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September 30, 2007

State-by-State Electability Roundup

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Survey USA now has lots of head-to-heads. I'm going to do a condensed table, where each entry gives the margin of victory of Clinton/Obama/Edwards against Giuliani/Romney/Thompson for each candidate:

AL -11/-1/-13 -27/-17/-26 -10/+6/-12
CA +20/+33/+26 +4/+15/+16 +2/+31/+28
IA +8/+7/+6 +8/+10/+10 +14/+16/+17
KS -12/+1/-13 -11/+6/-10 -10/+14/-7
KY -10/0/-5 -18/-2/-17 -8/+10/+1
MN +11/+23/+13 +4/+20/+8 +8/+27/+16
MO -3/+11/+3 +2/+11/+3 +5/+23/+10
NM +8/+15/+11 0/+19/+11 +4/+20/+15
OH -1/+10/+1 -13/-1/-8 -1/+20/+9
OR +2/+13/+7 0/+18/+5 +3/+18/+15
VA +6/+15/+7 +1/+12/-1 +5/+19/+10
WA 0/+14/+10 +11/+12/+14 +1/+14/+15
WI +4/+9/+2 +3/+15/+5 -1/+18/+9

First off, we should all be praying for an John Edwards-Mitt Romney matchup, which at first blush would appear to put the entire country into play, though that may be partially due to Romney's low name recognition.

Second, Rudy Giuliani is far and away the most electable Republican.

Third, Barack Obama's "Mississippi will become competitive" argument does not seem to be born out. Increasing black turnout in the South is certainly salutary, but to overcome Obama's disadvantage among whites in the Deep South, African-American turnout would have to increase at least fifty percent.

Fourth, Edwards has a significant advantage over Clinton against both Romney and Fred Thompson in a number of states (AL, IA, KS, KY, MO, NM, OH, OR, WA).

Finally, against Giuliani, Clinton has an advantage of more than 2% in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Mexico [I'm handwaving over the California result], while Edwards has an advantage in Iowa and Missouri. With polls showing Clinton faring best in Florida, I think this means the current balance of poll results favors Clinton against Rudy, but Edwards against the rest of field. A certain chunk of the public is undecided but at the moment does not want to vote for Clinton.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (15)


(Posted by John.)

What's a wingnut to do?

The New York Times reports that, wonder of wonders, life is returning to some semblance of peace in Grozny. The NYT attributes this in no small part to the iron-fisted rule of Moscow's local bastard, Ramzan Kadyrov. But you've got to wonder how the Bush-sycophants read an article like this. On the one hand, you've got an endorsement of the "more rubble, less trouble" mania they're so fond of. On the other hand, the guy getting most of the credit is a muslim. On the other other hand, he's a Sufi muslim (are they friends for the US, or not?) On the other other other hand, he's a tool of the Kremlin and Putin -- and Vlad Putin's basically one war from being the next Hitler at this point, right?

Oh wait.  The nutters don't believe anything printed in the New York Times.  Nevermind.

In other eastern European news, the Prime Minister of Ukraine is running for parliamentary elections using Bob Dole's advisors.  Bizarrely, he seems to be poised to win.

One of the interesting elements in both these stories is the continuing ability of Russia in particular, and the FSU in general, to confound prediction. You could say it about any country over a decent time span (try predicting American politics 4 years from now!) but what shocked me is how quickly Yuschenko in Ukraine went from being saviour to Satan, and how quickly Yanukovich was put back in the PM's office.

You could also point to Turkmenistan, where the death of (crazy crazy crazy) dictator Saparmurat Niyazov seems to have given the Turkmen government the idea of trying to break Russia's monopoly on natural gas pipelines -- something I daresay Moscow didn't see coming when Niyazov died in December.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

What Oliver Willis Said

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

This has been another edition of What Oliver Willis Said. Military strikes against against Iran would quite clearly be an act of war; without Congressional authorization it would pribma facie be an impeachable offense. If Freedom's Watch thinks they can convince the US to attack Iran just by running some TV ads they must be more out of touch than I thought possible.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11)

There's No Inflation, Except for Everything That's Going Up In Price

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

As a devoted reader of both Barry Riholtz and Brad DeLong, who have forgotten more about finance and economics than I will probably ever learn, I can only offer an uninformed take on this intellectual steel cage match.

DeLong points out that "when increases in inflation are confined to (i) energy and (ii) food prices, odds are that the increase is transitory and will be self-limiting". Historically, that's been true; in the '90s, if oil prices went up a few dollars a barrel, odds are they would come back down. Food prices follow a similar pattern (largely because energy costs greatly affect food costs). But, that no longer seems to be the case; no one really thinks oil prices will get down to even $50/barrel, and between rising energy costs and increased demand for biofuels, food also seems to have permanently risen in price. As Riholtz argues, Core CPI is low, but other market measures of the dollar's strength—currency exchange rates, gold, the dollar, other commodities—show a weak dollar. It seems that these increases are not transitory, but are really the long overdue correction that George Soros bet on back in 2004 (and Warren Buffet bet on more recently).

Now, maybe this correction is not a bad thing, and maybe the inflation in food and energy costs is self-limited (i.e. it will not have an impact on prices elsewhere in the economy), but it does seem that headline inflation is doing an awful job of reflecting reality for most Americans, for whom the increase in commodity prices definitely affects there discretionary income.

And this doesn't even get into increases in things like individually-born health care costs, college tuition, etc.

Update: See both DeLong and Riholtz in the comments. This chart from the STL fed illustrates what's going on. The orange gray line, representing the difference between headline inflation and core inflation, is the important line:

Historically, overall inflation has stayed within 0.5% of core inflation, and even after the energy crunch in the late 70s, there was a period of correction from 1984 to 1991 where energy prices grew less quickly than other prices. But since 2002, the situation has changed dramatically; food & energy prices continue to rise significantly faster than other prices. If this is part of a permanent trend -- if energy costs will continue to rise 1% or 2% faster than overall prices, should we hit the economy over the head with a brick? I don't know. At the moment, probably not ... it's not clear that slamming on the brakes, which might reduce demand for energy but also hurt employment, will make people better off. After all, the price of energy isn't a large budget item in the cost of college tuition, health insurance, or even medicine...

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (21)

Righteous Indignation Contest

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Which is better, The Big Dog, smoldering and subdued?

Or Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, going absolutely ape?

Clinton's performance, by the way, has to be the best public display of just how pissed off Democrats are about that m2#(*!*#&!(ing c#!*(##!@er Saxby Chambliss slandering Max Cleland. I really can't even write the Senator's name without getting very close to erupting into a string of expletives.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Think Big III: The Search for Candidates

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

I still firmly believe that the second priority after taking back the White House has to be increasing the Democratic margin in the Senate. At this point in the election cycle, the priority has to be making as many seats as possible potentially competitive. Dems already have an edge in Colorado, Virginia, and New Hampshire, so I'll leave those off the list. Otherwise, folks should consider adopting one of these fine candidates and throwing them some coin:

If none of these candidates strike your fancy, hope that one of these candidates enters the race:

  • North Carolina: Grier Martin
  • Nebraska: Bob Kerrey
  • Kansas: Jim Slattery
  • Alaska: Mark Begich

I haven't yet included New Mexico, where Pete Domenici's approval is cratering, or Wyoming, where Barasso isn't really an incumbent yet and Governor Freudenthal might be coaxed into running. At this point, only Lindsay Graham, Thad Cochran, Michael Enzi, and that m##*!)*&#*ing c*#*(!&)er, Saxby Chambliss appear truly invulnerable.

Update: Senate 2008 Guru's Expand the Map! Actblue page specifcally recommends Rice and Larocco to expand beyond the top six of CO-VA-NH-OR-MN-ME.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (20)

Democracy == Cheap Gas

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Let's be very clear on this: while the Burmese/Myanmarese junta is about as repressive as they come, this whole thing got started because the government tried to cut fuel subsidies.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8)

That's Rich

By Ankush

We've seen this movie before. It's not like there aren't legitimate and serious criticisms to be made of Hillary Clinton, but I think Frank Rich actually does Clinton's people a service by wrapping his (barely identifiable) substantive criticism of the Senator in his tired, political-analysis-as-theater-criticism shtick.

Look, successful politicians are inauthentic. You don't come close to being President without developing a carefully cultivated public persona. To pretend otherwise is nonsense, and you tend to see people harp on the A-word most often when all they're really trying to do is say that, on a personal level, they just don't like someone. In 2000, Rich's problem was that serial liar and egghead Al Gore, constantly boring us all with his talk of actual policies. Yawn! Today, we get a couple paragraphs on Hillary Clinton's laugh, with which we're apparently supposed to be concerned. ("Then there was that laugh," Rich writes, at which point you immediately feel a headache coming on. And just for the record, a purportedly serious New York Times columnist making unironic use of a Daily Show segment that mocks a presidential candidate's laugh is exactly the sort of thing that the Daily Show would make fun of.)

There's more of this silliness, of course.  Rich mocks "the track record of Washington's conventional wisdom," as if his performance during the 2000 election never happened. There's his claim that Clinton was "tardy" with her health care plan, as though announcing a plan 14 months before a general election and five months before primaries is somehow meaningless. (And what does Rich think about that plan? Hard to say.) He says that the Clinton campaign "works relentlessly to shut down legitimate journalistic vetting of her record," citing their work in killing a story that was to be "an account of infighting in Hillaryland" and thus not clearly at all about Clinton's "record," as well as a story about the delay in releasing a large number of Clinton's papers during her time as First Lady, even though the story in question never once suggests that Clinton has had anything to do with this holdup.

It's easy to forget this since Rich so frequently -- and, on occasion, devastatingly -- writes about Iraq, but the man is not a particularly good columnist. His grasp of substantive domestic policy is tenuous at best, and his interest in the stagecraft of politics, while entertaining enough when it was in the Arts pages, has devolved into a stultifying self-parody of precisely the sort that a more adept and self-aware version of Rich would savage. With Bush becoming increasingly irrelevant, we're going to get more of this from Rich, and it's a safe bet that unless the Democrats nominate someone of whom he approves, you're going to be hearing quite a bit about the supposed inauthenticity of the liberal in the race. 

And if this were to mean that a liberal New York Times columnist might actually help elect a Republican -- again?  Well, a guy's gotta write columns, doesn't he?

Update: Just as a response to some of the comments, it's not that we shouldn't be concerned with stagecraft at all when choosing a nominee.  The problem is that a lot of that sort of analysis is plainly silly, and when we buy into it -- or don't call people in the supposed liberal media out on it -- we end up shooting ourselves in the foot.  I get the distinct feeling that the kind of people who would call "that laugh" of Hillary Clinton's "the Cackle" are pretty much the same kind of people who complained about Al Gore sighing too much. And it's not that Gore is blameless for 2000 -- his temperament probably contributed to the mostly restrained nature of his campaign -- but it's also clear that he didn't get a fair shake.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (62)

Our Statistician is Marge Innovera

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

TNR's Noam Schieber writes, "the margin of error for the likely-voter portion of the poll, where Obama leads Clinton by 4 points, is plus or minus 7--i.e., Obama's lead is statistically meaningless." Not true! A 7% margin of error means that there is a 95% confidence that a candidate's true level of support is within 7% of the reported value. In practice, if the pollster's screen of likely caucus-goers is accurate, it means that among likely caucus-goers there's a 67% chance that Obama is ahead. Good odds, but not a mortal lock.

Kevin Drum produced this table that can help you read the polls.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (10)

September 29, 2007

Twice As Good

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Katha Pollitt repeats the truth:

John Edwards is about the only presidential candidate who mentions the 36.5 million Americans--12.3 percent--who fall below the poverty line ($10,488 for a single person, $20,444 for a family of four), and the additional 19 percent who are what sociologist Katherine Newman calls the near poor--100 to 200 percent above the poverty line.

It's relevant to the issues we've been discussing today that a candidate like Edwards, who earnestly pushes substantial policy initiatives to deal with problems like poverty, isn't going to be a favorite of corporate lobbyists.  Incrementalism and outright pro-lobbyist sentiment, which we've seen from Edwards' two main competitors, are the way to rake in the big money.  Obviously, Edwards' decision to accept public funds is more a strategic choice than some kind of bold moral stand.  But it's a strategic choice that resulted from his having taken bold moral stands in the past on issues like poverty and health care in the past.  Those won him the love of ACORN and the SEIU -- and let's hope the SEIU has the courage to endorse the candidate their members voted for! -- but not the love of the bundlers who fill campaign coffers. 

Back in 2006, when I was suggesting candidates for people to donate to on this blog, I tried to find the races where you'd get the most bang for your buck.  These primarily involved underfunded candidates who were still running very close in the polls.  As a progressive donor, you're basically trying to make the good effects of your donations per dollar spent as high as possible. 

With the Edwards campaign, we now have a situation where federal matching funds will double any donation you make up to $250.  The state spending caps that come with public financing apply mostly to advertising -- a candidate can still spend unlimited resources on his field operation or on having staff travel around the state. 

This produces a really nice high-bang, low-buck situation -- your money is twice as good.  If you feel like donating $10, it becomes $20.  $20 becomes $40.  $40 becomes $80.  So if you want John Edwards to win, but you can only spare $10, this is a great time to give some money.  You can donate through my ActBlue page if you don't have any objections to giving money in a werewolf-themed manner.  I broke through the $250 ceiling some time ago, but I'm good for another $50 now.

Update: The case for Edwards is laid out in pretty embedded-video detail here at Daily Kos.    

September 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (32)