Sunday, August 31, 2008

The election keeps getting better

Alaskans apparently have a sense of humor, at least according to the NY Times:
“Our governor is going to be vice president, and we still don’t have an Olive Garden,” said Keri Baranou, 30, who sells sewing machines.
My other favorite quote:
“I don’t care what the image of Alaska is to anyone else,” said Sharon Rooth, a longtime resident. “If I cared what America thought, I’d live there.”


I'm still giggling over this one:


I'm just on my way back from the APSA conference. Needless to say, Sarah Palin was all anyone was talking about between panels, and often during them. I talked with a lot of political scientists about it. There is no consensus on whether this was a smart or dumb move by McCain.

Probably the modal reaction was that McCain looked as his internal polling numbers and figured he was screwed, so he needed a game-changing roll of the dice. Sort of like Mondale's decisions to pick Geraldine Ferraro and to promise to raise taxes. In the Palin case, maybe it helps McCain pick off a few disaffected female voters who otherwise liked Hillary and really, really don't care about policy. If not, he still loses, but the GOP looks more impressive in the long run for the effort.

Personally, I think this was kinda stupid. Not that she's a bad candidate (although it's hard to imagine she's ready for the media exposure she's now getting). She may be very good. The main problem is that she undercuts McCain's main rationale for running against Obama: experience. That was probably McCain's strongest issue. Now the two tickets probably average about the same level of experience.

The speech

I haven't posted much on Obama's acceptance speech, either here or at my companion blog. I imagine I'll have something to say soon. But here's a rather nice reflection from Princeton's Melissa Harris-Lacewell:
As I stood in a sea of black, brown and white faces I waved a flag for the first time in my life. And I really meant it. I felt truly patriotic. I felt keenly the DuBoisian double consciousness that is such an ordinary part of my life that I barely notice it. And then I felt the dualism close. I felt no distance at all between my blackness and my Americaness. It was an experience that I cannot describe. It is not one that I was seeking or that I even knew existed. But the moment I felt myself become a citizen a wept for the joy and exhilaration of it.

Running Female

I attended several APSA panels on race and gender this past weekend. I normally don't do that sort of thing. (That is, I rarely attend panels, and when I do, they're usually about state politics or parties or something.) Suddenly, race and gender seem salient to me. A lot of these panels featured interesting discussions about whether Hillary Clinton suffered more from sexism than Barack Obama suffered from racism during the recent primaries and caucuses.

Anyway, loyal readers may recall my analysis of African American candidates running for U.S. Senate or governor from 2002-06. I wanted to see if there was some kind of electoral "penalty" against black candidates in statewide contests. The results were somewhat inconclusive because there are simply so few cases. There were only four cases I could find in which an African American Democrat ran against a white Republican. In each of those, the African American ran about 1 to 2 points behind the "expected" vote (calculated by looking at the presidential vote, incumbency, the state's racial composition, etc.). This difference was not statistically significant, but again, it's only four cases.

So, this weekend, I was curious to see if there was any sort of female electoral penalty. I looked at the same set of races and found no consistent pattern. There are a lot more cases -- 45 in which a woman ran against a man (35 female Democrats, 10 female Republicans). However, the average penalty for women was almost precisely zero, a result that was identical across parties. Here's a histogram showing the difference between actual vote and expected vote for female candidates. Red shows Republican women, blue shows Democratic women.Most of the cases hover around zero, although there are a few outliers. On the low end was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who ran 13 points behind the expected vote for a GOP senator in Alaska in 2004 but still managed to retain her seat. At the upper end was Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who won nearly 80 percent of the two-party vote, running 22 points ahead of the expected vote for a GOP senator in Maine in 2006. Republican women, interestingly, do slightly better than Republican men in elections, but that difference disappears when other statistical controls are used.

It would probably help this analysis to expand it to House elections. I felt it was appropriate to limit it to U.S. Senate and governor races for the analysis of African American candidates, since those are high visibility contests with lots of television advertising in which nearly all voters could be expected to know the race of the candidates. Voters can usually detect gender, however, simply by reading a candidate's name.

At any rate, we have here a little empirical data on who is "winning" the oppression olympics. Although we still need more data, there does seem to be a modest electoral penalty against African American candidates. No such penalty exists for women candidates. Of course, there are selection effects at work here, so I can't make any hard claims about causality. But take it as you will.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Light posting here

All the action's over at Participant-Observer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama's and McCain's tax plans

Here's a nice, nonpartisan analysis of Obama's and McCains tax plans from the Urban Institute and Brookings. The summary:
Both John McCain and Barack Obama have proposed tax plans that would substantially increase the national debt over the next ten years, according to a newly updated analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. Compared to current law, TPC estimates the Obama plan would cut taxes by $2.9 trillion from 2009-2018. McCain would reduce taxes by nearly $4.2 trillion. Obama would give larger tax cuts to low- and moderate-income households and pay some of the cost by raising taxes on high-income taxpayers. In contrast, McCain would cut taxes across the board and give the biggest cuts to the highest-income households.
And the money shot:If you have trouble reading that, it just means that the wealthier you are, the better you'll do under McCain's plan. The poorer you are, the better you'll do under Obama's. It's pretty crystal clear, and quite consistent with how the parties have governed over the past half century.

McCain's coming for our water?

This story seems to have legs, at least in Colorado:

Did John McCain signal the end of his Republican presidential run and launch his next campaign for the U.S. Senate in a phone interview with The Pueblo Chieftain last week?

During the interview on Thursday, McCain called for a renegotiation of the Colorado River Compact. Colorado has nine Electoral College votes, and McCain’s statements could have pushed Colorado voters one more step away from him in the presidential election. At the very least the senator from Arizona provided a wedge issue for the Obama campaign to exploit here and across the southwestern United States.

Just to be clear, not everyone in Colorado pays attention to water issues, but those who do really, really care about it. And it could affect their votes, regardless of party affiliation. If you live in Colorado (where the Colorado River, you know, comes from) and you hear this talk from a dude from Arizona (where they draw from the Colorado River to water their golf courses), you get jittery. Which is why state politicians of both parties, including Sen. Ken Salazar (D) and senatorial candidate Bob Schaffer (R) have publicly rebuked McCain over the comments.

Keep your eyes on these lines:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A slip?

Probably not what Pickler intended, but who knows?
His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.
(h/t Atrios)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is there an Obama strategy?

TPM picks up on an interesting recent trend in the presidential campaign:
The McCain campaign has outspent the Obama camp by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases by as much as a million dollars or more, in virtually all of the nearly dozen battleground states where both campaigns are up on the air, according to a firm that tracks national advertising.
I can attest to this. I live in a battleground state, and the TV ads during the Olympics (other than the promos for that Christian Slater "Memento"-rip-off show) consist of nothing but McCain and Obama ads, and there seems to be roughly two McCain ads for every Obama one. The McCain ads are also much meaner.

This presents us with a small mystery. Why is McCain outspending Obama in the battleground states, when Obama is raising about $2 for every $1 that McCain raises? Some may dismiss this as Dukakis redux. But I don't think that's what's going on.

Part of the answer is that Obama is also spending in non-battleground states like Georgia. He may not win there, but he may force McCain to defend normally friendly territory.

Another part of the answer is that Obama's playing a form of rope-a-dope. It's still relatively early for a massive advertising blitz. The conventional wisdom is that voters really don't pay much attention to campaigns until after Labor Day. McCain is buring through cash rapidly to make Obama an unacceptable choice for voters. So far, the effect has been pretty anemic; Obama has a modest but consistent lead in national polls and in most of the swing states. The idea is that McCain will be pretty much all out of attacks and cash by October (when voters traditionally start paying attention), at which point Obama brings the hammer down with an ad blitz and a voter turnout organization like this country has never seen before.

I have no idea if this is what's going on in Obama HQ, but it seems consistent with his style during the primary season. He knows that going negative carries its own risks, and he'd rather stay away from it unless it proves absolutely necessary. And while many on the left want him to tear McCain apart, it just might not be necessary to do that, at least not yet.

McCain's Veep Pick?

Who the hell is Rob Portman? Is he related to Natalie? 'cuz she needs to be reined in.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Clone Wars

I took my son to see "Clone Wars" yesterday. It's pretty okay. The dialogue is horrid, but the story isn't bad, and there are plenty of fun battle scenes.

Chronologically, the "Clone Wars" movie seems to take place between Discs 1 and 2 of the "Clone Wars" cartoons from last year. Anakin is a full Jedi, but the war is still raging and it's unclear who will win. The new twist is that Anakin is assigned a padawan, Ashoka Tano, a perky young humanoid in a tube top who likes to refer to people by nicknames. We also get to meet Jabba's young son and his uncle, who has an effeminate Southern accent.

The computer animation is good, but somehow seems only skin deep. There are tons of light saber fights, but they just don't seem that overwhelming in this format. The battle between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon in Episode I was one of the coolest things ever committed to film, but such battles just lose something when they're animated. Yet even the cartoon series had some moments of beauty, such as the lengthy standoff between Anakin and Asajj Ventress in the rain on Yavin IV. No such moments in the new movie.

Still, a reasonably diverting romp. And I look forward to the new TV series.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Will the Clinton roll call hurt Obama?

The Denver Post's analysis of yesterday's announcement that Hillary Clinton's name will be submitted for nomination at the convention suggested that this decision will be good for intraparty politics, but could hurt Obama against McCain. According to the article,

In three similar scenarios at national conventions in the past 35 years, when there have been large splits within one party during the convention itself, the candidate ultimately didn't win the general election.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford's nomination at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. Jimmy Carter won that year.

In 1980, Sen. Edward Kennedy challenged Carter's nomination — and Reagan won. And in 1984, 1,200 delegates voted for Sen. Gary Hart on the convention floor rather than Walter Mondale. Reagan won again.

This is true, but misleading. In the cases of 1976 and 1980, it confuses the cause and the effect. Gerald Ford ('76) and Jimmy Carter ('80) were challenged from within their party precisely because they were weak incumbents who looked likely to lose in the fall. Conversely, Reagan was highly popular in 1984 and had a strong economy backing him up. Does anyone seriously think that Mondale would have beat Reagan if Gary Hart hadn't challenged him for the nomination?

It is certainly possible that appearances at the convention could hurt Obama. If a bunch of Clinton delegates are photographed scowling after the vote and sitting on their hands during Obama's speech, that would hurt. But this event could also work to the Democrats' advantage if it shows delegates literally in the act of overcoming their differences and rallying behind the nominee.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Show trial, anyone?

Digby alerts us to the fact that that trial of bin Laden's chauffeur was nothing more than a show. The fix was in for the driver no matter what the jury decided:
The military jurors who gave Osama bin Laden’s driver a light sentence want him freed from Guantanamo once he completes it in December and were frustrated to learn that the military can hold him indefinitely, one of the panelists said Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, the juror said the panel of six U.S. military officers did not learn until the trial ended Thursday that the Pentagon retains the right to hold Salim Hamdan as an "enemy combatant" even after he completes his sentence.

"After all the effort that we put in to get somebody a fair trial . . . and then to say no matter what we did it didn’t matter — I don’t see that as a positive step," the juror said. The jurors cannot be identified because the trial judge declared their identities secret. The case was the first war-crimes trial since the end of World War II.

Yeah, this is the stuff we used to criticize the Soviets for.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quote of the day

Jon Stewart:
War: It's just God's way of teaching Americans geography.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We won't have Bruce to kick around?

Colorado state Rep. Doug Bruce (R-Colorado Springs), a perennial embarrassment to his party, is at risk of losing his seat tonight in a primary. With 20% of the vote counted, he's down 54-46 to challenger Mark Waller.

Hang in there, Doug!

UPDATE: Dang, Bruce lost 52-48.

New blog

I have created a blog devoted solely to my coverage of the Democratic National Convention. It is called Participant-Observer, a reflection of my internal struggle to simultaneously be a neutral scholar and an Obama enthusiast. I will occasionally cross-post some items, but most of my convention-related posts will be listed there for the next few weeks.

Intraparty tensions

(Cross posted at Participant-Observer)

A Colorado Clinton delegate, Sacha Millstone of Boulder, has been called onto the carpet for saying disparaging things about Barack Obama. It doesn't sound like the state party is going to strip her of her delegate status, but I'm guessing they were considering it. This comes on the heels of a similar incident in Wisconsin, where a Clinton delegate actually was removed from that state's delegation for threatening to vote for McCain. One can see further evidence of such tensions in this interesting Denver Post story on Colorado's Clinton delegates.

The big cause among Clinton supporters right now seems to be that her name is formally submitted for nomination at the convention and that a full vote is held. See this press release by Clinton Democrats for more. Some of the comments there are very telling. For example:
If Hillary’s name is not on the ballot in Denver, I will make sure that I am no longer a registered Democrat and will support the Republican nominee.
I am really curious how or whether this gets resolved in the next two weeks.

Obama's VP pick is..., I don't know. But you can be among the first to know by clicking here or by texting VP to 62262.

Disclosure: I have a small amount of money on Ed Rendell. I've also been thinking about Bill Ritter. Both are longshots, I concede.

Bush on the sauce again

Alert reader and devoted Olympics viewer Lidzville is convinced that Bush has been plastered during his trip to Beijing. I'm convinced. This Gawker photo essay is pretty damning, I'd have to say.

In Bush's defense, he hasn't publicly made a pass at anyone, and he hasn't vomited (unlike his dad). Plus, he's a lame duck at a sporting event -- what the hell. It's not like there's still a country that thinks highly of us that would suddenly be turned off because Bush looked drunk; we lost those countries years ago. Sure, maybe he should look more presidential on account of the ongoing international crisis in Georgia, but it's not like the U.S. can do anything about it anyway.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Obama Code

It turns out that there are a fair number of voters who are convinced that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. I haven't read the Left Behind books, but apparently, in that series, the Antichrist rises to power in the form of a multi-lingual junior American Senator named Nicholae Carpathia, who gets fawning coverage from the press and is loved by the voters. Hmmm... sound familiar?

What's more, the McCain campaign is trying, by means of some devil-dog-whistle politics, to link Obama to Carpathia. This ad, for example, looks to most of us as a way of mocking Obama's popularity. But, if you're an avid Left Behind reader, you'd see this ad as a warning that Obama's election will bring about the End of Days. As Amy Sullivan writes,
Perhaps the most puzzling scene in the ad is an altered segment from The 10 Commandments that appears near the end. A Moses-playing Charlton Heston parts the animated waters of the Red Sea, out of which rises the quasi-presidential seal the Obama campaign used for a brief time earlier this summer before being mocked into retiring it. The seal, which features an eagle with wings spread, is not recognizable like the campaign's red-white-and-blue "O" logo. That confused Democratic consultant Eric Sapp until he went to his Bible and remembered that in the apocalyptic Book of Daniel, the Antichrist is described as rising from the sea as a creature with wings like an eagle.
Best. Election. Ever.

(h/t NW)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Edwards is a total tool

Loyal readers of this blog will recall that I spent a fair amount of time (and not a small amount of my cash) promoting John Edwards as the best possible choice for the Democratic presidential nominee. With the benefit of hindsight, that clearly would have been a train wreck. He had an affair and possibly had an out-of-wedlock child. What's more, he ran for president knowing this secret could eventually reach the light of day.

Look, given my longstanding support for Bill Clinton, I'm in no position to be criticizing politicians for their moral failings. People do stupid things in relationships. But the fact that he ran for president assuming that this affair would never surface reflects incredible audacity and irresponsibility. Had he become the nominee, this scandal could have very well cost the Democrats the presidential election and more than a few seats in Congress.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ah, kids

I was giving a lecture to some high school students today about the role of the media in politics. I mentioned that media standards change over time, and that there was an agreement among the Washington press corp not to reveal JFK's philandering, even though it was widely known at the time.

One of the students asked, "Then why were the media so quick to report about Lincoln's affair?"

"Lincoln had an affair?" I asked.

"Yeah, didn't he have an affair with one of his slaves?" said another.

In fairness, this wasn't ignorance so much as confusion of names. The first student meant Clinton, the second meant Jefferson. But I still rather enjoyed the exchange.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Convention to be 99% feces-free

Thanks goodness for this:
There will be not shit-slinging at the Democratic National Convention this month. Not literally, anyway. In preparing to host the convention at the end of the month, the city of Denver, according to the AP, passed an ordinance "barring protesters from carrying buckets of feces during the Democratic National Convention."
So all y'all planning to bring shit to Denver can just forget about it! On the other hand, the soil's terrible here, so some sort of compost would be welcome. Just not the kind with manure in it.

Dad's pissed

It's not like Bob Schaffer was running the most inspiring Senate campaign ever, but his son Justin really isn't making it any easier. As the Post reported today, Justin just pulled his Facebook page because it contained a lot of messages that you really don't want to be associated with if you're running for high office. Luckily for the rest of us, this page was captured by the good folks at SchafferFamilyValues. Check out the bumper stickers on the left. My personal favorite: "Slavery gets shit done," depicting the Pyramids. That's a four-word slogan that offends African-Americans and Jews at the same time! Nice!

Update: Poor Justin might be in trouble at school as a result of all this.

Paris Hilton responds

Nice work:

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Poll movement?

It's way too early to know if this trend is real, but at least in a few surveys, McCain appears to be tied with Obama. What's weird is that Obama didn't go down in the polls; McCain went up. I find that weird because it follows a week or so of McCain going pretty nasty and negative on Obama, while Obama tried to stay above the fray for the most part. So there were pretty much no positive images of McCain out there and lots of negative images of Obama. Why didn't it pull Obama down? Why do views of McCain seem to be improving?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nonexistent trend alert

The Denver Post is doing a series on the "swing counties" of Colorado. These are the places that will allegedly determine how the state votes in November. (I don't know why that would be the case. It's not like counties have some sort of electoral college system. But whatever.) One of the profiled counties is Garfield County, located on the western slope and home to crunchy Carbondale and conservative Parachute.

The basic thrust of the article is that the county is traditionally somewhat conservative, but there is an increasing number of independent voters in the area who seem to be leaning left lately. As the reporter, Nancy Lofholm, observes:
Forty-two percent of Garfield County voters are unaffiliated, and that category has been steadily growing. Even double-digit, real estate-squeezing and traffic-snarling growth hasn't been a boon to the major political parties. A decade ago, the county had 8,470 Republicans. It now has 9,634. Democrats had 6,565 and currently have 7,153.
It's rare that an article contains visual evidence undercutting its text, but here it is (at left.) It suggests that there was some growth in the number of unaffiliateds in the 1990s, but that number has been stable over the last decade. Actually, the numbers have been pretty stable for all party affiliations over the past decade, although more people register as voters during presidential elections. But I really don't see anything to support the claim that the percent of independents has been "steadily growing."

What is interesting, although unreported, is that the county grew by 18.5 percent between 2000 and 2006 without any appreciable increase in the number of registered voters. Who are these new residents? Children? Non-citizens? That might make for an interesting county profile, and it could actually be backed up by data.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Obama took some flak for "playing the race card" after he said the following:
The only way they figure they're going to win this election is if they make you scared of me. So what they're saying is, "Well, we know we're not very good but you can't risk electing Obama. You know, he's new, he's... doesn't look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he's got a, he's got a funny name.
Yeah, Obama was way off base there. Oh, wait, here's a new John McCain ad:

(h/t Ezra Klein)

Shirtless blogging

Damn, it's hot.

The jerky indicator

Spied at the Cherry Creek farmer's market this morning: pineapple chipotle elk jerky. This is evidence that Colorado is ready for change and will vote overwhelmingly for Obama this November.

Okay, I'm reaching.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The most beautiful people on Capitol Hill

I forgot how annoying Hill culture can be. But this is a nice reminder.

More on forecasting

I've heard from a few fellow Democrats who seem to feel that Obama is a far better and more inspiring candidate than McCain and can't understand why Obama isn't 10-20 points ahead. A little perspective: presidential elections are rarely won by such large margins. Twenty points is considered a landslide. The only candidates who've gotten into that range in modern times are Lyndon Johnson (1964) and Ronald Reagan (1984), both of whom were popular incumbents running for reelection during economic booms.

Clinton beat Dole by less than nine points. Bush beat Dukakis by about the same margin. Clinton only beat Bush by about five. And 2000 and 2004 were nailbiters. In fact, the last non-incumbent candidate to win by more than ten points was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

The forecast I posted earlier is pretty consistent with recent polling, showing Obama winning by around four or five points.

Late update: See here. I would also add that, with the economic indicator I'm using, the economy is doing about as well as it was in 2004. Not stellar, but not a recession, either.

My presidential election forecast

Using economic growth (as measured with per capita real disposable income growth between the 2nd quarter prior to the election year and the 2nd quarter of the election year), presidential Gallup approval on Labor Day (I'm guessing Bush will be at around 30), a variable measuring how many terms the president's party has held the White House, and a variable measuring whether there is currently a war going on, I predict...

John McCain will receive 47.7% of the two-party vote.

This estimation has a standard error of 2.4, giving McCain roughly a 16% chance of getting over 50% of the vote.

Keep in mind all that this equation doesn't account for (campaign quality, the color of the candidates' skin, media coverage, etc.). Still, I nailed the 2004 prediction.