Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winning the future

Exit polls from Florida Republican primary:

Romney in Two Primaries

Here's a graphical comparison of Romney's performance in the Florida primaries of 2008 and 2012 among different demographic groups:
The red line is where Romney's support would be if he'd done the same in 2012 as he did in 2008. Obviously, he did much better overall, garnering an estimated 46% (as of 11:30 EST) as compared to 31% four years ago. And he improved in all the subgroups I've charted above. But he improved in some quite a bit more than in others.

He seemed to make the greatest inroads among the wealthiest voters, Catholics, women, the elderly, and those who believe the economy to be the most important issue. He made his weakest gains among Evangelicals, pro-lifers, men, and Protestants.

The gender gap strikes me as an interesting story this year. There was an enormous gender disparity in turnout in 2008, with men outpolling women 56-44. This year, the electorate was just about even between men and women. In 2008, meanwhile, Romney got 32% of men's votes and 30% of women's -- not much of a difference. This year, Romney got 41% of men and 52% of women. (Gingrich seems to have attracted men to his campaign much more than women.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Strange bedfellows

Below is California super-lobbyist Artie Samish (bottom left) and the Shah of Iran (top center). I really wonder what they discussed.
(c/o Jake Ehrlich)

Linkin' Logs

  • James Fearon: States are less belligerent after acquiring nuclear weapons. (Yes, I knew this, having studied as an undergrad under "proliferation optimist" Ken Waltz, but it's nice to see some more data backing it up.)
  • Larry Bartels: The homicide and suicide rates vary importantly with the party in control of the White House.
  • Lynn Vavreck on lying in politics.
  • Here's then-Speaker Newt Gingrich trying to convince a conservative not to run for Congress in order to protect a moderate incumbent. (I don't see this as a blemish on Gingrich's record. This is just the kind of thing you have to do when you run a congressional party.) (h/t Hans Hassell)
  • Me, Jon Bernstein, the authors of The Party Decides... we're huge in France. (h/t Hans Noel)
  • And that makes three of my fellow Colorado national Democratic delegates from 2008 who are now in the statehouse.
  • There have been more Republican debates this cycle than there were episodes of "Firefly," "Freaks & Geeks," or "Police Squad."
  • Eels always look like they just told a joke and are waiting for a reaction.
  • Not only is James Bond a crappy spy who likes watered-down drinks, but he's also a prick. (h/t Robert)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Wii Cake

Model in foreground.
I tried a new type of fondant called Choco-Pan -- a combination of buttercream and white chocolate. A bit pricey, and difficult to soften up at first, but after that it handled very nicely, and tasted much better than other fondants. Recommended.

Quote of the day

A reported exchange between Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich:
Gingrich: "Why do so many people take an instant dislike to me?"
Dole: "It saves time."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why the State of the Union matters

No, the speech won't change much. But Matt Glassman reminds us of some reasons why it's important to watch anyway. I liked this one:
The State of the Union address... portrays a more basic and correct understanding of the foundations of our republic. The executive is invited to come to Congress by the leadership of the legislature, at a time satisfactory to them. If he accepts, he leaves his residence and comes to the institutional heart of the republic, the chamber of the House of Representatives. He then waits at the door of the chamber until he is introduced by the agents of the legislature, who then lead him down the aisle, where he is received by the elected Representatives of the people and the States. He passes by the Justices of the Court, members of his government, and finally he ascends onto the House dais, where he is again introduced and received by the legislature. 
He then begins to talk. What he says may or may not matter, but the way in which he says it sure does. He does not tell the legislature what he is going to do in the following year, for there is very little he can do. He tells the legislature what he believes needs to be done, and then he asks the legislature to do it. In the endless string of presidential debates it can often feel like the President has the ability to wave his hand and enact a policy. But the State of the Union Address reminds everyone that the President of the United States can no more make a law than he can walk on water; never is it more evident how our system of government works. The President comes and visits the Representatives of the people, and he pleads with them to do what he thinks is right for the country.
Anyway, I'll likely be Tweeting the whole thing obnoxiously and enjoying the patriotic spectacle. Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can conservatives count on Newt?

I've got to strongly disagree with the Economist's RLG here (via Sullivan):
It's not that Mr Gingrich would be the best president. But watching Mitt Romney pivot to the centre with the smoothness of a consultant flipping to his next slide, a manoeuvre we can all expect him to execute the minute he wraps up the nomination, will be depressingly predictable. The perception that he will say whatever he feels he must to become president is not founded on sand. Mr Gingrich, by contrast, can almost certainly be counted on to be the same Mr Gingrich we've seen in the primaries. Say what you like about the man, but he has ideas, says arresting things, and most of all, would make the clearest possible contrast with Barack Obama in the general election. [emphasis added]
On the contrary: Newt is an enormous flip-flopper! Does anyone out there recall his big debate with then-President Bill Clinton in New Hampshire in 1995? This was the first opportunity for Americans (well, C-SPAN viewers, anyway) to see these two titans of the mid-90s -- the great intellectual leaders of conservatism and liberalism, the warriors anointed by rival tribes -- duke it out mano a mano. And this was right after the 1994 elections, during which Gingrich had led his team to victory claiming that Democrats were the party of incest-perpetrators and child-killers. How did he do against Clinton?

He was civil, pleasant, and conciliatory. He spoke about saving Medicare, he praised Americorps, he shook hands with the president over lobbying reform. They shared some laughs. The bomb thrower vanished in the presence of the Democratic president.

In general, Newt's policy positions are famously unstable, to the point where he makes Romney look like a rock in contrast. But the idea that he's going to stick it to Obama in the debates? Well, there's just no evidence for that. Picking a nominee solely because he'd be a good debater is generally a silly idea, but particularly so in Gingrich's case.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What the second coming of Newt means for party scholars

According to the latest tallies, Newt Gingrich has defeated Mitt Romney in South Carolina by 14 points, after trailing him by double-digits just a few days ago. Yes, that's pretty astounding. So what does this mean for those of us who study parties for a living?

Readers will recall that I have strongly endorsed the Cohen et al. book The Party Decides on several occasions. I consider this probably the most important book on presidential nominations in print. I am currently teaching it to my undergraduates, and I subscribe to its thesis that party insiders determine nominations. It would be hard to read this book and come away thinking that anyone other than Romney will be the Republican nominee this year. After all, he's had a strong advantage in insider endorsements for the past year, and polling suggests that while he's certainly not everyone's first choice, he's a lot of people's second choice. That is, he's broadly acceptable within the party, even if most people aren't enthusiastic about him. That's classic nominee material. (The one important caveat is that a lot of insiders have declined to endorse so far.)

Newt Gingrich, conversely, is precisely the sort of candidate who should not win according to this theory. He has astonishingly little support among Republican insiders. (Indeed, the opposite: Republican elites have gone out of their way to trash him.) He has little money. He is sustained only by his savvy use of the media. Previous candidates who have attempted this path to the nomination include Jerry Brown '92, Howard Dean '04, Gary Hart '88, Mike Huckabee '08... basically, the really interesting losers. No one has pulled this off, really, since Jimmy Carter in '76, and that was before party insiders had learned to master the post-McGovern-Fraser-reforms system.

So, as I've said before, this contest is turning into a fantastic test of the Cohen et al. thesis. If Gingrich were to somehow win the nomination, that would be pretty astounding, and we'd have to say that the system has changed. Perhaps the overwhelming number of debates changed the dynamic, and party insiders didn't control those as well as they can control primaries. Perhaps the rise of Super PACs made a difference, allowing a very, very small number of eccentric wealthy people to have inordinate influence over the contests.

Again, my assumption is that the system has not changed significantly, and that party insiders will rise up again to crush Gingrich as they did back in December. And Lord knows they have the material to do it. But at the very least, this is already becoming a more interesting contest than most of us predicted.

Update: For more on this topic, be sure to check out Nate Silver's post, although you probably already have.

Well, the math is easy

I suppose they're obligated to show us a race cross-tab in the South Carolina Republican exit polls, but still...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Essential party readings III

Unnamed Democratic party boss, as quoted by journalist T. H. White in 1956:
Look, let me explain in terms of my own governor. When I decided to nominate him, I called him in and said, "Today, I'm the boss. But when I nominate you and you're elected, you'll be the boss because you're governor. I'm putting a gun in your hand and you can shoot me with it."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What endorsement?

Interesting. Perry drops out and backs Gingrich this morning. By this evening, two of his three superdelegates remain unaligned, and one has switched to Romney.

The GOP Field

Important point from Jonathan Bernstein:
It's just worth remembering that the real GOP field this time was at least Romney, Pawlenty, Perry, and Barbour, and perhaps also several others, including Palin, Thune, Christie, and Daniels. That's the real field that we should consider when assessing what Romney beat. Most of the others who showed up for debates and even took votes in some primaries, such as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, were just sideshows.
It gets a bit fuzzy when we try to determine exactly who the field of candidates is in a given year, since many of them are selected out during the invisible primary stage, long before anyone begins voting or conducting debates. Kerry wanted to run in 2008. Gore wanted to run in 2004. So did Daschle. But after enough discussions with potential donors, activists, and endorsers, they became convinced it wouldn't happen, so they decided not to run.

What's more, it's often the highest quality candidates -- the ones who understand the difference between a winnable and an unwinnable campaign -- who select out of the pool the quickest. The Pawlentys and Christies of the world likely looked at the way the field was shaping up (specifically, how much inside support Romney had) and figured they just couldn't make it happen this year. The people who are left in by the time the voting starts either don't realize they can't win (Bachmann, Santorum), are just trying to raise some issues of importance (Paul), or have nowhere else to go (Gingrich).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A man with a plan

This explains basically everything you need to know about the man:
A year into his first full-time teaching job, Newt Gingrich applied to be college president, submitting with his application a paper titled "Some Projections on West Georgia College's Next Thirty Years."

Funding in the 2012 elections

Mark Schmitt wrote last week about how Super PACs were allowing for zombie presidential candidates who now have the funding to walk the Earth long after a lack of endorsements or victories should have finished them off. I think this is just the beginning of the ways that some post-Citizens United funding innovations will affect the 2012 presidential election.

It's hard to know, going into the race, which side will have more mysterious funding backing it. There is no shortage of wealthy benefactors in either party who would be willing to give millions of dollars if they thought it might affect the presidential election. But this lack of knowledge increases the uncertainty surrounding the election considerably.

In 2008, McCain's team went into the general election knowing it was facing a condition of asymmetric warfare: Obama's team could outspend them 2 to 1 anywhere. Now, there are tactics you can pursue knowing you're facing such a situation in order to confuse your opponent, such as being ambiguous about just where you're devoting your resources. I think McCain did some things along these lines. Not that they helped him a great deal in the end, but in a closer race, perhaps such tactics could make a difference.

This year, conversely, neither side really has any idea what the funding situation looks like in advance. Yes, Obama and (presumably) Romney will be able to look at each other's campaign finance disclosures, but those will only reveal a modest percentage of the spending that will occur this year. Where will these Super PACs deploy their spending? What sort of messages will they convey, and will those messages be consistent with what the campaign is trying to say? How do you form a strategy if you have no idea what your opponent's capabilities are, or if you don't even know what your own capabilities are?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Political Networks... in Colorado!

I'm pleased to announce that the fifth annual Political Networks Conference will be held in Boulder June 13th-16th, and is being co-sponsored by the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. Boulder's Anand Sokhey and I will be the host chairs. The call for papers can be found here and we are accepting applications through March 1st.

The conference features both introductory and advanced trainings in networks methods, as well as many panels and poster sessions with some cutting-edge political networks folks. This is a great opportunity to learn about this topic and meet some of the people doing this research.

Apply now!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great moments with Mr. Linkin

  • John Sides: Martin Luther King, Jr., was actually once a controversial figure.
  • Matt Glassman: Why libertarians should support civil rights laws.
  • Mark Schmitt: Super PACs are sustaining undead presidential candidates.
  • Jonathan Bernstein: The Senate is not in recess, something senators will be happy to prove once they're back from recess.
  • Andrew Sullivan: The left and the right are similarly deluded about Obama's presidency, which has been remarkably successful.
  • Matt Yglesias: The public sector shrunk shrank by more than a quarter million jobs last year. Step 3: Profit?
  • Erik Klemetti: If you fell into lava, you would float rather than sink. The experience would still be unpleasant.
  • Oh, and it turns out orcas eat great white sharks' livers. As a palate cleanser.
Note: Must credit Rob Rushing for noting my incorrect grammar.

Americans Elect: Voters, schmoters

Remember Americans Elect, the mysteriously-bankrolled third party group seeking ballot access in all fifty states? Remember how they're going to have a big on-line convention this June so that you get to choose the ticket? Well, it turns out they're doing most of the choosing for you. They're trying (so far unsuccessfully) to recruit some established political figure with weak parties ties to run. They've already called Bob Kerrey, Lamar(!) Alexander, Joe Lieberman, and Chuck Hegel to no avail, although I assume they still have plenty of other retirement-aged white guys in their Rolodex. (Is Lowell Weicker still available?)

Now, I have no problem with party leaders narrowing the field of candidates -- that's what parties do! But Americans Elect has been going out of its way to argue that it's not a party. It's supposed to be something different. They invite you to nominate candidates and have a vibrant debate. CEO Kahlil Byrd claims that the group "has no candidate and has no issue."

And now it turns out they're just like the other parties, with insiders doing the selecting for you. The only difference is that they don't stand for anything.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Information is power: Civil War edition

Susan Schulten has a typically awesome piece up in the New York Times about the use of the telegraph during the Civil War. Being able to coordinate war efforts in real time was a tremendous advantage for Lincoln, but it wasn't exactly laid out as such when he moved into the White House:
When he took office in March, the telegraph extended only to the Navy Yard and the War Department, not the White House. For several months thereafter the administration had to use the city’s central telegraph office to send its dispatches.
By contrast, the nerve center of the Union war effort in 1861 was found at the headquarters of Gen. George McClellan, who had actually issued a standing order that all messages were to be given solely to him. Such was the situation in October 1861, when telegrams reporting the disastrous Union defeat at Ball’s Bluff were brought directly to McClellan as he met with Lincoln in the White House. McClellan withheld the news from Lincoln, who later learned of both the defeat at Ball’s Bluff and that his close friend Edward Baker had been killed in action. Such a policy was unacceptable, and Lincoln soon transferred control of the telegraph from McClellan’s headquarters to the War Department.

Why go "proportional"?

I'm just back from the Southern Political Science Association conference in New Orleans. (Ate a lot of fried stuff.) I attended a particularly interesting panel on the role of the states in the current presidential nomination race. Josh Putnam, one of the panelists, was asked why the Republicans have gone with a somewhat more proportional delegate allocation system this year. After all, the Republican method has traditionally been winner-take-all, while Democrats have traditionally favored proportionality. What led Republicans to believe that a potentially protracted nomination battle was better for their party?

Now, Josh has already dispensed with the idea that Republicans have really gone proportional. (Hence the quotes in the title above.) But to the extent they've changed the system at all, he offered an educated guess. Josh noted that the new rules were essentially handed down by then-chairman Michael Steele after the last presidential election. It is possible that Steele noticed that the Democrats' protracted nomination battle in 2008 not only didn't end up hurting the ticket in the fall, but may have ended up helping. That is, Obama/Clinton contests on rarely-fought terrain like North Carolina and Indiana allowed Obama to build up a campaign infrastructure in the spring, which he could translate into a general election infrastructure in the fall. (And yeah, the campaign infrastructure in those swing states could have made the difference.) So perhaps the Republicans were actually looking for a somewhat drawn out spring contest, hoping it would give them a better shot against Obama this fall.

Admittedly, this is an educated guess, but it sounds like a pretty good one to me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pass the putzy on the left-hand side

My brother put together this video for his wife's birthday, featuring friends and family members throwing with their non-dominant hands. It's pretty damned funny, but what particularly interests me is the fact that up until just a few years ago, this video would have cost tens of thousands of dollars and required some serious professionals who knew how to film and edit. Basically, it wouldn't have been made. Today, it's almost costless to crowd-source the video work, and the editing took a few hours on a home computer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trading it in for a bucket of warm spit

Bill Keller's Sunday NYT op/ed suggesting that Obama drop Joe Biden from the ticket and replace him with Hillary Clinton strikes me as rather silly. While not as mean-spirited as the Caddell/Schoen please-wreck-your-party memo, I can't imagine what purpose such a suggestion serves. I can understand that some people, particularly Hillary supporters from the 2008 days, would like to see her name in the top slot on the party's ballot and may want a chance to vote for her for national office. But beyond that, I think this idea suffers from two important errors:

  • Error 1: Hillary Clinton would help the Democrats retain the presidency. I see no evidence that she brings any voters to the Democratic side who aren't already there. Yes, I know her approval ratings are currently higher than President Obama's, but that's basically because she isn't the president and isn't receiving blame for economic difficulties. Remember, Obama has basically polled ahead of where economic conditions would predict him to be. Also remember: she's a deeply polarizing figure! She may not look that way now, but put her on the executive ticket and see what happens. Besides, everyone already knows she's a prominent member of the Obama administration. Why changing her job title would bring in additional voters escapes me.
  • Error 2: The Vice Presidency is a promotion above Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton has been the United States' public face abroad during a period of extraordinary international changes. My impression is that she's managed this position rather well, projecting U.S. interests and priorities without appearing overtly pushy or imperialistic. It's a serious job and she's handling it in a serious way. Conversely, what would she be doing as Vice President beyond sitting around waiting for a close vote in the Senate or President Obama's death? When was the last time you read about Joe Biden when it wasn't about him making a gaffe? I have no doubt Biden has been important behind the scenes in dealing with colleagues on Capitol Hill, and Clinton could do the same thing, but this role is very much out of the limelight and it's not obvious just how effective she could be there, particularly if Republicans retain control of at least one chamber. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

More indicators of Romney's insider advantage

The good folks at Democratic Convention Watch have been keeping tallies of the Republican superdelegates (or "automatic delegates") who have pledged for the various candidates. This distribution looks a lot like the others:
Some important points to note here. First, as with most other indicators of insider support this year, a lot of people are remaining publicly neutral. There are still 118 superdelegates (89% of the total!) who could pledge toward a candidate but have not yet done so. Maybe they just haven't made up their minds, maybe they lean Romney but are scared of possible blowback if they publicly endorse... it's hard to say.

Second, the distribution above again convinces me that Rick Perry remains the only viable alternative if Romney somehow falters. Yes, his public performances have ranged from abysmal to just passable, with the median being closer to abysmal. But he still has the broadest insider support after Romney and would probably be the easiest for the party to rally around.

Update: Another way of looking at the above data:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Where the race now stands

Despite Santorum's admittedly impressive performance in Iowa, it is very hard to see a way in which Mitt Romney is not the Republican nominee this year. Romney continues to maintain an enormous edge over the other candidates in terms of insider endorsements and funding. He has the advantage of being the insiders' candidate: he can run everywhere, and he can withstand a setback anywhere.

Santorum, meanwhile, gives every impression of being a flavor of the week who happened to hit at just the right time for a surprise in Iowa. If Iowa had happened a week earlier, it would've been Paul with 25%. Two weeks before that, it would've been Gingrich. I expect Santorum to do reasonably well (15%? 20%?) in New Hampshire but just not have the funding or infrastructure to maintain a run beyond that. He could do okay in South Carolina, but Rick Perry's decision to compete there means the Evangelical vote will be largely split, providing a big help to Romney.

All this said, Romney is a very curious candidate. I can't think of a previous presidential candidate with such an enormous advantage in insider support who was nonetheless so despised by such a substantial chunk of his party. (Hubert Humphrey? Maybe, but he at least had an impressive track record on issues like civil rights that might have reassured liberal activists in 1968. Romney has no such goodwill among conservative activists.) The question is what that means for this year. My impression has been that conservatives will largely suck it up. Despite their misgivings about Romney's faith and his pretty recent liberalism, they will come to view him as far superior to four more years of Obama, and they will turn out for him. Some Republicans tell me otherwise, though. Will Evangelical activists stay home? Will Tea Partiers back a third party candidate? What if Ron Paul runs as a Libertarian or on the Americans Elect ticket? Yeah, that could mess up the election for Republicans big time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Campaigning like a nominee?

Charles Stewart III has a really nice quickie analysis comparing the county-level Republican caucus votes in Iowa in 2012 and 2008. There are a couple of cool findings in there. One is that the strongest correlation from one cycle to the next comes from the Huckabee '08 vote versus the Bachmann + Perry + Santorum vote -- basically, the social conservatives. It reinforces the idea of the Iowa Republican caucus goers being divided pretty neatly into three persistent camps: social conservatives, business Republicans, and libertarians.

The other cool finding was that Romney's 2012 caucus vote correlates slightly better with McCain's 2008 vote than it does with Romney's 2008 vote. This means... something. I'm not entirely sure what. I like to think that it means that Romney, the likely nominee this year, absorbed some of the infrastructure and tactics of McCain, the eventual nominee four years ago. But that may be a stretch.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

White Men Can Count

First of all, I'd like to commend C-SPAN for its coverage of Iowa Caucus events. If you watched last night, you saw regular Iowa citizens getting together to try to pick a president. They gave unpolished speeches, they voted, they counted the votes, they called in the results, then a few stuck around to talk about platform positions and to decide who would represent the candidates at the county conventions. People often compare caucusing with primary voting, describing the former as involving more conversation and taking more time. But it some ways it's closer to jury duty, only a lot less depressing. It's regular people coming together to perform an important civic duty. It was great to watch. Okay, maybe watching Iowans count green sheets of paper isn't your idea of a good time on a Tuesday night, but if so, you're probably not reading this blog.

Second, I want to address this article about Ron Paul's post-caucus strategy. The gist is that the Paul people are very organized and made sure that their supporters stuck around after the initial counts to run for delegates to the county conventions. This is how you ultimately end up with a greater share of national convention delegates than your caucus-night showing would predict. The naive campaign treats a caucus like a primary and leaves as soon as the voting is done. The smart campaign realizes that the caucus is just the first step in the selection of delegates and sticks around to try to control the post-caucus selections. (I wrote about this with regards to Obama and Clinton back in 2008). Anyway, I think Josh Putnam is right that Paul could end up with significantly more delegates than expected thanks to this level of organization, although I agree with Jon Bernstein that this won't make a difference for the nomination.

One point I'd like to add: In the Business Insider article linked to above, the author writes:
Iowa's Republican caucuses are non-binding — they are technically just a straw poll, so once selected, delegates are free to vote for whichever presidential candidate they choose.
I think the whole binding/non-binding thing is a bit of a red herring with regards to caucuses. I hope Josh or Jon will correct me here if I'm wrong, but the way that caucuses get to choose their delegates to the next levels (county, district, state, national) all but ensures that those delegates will be extremely loyal to their preferred candidate. After the Iowa caucuses last night, Romney supporters in each precinct gathered together to pick the people among them who would best support Romney at the county conventions. Now, there'd be no official sanction if one of them defected to Paul or Santorum, but that person would be a fool to do it. She'd be immediately distrusted and despised among local Iowa Republicans, and if she cared enough about her reputation in local politics to get involved in the county convention in the first place, that's an outcome she'd like to avoid. Now, if Romney somehow dropped out of the race and encouraged his supporters to back Santorum (this won't happen, but stick with me), that delegate would be happy to follow his request. But short of that, he can expect a great deal of loyalty from his "non-binding" delegates.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Get your nerd on

Iowa Caucus day. I can't tell you how jazzed I am. I don't have a whole lot to say so far that hasn't been said elsewhere, so I'll just link to some of the better recent posts. But I will post this recent polling chart, noting that the Ron Paul wave has probably already crested and that Santorum probably timed his wave about as well as possible... maybe just a few days too late.
Not that he really did anything to cause this wave to happen, or course. Near as I can tell, Santorum's been saying and doing roughly the same things for months. I saw him briefly interviewed on Fox last night, where he was asked why he's been rising in the polls. He didn't know. That's not a dig on Santorum. It's just a sign that what's going on out there has very little to do with the candidates' actions and a great deal to do with voters and activists still desperately seeking a conservative alternative to Romney. It also reminds us that if the anti-Romney activists could somehow unite on a single candidate, they could probably win this thing. But we've seen little evidence that they're capable of doing that with the given field of candidates.


  • Brendan Nyhan has a nice piece on the media's role in creating a post-Iowa narrative.
  • Jonathan Bernstein feels patriotic about today, and so do I.
  • John Sides and Lynn Vavreck (reporting live from Iowa!) offer some evidence that the Iowa caucuses are actually pretty representative of the state.
  • Josh Marshall watches the GOP establishment crush Gingrich and becomes a convert to The Party Decides (even if he doesn't mention it by name).
  • Eitan Hersh finds that caucus goers aren't really different from primary voters in terms of ideology, but they do tend to be more passionate about community activism.
  • Brendan Loy: "In the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of being the Anti-Romney."
  • Think Iowans are a bunch of hicks? Think again: