Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The year in questions
Answers are coming out tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Franken decade
It looks like Franken's fantasy is coming true. Think he'll follow through on his promises?
Monday, December 29, 2008
There are limits
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
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
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
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
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
Rethinking Vanilla Ice
Girls were hot wearing less than bikinisOkay, 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.
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
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
The electors meet
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
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
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?
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...
McCain could still pull this one out
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
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
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
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
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
Voter turnout: the big fizzle
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?
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
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
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
They only look dead
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.
Use a cassette player lately?
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?
I'm somebody now
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Cool finding of the day
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
Obama quits the Senate
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Was Sen. Geary set up?
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?
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.
We Have Lasers
Monday, November 10, 2008
Lessons of 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
My friends, it's on
Saturday, November 8, 2008
How a state goes from red to blue
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
- 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
Obama and Udall
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
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.
Dissecting the Obama 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
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?
Exit poll gem
Obama vs. Kerry
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
anecdotal, but this seems way more organized than Clinton-Gore '92,
and that was a well run campaign.
Why weren't you polled?
Co. Springs Gazette: Don't Vote
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?
The Big Day
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
The returns are in
Update: Nate Silver points out that the Dixville Notch vote is predictive of approximately nothing.
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
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The big guns out in Colorado
Poll closing times
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.
Passing the time until Tuesday night
- 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
The message is getting through
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Picking on Palin
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.
"A Very Small Group of People"
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
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
Tightening up? Not so much
Luke was an idiot
Fear of a Black Electorate
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Clever stuff out West
A silver lining for McCain?
- 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.
So much for that theory
(h/t John Sides)