Archive for January, 2008

The future, Conan? Looking past Feb. 5

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

With all the talk about the Democratic race stretching on beyond Super Tuesday, I think it’s instructive to actually look at the calendar to see what lies ahead after February 5.

On February 9, Louisiana (56 delegates) and the mighty U.S. Virgin Islands (3 delegates) have primaries, and Nebraska (24) and Washington (78) have caucuses. The next day, February 10, Maine (24) has its caucuses. Then comes the “Beltway Primary” two days later, as D.C. (15), Maryland (70) and Virginia (83) all vote on February 12. So that’s 353 delegates at stake in eight primaries and caucuses over the course of a week.

After that, things get a bit more chronologically sparse. One week after Beltway Tuesday, Wisconsin (74) has a primary and Hawaii (20) has caucuses, both on February 19. Then we get two weeks off before the potentially decisive primaries on March 4 — the original Super Tuesday — in Texas (193), Ohio (141), Rhode Island (21) and Vermont (15).

It seems pretty likely that the race will effectively be decided either on Beltway Tuesday or on Old Super Tuesday (a.k.a. Longhorn/Buckeye Tuesday). But if it still remains competitve, the calendar then starts to get really weird.

The great Democratic state of Wyoming (12) is all by itself with caucuses on March 8. Only a dozen delegates, but oh, the momentum! (Just ask Mitt Romney! Oh wait…) That will be followed by the Mississippi primary (33) on March 11.

And then.. nothing! For over a month!

The next vote is on April 22, when Pennsylvania (158) holds a primary. If the race is still going at that point, residents of the Keystone State will get to find out what it’s like to be Iowa and New Hampshire: they will become the center of the political world from March 11 until April 22. Who’d have thunk it?

Leaving aside the primary in Guam (3) on May 3, there will effectively be another two-week break before voters in Indiana (72) and North Carolina (115) go to the polls on May 6. If they’re still battling by then, I imagine Hillary and Barack would both visit South Bend, causing me to become extremely jealous. Next comes West Virginia (28) on May 13, then Kentucky (51) and Oregon (52) on May 20. Wrapping things up are Puerto Rico (55) on June 1, and South Dakota (15) and Montana (16) on June 3. (All of the May and June races are primaries, not caucuses.)

In my judgment (which, I remind you, is always, always, always, always, always wrong), Super Tuesday is likely to produce one of two scenarios in the overarching campaign storyline. Either: 1) Hillary wins enough states — close delegate counts notwithstanding — that she re-emerges as a "near-inevitable" candidate, and the Beltway Primary a week later comes to be seen as "Obama’s last stand." Or: 2) Obama wins enough states that the commentariat continues to regard the race as legitimately close, and conventional wisdom will rapidly coalesce around the idea that March 4 is the new Big Important Day When Everything Will Be Decided. In other words, Old Super Tuesday is the new Super Tuesday!

But what if the race is still in flux when all the March 4 votes are counted? Some math is necessary here: according to the Green Papers, there are a total of 4,049 delegates (not counting Florida and Michigan), of which 3,253 are "pledged" and 796 are unpledged superdelegates. A total of 2,208 delegates are needed to secure the nomination. By my count, 2,643 pledged delegates will have been awarded through March 5, while 610 will still be outstanding. So, to secure the nomination with pledged delegates alone, a candidate would need to have won roughly 84% of the pledged delegates awarded between January 3 and March 4. Obviously, with a proportional-allocation system, that’s not going to happen.

However, let’s say the pledged delegate count when March 5 dawns looks something like Clinton 1,600, Obama 1,000. Hillary would still be a good 600+ short of clinching the nomination with her pledged delegates alone, but the fickle superdelegates would have begun flocking to her in droves (she’s already got 186 of ’em) and the pressure on Obama to drop out would become enormous. Game over — maybe not mathematically, but for all practical intents and purposes. Same deal, methinks, if it’s around 1,500 to 1,100.

On the other hand, what if it’s more like Clinton 1,400, Obama 1,200? That’s a bit more interesting. Or how about Clinton 1,350, Obama 1,250? Now we’re talking. Nobody’s going to hound Barack out of the race with numbers like that. Hillary will get some more superdelegate commitments, but so will he, and suddenly, everyone will start focusing on the all-important April and May primaries in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and Oregon. Imagine.

Of course, if we get to that point, it will already have become impossible for either candidate to clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone. And proportional delegate allocation means that those April, May and June states will only be able to nudge the delegate race a little bit in one direction or the other, not dramatically alter it, let alone end it. Basically, it’ll be a battle to get as many delegates firmly in your corner as you can, while also starting the pre-convention posturing and politicking, lobbying the undeclared superdelegates and fighting over those Michigan and Florida delegate slates.

In the unlikely event that the race remains undecided to the bitter end, it’ll be three very long months between the South Dakota and Montana primaries on June 3 and the first day of the convention in Denver on August 25.

(Information via NPR and Wikipedia.)


Thursday, January 31st, 2008

The great debate is underway on CNN. I may not be able to do much liveblogging because I’m trying to calm a fussing baby while I watch, so consider this an open thread.

UPDATE: Hillary says that, with regard to our Iraq policy, we need to “send several messages at once.” Well, if there’s anyone I trust to do that, it’s the Clintons! ;)

UPDATE 2: Oooooh, she played the “gravitas” card!!

UPDATE 3: Obama’s response a few minutes later to Hillary’s “day one” rhetoric was excellent, though: “it’s important to be right from day one.” Notwithstanding our differences on Iraq specifically, I think that’s exactly what Obama needs to do. When Hillary says she’ll be “ready to lead from day one,” Obama needs to invite to voters to ask, “But where will you lead?” This actually feeds into the broader Clinton character issue as well, because in actuality, the Clintons don’t really “lead” so much as follow public opinion and poll numbers. Obama needs to make the case that whereas Clinton may be the so-called “experience” candidate, Obama is not just the “change” candidate but also the “leadership” candidate.

UPDATE 4: Clinton has an unfortunate habit of sounding like the Wicked Witch of the West when she laughs.

Loyette is one month old!

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I almost forgot to mention: today is Loyette’s one-month birthday! In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and in other ways, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a month. It already feels like the little one has been a part of our family forever.

As I write this, Becky is sitting on the other side of the couch with Loyette in her lap, reading aloud the epilogue of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment — which Becky checked out from the library as part of her quest to read the 100 greatest novels of all-time. (UPDATE: Becky points out that Crime and Punishment isn’t actually on that list. She is planning to try to get through the list, though.)

Loyette seems to be enjoying hearing about Raskolnikov’s adventures more than she enjoyed herself the one time I tried to read her the Balrog scene from Lord of the Rings… though I maintain that she was just coincidentally fussy at that particular moment. :)

Rove to join Fox News

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Drudge: “FLASH: Karl Rove will join FOXNEWS as contributor; likely used throughout Super Tuesday coverage…” Heh. I would say this will make liberals hate Fox even more, but I’m not sure that’s actually possible.

Rove, incidentally, has an article in today’s WSJ about the “new rules” (and some old rules) of presidential politics.

Super Tuesday held on Fat Wednesday in coastal Alabama

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Yes, not wanting their annual Good Times Role :> to get Stuck Inside of Mobile due to some damn ol’ Primary date changed by those idiots up in Montgomery, south Alabamians said to hell with That and voted yesterday :) ~

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Feb 25 — Don’t mess with Mardi Gras in Alabama.

Voters in two coastal counties — Baldwin and Mobile — will vote Wednesday even though the state primary is six days later on Feb. 5. The reason: Feb. 5 also is Fat Tuesday when throngs of people celebrate Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast. The frenzied end to Carnival is an official holiday in the two counties in Alabama.

When the state legislature moved up the presidential primary from June 3 to Super Tuesday, it discovered belatedly that it fell on Mardi Gras. In Baldwin and Mobile counties, government shuts down and crowds by the tens of thousands jam the port city’s streets for parades.

The legislature’s solution was to let voters in those two counties go to the precincts six days early. The votes cast will be sealed and counted with the others on Super Tuesday.

…Mobile County, which has the most parades and balls, will have all its regular polling places open Wednesday and one place open in Mobile on Feb. 5. Baldwin County will have one polling place open on Wednesday and then all its regular polling places open on Feb. 5.

Yesterday’s Mobile County turnout was reportedly strong, perhaps in response to Tuesday’s wise editorial advice from The Press-Register:

If Mobile County residents want a say in who will be the party nominees for president of the United States, they need to say so tomorrow.

…On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the day of Republican and Democratic presidential primaries in Alabama, a large number of voters are going to be celebrating Mardi Gras. As the Press-Register’s legendary Masked Observer reminds us, “Revelry mixed with democracy can only lead to unbridled insanity.”

Only one polling place will be open on Feb. 5, at the Revenue Commissioner’s Office at Michael Boulevard and Azalea Road, well away from the packed streets of downtown. If everyone waits until then, lines are likely to be long.

So avoid the Super Tuesday rush; if you live in Mobile County, you should vote on Wednesday.


Poll shows Hillary landslide in Tennessee; Obama gaining ground nationally

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Some more new polls today, and the news is mixed on the Democratic side. In Georgia, which is supposed to be solid Obama country, InsiderAdvantage shows the Illinois senator with a big lead, 52-36. Obama gets 73% of blacks, 54% of Hispanics, and 33% of whites.

But here in neighboring Tennessee, which is supposed to be a hotly contested tossup/lean-Hillary state, the same firm’s polling shows Clinton with a huge lead, 59-26. The poll was taken yesterday, and thus may reflect a shift of Edwards voters into the Clinton camp (though 7% still prefer "other"). But what’s really surprising is that Clinton isn’t just winning the white vote, 64-19; she’s also winning the black vote, 46-43!

Moreover, Clinton has almost identical margins among men and women; she wins big in all age groups (with her biggest margin of all, 81-14, among 18-to-29-year-olds!!); and she is favored by self-identified Democrats, Republicans and Independents. So either this is a screwy poll, or Obama-mania really just hasn’t caught on at all here in the Volunteer State. If Obama’s internal numbers are showing a similar trend, maybe that explains his conspicuous absence — this supposed battleground state may be, for whatever reason, a lost cause for him.

InsiderAdvantage also released a poll on the Republican race here in Tennessee, and it’s much tighter, with McCain leading Huckabee and Romney 33 to 25 to 18. Thirteen percent are undecided.

UPDATE: On the bright side for Obama, he’s setting fundraising records, and is already buying ads in post-Super Tuesday states. Barring an enormous Hillary sweep on Tuesday that re-establishes her "inevitability" and thus causes a paradigm shift in the media storyline, this race will go on for a while. As this chart shows (context here), there are a ton of delegates at stake on Tuesday, but a ton more after Tuesday, too.

Meanwhile, the very early returns from Rasmussen Reports suggest that Edwards’s departure is helping Obama nationally:

In the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, it’s now Hillary Clinton 42% and Barack Obama 35% [in the three-day average]. Last night was the first night of interviews without John Edwards in the race. For last night’s data alone, Clinton and Obama were essentially even. Samples for individual nights are very small and results should be interpreted with caution.

The daily history shows that it was 41%-32% Clinton (a 9-point lead) from January 28-30; now it’s 42%-35% (a 7-point lead) from January 29-31. The big question is what happens tomorrow and the next day, when we’ll see a three-day average that is entirely after Edwards’s withdrawal. Gallup‘s tracking poll will also be worth watching closely; they had the race slightly closer (6 points) even before Edwards bowed out.

UPDATE: Gallup’s new data is out. It shows the Clinton-Obama race narrowing further, from 42-36 in yesterday’s three-day average to 43-39 in today’s three-day average — just a 4-point lead for Hillary!! However, Gallup’s write-up says that "Wednesday night’s numbers (the first with Edwards excluded from the ballot) show no clear indication that either candidate is benefiting disproportionately." I guess that means Obama’s 2-point gain between Jan. 27-29 and Jan. 28-30 is an indication that Jan. 27 was a good day for Hillary, rather than an indication that Obama cleaned up among former Edwards voters on Jan. 30.

Kansas falls; USC-Arizona tonight

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

#1 Memphis — a winner at Houston last night — is the only unbeaten left in college basketball, after #2 Kansas lost at #22 Kansas State, the Wildcats’ first home win over the Jayhawks since the first Reagan Administration. (See, I can inject presidential politics into any post!)

You know what this means: North Carolina is in line to ascend to #2, and Duke to #3. We’re getting closer and closer to that 1-vs.-2 matchup for Dukie V’s big return. Duke just needs to win at home against N.C. State and Miami, UNC just needs to win vs. BC and at Florida State… and, oh yes, Memphis needs to lose at home against UTEP on Saturday. That last part is the major obstacle to this scenario. :)

Speaking of unbeatens, Drake is 10-0 in the Missouri Valley, and 19-1 overall. Unreal.

On tap tonight, a whole bunch of intriguing games, including a nationally televised USC-Arizona game at 10:30 PM on FSN. ESPN’s Bubble Watch has the Trojans in the "work left to do" category (though that was before their win at Oregon) and the Wildcats in the "should be in" category. Joe Lunardi gives USC a #8 seed and UA a #5 seed at the moment. Both teams are 4-3 in the Pac-10, in a three-way tie with ASU (who USC also plays this weekend) for fourth place. Anyway… Fight on Trojans, Beat the Wildcats!

And now for something completely different

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Every single post on the homepage right now is about presidential politics. Ick. Overkill. As Obama might say, time for a change!

Let’s see… how about a pretty picture of an Iridium flare?

I took that from a random roadside spot in Loudon last Monday. My parents were in town, and I wanted to show them what an Iridium flare is, so we drove out and watched it. We also dragged Jay and Ashley out to watch, so they got to meet my parents. The flare itself was somewhat less impressive than I expected, given its predicted negative-7 magnitude, but it made for a very nice photo, especially with the thin, wispy clouds all around. Here’s the wider view.

Previous Iridium flare posts can be found here, here, here and here. Explanations of the flares can be found here and here.

Unless you’re a serious dork like me, Iridium flares probably aren’t worth a drive out to some random spot — but if one happens to take place where you are, it’s well worth a look up to the sky in the proper spot at the proper time. Heavens-Above can tell you when flares will happen near you. (It also has predictions for lots of other stuff, including when and where you can see that decaying spy satellite pass overhead, though you’ll need a darkish sky for that.)

More O-mentum!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Following on the heels of that tied Connecticut poll, a new Massachusetts poll — conducted on the night Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama — shows Hillary’s lead at just 6% — down from 37% a week earlier (in a poll by a different polling firm, but still).

Also, Hillary is only up by 12% in her home (er, “home”) state of New York. Obama could pick up a pretty big chunk of delegates in the Empire State.

UPDATE: Obama’s within 3% in California!

This is sounding more and more like a trend. But Obama needs something to put him over the top. Like, say, a strong performance in tonight’s debate, followed by a John Edwards endorsement tomorrow morning.

Obama is the electable Democrat

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

A lot of John Edwards supporters are doing some soul-searching right now, trying to decide which of the remaining Democratic contenders to get behind. People had various different reasons for backing ol’ Johnny Boy, but one thing that the vast majority have in common, presumably, is that they desperately want a Democrat to win in November. Assuming they do indeed feel that way, Edwards supporters (and, for that matter, those currently backing Hillary Clinton) ought to seriously consider jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon, because as best as I can tell, Hillary Clinton is quite possibly the only person in the known universe who is capable of uniting the Republican base behind John McCain.

McCain, of course, is almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee for president. He’s got Rudy and Ahnold on his side now, with more endorsements to come, no doubt, and his momentum appears unstoppable — the GOP establishment is already getting into “rally around the winner” mode. And perhaps not unrelatedly, it appears that the Mitt Romney is pretty much giving up the ghost, at least in terms of TV ads.

So it’ll be McCain for the Republicans. This is an extremely significant fact because a substantial chunk of the Republican base hates John McCain. I mean, really despises the man. They respect his foreign policy chops, but not much else; on domestic policy, they don’t consider him a true conservative or a real Republican. On the contrary, they view him as an apostate on several core issues (immigration, taxes, campaign finance, interrogation, etc.) and a disloyal, MSM-loving sellout who cannot be trusted to uphold their principles. As such, they have no interest whatsoever in voting for him. Thus, on November 4, many of them will stay home.

Unless Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

Needless to say, pretty much the entire Republican base hates Hillary Clinton with the heat of a thousand suns. By contrast, the anti-McCain segment of the base only hates McCain with the heat of, oh, perhaps five or six hundred suns. So if he’s running against her, many of the McCain Derangement Syndome folks will do something they wouldn’t do in virtually any other potential matchup: they’ll hold their noses and vote for McCain. Whatever it takes to stop Hillary.


CNN Breaking News

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Rudy Giuliani says he is ending his bid for GOP presidential nomination, endorsing Sen. John McCain.


Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

More good polling news for Barack Obama:

Barack Obama has now cut the gap with Hillary Clinton to 6
percentage points among Democrats nationally in the Gallup Poll Daily
tracking three-day average, and interviewing conducted Tuesday night
shows the gap between the two candidates is within a few points.
Obama’s position has been strengthening on a day-by-day basis. As
recently as Jan. 18-20, Clinton led Obama by 20 points. Today’s Gallup
Poll Daily tracking is based on interviews conducted Jan. 27-29, all
after Obama’s overwhelming victory in South Carolina on Saturday. Two
out of the three nights interviewing were conducted after the
high-visibility endorsement of Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his
niece Caroline Kennedy.

Clinton’s lead in the three-day average is now 42% to Obama’s 36%.
John Edwards, who dropped out of the race Wednesday after Gallup
conducted these interviews, ended his quest for the presidency with 12%
support. Wednesday night’s interviewing will reflect the distribution
of the vote choice of former Edwards’ supporters as well as the impact,
if any, of Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win in Florida on Tuesday.

TNR‘s Ben Wasserstein — responding not to this poll, but to the general feeling of Obama momentum in the media and such — is wary: "There are too many echoes of the post-Iowa period for me to be confident in the media narrative of Obama’s ascent. … [I]t’s all starting to look like New Hampshire Redux to me."

Meanwhile, Edwards adviser Joe Trippi says the Clinton and Obama campaigns are "banging down the doors" for an endorsement:

"I don’t expect him to do anything today," Trippi said. "His will be
a very coveted endorsement. He’s got a fairly large following in the
party, both on line and off, and I can’t think of anybody else who
would be bigger or more coveted."

Asked if an endorsement was possible before Feb. 5, something that
could have a huge impact, Trippi declined to rule out the possibility.
"I’ll let him speak to that himself," Trippi said. …

Asked about the sudden timing of Edwards’ decision to leave the race, Trippi declined to elaborate on what precipitated it.

Hmm. As for the question of who Edwards’s supporters will naturally gravitate towards, John Judis writes, "I think it’s very inconclusive. Clinton
will pick up votes from Obama in some Southern states like Georgia that Obama should win anyway—and Obama
will pick up a few votes in middle Atlantic or Midwestern states that Clinton will probably win
anyway." Fair enough, but remember, none of the Democratic primaries are winner-take-all, so picking off votes here or there actually does matter.

2 out of 2 Democratic candidates agree…

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

…that John Edwards is awesome!

Man, oh man, there is going to be some serious John Edwards butt-kissing at tomorrow night’s Barack vs. Hillary debate in Los Angeles.

Hillary opens up shop in Knoxville

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

One day after the Obama campaign opened a Knoxville headquarters, the Clinton campaign is doing the same this evening.

If you missed them, here are my photos from yesterday’s Obama grand opening.

CNN Breaking News

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Former Sen. John Edwards is quitting the presidential race, CNN has learned.

UPDATE BY BRENDAN: Edwards "will not immediately endorse either candidate," according to the AP. Good lord, what’s the holdup? He needs to endorse Obama before Super Tuesday! Boyz 4 Change!! Boyz 4 Change!!

P.S. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the timing of this announcement seems odd. That’s right — I question the timing!! :)

Why is Edwards doing this now? Surely he wasn’t depending on a strong showing in Florida’s delegate-less "beauty contest" to rejuvenate his candidacy? And if he based this decision on South Carolina, well, what took him so long? That primary was four days ago, which is a political eon. When he didn’t announce anything on Sunday or Monday, you had to think he was staying in the race through Super Tuesday. Instead he bows out now. Why?

Isn’t it possible that he’s already cut a deal with the Obama campaign? Yeah, I know, he "will not immediately endorse." But that could be an elaborate smokescreen to make it seem like they didn’t cut a deal. It all depends on what the definition of "immediately" is! (Right, Bill?) It seems entirely possible that Edwards and Obama have already agreed to terms (vice president, attorney general, whatever), but part of Johnny Boy’s end of the deal is that he must drop out today (to distract media attention from Hillary’s Florida "win," thus decreasing any momentum boost) but wait until, say, Friday to endorse Obama — thus maximizing the impact of the big "Boyz 4 Change" announcement (and decreasing Hillary’s window to recover from the blow) by placing it closer to Super Tuesday, while also spacing out the two developments (i.e., Edwards’s withdrawal and his endorsement of Obama) far enough apart to prevent people from suspecting a shady back-room deal (which doesn’t exactly fit the image the "politics of change").

Like I said, call me a conspiracy theorist! But it’s at least plausible, yes?

P.P.S. One thing’s for sure: Edwards’s departure makes tomorrow night’s Democratic debate a lot more interesting. (I even added it to my sidebar!) Finally, it’ll be Clinton vs. Obama one-on-one, mano-a-womano! Hillary against Barack for all the marbles! May the best senator win! 

But, now, hmm… Obama is generally better in stump speeches than he is in debates. He’s not terrible in debates, but they’re not his strength. I daresay they are Hillary’s strength, at least sometimes. What if Obama "loses" the debate? Hillary’s momentum coming out of a clear "win" could be killer, potentially dominating the news cycle for 24-48 hours…

…unless, of course, Obama has some sort of a shock-and-awe-inducing, momentum-stopping "firewall" up his sleeve… like, say, a Friday morning endorsement announcement by a certain former opponent? Just saying!

If Hillary wins the debate, Obama could stop her momentum cold with a Boyz 4 Change announcement. And if Obama wins the debate, he’d multiply his own momentum heading into the weekend. It’s a win-win!

UPDATE: Just when I thought CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux was throwing cold water on my endorsement speculation (reporting that Edwards "hasn’t any plans to endorse" — no modifiers like "immediate"), I read this from TPM:

An Edwards adviser confirms to me that John Edwards won’t be making any endorsement "for the moment."

However, this source refused to rule out the possibility of an endorsement before Feb. 5th, which is six days away.

The board is set, the pieces are moving…

There’s also this non-denial-denial from Obama yesterday.

If Edwards endorses Obama on Friday, it will more than make up for all of my previous incorrect predictions this election season.

P.P.P.S. On second thought, maybe Saturday would be better — unless Obama really does tank in that debate — because Saturday is the day before the Super Bowl. Nobody will be paying any attention to politics on Sunday! So Edwards endorses Obama, the media laps it up, then everyone stops paying attention so Hillary has no chance to respond. The next thing you know, it’s Super Tuesday Eve, and Obama’s an unstoppable freight train again.