effort.
This news totally made my day, and I can assume it's the reason that the stock market rallied.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Barring a dramatic change in the political landscape over the next three weeks, Democrats appear headed toward a decisive victory on Election Day that would give them broad power over the federal government.
The victory would send Barack Obama to the White House and give him larger Democratic majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate — and perhaps a filibuster-proof margin there.
That could mark a historic realignment of the country's politics on a scale with 1932 or 1980, when the out party was given power it held for a generation, and used it to transform government's role in American society.
The term "realignment" is thrown around pretty regularly in presidential election years, with little consensus on what it actually means. The accepted political science definition is a sudden and durable shift in voter loyalties toward the parties, usually involving the introduction of a new set of issues. So, for example, there was a realignment in the 1850s when voters essentially stopped voting on economics and started voting on slavery. This killed off the Whig party and allowed for the rise of the anti-slavery Republicans, while forcing the Democrats to abandon their northern allies and focus on becoming an exclusively pro-slavery party. Some even reject the idea that 1932 was a realignment, since the parties really didn't shift positions on anything; there were just suddenly a lot more Democrats in office.
Could we be seeing a realignment this year? My impression is that the electorate isn't really realigning on any new set of issues. Republicans and Democrats largely seem to believe what they have for years. Republicans are just in a bad position this year due to the economy and several wars.
On the other hand, voters' opinions toward the economy are in flux right now and aren't necessarily falling along party lines. If the congressional vote on the budget bailout was any indicator, there's a lot of hostility toward the government's actions. There could be room for an alliance of bailout opponents: Republicans who believe failing businesses should be allowed to fail and Democrats who do not feel they should have to pay for Wall Street's errors. I'm not sure what such an alliance would end up looking like or if it would have any durability.
Regardless of whether this election meets the proper definition of realignment, it could fall along the lines of 1932 and 1980, where the new party in power will have a considerable mandate to shape policy for a decade or two. Interesting times.
Personal anecdote: this weekend, my parents did some phone banking for Obama, and my brother actually held a phone banking session at his house. (People bring their cell phones, the campaign provides the lists, the host may provide food.) While my brother cares about politics, it's hardly his bread and butter. It would be like me organizing a fantasy baseball league or a March Madness betting pool.
So I am impressed on two levels. First, that my family is so eagerly involved. Second, that the Obama campaign is organized enough to tap these people who are hardly seasoned activists and get them working for the campaign. I imagine that cell phones were universal enough that campaigns could have done similar activities four years ago. Did Kerry ever ask anyone to host a phone banking session in her home for his campaign?
The Obama campaign will, I think, be studied for years for its organizational innovations.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This calculation ignores (at least) three important factors. First, there is a fairly strong tendency for late shifts in preferences to favor the incumbent party when the economy is strong and the out-party when the economy is weak; that makes Sen. Obama's position stronger than it looks in current polls. Second, there is more uncertainty than usual this year about who will actually turn out to vote, suggesting that the polls may be more wrong than usual; however, given the pattern of new registrations and the apparent strength of the two campaigns' voter mobilization efforts, Sen. Obama seems more likely to benefit than to lose support from unexpected turnout. Third, the possibility that undecided white voters may, in the end, be unable to bring themselves to vote for Sen. Obama on racial grounds makes his position somewhat more precarious than it would otherwise be. It is very difficult to estimate the importance of the racial factor (that is, the extent to which racial antipathy is not already reflected in current polls), but my guess is that this is less important than the other two factors, both of which seem likely to work in Sen. Obama's favor.We're all groping around in the dark to some extent on this. Social scientists generally like to change one variable at a time. i.e.: What's the effect of a black presidential candidate? Well, let's run 2000 again only make Gore black and see what happens. This year's election has changed about 20 different variables. It's more like, let's run 2000 again, only make Bush more moderate, make Gore black, make Cheney a woman, have the economy collapse, throw in an unpopular war or two, etc. This is no way to run an experiment.
Update: Wise counsel from Nate Silver:
McCain is getting some criticism for campaigning in Iowa, and for sending Sarah Palin out to West Virginia, but the truth is that their electoral hand is so poor right now that it doesn't much matter in which states they're deciding to bide their time. Remember, any world in which McCain has a chance to win on Election Day is a world that looks very different from this one -- some significant event will have to have occurred to fundamentally change the momentum of the race.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
(Come to think of it, you can watch this scene on an iPhone while in temple. Best of both worlds.)
This article relies on the variation of terror attacks across time and space as an instrument to identify the causal effects of terrorism on the preferences of the Israeli electorate. We find that the occurrence of a terror attack in a given locality within three months of the elections causes an increase of 1.35 percentage points on that locality’s support for the right bloc of political parties out of the two blocs vote. This effect is of a significant political magnitude because of the high level of terrorism in Israel and the fact that its electorate is closely split between the right and left blocs. Moreover, a terror fatality has important electoral effects beyond the locality where the attack is perpetrated, and its electoral impact is stronger the closer to the elections it occurs. Interestingly, in left-leaning localities, local terror fatalities cause an increase in the support for the right bloc, whereas terror fatalities outside the locality increase the support for the left bloc of parties. Given that a relatively small number of localities suffer terror attacks, we demonstrate that terrorism does cause the ideological polarization of the electorate. Overall, our analysis provides strong empirical support for the hypothesis that the electorate shows a highly sensitive reaction to terrorism.I guess the creepiest part is that the N was high enough to get statistically significant results.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
That said, Obama may well be at or near the ceiling of his potential support level. The trend lines at Pollster seem to be showing both candidates' support flattening out, with Obama holding just above 49 and McCain just above 43. Each candidate has gained about 0.1 percentage points for each of the past few days, suggesting that undecideds are, very slowly, making up their minds and splitting between the two candidates. As Nate Silver at 538 points out, for Obama to get much more, he'll have to start picking up the racist vote, and that's just not likely to happen. Meanwhile, in an open-seat presidential race, the loser almost never goes below 45% of the vote, suggesting that McCain isn't likely to drop any lower than where he is today.
On top of that, elections tend to tighten up a bit in the final few weeks. That's not a great cause for Obama supporters to worry -- he doesn't have to pick up that many of the undecideds to put him over the top -- but it is something to keep in mind. The media will grow tired of reporting the status quo for another four weeks. Soon the story will be McCain's modest surge. Is it Palin? Is it McCain? Is it the new thuggish campaign? Don't let it throw you; it's typical in an election.
Right now I'd say the campaign dynamics are on target for a roughly 5-point Obama win. We'll see....
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Considering America’s Depression-era politics in comparative perspective reinforces the impression that there may have been a good deal less real policy content to “throwing the bums out” than meets the eye. In the U.S., voters replaced Republicans with Democrats and the economy improved. In Britain and Australia, voters replaced Labor governments with conservatives and the economy improved. In Sweden, voters replaced Conservatives with Liberals, then with Social Democrats, and the economy improved. In the Canadian agricultural province of Saskatchewan, voters replaced Conservatives with Socialists and the economy improved. In the adjacent agricultural province of Alberta, voters replaced a socialist party with a right-leaning funny-money party created from scratch by a charismatic radio preacher, and the economy improved. In Weimar Germany, where economic distress was deeper and longer-lasting, voters rejected all of the mainstream parties, the Nazis seized power, and the economy improved. In every case, the party that happened to be in power when the Depression eased dominated politics for a decade or more thereafter. It seems farfetched to imagine that all these contradictory shifts represented well-considered ideological conversions. A more parsimonious interpretation is that voters simply—and simple-mindedly—rewarded whoever happened to be in power when things got better.Bartels uses this evidence to make the case that voters aren't very knowledgeable. The same evidence could be used to argue that governments have very little ability to directly affect the economy.
At a press conference Wednesday, Headwaters Economics will release a report detailing how Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming choose to tax oil, natural gas, and coal extraction-and how the revenue is spent.
The report shows Colorado has the lowest effective tax rate in the Intermountain West. It also demonstrates that states can increase their effective tax rates with little risk of affecting the local energy economy.
A giant bar graph, perhaps the largest bar graph ever in Colorado, will dramatically illustrate the differences between the 5 states studied in the report.
You'll be able to sit down atop Colorado's three-foot bar on the graph, while Wyoming's bar will loom over you head at about 8 feet tall. That's because the effective oil and gas tax in Wyoming is over twice Colorado's (6.2% for Colorado and 15.9% for Wyoming).
When: Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Civic Center Park (East side of the park, directly across from the State Capitol)
- Liberals are intolerant. They talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, they just don't want to live in a country with people who disagree with them.
- Liberals don't love America. They'll stay if they like the government's policies, but they'll find another home if they disagree with the government. They don't think their country is worth fighting for.
- Liberals are liars. How many liberals moved to Canada after the 2000 election? After 2004? They won't really do it this year either.
Monday, October 6, 2008
My main answer was that blowouts rarely happen in presidential elections. Here's a graph of presidential election margins since 1948:
To be sure, there were some big margins in there. LBJ beat Goldwater by more than 20 points, and Nixon beat McGovern by a similar margin. However, if you omit elections in which an incumbent president was running for reelection, there just aren't that many blowouts. Kennedy/Nixon, Humphrey/Nixon, and Gore/Bush were all nailbiters. The last time a non-incumbent won by more than 10 points was when Ike beat Stevenson in '52. So judging from this history, it would seem more than likely that McCain will get at least 45% of the vote. And, of course, my official forecast model only saw Obama winning by 4-6 points, and that's not accounting for any sort of race effect.
That said, this may not be a normal election. Obama's recent surge in the polls seems largely due to the financial crisis, but neither the crisis, nor the surge, seem to be abating. (See the graphs at the top right of this page, and your 401k.) The question, I think, is whether voters believe this is 1979 or 1929.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Voter persuasion efforts, as near as I can tell, still primarily rely upon older technologies, mainly radio and television. But the voter turnout stuff in this election is getting pretty innovative.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
That said, my impression was that Biden simply came off better. He was sharply critical of McCain and demonstrated a solid knowledge of both economic issues and foreign affairs. He defended Obama well. He made no serious gaffes (other than referring to Bosnians as Bosniacs). His statements were far more substantive than Palin's and yet still, for the most part, managed to have an emotional punch.
Anyway, I'm giving it to Biden. But Palin wasn't bad.
UPDATE: Biden was right, I was wrong. As Struwelpeter points out "Bosniak" is the accepted term for a Bosnian Muslim.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I asked my students if they though Obama could run a similar sort of ad against Palin today. Most seemed to feel there'd be a backlash. It would be seen as vicious, maybe sexist.
And then I was shocked to find that an interest group has just put out such an add. The California Nurses Association is running an ad showing McCain flatlining (these are nurses, mind you) while we're introduced to extremist stances by Palin.
Yeah, I'm calling this one over the top.
While I wouldn't go so far as to call her responses eloquent, they were certainly competent. You get the impression that she knows what she's talking about. She doesn't stumble over words or phrases. She makes her point succinctly and reasonably clearly. See also here and here.
Now, it's possible that she has the same weird affliction that George W. Bush has, where he was a reasonably skilled public speaker as governor but mangles sentences on the national stage. But it's also possible that she's been running the most intricate and brilliant game of expectations-lowering that we've ever seen.
Either way, the debate is likely to be a disappointment for Democrats. The debate format is pretty rigid -- they'll be answering Gwen Ifill's questions directly, and chances are they have a pretty good idea what she'll be asking. There won't be much interaction between the candidates. And Palin is likely to be pretty well rehearsed.