Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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
Sunday, November 23, 2008
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:
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
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 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.
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
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?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
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
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
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
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
People who don't vote play a positive role by not polluting election results with ill-informed decisions....Compare this argument with Rachel Maddow's claim that long voting lines are a new form of the poll tax.
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.
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?
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
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.