Archive for August, 2008

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… and so does Nate Silver

August 30, 2008

“And that gets back to the heart of the gamble this pick represents. If McCain and Obama each consolidate their bases at the same percentages, Obama wins. There are now numerically more Democrats, and independents favor Obama. Before the conventions, McCain had moved past Obama, mostly because many women in Hillary Clinton’s coalition had failed to warm to the Democratic nominee. Obama was stuck at 83% of his base and McCain had moved from a tie into 87% consolidation. Had this week’s Denver convention not been as successful from a unity standpoint, McCain might not have needed as much to go for broke. If Obama secures his base, wins indies (as he’s easily doing) and dominates in the ground game, game over for McCain. Demographically, the mountain is too steep to climb.” – Nate Silver

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Kilgore gets it

August 30, 2008

“”Credentials aside, Palin is very vulnerable because, like McCain, she’s mainly “above party” because she dissents from Republican orthodoxy in Alaska from the Right. Both cultural and economic wingnuts love her passionately. And as I said in my last post, she crucially reinforces McCain’s phony “maverick” image with her own phony maverick image. Ignoring all that in favor of mocking her for what many Democrats are privately calling her “obvious” lack of credentials for the White House is a big and unnecessary gamble, and quite possibly a trap. (the Democrats) should all take pains to avoid it. “” – Ed Kigore

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The counterintuitive logic of a Palin selection

August 30, 2008

Why McCain’s decision to select Sarah Palin is not completely mad

McCain’s decision to pick Sarah Palin is a very poor and irresponsible decision. To quote Mark Halperin, ‘McCain has failed the ultimate test that any presidential candidate must face in picking a running mate: selecting someone who is unambiguously qualified to be president’. Putting someone who has two years in executive office, and who supported Pat Buchanan, in a position where she could be a heartbeat from the Presidency was putting party before country. Choosing her over hundreds of better qualified candidates from both sexes smacks of tokenism.

It also is a slap in the face for the moderate Republicans and independents who supported McCain. In retrospect the idea of selecting Joe Lieberman was always going to be problematic, although it was handled badly. However, if Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani and the pro-life Lindsay Graham are all too controversial for the Republican base, then there is a big question mark as to the GOP’s future, especially since there will never be another time when such a gesture is needed. If McCain is pandering with his selection of Palin, and has pandered on immigration, tax cuts and other issues, can he really move to the centre once in office?

Indeed, I came close to closing all my betting positions on John McCain and taking what profits I have. However, there is one way in which it might benefit McCain, by bringing into focus Obama’s inexperience. If it is clear that putting an inexperienced, haughty, paleo-conservative on the bottom of the Republican ticket is stupid, then it logically must also be true that having a very similar (though slightly better) politician on the top of the Democratic ticket is even more ludicrous. Indeed, many historians have argued that Caligua’s plans to make his horse Incitatus was a way of mocking the Senate, rather than simply insanity.

This ‘politics as performance art’ strategy might seem rather obscure, but the Obama campaign would simply undermine their own case if they tried to run a ‘3am’ strategy against Palin. Although the campaign has now shied away from doing it, immediately after Palin was announced there were indications that they were falling into the trap. Instead, their best course of action is both to use this to question McCain’s judgement, but also to use this a cover for a campaign that focuses on the economy. Of course, McCain still has a very good chance at victory and he is clearly the better candidate, but this is more Incitatus than even Dan Quayle or Geraldine Ferraro.

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An unconventional take on the convention season

August 27, 2008

Why their respective conventions might be a mixed blessing for Obama and McCain

The conventional wisdom is that both political parties will experience a bounce in popularity. However, the evidence so far is that the Democratic convention has backfired. Hillary and Bill Clinton have managed to triangulate the situation by nominally endorsing Obama, but all but kicking off their 2012 campaign. At the same time Michelle Obama’s speech, which seemed rather stilted and nervous, has made little or no impact. Although much of the media attention on the PUMA’s is ‘inside baseball’ (i.e. speculation about speculation), it has crowded everything else off the front pages.

However, McCain is by no means in a secure position. Unless he chooses Lieberman or Giuliani he will have locked himself into a convention which gives plenty of red meat to the base, but little to the centrists who will decide this election. It is very possible that after several nights of the ‘scarlet R’ he might actually lose points in the poll. Although McCain should be pleased that he is now neck and neck with Obama, he is stuck in the middle. If he were ten points ahead or behind his strategy would be obvious, but he is close enough for his aides to (wrongly) counsel caution, but not in the position when he can play it safe.

I am still going to go with McCain making an ‘amazing’ choice of running mate rather than Mitt Romney, but even if he does not do this he needs to thrust the few moderates he has (such as Lieberman and Giuliani) out in front. He also needs to make an explicit appeal to the middle grounds and refrain from pandering. I have been wrongly predicting ‘do or die’ moments for McCain ever since last year, and I would still rate McCain as a favourite, but I am worried by Obama’s huge war chest and his superior organisation.

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Obama leads McCain by 2.58%

August 26, 2008

McCain needs to throw caution to the wind

As the hours tick down to Obama’s acceptance speech and McCain’s decision about a running mate, my final projections are:

Barack Obama 47.19
John McCain 44.61

These are produced by putting polls of likely voters (source: Pollster.com) through the filtering programme Samplemiser.

It is obvious that voters want a Democrat as their next President but don’t want Obama. McCain could probably grind out a win by picking Pawlentry and going negative but does he really want to face Obama’s incredible cash machine? My view is that his gaffe about housing has eliminated Romney. Similarly, Obama’s selection of Biden has damaged Pawlentry. My guess (which is the same as it has been for the past year or so) is that we are going to see a McCain/Lieberman ticket, but with Lieberman pledging to uphold the Republican stance on abortion. Certainly, this is the key moment of the election. Even if McCain doesn’t do the right thing he’s still come a long way from near anhilation, but the logic of this primary season demands the selection of Lieberman.

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Veepstakes: My final take

August 21, 2008

My final thoughts on the Veepstakes

For the Republicans I am going to stick with McCain choosing Lieberman. Call me idealistic, call me presumptuous but McCain clearly wants to choose Lieberman and if there is a story about this contest it is about McCain choosing Lieberman. From McCain’s reference to John Lewis (which was a reference to Lieberman’s Civil Rights record) and Lieberman’s confession that he made a mistake about Alito (though if it wasn’t for him and the Gange of Fourteen there wouldn’t be an Alito), they are preparing to run. However, life is not an episode of West Wing, and even then Vinnick lost, so if while I’m sticking to Lieberman it might well be Pawlentry. McCain is not going to choose youth (Jindal, Palin, Cantor etc), money (Fiorina, Whitman) nor is the pick going to some pro-choice governor (Ridge, Lingle, Rell). Romney would be a bit too humiliating and Thompson, Rice and Huckabee don’t particularly want it (though it would be nice to see how long the NRO crowd maintained their pro-life position in the face of a Huckabee or a Graham pick). So it is going to be either Lieberman, Pawlentry or Giuliani. Kasich or Hutchinson might be a long-shot.

The Democrat pick is irrelevant since the public clearly don’t want Obama but they want a Democrat. My guess is that he will choose Biden, Hillary or Richardson. Richardson would nail down Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and make McCain’s life difficult so I bet Richardson will be considered. However, unless Obama chooses someone who is pro-life, the pick will not be that important. My choice (if I supported Obama, though I don’t) would be Ken Salazar. Salazar supported the War in Iraq and is a moderate but if Obama had listened to me he wouldn’t have adopted the positions or the strategy that he did. If it is going to be a ‘headfake’ it will be Warner. Gilmore is so inept that Warner could bow out without endangering the Democrats’ chance of creating two Virginia Senators.

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Could McCain choose Rudy?

August 20, 2008

Probably not, but here’s why he might.

There has been speculation that the whole Tom Ridge trial balloon is to with Rudolph Giuliani rather than Joe Lieberman. Rudolph Giuliani has a strong regional appeal in the North-East and New England. His selection would potentially put New York, and its thirty-five Electoral College votes, into play. As Mayor of a city larger than many states, Giuliani spent pushed through policies that promoted the idea that anyone, including immigrants, could succeed as long as they worked hard and obeyed the law. This would be especially welcome in a Republican Party where some demonise immigrants in a manner little different from Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American rants. As drug dealers, corrupt cops and Michael Milken found out, Giuliani is a strong leader who is unafraid of confrontation, either on the campaign trail, or in office.

If selected, Giuliani would need to open his activities as a security consultant out to public scrutiny and he will need to emphasise his willingness to select pro-life judges. He also runs the risk of his private life and questions over his planning for terrorist attacks overshadowing the campaign. Personally, I think the fact that he is being given a keynote spot at the convention means he won’t be the running mate. However, I could well imagine a scenario where he is the nominee and Lieberman claims the vacant keynote speaking spot. McCain has gone out so far on a limb that Lieberman is still the only person he should select. However, were he to select Giuliani (or Graham) as his running mate and give Lieberman the keynote spot, then he could at least claim that to have reached out beyond the base.