Archive for August, 2007

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Quick Recap of the Democrat Nomination

August 26, 2007

Why Hillary Should be Smiling

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Hillary Clinton – She’s still got a solid lead in the polls and all the other positives the she had at the end of July. At the same time Obama’s inexperience is becoming even more obvious, Edwards’ attempt to move to the left (like McCain’s move to the right) is badly backfiring and Bill Richardson is going nowhere. Although she is led by the anemic Mark Penn (who ran Joe Lieberman’s campaign in 2004 into the ground) she has other experience and talented operatives, including the ‘Rajun Cajun’ himself. Although it is extremely early to definitively call this race, barring an entry by either Mark Warner or Al Gore, she seems unassailable. Probability of winning the nomination is 65%. Price on Intrade.com 66.0-66.5 FAIRLY PRICED

Al Gore – Although Gore seems to be uninterested in running and he will need to develop some policies other than the environment, he is the only candidate with the experience and enough support with the base to challenge Hillary. He also has an extremely well organised group of supporters who are determined to draft him into the race, while his connections with technology companies will enable to match Hillary’s funds, if he so wishes. Probability of winning the nomination is 15%. Price on Intrade.com 7.6-7.9 UNDERPRICED

Barack Obama – It would be ludicrous to completely write-off a candidate who is a clear second in the opinion polls and enjoys considerable media support. However, it might be equally ludicrous to expect a person who has little experience beyond some involvement in Illinois local politics and four years in the Senate to deal with the huge economic, social and foreign policy problems that American faces. At best Obama is another Gary Hart, whose main objective will be to leverage this race into either second place in the ticket or frontrunner status in 2012. At worst this campaign has the potential to destroy his credibility for the next cycle. Probability of winning the nomination is 10% Price on Intrade.com 17.9-18 OVERPRICED

Bill Richardson / John Edwards – These two candidates both had the potential to be successful. However, Richardson has come off as extremely lightweight while Edwards has moved from a populist centrist to a far-left centrist (as previously noted John McCain has also made a similar mistake by moving to the right). Poverty, inequality and outsourcing are justifiably important issues. However, while there is room for someone who can address these issues from the centre there is a reason why Walter Mondale lost 49 states in 1984. America wants someone with a bit of populist rage, just not someone who sounds like Howard Dean on steroids. Probability of winning is 4% each.

Mark Warner – If there is one long-shot candidate who could capture the imagination it is Warner. Centrist, charismatic and from the South he was the choice of the ‘smart money’ up until his withdrawal last year. While he will have to do a lot of explaining, the ‘Anyone but Hillary’ movement could do far worse that choose him. Worth a shot at 0.1 on intrade.com.

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Third time unlucky

August 18, 2007

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McCain turned down Bush and Kerry but could (and should) he run with Giuliani?

With John McCain in fourth place in the last three national polls there is increased speculation that a Giuliani-McCain ticket might be in the works. Indeed, the speculation has been fanned by Giuliani declaring that he ‘ happen(s) to be a very big admirer of Sen. McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren’t running for president I would be here supporting him’. McCain even said that he was ‘very flattered’ by Giuliani’s comments. Like the idea of a Bush-McCain ticket in 2000 and Kerry-McCain in 2004 this seems an appealing ticket on the surface, especially if McCain is too damaged by his past mistakes to recover in time.

However, the reality is that this ticket is simply not going to happen and even if it did it would be a mistake on Giuliani (and McCain’s) part. If the past few months have proved only two things, it is that McCain only does well in the role of straight-talking maverick and that a large segment of the Republican party intensely dislike him. While the Republican ‘base’ might be willing to hold their noses and vote for either Giuliani or McCain to prevent Hillary winning, the prescence of both of them ion the ticket would simply give the Republican base one more reason not to vote for him. At the same time McCain’s adherance to Giuliani’s policies would prevent him from winning the support of independants and force him to flip-flop on this issue of torture.

Indeed, if Giuliani wanted to choose a moderate, and it by no means certain that he would be able to do so, it would be more logical to choose someone like Joseph Lieberman who at least agrees with him on abortion (although there is far more overlap between McCain and Lieberman than between McCain and Giuliani). At the same time, having turned down Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, it is doubtful that McCain would want to spend the last act of his political career on the lower half of a losing campaign. Even if Giuliani managed to win the election, it is uncertain that McCain would be interested, in his own words, ‘checking the health of the President’, while Giuliani puts forward many policies that McCain disagrees with.

It is not even like McCain hasn’t got any other options. As I have said before, McCain could (and maybe should) leave the Republican party and run with Joe Lieberman as an independant. Although such a strategy would only have a 25% of winning the White House, a good case could be made for the argument that a three way race would substantially reduce the chances of the Democratic nominee emerging triumphant (and would perform the public service of putting the final nail in a putative Bloomberg candidacy). Indeed, the prevention of a third party candidacy is Giuliani’s real agenda. If Giuliani maintain’s his lead in the polls and performs well in the primaries expect more overture to Giuliani, Lieberman and Bloomberg (and more speculation about a place on ticket) only for him to nominate someone like Sarah Palin, Frank Thomspon or Mike Huckabee. This is a trap that both John McCain and Joe Liberman must avoid. Even if McCain still remains in the race for the Republican nomination, loose talk about accepting the second spot (or implying that Giuliani would be an acceptable alternative) would scupper his campaign.

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Handicapping the GOP race after Ames

August 12, 2007

An update about the Republican Nomination

 

The race is still dominated by Rudolph Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain. However, the McCain campaign is now in dire trouble while Huckabee and Romney are becoming more credible.

Fred Thompson – After the hype, there seems to be something of a backlash. Much of this is down to his decision to delay his entry into the race and rather silly stories about his wife. However, his underwelming fundraising figures and his record as a lobbyist hint that he might not be the ‘next Regan’ while the fact he has not entered into the race, while sensible, does hint at something more fundamental. After all, American political history is littered with frontrunners, such as Hubert Humphrey (in 1976), Edward Kennedy (in 1972, 76 and 84), Mario Cumo (in 1992) and Dick Gephadt (also in 1992) leaving their parties ‘waiting at the church’. Estimated chance of winning the nomination are around 30%. Price on Intrade.com 26.0-26.5. SLIGHTLY UNDERPRICED

Rudy Giuliani – Giuliani is doing relatively well in the polls, with a confortable lead in the national polls and a lead in South Carolina followed by solid second place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire (according to the average of the last 3 polls). He has also been clever enough to avoid the worst of the pandering on tax and immigration by standing on the sidelines while candidates such as McCain electrocute themselves on the third rail of Republican politics. However, a good prediction should always be about the future rather than the past and in that respect there are several storm clouds on the horizon. Firstly, the fact that his daughter now appears to support Barack Obama indicates the potential for an embarassing appearance by one of his disgrunteled progency. More importantly, the recent revelations about his handling of 9/11 and terrorism (essentially that he used the WTC command centre as a lovenest and that he blew the only terrorism case he prosecuted as a District Attorney) could be the fuse that destroys his campaign. Estimated chances of winning the nomination are around 25%.Giuliani Price on Intrade.com 37.3-37.9. OVERPRICED

John McCain – As previously noted, if electabillity were the sole criterion McCain would be miles ahead. However, if electability (or merit) were that important McCain would be either be annointing his sucessor as President or would probably be presiding over the Senate as part of a Lieberman administration. Indeed, the last fortnight has been especially disastrous with his U-Turn on immigration destroying one of key planks of his programme. Despite the fact an average of the last three polls puts him third (or second if you exclude Fred Thompson) nationally McCain is fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and third in South Carolina. Ultimately, McCain can still pull this back by keeping the faith on Iraq and moving to the centre on economic issues but the window of opportunity is closing with every pander. We saw flashes of the old McCain at the last debate where he refused to pander to the realists and approving used JFKs ‘bear any burden’ quote – we need to see a lot more of this. Indeed, McCain might be best advised to drop out of the Republican party altogether and run as an independant so he can go back to the positions he has been defending for the last seven years. Estimated chances of winning the nomination are around 15%. Price on Intrade.com 6.0-6.1 UNDERPRICED

Mitt Romney – Although Romney is ahead in both New Hampshire and Iowa he is still in single figures nationally. At the same time his ‘victory’ in the Ames straw poll with less than a third of the vote was underwelming given than no other ‘first tier’ candidate took part. At the same time he is still a single term governor who has pandered to social conservatives in a way that has made him a laughingstock. Although the bigotry of many of his critics regarding his religion might backfire (and has no place in politics) I refuse to believe that someone who reads (and enjoys) L Ron Hubbard can be the Republican candidate. Estimated chances of winning the nomination are around 10%.Price on Intrade.com 21.2-22.7. OVERPRICED

5. Mike Huckabee – As a social conservative who is giving off economically centrist signals he could be a formidable candidate provided he distances himself from his idea of a national sales tax. His performances at Ames moves him to the top of the second tier. Estimated chances of winning the nomination are around 5%.Price on Intrade.com 1.8 2.6. UNDERPRICED

6. Chuck Hagel, John Warner and Haley Barbour – The race is now wide open enough to tempt another candidate to enter. These three are the most likely but others may enter. I could even imagine Colin Powell having a go. Estimated chance of any of them winning the nomination is about 15%.

7. Brownback Tancredo, Paul et al – After Ames we should expect to see Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson bow out in the next few days while Brownback and Huner are falling away from Hukabee. Ron Paul will stay in the race but the only thing he will achieve is the loss of his congressional seat next November. Estimated chance of any of them winning the nomination is next to nothing.

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Could the cure be worse than the disease?

August 4, 2007

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Why McCain’s new strategy may be even worse that his old one

One of the reasons why this web-log has disproportionately focused on Senator McCain’s campaign is that he is the one candidate who could dramatically alter the dynamics of the race. It makes little difference whether the Republicans choose Romney, Giuliani or Thompson because the result will probably be a narrow Democrat victory (a result that looks far more likely with each passing poll). In contrast, McCain is the only candidate who could not only beat Hillary but defeat her convincingly, restoring some unity to the country. Indeed, Bloomberg’s pretensions of running for President aside, McCain is the only candidate who would have a chance at succeeding as an independent. However, his recent decision to retool his campaign by flip-flopping on immigration and moving even more to the right on economic issues seems to be the political equivalent of a neutron bomb – destroying the things which made him great while leaving the pandering that got him in these straits intact.

Indeed, up until now much of this pandering has been cosmetic – after all elections are not won or lost on issues such as abortion or gay marriage (indeed polls show that a majority of Americans want more restrictions on abortion). However, McCain’s move from opposing Bush’s tax cuts to promising sign a bill replacing income tax with a national sales tax if such as bill was passed by congress (though it should be noted that he only promised to sign it – not that he would initiate any legislation) is far more serious. Simillarly, his recent decision to introduce an enforcement-only immigration bill directly undermines one of his previous legislative initiatives and along with his courting of the ‘base’ on other issues, has signalled a move to the right. So where does this leave McCain? Indeed, it seems that his decision to replace John Weaver, Mark Salter and Terry Nelson was a victory for those who wanted him to move to the right, rather than a move away from Bush.

A sense of perspective is needed. In the three latest national opinion polls McCain scores an average of 15% which puts him solidly in third, five points ahead of Mitt Romney. For all the media hysteria he is competitive in New Hampshire and actually leads in South Carolina. On the question of dealing with Iraq he is the most highly rated candidate of both the major parties. He still has his exceptional military record and a solid record (in the past eight years) as ‘the conscience of the Senate’. His strategy of focusing on town hall meetings is extremely sensible, and it seems to be generating some crowds. At the same time his new immigration bill, although enforcement only, is actually quite mild. However, I believe that this new strategy will hurt him, not least because he will alienate even more moderates without winning him any friends among the far right. Indeed, even if he manages to win the nomination with this strategy he will be so compromised that he will become as unelectable as any other Republican.

The ironic thing is that he doesn’t need to pander. The conventional wisdom is that the independents who gave him a crushing victory in eight years ago will turn out in the Democrat primary instead and vote for Obama. However, as Hillary Clinton extends her lead over the rest of the field, independents will start to turn their attention to the Republican field. Let’s remember that in 2000 everyone expected large numbers of independents to vote for Bill Bradley. At the same time McCain needs to realise that the anti-immigration and anti-everything wing of the Republican Party will never feel anything but hatred for him. McCain should also realise that, even with the movement of moderates away from the GOP, the extreme right might be much small than many believe. After all, Republicans are pragmatic enough to make Rudolph Giuliani their current frontrunner (although he is a lot less delectable than many of them believe) and 59% of them were pragmatic enough to vote for a left-of-centre former Democrat in Connecticut (according to the CNN exit poll).

So what should McCain do? Having made his point he should withdraw his bill before anyone notices his change of opinion (or at least include some nominal legalization element). Alternatively, he could introduce it but oppose the inevitable deluge of amendments designed to strengthen it (while supporting those which grant a path to legalization). Then, if enough amendments are added to it he could withdraw the bill, having proved that Republicans are only interested in immigrant bashing, as opposed to border security. He should then start taking on Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs and the other figureheads of the Republican right. Indeed, now may be a time to dust off his ‘agents of intolerance’ speech again – though this time he needs to demonstrate that he will stick to his guns. In effect, rather than heeding the calls to ‘nail three conservative issues and attack Hillary Clinton’ he should concentrate on keeping the faith on Iraq and returning to his original positions on tax, corruption and immigration. This strategy may seem unrealistic, as it is probably more likely that he’ll only realise his error when he falls to single figures in the polls, but it is the only one which will make him a frontrunner again. The coming debate with Ron Paul, if it ever happens, may provide him with an anti-tax, anti-war and pro-drugs straw man to fight against.

To surmise, McCain is a person who has stuck with positions that have been unpopular with both the right and the left. Instead of backing down, his best strategy would be to stick with his guns on immigration and Iraq and return to the centre on economic issues.

Disclaimer: Due to the ridiculous prices available on McCain in the betting markets, I have staked money on him becoming the GOP nominee and the next President. I also have positions on other candidates.