Thursday, December 25, 2008

Just In Case ...

... you were starting to think Nate Silver can't predict EVERYTHING, you are wrong.

He correctly predicted I would be eating Chinese food on Christmas.

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is Schwarzenegger truly insane?!

Schwarzenegger just announced that he is going to veto the budget passed by the California legislature. If you don't follow California politics, let's just say that this is very bad news for the state. Thank goodness I'm an Oregonian now.

The Democrats' move of passing the budget by imposing "fees" rather than "taxes" in order to get around the two-thirds majority requirement was admittedly sketchy. But then again, when you have a totally dysfunctional system, you have to get creative. California has the sixth or seventh largest economy in the world (and dropping rapidly), but I can't think of another country in the world that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. It is simply unworkable. Now the Governator is pushing the state over the cliff. Perhaps the silver lining will be some fundamental institutional reform. But that will be cold comfort to people who are going to hurt, and hurt bad, by whatever emerges from this debacle.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Obama Logos

Really interesting to see the logos the Obama campaign thought about using. Some good, some not. But it is pretty clear they made the right choice in the end.

This is the logo that didn't make the cut that I like the best:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blago Goes Where Even McCain Wouldn't ...

... He calls Obama a "motherf***er."

Actually, we never did tap John McCain's private phone calls so it is probably even money McCain did go there at some point!

I suppose this is the point at which someone should page Shortell to give us all the ins and outs of the Illinois state Constitution so we can understand what is likely to happen to that Senate seat now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shinseki to Head Veterans Affairs

I LOVE this selection. Interesting that he is announcing the appointment of America's first Japanese-American four-star general to the post on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. THAT's "change you can believe in."

"Beware a 12-division strategy with a 10-division Army." That was an outstanding rebuke of Rumsfeld and, as Obama pointed out this morning, "He was right."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Top 5 Remaining Positions for Obama to Fill

Politico has an article out today listing the five best jobs Obama has yet to fill. It is definitely worth checking out to see the names that are being tossed around. The positions mentioned in the article are Secretary of Energy, CIA Director, Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of Labor, and Chief Technology Officer.

Secretary of Labor is particularly interesting, not only because of the role of unions in supporting Obama, but because one of the top candidates for the position, Mary Beth Maxwell, would be the first openly gay cabinet member. In the wake of the passage of Prop. 8, that might be a smart move for Obama to make. There are a number of people in the LGBT community who are feeling left out of "the change" and appointing Maxwell may help signal a recognition of the important role of gays and lesbians in the Democratic coalition. Most importantly, she seems very well-qualified for the job with the support of both the AFL-CIO and SEIU's Change to Win unions.

Prop 8 - The Musical

Jesus makes a cool cameo in this one:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Obama's Paternal Grandfather

According to an article in the Times of London, Obama's paternal grandfather was apparently imprisoned and tortured by the British who accused him of being an informant for the Kenyan independence movement. While Obama mentioned his grandfather's imprisonment in Dreams From My Father, it appears he did not know that his grandfather had been imprisoned for as long as he was (2 years) or that he had been tortured while in prison. Interesting stuff.

Saxby Chambliss Won

And this breaking news just in: Georgia remains a pretty backwards state.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Great article on McCain campaign

Matt Taibbi has a great piece out in Rolling Stone called "Requiem for a Maverick." Here's a taste:

But John McCain and Sarah Palin made their own unique contribution to the disaster by running perhaps the most incompetent presidential campaign in modern times. They compounded a millionfold Bush's legacy of incompetence by soiling both possible Republican ideological strategies going forward: They killed off Bush-style neoconservatism as well as the more traditional fiscal conservatism McCain himself was once known for by trying to fuse both approaches into one gorgeously incoherent ticket. It was like trying to follow the recipes for Texas 10-alarm chili and a three-layer Black Forest chocolate cake in the same pan at the same time. The result — well, just take a bite!

Republicans in Disarray

Lisa Murkowski, who was initially appointed to her Senate seat by her father (the screwed-up political scene in Alaska didn't start with Sarah Palin), fired a warning shot across the bow of H.M.S. Sarah Palin today. Murkowski is pretty much of a lock to win re-election in 2010 UNLESS Palin takes her on in the GOP Primary.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Sen. Mel Martinez announced he will not seek reelection in 2010. Martinez would have been a bit vulnerable and the GOP may field a stronger candidate but the race will likely attract a higher-quality Democratic candidate than would have otherwise been the case.

Things don't look good for Jim Martin in Georgia today and Al Franken seems to be an underdog in his bid to win the recount in Minnesota but it remains possible the Democrats could retain the upper hand for congressional elections in 2010 if the Republicans continue to fail to get their act together.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Coleman/Franken Recount Update

Oh, what a mess this is becoming. The Coleman campaign started out challenging far more ballots than the Franken campaign (these votes are then deducted from Franken's total) so the Franken campaign responded by challenging more ballots and away they went. This challenge arms race escalated consistently throughout the recount. Meanwhile, there is another mess happening with some absentee ballots the Franken campaign wants counted (but they haven't been).

Where does all this leave us? With the hand recount winding down, the real game is about to begin. There are expected to be roughly 7,000 challenged ballots that the statewide canvassing board will have to deal with. Many of these ballots are frivolous challenges from one side or the other. According to the Star Tribune, Coleman now leads by 340 votes but if there is something systematic about the greater frivolity of challenges on one side or the other (several outlets believe the Coleman campaign challenges have included some particularly frivolous challenges that will easily be overturned), the outcome could easily change.

Think that's messy? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The Franken campaign is starting to make noises about challenging the issue of the excluded absentee ballots to the full U.S. Senate and Harry Reid is sounding receptive to the idea. Yow.

I Guess?

Here's what President Bush said in an interview with ABC news on the intelligence in the days leading up to the War in Iraq:

"I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."

I'm not kidding. He said that.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


What nonsense!

Obama was asked on Election Eve what one thing he would like to change about sports and he answered, correctly as always, that he would like to institute a playoff system for college football. That is one promise he's gonna need to keep.

There. That should move our score on the gender analyzer back into the masculine side. Right Russ?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Emoluments Clause

Since people are starting to ask questions about this long-forgotten and often irrelevant constitutional clause, I thought I would share what I know on the subject. I will disclose up front that I forgot there even was an Emoluments Clause until last week. Much of what I say below is drawn from those far more knowledgeable on the subject who have been talking about it on legal listservs. Article I, Section 6 reads as follows:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
First off, what the heck are emoluments? Basically, it means the salary for the position. If you are in Congress and the salary of an executive branch position is increased during your current term, you cannot then take that position. This was put in the Constitution in order to keep members of Congress from creating well-paying positions and then taking them for themselves.

The Emoluments Clause has suddenly become relevant again because Senator Clinton was in the Senate when the salaries of Cabinet secretaries were increased. Under a straight reading of the text, she would therefore be prohibited from serving as Secretary of State for President Obama.

As with most legal questions, there is a catch. This has come up before and Washingtonians have found a workaround that has received at least tacit support over the last thirty-five years or so. Richard Nixon wanted to appoint William Saxbe as Attorney General in 1973. At the time, Saxbe was the sitting Senator from Ohio and Congress had increased the pay for Cabinet secretaries, including the Attorney General, during his term. The so-called Saxbe Fix involved Congress lowering the pay of the Attorney General back to the level it was at prior to the increase in 1969. Saxbe was then confirmed for the appointment. The issue came up again for Carter and Bush Sr., both of whom used the Saxbe fix.

With respect to Clinton, it is expected that a similar agreement would be reached if she is indeed appointed Secretary of State (a whole other issue). It is worth noting that the increase in salary during her term in Congress was made by executive order for cost of living adjustments rather than Congressional legislation. Does this resolve all of the Constitutional issues? Hardly, but it is an approach that is pretty likely to work on a practical level.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Message From Rahm Emanuel

Some people say Rahm Emanuel has a foul mouth and a temper. I don't see it:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nate Silver is Still a Genius ...

... even though the election is (mostly) over.

What makes so cool is not the political analysis. There are many others (this brilliant blog included) who do that as well or better. What makes so good is the interesting and inventive ways Nate brings statistical methods to the places where the otherwise widely reported data ends.

Today's piece is a great example of what I'm talking about. Many are watching the Minnesota Senate recount with interest and know that Norm Coleman's lead has narrowed by some amount (the exact amount is in dipute but the Star-Tribune has as decent a count as any and they have Coleman's lead at 180 as of this writing). But the problem with the running tallies is that a) knowing the total doesn't tell you anything too useful without know which precincts have been recounted or not and, more importantly, b) a lot of ballots are being challenged by the rival campaigns and those votes a candidate would have had are then deducted from a candidate's total. They will be added back in or not after the challenge is reviewed by the statewide canvassing board later on.

So, who's winning? From the data that has simply been reported as is, it seems like Franken is not narrowing Coleman's lead rapidly enough to move ahead. But is there a systematic way in which the challenges are understating one or the other candidate's support? Nate Silver does some fancy schmancy statistical analysis and finds ... yes. As a result, he rates Franken a "very slight favorite" to win in the end.

And that's pretty cool stuff.

"Well Hillary ...

... I'm looking forward to you advising me as well."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Be Nice

Let friends who didn't vote for Obama come on board now. This is a good role-play example:

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm Against the Auto Bailout

There I said it.

Also, I have a radical idea on how to fix the auto industry:

Fire all auto company executives and replace them with the Somali pirates. The Somali pirates seem to have much more business acumen than anyone working for GM, Ford, or Chrysler.


Hillary Beats Jesus More than 10 to 1 ...

... in Duval County, Florida.

That's a tough blow for Jesus who surely regrets picking Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Down Goes Stevens! Down Goes Stevens!

Begich leads by 3,724 votes with just 2,500 still to count.

How are there still votes left to count? I don't know but it doesn't matter a heck of a lot.

Stevens is done.

The Al Franken recount starts tomorrow. Hopefully, we can pull that one out.

Begich Lead Growing

He's up by 2,374 votes now with just about 8,000 left to count.

Who figures a convicted felon is going to lose a Senate race?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stevens Probably Going Down

ADN reports the majority of the remaining votes are from places where Begich won on the Election Day vote. Here is TPM's roundup of the story.

Saxby Chambliss

Another brilliant line by a thoroughly despicable character (from Taegan Goddard):

"First of all, I hope Senator Stevens is successful in being re-elected. And assuming that he is, I intend to support any motion to remove him."-- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), quoted by Roll Call, on the still unresolved race of convicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sullivan on Palin

Those of you who read Andrew Sullivan's blog know that he has been relentless in discussing the absurdity that is Sarah Palin, even after the election.

In the last few days, many of his readers have written in to suggest he leave it alone and let it go. He responds here ... brilliantly.

Sullivan is right. He is right that Palin is something bigger than a bad pick or a tacitcal mistake by the McCain campaign. McCain picking her was an absolute affront to basic logic, intelligence, and truth-telling. Sullivan's various posts point out the pathological nature of Palin well enough. But what is most disturbing in the whole episode is the way the media reacted. How did they allow a candidate to run for Vice President without ever holding a press conference and without doing more than a handful of controlled interviews?

My view is that Sullivan is right in all that he says in this piece except for one important thing. His focus seems to be more on McCain than the media. McCain is truly yesterday's news and his reckless decision thankfully will not affect us (at least not in the near term). But the media lives on and they continue to take Palin seriously and give her airtime. That is truly dangerous. And it is necessary to linger on the Palin story if only to point out what a typically catastrophic job today's "journalists" did in covering this mannequin.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Alaska Update

The Alaska Division of elections has spent the last week basically checking all those absentee and early ballots for duplicate voters and they are finally ready to start counting some votes- the day after tomorrow (Wednesday). There are now almost 91,000 uncounted absentee, early, and question ballots, and they expect to get about 50,000 counted on Wednesday.

From the press release:

"By law, the Division has until November 19th to review and count these ballots....the division feels it is in the best interest of the public, political parties, and the candidates to count ballots early."
Now in my mind the only reasonable definition of counting ballots early is counting them before the polls have closed. Someone at the Division of elections is misunderstanding the meaning of the phrase "has until November 19th".

The risks presented by "double-voting" are also greatly exaggerated. There were about 25 of these double votes found in the review of the primary, and the division has since been making a very big deal about it. 25 double votes throughout the state is not systematic voter fraud and furthermore, the division proved such irregularities will turn up in the post election review. There should be no need to hold the results captive.

Also, the number of question ballots is now over 20,000, or about 7%. To put this in perspective, there are reportedly about 30,000 question ballots in Minnesota, just 1%. Minnesota and Alaska both use optical scan machines.

What Obama's Victory Means

From Andrew Sullivan:

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama Roasting Emanuel

This is pretty funny stuff. Obama roasting Rahm Emanuel at a charity fundraiser in 2005:

Presidential Portraits

I like this (from illustrator Patrick Moberg):

Dave Barry's Post-Election Take

Dave Barry's take on the election can be found here. Very funny including his explanation that Barack Obama is "a naive untested wealth-spreading terrorist-befriending ultraliberal socialist communist." Fun stuff.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alaska Senate Update - "Me Not Being a Dictator"

Nate Silver estimates the race is a tossup when you figure in the absentee, early, and provisional votes still to be counted. Interesting.

UPDATE: Here's what Sarah Palin had to say late today when asked if Ted Stevens should step aside and resign. "The Alaska voters have spoken and me not being a dictator, won't be telling anyone what to do" (my italics ... because I think it is funny). By the way, last month, Gov. Palin said Stevens should "step aside" and "play a very statesmanlike role in this now." Nice.

Obama wins Nebraska electoral vote

From the Omaha World-Herald:

The Democratic presidential candidate claimed an electoral vote in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District — the first time in more than four decades a Democrat won any of Nebraska’s electoral votes.

The Omaha World-Herald is calling the race after Obama won 8,434 out of 15,039 early votes that arrived too late to be included in Tuesday’s results. They were counted today by Douglas County election officials.

Those ballots give Obama a 1,260-vote lead over Republican John McCain in the 2nd District.
I don't recall anyone calling that in the electoral vote contest.

Prop 8 Challenges

Moving past the presidential election, one issue that is coming up has to do with legal challenges to California's Proposition 8 on gay marriage. The ACLU and others have already filed suits in California court alleging that the proposition violates the state constitution. Since the proposition was itself a constitutional amendment, this seems quite confusing on the surface. How can a properly passed constitutional amendment be unconstitutional? The issue rests on the distinction between amendments and revisions. The California constitution states that the constitution may be both amended and revised without defining those terms with any specificity. Article 18, Sec. 3 establishes that the constitution may be amended through the initiative process. The only way to have a revision, though, is either through a 2/3rds vote in the legislature along with passage by a majority of voters or to institute a constitutional convention.

So what is the difference between an amendment and a revision? The basic sense is that an amendment is a specific change in the constitution while a revision is a broad change. Vague enough for you? The plaintiffs in these cases allege that Prop 8 is a revision to the constitution since the California Supreme Court found a fundamental right to marry as part of the state's equal protection article. To change the equal protection article, they argue, is a revision rather than amendment and cannot be done through the initiative process.

Without a detailed sense of the case law on what constitutes a revision and what constitutes an amendment, it is hard to say which side is likely to prevail. However, it is not an argument completely lacking in merit. The courts will have to decide how broadly or how narrowly they wish to define revisions.

Prediction Contest Outcome

As Rodney Dangerfield says in the classic movie Back to School, "I dedicate this building to ... myself!"

I have won the prediction contest having predicted EVERY state correctly missing the total only because of the 1 electoral vote Obama won in Omaha that I did not predict. Wow!

And you all thought I was wasting too much time reading about the election.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Required Reading

The Newsweek insider chronicle of the campaign is out. Absolutely fascinating stuff (if you're a nerd, political scientist, or political scientist/nerd).

My favorite quote in the article came from early on the Friday morning after Obama's convention speech at Invesco Field as Obama's campaign plane had just taken off from Denver. David Axelrod made his way to the front cabin where he found Barack Obama and Joe Biden and told them that McCain had picked Palin as his running mate. Biden's immediate reaction was, "Who is Palin???"


Alaska Races

Still a lot of questions about the results in Alaska. There are currently over 75,000 uncounted early,absentee, and provisional ballots. The Division of Elections now has a page that breaks these down by state house district. In most districts, over 10% of the total ballots are "question" ballots. There are over 16,000 of these question ballots statewide (so far), almost double the 2004 total.

The uncounted ballots are spread throughout the state. There's no clear indication based on region that would seem to favor either candidate. The division of elections has not been updating the election results as they process ballots. I think they release the full results after all absentee ballots are in, so we wait until Nov 24th. If all states operated this way or if (god help us) the presidential race came down to Alaska, we'd be waiting weeks for the results while they sit on these ballots. Unacceptable.

Congressional races?

Prior to the election, polls and groups like Congressional Quarterly and the Cook Report estimated that Democrats would pick up between 25-35 seats in the House. Right now, they have picked up 19, with 8 still too close to call. Even if all 8 go to the Democrats (which they won't), that is still at the low end of the spread. Senate races that had favorable polling for Democrats ended up being much closer than expected (see Merkley, Jeff and Stevens, Ted). There seem to be two questions that come out of this. The first is why were the Congressional results different than the polling indicated? The second is why did Democrats not do as well as expected?

Initially, it seems to me that support for Obama did not translate as clearly down ballot. Republicans who were willing to vote for Obama may not have been as willing to also support Democrats in Congress. Perhaps the argument in favor of divided government that began to be introduced by Republican candidates towards the end of the race was effective. I haven't seen much analysis yet of the Congressional numbers, in part because so much is still up in the air, but I am curious what others think.

Whither now Obama supporters?

A disturbing report about what is happening to Obama supporters in the wake of his election:

I'm looking your way, Becker.

Obama Launches Governmental Website

The new President-Elect has launched his governmental website. It is

What did you think it would be???

Rahm Emanuel as WH Chief of Staff

I like it very much. The only downside is that Emanuel is seen as a partisan by Republicans but, seriously, they didn't expect Obama to appoint Rick Davis as his Chief of Staff, did they? The Republicans have ALREADY made a misstep in my opinion by immediately faxing out a response from John Boehner saying that this choice was "ironic" and suggesting (according to NBC) that "the war is on." The correct answer, for those scoring at home, was for Boehner to say that House Republicans look forward to seeking common ground, etc. I am kind of amazed that Republicans have not yet seemed to get the message that their "take no prisoners" attitude to politics is one of the reasons they are a smaller minority today than they were a few days ago.

The upsides of having Emanuel as WH Chief of Staff are many. He is an insider who both knows how the White House works (at its best and at its worst) and he understands Capitol Hill well and has very close friends in the House leadership. On a more general level, this appointment says something about Obama that I think is surprising to some but is a very, very important and good sign. Obama is more of a conventional politician than most assume. He is someone who likes to surround himself with wise and experienced people who know how to get things done. He is someone who learned from Bill Clinton's experience in 1993. Clinton, you may recall, appointed a friend from Kindergarten (Mack McLarty - I'm not kidding) as his Chief of Staff and his legislative agenda suffered in those first months. Obama understands the need to hit the ground running and he understands that getting things done will not be a matter of showing up in DC and "conquering" the city with his soaring oratory. That oratory will help to move public opinion but he will pursue an insider strategy as well. This is a very strong first decision and sends a very positive signal that Obama understands well that this is about getting things done.

As Martin Saiz pointed out to me yesterday, the big loser here is Stephen Colbert who had his "Better Know a District" segment singlehandedly killed by Emanuel when Emanuel told Democratic House members not to do the interviews.

Polling Post-Mortem

Mark Blumenthal has a nice piece on the final polling results compared with outcomes and his conclusions are basically along the lines of what we thought:

1) The Bradley Effect simply did not appear anywhere. The question of whether it ever existed is something that can be reasonably debated. But there is simply no question that the Bradley Effect did not exist here and we know that because ...

2) The polling was very, very accurate at both the national and the state level. If anything, the "undecideds" broke a little more towards Obama than McCain but they were about evenly divided.

Oh the Humanity II

Randy Scheunemann was fired ... a week ago. Did they forget to announce this?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh the Humanity

This exchange between Shep Smith and Carl Cameron is half hilarious and half horrifying.

Among other things, Carl Cameron "breaks" the story that Sarah Palin's vetting process was "truncated" and that McCain aides were alarmed to learn that Palin did not know which countries were involved in NAFTA.

Oregonian calls Merkley for OR

The Oregonian has called the Senate race for Democrat Jeff Merkley. Sorry that took so long. Our ballots were even longer than California's, if you can believe that. You have to love the initiative process and the amount of totally worthless measures that get on the ballot. Apparently the length of the ballots caused problems with the machines.

Now we get to wait until December(!) to find out about Minnesota and Georgia. The less said about Alaska, the better, although it is apparently still close enough that Mark Begich is not conceding.

Where McCain Over-Performed

This red on this map shows the counties where John McCain did better than Bush did in 2004. Take Alaska and Arizona out of the picture and what are we looking at?

President-Elect Barack Obama

More people voted for Obama for President of the United States than any other person in history. That is truly staggering to think about.

The latest numbers I've seen give Obama 53% of the vote. He is the first Democrat to win more than 50% of the national vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and his 53% of the vote is greater than any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 ... who used his mandate, in part, to pass the Voting Rights Act that helped make last night's victory possible.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins!!!

I'm speechless.

Fired Up! Ready to Go!

Waaaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning of the campaign, Barack Obama would tell the story of his early trip to Greenwood, South Carolina to illustrate how one voice can change the world. Last night, in Manassas, Virginia, he came back to this story to get the crowd fired up.

It still works:

Polling Update

There are some new polls this morning but they don't really tell us anything new. Obama is poised for a win IF the polls are right. But there is that big "if."

Nate Silver's final estimate has McCain's probability of winning at 1.1%.

Exit polls are useless ... particularly the early leaked release ... particularly this year. If you want to know why, read Nate Silver's well-done piece on the subject. That said, I would say that (for some of the reasons outlined by Nate) we would expect to see Obama's margin OVER-stated in the early exit polls. It would worry me if he were not winning big, big, big in the exit polls. I worry about a lot of things though.

Prediction Contest

OK people. Time to play the role of Carnac the Magnificent and predict how many electoral votes Obama will receive on Tuesday. All predictions posted before 1PM EST (10AM PST) on Tuesday are eligible for a prize (plus bragging rights) going to the person who is closest to the real total (though you may want to be something other than "anonymous" if you want to claim your prize). You can use the CNN Electoral College Calculator to help make your prediction or you can use the widget over to the right. Post your prediction in the comments section of this post.

The Mood

The Obama campaign's Tommy Vietor says he is "cautiously nauseous" and has since upgraded himself to "optimistically nauseous."

I would say I am "characteristically nauseous."

Ambinder's Funny

I like this post from Mark Ambinder of

03 Nov 2008 04:48 pm
A Memo I'm Half-Expecting To See

From the McCain campaign: "Final Vote Tally Will Overstate Obama's Support."

TPM's 100 Seconds

Would it have hurt Romney so much to just say McCain's campaign was "dignified?" I guess so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Closing Strong

90,000 in Manassas, VA:

How's that VP pick working out for you?

Buried in a CBS story on their latest tracking poll is this gem:
There is evidence that Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket has hurt McCain with some voters. Fourteen percent of Obama's supporters say they once supported McCain, and the top reason given for their switch was McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate.
Call it the Colin Powell effect. Please, please, please select Palin as the 2012 Republican nominee!

The Media

This reporter (Damon Weaver) is so much better than the rest of the mainstream media. His sweet scoop of an interview at the end is worth the wait.

Simply put, this is the most insightful feature I've seen in the whole campaign ... although I'm not sure we'll ever hear the phrase "Senator Biden is now my homeboy" uttered again.

Late Polls

The chief election officer of Hawaii confirmed that Madelyn Dunham voted by absentee ballot and her vote will count. So, in the official tally, Obama 1, McCain 0. Very cool.

Not much variance in the final national polls out this afternoon:

51-42 CBS (Tracker)
53-46 Ipsos (Full)
53-44 ABC/WP (Tracker)

And not really much good news for McCain in the state polls:

Alaska (Hays) - McCain +3 (are they kidding?)
Colorado (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Florida (Datamar) - McCain +1
Florida (Rasmussen) - McCain +1
Florida (Strategic Vision) - Obama +2
Florida (SurveyUSA) - Obama +3
Georgia (Insider Advantage) - McCain +1
Georgia (Strategic Vision) - McCain +4
Indiana (PPP) - Obama +1
Missouri (PPP) - Tied
Missouri (Rasmussen) - Tied
Nevada (PPP) - Obama +4
New Jersey (Rasmussen) - Obama +15
North Carolina (SurveyUSA) - McCain +1
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - McCain +1
Ohio (Strategic Vision) - McCain +2
Ohio (Rasmussen) - Tied
Pennsylvania (Strategic Vision) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (SurveyUSA) - Obama +9
Virginia (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Washington (Strategic Vision) - Obama +15
Washington (SurveyUSA) - Obama +16
Wisconsin (Strategic Vision) - Obama +13

There's a lot of red in that list but here's the problem for John McCain. Even if we give him every state in which ANY pollster gives him a lead plus every state in which ANY pollster has him tied AND let's give him Indiana ... he STILL loses. Obama would still win by winning all the Kerry states (including Pennsylvania - see SurveyUSA poll in PA - and New Hampshire) plus Iowa, New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada.

Then there's that SurveyUSA poll in Florida. Barack Obama has many, many paths to victory without Florida but Obama simply cannot lose if he wins Florida. Also, Florida holds a special place in the hearts of most Democrats who all believe we were robbed in 2000. I have said many times I have more faith in SurveyUSA's read at the state level than any other pollster. No pollster is perfect or infallible but they are the gold standard to me. The 3-point lead they give Obama is the least of the good news for Obama. The internals are DEADLY. SurveyUSA estimates that 58% of likely voters have already voted. And they estimate that Barack Obama won 58-40 among these voters. As in some other states, the poll has McCain winning 16% of the African-American vote. He will not.

To put it simply, there is only one path to victory for John McCain. ALL the pollsters have to be wrong and by quite a bit. Could this happen? Yes. Will it happen? Nate Silver estimates the probability of it happening is approximately 1.9%. That's where we are.

Also, Karl Rove predicts Obama will win in a blowout. Really.

Obama on His Grandmother's Passing

Jon Carson - National Field Director

If you were feeling good about the Obama ground operation before, this interview from today will make you feel even better. TPM interviewed Jon Carson, Obama's National Field Director:

One More Day

This video says it all.

Election Guide

This election guide from Daily Kos is pretty amazing. The races are broken down by closing times for the polls and include all relevant down-ticket races as well as the presidential race. A must-have for the true election junkie.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Morning Polls

One more day! One more day!

If Larry David were looking at this polling he would say this: "Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good!"

The Gallup tracker (expanded) moves from Obama +9 to Obama +11 and the traditional model moves from Obama +8 to Obama +11 and BOTH have Obama up 53-42. Gallup's final full national poll has Obama winning 55-44. Wow! Rasmussen moves from Obama +5 to Obama +6 and he's at 52%. Hotline holds steady at Obama +5 and Obama is at 51%. R2000 moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6 and Obama is at 51%.

NBC/WSJ has a new poll out that has the virtue of only including interviews from Sunday (Saturday and particularly Friday polls are problematic as weekend nights and Friday was Halloween). The poll has Obama up by 8 nationally and at 51%. Marist has a full national poll out that has Obama up by 9. Democracy Corps has it at Obama +7. Fox News (recall their silly poll a week ago?) has Obama up by 7.

Here are all the national polls listed below (Obama leads all and his number is listed first):

51-43 - NBC/WSJ (Full)
51-44 - Democracy Corps (Full)
53-44 - Marist (Full)
50-43 - Fox News (Full)
55-44 - Gallup (Full)
53-42 - Gallup (Expanded Tracker)
53-42 - Gallup (Traditional Tracker)
52-46 - Rasmussen (Tracker)
51-46 - Hotline (Tracker)
51-45 - R2000 (Tracker)

Folks, there just isn't a lot of disagreement here. Obama is at 50% or over in every national poll out there. Even Zogby and GWU/Battleground (which I don't include in my discussions) have it the same.

Now, let's turn to the state polling. The short version is that Nate Silver has McCain's probability of winning the election back down to 3.7%:

Florida (PPP) - Obama +2
Florida (Quinnipiac) - Obama +2
Georgia (PPP) - McCain +2
Georgia (SurveyUSA) - McCain +7
Minnesota (SurveyUSA) - Obama +3
Missouri (SurveyUSA) - Tied
Montana (PPP) - Obama +1
North Carolina (PPP) - Obama +1
Ohio (PPP) - Obama +2
Ohio (Quinnipiac) - Obama +7
Ohio (SurveyUSA) - Obama +2
Ohio (Univ. of Cincinnati) - Obama +6
Pennsylvania (Quinnipiac) - Obama +10

The Minnesota SUSA poll would bother me if I believed it was accurate. SUSA had a wacky poll in Minnesota a few weeks ago that I wrote about here and this is their next poll in the state. Methinks something strange is afoot in their Minnesota sampling as all the other pollsters have the spread in Minnesota much greater and, more importantly, neither campaign seems to think the state is in play. If Obama's lead was really 3 points, McCain would have been there sometime in the last couple of weeks.

The Ohio PPP poll is close but Obama is at 50% in the poll. SurveyUSA also has it at 2 (and I sure do trust them in states that don't end in "sota.") The numbers from Quinnipiac are not all that different from what SUSA is saying when you factor in the slight Democratic lean from Quinnipiac.

That Georgia PPP poll means Obama is for real in Georgia. Should be a fun state to watch tomorrow night. One of the things I love most about SurveyUSA is they make their internals available in an easy way. And they have the African-American proportion of the electorate at 26%. My prediction is that this number is wrong and underestimates African-American turnout. As I said, we'll see tomorrow. Montana is interesting and I am starting to think Obama might win there. Remember that Ron Paul is on the ballot in Montana and he is likely to draw some votes away from McCain there.

One more day!!! Breathe in, Breathe out.

TPM's 100 Seconds

Spin, spin, spin edition:

Late Polls

A lot of mixed polling today but most of the variance is surely explained by variance in methodology in these different polls. Nate Silver has a post out this afternoon on the cellphone effect where simply lists all the national polls and shows who calls cell phones and who doesn't. The difference in their results is pretty striking on its face.

The polling is really a bit mixed in terms of the overall direction things seem to be moving and requires a lot of interpretation. The ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +9 to Obama +11 and has Obama at 54%. 95% of Obama supporters in this poll say they will definitely vote for him and another 3% say they are unlikely to change their minds. IF this poll is an accurate snapshot, McCain cannot win. But that's a big "if."

The Pew poll came out with a final national poll showing Obama up by 6 and at 52%. This is a much narrower reading than Pew's poll a week ago though Pew still has a big spread in the registered voter reading (Obama +11). For whatever reason, their likely voter screen is getting a different mix than before. Again though, even in the most generous reading here, McCain is far behind.

The CBS tracker has Obama up by 13 (holding steady) and, like the ABC/WP tracker, they have Obama at 54%. Finally, USAToday/Gallup has a full national poll out tonight that has Obama up by 11 and at 53% nationally. Since it is USAToday, they'll probably have a pretty neat graphic to go with the headline in the morning ... so look for that.

Just a few late state polls out today:

Illinois (Rasmussen) - Obama +22
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +6
Pennsylvania (PPP) - Obama +8
Pennsylvania (Rasmussen) - Obama +6
Virginia (PPP) - Obama +6

John McCain has his work cut out for him in Illinois. The Pennsylvania and Virginia polls are not the huge leads Obama once had but all have Obama at 52% or higher and still with a cushion. The Rasmussen poll had Obama up by just 4 two days ago in PA. So, all in all, no major news here and no news is good news.

Your 15 Minutes ...

... are just about up. From TPM:

Morning Polls

The Gallup "expanded" model moves from Obama +10 to Obama +9. Rasmussen holds steady at Obama +5 and Obama has held steady at 51% in their poll for four straight days now. Hotline moves from Obama +7 to Obama +5 though Obama remains at 50% in that tracker. Hotline also reports that 27% of voters have already voted (similar to Gallup's result from yesterday). R2000 holds steady at Obama +4 and Obama is at 51% in that tracker. Finally, CNN/Opinion Research has Obama up by 7 nationally and at 53%

A number of state polls out this morning:

Colorado (Mason Dixon) - Obama +5
Iowa (Selzer) - Obama +17
Kentucky (Mason Dixon) - Obama +9
Kentucky (SurveyUSA) - McCain +16
Maine (Rasmussen) - Obama +13
Michigan (Detroit Free Press) - Obama +16
Minnesota (Star Tribune) - Obama +11
Missouri (Mason Dixon) - McCain +1
Nevada (Mason Dixon) - Obama +4
New Mexico (SurveyUSA) - Obama +7
North Carolina (Mason Dixon) - McCain +3
Ohio (Columbus Dispatch) - Obama +6
Ohio (Mason Dixon) - McCain +2
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (SurveyUSA) - Obama +7
Utah (Deseret News) - McCain +25
Virginia (Mason Dixon) - Obama +3
Virginia (SurveyUSA) - Obama +4

A good number of these polls are from Mason Dixon and virtually all the Mason Dixon polls have McCain doing better than other pollsters in the same states. Nate Silver estimates Mason Dixon's house effect as 2 or 3 points towards McCain. And he discusses the meaning of this morning's polls here. Also, Nate has McCain's probability of winning moving up from 3.8% to 6.3%. Do read his post if you are freaking out. Then, use the energy to do some phone banking or precinct walking.

I suspect we're going to see a lot more state-level polls out later today. All in all, these numbers would seem to indicate some narrowing but still a solid Obama lead.

Finally, if you're looking for some nerdy entertainment, take a look at how some of the voices I trust out there have taken Zogby to task in the last 24 hours. Nate Silver did so late Friday night and Mark Blumenthal did so this morning. Zogby deserves it. He made a big deal out of his one-night sample on Friday night and then tried to act like he hadn't last night ... by including a snarky dig aimed at Nate Silver in his update. His tracker does not currently have a result that is much different than others but the wild swings he hypes on the basis of small samples make his tracker suspect. His snarky comment aimed at Nate Silver makes his character suspect. So there.

2 days to go!!! Breathe in, breathe out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

TPM's 100 Seconds

Here's today's installment. Fun, fun:

Late Polls

ABC/WP tracker shows no movement at Obama +9 (53-44). CBS/NYTimes has a new full poll out showing Obama expanding his lead a little bit (2 points) from where it was a few days ago. They have it at Obama +13 (54-41). Some believe CBS/NYTimes is some kind of outlier. I don't think that's absolutely right. I note that their estimate of Obama's number is not far from where those tracking polls had it this morning. The disagreement is over McCain's numbers and I explained that in this morning's post. What matters most at this point though is the trend, rather than the absolute numbers. McCain needs a rapid close and, if anything, the national numbers seem to be moving away from him.

Some state polling:

Arkansas (ARG) - McCain +7
California (SurveyUSA) - Obama +24
Florida (ARG) - Obama +4
Florida (Datamar) - Tied
Florida (Mason Dixon) - Obama +2
Indiana (ARG) - Tied
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +11
Pennsylvania (ARG) - Obama +6
South Dakota (Rasmussen) - McCain +9

Mason Dixon had McCain ahead by 2 a week ago. So this is a good poll from a pollster who has a Republican lean. But Datamar had Obama up by 4 last week. I included ARG polls even though I don't think much of their state-level polling. That said, all four of their polls here seem fairly reasonable. Nothing else to see here.

Update: McCain moves from 2.8% to 3.8% chance of winning the election in Nate Silver's model, largely on the gains McCain appears to have made in Pennsylvania. PANIC!!! (just kidding)

Cheney Endorses McCain

Barack Obama on his distant cousin's endorsement of John McCain: "I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it."

Morning Polls

With just 3 days to go, we are seeing the trackers start to converge around the same snapshot of where the race is. Gallup moves from Obama +9 to Obama +10. Rasmussen moves from Obama +4 to Obama +5 and Obama remains at 51%. Hotline remains at Obama +7 but the important news from this poll is that the race went from 48-41 to 51-44 overnight. Splitting up the undecideds (if that's what's happening) is obviously not what McCain needs to be doing with so little time left. R2000 moves from Obama +6 to Obama +7. Take a look at the estimates for each candidate in all the trackers (at least the ones I pay attention to - not much respect for Zogby and the others) below:

52-42 (Gallup - Expanded)
52-42 (Gallup - Traditional)
51-44 (Hotline)
51-44 (R2000)
51-46 (Rasmussen)

The point is these trackers are not disagreeing much with one another. The only place there is really any substantive disagreement is on McCain's level of support. This is not terribly surprising because McCain's support has been more "soft" for some time. So, what we're likely seeing among these pollsters is variation based on how hard the pollster presses these "leaning" voters. Obama has fewer of them and more "certain" supporters.

There are two other interesting tidbits in Gallup's write-up this morning. Gallup has just increased their estimate of voter turnout from 60% to 64% of eligible voters. That would put voter turnout at its highest level in decades ... and more turnout is certainly good news for Barack Obama. Secondly, Gallup estimates that 27% of registered voters have already voted! Wow. Remember that some states do not have early voting programs so the numbers are much, much higher in states that do. A very sizeable proportion of the vote is already locked in in some key states like Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada and all indications are that Obama is winning in this early vote. We know this not only from the party registration breakdown of those who have voted early but also from Gallup's writeup. They say, "The vote choices of these early voters -- all of whom are included in the likely voter pool since they are definite voters -- skew more toward Barack Obama than the sample average." In other words, among the more than one quarter of voters who have already voted, Obama appears to be winning by MORE than 10 points nationally. Yow!

Some state polling:

Iowa (R2000) - Obama +14
Kentucky (R2000) - Obama +17
Minnesota (R2000) - Obama +15
Oregon (R2000) - Obama +16
Oregon (Rasmussen) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +8
Pennsylvania (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Wisconsin (UW) - Obama +10
Wyoming (R2000) - McCain +25

There is some slightly good news in the state polling for John McCain in Pennsylvania. The slightly good news for McCain is that it is now clear the race in Pennsylvania has narrowed. The Muhlenberg tracker has clearly narrowed over several days. More importantly, Rasmussen's polls are worthy of more respect than the two pollsters who showed Pennsylvania narrowing in the last couple of days (Mason Dixon and Strategic Vision). But the reason it is only "slightly" good news is ... Obama does still lead by 4 and Obama's number is still at 51% in the poll. We have just 72 hours left for campaigning and John McCain does still need to pull some voters away from Obama to win the state.

None of the other state polling has any important news for us this morning. The truth is that, if everything holds the way it has been going, Obama doesn't need any of Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania to win because he's winning in Colorado, Virginia, and Nevada.

Let me repeat that. If Obama wins all the Kerry states EXCEPT Pennsylvania, but wins Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada (and he has leads in all these states), Obama wins exactly 270 electoral votes. However, he is currently winning in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina and there remain other target states like Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana and yes ... Arizona.

If Obama wins any one of the big three (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida), he'll win for sure. But he still has paths to victory without any of them. UPDATE: In case you think I'm making this up, here is Nate Silver's piece this morning basically making the same point about Pennsylvania - he calls it his "Pennsylvania Sanity Check" because so many readers are emailing him freaking out that Obama is only up by 4 there.

That's why McCain's hill is so hard to climb right now. Nate Silver has McCain's chances of winning down to 2.8% as of last night. That sounds about right to me.

3 days to go!!! Breathe in. Breathe out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

TPM's 100 Seconds

Don't know how many of you see TPM's daily summaries of the campaign day in 100 seconds but I liked today's a lot so I'm posting it here:

TPM Eats Eagleburger for Lunch

Former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger said yesterday, unequivocally, that Sarah Palin will not be ready on Day One to be President and that, if she learns over time, she might turn out to be adequate at best.

Now TPM posts video from Fox News today where Eagleburger tries to walk this back. It is bizarre as well as pathetic to watch. As TPM points out, "it had something of the feel of one of the Maoist self-criticism sessions or perhaps one of the public apologies during the Moscow show trials." Eagleburger says he "wasn't thinking correctly," he "made a terrible mistake," and he "should have said that within a relatively short period of time, she would also be a foreign policy expert. I said it badly and I'm sorry."

Notwithstanding the creepy nature of the public self-flogging, isn't the admission of this kind of erratic, shoot-from-the-hip, flapping-at-the-gums stupidity exactly what they are accusing Barack Obama of being too inexperienced to avoid?

Thank goodness John McCain will have smart, seasoned foreign policy experts like Larry Eagleburger around him who know how to avoid saying stupid things and who will be able to avoid having to walk them back in some kind of humiliating way.

Here is Eagleburger announcing his shame for the world to see:

Late Polls

A lot of polling out for a Friday. But it isn't just any Friday.

The new ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +8 to Obama +9 and Obama is now at 53%. Marist has a national poll out today that has Obama up by 7 and at 50%.

State polling:

Alaska (R2000) - McCain +19
Colorado (PPP) - Obama +10
Georgia (R2000) - McCain +3
Georgia (Rasmussen) - McCain +5
Mississippi (R2000) - McCain +13
Montana (R2000) - McCain +4
New Hampshire (Rasmussen) - Obama +7
North Carolina (R2000) - Obama +2
North Dakota (R2000) - McCain +1
West Virginia (PPP) - McCain +13

There's a lot of red in this list but who would have believed we would be this close in Georgia, Montana, and North Dakota? The Obama campaign is back up on the air in all these states and we can see why. Georgia, in particular, seems to me like a possibility for a real upset state. The early voting numbers there are showing tremendous African-American turnout. R2000 has a slight Democratic lean so their poll and Rasmussen's poll would seem to be saying about the same thing (McCain up by roughly 5). But, if the likely voter models are wrong in a good way for Obama in any state, Georgia and North Carolina might be the most likely spots.

Failed efforts at vote suppression

Continuing the turnout theme, Talking Points Memo has a very helpful compilation of failed GOP vote suppression activities this cycle. It is really striking to see how ineffective these have been, especially in comparison with similar efforts in recent elections. I think the conclusion that Zachary Roth reaches, that this is due in large part to more Democratic Secretaries of State, is correct. But I also think that the implications of such a finding are yet another sign of the problems with partisan election officials, especially those who are state chairs for presidential campaigns (I'm looking your way, Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell). This isn't a strictly Democrat/Republican issue, either. Some of the actions taken by Ohio's current Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner have made it harder for McCain supporters. The U.S. is one of the few democracies in the world to use partisan election officials. It seems to me past time to adopt the recommendation of the Carter-Baker report on Federal Election Reform and move towards non-partisan election officials through appointment and confirmation by a supermajority of the state legislature. Will it be perfect? Of course not. Will it be better than the current system? Almost certainly.
UPDATE: Oh, and let's not forget the efforts of Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), who is working hard to suppress the Latino vote.

Required Reading

Nate Silver has a piece out this morning looking at how Obama has been building an advantage in early voting. Some (like Rachel Maddow, for instance) have been worried about early voting not going well and about Colorado in particular. This piece provides some statistics to talk those folks down.

Morning Polls

We see some nice movement towards Obama in all the Gallup models today. I prefer the Gallup Likely Voter Model II, which now has Obama up by 9 (it was 7 yesterday) and at 52%. But the truly interesting thing is that we have seen convergence with all three models and, in the "traditional" likely voter model, Obama now leads by 8 (51-43). Among all registered voters, Obama now has an 11-point lead. But it is important to stress how important that move in the "traditional" model is. This model assumes the likely voter pool will look like 2004. Virtually everyone believes the likely voter pool will be better for Obama in some ways though to what extent that is the case is a matter of debate. But, just taking the 2004 voter pool, Obama leads by 8 according to Gallup. That is a deadly, deadly reading for McCain.

The rest of the trackers are basically flat. Rasmussen moves from Obama +5 to Obama +4. Hotline moves from Obama +6 to Obama +7. R2000 moves from Obama +5 to Obama +6.

Some state polls out this morning:

Arizona (R2000) - McCain +1
Indiana (SurveyUSA) - Tied
Louisiana (Loyola) - McCain +3
Michigan (EPIC/MRA) - Obama +12
Michigan (PPP) - Obama +13
Michigan (Strategic Vision) - Obama +13
Minnesota (PPP) - Obama +16
Missouri (Insider Advantage) - McCain +3
New Hampshire (R2000) - Obama +7
New Hampshire (Strategic Vision) - Obama +9
New Hampshire (SurveyUSA) - Obama +11
New Jersey (SurveyUSA) - Obama +10
New Jersey (Fairleigh Dickinson) - Obama +18
New Mexico (PPP) - Obama +17
North Carolina (Insider Advantage) - Tied
Oregon (PPP) - Obama +15
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +10
Pennsylvania (Strategic Vision) - Obama +5

The big, glaring good news for John McCain here is that we have a second poll in two days showing McCain much closer in Pennsylvania than he's been. Yesterday, Mason Dixon had Obama up by 4 and today, Strategic Vision has Obama up by 5. I said yesterday that Mason Dixon has a Republican lean (Nate Silver estimates it at 2-3 points) and Strategic Vision definitely has a Republican lean. The Muhlenberg tracker does have Pennsylvania narrowing a little bit as well but not to the same level. The good news is all these pollsters have Obama leading there. A new poll has McCain up by 3 in Missouri which is a good result for him right now. But SurveyUSA has Obama tied in Indiana. Again, an Obama win in Indiana would allow him to lose all of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida and still win.

All in all, a pretty good day of polling. Obama down by just 1 in Arizona? Dare to dream? Well, add these two data points to the mix. David Plouffe just announced Obama is going up on the air in Arizona and, on Monday (that's the day before the election), John McCain will be campaigning in ... Arizona. Oof.

We do see some movement towards McCain in a couple of key states (Pennsylvania and Missouri) but we're not seeing much movement towards McCain elsewhere and the kind of movement we're seeing so far is too little, too late. He'll have to close more rapidly to win.

Finally, I'd just like to point out something that leaps out at me from this video and that Sean Quinn at discussed after the first debate. John McCain may like to gamble but he would be an awful, awful poker player. He has trouble hiding his anger or frustration. Ben Smith posted this video in which McCain catches himself speculating on Palin's future in the event his ticket might lose. The key word is "Or:"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Late Polls

As mentioned below, the ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +8, Obama is at 52% in the poll, and almost all of his supporters in the poll say they will not change their minds. The new CBS/NYTimes poll has Obama up by 11 nationally, slightly closer than their poll a week ago, which had Obama up by 13.

Some state polling:

Indiana (Rasmussen) - McCain +3
Indiana (R2000) - Tied
Iowa (SurveyUSA) - Obama +15
Kentucky (Rasmussen) - McCain +12
Montana (Rasmussen) - McCain +4
Nevada (R2000) - Obama +5
New Hampshire (Suffolk) - Obama +13
North Carolina (Civitas) - Obama +1
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - Obama +2
South Carolina (SurveyUSA) - McCain +8
Wisconsin (R2000) - Obama +11
Wisconsin (SurveyUSA) - Obama +16

I ask again, why is Obama going to Iowa tomorrow? Rasmussen is pretty conservative in their polling (mainly because they weight by party ID) and putting Obama up by 2 in North Carolina is a REALLY bad result for McCain. McCain's small leads in these polls in Indiana and Montana are also not welcome news for McCain.

It is getting later and later ... and still no real movement towards McCain at the state level that I can discern.

The Internals on Some of These Polls Are ... Worse for McCain

That new national Fox poll that has Obama ahead of McCain by just 3 points is a little ... funny.

Fox had Obama up by 9 a week ago and the conservative blogosphere is going gaga about this poll. Let's crack it open a bit, shall we?

Last week, Fox's sample had 44.9% Dems vs. 38.6% GOPs. This week? 42.6% vs. 40.9%. Interesting. That's why some pollsters, like Rasmussen, weight by Party ID. The majority of the "shift" we are observing in Fox's numbers are due to changes in the construction of their sample.

Meanwhile, the new ABC/WP tracker stays steady from yesterday at Obama +8. But that's not the REALLY bad news for McCain. The really bad news is that 94% of Obama supporters say they will "definitely" vote for him and an additional 5% say it is "unlikely" they will change their mind. Since he's at 52%, that makes John McCain's job over the weekend a bit harder. For purposes of comparison, 4% of McCain supporters say there is a "good chance" they will change their minds.

Happy Thursday!

A helpful reminder of why you should vote

Just in case you needed a reminder of why it is important to vote:

Morning Polls

Today's theme will be Mason Dixon, not the line, the pollster. First, a word from our national trackers:

Gallup Likely Voter Model II (which even Republicans admit is probably the more useful measure) holds steady at Obama +7. But Obama moves from up 4 to up 5 even in the traditional likely voter model. Rasmussen expands back from Obama +3 to Obama +5. The movement in this tracker had me (very slightly) concerned yesterday. Obama is back up to 51% in the tracker. Hotline moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6. R2000 moves from Obama +6 to Obama +5. All that adds up to ... probably nothing. Nothing is good. Just like in that Seinfeld episode where George gets a "negative" result on his biopsy and panics initially. Negative is good! There are also two new national polls out this morning. Fox has Obama up by 3. The Economist has Obama up by 7.

At the state level, John McCain is moving all his chips in on ... Mason Dixon. Here are the state polls out this morning:

Arizona (Mason Dixon) - McCain +4
Arizona (CNN/Time) - McCain +7
California (Field) - Obama +22
Colorado (Marist) - Obama +6
Colorado (National Journal) - Obama +4
Florida (National Journal) - Obama +4
Idaho (Harstad) - McCain +23
Indiana (Selzer) - Obama +1
Minnesota (Mason Dixon) - Obama +8
Minnesota (MPR) - Obama +19
Nevada (CNN/Time) - Obama +7
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +24
New Jersey (R2000) - Obama +16
North Carolina (CNN/Time) - Obama +6
North Carolina (National Journal) - Obama +4
Ohio (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Ohio (National Journal) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Mason Dixon) - Obama +4
Pennsylvania (CNN/Time) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +11
South Carolina (NBC) - McCain +11
South Dakota (GQR) - McCain +5
Texas (UT) - McCain +11
Virginia (National Journal) - Obama +4
Virginia (Marist) - Obama +4

Let's start by talking about Mason Dixon. Mason Dixon is not an awful pollster at the state level (see Zogby, John) but they are not the best either and they do seem to have a slight Republican lean (that's just my non-systematic sense - Nate Silver will likely have something more systematic to say later today). I say all this because, if you're John McCain and you're looking at this list of polls (by the way, John McCain spending time on this blog would not be close to his worst decision of the campaign), the Mason Dixon result in Pennsylvania is the really good news that jumps out at you. CNN/Time and Muhlenberg have Obama up by low double-digits this morning. The way things are headed, McCain really has to win in Pennsylvania and this is the closest McCain has been in any publicly-released poll in Pennsylvania since mid-September. At that time, Mason Dixon had McCain behind by just 2. So is Mason Dixon right? I don't think so. But let's say they are. McCain would still be behind by 4 points. That's no small thing. Mason Dixon also has Minnesota (Obama +8) closer than others do including MPR who has Obama up by 19. But, again, let's just say Mason Dixon is the best pollster out there and they are right across the board. If so, John McCain is as likely to lose Arizona as he is to win Pennsylvania. That's not a useful tradeoff. I doubt John McCain will lose Arizona. But I also don't think Barack Obama is going to lose Pennsylvania.

Basically all of the rest of this polling is just awful, awful stuff for McCain. Look at North Carolina. I noted yesterday that, contrary to Bill McInturff's memo, the African-American vote in a state like North Carolina is probably being underestimated. Today, we have two polls showing Obama ahead there. CNN/Time seems to have a slight Democratic lean giving these two polls very similar readings. North Carolina would cancel out a McCain upset in Pennsylvania. So would Ohio. So would Florida. So would Indiana (more on that below). So would Missouri. Believe it or not ... so would Nevada! "Really?" you ask. Yes. Do the math. If Obama wins all the Kerry states except Pennsylvania plus Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia (leads in all these states for a long time now), he still wins if he just carries tiny little Nevada and nothing else.

Now, let's talk about that Indiana poll by Ann Selzer. Nate Silver is a big fan of Ann Selzer's work and it is hard to argue with her results in the primaries in states like Iowa and Indiana. One of the things that makes Selzer's polling different than others is that she is anticipating higher youth turnout than most other pollsters. This is part of her polling prior to the Iowa Caucuses was more accurate than others. Young voters did turn out in the numbers she predicted. The same thing happened in the Democratic Primary in Indiana. She now has Obama up by 1 in Indiana. Is she right? Nobody knows for sure but Obama is going to Indiana tomorrow, Biden is there on Saturday, and Indiana is one of the states where Obama's organizing advantage on the ground compared with McCain is HUGE. If I had to bet today, I would be on an Obama win in Indiana ... but I'm not a gambling man.

Overall, this is not a day where we're seeing the narrowing that John McCain needs to see. 5 days to go!!! Breathe in, breathe out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Late Polls

There is nothing in the afternoon update that is good for McCain. The ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +7 to Obama +8. The national Harris poll has Obama up by 6.

A bunch of state polls from CNN/Time and Rasmussen came out this afternoon:

Alaska (Rasmussen) - McCain +16
Colorado (CNN/Time) - Obama +8
Florida (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Georgia (CNN/Time) - McCain +5
Michigan (Rasmussen) - Obama +10
Minnesota (Rasmussen) - Obama +12
Missouri (CNN/Time) - McCain +2
New Mexico (Rasmussen) - Obama +10
Virginia (CNN/Time) - Obama +9

Again, assuming Obama holds Pennsylvania, he just needs to win any one of Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, or Missouri. Colorado and Virginia in particular seem to be longshots for McCain right now.

In sum, the big disconcerting move today has been the Rasmussen tracker. And, while that's not necessarily great news, I am not seeing tightening elsewhere. Not yet anyway.

Trackers and State Polls

My "Morning Polls" post this morning pointed out that, while we are seeing the national trackers narrow a bit, we are not seeing this reflected in state-level polling. Nate Silver makes this same point towards the bottom this post while also pointing out the myth of the "lag" effect and continuing to argue the state polls are at least as, if not more, valid as the national polls as a measure of where the race is trending.

Bill McInturff

In a memo released to reporters, McCain's pollster makes a variety of arguments about how the race is "functionally-tied." Some of this memo is reasonable. But ...

... I direct your attention to his sixth point. Here, McInturff argues that Obama's support among African-Americans is totally factored into the public polls as "most polls" show Obama winning 97-1 or by a similar margin among African-Americans. So, Obama can't expect any more support there and McCain is likely to gain support as the remaining voter pool (non-African-American) is more likely to support McCain. This is utter nonsense for several reasons:

  1. McInturff says, “in most polls,” Obama is winning 97-1 among African-American voters. That just isn’t true. Ben Smith provides evidence to the contrary here. More importantly, the state polls that release internal demographic data very frequently show McCain winning far more of the African-American vote than he is likely to win as McInturff suggests happens in his polling in past campaigns. For instance, look at SurveyUSA’s poll from Monday in Virginia. This poll has Obama ahead by 9 points overall in the state and winning 86-13 among African-Americans. Does McInturff concede that Obama is underperforming in this poll among African-Americans? If so, Obama’s lead should be slightly larger.
  2. Let’s assume away the problems I identify in point #1 and assume McInturff is right that the African-American support Obama is going to get is already factored into the polling results. McInturff says this means that “it will be very difficult for Senator Obama to perform much above his percentage of the vote in a state” because “the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino.” Huh? Barack Obama is winning by 2 to 1 or more among Latino voters in most places and, while he is not winning among white voters, he is not being blown out either. In fact, it is entirely possible that if the only remaining undecided voters are white and Latino voters, Obama could earn a split or even win among these voters. It frankly depends WHICH Latino and white voters are undecided but to assume the vast majority or even the majority of these voters will go to McCain is not an assumption supported by any real evidence.
  3. Finally, McInturff discusses turnout elsewhere in the memo but fails to mention that many of the state-level polls are probably underestimating what is likely to be a record high turnout among African-American voters. So, even if these polls are already accurately factoring in the proportion of African-American voters Obama is likely to win (many of them are not), they may not factor in the higher proportion of the electorate African-American voters are likely to constitute. For instance, in the same Virginia poll by SurveyUSA I mentioned above, African-Americans make up 18% of the electorate in their sample. But African-American voters made up 21% of the electorate in Virginia in 2004 according to exit polls. Similarly, in North Carolina, a SurveyUSA poll a week ago estimated African-Americans would make up 20% of the electorate in the state. But, again, according to exit polls in 2004, African-Americans were 26% of the electorate in the state. Even if the African-American portion of the electorate is simply as high as 2004, Obama still has room to grow in these polls just among African-American voters.

McInturff is a smart and good pollster. But this particular point he is making is simply not supported by the data. Beware of the campaign that sends the internal pollster out to explain why things are not as the public polls seem. They usually are as the public polls say.

Morning Polls

There are some signs for worry this morning (for those who enjoy this Democratic pasttime) as the national trackers do continue to narrow. The good news is Gallup has NOT narrowed today. The Likely Voter Model II (which is the model I trust the most) remains at Obama +7 and has Obama at 51%. The "traditional" model moves from Obama +2 to Obama +3. And their registered voters model moves from Obama +7 to Obama +9. For those seeking to worry, the Rasmussen tracker in particular is worrisome as it moves from Obama +5 to Obama +3 and it is a tracker I have a lot of respect for. The lead dropped by 3 the day before. The good news is that Obama is still at 50%. The Hotline poll moves from Obama +8 to Obama +7. R2000 moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6 but Obama is still at 50% in that tracker as well. One thing to remember about all this is that we have (hoped against but) expected the national horserace numbers to narrow a bit. Followers of Nate Silver's site, for instance, know that the popular vote percentage he tracks (and which is reported over to the right) is a "projected" popular vote number. His model builds in an expected 1-2 points of narrowing before Election Day. We may simply be seeing that take hold now.

On the other hand, the election is really determined at the state level and, even more specifically, in the battlegrounds. And it is hard to find real signs of a narrowing race in the state-level polling. I'm not making this up. Take a look:

Colorado (AP/GfK) - Obama +9
Florida (AP/GfK) - Obama +2
Florida (Quinnipiac) - Obama +2
Nevada (AP/GfK) - Obama +12
New Hampshire (AP/GfK) - Obama +18
North Carolina (AP/GfK) - Obama +2
Ohio (AP/GfK) - Obama +7
Ohio (Marist) - Obama +3
Ohio (Quinnipiac) - Obama +9
Pennsylvania (AP/GfK) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (F&M) - Obama +13
Pennsylvania (Marist) - Obama +14
Pennsylvania (Quinnipiac) - Obama +12
Virginia (AP/GfK) - Obama +7
Washington (Strategic Vision) - Obama +12
Washington (SurveyUSA) - Obama +17

Let's start by reminding ourselves of the kind of needle that John McCain needs to thread. John Kerry won 252 electoral votes in 2004. Will Obama lose any of those states? The McCain campaign is arguing they think they can pull off upsets in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The polling above
suggests otherwise. Dipping into states Bush won in 2004, Obama has strong leads in both Iowa and New Mexico. That puts Obama at 264 electoral votes. That means Obama would then need to win any ONE state out of the group of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, or Virginia. In addition, if Obama were to win in just Nevada, it would throw the election into the House of Representatives.

The polling above combined with polling from the last couple of days shows Obama with big leads in Colorado and Virginia and smaller leads in Nevada, Ohio, and Florida (Obama's lead in Florida appears to have narrowed by a couple of points but he still leads) and probably about tied in Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina. Again, Obama needs just ONE of these states IF he holds onto Pennsylvania.

The various pollsters above are a mixed bag in my view. I don't think too much of the AP/GfK poll but Quinnipiac is very good. Regardless, we're not seeing a lot of variation. With the exception of Ohio, we don't really see any disagreement at all and even the worst reading in Ohio has Obama ahead. SurveyUSA (the gold standard in state polling to me) had Obama up by 4 in Ohio yesterday.

One negative point to make: Obama is visiting Iowa on Friday. I have no idea why he's doing this. He did cancel an Iowa event a week ago when he went to visit his ailing grandmother so maybe this is a makeup event but I'd say we should be doing makeups after the election. Maybe Obama's internal polls are closer than the publicly-released polls? I don't know but I don't think this is good news either way. On the other hand, any day when you see a candidate's pollster on television all over the place trying to explain why the race is "functionally tied," that's not a good sign for that candidate. Bill McInturff (McCain's pollster) is a good pollster but the logic he's using to explain why the race is "functionally tied" is worthy of a master contortionist (more on that in a post to come momentarily).

Bottom line: Is the race narrowing at the national level? It appears so. Is McCain closing the gap in the critical states he needs? I see almost no evidence of that.

6 days to go: Breathe in, breathe out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Afternoon Polls

The ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +7. The new Ipsos/McClatchy national poll has Obama up by 6, down from an 8-point lead last week.

A few state polls out late today:

Arizona (Cronkite/Eight) - McCain +2
Arkansas (Rasmussen) - McCain +10
Florida (LATimes) - Obama +7
Indiana (Howey-Gauge) - McCain +2
Louisiana (SE Louisiana U.) - McCain +12
Maine (Market Decisions) - Obama +21
Mississippi (Rasmussen) - McCain +8
Nevada (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +25
Ohio (LATimes) - Obama +9
Pennsylvania (Rasmussen) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +12
Virginia (Roanoke) - Obama +9

The narrowing in the Rasmussen poll in Pennsylvania would be a concern if it weren't for the fact that they still have Obama at 53% there. The Muhlenberg tracker in Pennsylvania has Obama up by 12 but also has him at 53%.

As I said this morning, Obama has a lead in Nevada and that is deadly news for McCain. Even though it is a small state, it is crucial to his narrow path to 270 and, additionally, it is a state where we have seen very high early voter turnout and new Democratic registrations. The news from Mississippi is also bad for McCain. McCain will surely win the state but, if it is this close in Mississippi, the race is closer in Georgia (we saw a poll this morning from Georgia that had it very close), Obama probably leads by a little in North Carolina, and he probably leads by a good amount in Virginia ... maybe right about where Roanoke College has it. Current polls bear out all this view of these states in relation to one another.

Is Obama really up by 25 in New Hampshire? No, not even close. But there isn't a lot of good news to be found in that poll for John McCain either. My sense is that Obama probably leads in New Hampshire by right around 10 points.

Then there's the LATimes polls in Ohio and Florida. Oof. Question: Does Rick Davis deliver that kind of news to the candidate or do they find some intern they're planning to fire anyway to do it? "Hey Jimmy, come on in here. Let's have a heart to heart about your future ..."

Turnout, Voter Fraud, and Voter IDs

With the leak yesterday regarding the Department of Justice investigation into ACORN's registration efforts in various battleground states, there is a continued attempt to keep the voter fraud canard alive. Those following carefully know that there has been a deliberate effort to conflate voter registration fraud with fraud at the polling place. The two are quite distinct and only one of the two directly threatens the integrity of the voting process. When you have a system where you pay people to gather registrations, their incentives are going to be to register as many people as possible, regardless of whether they are accurate or false. There is, however, no evidence that these falsely registered people actually show up to vote. Careful examinations of instances of alleged voter fraud at the polling place, including the Brennan Center's report last year, show that none can be substantiated and most are a function of clerical error.

Nonetheless, the claims of voter fraud have already had an impact on the electoral landscape. There are now 24 states that require ID from voters at the polls, including Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, and Colorado. These requirements were adopted in response to concerns about voter fraud at the polling place, even in the absence of such fraud occuring. Of course, it is no mistake that those least likely to have government-issued ID are the poor, racial minorities, and the very elderly. Increasing the costs of voting for those populations means lower turnout. In April of this year, the Supreme Court upheld these laws even in the admitted absence of evidence of voter fraud, because such laws help to reassure voters about the integrity of the electoral system (although note Stephen Ansolabehere's work establishing that voters show no change in level of confidence in states with voter ID laws). The burdens imposed were incidental, according to the majority opinion. As political scientists know, though, even "incidental" burdens on voting can reduce turnout.

What does this mean for this election? As a barrier to victory for Obama, probably very little. Obama's leads in the states that he needs to win are sizeable enough that the influence of these kinds of laws are unlikely to be decisive. However, they can influence the kind of victory that Obama has. I don't buy into the notion that a "mandate" is necessary or even means anything substantive, but I do think that redrawing the map of American politics could matter. Obama wins in the south and the Mountain West can change the perception of the acceptability of Democratic policies. And it is on the margin, in close red states, that voter ID laws may have an impact. It is unfortunately too late to change them in this election cycle, but hopefully the issue will be revisited in coming years.

Oh, and thanks to Larry for working to deny me tenure by getting me to post on his blog rather than doing my research.