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November 30, 2006

Obama's Moment?

Lynn Sweet predicts Barack Obama will run for President in 2008. Strangely enough, the first thought that ran through my head when I read Sweet's article was, "this is going to drive John Kass nuts."

As some of you may know, Kass is the extremely talented, prolific, and (lone) conservative columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He's also one of the only columnists in the country - if not the only one - who hasn't completely lost his faculties and fallen down prostrate before Obama over the last couple of years - and if Obama does run for President that'll make Kass one of the country's most important columnists as well.

Here's what Kass wrote about Obama back on November 2, the day after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that Obama got a killer deal on some real estate in Chicago done in partnership with Tony Rezko, Governor Rod Blagojevich's rainmaker pal who was recently indicted on charges of corruption:

The Tribune story serves notice to all the national columnists, editorial writers and political reporters who've been genuflecting before their Obama icons. He might not walk on water after all.

So they should stop with the gooey public relations and start reporting before Obamaniacs seed Iowa's presidential cornfields this spring.

Obama isn't a bad fellow. I like him. He knows he's being used by some Democrats who see him as a pretty black candidate first rather than a man and as some empty vessel without a record into which they pour their ambition. There's racism in that, although they can't see it and probably never will.

They see Obama as some horse to ride into the 2008 presidential elections, a horse that's not named Hillary. [snip]

Some pundits will ignore the Tribune report because it doesn't fit the gauzy public relations narrative they've told so often that they've hypnotized themselves. Besides, they're busy helping Sen. John Kerry take his loafer out of his mouth.

Others will engage in fantastic verbal contortions, suggesting Obama is a victim of cynical reporters, a victim of the cunning Tony Rezko. This would suggest Obama is far too naive to become president, so they'll contort some more. Such gymnastics promise to be hilarious.

The fact is the Obamas and the Rezkos bought property in a fashionable South Side neighborhood next to each other on the same day, from the same lot, and the Obamas came out the winners.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kass for the first time just a few days after he wrote this column, and we talked about the Democrats' enfatuation with Obama, a man few in the country know anything about.

Consider just how meteoric Obama's rise has been. In 2000, he lost badly to Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary in Illinois 1st Congressional District. Four years later, with only about a month left in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary, Obama was running tied with Dan Hynes for second place, ten points behind gazillionaire Blair Hull - until the frontrunner's campaign imploded in mid-to-late February amid revelations his wife had filed a restraining order against him for abuse (I think he admitted kicking her in the shin during a spat, if I recall).

Barring that last minute turn of events, Obama would still be an Illinois State Senator and two-time loser for higher office that no one in the country had ever heard of.

Instead, Obama won the primary in March and went on to give an excellent keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in August. Just like that, before he'd even officially been elected to the Senate, Obama became an overnight sensation and suddenly morphed into presidential material among Democrats and the media.

And so here we are. I don't know if Obama is going to run or whether he's presidential material or not. But as history has repeatedly shown, presidential politics is very much about timing and about being the person who rises to meet the opportunity of the moment. 2008 could very well be such a moment for Obama. Then again, maybe not.

Unforced Errors

Michael Barone runs down a list of recent unforced errors in Senate races by the GOP - and the Dems.

The BAE Scandal

In his RCP column today, Jed Babbin takes a look at the ongoing investigation involving BAE Systems, a British defense manufacturer, and Saudi Arabia. It seems BAE set up a "slush fund" of some 60 million-plus pounds to bribe Saudi officials into continuing to contract for arms purchases. That money was channeled through "fixer" Wafic Said, a Syrian born Brit and friend to the Saudi Royal Family who has subsequently risen to become one of the country's wealthiest men.

As Babbin notes, the investigation has imperiled a twenty-billion pound contract (close to $40 billion) for 72 Typhoon fighter jets. Executives at BAE and the labor unions wants the probe to end immediately, for fear that the Saudi's will pull the contract and give it to the French.

But yesterday the Guardian reported a new breakthrough in the investigation: the discovery of a Swiss bank account controlled by Said which may show direct payments to Saudi officials. The British government outlawed such payments in 2002.

A Remarkable Birth

From today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Dayna Klein had only her unborn baby in mind when she instinctively covered her belly after a gunman stormed a Seattle Jewish center last summer.

Tuesday, she finally got to meet the son she saved.

Klein, who survived the rampage July 28 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle that killed a colleague, gave birth to Charley Paz Klein at a Seattle hospital Tuesday night, her spokesman, Howard Bragman, said. The baby weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces. [snip]

When the gunman pointed his weapon at her and squeezed the trigger, Klein swung her left hand over her belly to protect her fetus. A bullet went through her arm and grazed her thigh before lodging in the carpet.

"It was a split second that I was able to think. I don't know how, but I was," she told the Seattle P-I after the shootings. "The only thing that occurred to me was, how I was going to save my baby? That was my one shot, my one chance of saving my baby."

Even as she was wounded and bleeding, Klein managed to crawl to her desk and call 911. When the shooter pointed his gun to her head, she handed the phone to him and persuaded him to talk to the police dispatcher. He eventually put his gun down and gave up.

Hook of the Day

Mary Ann Sieghart wins the award for the intro to her takedown of London Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone:

There are quite a few useful rules of thumb in life. If something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is too good to be true. If a book is still boring after 100 pages, it's not going to improve. And if Ken Livingstone violently disapproves of someone, the chances are that they are an admirable person.

Read the rest.

November 29, 2006

Heads Up

George Will has fired off a column ripping Jim Webb over his widely reported exchange with President Bush and for his populist rant in the Wall St. Journal last week. Will calls Webb a "pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language" - among other things - in a fairly withering assault from start to finish. The column is embargoed until midnight tonight (Eastern), but you can catch it on RCP starting at 12:01.

The Nancy He Knew

If you haven't already checked out Ethan Wallison's recollections of Nancy Pelosi , I strongly suggest you find five minutes and give it a read.

More 2008 News

In addition to the posts on Wes Clark and John Kerry below, here's more of the latest on 2008:

The Hotline is reporting Bill Frist will announce at 1pm Eastern today that he won't be running for President.

The Boston Globe reports Mitt Romney is planning to set up his '08 HQ in Boston's North End. And elentless Romney booster Kathryn Jean-Lopez points out Mitt's latest "gets."

The Giuliani Blog speculates excitedly over news that California and Florida might move up their primaries.

It only seems like John Edwards lives in Iowa.

Eye on 08 looks at who has the highest favorite son (or daughter, as the case may be) ratings.

Dear John

At the HuffPo, Stephen Kaus writes an amusing open letter to John Kerry begging him not to run again in '08:

Dear Senator Kerry:

I write as a supporter of yours in 2004, from way before the convention, to suggest that you do yourself a favor and announce now that you are not running in 2008 and will devote your full efforts to helping the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Ironically, this may be your best bet to be considered Presidential material again some day.

They say that when you are in a hole you should first stop digging. If you keep running for President, please write me from China.

Kaus's final piece of advice to Kerry: " Oh, and don't appear in public doing effete sports that require spandex or harnesses."

Lesson Learned

Wes Clark says if he runs for President again in 2008, he won't make the same mistake of getting off to a late start.

Who's It Going To Be?

The news about Nancy Pelosi passing over Alcee Hastings for the Chairmanship of the House Intel Committee came out last night, but in this morning's Washington Post Jonathan Weisman and Peter Slevin do a final smack down of Hastings' claims of innocence in much the same way Byron York did yesterday. Weisman and Slevin write:

He [Hastings] pointed repeatedly to his 1983 acquittal by a Miami jury and wrote that it is "amazing how little importance" his critics give that verdict. The events that followed that trial, he said, "are so convoluted, voluminous, complex and mundane that it would boggle the mind."

In fact, there is a certain simplicity in the conclusion drawn by an investigating committee of five eminent federal judges, each with strong civil rights credentials. Those judges, and later more than three dozen others, concluded that Hastings lied to the Miami jury as many as 15 times to win acquittal.

So who's it going to be? The three candidates being mentioned are Silvestre Reyes, Norm Dicks, and Sanford Bishop. Rush Holt is also in the mix.

Dicks says he hasn't talked to anyone about the Intel Chairmanship and he's not interested besides.

Reyes is the next most senior member on the committee after Hastings, but one can only imagine the anger directed at Pelosi by Congressional Black Caucus, first for ousting William Jefferson and now for passing on Hastings.That would seem to make Bishop a reasonable compromise, especially since he was orgininally bounced from the Intel Committee to seat Harman.

What Iran & Syria Want

On Thursday, President Bush will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in Jordan. The vast majority of the meeting will undoubtedly focus on the challenges of controlling the sectarian violence in Iraq and achieving national reconciliation, but the President should also get a thorough debriefing on Iraq's recent dealings with Iran and Syria.

Coming on the heels of Iraqi President Talabani's visit to Iran and Iraq's diplomatic normalization with Syria, President Bush has good reason to wary of these developments - and to hear what Maliki has to say about where these bilateral relationships are going.

It's clear that both Iran and Syria are trying to co-opt Iraq into their sphere on influence. Of course, the first thing Tehran and Damascus will try to get their new Iraqi friends to do is to pull the plug on the U.S. presence there. From Tehran's and Damascus' perspective, the fewer Americans in the region to check their plans for hegemony, the better.

But they also intend to use promises of peace and stability in Iraq as a bargaining chip in advancing other aspects of their agendas as well.

Iran wants to use Iraq as leverage to get the U.N. to back off pressuring Tehran over its nuclear (weapons) program. Tehran's message to the U.S. and other nuclear busybodies: If you want peace and stability in Iraq, don't push us on our nuclear program.

Syria will also try to leverage peace and stability in Iraq for an end to the U.N.'s investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus would also like a green light to re-establish its influence in Lebanon, and, perhaps, even try to get the U.S. to pressure Israel to reopen negotiations over the Golan Heights.

The fact is that if Iran and Syria are really part of the solution to the violence in Iraq, it stands to reason that they must also currently be part of the problem. And considering the trouble Tehran and Damascus are already causing in the Middle East, you have to be very careful that giving Iran and Syria a say in Iraq doesn't create more problems than it solves.

The Limits of Free Speech

Yessterday Newt Gingrich floated the idea that freedom of speech may need to be curbed in certain circumstances to meet the threat of terrorism.

The newspaper article didn't give much context to Gingrich's remarks, but I suppose you can conjure up scenarios where the public good would be served by abridging some free speech rights in certain instances. Still, the libertarian in me recoils at talk of "re-examining" the boundaries of freedom of speech.

As questionable as Gingrich's remarks on free speech are, however, they pale in comparison to the views of Jesse Jackson, who wrote yesterday that it's time to outlaw the n-word and other "hate speech:"

Our forefathers created the First Amendment to ensure a robust public debate and to prohibit the government from making laws to squelch political speech, even speech critical of our leaders. But obscenity has never enjoyed that protection, nor should it. Yelling ''fire'' in a crowded theater does not have protection. Similarly, hate speech -- like that wielded by [Michael] Richards -- has and should be illegal.

Imagine the sight of someone dialing the cops that night at the Laugh Factory and the police hauling Richards off in handcuffs.

Now imagine what a thoroughly impossible task defining hate speech would be. Who get to decide which words are considered hateful? Jesse Jackson? A "bi-partisan, blue ribbon commission?"

Certainly the n-word would be on the list (though that alone would probably criminalize about half of the rap music sold in stores, and played on the radio and MTV). But what about words that could be considered hurtful to other groups? Could Jesse Jackson be locked up for, oh, I don't know, calling Jews "hymies" and New York "hymietown?"

Since free speech is what you write as well as what you say, would writers and/or bloggers be fined for using or reprinting certain words? And could you be prosecuted for, say, publishing material like this deemed by some to be racially offensive?

steeleblackface.jpg

What about the Mohammed Cartoons? Would Jackson have classified the cartoons as "hate speech" toward Muslims, thereby making it a crime for newspapers to rerpint them?

Irrespective of whether Jackson's intentions are noble or not - and I have my doubts - the idea of categorizing and criminalizing "hate speech" is nuts. Our job as a society is to define and defend the limits of free speech by shaming and castigating those who go beyond what the majority finds acceptable. That's what happened in the case of Michael Richards, and it's exactly the way things are supposed to work.

November 28, 2006

Hurricane Sheila Playing With Other People's Security

Lots of people have commented on Audrey Hudson's report on how and why the flying imams were removed from the recent U.S. Airways flight. The one passage that caught my attention was this:

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, said the September 11 terrorist attacks "cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans.

"Understandably, the imams felt profiled, humiliated, and discriminated against by their treatment," she said.

Ms. Jackson-Lee is perfectly happy to force airline employees and passengers disregard a group of Muslim men exhibiting conspicuously strange behavior and climb on board a jet, but I bet she wouldn't be willing to get on that plane herself. I'm speculating, of course, but it strikes me as another example of liberals demanding that others bear the sort of risk they'd be unwilling to bear themselves were they in similar circumstances.

There's a rich irony to the story as well, given that Ms. Jackson-Lee has her own history of "terrorizing" air travelers with outrageously rude behavior - so much so she was eventually banned from flying Continental Airlines:

But in February 1998, things finally came to a head. On a flight home to Houston, Jackson Lee became enraged when flight attendants failed to produce the seafood special she liked. "Don't you know who I am?" she reportedly thundered. "I'm Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Where is my seafood meal? I know it was ordered!"

That outburst prompted a phone call to Jackson Lee from Rebecca Cox, vice president of Continental's government affairs office in Washington and the wife of California Republican Chris Cox. The message? Straighten up and fly right, or don't fly with us.

Cox did not return calls seeking comment, but a member of Jackson Lee's staff who fielded the call remembered Cox saying, "[Jackson Lee] screamed at the top of her lungs at least a minute. She embarrassed the flight attendants and the passengers in first class. And she embarrassed herself." Cox then joked, "We have already given her the Delta Airlines schedule."

Jackson Lee got back on board with Continental, but not for long. In May 1999, as Continental flight 1961 prepared to leave Reagan National Airport in Washington, Jackson Lee became flustered when she couldn't find her purse. Thinking she had left it in the boarding area, she went back to search for it. Meanwhile, the plane pulled away from the gate. Moments later, her purse was found onboard. According to aviation lobbyists at the time, Jackson Lee demanded that she be let back on the flight. Airline employees explained that FAA rules prohibit planes from returning to the gate once they've taxied away, but Jackson Lee was unconvinced. She accused the gate staff of racism and demanded to see their supervisor, who was a black woman. Her purse, meanwhile, was unceremoniously dropped out of the cockpit window and ferried back to her.

Ms. Jackson-Lee is often referred to as "Hurricane Sheila" because of her rudeness, temper, and the fact she made a big stink a few years ago that the names given to hurricanes by the National Weather Center were too "lily white" and not sufficiently ethnic sounding.

The Washingtonian's most recently "Best and Worst of Congress," list Ms. Jackson-Lee finishes in second place as the chamber's "meanest" member, and she wins top honors as the "biggest windbag" and also the House's "show horse." In dishing out this last award, the editors of The Washingtonian quipped, "Staffers have proposed a drinking game to honor the Texan, who gets more than twice as many votes as others: 'Sheila Jackson-Lee is on C-Span. Do a shot.'"

Carney's Ratings

Two interesting tidbits from this NYT profile of Chris Carney, the new Democrat representing Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District. Carney worked for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith in the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group at the Pentagon, searching for links between Iraq and al-Qaeda:

In the summer and fall of 2002, Mr. Carney was at the center of the storm, briefing George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, on the Feith unit's assessment of any links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. At the time, the unit was creating controversy within the government for arguing that there was significant evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. [snip]

Today, Mr. Carney says he still believes there were links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, although he is careful not to overstate them.

"On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 was no connection and 10 was operational control, I would say it's about a 2½," he said in an interview. "It was a relationship of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer," he added. "Saddam was a savvy guy, and I think he wanted to make sure that if Al Qaeda someday became a force, that he wanted to keep his options open. I thought that there was a relationship. Whether it was strong enough to go to war, that's the president's decision."

Interesting that Carney admits what other Democrats have flatly denied in public for at least the last two years. And knowing human nature, I suspect Carney is retrospectively downgrading his assessement of Iraq-al Qaeda ties for a number of reasons. I'll bet if you asked him at the time, Carney would have rated the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda more in the 4-6 range, or perhaps even higher.

As with WMD intel, it's easy to sit back with the benefit of hindsight and say what dots we should or shouldn't have connected, and far more difficult to weigh the risks and make the hard choices.

There's also this:

But Mr. Carney is not enthusiastic about the possibility of a new Congressional investigation of prewar intelligence, which he said would be a major distraction.

Of course Carney doesn't want an investigation, since he was right in the thick of the intel operation which the Democrats have gone out of their way over the last few years to malign and exploit as incompetent and nefariously manipulative. Can you imagine the sight of Carney testifying before House Intelligence Committee and watching his fellow Democrats rake him and others over the coals for "lying" us into Iraq?

Midterm Results Point to Increased Volatility Among the Electorate

Yesterday USA Today carried a story titled "Democratic Gains in Suburbs Spell Trouble for GOP."

Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

This isn't surprising, and it comports with other data showing Republicans lost Independent voters. Over the next several months there will be considerable debate about whether the '06 mid-terms foreshadow the beginning of a more significant realignment away from the GOP towards the Democratic Party.

I think it is wise to be careful not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from the mid-term results, because of Iraq's dominating influence over the election. There is no doubt that Republicans lost Independent and moderate voters, and that they lost voters in the suburbs. The real question is whether this is a one-time event or the beginning of a trend. Was 2006 more of a vote of no-confidence on U.S. Iraq policy, or was it the early stages of a real and sustained move among swing voters to the Democrats?

Independent voters are becoming a more significant slice of the voting public, and to the degree these voters break solidly toward one party - as they did this year - they have the ability to produce dramatic swings in the final election results. However, both parties would be foolish to think that they have an easy "in" with this swing block. Democrats would be naive to think these voters are now solidly behind a Nancy Pelosi agenda and Republicans would be equally naive to assume recent Republican-leaning Independents who deserted them this year are going to automatically return to the fold in 2008.

After the 2000 election Michael Barone referred to America as "The 49% Nation" in the Almanac for American Politics:

In 1996 Bill Clinton was re-elected with 49.2% of the vote. That same year Republicans held the House when their candidates led Democrats by a 48.9% to 48.5% margin. In 1998 Republicans held onto the House when their candidates led in the popular vote by 48.9% to 47.8%. On November 7, 2000 George W. Bush won 47.9% of the vote and Al Gore 48.4%. The same day House Republican candidates led Democrats by a 49.2% to 47.9% margin. Round off these numbers and you have 49%, 49%, 49%, 49%, 48%, 48%, 48% 49%, 48% - essentially the same number over and over.

In the 2004 presidential election 47 out of 50 states voted exactly the same way they did in 2000, with Kerry coming within a tenth, 48.3% of Gore's 48.4%. The favorable political winds from 9/11 and the War allowed President Bush and House Republicans to break out of the 48/49 deadlock with Bush drawing 51% against Kerry, and House Republicans 51% in 2002 and 50% in 2004.

But this year the mess in Iraq and the lack of any clean solution to the conflict destroyed the GOP advantage on national security and provided the catalyst for the Democrats' 52%-53% victory in the House vote.

The size of the Democratic victory is significant, though I think it speaks more to an increase in election volatility rather than a longer-term directional move toward the Democratic Party.

Volatility is retuning to American politics. The "49% Nation" stasis of the last decade is poised to be cracked wide open. This means great opportunity and great risk for both parties. Real world events and the respective leadership we see from each side, along with the choice of nominees for 2008 and the platforms they run on will have massive influence over the voters in the middle who determine the majority.

Depending on the path the parties choose over the next two years, the potential for either an electoral blowout or a significant third party candidate in 2008 is very real.

The Stakes in Iraq

Robert O'Neill is the former Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the former Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford, and Australia's preeminent scholar of international strategic studies. Last night at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, O'Neill gave a lecture titled "Prospects and Perspectives on International Security" (pdf) in which he discussed the situation in Iraq in some detail.

Here is how Professor O'Neill began his remarks:

We stand at a very testing time in terms of shaping our security environment. I do not want to be overly pessimistic. We and our forebears have come through worse situations and gone on to great periods of prosperity, relative peace and cultural achievement. But for us at this time, that happy end is by no means assured.

More importantly, here is how Profesor O'Neill described the stakes and the consequences in Iraq:

Given the result of the recent US elections, we need to think hard about the consequences of possible defeat in Iraq. To elaborate on what I said earlier, that conflict can be won only by a much more effective coalition effort, requiring a major increase in US and allied troop numbers in Iraq, substantial improvements in training and operational methods, and a much stronger civil reconstruction effort. This is not likely to happen. The probable outcomes are either a sudden descent into chaos as coalition forces are withdrawn, or a protracted civil war, overlain with an insurgency against remaining coalition forces. In the event of chaos, effective government in Iraq will cease for at least some years, during which terrorist groups will be able to concentrate, rebuild, flourish and reach out to other targets outside Iraq. Enemy forces will be heartened; recruiting will rise; funds and weapons will pour in; pressure will be exerted on regional governments friendly to the West; more young men and women who are willing to commit suicide to harm Western and Israeli interests will become available; and the oil price will rise to new heights.

Defeat in Iraq will be a serious blow to the public standing of the US and will invite other challenges to its authority. US citizens will have to be more careful of their own security both outside and inside their own country. US business abroad will feel more under threat of terrorist action.

Iran will read a message of encouragement for its intransigence in dealing with the West. It will almost certainly go ahead to produce nuclear weapons. It will exercise an overshadowing influence in Iraq, Syria, the Arab Gulf states and Israel. The lesson of US failure in Iraq will be read (perhaps wrongly) as US unwillingness to attempt regime-change in Iran. The North Koreans will probably draw similar conclusions, although with less justification than in the case of Iran because North Korea is nowhere near as strong a state. Nuclear weapons proliferation will become more difficult to control with the threat of intervention against the proliferators dismissed.

As Fouad Ajami writes, America's involvement in Iraq is "has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair." The Bush administration has been wrong about a number of things regarding Iraq, and it bears full responsibility for underestimating the difficulty we've encountered there. However, one thing they've been right about for some time, as O'Neill and other experts continue to agree, are the stakes of the struggle and the consequences of defeat.

November 27, 2006

Taxes and Ben Stein

Ben Stein's latest tax the rich article in yesterday's New York Times is so tragic because Ben is such a good guy, such a smart guy, that it pains me to say he has the story totally wrong.

Warren Buffett's secretary may have a higher tax rate than Mr. Buffett himself, but that's because Buffett made all his money from the 15 percent marginal tax rate on dividends and capital gains. Very few Americans live and work like this.

And anyway, jacking up taxes on capital investment is a completely dumb idea. What the American middle class needs is more investment to create new companies, new jobs and new technologies--all of which raise our standard of living.

Alan Reynolds, who has a new book out called "Income and Wealth," reminds me of a key reason why the top 1 percent saw their income share double to 16 percent from 8 percent. (By the way, the top 1 percent's tax share burden over the past 20 some odd years has gone from about 17 percent to 35 percent.) That is, that until recently, S-corps and LLC small businesses exploded to capture a personal tax rate that was lower than the corporate rate.

S-corp type income was only 7.8 percent in 1982, but was up to 28.4 percent in 2004, according to IRS reports. So it's just a tax shift, that's all it really is--a tax shift that is mistaken for outsized income gains.

What's more, transfer payments like the earned income tax credit, FSA and other welfare payments, as well as social security income, are not counted as low income resources.

Additionally, at lower income tax rates over the past twenty some odd years, there's been a lot less income tax evasion and a lot more income declaration--all of which shows how sensitive folks are to lower marginal tax rates.

Ben Stein says we can't cut spending. But in fact, as a share of GDP, Ronald Reagan cut spending from about 23 percent down to 20 percent; Clinton and the Gingrich Congress lowered spending to 18 percent.

Only recently, under the Bush Republicans, has spending jumped back to slightly over 20 percent. So it can be done. This is why I recommend a spending cap-spending limitation approach for Republicans. (And by the way, while many believe that CEO pay is just a continuous vertical line upward, the reality is CEO pay actually fell three straight years in the early 2000s.)

In the end, class warfare and higher tax rates will make the U.S. more like France. I don't want to be like France. Neither does Ben Stein--if he would think things through.

Is Racism a Sickness?

For years the common refrain was that racism was rooted in ignorance and fear. In that frame, combating racism, whether individual or institutional, was always seen as a matter of enlightenment, not pathology. But Michael Richards' outburst seems to have changed nature of the discussion a bit.

Richards says he's not a racist and claimed that his outburst was a product of rage and a defensive reaction to being heckled:

"This rage has no color. I know that what I said hurt an African American. I will take full responsibility for this and promote apology and go for healing. I was in a place of humiliation, and I came out with uh, a tirade to humiliate. There's no justification for the things that I said."

Richards has said that he's seeing a pyschotherapist to deal with anger management, but the issue of his anger and the racist comments it inspired are so closely linked it's hard to separate the two.

Jesse Jackson clearly thinks Richards' racism is a sickness from which he needs to "get well", a point he made repeatedly on CNN yesterday after interviewing Richards earlier in the day on his radio program.

Is Richards "sick" because of a general deep-seated anger that caused him to snap on stage, or because his rage was directed at African-Americans, or a combination of the two?

OH-15 Update

Incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce is declared the winner in Ohio 15 by 1,055 votes. The race will now go into a mandatory recount.

British Conservative "Shadow Defence Minister," Dr. Liam Fox. Interview

While in London two weeks ago, I visited with Dr. Liam Fox, MP, the Conservative Party's "shadow defense minister." We spoke about Iraq, Iran's nuclear program and NATO. The NATO meetings this week in Riga are important because NATO's operations in Afghanistan are stretching its resources thin, and there - even now - insufficient cooperation between nations' forces, reducing their effectiveness. I asked Dr. Fox why.

He said that one basic problem is the French, whose intransigence in cooperation with NATO is an historic fact. But more than the French problem, most of the nations that provide forces to the NATO operation don't really operate as a unified force. He said, "More of a worry (than French intransigence) is the fact that we have 37 countries in Afghanistan but with more than 70 operating caveats. The [NATO] Secretary General's view is not that our need was for more troops but the need to be able to use the troops that are there already." The Brits view themselves part of a NATO force, as do the Americans, but other nations' take the opposite view. Fox said, "The Germans, Italians and the Spanish are not as maneuverable and deployable for our commanders as they need to be to make an effective NATO operation." This lack of cooperation in the biggest out-of-theater NATO operation bodes ill for NATO's future. NATO is facing a big challenge: the European Union's planned defense force. It would compete with NATO for resources, and would break the Atlantic relationship between Europe and the United States. Fox isn't in favor of it.

"NATO is really at an important crossroads here," Dr. Fox said. "We Conservatives still believe that our relationship with the United States is still the most important defense relationship that we have and to move away from that transatlantic defense identity towards a European defense identity would be a huge mistake for a number of reasons.

"Our European partners don't spend enough on defense...The idea that we would be able to make up for the protective defense umbrella that we get from a partnership with the United States would be laughable if it weren't tragic. Second reason is that, of course, there is no coherence in European foreign policy outlook as was shown adequately by the situation in the Balkans...Third, we could never see the EU take over a defense role because we couldn't accept a supranational body ever committing our troops to battle."

There is a value to NATO, Fox said, that goes beyond its charter as a military alliance. It has a "brand name" and reputation that puts it on a special level. Fox said, " In public opinion polls in the United Kingdom, NATO has the same...is regarded as having the same ability to confirm moral legitimacy as the United Nations has...NATO is regarded as a force that has not only moral but legal legitimacy."

Fox believes in the Atlantic partnership, and in NATO. Divorcing America from Europe - by action of either side - is, in his view, a bad idea. "American isolationism is a bad thing for the world. Like it or not, America is the global superpower and that position by itself confers duties as well as benefits," he said. One of these duties is to hold NATO together.

I hadn't appreciated that NATO's reputation was one that could, like the UN in so many American and European minds, be a source of international legitimacy for its actions. We should be thinking of NATO in those terms, and building - and rebuilding - its abilities to make best use of it.

Edwards's Crusade

John Edwards's crusade against Wal-Mart hits another bump in the form of this editorial smackdown by the New Hampshire Union-Leader:

Former Sen. John Edwards is to spend an hour at the Manchester Barnes & Noble tonight promoting his new book. We find his choice of venue very interesting.

In Manchester, the local Wal-Mart store sits right behind the Barnes & Noble. It has more floor space, a parking lot several times the size of Barnes & Noble's, and is easier to access by car or public transportation.

But Edwards would not be caught dead inside a Wal-Mart. Saying that the company pays its employees too little, Edwards has embarked on an anti-Wal-Mart crusade. He instructs his staff members and all Americans not to shop at Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart makes plenty of money. They need to pay their people well," Edwards said at a Pittsburgh anti-Wal-Mart rally in August.

So naturally Edwards is holding his book signing at Barnes & Noble instead of Wal-Mart. Which is too bad for his anti-low-wages campaign, because in Manchester Wal-Mart pays hourly employees more than Barnes & Noble does.

The Barnes & Noble where Edwards will hawk his book pays $7 an hour to start. The Wal-Mart that sits just yards away pays $7.50 an hour.

Oh, the humanity!

It gets better. Read the rest.

All in the Family

Curt Weldon lost his seat three weeks ago, but the FBI investigation into dealings between Weldon, his daughter's consulting firm, and businessman John Gallagher continues apace. The Philadelphia Inquirer has the details - and they aren't pretty. Here's one example involving Weldon's daughter's consulting firm Solutions Worldwide and the Russian natural-gas giant Itera International Energy:

Weldon set up a Library of Congress dinner for Itera in 2002 and, on the floor of Congress, pushed for a federal grant to the firm. A month later, Itera hired Solutions for $500,000 a year.

Whether or not this meets the legal standard of a quid pro quo, it sure seems like an obvious bit of influence peddling. Even more apparent, it's a grotesque violation of common sense for a Congressman to be in any way involved with a party - or even the process - that may result in the awarding of business to a family member.

Weldon isn't alone. One of the consequences of spawning a professional legislative class in this country is the development of family connections in government-related businesses. Tom Daschle's wife was a high-powered lobbyist engaging in business while he was setting the agenda for the minority in the Senate. John Murtha's brother currently works for a firm that lobbies the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee (which Murtha will Chair in the new Congress) on behalf of defense contractors. John Doolittle's wife banked a bunch of money from Brent Wilkes as a "campaign consultant" for her husband. Tom DeLay's wife and daughter made a half-million in salary and consulting fees between 2001 and 2006 for helping run his campaigns and political action committees.

These are just a few examples that come to mind, though with a bit of investigation I'll bet the list of spouses, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who are in government-related business and/or on a political payroll would run another few pages at least. That doesn't make all these relationships illegal or unethical, mind you, but it certainly does raise concern - especially when the concept of a "conflict of interest" appears to be so foreign to many publicly elected officials.

This Just In...

America is still the most charitable nation on earth. According to the Christian Science Monitor, a new book on the subject of charitable giving by Syracuse University economist Arthur Brooks also comes to the conclusion that "conservatives are better givers than liberals:"

This pattern is less about politics, he [Brooks] says, than about charity-linked lifestyles that are most common to people who call themselves conservatives: religious commitment, marriage and children, and entrepreneurship.

November 22, 2006

The Politics of Drug Prices

The conventional wisdom in Washington is the Democrats have a winning issue with the public on whether the government should negotiate with the drug companies to set prices. I'm not so sure.

This exchange from Brit Hume's roundtable by Mort Kondracke illuminates how Republicans can win on this issue.

KONDRACKE: J.D. Power and Associates, the consumer satisfaction people, have surveyed this and 75 percent of seniors say that they are happy with the prescription part D, the prescription drug program as it exists.

HUME: Well, that may mean they're happy with the help they're getting, but that doesn't mean they think they're paying fair prices.

KONDRACKE:
Well, they're paying lower prices than anybody expected. The average premium was expected to be $34 a month per average Medicare premium it's down to $27 a month.

HUME: And this gives them an insurance policy that pays for their drugs?

KONDRACKE: Right, I mean look, what I'm tempted to say and I will say is that, you know, Milton Freedman has passed away in more ways than one. I mean, the Democrats do not belief in the private market -- private competition. The way the Medicare prescription drug plan works is that private insurance companies negotiate formularies with these various drug companies and they have lowered the price.

The Medicare system will not negotiate the price; it will set the price, the way it sets the price for regular Medicare procedures, doctor procedures. And what you have then is government control of the pharmaceutical industry, which is going to be a disaster.

The reason that V.A. prices are lower is, it's basically a socialized medical system. You go to a V.A. doctor, you go to a V.A. hospital, you go to a V.A. pharmacy and the V.A. pharmacies only have 25 percent of the drugs that seniors actually use all the time. So, you know, it doesn't work.

The private market does work. But the Democrats don't believe in it.

This is an issue Republicans can win with the public, and more importantly, can win with voters in the middle where they lost this election. Independents and moderates understand exactly the point Kondracke is making that the private market works better the government when it comes to their health care. The Democrats will have the PR carrot of lower prices, but if Republicans can credibly counter that the lower prices will come at the expense of the quality of care and future medical advances this issue will work well with independent voters they will need to get back in the majority.

Kramer & The Juice

Erin Aubry Kaplan offers a misguided effort comparing Michael Richards to O.J. as proof there is "greater tolerance for a white man's unsavory behavior than a black man's." Kaplan writes:

I'm not equating racist invective with charges of double homicide. But the reality is that there is far more tolerance for a white person's unseemly behavior than for similar behavior of somebody who isn't white, especially if the unseemliness involves race. Richards' "racist rant" has been described as a terrible but isolated incident. O.J., meanwhile, is condemned for his character.

What a terribly weak argument. Kaplan is so desperate to shoehorn these two things together to prove some sort of racial double standard she completely misses the point. Michael Richards is finished as a performer - if he wasn't already. Richards is stained forever by his behavior this week. No one will be able to sit through a single rerun of Seinfeld from this point forward without making a mental note of Richards' racist rant.

In that sense, Richards is exactly like O.J.: you simply can't look at anything O.J. has ever done, whether it's a football highlight or a clip from the Naked Gun, without seeing him as an utterly unrepentant double-murderer. (Unlike Kaplan, I'm not ambivalent about whether O.J. is a killer or not).

Kaplan says she's "not equating racist invective with charges of double homicide" except that that's exactly what she's doing. And by that measure, Michael Richards is paying a much greater price for his sin than James Orenthal Simpson is paying for his.

So Kaplan's comparison is bogus, but what about her larger point? Is there a greater tolerance for the "unsavory behavior" of whites than blacks?

When it comes to racially insensitive language, I'd say the answer is just the opposite. It seems to me that whites are generally held to a higher standard, for obvious reasons, and there is more scrutiny and less tolerance for anything that might possibly construed as racist or bigoted.

(One notable exception that springs to mind is Robert Byrd using the "n-word" on television a few years back. Even though Byrd used the term to characterize the demeanor of white adolenscents, it's something a Republican would would have been severely punished for.)

As far as other "unsavory behavior" goes, I don't know there's proof of a racial double standard. Is Robert Blake any less of a pariah than Simpson? Was Jason Blair treated differently than Stephen Glass? Perhaps there are examples out there that I'm missing, if anyone can think of some that help prove Kaplan's point please send them through.

If Kaplan wants to argue about racial double standards in the legal system (disparities in sentencing, the death penalty, etc), fine. Let's hear it. Otherwise, her attempt to compare Michael Richards and O.J. as proof of some broad racial double standard in our society just doesn't hold water.

House Updates

Incumbent Republicans Heather Wilson (NM-1) and Jean Schmidt (OH-2) both clinch wins in their respective races.

Races still outstanding:

* NC-8: Incumbent Republican Robin Hayes is clinging to a 339-vote lead.
* OH-15: Incumbent Republican Deb Pryce holds a lead of 3,717 votes over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy. Thousands of provisional ballots are in the process of being verified and/or counted.
* FL-13: Democrat Christine Jennings is challenging the result in this race, a 369 vote loss to Republican Vern Buchanan.

November 21, 2006

More on the Military and Who is Fighting and Dying

A couple of emails in response to my post on Only the Poor and Depressed Join the Military?

Good article. Campos gives me a pain. I went through the weekly Camp Lejeune paper which listed all the Marines who have so far died in Iraq. 47% were from the 13 states, including Indian territory, of the 1861-1865 Confederacy. I guess the Left has a problem processing facts....... (I.E. "......the kids from the projects in Rangel's Brooklyn congressional district and from depressed farming towns in North Dakota, and from East Los Angeles barrios -....... do the fighting and the dying.")

**********

The sad thing is that so many on the right actually got their knickers into such a twist over a total non-event as Kerry's so called oh so awful remarks daring to insult the intelligence of those in the military in the first place....but the reality of the reality is how accurate his remarks were. I'm sure you wouldn't report it, but ABC recently went undercover to capture the, shall we say, less than straight forward techniques used to lure recruits into the armed forces. The results were shocking in two different ways.

The techniques themselves were infuriating...deceptions, false claims, and out and out lies were told to many of these prospective enlistees....kind of sounds like the same things used on the American public to get us into Iraq in the first place, but I digress. However, in addition to the deceit, what was truly shocking is that their lies actually worked. What do I mean? Well, some of these recruiters told these young men and women that in fact the "war in Iraq was over," or that "we are bringing our troops home from Iraq even as we speak," and so on. Now, I don't know about you, but I find it stunning that not only would they go out on a limb and tell such bold faced lies, but that their audience is that stupid to actually believe that the war was in fact over............it's as if a big chunk of those most likely to enlist don't ever pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, or basically have a freaking clue as to what is what...and the recruiters knew this, and didn't hesitate to lie to them about the war being over. If they were all indeed "educated" these kids would have told the recruiters to go to hell....instead, they listened, and signed up! It might have come out of his mouth in a less than pretty way, but of course Kerry was accurate in what he was saying, and this ABC undercover report is a shocking testament to how uneducated many who sign up really are....it's just not politically correct to say so.


Only the Poor Join the Military?

The Rocky Mountain News continues the left wing propaganda that the U.S. military is preying on poor and disenfranchised Americans.

"We" can blather on about how freedom isn't free, and Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, but it's the great anonymous "they" - the kids from the projects in Rangel's Brooklyn congressional district and from depressed farming towns in North Dakota, and from East Los Angeles barrios - who do the fighting and the dying.

This is accepted as gospel on the Left, but the problem is the facts don't support the assertion. Just last night Major Garret reported the facts:

Now what about the charge that an all volunteer force is poorer, less educated, and more minority? Well a Heritage Foundation study last year, analyzing census data on income, race, region and education, found there that military recruits before and after 9/11 were more middle class than poor, more rural than urban, better educated than the general public, and that whites joined in higher proportions to the general population than all minority groups.

Now, I am sure some will ignore those findings because they come from the Heritage Foundation, but hard data from the census bureau is pretty difficult to fudge. The Heritage study has been out for over a year and I have not seen a credible attempt to refute its findings.

It's fine to dislike Bush and it's fine to oppose the war, but why does the left insist on perpetuating this myth?

And by the way, it is this exact attitude that got Senator Kerry in trouble with his "joke."

The Iraq Window is Closing

Eugene Robinson makes a mistake many on the left are making in interpreting the election results as a repudiation of the Iraq War and a desire to get out.

the main event is the mandate that midterm voters imposed this month, in no uncertain terms: Find a way out.

This is a common refrain among the anti-war crowd that the mid-term results were a clear message from the public to leave Iraq. The reality, however, is considerably more complicated and far from an endorsement of the get-out-of-Iraq position. If the voters were in "no uncertain terms" voting to get out of Iraq, how come one of the most liberal states in the country, where anti-war sentiment runs very strong, gave a 10-point win to the "pro-war" Independent over the "anti-war" Democrat?

As far as Iraq was concerned the public was rejecting the Bush administration's prosecution of the War these last two years. The majority of the American people were not sending a message of "find a way out," but more likely a message of "find a way to win" because what we're doing isn't working.

The hard part for the White House, the new Democratic Congress and the whole country is what if there isn't a way to win in Iraq? Or put another way, what if the nation simply isn't prepared to support what is necessary to win?

That is why you are hearing more and more calls on the right led essentially saying if we aren't going to fight and make a commitment to win we should just pack up and get out, because it is not right to the young men and women we are asking to put their lives on the line, if the country is just going to pull the plug later next year.

Bill Kristol alluded to the potential withering of GOP support this weekend on FOX News Sunday:

I think Bush has two or three months. If by the state of the union -- I agree with Brit on this -- if by the state of the union, things aren't getting better on the ground or there's not a really plausible change of tactics here at home, I am very worried that political support will crumble; not among Democrats, but among Republicans.

The window for the U.S. is closing on the Iraq battlefront. Unless there is either 1) a change of tactics and a renewed commitment to winning or 2) a substantive improvement in the security status on the ground -- Republican support for the war will crumble some time next year.

November 20, 2006

More Election 2006

A few interesting emails commenting on my post-election analysis from a couple of days ago.

Read your commentary related to why the GOP lost the recent election. For the most part you "Hit the nail on the head". Run away spending, failure to stand up and get things done, immigration, sleaze, and of course Iraq all were major factors. In my opinion, the American people want less government interference in their daily life, are sick of unnecessary spending, i.e. Bridge to nowhere, are discussed that the GOP'ers seemingly couldn't get anything done, i.e. immigration reform, and a sense that Iraq was really a mess. Too bad the press is so slanted on Iraq, but they have been that way since Vietnam. I was in Vietnam, and the war I saw was certainly a different war than that depicted by Time Magazine. Unfortunately, to date it appears that the GOP simply doesn't get it as to why they failed in the recent election. So what the heck let the Dem's give it a shot. Really too bad that our political system is so polarized. I personally have thought for sometime that the parliamentary system of government is much more representative of the people who vote for someone to represent them. If there were 5 or 6 different candidates with their beliefs available to vote for, it would be interesting to see what type of representation the American people would elect to represent them. Now it either or, with little choice. It certainly is no longer government for and by the people. Too bad. Well, enough said, your thought which closely mirror mine are in my opinion right on, but unfortunately, it probably going to be too bad the GOP isn't going to get it as it is appearing its "Business as usual". Guess it will be at matter of time before the general somewhat uninformed public gets tired of the Dem's and their ways, and will again turn to the GOP.

**********

I predicted to you last year that the harsh anti illegal immigration rhetoric would alienate otherwise pro LEGAL immigration Hispanics. The GOP will not survive if it is not competitive among Hispanics like it is not competitive among blacks, Jews, the Northeast, far-West and now increasingly in the Midwest. Losing Hispanics will sooner or later make it very difficult to hold on to Texas and Florida. I doubt it can get the majority of Hispanics anytime soon but anywhere between 40-50% should be within reach considering the historic and socioeconomic diversity of the components of the Hispanic community. The GOP needs to come to terms also with the fact that there is real economic anxiety in the Midwest and purist pro globalization policies and attitudes pose real threat to those people "here and now" needs, from healthcare to retirement. These are the people demagogues like Lou Dobbs talk to every day. The pursue of a pro life, traditional values agenda is noble and good for America but if it is seen as a threat to personal freedoms and choices it will not go anywhere. The GOP also has no make people understand better the real threats of Islamic extremism and the potential consequences of leaving behind a failed state in Iraq.
I really think McCain can fill this void. I am just concerned about his age, S/L involvement, marriages, inconsistencies regarding the Religious Right and his plan to MORE troops for Iraq.

**********

May I make several brief comments on this column?

1. Although the Democrats will be running Congress, they are not directly running the war effort, and I think that they will not vote to cut off funding, because their majorities are thin and the leadership will know that some Democrats from more conservative states would side with the Republicans on this issue.

So if the President's efforts to end the war honorably fail, it will be his fault. If he succeeds, the Democrats will be able to take some credit by claiming to have forced him to change tack. It's a win-win for the Democrats.

2. Likewise the '9/11 effect'. If America is lucky enough to escape a further attack before the next election, memories of 9/11 will have faded even more. If there is another attack, the Republicans, who have taken credit for preventing further attacks, will have to take responsibility for not preventing it; they can't have it both ways. Either way, the Republicans lose.

3. Whatever Mr Bush does about Iran, it will be a horrible mess, unless he gets very, very lucky. For all our sakes, I hope he does get lucky, but above all his Presidency has been one distinguished by an unremitting lack of good fortune.

4. Like the Republicans in 1994, the Democrats are hungry. They managed to outsmart the Republicans in the 2006 elections, and you can bet they don't want to mess up their chances in 2008. They know the pitfalls that await over the next 2 years and they don't have to accomplish much to look better than the Republican Congress has since 2000. What a tragic frittering away of opportunity for the Republican Party, and for America, these years have been.

For his part, if Mr Bush wants any kind of domestic legacy, he will have to work with the Democrats. Considering how he was abandoned by Republican candidates during the late election, he might even relish the prospect.

**********

One point I would like to make in terms of a recommendation for the Democrats: it is important to educate the voters that the situation we find ourselves in internationally with regard to Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the general proliferation of nuclear weapons world wide are, after six years in control of all parts of the federal government, the Republicans to own and wear. These should now be considered concrete examples of the failures of the Bush team's approach to international threats and coalition building.


With the exception of the section on Schiavo, this was a solid analysis. Your conclusions about the factors that drove the election were accurate and your prognostications about future democratic opportunities seem spot on.

On Schiavo, MSM manipulation of the issue affected perceptions of middle-ground voters. The facts are these:

1. State government entities prevented the biological parents from providing for their daughter.
2. The law as written was on the side of the husband.
3. The husband behaved in a poor fashion in my opinion.
4. The law as written is generally good.
5. This case was an extreme example that tested the limits of existing statues.

Cosmo Kramer's Unhinged Hate

Michael Richards of "Seinfeld" fame completely goes off on a hate-filled racial screed caught on tape. At one point on the tape he says "I guess I'm just a wash up."

He is far worse than just a washed up actor after this performance.

Webb and Tester Good News for Dems

Jim Webb and Jon Tester's extremely narrow wins in Virginia and Montana two weeks ago were obviously huge for the Democrats in that they delivered them the six seats they needed to win control of the Senate. Maybe more important in the long-run than control in the Senate these next two years (which may turn out to me more of a nightmare than a blessing) is Webb and Tester put a new and attractive face on the Democratic party.

Both come from regions of the country where Democrats have struggled for the last quarter century. With the departure of Zell Miller the Democratic party had just about completely lost their Jacksonian heritage which Jim Webb, could perhaps, be the beginning of turning that trend around. Democrats will need more Jim Webbs and less John Edwards if they hope to make real headway in the solidly Republican south. Tester's populism (if he doesn't stray too far to the redistributionist left) will sell well in a libertarian-leaning West that is fed up with out of control federal spending and the mess in Iraq.

Both looked good on Meet the Press yesterday speaking on Iraq and the middle class, but at some point they are going to have to confront many issues where the voters in their conservative-leaning states simply split with the Schumer's, Levin's and Kennedy's who will retain the real power in the new Democratic Senate. Taxes, judges and national security will be where the rubber hits the road with these two.

I suspect Webb has a considerably brighter future than Tester, who if he isn't careful with his votes and alliances may end up like Rod Grams in Minnesota who got swept in with 49% in the 1994 wave and then got chucked out six years later losing to they very underwhelming Mark Dayton.

Letterman, Iraq and Losing the Public

Following up on the post from VDH's essay, this exchange between David Letterman and Bill O'Reilly a couple of weeks ago sums up the growing feelings of many Americans attitude toward Iraq.

O'Reilly: But they (the public) don't want to hear about the bad world that we live in. It's an evil world that we live in. Let me ask you something. And this is a serious question. Do you want the United Sates to win in Iraq?

Letterman: Well, you know in the beginning, here is my position in the beginning and I, I think I - I sort of felt the way everybody did, we felt like we wanted to do something, because something terrible had been done to us. We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was something terrible, something heinous; something obscene had been done to us. So while it didn't necessarily make sense to go into Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like most everybody else felt like yes, we needed to do something. And as the weeks turned into months, years and one death became a dozen deaths and hundred deaths and a thousand deaths - then we began to realize you know what? Maybe we're causing more trouble over there than the whole effort has been worth....What I would like would be uh, for uh, uh Americans to stop dying. And for there to be stability in that part of the world. Now if that means an American victory, ok. But I'm not sure that you can have stability in that part of the world with or without an American presence now, uh, so I would do whatever it would take to stop Americans dying.

The good-hearted, but utterly naïve sentiment of "I would do whatever it would take to stop Americans dying" in Iraq, will continue to chip away at the public's resolve in the coming weeks and months. And absent a credible plan for victory in Iraq - which right now we do not have - the window for the U.S. to prevent a major loss in this battle of the much longer war is rapidly closing.

VDH on the West's Resolve

Victor Davis Hanson has written a tremendous essay for RealClearPolitics today. Here are a few excerpts:

Intelligence sources announce that Iran is seeking to replace al Qaeda as the foremost anti-Western global terrorist organization. Not to be outdone, Al Qaeda is said to be desperately seeking a nuclear device. This is precisely at the time President Ahmadinejad announces the next step of uranium enrichment and more promises to end Israel.

International inspectors report that traces of plutonium are found in Iranian nuclear waste sites. The results of a terrorist with a plutonium-laced suicide belt in the New York Stock Exchange, the Mall of America, the Louvre, the Vatican, or the Harvard Library are like a water spill into a computer hard drive--the tiny drop unseen to the naked eye as it shuts down a way of life.

There is wealth aplenty pouring into Iran and Iraq through oil that is sold at a high price in a world market whose sanctity is ultimate protected by the United States. So the poverty there of radical Islam is not material, but one of the soul......They obviously want Western technology--whether the Internet or the plastic munition--but never the decadence of freedom, democracy, and tolerance that creates the very appurtenances they crave....Such parasitism proves no lasting palliative, but only the goad for more envy and frustration. The stark truth is that the radical Middle East is religiously observant, but spiritually poor.

Next, examine the Western political response to all this Middle Eastern madness. The recent November election made it clear that the American public is tired of Iraq, tired of the televised bombings, tired of the Middle East and just wants to be left alone, to go home or to "redeploy."

A once stalwart Tony Blair now praises Iran and welcomes back terrorist-sponsoring Teheran and Damascus for negotiations..... It is understandable to want to talk with the Iranians and avoid unnecessary confrontation, but only on the understanding that the theocracy there is trying to destroy Israel and kill Americans working to protect democracy in Iraq. Thinking Syria or Iran could tolerate a constitutional republic in Iraq on its borders is like imagining that Hitler could have lived with a democratic Poland or Czechoslovakia next door or the old Soviet Union would have tolerated a free Ukraine.

Americans in their televised wrangling seem traumatized over Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the Patriot Act, and wiretaps. For many George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are far greater threats than Osama bin Laden. Indeed, without a care for the thousands tortured by Saddam or dismembered by the terrorists, American leftists now seek to indict (in Germany of all places!) the former Secretary of Defense on charges such as subjecting detainees to "religious humiliation." Religious humiliation? Is war now to be played out on Court TV or ape the hurt feelings of Sunday morning television?

In short, while the Islamists get bolder and crazier, we become more timid and all too rational, quibbling over this terrorist's affinities and that militia's particular grievances--in hopes of cutting some magical deal with an imaginary moderate imam or nonexistent reasonable militia chief or Middle East dictator.

Well beyond us now is any overarching Churchillian vision of our enemies. We lack the practical understanding of an FDR that all of these Islamists loathe us far more than they despise each other. Their infighting, after all, is like the transitory bickering of thieves over the division of loot that always pales before their shared hatred of the targeted bank owner.

So we are at a crossroads of all places in Iraq. The war there has metamorphosized from a successful effort to remove a mass-murdering dictator into the frontlines of the entire struggle between Islamic radicalism and Western liberality. If we withdraw before the elected government stabilizes, the consequences won't just be the loss of the perceptions of power, but perhaps the loss of real power. What follows won't be the impression that we are weak, but the fact that we are--as we convince ourselves we cannot win against such horrific enemies, and so should never again try.

Hanson is first and foremost a historian and he understands the long scope of this fight. The 24/7, cell-phone, Internet, cable/satellite, instant-gratification world we live in today however, has little patience for the hard slog in Iraq. Make no mistake about it we are approaching an important crossroads in not just the front in Iraq but the entire War on Islamic Fascism.

I fear only another attack will jolt the American public and the free world to the real stakes in this War against the Islamicists.

November 17, 2006

Meet the New Boss...

I'm not sensing much enthusiasm from conservatives over the election of John Boehner and Roy Blunt to the top two GOP leadership posts.

Mary Katherine Ham:

Hey guys? Want more of the same? Isn't that what you meant when you voted Republicans out of office?

Good news. The Republican Party delivers!

Paul Mirengoff's take over at Powerline is about as good as it gets for Boehner and Blunt: "I don't know whether this was the right choice, but it seems like a reasonable one."

Mike Krempasky at Red State fires off a good shot at Roy Blunt: "Congratulations to Represenative Roy Blunt on his re-election to the Whip post. May he be as effective in stopping bad Democratic bills as he was in pushing bad Republican ones."

Meanwhile, Rep. Blunt released a statement that reads, in part:

As a party, we learned some hard lessons last week. But our ideas didn't lose -- we did. Today begins the rebirth of House Republicans' common sense agenda with a leadership team that is more unified than ever, ready to regain the trust of the American people, and ready to restore faith in our ideals.

The "rebirth" of a "common sense agenda." Sounds good, but I suspect most conservatives have a two word response for Blunt and Boehner: "Prove it."

Aftershock

My take on the election in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Running To, From Wal-Mart

Here's a strange contrast. On one hand you have Wal-Mart uber critic John Edwards apologizing for one of his staffers setting foot in the bix-box retailer seeking an elusive PlayStation 3 for the Edwards kids.

On the other hand you have Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee getting grilled by reporters over why the gift registry set up in his name - which is itself causing a bit of controversy - doesn't inlcude Wal-Mart:

The registries were at Dillard's and Target, a competitor to Arkansas' own Wal-Mart. Asked why there was no registry at Wal-Mart, Huckabee said he didn't know.

"We do most of our shopping at Wal-Mart. I've got two Wal-Mart cards in my pocket right now," he said. "I've always said if Wal-Mart doesn't have it, you don't need it."

The Mouth From the West

You just gotta love Arnold. In this month's issue of Men's Journal, Schwarzenegger says, ""Sacramento was death -- until I got there!"

The Sacrmento Bee editorial page responded with appropriate sarcasm:

"Dear Gov. Schwarzenegger:

"We, the citizens of Sacramento, want to thank you for breathing life into our once-corpse-like city. You, alone, have enlivened this moribund metropolis making its heart beat and its muscles bulge. Without you, Gov. Schwarzenegger, we would be as dead as a dog in a drainage ditch.

"Some might have forgotten what it was like in the BS -- Before Schwarzenegger -- era. The streets were empty. There was darkness everywhere. Vultures perched on trees, and we all dressed in black hoods, carrying our scythes.

"But then you came, Gov. Schwarzenegger, and it all changed. The skies parted. The flowers bloomed. The sun shone down on the city. Everyone was happy.

(via the LA Times blog, Political Muscle)

November 16, 2006

Arianna's Lemonade

Arianna gets busy squeezin' lemons over at the Huffington Post after the defeat of Jack Murtha. By the end of the post, however, it becomes clear that Arianna's not just making lemonade, she's mixed up a serious batch of Kool-aid:

And don't shed any tears for Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi. Even though her guy lost, this was still a big win for her. A victory for taking a stand -- and for her leadership. [emphasis added]

You must be kidding, dahhling. Nancy Pelosi got her head handed to her by the Democratic caucus this morning. Trying to spin today's vote as a victory for Pelosi is a job even Baghdad Bob would turn down out of embarrassment. Not Arianna. She continues:

Because that's what real leaders do, they take stands. They listen to their hearts and follow their gut. If you only jump into the fights you're sure you can win -- notches in the W column that will look good on your political resume -- you're a hack, not someone who can move the party and the country forward. It's not about trying to have a spotless record; it's about knowing which battles are worth fighting, whatever the outcome.

Real leaders take stands. They follow their guts. Hmm, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, it's how people typically describe George W. Bush. Of course, to Arianna, when George W. Bush "takes a stand" and "follows his gut" he's a stubborn moron.

Here's one difference, though. After the votes have been counted, even George Bush can acknowledge when there's been a "thumpin.'" That's more than you can say about Arianna.

The Hand of Friedman

Ideas matter.

So it is with great sadness to report and mourn the passing of Milton Friedman, whose lifelong writings on the paramount significance of freedom, free-market capitalism, and liberty helped overturn the evil tide of communism and socialism in the 20th century.

His great books Capitalism and Freedom in 1962, which was morphed into Free to Choose in 1980, and subsequently serialized on public television, reached literally tens of millions of people and influenced events in the U.S. and across the world.

He explained to us the failures and flaws in government interference in the economy through overspending, over-regulation and over-taxation.

He extolled the virtues of free trade.

He explained that the root cause of inflation is excess money creation.

Rather than Keynesian state planning, Milton's mantra of free markets, free prices, consumer choice and economic liberty is responsible for the global prosperity we enjoy today.

In fact, we take it for granted nowadays, but Friedman's was a long, uphill battle, fought over decades to persuade politicians and business people that government is the problem, not the solution.

He was a senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan who put these ideas into play during his transformative presidency.

When you look around the world, at newly capitalist economies sprouting up in Russia, Eastern Europe, China and India, you can't help but see the hand of Friedman.

When you review twenty-five years of virtually uninterrupted prosperity and near zero inflation in the U.S, you can't help but see the hand of Friedman.

Milton Friedman is one of those few people about whom it can be said that he truly left the world a better place.

May he rest in peace.

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

The legendary economist has died. He was 94.

TNR's Iraq Mea Culpa

Posted today, from the editors:

At this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom. But, as we pore over the lessons of this misadventure, we do not conclude that our past misjudgments warrant a rush into the cold arms of "realism." Realism, yes; but not "realism." American power may not be capable of transforming ancient cultures or deep hatreds, but that fact does not absolve us of the duty to conduct a foreign policy that takes its moral obligations seriously. As we attempt to undo the damage from a war that we never should have started, our moral obligations will not vanish, and neither will our strategic needs.

Letters of Commitment Are Crap

Revising an extending from the post below, I forgot to highlight this delicious nugget on Murtha from the WaPo story which, on the heels of his "ethics reform is crap" exchange with Chris Matthews the other night (dissected and derided by Kaus and Maguire), should raise even more questions about Murtha's integrity:

In a phone call initiated by Murtha that same day, the lawmaker told the longtime politician that he had already signed a letter of support for Hoyer. The congressman said he was stunned when Murtha told him, "Letters don't mean anything."

Ethics reform is crap. Letters of commitment don't mean anything. Very inspiring stuff.

D-Day For Murtha

Jonathan Weisman and Lois Romano set the stage in the Washington Post this morning:

A showdown over the House majority leader's post today has Democrats bitterly divided only a week after their party took control of Congress and has prompted numerous complaints that Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her allies are using strong-arm tactics and threats to try to elect Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) to the job.

Jules Crittenden writes on his new blog that he's going to 'sit back and enjoy' the fight:

Today offers the kind of spectacle that is a small consolation prize for a party out of power: the victors pummeling each other over the spoils. The election having been lost, today's majority leadership race is a win-win.

Michael Barone looks at why Pelosi is so determined to support Murtha before concluding:

The word from Capitol Hill has been that Steny Hoyer, the current minority whip who ran against Pelosi for that job in 2001, has the votes. Hoyer is an experienced and competent politician who is respected and well liked on both sides of the aisle, and I suspect that many House Democrats are miffed that Pelosi is opposing him.

Murtha is telling people he's got the votes, so today's vote should be very interesting - and potentially surprising, too, since it's a secret ballot.

More on Conservative Dems and the Election

The Hotline's Josh Kraushaar sent this follow-up to my post yesterday suggesting conservative Democratic candidates had very little to do with the 35 pickups in the House and Senate for the Democrats.

The point about conservatism not being the decisive factor in the Democrats' win is a dead-on point, and Morris misses the mark in his column.

Of the Democratic pickups only 5 max can it be said that the candidates' conservatism played any role in the victory. There's NC 11, where Shuler is well-positioned to hold the seat because of his "mountain values" talk. There's IN 09, where Baron Hill was helped as much by his past experience representing the CD as his conservatism. There's
PA 10, where Don Sherwood cost the GOP the seat as much as Chris Carney won it for them. (That said,
he ran a strong, values-centric campaign.) And IN 08, where Ellsworth was by far the strongest nominee
because of his conservatism... though, you are correct that a more moderate Dem could have held the seat
given the statewide and nat'l environment. You could also make the argument for Tim Mahoney in FL 16,
even though he won only because of Mark Foley's misconduct.

But there are 9 other seats where not only did the Dems' not emphasize their conservatism, but actively
advertised lefty viewpoints. Take Steve Kagen, for example. He won in a 57% Bush district despite taking
positions well to the left of his district on foreign policy and health care. Or Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes,
who ran on discontent to the Iraq war - not conservative positions at all. Zack Space isn't conservative, nor did he
actively advertise himself as such in OH 18. Neither did Nancy Boyda in her surprise KS 02 victory. Conservatism
played little to no role in Nick Lampson, Gabby Giffords or Harry Mitchell's victories as well. And if you count KY 03
(which is a 50-50 district), John Yarmuth embraced many liberal positions he took when writing for an alt-weekly paper.

So this by no means was a mandate for Dem conservatism..... in most cases, they took advantage of ballot blunders and other ethical snafus by Republicans, plus the uniquely favorable environment for Dems.

'Anonymice'

NY Times Manaing Editor Jill Abramson talks about the use of anonymous sources:

You raise the issue of anonymous sources, which have proliferated in Washington-based reporting over time. Inside the paper, we call the sources of these stories "anonymice." And yes, these government officials are sometimes people who want to scamper back into their holes so nobody knows they have talked to the press. It is very difficult for readers to assess why they should trust a quote from a government official who refuses to be named. Our reporters and editors know this, which is why in recent years we have tried to publish much more information about why a source won't let us use his or her name and what the motivation for talking to us might be. We have also become more aggressive about pushing our sources to let us name them and being less willing to grant anonymity in order to get an interview. We have established new rules that require editors to know more about the sourcing of their reporters' stories.

Sometimes we actually decide to take a pass on getting access for an interview if it is off the record. In the past year, The Times passed up an opportunity to be part of a small group of reporters who went to the White House to talk to President Bush because the session was off the record. This was a difficult decision, because there is news value in reporters in hearing and seeing any president talk more informally, even if it is simply insight into how he frames his ideas. But in this case we believed the ground rules meant we had to deny our readers too much of the fruits of such a visit. Each of these cases presents a slightly different balancing test, between the possible gain to readers from anonymously given information and the fact that information presented anonymously means the reader will have a hard time making an independent judgment about credibility.

Al Goes Global

"The Australian Left has a new hero. His name is Al Gore..."

November 15, 2006

False Alarm

When I saw this headline on Chris Cillizza's blog, "McCain Files Prez Paperwork, Thompson Mulling a Run," I thought to myself, "Hot damn, Fred Thompson is thinking about to getting into the '08 game." False alarm. Wrong Thompson.

I've always liked Fred and was sorry to see him go. Tommy? Not as much.

Don't Mess With Lou

Lou Dobbs declares, "I'm a damn proud populist" in the midst of this tirade against his critics on both the left and the right who've been using the term "Lou Dobbs Democrats." He's kinda angry.

What Lott's Win May Foreshadow

Lott's win for the #2 GOP slot in the Senate was unexpected, though not entirely surprising. I suspect it is a triumph for Republicans in the Senate who want to take a considerably more aggressive posture with the new Democratic majority. Lott is in a far better position than Lamar Alexander to effectively use the wide array of Senate rules the minority has at its disposal to frustrate the majority, especially a one-vote majority.

The very brief post-election comity is ending - as well it should from the Republicans' standpoint. Democrats had great success by repeatedly frustrating Republican efforts to govern and relentlessly attacking President Bush, and now that they are in the majority the "can't we all just get along" schtick rings rather hollow to most Capitol Hill Republicans.

Lott's win can be read as a sign that Senate Republicans are gearing up to be an aggressive and effective minority, and his ascension back into the ranks of the leadership is probably a very smart tactical move by the GOP.

The First Test

Bob Barr writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Republican minority already facing its first important test:

Early betting is that Democrats' fear of losing the majority in 2008 if they come across as liberal extremists will trump using the power of their newly regained majority to push pet liberal projects too fast, too openly.

Whether the Republican leaders will be able to regroup sufficiently to seriously challenge the Democrats for supremacy in 2008 is a question of equal intrigue. Gingrich and his team of neophyte leaders faced the same Herculean task a dozen years ago; a challenge they met with decidedly mixed results. Now, lacking Gingrich's intellectual power and energy, and having to contend with a president in some respects more "simpatico" with many Democrats than with conservatives in his own party, congressional Republicans will truly be put to the test.

The first hand has been dealt the GOP team -- the White House has told Republicans in Congress it wants U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida , who is indebted to the Bush family for his Senate seat, to head the Republican National Committee.

If GOP leaders fall in line and ratify Martinez, it will serve as a clear signal to the country that the Republican Party has not learned its lessons; that it prefers business as usual and the comfort of minority status to new leadership and direction. Such a move will signal an embrace of the muddled and inconsistent game plan that led the party to the rocky shoals on which it now finds itself beached.

Conservative Dems Didn't Decide the Election

One piece of conventional wisdom making the rounds in Washington is that Democrats rode to power on the backs of moderate and conservative Democrats. In pre-election interviews, I regularly pointed to the Democrats' selection of candidates in many of these contested races as an example of how good of a campaign they had run. Dick Morris presses this point in his column today:

But how did Democrats achieve these majorities? It did so lifted by the wings of moderate, centrist Democrats who mastered their GOP opponents throughout the country. It was not liberals who defeated Republican incumbents in the House and Senate. It was moderates, future members of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

The only reason Pelosi is Speaker is that a fresh crop of moderate Democrats ousted Republican incumbents in the House.

Now that the election is over, however, I am wondering just how much of a difference these moderate Democratic candidates really made. I do think the Democrats' willingness to run relatively conservative candidates spoke to their discipline and commitment to winning and was important in setting the tone for how they conducted the entire campaign.

But looking at the conservative Democrats most prominently mentioned in the new Congress - outside of Jim Webb in Virginia where there is no question that Webb's conservatism was critical to his upset of George Allen - it is hard to find a specific race where it was the conservatism of the candidate that made the winning difference.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Bob Casey smashed Rick Santorum by an incredible 17 points. I suspect had Pennsylvania Democrats run almost any non-scandal tinged liberal they would have still won this race. Liberal Sherrod Brown's 12-point win in neighboring Ohio is a solid indication that the ideology of the Democratic challenger was not the driving force in this election. Brad Ellsworth's 22-point win in Indiana 8 is another example of where a more liberal candidate would likely have still won against John Hostettler, though probably with a margin more in line with the 4 and 8 point wins in IN-2 and IN-9.

Even in North Carolina 11 where Heath Shuler won by 8 points against the tainted Charles Taylor, I don't think it was Shuler's conservatism that was critical to his win. Shuler was not as strong a candidate locally as the national media assumed, and given the macro political winds and Taylor's problems I suspect a more liberal candidate would still have won this seat.

Finally, Jon Tester's win in Montana is often mistakenly cited as another example of where a conservative Democrat beat the Republican, except the race is actually proof of just the opposite. Tester - who is actually quite liberal - beat the more conservative Democrat John Morrison in the primary and held on to win the general by a squeaker.

The moderate or conservative bent of some Democratic candidates may have won the Democrats a couple of extra races they other wise would not have but it would be a mistake to suggest it was a critical factor in their big win. It was not. Obviously, the single seat in Virginia was significant in that it flipped control of the Senate, but of the 35 House and Senate seats Democrats picked up, the conservative bent of the Democratic challenger was not determinative in more than a few, at most. It is in 2008 where these more moderate and conservative members in the House will help Democrats as they try and hold on to their new majority.

More Murtha

Ruth Marcus lays the wood to Nancy Pelosi this morning, calling Murtha "unfit" to be Majority Leader. Suprisingly, Joe Conason isn't happy either:

By siding openly with her friend and ally, Mr. Murtha, in a letter to her colleagues, however, Ms. Pelosi has also ensured that the outcome will render an instant judgment on her authority in her new role. She has sent a clear signal that what she values most is loyalty--and that she is willing to risk embarrassment to enforce discipline. For Democrats who have too often failed to act with any semblance of cohesion or coherence, the Pelosi approach is refreshingly tough and free of timidity.

But as a national leader who vowed to clean up Washington's dirty politics during the 2006 campaign, she may yet come to regret her endorsement of Mr. Murtha. After promising to "drain the swamp," she immediately adopted one of the swamp's hungriest alligators as her pet.

What irony. One of the left's main knocks on President Bush over the years is that he's been too blinded by loyalty and that his administration has suffered from cronyism. Yet here you have the new Speaker of the House, whose drapes haven't even been measured or hung yet, pulling out all the stops to install an ethically-challenged pal for Majority Leader out of blind loyalty and passing over another perfectly competent member (Jane Harman) out of pure pique to turn over the Chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee to a man who was impeached for taking bribes. Not the most auspicious of beginnings, I'd say.

Cartoon(s) of the Day

Mike Shelton of the OC Register:

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Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe:

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CT-2 Update

The final margin of victory for Democrat Joe Courtney over Rob Simmons in CT-2? Ninety-one votes.

No word on whether the results will be challenged. Simmons will hold a press conference today at 3:30 eastern.

What Goes Up....

Joel Connelly reminds Democrats not to get too comfortable at the top:

Bill Clinton was going to the White House, eight Democrats from Washington were headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, while local pundits were bound for KCTS-TV and a panel: "Does the Republican Party have a future?"

By 1994, two Novembers later, six of those eight House Democrats had lost their seats, along with more than two dozen colleagues from the state House of Representatives.

The state Democratic Party held a holiday dinner honoring defeated House Speaker Tom Foley. The turnout -- including ringers admitted free -- 37 people.

Political winds change direction quickly. A sweeping victory is often followed by the winner's excess. The voters then administer a spanking. Experts' talk of a "watershed" election is washed away in the next cycle.

Republicans could have used similar advice after 2004 - obviously.

Mr. Ambassador?

Ousted last Tuesday in the biggest surprise of the election, former Rep. Jim Leach is being touted to replace John Bolton at the United Nations.

November 14, 2006

The Options Hustle

Take a moment and digest the meaning of this chart showing how a company's stock performs before and after options are granted to CEO's:

fortune.gif

Justin Fox at Fortune takes a look at the creative new ways some executives are manipulating news and options to line their pockets at the expense of shareholders.

The Bush Factor?

The Hotline's Chuck Todd says there is "plenty of evidence" that President Bush was the deciding factor that cost Republicans control of the Senate:

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that President Bush may have been the deciding factor that killed the GOP's momentum in some key Senate races over the last week. One Republican consultant is convinced that Bush's last-minute visit to Missouri on behalf of ousted GOP Sen. Jim Talent did the incumbent in. According to the network exit polls, Democrat Claire McCaskill crushed Talent among those late-breaking voters who decided in the final three days (a full 11 percent of the electorate). Bush also made a last-minute trip to Montana, where anecdotal evidence indicates the president's rally for Republican Conrad Burns stopped the incumbent's momentum in Billings.

Todd cites the exit polls for Missouri, which do indeed show late breakers going to McCaskill, though it's impossible to say that had anything to do with Bush's visit. The data is, at best, inconclusive: Bush had a 45% job approval rating in Missouri, and close to half of those who voted (46%) said Bush did not play a role in how they cast they're vote.

With regard to Montana, Todd cites "anecdotal evidence" to support his argument that Bush somehow stopped Burns' momentum, when in fact those very same exit polls in Montana show just the opposite:

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It looks like the "rule" that undecideds always break disproportionately for the challenger proved true Missouri, but not in Montana. In any case, it's impossible to say how much Bush's last-minute visits had to do with the outcome in either of these races.

OH-15 Update

Incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce leads Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by 3,536 votes. But there are more than 10,000 provisional ballots left to be counted, and the Columbus Dispatch reports the Kilroy campaign is still hard at work:

Kilroy's campaign called about 70,000 voters last weekend and aired television and radio ads asking people who cast provisional ballots to contact the campaign and county boards of elections to make sure their votes in the 15 th Congressional District are counted.

According to the article, "95 percent of people who voted provisionally in Franklin County were able to provide a Social Security card or driver's license number that can be used to establish residency." If you assume 95% of provisional ballots end up being verified and counted, a down and dirty sketch of the math shows that Kilroy would have to win 70% of them to flip the seat. Furthermore, if the addition of the provisional ballots brings Kilroy within 998 votes of Pryce (either ahead or behind) - it will trigger a mandatory recount in all three counties.

House Republicans Should Delay Leadership Vote

House Republicans would be wise to follow the advice on the Washington Times editorial page to delay their leadership vote this Friday. From the Republicans' standpoint, there is no compelling reason to have a vote this week. The argument that they need leadership in place to be able to respond to the Democrats is just silly. House Republicans have had months and months of campaigning to respond to the Democrats.

Republicans would be better advised to take some time and reflect on what the voters said last Tuesday in throwing them out of power. They need to find a refocused vision and commitment to the limited-government agenda of 1994 that won them their majority in the first place. And they need to think long and hard about who the best leaders might be to take a new reenergized message to the American people.

Anything that smacks to the public of as business as usual displays an arrogance and contempt for the country's decision last week and is exactly the wrong message House Republicans should be sending if they are at all interested in winning back their majority.

NM-1 Update

In New Mexico 1, County Clerks are in the process of counting of the 2,698 provisional ballots and 1,058 "in lieu of" ballots still outstanding. Each ballot has to be scrutinized to determine whether it's valid or not before being added the candidate's final tally. By law, the count has to be done by Friday.

Right now, incumbent Republican Heather Wilson has a 1,487-vote lead over Democrat Patricia Madrid.

CT-2 Update

The Hartford Courant reports on the back and forth of the recount in CT-2:

The roller coaster recount in the 2nd Congressional District took a sharp turn Monday afternoon when officials in one small eastern Connecticut town discovered an error that had given Democrat Joe Courtney 100 extra votes.

By nightfall, though, Courtney had gained back 40 of those votes due to the discovery of another error in another small town that had inflated the vote totals of his opponent, Republican incumbent Rob Simmons.

Later the same evening, a computation error in yet a third town gave Republicans an additional 31 votes, according to the state party chairman.

The stomach-churning ride is expected to screech to a halt late tonight, when every community in the sprawling, 65-town district will have completed its mandated recount. By law, the municipalities have until midnight Wednesday to report their revised tallies to the secretary of the state's office, but 56 had completed the process by Monday night and the final nine will do so today.

As of late Monday, Courtney, a lawyer from Vernon, continued to hold a narrow lead over Simmons, a three-term incumbent from Stonington. That margin stood at 82 votes, according to State GOP Chairman George Gallo after Simmons picked up 31 votes in Waterford. On election night, preliminary results gave Courtney a 167-vote advantage, but the margin was tiny enough to trigger a recount.

WA-8 Update

The AP has called the race in WA-8 for incumbent Republican Dave Reichert.

Sober Advice & Reverse Psychology

The Washington Post editorializes against Jack Murtha for Majority Leader this morning, citing his views on Iraq ("his descriptions of the stakes there have been consistently unrealistic, and his solutions irresponsible") and his ethics baggage ("Mr. Murtha has been a force against stronger ethics and lobbying rules.").

The WaPo editorial reads as one would expect: an earnest, sober piece of advice from a left-leaning paper urging Democrats not to follow up a big victory by committing a tactical error.

On the other hand, the liberal editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has no such reservations about wanting Mr. Murtha to take the number two slot in the House:

The American people want change, but it's a fair bet they also want leaders who are credible and responsible. Ms. Pelosi, whom Republicans like to paint as a San Francisco liberal, needs a plain-speaking warrior Democrat like Mr. Murtha at her side. The nation does too.

Lastly, we come to the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which also backs Mr. Murtha as Majority Leader in what might accurately be described as a thinly-veiled piece of reverse psychology:

If Democrats are smart, and truly want to show the American people that they can put internal party politics aside for the benefit of the nation, they'll line up behind Jack Murtha.

Maybe the Trib-Review ed board honestly supports Jack Murtha as the best choice for Democrats, but I doubt it. As a general rule of thumb in politics, when people who consistently oppose the views of your party start advising you to do something, it's a good idea to do the opposite.

November 13, 2006

Mel Martinez to Lead RNC

That's the word from the Associated Press:

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, the first-term lawmaker who previously served in President Bush's Cabinet, will assume the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, GOP officials said Monday.

Martinez, 60, will replace current chairman Ken Mehlman, who will leave the post in January at the end of his two-year term, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement.

Martinez will remain in the Senate. Mike Duncan, the RNC's current general counsel and a former party treasurer, will run the day-to-day operations at the party's Capitol Hill headquarters.

Iraq Over Ethics

David Corn has an interesting blog post on Pelosi's support of Jack Murtha for Majority Leader:

This morning, I called Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, to ask about the potential congressional reforms House Speaker-To-Be Nancy Pelosi is expected to push on Day One. But before we got to that, Sloan teed off on Pelosi for having endorsed Representative Jack Murtha, the hawk turned Iraq war critic, in his fight against Representative Steny Hoyer to be the House Democratic majority leader, the powerful number-two job in the body. "Murtha has lots of ethics issues," Sloan exclaimed. "What the hell is she thinking? Corruption turns out to be a major issue in the campaign, and you endorse the guy with the more ethics problems?"

CT-2 Update

The town clerk of Lebanon just announced that human error caused a machine to record an extra 100 votes for Joe Courtney.

Courtney's lead over Rob Simmons is now down to just 65 votes. Thirty-five towns in the second district are recanvassing today. Final results should be known by the end of the week.

The Libertarian Effect

In one closely watched Congressional race (Sodrel v Hill, IN-9) and two critical Senate races (Missouri and Montana), the Republican candidate was defeated by fewer votes than the Libertarian candidate received.

[Note: the last data I could find on the Missouri race still had two of the 3746 precincts to report, so it is possible that statement isn't true for Missouri, but if it is not true it is still very close and does not diminish my point.]

In other words, in these two critical Senate races and if the Republican had gotten the Libertarian's votes, the Republican would have won.

For the rest of this article, please recognize that I am speaking of the small-"l" libertarian, and not the Libertarian Party of the candidates mentioned above. A "libertarian", in the shortest definition I can muster, is someone who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In other words, it is someone who wants the government to perform a very small set of legitimate functions and otherwise leave us alone.

I can hardly contain my glee at seeing this happen after years of hoping it would. And in such dramatic fashion, with such important results. I did not hope it would because I wanted Republicans to lose, but because the Republicans had become corrupted (by which I do not mean corrupt in the typical sense.) They became enamored of power, and believed that they could get away with expanding the size, intrusiveness, and cost of government as long as they had government aim for "conservative" goals rather than liberal ones. This loss, and the way it happened, was the best thing that could have happened for Americans who care about a government focused on limited government and liberty.

No, the Democrats are not that government. They believe in anything but limited government, and they only believe in liberty in one's personal life, but not in one's economic life. In a sense, Democrats believe that the citizens work for the government.

Republicans on the other hand have acted in just the opposite way: they believe in economic liberty and they know we do not work for government. But they do not believe in personal liberty. The failure of the strategery of the Republicans, to focus on "the base" by trotting out social issues such as the South Dakota no-exception abortion ban (which lost, I'm pleased to say) demonstrated two things: First, social issues do not have long coat-tails. Second, the GOP base is fiscal conservatives more than it is social conservatives.

Fiscal conservatives, even more than social conservatives, were the demotivated voting block. Fiscal conservatives who are not socially conservative, i.e. voters who are libertarian even if they don't know it or wouldn't identify themselves that way, were the key swing vote in this election and were the reason that the GOP lost Congress...the Senate in particular.

In a recent study called "The Libertarian Vote", David Boaz (Cato Institute) and David Kirby (America's Future Foundation) discuss the growing number of American libertarians, the growing dissatisfaction among them (including me) with the GOP, and the continuing shift in voting patterns caused by that dissatisfaction. Tuesday held the obvious conclusion of this shift.

The party which went from reforming welfare to banning internet gambling by sticking the ban inside a port security bill, the party which went from Social Security reform to trying to amend the Federal Constitution to prevent gay marriage, the party which went from controlling the size and scope of government to banning horse meat became a party which libertarians and Republicans alike could not stomach.

The Democrats are a disaster, though they probably realize they need to move to the center. The Republicans have just been taught a brutal lesson that they also need to move to the center (on social issues) and back to fundamental principles of our Founders on issues of economics and basic liberties. No party can rely on the unappealing nature of their opponent to be a strong enough motivation to win elections, nor should we let them win if being just a bit better than the other guys is all they aspire to.

What I love about libertarian voters is that they vote on principle, not on party. The GOP might not like it, but politics should not be about blind loyalty if your party has lost its way. So, I disagree with suggestions that libertarians are fickle and unreliable voters. Instead the Republicans became an unreliable party. The Democrats on the other hand are extremely reliable -- they will always raise spending and taxes, get government involved where it doesn't belong. But other than the tax cuts of several years ago, the Republicans have been no different other than choosing different areas of our lived to intrude upon.

I hope that the result of the Libertarian Effect, particularly on the GOP, will be that the next election may provide us an opportunity to replace this batch of Democrat placeholders with Congressmen who not only have read the Constitution, but respect it. Congressmen who understand that Republican voters do not elect politicians to have them impose their (or our) morality on the people, but rather to keep government from interfering in our lives and leaving us, in the immortal words of Milton Friedman, "Free to Choose".

The Lure of the Majority

Russ Feingold says he won't run for President in 2008 because "I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees."

Similarly, Jesse Jackson, Jr. recently abandoned a long-expected challenge to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley by saying:

"More than any time since I took my initial oath-of-office, I am excited, eager and downright giddy about the prospects in Washington," Jackson said. "So, I will not be a candidate for the mayor of the city of Chicago in 2007. Instead, I hope to make my seventh term in Congress my best yet." [snip]

"The prospects of being in the majority, on a key committee, with reasonable seniority, is very exciting to me," he said.

Question: how else might the lure of the majority change the political landscape for 2008? Will Hillary Clinton be affected? Or is even the possibility of a Committee Chairmanship too small to appease her appetite for political power? What about Barack Obama? Might his decision to run be influenced by the prospect of spending another eight years in the majority as opposed to the minority?

And what about the opposite effect on Republicans? Are there any Senators who might be induced to enter the '08 fray out of the prospect of facing time in the dreaded minority? None spring to mind, but that doesn't mean we may not see a possible surprise or two.

The Shape of Things to Come

Substantively speaking, there probably won't be a whole lot of difference between a Majority Leader Murtha and a Majority Leader Hoyer But there's a rather significant difference between the two from a public relations standpoint, and it'll be interesting to see if the Democrats choose Jack Murtha to be their second most prominent spokesperson in the House.

As to the Democrats' agenda, "phased withdrawal" from Iraq is tops on the list. Other items include getting the government to take over negotiating drug prices for Medicare, changing rules to make earmarking more transparent, raising the minimum wage, and revisiting federal funding for stem cells.

There had been talk of Democrats taking up comprehensive immigration reform, but the Washington Post suggests this morning that it's "not a priority." However, Mickey quotes a source who says the Dems are indeed planning to move "full speed ahead" on immigration reform.

Regardless, don't look for much of anything to get done in the lame duck session that starts today. The President wanted Congress to take up the legislation on the NSA surveillance program, but it is not going to happen. It also looks like John Bolton's days as UN Ambassador are numbered. Whatever real action is going to take place in Congress isn't going to start until after the New Year.

The House That Rahm Built

A monster profile of Rahm Emanuel in the Sunday Chicago Tribune that only adds to the "Rahmbo" mystique:

In a world where congressmen refer to each other as "my distinguished colleague," Emanuel, 46, is sometimes unable to get through a single sentence without several obscenities. His politics are centrist, but his style is extremist. The top of his right middle finger was severed when he was a teenager, adding to his aura of toughness--especially when he extends that middle finger, which he does with some regularity.

Set aside at least 20 minutes if you plan on reading the whole thing.

November 11, 2006

Warping Young Minds

You remember Kevin Barrett, the September 11th denier who was hired to teach a class on Islam and 9-11 at the University of Wisconsin? Well, he just completed the semester-long course by telling his students, "Your tax dollars are paying for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. The CIA is paying for resistance in Iraq." I kid you not.

More from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Barrett began Thursday's lecture by reviewing the work of several Muslim writers who believe the Sept. 11 attacks were the work of terrorists. One argues that the attacks reveal broader clashes within Islam; another believes they indicate a blossoming clash between the Muslim world and the West. The writings were among works that had been assigned to Barrett's students to read.

Barrett then moved on to an essay by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, who argues that the Sept. 11 attackers were part of a broad network of terrorism sponsored by the United States and other Western intelligence agencies. Ahmed argues that the U.S. has used terrorism to destabilize other countries and gain control over their resources.

In his lecture, Barrett sprinkled in the phrase according to this analysis periodically at the end of his sentences. But he stated much of Ahmed's argument as fact and offered up his own views or observations to bolster the claims.

On the conventional idea that terrorists were motivated by their belief in Islam, Barrett said: "That's simply not true. That story gets blown out of the water."

And if you think Barrett's views are so nutty even impressionable college kids would shrug them off, think again:

Freshman Jesse Moya disagreed, saying Barrett had been "very objective."

Moya, who said his uncle died in the World Trade Center attacks, said he had entered the course believing the attacks were the work of Islamic terrorists. He now believes otherwise.

"It seems like a more logical explanation that it was the U.S. government," he said.

It's maddening to think that on the day we honor veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country and for the First Amendment rights that give people like Barrett the freedom to spout such views, we've become so thoroughly confused by moral relativism and political correctness that we now allow nutters like Barrett into the classroom to mold and pollute the impressionable minds of our kids with this stuff.

Shaw Speaks Out

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Clay Shaw says that he might have avoided defeat if Rumsfeld had been let go prior to the election:

A speedier sacking of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have salvaged the campaigns of Republicans who lost during this week's rout of the GOP, a somber Rep. Clay Shaw said Friday as he grappled to understand his first election loss in 35 years.

Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who had withstood a series of tough elections, was defeated Tuesday by state Sen. Ron Klein, who repeatedly sought to link Shaw's fortunes to those of President Bush and his hand-ling of the war in Iraq. At least 27 other Republican House members lost their seats as voters signaled discontent with GOP rule -- handing control of the U.S. House and Senate to Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

But the loss came as a shock to the campaign veteran who said internal polling consistently showed him ahead of Klein.

''My guess is it was . . . the tide rolling across the whole country and we got caught up in it,'' a reflective -- and at times bitter -- Shaw said Friday during an hourlong interview in his Fort Lauderdale congressional office, his wife, Emilie, at his side. Shaw noted Republicans were dealing with sex and corruption scandals and a military death toll in Iraq that topped 100 in October. 'I think that was laying heavily in voters' minds.''

Shaw said he shared his belief about Rumsfeld's departure with Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist -- who called Shaw on Friday and told him ``the race he was most concerned about was mine, and that he felt very badly about losing me.''

Rove told him that Rumsfeld wasn't let go until after the election because the president ''didn't want our soldiers to come off with the impression that he was doing that for political purposes, just to get a leg up on this election,'' Shaw said.

Shaw said he agreed it was critical that the troops ''don't feel they're being politicized,'' but said he wished Rumsfeld's ouster had happened sooner.

''My first impression was the actual votes I needed would have been there,'' Shaw said. ``I think the Republicans would have been a little more energized. . . .''

It's really hard to say what sort of effect Firing Don Rumsfeld before the election might have kept more independents with Republicans, but I suspect it might have energized Democrats and demoralized some conservatives as well. If Bush wanted to signal a change and not have the decision look political, he should have let Rumsfeld go either last year or at the beginning of this year.

In retrospect, the smartest political move the Democrats may have made this entire election season was to call for Rumsfeld's head in back in May. Once they did that, Bush was essentially stuck with Rumsfeld because to let him go would have looked like political capitulation.

November 10, 2006

The Vilsack Juggernaut

Reading the stories on Tom Vilsack's announcment that he'll run for President in 2008, you can almost hear boxing announcer Michael Buffer in the background belting out his signature, "Let's Get Ready to Ruuummmble!!!!"

Mr. Vilsack was kind enough to wait an entire 48 hours before launching his presidential juggernaut, which at this point in the race has him running unimpressively in 4th place in his home state behind John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

The good news for Vilsack is that John Kerry was in third place in that poll, and unless Iowans are keen on botched jokes and insults we can only hope they'll have the good sense to not subject the country to another drawn out run by the Jr. Senator from Massachusetts - assuming he has the bad sense to run in the first place.

Be that as it may, the Des Moines Register responded to the announcement as any hometown paper would by promptly producing a Vilsack for President boomlet, complete with a front page news story, a fairly flattering editorial, and a column by David Yepsen applauding the Governor's decision to go off tilting at windmills.

It's not quite the same press Barack Obama would get - heck it's not even as good as the press Obama gets right now for saying he'll "think" about running. But, to paraphrase a now former Defense Secretary, you go to Election 2008 hysteria with the candidate you have, and right now it's Vilsack.

Somebody cue Michael Buffer.

The View From the DCCC

Here's a memo from the DCCC analyzing the results from Tuesday:

Scandals no one expected, a sagging economy for the middle class and a prolonged war in Iraq that shook the undercarriage of support for Bush - all had a tremendous impact on this election. This memo answers the question of how the DCCC won a Democratic majority by winning seats in Republican strongholds and, for the first time since 1922, made major gains without losing one seat in our control.

Targeting: Early on, we took chances by focusing on seats that, to others, may not have seemed competitive -- allowing us to expand the field to 50 districts across the country. Through this effort, we effectively spread out Republican resources, and were able to pick up seats more efficiently than ever before. Once candidates showed their strength, by meeting fundraising and message goals set at the DCCC, we were able to specifically target races where we had the best chances, broadening the field of play and striking late in districts where we thought we could make a difference - like KS2, PA4 and CA11.

Efficient margin of victory: In 2006, Democratic Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates ran smart campaigns and won by aggregate margins of 11.4% and 7% respectively. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, however, had more seats to focus on but because of our targeting and spending choices, we were able to win a House Majority with an aggregate margin of victory of only 4.8%. Democrats won with 52.4% of the major party vote, compared to 47.6% for Republicans. (Because votes are still being counted, these numbers are not final and may change slightly.)

Multi-Regionality: Through the strength of DCCC recruiting in all parts of the country - finding candidates who ideologically fit their districts -- the result of this election was national in scope. Though wins were concentrated in the east, Democrats won victories in all regions of the country including: 5 in the South and border states, 7 in the Midwest industrial area, 3 in the rural Midwest, 2 in Rocky Mountain states, 1 on the West Coast and, of course, 11 in the East.

Kerry Districts: Only 8 of the 29 races won by Democrats in 2006 were in districts carried by John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. In fact, Democrats actually won 11 districts where Kerry won less than 45%.

2006 vs. Other Historic Elections: In 1994, Republicans won the House by 7% but had far more competitive seats. The 1982 Democrats won 26 seats with by 12% of the vote. The 2006 DCCC faced a number of challenges that the 1994 class and the 1982 class did not face, especially the redistricting that made the terrain more favorable to the GOP. The 4.8% margin for Democrats in varied districts shows why our targeting was effective.

Who Do You Believe?

Paul Krugman: "Tuesday's election was a truly stunning victory for the Democrats....this election marks the beginning of the end for the conservative movement that has taken over the Republican Party."

Charles Krauthammer: "the great Democratic wave of 2006 is nothing remotely like the great structural change some are trumpeting...This is not realignment. As has been the case for decades, American politics continues to be fought between the 40-yard lines.. In this election, the Democrats carried the ball from their own 45-yard line to the Republican 45-yard line. The fact that the Democrats crossed midfield does not make this election a great anti-conservative swing."

Cartoon of the Day - II

Here's another from Mike Shelton at the OC Register:

ocregcartoon.gif

No Apologies

On Tuesday I wrote about a blatant race-baiting radio ad that appeared on the web site of the Democratic candidate for Fulton County Chairman which featured U.S. Rep John Lewis, as well as current Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former mayor Andrew Young telling voters in no uncertain terms that if Republicans won the election they would turn back the clock on civil rights and that African-Americans might be in mortal danger. Rep. Lewis said in the ad, "On Nov. 7, we face the most dangerous situation we ever have. You think fighting off dogs and water hoses in the '60s was bad," before urging blacks to vote because, "Your very life may depend on it."

Not only has there been no outrage over the ridiculously incendiary ad, but those who partcipated in it offer no apologies. In fact they can't understand what all the fuss is about:

In a luncheon speech to Commerce Club members Thursday, Franklin said she stands by Lewis and Young and apologized only for the ripples her comments might have sent out, not for the content of what she said.

"If you were offended by something I said, I apologize. But I'm actually infuriated by some of the partisan and divisive politics I've seen in the past five years. What I said in that ad, I said right-wing Republicans, I didn't give them any gender or race. I happen to believe that right-wing Republicans have made some big mistakes in America, and I said exactly what I thought.

"John Lewis spoke of his experiences. Andy Young spoke of his. I know I wouldn't be standing here if it hadn't been for Andy Young and John Lewis. The bottom line is that I don't know of anybody in my position who wouldn't stand with Andy Young and John Lewis."

Young said Thursday that he, too, has no regrets about taking part in the ad.

Franklin said the ad was in a response to a mailing by Fulton Republicans that said Democrats win elections by lying and stealing.

"Sometimes you just have to fight back," she said.

Mike Dvorscak, chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party, said Thursday that he had been unaware of any such ad.

"The people on my side of the fence view this as racist," Dvorscak said of the ad. "To talk about rolling back civil rights is preposterous. I'm calling on them, and John Eaves, to publicly apologize to the citizens of Fulton County."

Lewis said the ad was not racist.

"I don't think there was anything racially inflammatory at all," Lewis said this week. "The ad was straightforward. Anyone who saw it as race-baiting failed to see the ad."

Right. Nothing to see here, people, we're just trying to scare the living daylights out of black people by demonizing white Republicans so they'll go to the polls and keep us in power.

And yet I'm sure if you asked Rep. Lewis, he would condemn the RNC ad against Harold Ford in the harshest possible terms as being despicable and playing on racial fears.....

The Connecticut 2 Recount

An update from Kevin Rennie, a columnist with the Hartford Courant and former CT state senator, on the Courtney-Simmons recount. The Democrat challenger led by 167 votes heading into the recount out of some 240,000 cast.


The recount began yesterday in CT-2, a 64 town district. The first town resulted in a net pick up of one vote for Simmons. The only distraction for Republican operatives is their fury over the Rumsfeld resignation. If he had announced his departure in September, they believe, Simmons would have been in a better position on Tuesday night.

Both sides have brought in recount pros from Washington. It's beginning to look like Florida. The Democrats had a training session yesterday. Most of the towns will count the ballots on Monday. Republicans are optimistic they can prevail and the Democrats believe Courtney's margin will increase.

There are 10 towns in the district that used new electronic, bubble ballot machines. The rest of towns used the tradition lever machines. How to recount those electronic ballots may be deeply contentious.

Republicans are licking their chops over one town where they believe the number of votes cast exceeds the number of voters checked in by nearly the number of votes Courtney is leading by.

There is only one immutable rule in the recount trade: recruit no nice people. It's hand-to-hand combat in town halls in eastern Connecticut. In previous recounts, there have been swings in totals. In 1996, Nancy Johnson's recount had changes in local totals of hundreds of votes. One town had a change of over 200, others between 50 and hundred. The net result was a couple of hundred votes more for Johnson.

I had a recount 12 years ago. The results in each town of my Senate district changed totals. One town had an 80 vote error on a machine. This is one area of politics where there is still a lot of spontaneity.

Cartoon (s) of the Day

For all you NASCAR fans, from Pat Bagley at the Salt Lake Tribune:

sltcartoon.gif

Gingrich Blasts Bush

At an event in Atlanta yesterday, Newt Gingrich lit in to President Bush over his Wednesday press conference:

"If the president had decided to replace Secretary Rumsfeld he should have told us two weeks ago," Gingrich said. "I think that we would today control the Senate and probably have 10 to15 more House seats. And I found it very disturbing yesterday in the press conference, the explanation that the President gave.

"We need candor, we need directness," said Gingrich, a potential 2008 presidential candidate."We need to understand the threats we faced with are so frightening and so real, the danger that we'll lose two to three American cities so great, that we cannot play games with each other, cannot manipulate each other, we have to have an open and honest dialogue, and I found yesterday's staments at the press conference frankly very disturbing."

He condemned Bush's admission that in making last week's statement about Rumsfeld, he had known he was being misleading.

"It's inappropriate to cleverly come out the day after an election to do something we were told before the election would not be done," Gingrich said. "I think the timing was exactly backwards and I hope the President will rethink how he engages the American people and how he communicates with candor."

I have to say I fully agree with Newt. The timing of Rumsfeld's resignation, regardless of the President's intention or explanation, made no sense. Had he done it three weeks earlier it might have made a significant difference on election day. But having said before the election that he wasn't going to make a change, his immediate post-election dumping of Rummy looks particularly weak.

McCain/Pawlenty in 2008

Looking ahead to the 2008 electoral map, there are two regions where the parties are increasingly competitive: the Southwest quartet of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada and the upper Midwest trio of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

In what turned out to be a very rough year for Republicans, Tim Pawlenty's reelection in the Minnesota Gubernatorial race, coupled with the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Minnesota's ten electoral votes, should elevate Governor Pawlenty to very near the top of the VP short list - irrespective of who the Republican nominee turns out to be.

Two and half weeks ago I wrote:

With the possibility of a Democratic takeover of Congress having risen considerably these last few weeks McCain is well positioned to pick up the pieces from a dispirited and angry Republican party if they indeed lose two weeks from today.

At the end of the day McCain's biggest appeal to Republicans in the fight for the nomination will be his claim (credibly) that he can win in 2008. And a Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid could be all John McCain needs to convince enough nervous conservatives to get behind him to ensure blowing the Democrats out of the water in 2008.

Republicans are a bit stunned right now, but I don't think conservatives outside of Washington DC are necessarily that upset with Tuesday's result. Don't get me wrong, Republicans didn't want to lose Congress, but they also understand that realistically the election results aren't going to change much with President Bush still in the White House. There was little reason to think the last two years of the Bush administration would get anything of consequence accomplished with a narrow Republican majority. Now with the Democrats in charge of Congress, the odds highly favor nothing of consequence getting done. The number of substantive issues that are going to satisfy 40 Republican Senators, President Bush's veto, and the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate are close to zero.

Which means we are in a holding pattern until 2008.

As big as the 2006 election was, the truth is it was really just a warm-up for 2008. With the almost certain likelihood that at least one of the liberal members of the Supreme Court will step down in the next 6 years the -- and with four solid conservative votes in Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito -- all three branches of government will be riding on the 2008 election. (One consequence of losing the Senate is President Bush will not be able to get another Alito or Roberts confirmed.)

Which brings us to John McCain and 2008.

The hostility toward McCain in conservative quarters is real and significant. However, as the magnitude of just how big the 2008 election will be creeps into people's minds, two trends that are very likely to occur over the next year are 1) a rapprochement between McCain and conservatives, and 2) a significant ratcheting up of anti-McCain rhetoric and demonization from the MSM. Ironically, the increase in hostility to McCain from the Washington press corps will help him significantly in his battle for the Republican nomination.

It should be said McCain is not a lock; the anti-McCain animus in conservative circles is very real. But the prospect of a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress and multiple Supreme Court appointments will concentrate many a Republican mind.

The Republican Party would also be well served to a tilt back toward to its Western-style Goldwater/Reagan roots, promoting individual freedom and limited-government. McCain's record on spending and national security issues is very much in the Goldwater-Reagan mold, and if he can reassure conservatives on judges he will become the heavy favorite for the GOP nomination.

Ohio Survivors

Much of the spin leading up to Tuesday focused on the toxic anti-Republican atmosphere in Ohio -- and rightly so. Voters in the Buckeye State did indeed voice their displeasure with Republican leadership on Tuesday by sending incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine down to a 12-point defeat against Democrat Sherrod Brown, and also by choosing Democrat Ted Strickland for Governor over Republican Ken Blackwell by an overwhelming margin of more than 900,000 votes.

With such expectedly lopsided contests at the top of the ticket, it's a bit of surprise to see the results at the Congressional level. In addition to the open seat in the 18th district that was vacated by convicted felon Bob Ney, Republicans were very worried about the prospect of losing three other seats held by Reps. Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt and especially Deborah Pryce.

If you look at a map of the House seats Republicans lost on Tuesday, however, Ohio stands as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal evening. Just to the west, in Indiana, three closely watched and competitive races all resulted in the Republican incumbent being swept from office. And next door in the east it was equally bad: Republicans lost four out of five competitive House races in Pennsylvania -- including Melissa Hart in the fourth district sitting right on the border with Ohio.

Despite all of this, the three endangered Republican incumbents in Ohio managed to survive. In Ohio 1, Steve Chabot beat John Cranley with relative ease, 51-46. In the heavily Republican second district, Jean Schmidt squeaked by her opponent by a mere 2,300 votes.

Most impressive of all was the survival of Deborah Pryce, number four in the House Republican leadership. The seven-term Congresswoman representing a marginally Republican district in and around Columbus was targeted early by the DCCC and withstood a withering assault this cycle but still came out on top by 3,536 votes on Tuesday.

All three Republicans are no doubt thankful to have survived this year, though the Congress they will return to will look a lot different than the one they remember.

Next Moves For Steele and Ford

The Washington Times reports that Michael Steele has been offered the job of replacing Ken Mehlman as Chairman of the RNC. The article also says that Karl Rove "would rather see Mr. Steele serve in the president's Cabinet, perhaps as secretary of Housing and Urban Development." It's not clear that any offer has been made, or which way Steele is leaning. But it is clear that Michael Steele has a very bright future as a national leader of the Republican Party.

In Tennesee, Harold Ford, Jr. now also has to consider his next move. He clearly a smart, talented guy who, like Steele in Maryland, acquitted himself very well in this year's campaign but came up short. The AP reports on a post-election luncheon in Chatanooga where Ford addressed his supporters and said:

"Don't cry. We will do it again, and it will come out on our side the next time," Rep. Ford said to teary-eyed supporters who mobbed him outside the Innside Restaurant on Chestnut Street.

In an interview, Rep. Ford declined to elaborate on his promise to supporters other than to say, "I'd bet on me running again."

Later on the article says Ford "would not speculate on plans beyond his last weeks in Congress." There are plenty of options open to Ford, and It'll be very interesting to see what he decides to do as he sets up possible future run for elective office.

WA-8 Update

Incumbent Republican Dave Reichert continues to cling to a small lead over Darcy Burner as both sides lay the groundwork for a possible recount. Burner has already mounted an effort to raise the $100k necessary to pay for a recount if the margin is larger than .5% or 2,000 - in which case a recount becomes mandatory.

The Seattle Times reports that Washington's Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting 67% turnout for this race which, if accurate, means that more than 60% of the votes have already been counted. Right now Reichert is leading by 3,120 votes or 1.8 percent, but the Seattle PI reports that there may be close to 50,000 absentee votes still left to count in King County. That fact leaves open the potential this race could still flip, but it's looking more and more like Reichert is going to survive.

November 09, 2006

Mehlman Explains

"I think the people sent our party a message...We've got to recommit ourselves to being the party of conservative reforms." Those are the words of RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, quoted at a CS Monitor breakfast today by The Chicago Tribune's blog, The Swamp.

Here's more:

Asked why he and other party leaders had predicted victory heading into the elections, Mehlman maintained that 30 of the races they were looking at stood "within the margin of error'' in polls heading into Election Day, meaning they could have gone either way with the right effort. He noted that 19 contests were decided by vote-margins of 5,000 or fewer. [snip]

But his party's future depends on recommitting Republicans to core values of reform, he insists.

"The party of reform... to me, it means we are the party that's transforming government to face the problems we have today,'' said Mehlman, pointing to public education, with his party offering parents "more choices in education'' and to immigration. "A welcoming immigration system is consistent with everything we ought to believe in.''

Acknowledging that the Republican Party captured only 30 percent of the Hispanic vote in the midterm elections - down from the mid-40s in the 2004 presidential election, and down from 36 percent in the midterms of 2002 - he said: "It's down, and I'm not happy that it's down.''

The challenge for his party remains reaching out to minorities, and the RNC is committed to doing so, Mehlman said. "America is, every day, less of a white country,'' he said. "We rely too hard on white guys for votes.''

Allen Does the Right Thing

With the Senate hanging in the balance both Conrad Burns and George Allen have done the right thing by conceding their respective races. Hopefully, they have set an example for future politicians in close elections - who lose - of how true statesman and patriots should respect the will of voters and not engage lawyers and the courts in blatant attempts to hold on to power.

Politicians who deliberately and cynically undermine the faith in our elective process do great damage to this country for cheap short-term political gain. Respect for the rule of law and the willingness to live with heartbreaking defeats is critical to the long-term well being of our democratic system of government.

What About the Fightin' Dems?

After Democrat and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett nearly upset Republican Jean Schmidt in the 2005 special election in Ohio's deep-red 2nd Congressional district, much was made of the fact that Democrats, led primarily by Rahm Emanuel, decided to go out and recruit as many candidates with military experience as possible to try and close the gap on national security issues with Republicans.

Newsweek dubbed it "the Vet Strategy" back in December of last year, but the group was more often referred to as the "Fighting Dems". Tammy Duckworth was the most celebrated of the group, at least at the national level, but the roster included 48 other challengers in House races this year.

Now that the election is over we can ask: how did the Fightin' Dems do? Was there any discernable benefit to the strategy of recruiting candidates with military service in their background? Scrolling through the list of results, the answer seems to be a pretty clear "no." Here's a quick rundown of the Fightin' Dems who were in competitive races this year. As you can see, five came up a little bit short, and four managed to pull off the upset:

Losers
Tammy Duckworth lost to Peter Roskam in IL-6, 49-51.

Jack Davis lost to Tom Reynolds by two points in NY-26, 49-51.

Charlie Brown came within three points of John Doolittle in CA-4.

Eric Massa fell four points short of Randy Kuhl in NY-29, 48-52.

Ken Lucas was in a very tight race in KY-4 but ended up losing by seven.

Winners

Tim Walz defeated Gil Gutknecht in MN-1, 53 to 47.

Joe Sestak defeated Curt Weldon in PA-7, 56 to 44.

Patrick Murphy defeated Mike Fitzpatrick in PA-8 by less than 1 percent (about 1,500 votes).

Chris Carney defeated Don Sherwood in PA-10, 53 to 47.

The victories by Sestak and Carney had almost nothing to do with them and everything to do with the troubles of their opponents. There's really no indication that the status of being a veteran helped any of the winners. Conversely, it's not at all clear in the races "Fightin Dems" lost that another candidate without military service wouldn't have run equally as well or better.

Discontent with Republican incumbents over Iraq (and other issues) benefited Democrats whether they were a veteran like Walz in MN-1, a seventh-grade teacher with no political experience like Nancy Boyda in conservative KS-2, or a hardcore leftwing activist like Carol Shea-Porter in NH-1. It really didn't matter.

There is one exception. I think you could make a persuasive argument that Jim Webb's status as a decorated war veteran made just enough of a difference in Virginia to prove decisive. Again, that race had as much to do with Allen's stumbles and mistakes as anything, but in state like Virginia which has such strong ties to the U.S. military and certain amount of reverence for military tradition, Jim Webb's reputation as a one of the most decorated war heroes of his generation (coupled with his conservative stances on other issues, of course) really did provide him with an advantage.

So, to sum up: the "Fightin' Dem" strategy proved not to matter almost every single instance on Tuesday, except in the one case where it did. And what a momentous case it ended up being, too.

November 08, 2006

Republicans Are Lucky They Did Not Lose More Seats

Drudge is displaying a phenomenal statistic.

Preliminary: Senate Ballots cast: 31,591,495 (D) 25,054,569 (R)...

If that is true, it means that the Democrats won the two-party vote by a whopping 12%: 56% to 44%.

If the House went anything like this, it means that the Republicans should count themselves very, very lucky. It could have been worse. A lot worse.

Over the weekend, I offered a projection of 19 seats based upon (a) Gallup's generic ballot prediction of 54-46, and (b) an OLS regression equation of votes to seats for 1996 to 2006.

If these 56/44 numbers are roughly the same for the House as they are for the Senate -- and my intuition is that they might actually be higher because uncontested Democratic seats outnumbered uncontested Republican seats by about 5:1 -- then the model would have predicted Republican losses of 25 or so seats, a figure statistically consistent with the final result of 29-ish (assuming that the Democrats hold CT 02 and GA 12). In fact, inserting the 56/44 popular vote and 29 seat swing into the post-1994 model greatly improves its predictive accuracy. Whereas it explained only 40% of the variation prior, it now explains 91% of the variation.

In the pre-1996 era, a 56-44 result would have produced a 73-seat gain for the Democrats in the House of Representatives. That would have been a 276 D to 159 R House.

56/44 would also mark a 7.4% decrease in the Republican share of the two-party vote. This would be the greatest drop in share of the two-party vote since, I believe, 1938. All in all, these vote numbers -- 73-seat loss and 7.4% vote loss -- most closely represent the 1946 election in which Harry Truman and the Democrats lost 54 seats and 6.4% of the vote. They went from a large majority to a tiny minority in the course of two years.

Of course, by seat comparisons, the 29-ish seat loss mimics the much-less-impressive-but-still-mighty 1982 midterm, when the GOP lost 27 seats and 4.9% of the vote.

What mitigated Republican losses? Why is it that the GOP lost seats akin to 1982 and votes akin to 1946?

I believe that the reason boils down to the structural issues I have been discussing all year. My election eve mistake was perhaps not so much an overestimation of the GOP's structural advantages, as I speculated yesterday, but rather an underestimation of the anti-Republican mood. Read: More Fox/Newsweek/Time/RT-Cook, Less Pew/ABC News/Gallup/Democracy Corps.

When I say "structural basis," I mean two things.

Incumbency advantage is a major part of it. Many would-have-been top-tier Democratic challengers are probably kicking themselves this morning for not having challenged their local Republican, especially with upsets like MN 01, NH 01, KS 02 and PA 04.

Also, the tight alignment of the electorate, which, I think, boils down to the fact that a large proportion of the Republican delegation is in the South. By my count, the Republicans lost 11 seats in the Northeast, 10 seats in the Midwest, 4 in the West and 4 in the South. The West's numbers are not terribly impressive for the GOP, considering that many of the Republican seats in the west are in gerrymandered-into-stasis California, which only saw Abramoff-tainted Richard Pombo go down. However, their success here might also have meant that immigration helped them.

The South's numbers are truly stunning to me. It was in the South that, despite a wide and deep anti-Republican national mood, the party still managed to hold all but 4 seats and almost won 2 Democratic seats. In 2 of these Republican-held seats, the Republican candidate was not even on the ballot, and in 1 of these seats -- he nearly won! The Republican's capacity to hold the South despite the pro-Democratic national mood is a stunning feature of our contemporary politics. Just as urban centers are solid Democratic bastions in the House -- so also is the South.

How the Opens Broke

Given the final result of the evening, it's a bit surprising to see that of the 12 open seats Republicans defended yesterday, they actually managed to win five of them. Here is how the list breaks down:

GOP Open Seats Won By Democrats
District
Cook PVI
Result
Spread
AZ-8
R +1
54-42
D +12
IA-1
D +5
55-43
D +12
NY-24
R +1
54-45
D +9
WI-8
R +4
51-49
D +2
OH-18*
R +6
62-36
D +26
TX-22*
R +15
52-42
D +12
FL-16*
R +2
49-48
D +1
Average
R +3.4
53.8-43.6
D +10.2

As you can see, three of the seats on this list were lost to scandal and/or corruption. Wisconsin 8 is the only one that jumps out as a seat Republicans are probably disappointed by losing.

Now here are the five seats Republicans defended:

GOP Open Seats Successfully Defended
District
Cook PVI
Result
Spread
CO-5
R +17
59-41
R +18
FL-13
R +4
50-50
TIE
IL-6
R +3
51-49
R +2
MN-6
R +5
50-42
R +8
NV-2
R +2
51-45
R +6
Average
R +6.2
52.2-45.4
R +6.8

As I wrote earlier today, I agree with the analysis that Iraq was the dominant factor in last night's election. But not every race fits neatly into that box, as is evident by looking at this list. With the exception of FL-13, where the Republican underperformed the district's Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index), the Republican margin of victory in the other four races met or exceeded the partisan orientation of the district.

That's not what one would expect to see - especially with respect to open seats in only moderately Republican leaning districts - given anti-Republican tide we saw in motion last night. But for whatever reason, the Democratic surge didn't materialize in these districts last night. There are any number of factors at play in each race that could help account for this, including financial advantage, quality of challenger, and superior GOTV.

But even among that group, Illinois 6 stands out as an anomaly. In an anti-Republican year with Iraq as a backdrop to the entire election, how did Republican Peter Roskam defeat a well-financed, double amputee veteran of the war in a moderate GOP district? I know Roskam had a superior GOTV effort, but my hunch is that he - and probably the others in the group of open seats as well - may have benefitted from the fact they weren't incumbents this year and thus were spared, to at least some degree, the wrath that voters inflicted on Republicans elsewhere around the country last night.

Why I Jumped The Shark

Well - last night surprised me!

I was not a lot wrong. But I was wrong enough. Why did this happen? In retrospect, I see now that I made two analytical mistakes - one theoretical and one methodological.

(1) I overestimated the extent to which our electoral institutions would mitigate GOP loses. I never doubted that (a) the public was in a foul mood, (b) they blamed Bush and (c) this would induce GOP loses.

However, my intuition at the time was that, at least in the House, this would reduce the extent to which the GOP would suffer loses. It did. But not as much as I thought it would. They lost about 10 or so more seats than I thought they would, and about 2 seats more than my 95% range of possibilities. The error here was my overestimation of the change in our electoral structure that 1994 produced.

As it turns out, Charlie Cook did not jump the shark. I did! I let my "institutional bias" take me right over a damned shark! Sorry, Charlie!

(2) I recently put together an estimate of the House playing field based upon challenger financing and party activity. Going into yesterday, I was using this as my "crib" sheet. However, and much to my chagrin, the list was not complete. It missed several seats that switched last night - IA 02, KS 02, MN 01, NH 02, NY 19, NC 08 (almost!), and PA 04. The divergence between the range in my final estimate and the actual result is entirely explicable by the seats my list missed. Where did I go wrong?

I did not include a measure for incumbent financing/activity. If I had, I think I would have picked up on many of these races. The GOP seems to me to have lost all of these because the Republican incumbents were not as active/effective as they could have been. They did not accurately assess the threat that they faced and/or did not take enough steps to mitigate the threat. Others, like Jim Gerlach, Chris Shays and Heather Wilson did - and they survived. Theoretically, the mistake I made here was to presume that the incumbency advantage that obviously exists (this year's incumbency reelection rate is still about 95.2%) is automatic. Incumbents are in a good position to insulate themselves. But they are not automatically insulated. They must actually do the insulating.

From my scan of the seats that flipped, I think that this election supports the theory of Gary Jacobson and Samuel Kernell, which I have discussed at many points in time during the campaign season. Our House elections are not referenda strictly speaking. They are qualified referenda - the qualifications are (a) good recruitment, (b) good fundraising and (c) good campaigns. If they were true referenda, the GOP would have lost many more seats than they actually did. Fortunately for them, most voters did not get a true choice last night because their Democratic challengers were under-funded and under-qualified relative to their incumbents. The incumbents who lost were the incumbents who either faced strong challenges or who themselves ran very weak campaigns.

Indeed, by my count -- there were only 3 Republican incumbents who ran essentially flawless campaigns and nevertheless lost: Nancy Johnson, Mike Sodrel, and Clay Shaw. Mike Fitzpatrick and Rob Simmons both appear headed for loses, so I would add them to the list. The rest of the Democratic pickups, 83.33% in all, were pickups in either (a) open seats, (b) seats held by scandal-ridden incumbents or (c) seats held by ineffective campaigners.

Thus, Republican mistakes, specifically campaign-related mistakes, very clearly were a major factor in the loss of the House. However, my feeling is that the mistakes that were made were the kind of mistakes that are inevitably made in our type of politics. The political parties really have much less power than people think. So, when people blast Tom Reynolds for not forcing Don Sherwood to step down -- my response is, what could Reynolds possibly have done? All you could ultimately do is appeal to Sherwood to bail. You cannot force the guy out. Ditto with Republican incumbents like Leach, Hostettler and Bass. None of them raised nearly enough money to survive this kind of environment. But what was Reynolds to do? Force them to go to fundraisers? These guys are really responsible to and for themselves. They are not like children. Candidates are largely independent of parties today.

I think the reason that the GOP lost so many seats that they "should not" have lost is that many of these incumbents have not faced real challenges since they were elected. Some of them have never faced real challenges. Accordingly, they just were not ready.

Call it evolutionary electoral politics. The strong survive when conditions turn against them. The weak do not. Last night, almost all of GOP loses were their weak seats.

From's Contradiction

Al From, head of the DLC, just issued a statement on the election results which reads:

Yesterday's results indicate a broad and deep Democratic win, from the takeover of the House and strong Senate gains, to a significant shift in governorships and state legislatures. They also obviously represent a striking repudiation of a Bush administration and Republican Party that has so often subordinated problem solving to power seeking, competence to ideology, honesty and integrity to corruption and cronyism, and the politics of national unity to the politics of polarization. The administration's failed Iraq policies became central to the election in no small part because they illustrated all these Republican failures.

This is a victory for the vital center of American politics over the extremes. In pursuing the Bush-Rove formula over the last six years, Republicans have deliberately abandoned the political center, and invited Democrats to occupy it. If you look at the victorious Democratic candidates in "red" and "purple" states and districts, it's clear that they did. And while Democrats benefited from an energized party base, the key to the victory was in the contested center of the electorate, among moderates, independents, middle-class voters, and suburbanites. These voters could represent an expanded Democratic base, and an enduring progressive majority, if Democrats use their new power wisely.

That is why Democrats should view this election as a beginning, not as an end. They must now show they can meet the big national challenges Republicans botched, and provide the American people with the kind of responsible, problem solving government, and ethical, unifying politics, the electorate clearly craves.

The big political test will come almost immediately, in the ability of Democrats to offer a compelling progressive agenda for the country, and in a 2008 presidential contest that will be about the future more than the past. If Democrats act as problem solvers, not polarizers, that future will be very bright.

That last point was underscored by Joe Lieberman's re-election victory in Connecticut, which helps solidify the Democratic Party's credentials as a broad, inclusive coalition able to compete for the vital center of American politics.

Question for From: if the vote yesterday was a "striking repudiation" of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, how can Joe Lieberman's re-election in Connecticut be characterized as a positive development for the Democratic Party?

Rumsfeld Steeping Down

Question: If President Bush had done this two, three, four months ago would yesterday have been different?

Analyzing the Analyses

Which one of these analyses is not like the other:

Fred Barnes: "This one is pretty easy to explain. Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor. Unpopular wars trump good economies and everything else. President Truman learned this in 1952, as did President Johnson in 1968. Now, it was President Bush's turn, and since his name wasn't on the ballot, his party took the hit."

Susan Page: "The coalition that re-elected President Bush and bolstered Republican margins in Congress just two years ago fractured Tuesday under the weight of an unpopular war, economic unease and a series of scandals."

Dick Meyer: "On Election Day 2006, American voters did almost exactly what history would predict: giving a president in the sixth year of his administration a serious smackdown, as an electorate wary of politicians and parties hedged its bets and chose a divided government.

Since World War II, the parties that controlled the White House for two terms have lost an average of 29 House seats and six Senate seats in their second midterm elections.

This election fits tidily into that pattern."

Ron Brownstein: "For six tumultuous years President Bush has provoked intense opposition while mobilizing passionate support for an ambitious conservative agenda.

On Tuesday, that perilous strategy crumbled -- and triggered his party's abrupt fall from power."

Notice the difference? Barnes, Page and Meyer point to the specific, obvious reasons Bush and his party went down last night: mainly discontent with the war in Iraq mixed in with a bit of scandal and a historical trend that was bound to take its toll. Brownstein, on the other hand, writes that Bush "provoked intense opposition" because of his pursuit of an "ambitious conservative agenda." That's a much broader, and much flimsier argument than the others.

Bush didn't lose Independents in this election because of some "ambitious conservative agenda." He lost them because of Iraq. Period. He lost them because of his inability over the last two years to communicate dual messages to the public on the war: one of strength and one of flexibility. Instead, the public heard all the former and none of the latter, and as the situation in Iraq continued to detoriorate this year the perception hardened among Independents that the President was merely being stubborn and unresponsive.

A decent number of Independents stood with the president in 2004 when presented with the choice between Bush's tough optimism vs. Kerry's tepid defeatism, but over the last twenty four months the clock simply ran out on Bush and the "stay the course" argument with those in the middle.

The Morning After

Front page images from some major papers, to go with the morning coffee:

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nytsm.gif

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The Leftovers

There are a few key races still outstanding in the House. Here is what is left uncalled at the moment:

CT-2: Incumbent Republican Rob Simmons is down 223 votes with 97% reporting. This one is in a recount.

GA-8 & GA-12: Dems lead in both races. Marshall has a 1,200+ vote lead over Collins in GA-8 with 8 precincts still out. In GA-12, Barrow has a 3,300+ lead against Burns with 331 of 346 precincts reporting.

ID-1: Incumbent Republican Sali is up 50-45 with 87% reporting.

NM-1: Incumbent Republican Heather Wilson is holding a 1,300 vote lead over Democrat Patricia Madrid with 99% in.

NC-8: Incumbent Republican Hayes has a 468 vote lead with 100% reporting. Recount city.

PA-6 & PA-8: In the sixth, incumbent Republican Gerlach is up 3,000 votes with 100% reporting. In the eighth, Democratic challenger Murphy is up 1,500 votes on incumbent Republican Fitzpatrick. Though all the votes in both these races appear to have been counted, neither race has been called.

WA-8: Incumbent Republican Dave Reichert is up 51-49 over Democrat Darcy Burner at the moment.

WY-AL: Incumbent Republican Cubin is clinging to a 822 vote lead over Democrat Trauner with 99% reporting.

If the margins in all these races stay as they are - which is a huge "if" - Dems would pick up another two seats, giving them a net of 29 on the night.

November 07, 2006

Illinois 6

The Roskam campaign is feeling confident that the trends are moving in the favor. Margins in DuPage are holding, and they feel they have enough of a cushion to hold off whatever votes Duckworth brings out of the Cook County portions of the district.

New Hampshire 1

New Hampshire 1 looks to have gone to the Democrats. Shea-Porter (D) 52%, Bradley 48% (R) with 93%

Georgia Seats

GA-12: 75% in: Barrow (D) 50%, Burns 50% (R) and GA-8: 67% in: Marshall (D) 51%, Collins 49% (R)

Connecticut Seats

Nancy Johnson has lost in CT-5. Early word from Connecticut was Johnson was going to go down and Shays and Simmons might hold on. With 41% reporting in CT-2, Simmons 50%, Courtney 50%. The Shays race only has 8% in.

Kentucky 4

Kentucky 4 is another one of those Ohio River races it is very close with 54% reporting Davis (R) 48%, Lucas (47%).

Florida 22

With 29% reporting Klein (D) 52%, Shaw (46%). This race we had ranked as a Leans GOP seat and is the first Leans GOP the Dems look like they may take.

Florida 13

With 47% reporting Buchanan 53%, Jennings 47%. This race is one of our Toss Ups.

Virginia Senate

60% reporting and George Allen is hanging tough with a 50% - 49% lead. The exit polls in this race had Webb ahead 52% - 47%.

Florida 16

Florida 16 is a race we wrote off as a Dem pick up when the Foley scandal erupted. But in the last two weeks we have downgraded this race and at the end it occupied the last slot on our Leans Dem list. With 19% reporting the Democrat Mahoney is up 3 points, 50 - 47. Karl Rove the other day said 35%-40% of the votes in this district would be cast by absentee ballot and Republicans had asked for 60% of the absentee ballots. I don't know the timetable on how the absentees are counted in this district and whether they are incorporated in the early precincts returns. But if they are not, Republicans may safe this seat.

Indiana 9

Another key race to watch is Indiana 9. This is a seat right in the middle of our Toss Ups and a race you would think Democrats would need to win if they are to have a big night. With 22% reporting it is Sodrel (R) 48%, Hill (D) 48%.

Kentucky 3

A key race to watch right now is Kentucky 3. This is the last of our toss up races and a win here for the Democrats would not be very good news for Republians. With 64% reporting it is 50% Yarmuth (D), 49% Northup (R).

The InTrade Markets

The InTrade markets continue to trade and it will be wild to watch as the numbers start to come out. In the five critical Senate races we're watching the markets have been relatively stable. Talent appears to have a little higher bid and is trading in the mid 40's; Allen has fallen with his last trade at 30. Steele has moved up to the high 30's, and Ehrlich is at 45 (Steele will almost definitely need a Ehrlich win for him to win). Burns and Chaffee are flat at 30.

So to summarize the movement in this pre-release period: decent movement to Steele and Webb. Small movement to Talent. Chafee and Burns flat. Democrats still hold edges in every race.

Missouri Update

I've been trying to keep close tabs on the Senate race in Missouri. My sources on the ground say turnout appears to be heavy in the suburbs outside St. Louis (St. Louis county) which may or may not be bad news for Talent. I'm told turnout in the city of St. Louis and the metro area of Kansas City is looking to be about average for a midterm. And turnout in SW MO, which is the Republican stronghold where President Bush visited last week, also appears to be heavy, which is good news for Talent.

Both sides expect this one to come down to the wire, with a margin of victory ending up somewhere in the 20,000 to 40,000 vote range out of just over 2 million ballots cast.

The Wild Senate Possibilities

What is wild about today is how wide the potential range could be in the Senate. I touched on this on Saturday with the observation that it was not far-fetched that Republicans could keep their losses to only three in the Senate. This was before the Pew, ABC/WP and Gallup polls that showed a late shift toward the GOP. Just last night the Evans-Novak Political Report predicted that Democrats would only net two seats in the Senate. It is this late shift to the GOP that pushed us to tick down our Senate number that had been at five-six down to four. And when you go down the list of RCP's 5 toss up races the possibilities of only a two seat loss are certainly not impossible.

However, and this should give pause to Republicans who are feeling better on the back of the closing generic polls, even with this late move, the odds still clearly favor a loss in the House. And while we think the most likely outcome in the Senate has moved from five to four, there is still a very real possibility that Democrats could sweep all five of the Toss Up states of Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, Missouri and Montana. With four out of five of these races having Republican incumbents trailing, (albeit by small numbers) a very good argument can be made they will all lose for as simple of a reason as they are trailing incumbents polling below 50%. And if that were to happen and the Democrats just hold Maryland they would get the Senate.

Given each one of these races has its own peculiar dynamics at work and they are all well within the margin of error, coupled with the market odds giving Republicans any where from 25% - 40% chance of wining each race, we felt that a Democratic sweep of all 5 toss ups was less likely than Republicans winning one or two. A tabulation of the InTrade odds at the end of last night as well as first thing this morning pointed to the GOP winning two out of these five as the most likely outcome and given the closing generic numbers that is where we came down as well.

As far as listing the order of how these seats might rate for each side, hat is difficult as there are cross-currents working both ways in all five of these races. We settled on Montana and Missouri as the two most likely to stay Republican, but you could certainly argue it other ways. Robert Novak who is predicting only a 2 seat Dem pickup suggests Burns will lose and Chafee and Steele will win.

Ignoring the weird situation in Rhode Island, Talent and Allen are closest in the RCP Averages and also are bid the highest in the trading markets. However, they are well known incumbents who are stuck near the mid-forties and don't have any momentum. Burns, Chafee and Steele on the other hand all have varying degrees of momentum.

Of the momentum guys we think Burns is the most likely to win simply because Montana is a conservative sate and Maryland and Rhode Island are not. And then between Talent and Allen we give the edge to Talent because he has run a very strong campaign, has some wind from the stem cell amendment vote, and has perhaps the best GOTV operation in the country.

So while we think four seats is the most likely pickup for the Democrats, six or two are legitimate possibilities.

The Closing Generic Polls and RCP's Final Projections

The final round of polls on the generic ballot question show such wide divergence it is hard to draw definite conclusions. However, a look at a chart of the RCP Generic Average does seem to offer visual proof that there has been some movement to Republicans in the last week of the campaign. Furthermore, if you had to rate the track record and reputation of the polling firms that make up the seven polls in the current RCP Average, the three that show single digit Democratic leads (Pew, Gallup, ABC/WP) as well as 6 and 7 point moves toward the GOP, would rank in the top half of that group.

Additionally, we have evidence from respected Democratic and Republican pollsters that there has indeed been a move in the generic ballot toward Republicans. Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Bob Shrum's Democracy Corps' final poll indicated a 7-point move in the generic vote toward Republicans. I spoke with Ed Goes of the Tarrance Group yesterday (the Republican half of the very respected and accurate Battleground Poll) who told me that his generic polling showed a tightening to Republicans leaving Democrats with a 6-point lead as opposed to double-digit leads they saw in October. Goeas also offered that their "likely voter modeling" tightened that 6-point deficit even further.

On balance, all of this supports the proposition that there is indeed a revival of Republican enthusiasm at the end of this campaign and some closing of the huge generic spreads that had been boosting assertions of a massive 35+ seat Democratic wave. This late in the game, however, it is hard to quantify just what kind of difference this makes in all of the individual Senate and House races. But the evidence was persuasive enough for us to down-tick our projected Democratic gains in the House and Senate.

On Saturday we had felt that the most likely Senate pickup for Democrats was five, today in RCP's final projection we think four seats is now the most likely outcome. In the House, the generic close should work to keep Republican losses muted; we've projected 19 seats with a range of 14 - 24. That range gives the GOP a small hope of hanging on to the House if everything breaks their way. If the Democrats win all of RCP's Toss Up races and Lean Democrat seats they could get up to 27 seats. (Jay Cost's analysis of the final Gallup generic poll also suggests a very similar 11 - 27 seat range.)

Bull Connor is Back

One of the biggest stories this election cycle was the "racist" ad run by the RNC against Harold Ford in Tennessee. Condemnations came fast and hard from the left, with critics decrying it as a despicable attempt by Republicans to invoke fears of miscegenation. There were also fantastic charges that the drumbeat in the sound track of a radio ad was meant to trigger subliminal racial messages ("freaking jungle drums" is how one liberal critic described it).

In contrast to the perceived and/or manufactured charges of race baiting against Republicans in Tennessee, let me draw your attention to this report by the AJC Political Insider on what appears to be a last-minute radio ad cut on behalf Democrat John Eaves featuring U.S. Rep John Lewis, as well as current Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former mayor Andrew Young.

Eaves is running for Chairman of the Fulton County Board, and the Political Insider got the following transcript off of an audio file on Eaves's web site (which is currently unavailable) though they add that right now "it is not clear where the ad is being broadcast, or how frequently -- if at all."

Here's the transcript:

(Sound of kettle drums, followed by pulsing strings)

LEWIS: This is Congressman John Lewis.

FRANKLIN: And I'm Mayor Shirley Franklin.

YOUNG: And I am Andy Young.

LEWIS: On Nov. 7, we face the most dangerous situation we ever have. You think fighting off dogs and water hoses in the '60s was bad. [Now we] sit idly by, and let the right-wing Republicans take control of the Fulton County County Commission.

FRANKLIN: The efforts of Martin and Coretta King, Hosea Williams, Maynard Jackson and many others will be lost. That's why we must stand up, and we must turn out the vote for the Democrats on Election Day.

YOUNG: And especially for John Eaves for Fulton County Commission chairman. Unless you want them to turn back the clock on equal rights, and human rights and economic opportunity for all of us, vote for John Eaves as Fulton County chairman.

LEWIS: Your very life may depend on it. [all emphasis added]

It's hard to imagine a more blatant play on racial fear than suggesting the election of a Republican will result in a return to the days of Bull Connor. The fact that this ad appeared on Eaves's web site is bad enough, but it would be truly despicable if it did air on radio in Atlanta.

RCP Projections

HOUSE: 222 D, 213 R (D +19) On the Republican side, RCP's Final House ratings list thirteen seats in the Leans Democrat category, fourteen in the Toss Ups column and twenty seats rated Leans Republican. On the Democratic side, 2 seats are rated as Toss Ups with 4 Leaning Democrat.

Splitting Toss Ups 50/50, RCP projects Democrats picking up 19 seats in the House of Representatives with an overall range of 14 - 24 seats.

SENATE: 51R, 49D (D+4) Of the original fourteen competitive Senate contests RCP has been tracking, six races have Final RCP Averages in the double digits (PA, MN, WA, MI, OH, and CT) and are safe for each side. Of those six, Democrats will net pick ups in Ohio and Pennsylvania and a nominal hold with Joe Lieberman's win in Connecticut as an Independent. Three races (NJ, AZ, and TN) have Final RCP Averages over 6% and Lean toward each respective party and thus would be holds for each side.

The remaning five races listed in the Toss Up category (MO, MT, VA, MD, and RI) all have Final RCP Averages below 4% and are too close to call definitively for one side. Democrats hold leads in all five of these races, and based off the RCP Averages and the latest InTrade market quotes the most likely scenario would be for Democrats to win 3 of these 5 races. That would net two additional Democratic pick ups and leave them with a total gain of four seats.

Chafee Battles Bill

Bill Clinton swooped into Rhode Island yesterday to try and help push Sheldon Whitehouse across the finish line. Chafee said it was a sign that Democrats were pressing "the panic button," but Whitehouse played up Clinton's visit as a sign of the "national importance" of the RI Senate race - in other words, the importance of dumping Chafee to punish President Bush.

The Providence Journal captured Chafee's retort, which I thought was fairly effective:

Calling Clinton "disingenuous," Chafee said: "It infuriates me, that President Clinton is coming, saying, Get rid of Senator Chafee, the guy that voted against the war,' when his own wife did not. I know they are separate people but I voted against the war. He should be here saying we need more people like Senator Chafee in the Senate working on both sides of the aisle, casting good votes unlike his wife on the war."

He's got a point there, don't you think?

Election Day Hype

Adam Nagourney writes a remarkable walk-back-the-cat piece in the New York Times today:

For a combination of reasons -- increasingly bullish prognostications by independent handicappers, galloping optimism by Democratic leaders and bloggers, and polls that promise a Democratic blowout -- expectations for the party have soared into the stratosphere. Democrats are widely expected to take the House, and by a significant margin, and perhaps the Senate as well, while capturing a majority of governorships and legislatures.

These expectations may well be overheated. Polls over the weekend suggested that the contest was tightening, and some prognosticators on Monday were scaling back their predictions, if ever so slightly. (Charlie Cook, the analyst who is one of Washington's chief setters of expectations, said in an e-mail message on Monday that he was dropping the words "possibly more" from his House prediction of "20-35, possibly more.")

Some Democrats worry that those forecasts, accurate or not, may be setting the stage for a demoralizing election night, and one with lasting ramifications, sapping the party's spirit and energy heading into the 2008 presidential election cycle.

"Two years ago, winning 14 seats in the House would have been a pipe dream," said Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic organization. Now, Mr. Bennett said, failure to win the House, even by one seat, would send Democrats diving under their beds (not to mention what it might do to all the pundits).

"It would be crushing," he said. "It would be extremely difficult."

Mr. Cook put it more succinctly. "I think you'd see a Jim Jones situation -- it would be a mass suicide," he said.

Meanwhile, The Hill has a story on "Great Dem Expectations" and the Associated Press headline reads, "Bush says of vote: 'We're closing strong.'"

Where to Watch on Election Night

John Fund has an an excellent guide of where to watch tonight (which includes a nice plug for RCP, btw). I'll be watching two places: Indiana and Kentucky, as previously mentioned, and also upstate New York.

New York features races in five Republican-held seats (districts 20 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 29), of which it's looking like they'll probably lose two: Sweeney in 20 and the open seat in 24. Keep your eye on the results in the other three races as an indicator of the way the rest of the night may go.

Educating the NYT Reader

On Sunday the New York Times went out of its way to run a lead editorial explaining why, for the first time in history, they refused to endorse even a single Republican this year. Today, the NYT publishes a list of "Election Day Choices" for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, telling readers they may "print out this page for easy reference using the tool in the box at right."

Most newspapers offer summaries of their endorsements as a cheat sheet for their readers - at least the small percentage of those who are willing to take their electoral cues from the editorial board of a newspaper. On the other hand, newspapers usually print such lists because they've endorsed a mix of candidates from both parties.

Why Allen Might Lose

John from Danville, VA offers this intriguing hypothesis:

The only way that Allen keeps his seat is by winning by a percentage point. Even his own people are spinning to the media about an expected loss. There are a number of reasons this inconceivable defeat could take place, "macaca" not to be ignored.

However, this campaign illustrates a strategy that should never be ignored.

In 2000, I was fascinated by a column by Jake Tapper of Salon (now with ABC News). It appeared right after the 2000 primaries when polling showed Gore pulling ahead and the "consensus" of the punditocracy was a Gore victory. Tapper wrote about "how Bush can win." His thesis: check out. He advised that Bush should take a long vacation until the convention. His rationale was that Bush was so bad with the language and the summer was a time when people were tuned out that a vacation would recharge Bush and just provide opportunities for Gore to make mistakes. There was even a cartoon of Bush on a tropical island to highlight the point.

Jim Webb has played this strategy to perfection. At the conclusion of the June primary, Webb had less than 100K in cash and trailed Allen by 16 points.

What did Webb do? He simply took a vacation. He hardly campaigned at all. He ran no media from primary day until Labor Day. His most vigorous campaigning was a one week stretch of "kitchen campaigning" in which he met with a dozen or so people in a home to discuss issues. That's it. (In fairness to Webb, he said that he spent the summer with his son who was about to go to Iraq in September)

This summer, the "insiders" of the Democratic Party and the liberal blogosphere went crazy about the inaction. People were proclaiming it "the worst campaign ever."

What happened? Allen spent 1.5 million bucks on positive T.V. advertising in Northern Virginia. This spending spree led to exactly 0% improvement for him in any poll. Allen's spokesman also alienated every political reporter in the state by attacking them and Larry Sabato on an almost daily basis. And finally Macaca happened at a summer campaign event.

While Webb literally did nothing on the campaign front (except for the occasional fundraiser or small "kitchen" event), Allen wasted 1.5 million dollars, alienated the press corps and made a gigantic verbal gaffe.

Sometimes the best strategy in a political campaign is to "do nothing." First of all, it is true that most people don't pay attention to campaigns in the summer. There's a thousand things more exciting in life than to start worrying about an election in November. Secondly, overexposure can be a bad thing. There gets to be a point where a candidate can just become annoying by being seen so many times. Doing nothing is the perfect antidote to overexposure. Finally, in the age of YouTube, if your opponent campaigns in the dog days, they may make a mistake which you can capitalize on. Meanwhile you do nothing, and there is not YouTube to sink you.


November 06, 2006

What To Make of the Generic Ballot Results?

I have been a harsh critic of the generic ballot for most of the campaign season. Through all of my critiques, however, I have maintained that -- when we get near Election Day -- the generic ballot becomes a useful measure.

I still think that is true, but unfortunately to use it, we have to do some deconstruction. There are some very conflicting generic ballot results that have emerged in the last 24 hours. Among likely voters Time, Newsweek, CNN and Fox News have found little-to-no shrinkage in the margin that separates Democrats from Republicans. Meanwhile, Gallup, Pew and ABC News/Washington Post (not to mention Democracy Corps) have found a fairly dramatic shrinkage.

What do we do with these divergent results? The first thing we do is verify that they are not reducible to statistical variation. The most efficient way to do this is to take the two results from the different camps that are closest to one another: Gallup and Fox News. It is 94.74% likely that there is a real difference between the two polls. While this is not enough to fully guarantee that the results are irreconcilable, it is strong evidence that they indeed are. It seems, then, that we are faced with a choice. We cannot simply average these results out, as we might for candidate ballots. They are very clearly divergent because of different methodologies.

What to do?

The smart move, obviously, would be to go with the poll that has the best track record. And, that is no contest. That is Gallup -- (for better or for worse) by default. Only Gallup has been conducting the generic ballot long enough to evaluate its accuracy, and as it turns out, their generic ballot is incredibly accurate. The final Gallup generic ballot actually explains 89% of all variation in final vote outcomes in midterms since 1950. In fact, for Fox to be correct would require the Gallup generic to underestimate Democratic strength by nearly 3.6%, which is more than twice the size of the largest Democratic underestimation in the history of the Gallup statistic.

Gallup has the historical track record. Practically speaking, it is the poll to follow. In 50 years, we can evaluate the Fox, CNN, Newsweek and Time polls to see how they fare. Until then, Gallup is the indicator.

So, what does Gallup tell us? If we run an ordinary least squares regression analysis that uses the generic ballot to predict the Democratic share of the vote, we get 54% D to 46% R.

That gets to the next big question: how many seats does that imply?

Unfortunately, I do not have more than a rough answer to this question. We can run a straight-up regression analysis that uses final popular vote to predict seat swings. And, with any such regression, we get an estimate of the final result that produces an error or residual. However, two problems with the residual instantly present themselves. First, the variance is not constant across all observations. The model's predictive power varies systematically, depending upon whether or not the observation was taken after 1994. In technical terms, the model is heteroskedastic, which is to say that the variance of the error is not constant across all observations. It is, rather, correlated with when the observation was taken. Second, the error term seems to be correlated to whether or not the observation was taken after 1994. We can fix the second problem by simply inserting a dummy variable into the regression to control for 1994. The intuition behind this is that 1994 simply increased the GOP's minimal seat share. So, a dummy variable to control for post-1994 would be a way to increase the floor. However, the first problem persists even when we insert this dummy variable (which is statistically significant). Even with our 1994 dummy variable, the model's predictive power still varies depending upon when the observation was taken.

What does this mean?

It probably means that the effect of 1994 was more than a simple increase of the GOP floor, though that is certainly the case. It seems that whatever happened in 1994 has systematically diminished the predictive power of vote share. The House seat share is now less responsive to changes in House vote totals. This makes sense in light of what I have been arguing all year -- the post-1994 environment produced many districts where one's vote for Congress and one's vote for President came to align. Accordingly, districts became less responsive to aggregate swings -- as they were sufficiently filled with strong partisans to withstand such divergences.

If this is the case, controlling for 1994 is simply not enough. We need to run two separate regression equations, one for 1994/pre-1994 and one for post-1994.

In the pre-1994 equation, a Democratic victory of 54/46 in the popular vote yields an expected caucus of 261 seats. That would be a 58 seat pickup -- the quintessential wave of which many have spoken. This equation, furthermore, explains an impressive 86% of all variation in House seats. In the post-1994 equation, a 54/46 Democratic victory in the pouplar vote yields an expected caucus of 222 seats. That would be a 19 seat pickup for the Democrats. The standard error of this estimate is about 4 seats, so 68% of the time we would get a result between 15 seats and 23 seats, 95% of the time we would get a result between 11 and 27 seats. Interestingly, vote changes only explain about 40% of the variation in seat changes, which is consistent with the idea that vote changes simply matter less.

Here is the major problem: the latter equation only has 5 observations. While I am confident that (a) there has been some kind of change in the political landscape that (b) cannot be captured by a simple post-1994 dummy variable -- I am not confident of the post-1994 equation. The reasons are several and technical -- but they all boil down to the fact that there are just too few observations. I would like more than 5 observations to draw an inference from votes to seats. What I do know is that it is a problematic inference to use the last 15 or so midterm elections all at once. Something happened in the post-1994 era -- the House is now less responsive than it was prior to this date. This equation implies that its relative unresponsiveness will give the Democrats only a nominal majority. However, I do not think we have had enough observations of the post-1994 era to really draw a confident inference.

We can see, then, in the final day of the campaign the question that I think has been with us for the entire season: just how stable is the current House structure? Just how invulnerable is it to change?

I honestly do not have an answer to the question. I have a hypothesis -- and tomorrow is the day that I will be testing that hypothesis. So...I'll tell you on Wednesday!

I will say that I feel pretty good about that 11 to 27 range. On a good night, I see the Democrats picking up 23 to 27. On a bad night, I see them pick up only 11 to 15. On an average night, well...19 is not terribly far from the estimate I have had in my mind for a while. It is also what Bob Novak currently estimates.

Note From the Editors

As a result of the significant increase in traffic this morning, portions of the site are not updating as quickly as normal. We hope to have the issue resolved shortly, but in the meantime please bear with us.

For the moment, we've linked to the new polls from FOX News and CNN showing generic ballot leads for the Dems of 13 and 20 points, respectively, in the left hand column of the front page. They should be reflected in an updated in the RealClearPolitics Average soon.

Jack Plays Politics

In a post yesterday about the Military Times editorial calling for Rumsfeld's resignation I wrote:

Obviously, what's angering the troops is that a publication purporting to speak on their behalf is actually a subsidiary of Gannett Newspapers (which makes it a sister pub to USA Today, among others) that is in no way affiliated with the professional military and, according to the numerous responses I've gotten, doesn't seem to in any way represent the majority views of U.S. troops. Furthermore, given both of these things, the timing of the editorial just days before the election is viewed by many as clearly inappropriate.

Since the paper isn't associated with the U.S. military and the editorial page seems to in no way represent the views of U.S. troops, I guess it only makes sense that Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha would not only use the editorial as a political tool but also tout it as more important than the news that Saddam is going to hang:

Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has become the face of his party's opposition to the war in Iraq, said the verdict was the right one but predicted it would not make a difference in this campaign. What would matter more, Mr. Murtha said, were editorials in military papers being published Monday calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"When The Army Times, The Navy Times, The Marine Corps Times, they have all said that we're not supporting the troops, that they're losing confidence with the administration, that's what's important," Mr. Murtha said, campaigning in Croydon, Pa., outside Philadelphia, for Patrick Murphy, a Democrat seeking to unseat Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick.

Since Jack Murtha often claims to have the pulse of the United States military, one has to assume that he knows the Military Times isn't part of the military and that the editorial doesn't represent the views of the troops. Thus it's hard to escape the fact Murtha is willfully misreprenting the nature and importance of the editorial to play politics before the election.

Dean Learns His Lesson

Howard Dean fired a blank the last time he wrote an op-ed that ran side-by-side with Ken Mehlman.

It looks like he learned a lesson, because Dean's effort this morning in USA Today is much improved. He hits the GOP on Iraq, hits the right angles on the issue of terrorism (bin Laden at large, implementing 9/11 commission recommendations), and also sticks it to Republicans on spending and ethics. All in all, a better and more persuasive effort than last time. The question is whether any undecided voters left out there believe what he says.

Gallup vs. Mason-Dixon in the Senate

In the last two days Mason-Dixon and Gallup have released a host of Senate polls. In some critical battleground states for the Senate they have shown quite divergent results and it is instructive to go back and look at how these respective polling organizations did in the key battleground states in 2004 in their final election eve polls.

2004
Ohio
Gallup: Kerry +4
Mason-Dixon: Bush +2
Final Results: Bush +2

Pennsylvania
Gallup: Bush +4
Mason-Dixon: Kerry +2
Final Results: Kerry +3

Florida
Gallup: Kerry +3
Mason-Dixon: Bush +4
Final Results: Bush +5

2006
Montana
Gallup: Tester +9
Mason-Dixon: Tied
Final Results: ???

Virginia
Gallup: Allen +3
Mason-Dixon: Webb +1
Final Results: ???

Tennessee
Gallup: Corker +3
Mason-Dixon: Corker +12
Final Results: ???

So, I would take the Gallup state polls with a grain of salt. In RCP's opinion Burns is within 1-2 points with considerable momentum in Montana, Allen and Webb are knotted in a dead heat with Webb having the slight edge and Corker is more likely to win by 10 in Tennessee than lose.

Does This Math Add Up?

Stuart Rothenberg updated his House rankings a few days ago. And yowsa!! He sees 34 to 40 seats flipping. That is quite a large number.

But take a look at the assignment of races to each category. I don't think those numbers add up.

PURE TOSS-UP (20 R, 0 D)

CA 11 (Pombo, R)
CT 2 (Simmons, R)
CT 4 (Shays, R)
FL 16 (Open; Foley, R)
FL 22 (Shaw, R)
IL 6 (Open; Hyde, R)
KS 2 (Ryun, R)
MN 1 (Gutknecht, R)
MN 6 (Open; Kennedy, R)
NM 1 (Wilson, R)
NY 20 (Sweeney, R)
NY 26 (Reynolds, R)
OH 1 (Chabot, R)
OH 2 (Schmidt, R)
PA 4 (Hart, R)
PA 6 (Gerlach, R)
PA 8 (Fitzpatrick, R)
TX 22 (Open; DeLay, R)
VA 2 (Drake, R)
WI 8 (Open; Green, R)

TOSS-UP/TILT REPUBLICAN (10 R, 0 D)

AZ 1 (Renzi, R)
CA 4 (Doolittle, R)
CO 4 (Musgrave, R)
ID 1 (Open; Otter, R)
KY 3 (Northup, R)
KY 4 (Davis, R)
NV 3 (Porter, R)
NY 25 (Walsh, R)
NY 29 (Kuhl, R)
WA 8 (Reichert, R)

TOSS-UP/TILT DEMOCRATIC (7 R, 3 D)

AZ 5 (Hayworth, R)
CT 5 (Johnson, R)
FL 13 (Open; Harris, R)
GA 8 (Marshall, D)
GA 12 (Barrow, D)
IL 8 (Bean, D)
IN 9 (Sodrel, R)
NH 2 (Bass, R)
NY 24 (Open; Boehlert, R)
NC 11 (Taylor, R)

LEAN REPUBLICAN (3 R, 0 D)

NJ 7 (Ferguson, R)
OH 12 (Tiberi, R)
TX 23 (Bonilla, R)

LEAN DEMOCRATIC (6 R, 1 D)

IA 1 (Open; Nussle, R)
IA 3 (Boswell, D)
IN 2 (Chocola, R)
OH 15 (Pryce, R)
OH 18 (Open; Ney, R)
PA 7 (Weldon, R)
PA 10 (Sherwood, R)

REPUBLICAN FAVORED (8 R, 0 D)

CA 50 (Bilbray, R)
CO 5 (Open; Hefley, R)
KY 2 (Lewis, R)
NE 3 (Open; Osborne, R)
NV 2 (Open; Gibbons, R)
NY 3 (King, R)
NY 19 (Kelly, R)
WY AL (Cubin, R)

DEMOCRAT FAVORED (3 R, 1 D)

AZ 8 (Open; Kolbe, R)
CO 7 (Open; Beauprez, R)
IN 8 (Hostettler, R)
VT A-L (Open; Sanders, D)

That would be 57 Republican seats that are, in some way, vulnerable. Fair enough. As I argued this week, I think this list is a tad too long, but that is all right.

Here is where I run into difficulties. How does this list add up to a net pickup of 34 to 40 seats? Let us assume (1) that each category is -- to some degree -- vulnerable (i.e. that the two unmentioned categories are "Safe Republican" and "Safe Democrat"), (2) that all seats not mentioned here are in their parties' respective "Safe" categories, (3) that each category is equidistant from those immediately preceding and following it (i.e. each category is separated from the two closest by +12.5% or -12.5%), and (4) that the titles mean the same for one party as they do for the other (e.g. the Democrats have as good a chance in "Lean Democrat" as the Republicans do in "Lean Republican").

I think these are all fair assumptions. In fact, I am willing to bet that the average reader would implicitly make these assumptions upon a viewing of Rothenberg's list.

With these assumptions, that would mean that any given race in a given category would have the following probability of Democratic victory:

"Safe Democrat:" 100%
"Democrat Favored:" 87.5%
"Lean Democratic:" 75%
"Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic:" 62.5%
"Pure Toss-Up:" 50%
"Toss-Up/Tilt Republican:" 37.5%
"Lean Republican:" 25%
"Republican Favored:" 12.5%
"Safe Republican:" 0%

What we have, then, are 9 binomial distributions. The average, or expected value, for each distribution is simply the probability of victory for any given seat multiplied by the number of seats in the distribution.

Accordingly, for each category, we should expect the Democrats to win:

"Safe Democrat:" 100% * 198 Seats = 198 Seats
"Democrat Favored:" 87.5% * 4 Seats = 3.5 Seats
"Lean Democratic:" 75% * 7 Seats = 5.25 Seats
"Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic:" 62.5% * 10 Seats = 6.25 Seats
"Pure Toss-Up:" 50% * 20 Seats = 10 Seats
"Toss-Up/Tilt Republican:" 37.5% * 10 Seats = 3.75 Seats
"Lean Republican:" 25% * 3 Seats = 0.75 Seats
"Republican Favored:" 12.5% * 8 Seats = 1 Seat
"Safe Republican:" 0% * 175 Seats = 0 Seats

These expected values sum to 228.5. In other words, these distributions imply that the Democratic caucus will be 228 to 229 seats, which is to say that the Democrats should expect to net 25 to 26 seats.

This is 8 to 15 seats short of Rothenberg's estimate.

Take this from another perspective. Rothenberg's final estimate of net 34 to 40 means that the Democrats will win 63% to 73% of the seats on this list. That would put the mean probability between "Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic" and "Lean Democratic." However, in actuality the mean probability that the Democrats will win a seat is 49%. The median probability is 50%. The modal probability is 50%. In other words, the central tendency is "Toss-Up" (with an ever-so-slight nod to "Toss-Up/Tilt Republican"), not "Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic" and "Lean Democratic."

So -- even if we want to assign the probabilities differently, we will assuredly come short of an expected net of 34 to 40 seats -- provided that, for example, "Lean Democrat" means for Democrats what "Lean Republican" means for the Republicans. For instance, if we give the Republicans everything that has a Republican tilt to it, we give the Democrats everything that has a Democratic tilt to it, and we split the "Pure Toss-Ups" -- the Democrats would net 26 seats.

Maybe this gets to what I was hinting at in my recent critique of Cook. The major race rankers see a massive "wave" coming, but cannot really find the districts to upgrade to fit the wave. Cook's response has ostensibly been to develop a "Gimme a reason, punk!" kind of attitude toward Republican seats -- i.e. any seat where the Republicans blink is a seat that gets upgraded -- candidate financing, party involvement, district partisanship aside. The net result is a set of highly conservative seats that -- despite the negative mood toward the GOP and despite whatever drama might be happening on the ground -- are really unlikely to switch, and, minimally, do not justify the 1994 comparisons that Cook has been supplying with his list. 1994 saw Democrat-held 0 seats from districts in which George H.W. Bush did 9% or worse than his 1992 national average switch to the Republicans; Cook's list currently has 11 such Republican-held seats (i.e. seats from districts where Kerry did 9% or worse than his national average) rated as vulnerable.

Rothenberg's response? Well -- from the looks of it, he is implying that his race-by-race estimates will be wrong - and not just a little bit wrong. A lot wrong. Why does he not correct them so that they show something like 34 to 40? Maybe de does not because he just cannot find the races to fit into a 34 to 40 scenario, but thinks it will happen nonetheless.

This is, I think, what he thinks - though I am not sure he and his staff grasp just how divergent their aggregate estimate is from their race-by-race analysis. His political editor, Nathan Gonzalez, commented to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"As we looked back to 1994 in our analysis, Republicans even won half of the toss-up, tilting-Democratic seats back then," said Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report. "Because this is such a volatile environment, I think there will be a couple surprises, a couple members who will lose that no one was talking about.
In other words -- the list is different from the final number because Rothenberg and Gonzalez expect a surprise. Fair enough (well, not entirely - there are good reasons not to expect certain types of surprises - but we'll talk about that tomorrow). However, this does not cut the mustard. If we do what Gonzalez thinks we should do, if we altered the "Toss-Up/Tilt Republican" to give the Democrats 50% of the seats, that would only give the Democrats an extra 1.25 seats.

Gonzalez needs something much more extreme to get to 34 to 40. This might work: if we gave the Republicans nothing of the seats that are tilting/leaning/favoring Democrats and gave the Democrats half of everything that is "Toss-Up" or tilting/leaning/favoring Republicans, that would give the Democrats 36 to 37 seats. In other words, re-jigger the list to put 20 seats into "Safe Democratic" and 21 seats into "Pure Toss-Up" - which is to say, shift 66% of all vulnerable seats toward the Democrats - and you can hit the mid-point of their estimate.

So - that is the kind of "surprise" that Rothenberg and Gonzalez are expecting. Not a slight shocker on the margins - but a massive movement of seats toward the Democrats that these two have been unable to identify. And, I would note that I am positive that these two have been looking at each seat very closely to identify any kind of Republican weakness. To wit: they have about 20 Republican seats where (a) the Democratic challenger is under-funded, (b) the NRCC is not spending a dime on advertisements, or (c) the DCCC is not spending a dime. Either they know something the Hill committees and party donors do not, or they have inflated their list of Republican targets. Nevertheless, they still think they have underestimated Democratic strength.

In other words, Rothenberg and Gonzalez are expecting that, though they are convinced that the Democrats are as strong as they have been since Skynyrd's Second Helping, and though they have presumably completed a thorough search for any GOP seat with even the vaguest sign of weakness, they nevertheless believe that they have systematically underestimated Democratic strength by 30% to 60%!

That is a lot of error to commit when you are on the look-out for exactly that type of error.

Why are they doing this?

My read of Rothenberg, and Cook for that matter, is that they do not want to be on the low side of the next "1994." They want to minimize the probability of the false negative, i.e. Type II error. In other words, they do not want to fail to predict a seat will switch when it indeed will switch. Or, in the aggregate, they do not want to underestimate Democratic gains.

Meanwhile, neither of them seems to be all that concerned over Type 1 error, i.e. the error of the false positive. If they estimate that a seat is vulnerable when it in fact does not switch -- they don't seem to think that is a big problem. That is what I was getting at this week with Cook and his super-conservative Toss-Up districts, and also Rothenberg with his 20 or so Republican seats that just do not have the money situation to validate a vulnerability estimate,as well as his "fuzzy math" (oh...come on! You knew that was comin' eventually, right?). Rothenberg and Cook seem intent upon not underestimating Democratic strengths, even if it induces them to overestimate those strengths according to the internal logic of their arguments.

From my perspective, the prudent response is to minize total error, regardless of type. Type 1 error and Type 2 error are both error. We need to try to minimize all of it. A 10% reduction in the possibility of Type 2 error does us no good if it causes a 20% increase in the possibility of Type 1 error. You're still more wrong than when you started. You're just wrong-and-high. What is the value of that?

Simply stated, I think these two are tripping over themselves to amp up estimated Democratic gains. And, as I see it, both have stumbled in the last week. Cook cannot predict 1994-in-reverse using his list. He has districts on it that are up to 300% more conservative than the most liberal district to flip in 1994. Rothenberg cannot predict 34 to 40 using his list. My feeling is that they both have definitely minimized Type 2 error. With their lists, they have identified all of the seats that will flip. But the price they have paid is in Type 1 error. They both have a large cache of seats that just ain't gonna flip.

November 05, 2006

The Republican Close

Ten days ago I wrote about the battle between generic polls vs. individual contest and Karl Rove's point to NPR's Robert Siegel that the press and many professional pundits were missing the boat by focusing too much on the national generic polls and not enough on what was happening in the races that were actually going to decide control of Congress.

Rove crystallizes the disconnect going with the analysis in this election. The press and pundits appear to be overly obsessed with the generic national polls that show big Democratic leads but when you start to break down the individual races that Democrats have to win to get control of each chamber it is far from a sure thing that the Democrats will capture either house. ....For those who think Democratic control of Congress is a lock, another concern is that all these scenarios are with the national generic ballot currently showing a 15+ point deficit for the GOP -- a deficit that is far more likely to shrink between now and election day, rather than grow.

Well that massive generic ballot edge the Democrats have enjoyed since the Foley scandal is indeed shrinking. Of the four polls we have seen in November, two have shown 7 and 8 point moves (Pew and ABC/Wash Post) toward the GOP with Newsweek showing a 1-point move toward the Democrats. The Time poll is a little harder to gauge the movement on because they did not poll a couple of weeks ago like the other three and their last poll was taken before the Foley scandal metastasized and blew out the generic numbers. Either way, the most recent RCP Average gives the Democrats a 10.3% edge down from over 15%, so there is little doubt that the generic average is tightening.

Closing momentum is critical in campaigns and when you combine the Generic poll move with the Mason-Dixon Senate polls released this weekend the closing kick appears to be with the GOP, that could make a real difference in a basket of 10 - 15 house races that are extremely close.

More on the Military Times Editorial

Here's the DoD's response to the Military Times editorial. The editorial has also sparked a heated discussion on the Military Times onlline forum.

Obviously, what's angering the troops is that a publication purporting to speak on their behalf is actually a subsidiary of Gannett Newspapers (which makes it a sister pub to USA Today, among others) that is in no way affiliated with the professional military and, according to the numerous responses I've gotten, doesn't seem to in any way represent the majority views of U.S. troops. Furthermore, given both of these things, the timing of the editorial just days before the election is viewed by many as clearly inappropriate.

Active duty military go out of their way to avoid getting involved in politics, and they certainly don't publicly criticize up the chain of command - especially the Secretary of Defense just days before an election in the middle of a war.

But because of the important distinctions about the Military Times business organziation mentioned above have been lost in the way this story has been reported in the MSM, the editorial by a paper bearing the name "military" appears to be a vote of no confidence in Rumsfeld by U.S. troops. It's not.

More emails:

The Army Times article is not much of a political heavy weight in terms of soldiers perceptions. Soldiers read the Army Times to get information near and dear to them - promotion lists and scores, board results and schedules, pay and uniform changes. It is not considered on the level of other media outlets, especially when they know that every item in it has to be politically correct right down to the adds. This article will probably claim that they are just tapping into the attitudes of the fighting men and women of the Army, but in reality it is a publication based out of Springfield, Virginia (just south of the DC beltway) and about as close to Washington politics as you can get. Soldiers complain, but we've been doing that since the sword and sandal era. I completely agree with the Marine Officer you've quoted. Timing prior to an election also has to be suspect. Which is the next issue I have with this story.

Robert Hodierne is not a vet. Never was. He has a 35 year resume that reads like mainstream media. Of interest he was a photographer and reporter in Vietnam, instructor at UC Berkeley and U of Massachusetts, contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post among several other newspaper and other media positions he has held. He has been the senior managing editor at Military Times since 2001 which is a business, not a government publication.

He even quotes himself on his website that "The chief spokesman for the U.S. Army in Vietnam said my story about troops refusing to fight gave aid and comfort to the enemy and "was treason."" (www.hodierne.com) I bet most soldiers reading the Army Times do not know this, but no matter. Army Times editorial will only have legs as the story resonates with other media outlets that do not care about soldier perceptions.

This is not a editorial from the Army Times per se, it is the opinion of one person using Army Times as a shield from scrutiny as a biased source.

---------------------------------

I'm an Army Lieutenant Colonel with 18 years of active service. I served in the Gulf in 1991 as a lieutenant and have been to both Iraq and Afghanistan since 9-11. I also served on the Army Staff in the Pentagon for three years. Let me add my voice to those who have already spoken out saying that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a superb job and needs to remain our Secretary of Defense. The Army Times certainly does not speak for me in calling for his resignation. In addition to answering 9-11 and prosecuting two major wars, he has made truly impressive changes to an otherwise unwieldy and entrenched bureaucracy in DC, improvements that none of his status quo predecessors (Aspin, Cohen) could ever have accomplished. He has made defense transformation a reality in many ways and has revamped our acquisition processes. He has supported responsive initiatives such as the creation of an office specifically dedicated to fighting the IED threat. He is tough, and tends to be uncompromising with his generals and admirals, but that is what civilian control of the military is all about. He is liked and appreciated by the troops and needs to stay on to finish his job.

By the way, if you look closely through a couple editions of Army Times I think you will see some clear trends: negative reporting, doom and gloom, anti-administration bias -- and frankly, anti-military bias. I also see far too much social advocacy against military traditions, customs and courtesies in their pages. Not exactly what you'd hope for from a so-called "military" publication, but really the only thing military about Army Times is its title. I am fed up with its content and do not buy it any more.

---------------------------------

I've been in the Army for four years now and I have read a few issues of the Army Times. Until I read your blog entry I didn't realize they actually ran editorials. Usually I'll see the cover (which almost always seems to deal with some pay issue or promotions) and I'll flip to that story. Sometimes I'll read a story about a battle in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that's about it. From what I can tell, everyone in my office does the same thing. We don't talk about stories in the Army Times, unless they run a story about the Army Future Combat System or maybe some new weapon they're testing. I've never discussed an Army Times editorial with anyone ever.

---------------------------------

Iv'e been in the military for about 11 years at this point, both as an enlisted man and now an officer. I read Navy Times as a source of general information and generally disagree with the editorial pages' contents.

Although I disagree with some of the Secretary's policies as far as health care is concerned (the current computerized medical record coming online is a disaster), I appreciate the fact that Secretary Rumsfeld "tells it like it is." An adverse editorial in the Navy Times won't change my opinion of him anymore than a New York Times story about President Bush will make me think less of him.

The Sure Thing

The 12 regulars on Chris Matthews' weekend program just unanimously predicted that Democrats would take the House. The fact that this group of elite insiders is so universally convinced of the GOP's demise might actually be taken as a sign of hope for Republicans, given the DC chattering class's reliance on conventional wisdom often bears an inverse relationship to reality.

Keep an eye on the Gallup gereric ballot number coming out tonight, if it shows movement similar to the ABC/WP poll there could be a big surprise brewing for many people cocooned in Washington.

The IN-KY Five

If you want a good place to focus on Tuesday night, watch the House races in Indiana and Kentucky. Polls close early in both states, and all five of the seats (IN-2, IN-8, IN-9, KY-3, KY-4) feature incumbent Republicans in very tough races.

If Republicans get swept or lose four of the five, they'll be in for a very long night. But if the GOP can hold onto three or more seats in this group of five, they'll have a shot at holding onto the House.

The most likely holds right now look to be Davis (KY-4), Northup (KY-3), and Sodrel (IN-9), in that order. Chocola has closed the gap in IN-2 and seems like he might be within striking distance. Hostettler in IN-8 is the only one of the five who appears to be headed for almost certain defeat on Tuesday.

Holding onto three or four of these seats won't necessarily mean Republican will keep control of the House - though it will certainly increase their chances. What GOP holds in IN and KY will definitely do, however, is provide an early indicator to dispell the notion of a 35 or 40 seat wave for the Democrats.

Mason-Dixon Senate Polls Good News for GOP

In the key Senate races Mason-Dixon's new batch of polls released this weekend on balance contain good news for the GOP.

Here is the movement in the Mason-Dixon polls from their previous round of polling in October.

Montana: GOP +3
Missouri: GOP +2
Tennessee: GOP +10
Virginia: Dem +5
Rhode Island: GOP +6
New Jersey: Dem +4
Pennsylvania: Dem +1
Ohio: GOP +2
Washington: Dem +1

So in the nine states Mason-Dixon polled both times in the last couple of weeks -- five moved toward the Republicans and four moved toward the Democrats. However the average movement towards the GOP was 4.6%, as opposed to only 2.8% towards the Democrats. More importantly for Republicans, three of the five states where there was movement toward the GOP are very much in play, with Rhode Island making it four out of five. Whereas for Democrats, Virginia was the only real toss up race to move their way.

The three states they did not poll two weeks ago, but did in this last batch also on balance favor Republicans. The 49 - 41 lead for Kyl eases GOP fears that Arizona might have been slipping into play. The big lead in Michigan for Stabenow doesn't do much for Democrats, as not withstanding GOP chatter that this seat was coming back into play; this was a race the Dems had already banked. And the Maryland number indicating Steele pulling to within 3 points of Cardin confirms that Maryland is indeed a serious concern for Democrats.

In the races that matter Republicans got good news in five (Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island and Tennessee) and Democrats got good news in two (Virginia and New Jersey). The Brown 50% - DeWine 44% number in Ohio is also relatively good news for the GOP. A positive for Democrats is George Allen would have to be regarded in serious trouble and likely to lose.

Yesterday, I suggested the range in the Senate was 4-6 with a five seat pickup for the Democrats as the most likely outcome. Today's information would appear to remove the possibility of Democratic pickups above 6, and with the surprising results out of Rhode Island and the continuing confirmation that Maryland is indeed in play, the range can now credibly be as wide as 2-6.

November 04, 2006

House Notes

Some notes from a few of the competitive House races around the country:

NC-11: Democrat Heather Shuler walked out of a radio studio yesterday when incumbent Republican Charles Taylor called in to the debate instead of showing up in person. Shuler said it was proof that "Mr. Taylor can't play by the rules," to which Taylor replied, "It's radio, not television, Heath."

Also, Linton Weeks has a big profile of Shuler in today's Washington Post.

IL-6: Peter Roskam announced the surprise endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars political action committee yesterday. The endorsement caught Duckworth off guard, and in a "hastily announced press conference" she said she the group never contacted her about an endorsement and admitted that her campaign didn't seek one from the VFW while Roskams' camp says they did.

FL-16: The St. Petersubrg Times runs a very bullish piece on Joe Negron's chances of holding on to Mark Foley's seat. One political operative says the intense media coverage of the Foley scandal actually helped Negron make this seat competitive - along with the court ruling allowing signs to be posted letting voters know a vote for Foley is a vote for Negron.

AZ-5: There's been much buzz over the latest SurveyUSA poll showing incumbent Republican JD Hayworth trailing his opponent Harry Mitchell. In the WSJ's Political Diary earlier this week, John Fund reported that Hayworth's internal polls also show him trailing Mitchell by three points.

In an interview on Fox News Channel's The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum on Friday, here's how Hayworth responded to a question about why this race has gotten so tight:

FOX NEWS ANCHOR MARTHA MACCALLUM: "So what is it, Congressman? I just have 20 seconds, but why do you think this has turned into a much tighter race than anybody would have expected?"

HAYWORTH: "Well, because, to the extent that any challenger can make the incumbent the issue, when you have a newspaper calling me names in its lead editorial -- that has an impact with some people sitting on the fence. And we've been subject to all sorts of derision and false charges in this campaign, even attacks on my wife, and ads by my opponent putting me in the crosshairs of a sniper scope. There is indulgence among the area newspapers and the dominant media culture to allow my opponent all sorts of free rein, to heap all sorts of scorn on me. And some of that has worked. But in the final analysis, we're going to prevail because the truth's on our side as we head into Election Day."

Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb says Hayworth hasn't done a good job of softening his image. Another Republic columnist, Laurie Roberts, says she's not buying the emerging CW that Hayworth's goose is cooked:

I'm still betting that Hayworth pulls out CD 5. While Mitchell is a moderate and would fit the district well, this is also the state's wealthiest district. When that moment of truth comes on Tuesday, I just don't see voters in north Scottsdale and Ahwatukee going for a Democrat. They may be fed up with the Republicans, but are they willing to embrace the Dems?

We'll know on Tuesday.

Connecticut 5 Update

Here is a CT-5 update from Kevin Rennie, a former Connecticut state senator, columnist with the Hartford Courant and occasional contributor to RCP.

*******************

This year, Nancy Johnson's got the best GOTV effort she's ever had. I hear she's going positive with a look-in-the-camera ad. There is an air of pessimism among some workers who've never been through a tough fight with her before; the last one was 2002 when she was redistricted into a race with a Democrat incumbent from the consolidated district. They believe, however that they can run even with Murphy in Waterbury. The shrewd young Democrat may have a serious mistake by suggesting to Waterbury Democrats he would punish them for the city for Democratic mayor's reluctance to campaign for Murphy. The ugliness was duly reported Thursday in the widely read Waterbury Republican-American.

Waterbury is the Democratic bastion that Johnson lost by nearly 4,000 votes in 2002. The problem is that she needs to come out of the Farmington Valley suburbs of Hartford, traditionally strong Republican towns, with a bigger margin than polls show her winning. Some gentle moderate Republican voters may not have liked Johnson's fierce and clever negative ads that she aired throughout the fall. The UConn poll showing her a few points behind may have prompted some lazy Republicans into action. The three Republicans in Connecticut are having trouble running up their usual numbers among unaffiliated voters this year.

It is very tough to be a Republican in CT this year. Even talented Republican candidates for the legislature who would normally are finding it hard-going. But Johnson knows something about bucking trends. She first won the open Democratic seat in 1982, a bad year for House Republicans.

Lieberman and Rell will create their own wave in the 5th, maybe that will be enough to save Nancy. She deserves a lot of credit at 71 for fighting like a tiger. And she is being assisted by Connecticut pro David Boomer, who ran her 2002 race. He knows the district better than any Republican operative. He brings a cool head and a steady hand to the challenge.

Lieberman's run as an independent has extracted an unanticipated price from state Democrats. The party could usually count on Lieberman to raise several hundred thousand dollars to fund its GOTV operation. He's not doing that this year and primary winner Ned Lamont has not stepped in. He's already poured more than $14 million of his family fortune into his own campaign. Observers have noticed that absence of cha-ching this year. Unions are always important to Democratic Election Day operations but many of them are otherwise engaged helping Lieberman.

The skies this week were full of Republicans parachuting in to work on the fabled 72 hour program. The state party has reserved hotel rooms, transportation and catering service for the three embattled Republicans. Democrats from Massachusetts, since they have no competitive races at home, are crossing the border to help in Connecticut. This is the price of the end of two-party politics in much of New England as Democrats lay siege to the Republicans who survive.

Color Connecticut complicated until Tuesday night.

Senate Status Report

With three days until the election, the situation in the Senate looks like the Democrats will pickup between 4-6 seats. Of the three different possibilities in that range I would rank a five seat Dem pick up as the most likely outcome, followed by six seats, followed by four seats.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island appear solid for the Democrats and get them 3 seats. The Republicans can hold Democratic gains to five seats and preserve control, by winning one out of the basket of these five races: Montana, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and New Jersey. This also would be the order in which I would rate GOP chances to win these five seats.

This assumes Republicans hold onto seats in Tennessee and Arizona where they currently lead in the polls. Tennessee gets a lot of buzz as being a toss up, and though Ford still has a chance this race is now pretty solidly in the GOP category as the RCP Average shows Bob Corker leading by more than 6%. In Arizona, Jon Kyl leads by 8% in the latest RCP Average.

For the Democrats to get six seats and win control, they would need to sweep all five of the races mentioned above (MT, MD, MO, VA, & NJ). That might sound like a high hurdle, but the Democrats currently lead in the RCP Average in every one of these races (and in NJ by 7). I suspect the GOP has a better chance of pulling out one of those five races rather than being swept. Republicans would need to win two out of these five to keep their loses to only four seats. Today, I would give the Democrats a better shot at sweeping all of these as opposed to the Republicans winning two.

The extremes in the possibilities of pickups on the high-end run to 7-8 and on the low end 2-3. If Democrats can swing either Arizona or Tennessee - which would almost certainly coincide with a sweep of that group of five - they would net 7 seats. If they somehow managed to get both, it would be 8 seats. On the other hand, if Republicans could win just three out of that basket of five seats (MT, MD, MO, VA, & NJ). they would hold Democrat gains in the Senate to three seats or less.

Given Corker and Kyl's big leads 7-8 seats seems unlikely, but with the GOP within 2 points in Montana, Virginia and Missouri and with Steele closing in Maryland, it is not far-fetched to think Republicans could win three out of the five of MT, MD, MO, VA, & NJ and keep their Senate losses to three.

The Military Times Editorial

Some responses to the question I asked earlier about the Military Times editorial calling for Rumsfeld's resignation:

I'm a Major with 18 years of service in the USAF. In the USAF, the AF Times is understood to be useful source of information, but we all know it's not a military publication and it doesn't speak for us. I just came from three years in the bowels of the Pentagon and the SECDEF is generally though of there as tough but fair. Have mistakes been made? Sure, they always are but the professional military learns from it's mistakes.

Rumsfeld should have probably committed more soldiers to the peacekeeping in Iraq. We didn't need more to win the battle but to pacify the country afterward. Problem is the services are so small after the Clinton years that there just aren't enough forces to go much above 140K on a continuing basis. And no one here wants a draft. It would have been nice to get further international support, but that didn't work out, especially after Madrid. I think everyone in the Pentagon, if not the entire DOD hoped the Iraqis would take more responsibility for themselves and not destroy their country's infrastructure and their countrymen. But unfortunately they are not.

The Army Times op-ed probably won't change a single mind in the services. We're all pretty hard-headed and don't generally take our cues from the press. We wouldn't be in the Service if we did.

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I enjoy and appreciate your web site, and visit it frequently (even when deployed in the Middle East). With respect to your question on the impact of the editorial from Military Times Media Group calling for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation, I'd venture that it will be negligible.

Things are obviously not going well in the central region of Iraq, but that has little to do with any miscalculations made by the Secretary of Defense (which certainly occurred). As has so often been the case since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a sizeable Muslim population is squandering yet another opportunity for integration into the modern world.

I just returned from a 6-month mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I can't say that I'm overly optimistic about the near-term prospects for stability in the region. Lack of significant progress in that respect has more to do with the collective malevolence of the Iraqi people than anything else.

Bottom line on the editorial: no impact.

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From my perspective, the Army Times editorial page is pro-democrat positions and does not reflect the attitude of most troops. I look at the Times for articles about pay, benefits and unit info, not the drivel in the editorial page.

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Secretary Rumsfield should stay! The Army Times and that entire group do not, repeat do not speak for the military. They might speak for some politicians who happen to be currently on active duty in the military.

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I am a retired Navy Commander and I don't believe the Gannett Company is doing themselves much good by publishing an editorial in the Times. All officers and most enlisted personnel know and respect that they cannot publicly criticize their chain of command. Many military individuals associate the Times with the military, but know it is published by a non-military organization. Regardless of their opinion of the Secretary of Defense it still will be perceived that one of their own is violating the rules....the association is too tight. The Military Times Media Group may get their opinion out, but it wouldn't be respected even if it is persuasive!

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One important point you may have missed is that the Gannett takeover of the Military Times publications is a fairly recent development. Although Gannett seems to be pretty well established in the MSM, they do not appear to have significantly downgraded the usefulness and relevance of these military oriented publications. Their targeted audience tends to let them know in no uncertain terms if their editorial positions blunder into the swamps of too much political correctness.

I was an enlisted man in the US Air Force for thirty years and subsequently a civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers for another twenty. One of the advantages of being associated with DOD for over fifty years is that it's difficult for them to come up anything you haven't already seen before. The downside is you tend to become a little cynical.

The usual suspects will probably try to make political hay out of the Times editorial but I question whether it will have much real impact. Unlike Robert McNamara, Rumsfeld has shown occasional flashes of common sense, although he sometimes seems dazzled by his own brilliance. Perhaps it has something to do with the rimless glasses.

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The Army Times, which as you noted is published by the same folks that pubish USA Today, is slightly to the left of Tass.

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I've been subscribing to the Air Force Times since 9/11, and was a regular reader long before that. I don't think the editorial itself matters much (I read it online). I read the AF Times for the news, as a way to keep up with current events within the Air Force and the military in general. I suspect that is why many people subscribe. I've never been a fan of the editorial page, which frankly sometimes comes off as a part of a different newspaper (perhaps pasted in from Gannett's USA today). The letters are usually way more informed and interesting than the editorials.

Adwatch '06: Heather Wilson

The most devastating ads in politics are the ones that make themselves - that is, when a candidate's opponent makes a public gaffe that reinforces the most salient arguments against themselves. John Kerry sealed his fate as a flip-flopper with the "I voted for it before I voted against" which the Bush team promptly turned into one its most powerful spots of the 2004 race. This ad from Heather Wilson's campaign is an equally devastating and effective spot against Democrat Patricia Madrid on taxes:

New Hampshire - Part III

The UNH poll I've already referenced twice (see here and here) is a tracking poll, and the new numbers out this morning show Democrat Paul Hodes extending his lead over incumbent Republican Charlie Bass to 13 points (49 to 36) - up five points overnight (the numbers from NH-1 were unchanged).

The Bass campiagn questioned the accuracy of the poll, and the Union-Leader reports on the response of UNH poll director Andrew Smith:

Smith said that statewide, 42 percent of those who first said they were registered undeclared voters later identified themselves as Democrats, while 33 percent called themselves independents and 25 percent Republicans.

Yesterday's 2nd District poll included 102 people, or 35 percent of the sample, who said they were registered Democratic likely voters; 73, or 25 percent, registered Republican likely voters; and 115, or nearly 40 percent, registered undeclared likely voters.

Those numbers differ from the official voter registration figures for the entire state. According to the Sept. 12 primary voter checklist on the Secretary of State's Web site, 26 percent of New Hampshire voters are Democrats, 31 percent Republican and 43 percent undeclared.

Smith said many more Republicans than Democrats were eliminated from his poll because they said they will not or probably will not vote.

Smith said he has used this methodology since about 1985 at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Cincinnati and, since 1999, at UNH.

"I don't weigh this toward any particular party," he said. He also said that unlike the method used by pollsters who try to reflect the voter affiliation makeup of the state in their samples, "I don't try to assume who is going to show up to vote."

He said that many campaigns use lists of people who voted in previous elections as their samples, but he said, "That makes an assumption about what is likely to happen this time around."

Does Haggard Hurt?

Politcally, the story of Ted Haggard may have some impact in Colorado 4, where most people probably know who he is and social conservative Maryilyn Musgrave is in a tough battle to hold onto her seat against Democrat Angie Paccione.

Beyond that, however, I wouldn't expect it to have any effect on races elsewhere around the country. Unlike Foley, Haggard wasn't a member of Congress. And even though he was the leader of the National Evangelical Association, the vast majority of voters around the country have never heard of the guy. So it's hard to see how conservatives will take out whatever disgust they might feel over the allegations against a Pastor in Colorado on their local Republican Congressional candidates. Maybe a few will stay home or decide to vote Democrat over this, but not very many.

Army Times Calls For Rummy To Go

An editorial in the next issue of the Army Times will call for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation:

"Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt," the editorial says, according to an advance copy released Friday. "The time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."

The editorial will run in the 250,000 copies of Army Times, Navy Times, Marine Corps Times and Air Force Times. The newspapers are published under the umbrella Military Times Media Group by Gannett Co. Inc., not by the U.S. military, and have been popular among American forces since World War II.

Senior Managing Editor Robert Hodierne, who also criticized the SecDef in print during the Abu Ghraib scandal, said the editorial was sparked by President Bush's recent comment that Rumsfeld is doing a "fantastic job."

So just how much influence will this editorial have? There seems to be some disagreement:

Tim Goodrich, executive director of the anti-war political action committee Iraq Veterans for Progress, who served in the Air Force in Iraq, cheered the newspapers' stance.

"This is tremendous. The Army Times is the voice of the military ... it's read by virtually everybody in the military. This is not something to be taken lightly," he said. "This is something that a majority of people in the military have wanted for a long time."

Stan Coerr, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserve and veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq who spoke at the California Republican convention in 2004, agreed that the newspaper is widely read but disagreed sharply with its stance.

"The Pentagon does not like Rumsfeld because he will not be bullied, lied to or ignored," he said.

"Secretary Rumsfeld is juggling forces on the ground, pressure from the White House, relentless media scrutiny and an angry public. Very few men could handle such a situation, and fewer still could do it without the backing of their boss," Coerr said. "He should remain. And he should continue close counsel with those on the ground to see them through the demanding times ahead."

Coerr questioned the degree of influence the Military Times papers wield, saying most troops are less concerned about political squabbles in Washington than about what's happening in front of them on the battlefield.

If there are any active duty or retired military out there who want to chime in, I'm interested to hear how much you think this editorial from the Army Times matters. Email me here.

November 03, 2006

Registration Data

Curtis Gans of American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate has just published a new report that analyzes nationwide registration data. Based upon the 34 states that have reported registration statistics, he finds that 68% of the voting age public is eligible to vote. This is unchanged since 2002.

Gans also offers some surprising information on partisan registration. He has analyzed the 13 states that have supplied partisan registration voting data, comparing them to prior years. Relative to 2002, the Republicans have actually closed the registration gap. In 2002, the Democrats had a 7.0% registration advantage over Republicans in these 13 states. This year, their advantage is down to 5.8%. I won't report the actual figures because they are inflated (due to deaths and geographical movement), but the trend lines here are, as Gans argues, valid (so long, of course, as Democrats are no more likely to have died or moved than Republicans).

Unfortunately, Gans only offers data for midterm elections -- so we cannot determine whether, in 2004, the Republicans greatly increased their share of registered voters in 2004 and the Democrats have reduced that increase this year. Also, registration seems to square only loosely with final vote outcomes. Between 1978 and 1982, Republican registration increased by 0.8%, but they won fewer seats in the latter year. Between 1990 and 1994, it also increased by 0.8%. (Though I would note with interest that the last time the GOP lost as many seats as Cook and Rothenberg are predicting they will lose, their share of registered voters fell by 2.5%.) And, of course, being registered to vote and actually voting are two entirely different things. So, registration itself does not really give us much purchase on the actual voting public. Also, his report does not -- at least by my read of it -- mention which states are in play. This limits the scope of our analysis -- especially if we think that regional or other state-by-state variables might affect turnout.

Nevertheless, this data offers some interesting qualifications on the "disspirited" storyline that the press has embraced. If Republicans are disspirited, they do not seem to be expressing it by altering their long-term registration habits in these 13 states. The trend line of the last 44 years has not been interrupted in any kind of significant way due to Republican morosity. In the last 44 years, the Republican percentage of registered voters has grown, on average, by 0.47% per midterm year. In the last 28 years, it has grown by 1.4% per midterm year. This year's growth of 0.8% is actually identical to the 1998 - 2002 growth. The Democratic decline, meanwhile, has averaged 0.96% per midterm year in the last 44 years. In the last 28 years, they have declined by an average of 0.55% per year. Between 1998 and 2002, they declined by 1.2% -- though this might have been a "correction" for their 2.4% increase in registrants between 1994 and 1996 (their largest in the 44 year period). This year, their rate of decline is 0.4%.

Hatch Blows Up

Wow. Is Mike Hatch in the process of losing the MN Gov race over the E-85 gaffe by his Lt. Gov candidate? He's certainly showing a remarkable lack of discipline for a candidate in the final days of a very tight race:

Hatch's anger overflowed during a Thursday morning telephone interview.

A Forum Communications reporter asked Hatch about Dutcher's knowledge of ethanol and why she wasn't available to discuss the issue. Hatch abruptly ended the interview with: "You're nothing more than a Republican whore. Goodbye." He then hung up.

It's unclear whether the reporter he was responding to was a woman or not. If so, I would think his campaign might be over. To be continued.

The Connecticut and Indiana Six

Some quick thoughts on the six house races in Indiana and Connecticut. Right now my gut feeling is the Democrats win 2 of 3 in each state. That would comport with a Democratic take over in the House, but not necessarily the wave of 30-40 seats that we hear so much about these days.

Hostettler is almost a sure loser in IN-8 and Shays is likely to lose in CT-4. Chocola in IN-2 is the next most likely to fall, followed by Johnson in CT-5, though both still have chances to hold on, with Johnson having a much better shot than Chocola. Sodrel in IN-9 falls into the same category as Johnson, though he's probably in slightly better shape and I think he will eke it out. Of the six, right now Rob Simmons in CT-2 appears most likely to hold on.

Republicans would probably be very pleased to hold onto three out of six of these seats, and Democrats would be feeling pretty good if they could win five of the six.

More on New Hampshire

As a follow up to my post last night on the new Congressional polls put out by the University of New Hampshire showing bad news for Charlie Bass, the Union-Leader reports today:

The Bass campaign earlier yesterday released its own internal poll, conducted by the American Research Group, showing the race in a dead heat.

ARG had Bass leading Hodes 47 to 44 percent with a 4 percent margin of error. Pollster Dick Bennett said sampling of 619 likely voters, contacted on Oct. 30 and 31 and Nov. 1, included 35 percent Republicans, 31 percent Democrats and 34 percent independents.

He said his poll contained fewer independents than the state average because "undeclared votes are less apt to say that they are going to vote."

Bennett's showed Bass leading among Republicans 92 to 8 percent; Hodes leading among Democrats 83 to 10 percent, with 2 percent for Blevins and 5 percent undecided; and Hodes leading among independents, 46 to 38 percent with 8 percent for Blevins and 8 percent undecided.

"It's a close race," said Bennett. "It looks like Bass will do a little bit better among Republicans than Hodes will do among Democrats. But it will depend on how many independents come out and vote. They will decide it.

"I've never seen anything like it," Bennett added.

I went back and compared the results of the two polling outfits from the 2002 midterm. Here are the results:

2002 Results
NH-1
Bradley (R)
Clark (D)
Und
UNH (10/23-10/29)
49
31
15
ARG (10/25)
53
39
n/a
Actual Results
58
39
NH-2
Bass (R)
Swett (D)
Und
UNH (10/23-10/29)
47
41
8
ARG (10/25)
54
35
n/a
Actual Results
57
41

I don't want to try and read too much into these numbers aside from stating the obvious: in 2002 it seems ARG did a better job in pre-election polls of estimating Republican support. Whether that's because ARG used a better model for predicting turnout and/or whether that model will hold true this year remains to be seen. It's also worth reiterating that the ARG poll from '02 was not associated with either candidate and the one referenced above was commissioned by the Bass campaign.

Battle on Chicago's North Shore

Since barely winning a hard-fought race to replace his former boss John Porter in 2000, Republican Mark Kirk has enjoyed a relatively stress-free tenure in Illinois's 10th Congressional district. In the 2002 midterm, Mr. Kirk coasted to a victory margin of 38% and he racked up a 28-point win in 2004 even as constituents in his affluent, Democratic-leaning district on Chicago's North Shore voted for John Kerry over President Bush by a margin of 53 to 47.

But this year is a bit different. In addition to facing a hostile political environment driven by dissatisfaction with Iraq and an unpopular president, the moderate Mr. Kirk is dealing with a young but impressive challenger in Democrat Dan Seals, a 35-year-old African-American who many compare to Illinois's junior Senator Barack Obama. Mr. Seals has been boosted by financial support from the left-wing "netroots" crowd, and he's also gotten significant organizational help from Democrat Jan Schakowsky from the neighboring 9th district who is facing only token opposition this year.

Democrats have been insisting for weeks that the district is in play, and on Tuesday the DCCC finally put its money where its mouth is by committing more than $25,000 for two direct mail pieces during the final week of the campaign.

But Republicans in the district are confident Mr. Kirk will prevail -- though admittedly not with the victory margin he's achieved in past races. Mr. Kirk has a well-deserved reputation for being a moderate and a record of achievement in the district that (coupled with a decided money advantage) Republicans believe will sufficiently insulate him against the negative political environment.

It's hard to see Mr. Kirk being swept from office by anything less than a huge Democratic wave. But that's exactly what many Democrats believe is coming next Tuesday.

The Kerry Joke

The Hartford Courant says John Kerry's "joke" was "understandably perceived to be a blast at our soldiers." Clearly, the editorial board at the Courant are a bunch of right wing hacks and morons not graced with the ominiscience of Keith Olbermann.

VA Senate: Will Allen Hang On?

If you look at the chart of the RCP Average in the Virginia Senate race, you can see that Allen stabilized a 3-5 point lead in the first week of September which lasted roughly six weeks, until the third week in October. At that point Webb began to close, and later in the week the Allen campaign went to Drudge with the passages from Webb's novels. Since then, Webb has edged into the lead and the race has become a total dead heat.

The New York Times takes a look at the pivotal role women will play in the race this year. And there are rumors of money shortages at the Allen campaign - which they strenuously deny - and talk of how nasty the race has become.

But as in all the other races this year, it's going to come down to turn out. And you don't have to look any further than last year's Governor's race in Virginia to see why Allen has to be concerned. Jerry Kilgore ran a fairly poor campaign - though certainly better than Allen's - and even a big last minute push highlighted by a visit for the President failed to produce much enthusiasm.

Allen has the advantage of being an incumbent, of course, and he's also a well-known and well-liked figure among Virginia Republicans. But even with those assets, with the changing demographics in Northern Virginia, Allen has to be concerned that anything less than a fully enthusiastic by GOP voters on Tuesday may come up just a little bit short.

The Latino Vote

Here's an interesting contrast. The Denver Post runs a front page story playing up the fact that 5,400 new Latinos have registered to vote in Colorado since July 1:

The number of Colorado Latinos who registered to vote has increased 3.5 percent since the beginning of 2005 - more than triple the rate of increase in non- Latino voters.

The majority of those new Latino voters - at least 5,400 - registered since July 1, when voter registration drives began seeking new Latino voters after spring rallies for immigrant rights.

Advocates for immigrants and Latinos say the tally is a snapshot of what can be done as they work to build a stronger political force leading to the 2008 presidential election.

"We realize that you can't win on your issues unless you have a strong voter turnout because that is what Congress listens to," said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "The issue of immigration has really galvanized people to vote."

The Houston Chronicle, on the other hand, reports that immigration-rights activists in Latino-rich Texas aren't having nearly the success they had hoped:

"Today we march, tomorrow we vote" was the endless refrain as hundreds of thousands of Hispanics spilled onto the streets of Houston, Los Angeles and other cities last spring in protest of a House bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

But with Tuesday's election approaching, immigrant-rights activists are nowhere close to delivering on their vow to add a million or more Hispanics to voter rolls in Texas and across the United States. [snip]

"I haven't seen anything relative to voter registration that is occurring as a result of the marches," said Milwaukee election commissioner Sue Edmond. Her comments were echoed by Danny Clayton, supervisor of voter registration in Dallas County.

Texas, which with California accounts for the lion's share of the national Hispanic vote, posted a gain of 96,023 voters with Spanish-sounding surnames from February to mid-October, according to the Secretary of State's Office. The increase was in line with the growth of registered voters overall, and the Hispanic share of Texas' 13.1 million registered voters remains unchanged at 21 percent, spokesman Scott Haywood said.

The Chronicle lists a number of reasons why the drive to register Latinos is so difficult: 12 million of the 43 million Hispanics in the U.S. are here illegally and can't vote, another 8 million are here legally but haven't taken advantage of citizenship eligibility, and one in three Hispanics in the U.S. is under the legal voting age of 18.

Hatch to Pawlenty: You're No Gentleman!

More on the dust up in the Minnesota Governor's race I mentioned last night over DFL Lt. Gov candidate Judy Dutcher's inability to answer a question about E-85 ethanol during a debate. The Minneapolis Star reports on the rather humorous nature of the back and forth after Pawlenty wondered aloud at a press conference yesterday whether Dutcher was fit to serve apparently not having a clue about one of the biggest issues in the state:

Hatch retorted: "He's not running against Judi Dutcher, he's running against me. He ought to focus on me. ... I know a hell of a lot more about ethanol than Gov. Pawlenty could ever dream to. ... The governor is so desperate, he's so far behind, he's picking on a woman."

To which Assistant House Majority Leader Laura Brod, R-New Prague, responded: "For Mike Hatch to suggest that Judi Dutcher is above criticism because she is a woman is an insult to all the men and women of Minnesota who value honest public debate on the important issues facing our state."

Besides, said Pawlenty, "It isn't about whether you are a woman. It's not about gender. He's trying to use that as a smokescreen."

Well, said Hatch, "The governor upon learning about Judi's gaffe could have chosen to be a gentleman about it, but instead he organized a press conference and went on the attack."

Someone should remind Hatch he's in the middle of, um, what's that thingy called? Oh yeah, a political campaign. The damage control skills need a bit of work.

Friedman's Analogy

Hey, here's a new one: comparing Karl Rove to a tobacco executive. Tom Freidman writes:

Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century -- to bring out the best in us. His "genius" is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country's health, prove him wrong this time.

Silly. So silly, in fact, that if Tom Freidman's name wasn't attached to it I might easily have mistaken it for a post over at Daily Kos.

Three Dirty Words

"San Francisco Values."

Mother's Milk

So much for getting the money out of politics:

Candidates rushed out more than 600 new television ads ahead of network deadlines for the weekend, with many Republicans trying to shift attention from Iraq and President Bush to local issues such as the environment, taxes and immigration. This final thrust will boost spending on political and issue advertising past $2 billion in this campaign, or $400 million more than in the 2004 presidential campaign, according to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

November 02, 2006

GOP Tanking in NH?

A new University of New Hampshire poll has some very ominous news for Republicans. In the new survey, incumbent Republican Charlie Bass in NH2 is down 8 points to Democrat Paul Hodes, which is an 18-point decline from the last UNH poll in September. And in the first district, liberal antiwar Democrat Carol Shea-Porter has pulled to within 5 points of incumbent Republican Jeb Bradley, 47-42, with 10 percent undecided. Again, this represents a big decline for Bradley (14 points) versus the last UNH survey in September.

RCP on FOX News Tonight

Media Alert: I will be on The O'Reilly Factor and the FOX Report tonight to discuss the state of play in the Battle for the Senate and the House.


I'll Take E-85 For $200, Alex

DFL-er Mike Hatch holds a small lead over incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty in the hotly contested race for Minnesota Governor. I would have loved to have seen the look on Hatch's face when he heard that his running mate Judi Dutcher came up empty trying to answer a question about E-85 in a debate yesterday:

E-85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in an increasing number of U.S. vehicles. Farmers around the Midwest are betting that demand for petroleum alternatives will boost the price of corn, the most common source of ethanol, and questions about ethanol subsidies are often the first thing politicians hear on rural stops.

But when a TV reporter asked Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Judi Dutcher about the fuel blend this week, she drew a blank.

''It's like you've asked me the college quiz bowl question,'' Dutcher said in Alexandria. ''What is E-85?''

Pawlenty jumped on the news, telling a crowd today, ""Boy, you'd really not only have to be in the private sector, but you'd have to be under a rock to not know about ethanol and E-85.''

But Hatch fought back, saying "I know a hell of a lot more about ethanol than Gov. Pawlenty could ever dream to,'' and adding that "He's [Pawlenty] not running against Judi Dutcher, he's running against me. He ought to focus on me.''

It's hard to say what impact this will have, if any, on the election. But in a race as close as this one, even small stumbles down the stretch can make the difference.

The Mailbag Overflows With Olbermann

Who knew Keith Olbermann had so many fans? Here's a sampling from today's inbox:

Mr. Bevan,

Spare us. The "millions" who took Kerry's comment at face value and were subsequently offended by it, are almost certainly comprised mostly of the 30% who think things are going well in Iraq. That doesn't make the morons or idiots, but it does make them completely unwilling to face reality, which is hardly much better. If the greatest offense you can muster is at Olbermann for calling out the President for having the gall to demand that Kerry apologize for his non-insult while he himself-the man who ordered the invasion of Iraq-does no more than admit that "mistakes were made", then you should seriously consider re-aligning your priorities with, say, reality.

---------------------------

Mr. Tom Bevan,

Thanks for your published observation. I was "surfing" and momentarily stopped on MSNBC as Olbermann began his rant. Normally I would have quickly passed but was struck by the arrogance and vitrol in his remarks. I listened to the whole diatribe. Then, I wrote MSNBC expressing my view that such animus in a commentator precluded any possibility that he might be objective. To date, no reply. Again, thank you for pointing out what passes for informed reporting and commentary among the media.

---------------------------

Are you saying that only former sport broadcasters and politicians from Beacon Hill are arrogant? If Bush and his entire staff are not arrogant, then who is? You sound more than a little arrogant to me.

---------------------------

When you mentioned Keith Olberman's previous incarnation at ESPN, I recalled a line I heard years ago that rings truer than ever about him: "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym. And those who can't teach gym become sportswriters." Since Olberman is now one step down on the evolutionary scale from sportswriter, I will leave it to others not stuck in Iraq to figure out where that leaves him.

---------------------------

Keith Olberman's message was one of the best and clearest messages of this campaign season. John Kerry's attempted joke was clearly aimed at President Bush and his administrations' failure in almost every area of his responibility. The administration created the reason for starting this unnecessary war, which 2/3 of the people in the United States now fully understand, and now, as the election approaches they are trying to create diversions to attempt to take people's minds off the real issues.

---------------------------

Olbermann has shown that he has more than an anger management problem, rather he truly borders on being mentally ill. The number of his non-sensical statements are too many to repeat. What it basically boils down to according to the almighty Olbermann is that Bush, Laura, McCain, our military, those Democrats that called for Kerry to apologize, and the many others who refuse to accept an after-the-fact fabrication about a botched joke, are stupid and dishonest.

---------------------------

Dear Tom,

You are blinded by your own ideology. Keith Olbermann is a little bombastic and grandiose in featuring himself as the reincarnation of Murrow. So what? Do you ever watch the histrionics of Mr. O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Cable news commentators run the gamut from centrist-to-right figures like Matthews, Blitzer et al to the hard right that dominate. With one exception there is not one single progressive voice 24/7 on CNN or MSNBC. FOX of course is a joke. They pretend to be balanced with faux Democrats like Colmes and Kirsten Powers. Kirsten Powers for goodness sake. She and Michelle are actually good pals.

There are millions and millions of people like me that strongly believe that we have a deeply criminal Administration sinking the country. We have no voice whatsoever in the MSM and our views are scarcely mentioned. And you can't stand it that there is one single man speaking out for our silenced constituency? Give me a break.

---------------------------

Thank you for pointing out Keith Olbermann's arrogance! I could not listen to the entire ten minutes...

I have to wonder... does Mr. Olbermann realize that he sounds like an arrogant buffoon? Like Kerry, he feels his opinion so superior, he must speak... He cares little who he insults.

---------------------------

Olbermann may be a bit over the top. But, he basically got it right. He's a great antidote to Rush Limbaugh and the rest of those wingnuts...

Finally, from a reader who tried to sit through the whole ten minutes:

I lasted 3:34 (which seemed like 33:40) and for the last 60 seconds or so I was watching the clock painfully trudge by thinking how? how did someone give this bozo a microphone to talk into? You should have an award for the person who lasts the longest watching this clip. I suspect I'm the leader in the clubhouse.

Hoping For a Loss

It'll never happen, of course, but there's no harm in hoping:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's lead over his main rival ahead of the Dec. 3 presidential election narrowed in October to 4 percentage points in polling by Caracas-based public opinion research company AKSA Partners.

Chavez, who had the support of 52 percent of those polled compared with 48 percent for opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, has seen his lead dwindle from 13 points in September, AKSA President Alfredo Keller said. AKSA's poll, which assumed just two candidates, is the only one of five released in the past two weeks that shows Rosales gaining on Chavez.

Sabato Predicts

Larry Sabato came out with predictions today: Dems take control of the House picking up 27 seats and also grab control of the Senate with a 6-seat pick up (RI, PA, OH, MT, OH, VA).

The Buzz in Michigan

Mike Allen of Time picks up the buzz of a possible upset brewing in the Michigan Senate race:

Republicans hope that will be one of MANY surprises on election night. They need them. With lots of struggling candidates, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is throwing a $900,000, buzzer-beating lifeline to the Wolverine State and Mike Bouchard, a sheriff who has been running an intense campaign against incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), though with little national attention because of her lead in polls and fundraising.

The Bouchard campaign has long believed that Stabenow is beatable and that her support is soft. The reasons provided to support that argument are not totally unconvincing (Michigan's poor economy, Stabenow's 45 percent job approval rating and her rather undistinguished first-term record) but the results from the most recent polls don't appear to show any signs of movement away from Stabenow. There is still time left, but if Bouchard is going to score the upset he needs to start closing - and fast.

As part of a final push, the Bouchard campaign is out with a sharp new television spot starring the candidate's daughter, Mikayla:

The reference to "the dating thing" is a play off a previous spot starring Mikayla which was equally good:

Keep your eye on the latest polls, news, and analysis on this race via the RCP Michigan Senate Race page.

RCP Senate Update

There is a little bit of clarity creeping into the Battle for the Senate. Today we have moved four races: three toward the Democrats and one towards the GOP. (View the changes on RCP's Senate summary page which you can access from the top right corner of the front page.)

Rhode Island and Ohio have been moved to Likely Democrat. Along with Pennsylvania, that gives Democrats three of the six seats they need for control. Incumbents Santorum, Chafee and DeWine all trail by 9-12 points and are stuck in the low 40's in the latest RCP Averages, and it's very hard to see how they win in an environment where the Generic ballot favors Democrats by 15 points.

New Jersey moved to Leans Democrat and Tennessee to Leans Republican. Both Menendez and Corker lead by 5 or more in their respective RCP Averages and both have the benefit of playing on friendly turf in each state. These races have been Toss Ups for much of the campaign and while it is possible they could close again, right now they look like holds for each party.

This leaves three races as clear Toss Ups: Missouri, Virginia and Montana. Assuming a Ford loss in Tennessee, Democrats will need to sweep all three of these states to win control of the Senate. Montana had been a race that Democrats felt they had in the bag due to Burns' Abramoff problems, but Burns started to creep back into the race a couple of weeks ago and has closed to within 2.3% in the latest RCP Average. Tester retains the slight edge, but Burns has the momentum.

The slow-motion implosion of George Allen in Virginia continues as Jim Webb moved out in front in Virginia in the RCP Average for the first time on Monday. But did he peak too soon? And can the Republican ground game in the conservative-leaning state pull this out for the GOP? Webb probably retains a slight edge at the moment.

Missouri has been a dead heat all year, teetering back and forth between Talent and McCaskill. As of today, the Democrat now has a small edge in the latest RCP Average up 1.4%. This race is basically a coin-flip, but given the anti-GOP atmosphere you might have to give a very small edge to McCaskill.

So Democrats need to sweep three very close races -- and they are in a very credible position to do just that. However, as we've been saying for some time now, the wild card on election night could very well be in the solid blue state of Maryland, where Republican Michael Steele has a legitimate chance to upset Democrat Ben Cardin. We're monitoring this race very closely and currently still have it in the Leans Democrat column, but Steele has all of the late momentum. With Bob Ehrlich closing hard as well in a very competitive governor race, Steele has a shot. Incredibly, a black Republican from Maryland could save the Senate for the GOP.

Olbermann's Arrogance

Keith Olbermann's arrogance and pomposity have reached unbelievable heights this year. But he sets a new bar with this ten minute rant against President Bush (and John McCain) and in defense of John Kerry's "botched joke" from the other day.

It's telling that Olbermann starts his screed against Bush by arrogantly assserting, as Kerry did in his "I apologize to no one" speech the other day, that anyone who might have misinterpreted Kerry's words or taken them at face value is either a total moron or completely evil. "The context was unmistakable" Oblermann says, adding that there was "no interpretation required." Really? Is that why millions of Americans, including many U.S. troops from all around the world were offended by Kerry's remarks? But, of course, Keith Olbermann is clearly much smarter than all those people who were "too stupid" to get Kerry's lame joke - even though he "botched" it.

That's exactly the sort of elitist attitude that Americans hate, whether it's coming from a stuck up Senator from Beacon Hill or a stuffed shirt former sports broadcaster who now fancies himself the reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow. Here's the whole ten minutes of Olbermann's unadulterated arrogance, if you can stomach it:

Big Names, Big Money in TN

Bubba was in town for Harold Ford, Jr. yesterday:

"You know what it will mean if Harold gets elected on Tuesday," Clinton said. "It won't mean what all those columnists and commentators say. It won't mean that it's a victory of race; it will be a victory of going beyond race."

Meanwhile, Corker wrote a last minute check for $1.35 million to his campaign. This pushes Corker's total investment in the race past the $2 million mark and triggers the "millionaire clause" allowing Ford to increase the amount he can get from personal contributions to $12,600 per person. But, as was widely expected, Corker's strategy of waiting to the last possible minute makes it unlikely Ford will be able to take advantage of the clause to come anywhere near matching Corker's cash nfusion.

The Commerical Appeal reports that outside groups have spent $10 million on the TN Senate race so far. Together with the $21 million spent by the campaigns, that makes TN the fourth most expensive Senate race in the country this year.

With the addition of the Reuters/Zogby poll from yesterday, Corker has established a bit of control in this race and now holds a 5.0% lead in the RCP Average. Because of this, we've moved TN from being a Toss Up into the Lean GOP category.

Incidentally, we've also moved the New Jersey Senate race out of the Toss Up category and into the "Lean Dem" column. Bob Menendez has extended his lead in the RealClearPolitics Average to more than 7 percent.

A Reverse Wilder Effect in MD Senate?

The same Baltimore Sun survey that showed Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich closing to within one point of Martin O'Malley shows Michael Steele pulling to with six points of Ben Cardin. There is good and bad news for each side in this poll.

The good news for Steele is he has essentially halved Cardin's lead from eleven to six. The bad news is that in The Sun poll he is only drawing 12% support among African-American voters.

This opens up an interesting thought: is it possible we are seeing the reverse of the "Wilder effect" in Maryland? The Wilder effect is a reference to former African-American Virginia Governor Doug Wilder who was leading by 10+ points in the polls in the final days of the campaign but won by just a nose on election day. The suspected reason for the dramatic drop off in support is that some white voters told pollsters they'd vote for Wilder, but then pulled the curtain and voted for the white guy. The derision of black Republicans among many in the black political class is some of the harshest and meanest in politics. If you don't believe me, just go and look at what many liberal African-American leaders have said about Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice. Is it possible that many African-American voters are giving pollsters the politically correct answer that they are voting for the Democrat, because they know that is what they are "supposed" to say, but might do something different in the voting booth ?

It is moderately good news for Cardin that the same survey that shows O'Malley up only one point in the Governor race has him with a six-point lead on Steele. But the Cardin campaign can't be thrilled with only a six-point lead with Steele only pulling 12% of the black vote. With Steele sporting a 7-point lead among whites, what happens to Cardin's lead if Steele's 12% of the black vote goes to 20% or 25%? That's why this week's endorsement of Steele by powerful Prince George's county black Democrats is potentially huge in this race. This poll was taken Saturday-Monday and thus was taken too early gauge what impact their endorsements may have on the race.

There is more public polling set to come out today.

(Update: Rasmussen has new Maryland numbers that are very similar to The Sun's -- Cardin up 5 and O'Malley up a point.)

November 01, 2006

Correction

In my column on the evening edition tonight, I noted that there has not been a realignment that began with the House. A reader points out to me that Stanford's David W. Brady, in his Critical Elections and Congressional Policy Making (1988) argues that there was indeed one -- the House elections of 1894 were the start of the realignment that was continued in the 1896 Bryan vs. McKinley contest.

Brady writes on page 63:

The election that shows the most dramatic effect is the 1894 election. That election gave the Republicans a large majority in the House as voters swung away from the Democrats (-7.6 percent) and to the Republicans (+5.5 percent). The election of 1896, normally considered the realigning election, produced at the Congressional level an increase for both Democrats and Republicans (+3.3 percent and +3.7 percent swings, respectively).

I was in the "normally considered," i.e. conventional wisdom, camp -- which, in this instance, is not correct.

So -- to correct -- Cook thinks that 2006 is shaping up to be like 1894, not 1896.

Adwatch '06: Chafee vs. Whitehouse

Lincoln Chafee is fighting for his political life in Rhode Island. Here is his latest ad:

And here is the latest ad from his opponent, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse:

Kerry Issues Apology

From his web site:

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don't want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

So there it is, albeit twenty-four hours late. The only question remaining is how much damage Kerry may have done to Democrats' election prospects by revving up the GOP base with his gaffe just six days before the vote.

Has Charlie Cook Jumped the Shark?

Just yesterday, Charlie Cook updated his race rankings. I have to say, I think he might have jumped the shark.

Reading Cook has felt to me like watching one of my favorite sitcoms. Maybe a bit like Seinfeld: his trajectory this electoral season has seemed like that show. I was with him in the Spring. Good points, well argued. I liked it. Read him every week. Disagreed often (very often!), but the disagreements always got me a-thinkin', which is something I truly enjoy. I checked his site every day. But, slowly but surely, I started to move away from him. He just wasn't "clicking" for me. His recent mentions of Terri Schaivo (Terri Schaivo?!) felt a lot like a few of the Seinfeld episodes in Season 7 -- e.g. "The Calzone" or "The Bottle Deposit" -- that just had weak premises. And now - I think he has finally jumped the shark. Call it his "Bizarro Jerry" moment.

Don't get me wrong. I see where he is going with his race rankings. His latest generic ballot has the Democrats up a quarter century among the most likely voters. And he thinks that this voter disaffection is just going to overrun the Republican Party. He sees this as 1994 in reverse. But an examination of the races he views as competitive just does not square with 1994. It squares more with something like 1860, 1896 or 1932 - the last three "realignment" years.

Exactly what do I mean by this? The following. In 1994, the Republicans won a gross of 56 seats. Most of these seats were districts where George H.W. Bush did better than his national average of 37%. Some of them were districts where he did worse. 6 of the 56 seats the GOP won were districts where Bush did quite worse - where he earned a vote total that was 5% or lower than his national average.

In other words, though the GOP won a lot of districts nationwide - relatively few of them, only 10.6%, came from districts that could, at the time, be considered reliably Democratic. 89.4% of them came from swing or conservative districts.

This is the Democrats' major limitation this year. They just have relatively few Republican-held districts, about 15, where Kerry beat Bush in 2004. And the number of real toss-up districts has also decreased. This is why the major question this year - the one that nobody has the answer to -- is: what happens when the structural advantages that the Republicans enjoy in the House are challenged by a briskly negative voter sentiment?

My feeling is that one of two results is possible: (1) the GOP's money and incumbency advantages will secure most of their vulnerable seats in swing or Democrat-leaning districts, thus giving them at best a slight edge in the House or at worst a slight Democratic majority; (2) the GOP's money and incumbency will not secure these vulnerable districts and the Democrats, though the playing field is relatively small, will win a very large percentage of the challenged districts, thus securing a functional majority of 223 or more (i.e. a net of 20+ seats). Right now, I am in camp (1), though I think that a slight, but non-functional, Democratic majority is the most likely result. Michael Barone and I see eye to eye on the state of the House.

Charlie ostensibly believes that (2) is the case. And I do not fault him for that. But he also would add a third, which I think is just plain not gonna happen: (3) a realignment is a brewin'. For, if Charlie is right about these districts -- that will be the story on November 8: that we have just witnessed a realignment that - for the first time ever - started with the House of Representatives.

Why is this the case? Consider again the previous facts about 1994. Only 6 seats flipped that were in reliably Democratic districts. This was a sign that, though the electorate generally was pretty peeved, Democrats were not really that peeved, at least not enough to toss out their members.

The inverse of this would be seats that gave Kerry a share of the district vote that was 5% or more below the national average.

Now - with that in mind - look at Cook's rankings. Of the 54 Republican districts that are, to some degree, competitive (i.e. that are in "Lean Democrat," "Toss-Up" or "Lean Republican"), 24 of them are districts that fit this definition. That was not a typographical error. According to Cook, 44.4% of the total playing field this year is in solidly Republican territory.

If we allocate those districts according to his categories along a 75%, 50%, 25% chance of Democratic acquisition of each seat, Cook is predicting that the Democrats will capture 10.50 of these seats. Overall, applying the same percentages to his total model would give the Democrats a gross of 24.75 seats. So - Cook sees 42.4% of Democratic gains coming from conservative districts. (N.B. This is just a "for the sake of argument" estimate because, as some have pointed out to me, Cook has an "iron-clad" rule about not allocating incumbents as being more vulnerable than "Toss-Up." Although, I should say that if he allocated incumbents to his "Lean Democrat" category as CQ Politics does to theirs, the percentage would be virtually unchanged, at 42.1%.)

And, I should note that these districts are more conservative than the 6 that the Republicans picked up in 1994. The Democrats did not lose a single district where George H.W. Bush did 9% or worse than his national average. Cook, however, has 11 such districts on his list, i.e. districts where Kerry did 9% or worse. Of the 6 solidly Democratic districts that the GOP won in 1994, the average H.W. Bush share of the vote was 6% lower than his national average - so they were only slightly on the "solid Democratic" side of things. What of the 23 districts that Cook has as being vulnerable? The average Kerry share of the vote in them is 9.6% lower than the national average. That's right: the average partisanship in these districts is more Republican than any 1994 pick-up was Democratic.

My favorite is NE 03, where Kerry failed to convince 1 in 4 voters to pull the lever for him . Coincidentally, if "Lean Republican" gives the Democrats a 25% chance in every seat in the category, then 1 in 4 times we run this type of election, NE 03 would switch. Bizarre...or should I say..."BIzarro."

Like I said - 1994 is not the model for this kind of occurrence. Neither, for that matter, is 1974. Neither is 1958. Cook is actually implying an inverse of 1896, where William Jennings Bryan ceded Democratic strength in the industrial Midwest and the commercial Northeast to appeal to the rural Midwest and West. Implicit within Cook's set of races is Bush giving up the rural Midwest and West, while retaining his position back in the East and the South.

I do not think this is what is going to happen. I would add that there has never been a realigning election that begins with the House. 1994 was not, in the true sense of the word, a realignment. It was - if it was anything - part and parcel of a secular realignment that had been on-going since 1948, and that started on the presidential level. Never has a major realignment started on the House level - and for that to happen now, with the incumbency advantage and all of the other structural benefits House members enjoy, is - to me - downright unimaginable.

I am going to keep reading Cook's columns and checking out his rankings. But, then again, I watched the 9th season of Seinfeld. "Serenity Now!" and all.

Money Crush

A huge dump of money by the two congressional campaign committees yesterday. I've tabulated the spending side-by-side and shaded the districts where both groups committed funds to give a better idea of what's being spent where. Remember, however, these are the filings from yesterday only:

District
DSCC
NRCC
$113,082
$2,467
-
$59,828
-
$20,805
-
$49,925
-
$51,802
$$27,222
-
$10,350
$46,625
-
$62,234
$29,067
-
-

$3,813

$13,303

-

$26,026
$54,475
-
$139,788
$109,127
-
$29,296
-
$16,00
-
IN-3
-
$73,475
$202,789
$31,078
-
$43,930
$202,789
$26,728
-
$29,366
-
$29,366
$34,332
$92,966
-
$21,054
-
$203,999
NE-3
$93,090
-
$1,106,212
$55,889
-
$47,868
$21,723
$4,051
$9,200
-
-
$21,329
$113,933
$126,900
$17,184
$182,010
$320,064
-
-
$5,445
$11,306
-
$27,672
-
-
$154,456
-
$9,256
-
$8,235
-
$68,748
$9,078
-
-
$32,248
$13,759
-
-
$37,935
-
$9,365
$12,480
$141,810

You can see a couple of big numbers that jump out. Dems dumped a million two in NH-2 and $320K in NY-25. Republicans spent $203K in NC-11 and $155K in PA-4.

The Troops Respond to Kerry

This is priceless:

irak.jpg

Why Kerry Should Apologize

After my initial post on John Kerry yesterday I received a few emails from left-leaners who said that it was quite clear to them Kerry was trying to make a joke about President Bush. I watched the video twice and it never occurred to me that was what Kerry was trying to do until he came out at the press conference yesterday afternoon and said so.

I went back and watched the video again and I have to say: given the limited context we have, it's a very close call. I tend to believe John Kerry is not so dumb he would publicly insult the troops. Then again, it may have been an inadvertent slip.

But even if you take Kerry at his word that he simply "botched" a joke, he should still apologize. Because by saying he "botched" it, Kerry is admitting he could have been more clear. And if he could have been more clear, then reasonable people can come to different conclusions about what he said and what he meant - including members of the U.S. military and their families. That's why Kerry's "this is a Rove/GOP/rightwing hit job" tantrum is so patently absurd.

Think about it this way: If I went out in public and told the one about "the Jew, the Catholic, and the atheist" but left out the part about the the Catholic and the atheist, wouldn't it be reaonable to expect people might misinterpret my joke as being anti-Semitic?

Obviously, the proper thing to do would be to apologize, not to go out and give some unhinged harangue saying "I apologize to no one," calling all those who might be offended by my failed joke "crazy" for not understanding exactly what I was trying to say, and screeching about some vast conspiracy out to try and twist my words.

If John Kerry had been more clear with what he says he meant to say, this wouldn't be a story. If John Kerry had been less arrogant, it wouldn't have erupted into a potentially damaging firestorm six days before the election.

UPDATE: A reader emails this link from Think Progress pointing out that Kerry already apologized on the Imus show this morning, saying: " I said it was a botched joke, of course I'm sorry about a botched joke." I dunno. On a scale of 1 to 10 - with a "ten" being a perfectly sincere, direct expression of remorse and a "one" being a totally insincere expression filled with weasely words meant to deflect responsibility, I'd say Kerry's effort ranks about a two and a half.

Dems Peaking at the Right Time?

From Rasmussen Reports:

In the final full month before Election 2006, the number of people identifying themselves as Republicans has fallen to its lowest level since we began reporting this measure of partisan trends in January 2004. As a result, Democrats have their biggest net advantage of the past two campaign cycles.

This information confirms what we see in the congressional generic ballot that currently gives Dems a 15-point advantage in the RCP Average. Today's NBC/WSJ poll shows similar results:

Voters want Democrats, rather than Republicans, to control Congress by 52% to 37%, a 15-point margin. The spread matches the widest ever recorded on this question in a Journal/NBC poll.

There is no question that as we get closer to the election the generic ballot takes on added significance, however the huge unanswered question is just how much this tells us about which party will win the Senate and the House? At the end of the day, this isn't a national election but rather hundreds of individual races where 3-5 contests in the Senate and 20-30 contests in the House will ultimately decide who "wins."

Ehrlich Closing Hard in Maryland Governor Race

When the Baltimore Sun runs a headline six days before the election that says "Governor Race a Toss Up" you know things are not looking good at O'Malley headquarters. Maryland's Republican Governor and The Sun have been feuding virulently since Ehrlich upset Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (KKT) in 2002 to become the first Republican governor in over 40 years in Maryland. Ehrlich still trails in the RCP Average by 4.7%, but that includes a Washington Post poll that over sampled heavily Democratic African Americans and shows O'Malley ahead 10 points.

The Baltimore Sun's poll gives O'Malley a one point edge 47%-46% and it looks like this race is going to be a bitter dog-fight to the end. A positive for the Ehrlich campaign is the race is beginning to take on similarities to the 2002 race that Ehrlich won by 4 points, 52% - 48%. From the Baltimore Sun article today:

Through expensive television and direct-mail advertising, Ehrlich appears to be convincing voters in the Baltimore suburbs that O'Malley has failed to effectively reduce crime and improve city schools. Using his huge cash advantage, the Republican governor has steadily whittled down the mayor's lead in overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland. Ehrlich was behind by 15 percentage points a year ago and by 8 points in July.

Ehrlich trailed by double digits to Townsend for months before slowly pulling ahead in the fall and winning at the end. Now 2002 was a very different year in tone for Republicans, Maryland was coming off 8 years of a less than inspiring Glendening administration, and not unimportantly, KKT was universally considered to have run an abysmal campaign. O'Malley is a considerably better campaigner and 2006 is a much better playing field for Democrats than 2002. But Ehrlich has some assets of his own in a booming state economy, an endorsement from the liberal-leaning Washington Post and a very solid approval rating at 54%.

Hard to believe heavily-Democratic Maryland has two red hot races Republicans can win in such a pro-Democratic year.

Kerry Starts to Reverberate Through Campaign

Democratic challenger Jon Tester on John Kerry:

Senator Kerry's remarks were poorly worded and just plain stupid. He owes our troops and their families an apology.

Is this what Jon Tester wants to be talking about six days from election day as he tries to hold off Republican incumbent Conrad Burns?

President Bush: "Kerry Comments Insulting and Shameful"

Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza in this morning's Washington Post:


President Bush last night accused Sen. John F. Kerry of disparaging U.S. troops in Iraq..... After reading Kerry's comments to a GOP audience in Georgia, Bush said Kerry's statement was "insulting and it is shameful. The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave, and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology." The White House tipped off the networks to when Bush would attack Kerry, so the comments could be carried live and make the evening news.


From Time's Karen Tumulty:

So now, when U.S. troops are suffering their worst casualties in nearly two years, he (Kerry) insulted them. Could Karl Rove have dreamed up a better October surprise than having the Democrats' most recent choice for Commander in Chief suggest that the men and women are dying there because they weren't smart enough to get into law school?

His initial impulse, predictably enough, was to fight back against the criticism. He didn't want to fall again into what turned out to be the biggest trap of 2004, when he failed to understand that a relatively small ad buy from a group that no one had ever heard of could be more damaging than he imagined. He was determined not to be "swift-boated" again. So he declared: "If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the President and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp -- rubber-stamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families." But even Rand Beers, his national security adviser in the 2004 campaign, said: "It's unfortunate that Senator Kerry misspoke. No one who has ever been in combat would intentionally impugn our brave troops."

In other words, Kerry has managed on the eve of what could be a watershed election to remind pretty much everyone what it was they didn't like about the Democrats, and especially what they didn't like about him. It might have made more sense just to say he was sorry.

Tumulty is right it is pretty hard from the Republican perspective to dream up a better pre-election surprise than to have the Democrat standard bearer in 2004 on tape disparaging the troops. People can argue back and forth whether Kerry meant what he said or is being misunderstood, but the video will speak for itself to millions of Americans.