Saturday, January 31, 2004

More on NH GOP Primary

USA Today by way of Mickey Kaus notes that one reason for the number of Democratic write-ins in the NH Republican primary was that Democrats who registered Republican to vote for John McCain in 2000 are still there and still unhappy with George W. Bush.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Following up my earlier post about the New Hampshire Republican primary results, John Nichols in The Nation suggests that they offer evidence of rising Republican dissatisfaction with President Bush. According to Nichols:

"Many New Hampshire primary participants decided to skip the formalities and simply vote against the president in Tuesday's Republican primary. Thousands of these Bush-bashing Republicans went so far as to write in the names of Democratic presidential contenders."

As I mentioned previously, Bush took 87 percent in the Republican primary, topping even Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Richard Nixon in 1972. Nichols points out however that Democratic write-ins did particularly well:

"Few of the anti-Bush votes went to the 13 unknown Republicans whose names appeared on GOP ballots along with the president's. Instead, top Democratic contenders reaped write-in votes. . . . In all, 8,279 primary voters wrote in the names of Democratic challengers to Bush on their Republican ballots."

True enough, but a historical comparison puts this into perspective. In 1984, Democratic write-ins were 11 percent of Ronald Reagan's total vote. In 2004, Democratic write-ins were 13 percent of George W. Bush's total vote. Since Reagan went on to win 69 percent of the vote in the general election, I hardly think this constitutes evidence of a Republican backlash against Bush.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Mickey Kaus points out that Bush got 87 percent in the New Hampshire Republican primary. Kaus asks, "Isn't that not so good?" In 1984, Ronald Reagan received 86 percent and in 1972, Richard Nixon got 68 percent, so I'd say it's good enough.
Back in March, Harold Meyerson claimed that John Kerry was the ideal candidate. Why?:

besides his positioning and his bankroll, Kerry brings one further asset to his run for president. To call it "campaigning ability" is to trivialize it, but whatever we choose to term it, Kerry's current capacity to take what Democrats -- what Americans -- are feeling, and to voice it in the clarified, dramatized and elevated form that gifted political leaders can sometimes achieve, is far beyond anything his fellow candidates (much less the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.) are capable of.

But then, despite being a "gifted political leader," Kerry began to tank and in September Meyerson began singing the praises of Wesley Clark. According to Meyerson, Clark was the only candidate with "support from all quadrants" of the Democratic party.

In November, however, Clark was in a dead heat with Dick Gephardt in the Meyerson primary. According to Meyerson, Clark and Gephardt were the two Democrats most likely to win in key battleground states like Ohio.

As things turned out, however, Ohio didn't loom as large in the general election as did the existential margins. And what candidate could sweep the electoral college votes of the "existential margins"? Howard Dean! Why did Meyerson think Dean appealed to the "existential margins"? Because Dean was like John Wayne:

Alone among the Democratic candidates, Dean understood that the law hadn't come yet to Dodge, that the party needed a tough guy who could unleash its long-suppressed animal instincts.

But unleashing the "animal instincts" of the "existential margins," got Dean only 18 percent in Iowa. And that despite the fact that John Wayne was born in Iowa. Now it turns out that, according to Meyerson, Dean was a bad candidate after all.

And who is Meyerson supporting now? He's back to singing the praises of John Kerry. Why? Because Kerry is a "powerhouse" and "real men support John Kerry."

Why does the WaPo print this guy?

In the social sciences (and in medicine and other fields that use statistical analysis), students are taught about Type I and Type II errors. In Type I errors, the results offer a false positive--something that seems to be, really isn't. In Type II errors, something that doesn't seem to be, really is. Imagine a test for cancer. A Type I error on the test would indicate that you have cancer, when you really didn't. This, of course, would cause all sorts of anxiety and worry, but further tests and procedures would ultimately show that you did not have cancer. In contrast, Type II errors are far more worrisome, since they would indicate that you did not cancer when you really did. Patients would remain ignorant of their peril until, perhaps, it was too late. As such, when devising any sort of test like this, you usually want to err on the side of caution by having Type I rather than Type II errors. Better a false positive than a false negative.

Why this primer on statistics? It seems to me that the concept of Type I and Type II errors is highly relevant to current discussions about the absence of WMD in Iraq. Any intelligence estimate regarding WMD is susceptible to Type I and Type II errors. In a Type I error, we would predict that a country has WMD when in fact they do not. A Type II error would predict no WMD when in fact a country did have them.

From all accounts, the Bush administration (and the Blair government, and the French, and the Germans, and the UN, etc.) committed Type I errors in their assesment of Iraq's WMD capability. They thought something was there that really was not. As with the cancer tests, Type I errors cause problems, but they are far better than Type II errors. The Bush administration decided to err on the side of caution in assessing Iraq's WMD capacity. Better to run the risk of finding out there was no Iraqi WMD threat, than to find out too late that such a threat really did exist.

In the aftermath of 9/11 I can't fault the Bush adminstration for this. 9/11 showed that the prospect of a Type II error in intelligence assessment was potentially catastrophic. Yes, Type I errors are not to be dismissed as irrelevant. Going to war has real costs and risks, but in this case, the predicted risk of going to war was far less than the risk of not going to war. Add to that the nature of Saddam's regime and the cost of not going to war becomes intolerable. As Tony Blair put it in his speech to Congress this summer:

Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.

But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Quick thoughts on NH:

1. 14 points is a big win for Kerry.

2. Has a Massachusetts Dem ever lost the NH primary? Kerry, Tsongas, Dukakis, and JFK all won. Ted Kennedy lost in 1980, but he was running against an incumbent president.

3. This, on the heels of Iowa, is a big loss for Dean. I'm having a hard time thinking of two states (other than VT) more favorable to Dean's campaign than Iowa and New Hampshire. If he can't win either of them, where does he win? Plus, he had plenty of money in both states and now that will be in short supply.

4. Edwards was below expectations, but he will claim (assuming he actually beats Clark) that he did the best of any candidate from a non-contiguous state.

5. Even if he ends up beating Edwards, Clark took a real hit. He had the state to himself for the last month, he had money, and high polls until last week. He blew it all.

6. SC will be the Thunderdome for Clark and Edwards--"Two men enter--one man leave."
The BBC is reporting that French politicians received bribes from Saddam Hussein. One of those accused responded by saying:

"I have never received any gifts from the Iraqi government and I am not in the habit of making my decisions on the basis of any remuneration I might receive."

In other words, I didn't get a bribe, and if I did, it wouldn't have influenced me, at least most of the time.
Human Rights Watch has a new report out on the Iraq War. According to HRW's director, Kenneth Roth:

". . . removing Saddam Hussein from power brought about the end of one of the world’s most abusive governments. But intervening militarily on the territory of a sovereign state, without its permission, is inherently dangerous and must be undertaken for humanitarian purposes in only the most extreme cases. While Saddam Hussein had an atrocious human rights record, his worst atrocities were committed long before the intervention. At the time coalition forces invaded Iraq, there was no ongoing or imminent mass killing of the sort that would require the kind of preventive military action that should characterize true humanitarian interventions."

Roth adds:

“The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein’s atrocities should certainly be punished, and his worst atrocities, such as the 1988 genocide against the Kurds, would have justified humanitarian intervention then. But such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter. They shouldn’t be used belatedly to address atrocities that were ignored in the past.”

So let me get this straight, genocide is only a crime if you get caught in the act? Also, Roth agrees that Saddam should be punished, but how would that be possible without toppling the Iraqi regime?

Furthermore, even if Saddam was to never again commit atrocities on the scale of 1988, he clearly was going to keep on killing Iraqis. Putting aside the tens of thousands of children killed every year by his abuse of the sanctions, Saddam was killing thousands of Iraqis every year as a matter of course. Just how many dead Iraqis would Roth like to see before he justifies intervention. 1000? 5000? 10,000? 100,000? More?

Roth's defense of state sovereignty makes him sound like the head of Treaty of Westphalia Watch, not Human Rights Watch. This deference to state sovereignty made sense at a time when wars usually entailed massive civilian casualties and when there were no agreed upon norms of democratic governance. But today, technological changes have raised the possibility of relativelys short and bloodless wars, such as what we saw last year in Iraq. Furthermore, there is a global norm of democratic and humanitarian values. Therefore, I would argue that regimes, like Saddams, that ruthlessly and continually brutalize their own people abdicate the normal rights accorded to sovereign states, and deposing them is justified if the cost in civilian casualties is proportionate to the ends. Contrary to Roth, the Iraq War was a humanitarian war.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Chrisishardcore defends his estimates of the one-day results fromt the ARG tracking poll:

ARG's numbers are ultimately probably going to be wrong, so are Zogby's and so are everyone's. With two days left until the primary these 3 day tracking polls won't be able to accurately show late surges -- and that's what I'm trying to do.

But as I said in my earlier posts, even if you see a surge in the last day of a 3-day tracking poll, this could just be a routine blip in the margin of error--and blip are quite common with a margin of error of approximately +/- 7 percentage points. In other words, that late surge might turn out to be nothing. I'm not saying that Dean, or any other candidate, is or isn't surging. What I am saying is that absent some surveys with large samples, we just don't know. If Chrisishardcore's analysis turns out to be correct, it's more from luck than anything else.
The Pope is now blessing break-dancers. This reminds me of the following exchange in the movie Dogma:

Bartleby: This from the man who still owes me 10 bucks from which is going to be the bigger movie, "ET" or "Crush Groove"?

Loki: All right, fuck you man, because time's gonna tell on that one!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Mickey Kaus is touting blogger Chrisishardcore's estimates of the one day ARG tracking poll results. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these one day numbers are meaningless. Furthermore, Chrisishardcore's estimates don't match up with what ARG is reporting. According to ARG "Howard Dean is up 10 percentage points from his low on January 22, but he still trails John Kerry by 17 percentage points in the latest daily numbers. But Chrisishardcore estimates that on 1/24, ARG had Kerry with 42 and Dean with 20, a 22 point difference, not 17. Furthermore, Chrisishardcore estimates that on 1/22, Dean had 15 percent, so if his support increased 10 points, he'd have to be at 25, not 20. Finally, Chrisishardcore has Dean's lowest day as 1/23 when he was at 13 percent, not 1/22.

So to my warning about relying on one day tracking poll results, add a caveat about never ever relying on estimates of one day tracking poll results. If, as some said, the Zogby polls before the Iowa caucuses were "crack for the weak", then these estimates are "crank for wimps."

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Not content with all of the tracking polls (five by my count: CNN/USA Today, ARG, Suffolk U., Zogby/Reuters/MSNBC, and Boston Globe), the media is now beginning to look at the one day results of the tracking polls. Usually, a tracking poll surveys 200 people a day and then combines the results for three days. This gives a sample of about 600 people--a decent sample size and a margin of error (MOE) of about +/- 4 percentage points. A one-day sample of 200 people, however, gives a MOE of +/-7 percentages. That's a very wide margin, so wide that if Kerry were at 28, Dean 18, Clark 17, Edwards 15, and Lieberman 14, the correct headline would be "Five-Way Tie for New Hampshire Lead!."

To show how the one day results can jump around, Suffolk U. is giving the daily results of their tracking poll. Here are Friday's results:

Kerry 35
Dean 18
Clark 11

But on Thursday, it was:

Kerry 23
Dean 22
Clark 18

The point is, don't trust one day results.
Andrew Sullivan takes Al Sharpton to task for his flailing comments about the Federal Reserve. I'm no Sharpton supporter but his comments, whether you agree or disagree with them, did make a substantative point--we need a Fed that supports full employment and economic growth. On the other hand, John Edwards completely whiffed on a question about the Defense of Marriage Act. When asked about it, Edwards said:

"what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues."

Later, Brit Hume pressed him on this response and Edwards said:

No, the Defense of Marriage -- first of all, I wasn't in the Congress, I don't claim to be an expert on this. But as I understand the Defense of Marriage Act, it would take away the power of some states to choose whether they would recognize or not recognize gay marriages. That's my understanding of it.

That's completely wrong. The Defense of Marriage Act says that one state does not have to recognize the marriage between two homosexuals granted by another state.

Why not go after Edwards on this?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Harold Meyerson has an astounding track record of poor predictions. He's constantly claiming that a labor/minority/populist/whatever coalition is remaking American politics in a more progressive tradition. As events of the last decade show (and Meyerson's been making this claim for at least that long), this hasn't happened. Just last month, Meyerson breathlessly sang the praises of Howard Dean and his insurgent campaign. According to him:

Howard Dean's initial appeal has been to those Americans who always knew they were on the margins of George Bush's America. Not the socioeconomic margins, not the African American and Latino communities, but the political, cultural and existential margins -- the young, urban, white middle class in particular. Dean's are the people who were bowling alone -- not churchgoers, not union members. They shared a set of beliefs on which they'd never before had an opportunity to act collectively.

The secret of Dean's success has been twofold. Alone among the serious Democratic candidates he understood that the party was shirking its obligation to oppose -- indeed, that the grass roots was furious at the failure of its leaders to realize this. Second, his campaign became the real Meetup for millions of Americans who'd had no place to go to affect politics in the age of Bush. Dean's edge is that his campaign has provided thousands of young Deaniacs with a dimension of meaning that their hitherto disaggregated lives may have lacked. No other candidate is within light-years of offering that.

But wait, how does he square that with the Iowa results? Unfortunately, the Iowa entrance polls didn't survey those on "existential margins," but Meyerson has an answer nonetheless:

Iowa voters see the candidates up close -- a level of scrutiny that neither Dean nor Gephardt was able to withstand. The lesson of the past half-decade is that the more adept union political programs can still move votes when they have an attractive candidate. When saddled with a Gray Davis or the Gephardt and Dean who assailed Iowan ears and sensibilities for the past month, there isn't a lot they can do.

There you have it, despite Meyerson's earlier praise, it's Dean's fault. It can't possibly be that there just aren't that many people on the existential margins or that campaigns that tap into the anger and cyncism of those that are end up alienating more moderate and sensible voters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Michael Crowley has a great piece in TNR on how Dean's people are handling his Iowa loss. Best of all is the response to the speech: Pablo in New Mexico likened Dean to a "chipmunk on crystal meth."

Crowley adds that many of the comments suggest that support for Dean might have been a mile wide and an inch deep. A must read.
Andrew Sullivan has a good take on that NYT/CBS poll that had Bush down to a 50 percent approval rating. It seems that 47 percent of the sample were Democratic identifiers, much too high to be representative. Contrast that with the most recent WaPo poll which has Bush's approval at 58 percent, essential unchanged from last month.

So where was the vaunted Dean “hard count”? According to ABC's The Note, Dean's "campaign believes they turned out all of their "ones" — their hard count voters — but that the caucus became a primary based on momentum, and they were ill-suited to win a primary." Before the caucuses, Dean’s people were tossing around hard count numbers of 35,000 to 50,000 people, saying that if turnout was around 125,000 they would have enough to win.

But turnout was only 122,000 of which Dean got only 18 percent (delegate count) to 21 percent (entrance poll figures). That means Dean turned out only 22,000 to 26,000 people. Not bad, but nowhere near what they claimed. Two things might have happened. First, many people ended up switching, despite their earlier commitment to Dean. In that respect, Dean’s organization might have ended up giving lots of rides to people who went for Kerry or Edwards. Second, the Dean organization might have just been blowing smoke about their organizational ability, hoping that with enough spin they could create something out of nothing. But at the end, it was mostly nothing.
Some thoughts on the Iowa results:

1. What a big win for Kerry. He got 38 percent--better than Gephardt's 31 percent in 1988 and nearly as good as Mondale's 49 percent in 1984, even though Mondale was a former VP, from a neighboring state, and running against arguably weaker competition (George McGovern came in third that year).

2. Edward also did extremely well. 32 percent is a very strong showing. Until I heard the results, I would have assumed 32 percent would have been enough to win.

3. Not only did Dean lose, but he seems to be coming unhinged. First, shades of Bob Doles snarling "stop lying about my record" to George Bush in 1988, he blames attacks by the other candidates for his losing. Second, looking like a Vermont Willie Stark, he gives a wild speech to his supporters. Is this man angry? I don't know, but he sure looks mad.

4. I wouldn't underestimate the impact of Dean's nasty response to the questioner last week.

5. I feel very bad for Dick Gephardt. He's a decent man who has consistently fought for working families. He deserved better than this, not only as a presidential candidate, but he also should have become Speaker of the House.

6. The rise of Edwards is explicable. He got the DM Register endorsement and that sparked his move by giving people a reason to look at him again. But Kerry's rise isn't nearly as clear. There was no real change in his campaign message, no defining character moment in a debate ("I paid for this microphone!), no external event. Yes, he had good organization his surge in support was much more than just getting their people out to vote. If you have thoughts on this, let me know because I really don't have much of a clue.

7. Susan Estrich was on Fox News. Was she drunk or what?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Iowa predictions? That's a fool's bet, but I'll be foolish and say Kerry 33, followed by Dean 27, Edwards 22, and then Gephardt 18. That's the delegate count.
Mickey Kaus has a good article in Slate about the various intricacies of the Iowa caucuses. There are essentially four measures of the outcome:

1. The entrace poll: A sample of people's preferences when they walk into the caucus sites.

2. The first round preferences: People's initial choices prior to some candidates being eliminated as not viable.

3. The second round preferences: The breakdown after the supporters of non-viable candidates have shifted to viable ones.

4. The delegate count: The pecentage breakdown of delegates awarded in each caucus.

The upshot is that in a close race between multiple candidates, we could get winners at each level. I'd add two points to Kaus's. First, since not every caucus has the same number of delegates, a candidate could have the most caucus-goers and still end up with fewer delegates. For example, in Caucus #1, all 500 attendees go for Dean, giving Dean all 10 of the delegates in that caucus. In Caucus #2, there are also 10 delegates, but only 250 people show up, all of whom go for Kerry. In terms of attendees, Dean wins 2:1 (500 to 250), but in delegates it's an even split (10-10).

Second, that's only tonight. The delegates selected will go on to county caucus in upcoming weeks where the process begins again when they select delegates to the state convention, where the process again works its way through. So tonight's outcome might be very different from the results in coming weeks and months.

Third, I'm not as critical of the process as is Kaus. Economists and rational choice theorists tell us that any method of aggregating preferences can lead to different outcomes. Look at Florida in 2000. Gore won the popular vote, but Bush won the election in the Electoral College. But did he? Depends on what method of recount you use in Florida? Or what judicial body you rely on to determine what type of recount or whether there will be a recount at all. Plus, just about everyone acknowledges that more people walked in to the booth intending to vote for Gore. Finally, what about the people who didn't vote, for whatever the reason? Shouldn't their preferences count for something? In short, no process is perfect, especially in tight races.

Also, caucuses are not general elections. The only substantive meaning to the caucus is to begin the process by which Iowa Democrats will determine the allocation of their national convention delegates. But the media wants to make more of this, so they demand to make it into a primary. But it's not.

Finally, I don't mind giving parties a bit more independence and autonomy. Parties should have some discretion over how the conduct their own affairs. Yes, they serve a public function but unless it's something as bad as a white primary, I say cut them some slack. Besides, if you are looking for undemocratic and non-transparent aspects of American politics, the Senate and the Supreme Court offer much bigger targets.
Of the Democratic candidates, my choice would be Dick Gephardt. He's been in the trenches for the party for the last 20 years, plus his views on foreign and domestic politics fit pretty closely with mine. But I just read in the Washington Post that he's been endorsed by singer Michael Bolton. Yes, that Michael Bolton, forever immortalized in the movie "Office Space" as a "no-talent ass-clown." I might just have to find a new candidate.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The DM Register Iowa poll is out with these results:

Kerry 26%
Edwards 23%
Dean 20%
Gephardt 18%

This seems to confirm the Zogby tracking polls showing surges for Kerry and Edwards. With the candidates so close, the race will probably come down to second choices. As I mentioned in my earlier post, in many caucuses, some candidates won't make the 15% viability threshold and their supporters will be forced to switch to other candidates. The DM Register poll doesn't ask about second choices, but it does have favorable/unfavorable ratings. Presumably the candidates with the lowest favorability will have fewer second choice voters. And that's bad new for Dean since his unfavorables are significantly higher than the other candidates: 35% versus 22 for Gephardt, 15 for Kerry, and 14 for Edwards.
I'm sure everyone has seen those MSNBC/Zogby polls from Iowa, but there's one aspect that hasn't been reported--the second choice preferences. Unfortunately, they don't give second choices broken down by first choices, but they do have Kerry leading second choices with 25 percent of the vote, Edwards with 18, Dean at 17, and Gephardt with 14. That could be good news for Kerry since the 15% viability threshold means that some caucusgoers will be forced to vote for their second choice.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The new NYT/CBS poll shows some slippage in support for Bush. Some of this is due to the fading of the surge he saw after the capture of Saddam Hussein, but there also seems to be a turn toward more pessimistic assessments of the economy and Bush's handling of it. For example, only 39 percent has confidence in Bush's ability to make the right decisions on the economy--the lowest level of his presidency. Also, only 23 percent think Bush cares a lot about people like them, again the lowest ever.

Not only has Bush slipped but assessments of the Democratic candidates, particularly Dean have jumped. Since December, Dean's approval rating has jumped 10 points in the last month.

All of this should concern the Bush people since, if anything, things in Iraq have gotten a bit better. If things take a turn for the worse there, Bush's public support could really go south.

Bush does retain some significant strengths, particularly in approval of his handling of terrorism, evaluations of him as a strong leader. Furthermore, and perhaps most interesting, Bush continues to bridge the gender gap by drawing equal support from men and women.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Check out the "liberal hawks" debate in Slate. Since I include myself in this category, let me say that I still think it was the right decision. Back in March I decided that while I wouldn't have gone to war at the same time and in the same manner as the Bush administration, the status quo in Iraq was no longer tolerable. Yes, I was wrong about WMD, but I still don't think that the Bush administration engaged in deliberate deception. At worst, they went with worse case scenarios without acknowledging that they were doing so and without discussing less pessimistic interpretations. But in the aftermath of 9/11, I think the margin of error for such assessment was vastly narrowed.

Furthermore, the WMD argument was never the clincher for me. I was always far more persuaded by the humanitarian arguments. The combination of Saddam Hussein's brutality and UN sanctions had made Iraq into Hell on earth. I have little doubt that this war saved Iraqi lives. In addition to the 3000-5000 people Saddam killed in any given year,the sanctions were increasing the mortality rate of children under 5 by upwards of 50,000 a year. That's 50,000 dead children every year vs. a high end estimate of 10,000 civil casualties in the war. I know this some this kind of calculus morbid, but I find 50,000 dead children even worse.

In addition and despite all of the post-war chaos, I remain optimistic about the prospects for Iraq and the region. Many problems remain, but the economic and security situations are improving. The same is true politically. What country in the Arab world has the freest press? Iraq and . . ., well Iraq. What country in the Arab world plans on holding free elections in the next 12 to 18 months? Iraq and . . ., well Iraq.

Finally, for all the Bush administration predictions that didn't come true, I have to say that the critics of the war did even worse. Even if you include all of the post-war casualties, the cost to the US and the Iraqi civilians was very low. There have been no humanitarian or ecological disasters. Very few from the "Arab street" have streamed into Iraq to fight the US invaders or launched terrorist attacks against the US. Indeed the Arab street has been very quiet since April 9.

Yes the costs have been higher than I predicted, but the benefits still outweigh them by far.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The new Zogby poll out of Iowa shows what is essentially a 4-way tie. Kerry, Dean, and Gephardt are all at about 21 percent, while Edwards is at 17 percent, but still in the margin of error. The race is obviously very fluid, but keep an eye on Edwards. He got the DM Register endorsement last Sunday and this has a big impact. In 1988, the Register endorsed Paul Simon, fueling a last minute surge by his campaign. Yes, he lost, but my recollection is that he picked up around 10 points in a week. Also, did he really lose? VNS dropped the ball so we don't know the real results. I still get mad thinking about it (see my earlier post eulogizing Paul Simon).

Anyway, Edwards not only has the Register endorsement, but the other candidates seem to be intent on cutting each other to pieces, particularly Gephardt vs. Dean, and Dean vs. everybody, including some poor guy from Olewein.

This last point shouldn't be discounted. Iowans take their caucuses and civility very seriously, and by lashing out at a man who admonished Dean to "love they neighbor" by criticizing Bush less, Dean might have done some real damage to himself. In fact, I don't think his drop in the polls over the last few days is unrelated to this event. (As an aside, Dean responded, "Bush isn't my neighbor." Talk about Biblical literalism!)

Then there's the "sickness" factor. I grew up in Iowa and my parents still live there, so believe me when I tell you that potential caucus-goers get sick of all the ads, phone calls, surveys, canvassers, etc. Dean, Gephardt, and Kerry are nearly omnipresent in the state. Yes, they have to do this, but at some point the return on their efforts diminish to zero or less. Since Edwards hasn't been quite as visible, he might benefit from any backlash against the other candidates.

Finally, there's the old adage about how to win the caucuses--organize, organize, organize, and then get hot at the end. Edwards (and perhaps Kerry) are the only candidates who seem to be getting the least bit hot.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The latest ARG New Hampshire tracking poll has Dean 35, Clark 20, and Kerry 11. Perhaps more interesting is the fine print. According to ARG:

Clark is also gaining among undeclared (independent) voters planning to vote in the Democratic primary. As is the case with Democrats, Clark's strength is among older (age 45 and older) voters, while Dean continues to do well among younger voters. Over the past 2 days of calling, a number of older respondents registered as undeclared voters have reported that they have received telephone calls from a campaign informing them that they will not be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary because they missed the deadline to switch parties. A respondent discovered, however, that when she told the caller that she was thinking about voting for Howard Dean, the caller told her that she would be eligible to vote.

Isn't this the type of campaign shenanigans story that reporters love to cover? Remember the flap about the Bush campaign push-polling against McCain in the 2000 campaign? I'll be interested to see if this goes further.
Don't tell my wife, but I got an email yesterday from Madonna. "Yeah, sure", you say, but it's addressed to me. Kind of like the time I had a date with Cindy Crawford. Well, just dinner and a movie. And then the plane landed.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the email with you (my comments in parentheses):

Dear Philip, (See, I told you it was addressed to me!)

I've never done this before.  (Coming from Madonna, that's a very short list of things, mostly involving taste and humility)

But life is about taking risks is it not? (Is emailing me that risky? Worse than marrying Sean Penn or dating Dennis Rodman? Riskier than remaking Swept Away?)

I know that people seem to pay attention to everything I do. Big or Small.  Ridiculous or Sublime.  ("Seem"?? She thinks we've only been pretending to notice her? And notice the humility, like she's spent the last 20 years trying to stay our of the limelight. Finally, I'll grant her the ridiculous, but sublime? That's clearly something she's never done before)

So I am hoping they pay attention to this:

I am supporting General Wesley Clark for President.

Not only as a "celebrity," but as an American citizen and as a mother. 

(Why the quotes around celebrity? Does she intend to signify that she's not really a celebrity? That it's all somehow a perception and not reality? Then there's her devotion to American citizenship, which she never expressed better than with her Rock the Vote video wearing a red underwear with the flag draped over her.)

I want my children to grow up with the same opportunities that I had -- to know and understand what's going on in the world and to travel that world safely and with pride. I fear the future I wish for my children is at risk, so I'm taking action.  Please join me.

Our greatest risk is not terrorism, and it's not Iraq or the “Axis of Evil.”  Our greatest risk is a lack of leadership, a lack of honesty and a complete lack of consciousness.

(I'll admit Bush is no genius, but unlike Reagan and except during that pretzel incident, I've never known him to lose consciousness.)

Unfortunately our current government cannot see the big picture.  They think too small. They suffer from the “what's in it for me?” syndrome.  (She obviously wants to people think about what really matters, and ask, like she does, "What's in it for Madonna?")

The simple truth is that the current administration has squandered incredible opportunities to bring the world together, to promote peace in regions that have only known war, to encourage health in places that are ravaged with disease, to make us more secure by living up to our principles at home and abroad.  The simple truth is that the policies of our current administration do not reflect what is great about America.

(Yes, Madonna the great humanitarian. I remember all those pictures of her visiting Mother Theresa, comforting starving children in her arms. Oh, wait a minute. I just lost consciousness.)

Anyway, I could go on, but you get the point. Why do candidates debase themselves by associating with celebrities? Wes Clark is a decent and thoughtful man, but trumpeting this kind of endorsement just makes him seem silly.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

If you needed evidence of Bush's ability to move to the middle early in campaign, Bush's announcement yesterday on illegal aliens provided it. It was clearly intended to bolster support among Hispanics and he did it despite the complaints of many conservatives. The Democrats have yet to show up at the Iowa caucuses and Bush is already starting to troll for swing voters.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

There seems to be some confusion in the polls regarding a Dean v. Bush race. Today's USA Today/CNN poll has Bush ahead 59-37, but a TIME/CNN poll from earlier this week has Bush up by only 5 points, 51-46. What's going on here? The USA Today poll has a larger sample size, but not enough to make for that kind of difference. My guess is that something is amiss in the timing and methodology of the TIME poll. It was done by Harris Interactive so I'm not sure about the methodology. Also, the poll was conducted from December 30 to January 1, probably not the best time to reach people at home. Finally, the TIME poll seems the an outlier when you look at polls over the last month:

CNN/USA Today 1/2-5:
Bush 59
Dean 37

TIME/CNN 12/30-1/1:
Bush 51
Dean 46

CBS 12/21-22:
Bush 55
Dean 35

ABC 12/18-21:
Bush 56
Dean 38

Newsweek 12/18-19:
Bush 53
Dean 40

CNN/USA Today 12/15-16:
Bush 60
Dean 37

The average Bush margin across each poll, except for the TIME/CNN poll in question is about 15 points. Also, there seems to have been very little movement over the last month. I'll need to see more polls before I believe that Dean is competitive with Bush at this point.
Following up on the claims of E.J. Dionne and others that the Democratic base is unified and that Dean will have enough time to move to the center, here's some info from the latest USA Today poll. Respondents were asked if they were certain to vote for their candidate or if they might change their mind. Here are the results for likely voters in a Bush vs. a generic Democrat matchup:

Certain for Bush: 44
Bush, but might change mind: 12
Democrat, but might change mind: 13
Certain for Democrat: 27

This means that going into the election year, Bush has a 17 point advantage among certain voters and his 44 percent puts him in striking distance of the 50 percent needed for victory.

Now here are the numbers for a Bush vs. Dean race:

Certain for Bush: 47
Bush, but might change mind: 12
Dean, but might change mind: 17
Certain for Dean: 20

Bush has better than a 2:1 advantage among certain voters and is nearly at a majority. That gives him a much better base from which to go after leaning and undecided voters. Yes, all of this can change, but it indicates the struggle ahead for the Democratic nominee, particularly if it is Howard Dean.
I've been getting some nasty responses to my suggestion that we follow the examples of the Afghans by amending the Constitution to reserve 25% of the seats in Congress for women. A couple of points:

First, Afghanistan, a nation hardly known for its commitment to gender equality, still sees fit to think that 25% is the minimum level of adequate representation for women. But in the US, women only make up 14% of Congress. Shouldn't we strive to do at least as well as the Afghans?

Second, merely living in Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, or several other states guarantees representation in Congress. Why should we have quotas for arbitrary entities like states, but not for legitimate and recognized groups of citizens?

Third, if gender quotas are such an affront to American values, what about the gender quota at the Republican National Committee? They currently have a national committeeman and a national committeewoman from each state. That's a 50% quota. I'm only asking for half that. Hey, if it's good enough for the RNC, why isn't it good enough for America?

Sunday, January 04, 2004

According to the NYT, in the new Afghan constitution, "women were given recognition as equal citizens, and 25 percent of the seats of the lower house of Parliament were set aside for them." Given that there still is no Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution and that women only make up about 14 percent of the UA Senate and the House of Representatives, perhaps our own loya jirga is in order, no?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

I'm no fan of Howard Dean, but I must admit that he's getting an unfair rap for his recent comments about race. Conservative news sites and bloggers, and even some not so conservative ones, are in an uproar about Dean's statement that "dealing with race is about educating white folks." Mickey Kaus goes off on Dean for not talking about blacks' "culture of poverty and dependence."

But here's the full quote from Dean:

"Dealing with race is about educating white folks," Dean said in an interview Tuesday on a campaign swing through the first primary state where African-American voters will have a major impact. "Not because white people are worse than black people about race but because whites are in the majority, and therefore the behavior of whites has a much bigger influence on hiring practices and so forth and so on than the behavior of African-Americans."

Dean clearly states that whites are not "worse than black people about race." He is merely stating the obvious. Since whites make up the vast majority of Americans, racist behavior on their part, even if limited to a small minority, is still going to have a huge effect. Moreover, I'd go further than Dean and say that the problem of racism in American IS a white problem. Even if you grant Kaus and others the point that certain behaviors among individual blacks are detrimental or destructive, what is the genesis of those behaviors? Conservatives and neo-liberals like Kaus seem to assume that blacks came down from Mars the day after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. In their thinking, slavery, Jim Crow, and other manifestations of racism have nothing to do with the current status of black Americans. Everything comes down the individual choices of blacks, with little or no responsibilty for white individuals or institutions. This thinking is morally obtuse at best, and racist at worst.