Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You Be the Judge

The Fed cut, as reported this morning (emphasis added):

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks headed for a slide at the open on Tuesday as fear of a recession gripped investors, prompting the Federal Reserve to slash benchmark U.S. interest rates by 75 basis points in a surprise intermeeting decision.

NEW YORK (AP) - ...
The Fed's move was unsurprising, given that world stock markets were falling precipitously the past two days, and that U.S. stocks had tumbled last week amid growing fears of a recession in the United States.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Explaining Away Polling Failure

Originally uploaded by

Lots of humility today from pundits and pollsters about how wrong the New Hampshire polls were on the Democratic side -- from Chris Matthews soulfully telling Clinton's communications director "I will never underestimate Hillary Clinton again" to John Zogby's instant analysis that "We seem to have missed the huge turnout of older women that apparently put Clinton over the top."

In an interesting little item on the Huffington Post a commenter observes:
"No one is talking about how the polls actually nailed Obama's number. Obama didn't lose this election. He stayed steady and Hillary surged ahead."
Many narratives will be challenged in the coming days and will be replaced by other convenient narratives. Among the most curious, and none-too-subtle, is that the bulk of spot reporting appears to assert that Clinton's victory was a "surprise." This, even though there is no evidence that Clinton was ever behind in New Hampshire -- except from now discredited polls.

Fiction can't support a news angle, so nobody should be reporting "surprise" as fact, or as anything other than something which confounded the pollsters, or some such construction.

Matthews blames the polled -- garbage in, garbage out, he says -- and is part of a chorus singing "Bradley Effect," a theory which holds that white people lie on the upside to pollsters about their support for black candidates.

But if Obama's poll numbers were correct -- if just his relative finish was wrong -- then this isn't what happened: it was Clinton's support that was incorrectly gauged. There is no fancy theory about anybody lying to pollsters on the downside about their support for women candidates. As Zogby suggests, chances are they just weren't counted.

Whatever the pollsters say about their New Hampshire failures, the better to increase confidence in their work for the rest of the campaign, I think there are a couple of safe conclusions we can already draw:
  • The only story coming out if Iowa was that Edwards' support dwindled
  • Democratic voters who peel away from their first choice won't necessarily break to "anyone but Hillary"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Clinton wins N.H. primary: What a country!

Clinton wins N.H. primary - Decision '08- msnbc.com

Sometimes, it's great to be wrong. Take that -- everyone!

This is going to be a heck of an election. Strap yourselves in -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Change? I Invented Change!

Whether you think the time for change has come or the time for come has changed, here are some definitions of that already overused word, thanks to the Googles:
  • Become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature
  • An event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another
  • A relational difference between states; especially between states before and after some event; "He attributed the change to their marriage"
  • Make or become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristics or essence
  • Switch: lay aside, abandon, or leave for another
  • Exchange or replace with another, usually of the same kind or category
  • A different or fresh set of clothes; "she brought a change in her overnight bag"
  • Coins of small denomination regarded collectively;
  • The balance of money received when the amount you tender is greater than the amount due

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Hampshire Predictions, 2008

Obama will win convincingly. Hillary will place, pushing Edwards to third, but Obama's margin of victory will exceed his eight points over both in Iowa, and his near cornering of the market of self-described independents will be a dominant general election narrative.

Hillary will portray the loss as entirely media/momentum driven, citing the only five days since Iowa (she has already begun to put out the message that the race really beings in California).

Edwards, who has declared he is in the race through the convention, just needs to stay in the hunt, and he will. If he remains in the race much past New Hampshire it will only serve to emphasize Obama's claim as the more legitimate agent of change versus Clinton. The Democratic nomination is now Obama's to lose.

Still, for the superstitious, consider these facts:
  • One -- and only one -- modern-day candidate has lost both Iowa and New Hampshire and gone on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency: Bill Clinton.
  • The last Democrat to win both Iowa and New Hampshire and lose the election: John Kerry.
McCain, getting Obama's seconds in Independents support, will win comfortably but not overwhelmingly, handing Romney his second early loss in as many outings, this time in a state which neighbors the one he governed. McCain is given comeback/insurgent status, but the Republican nominating process is far from certain.

Iowa victor Huckabee's distant third finish -- possibly in single digits -- reveals his fundamental lack of viability.

Romney will say that he is leading in the medal race, with two silvers (and Wyoming gold), and that the race really begins in Michigan anyway. He must win decisively in the Motor State, where his father governed but the Detroit Free Press prefers McCain, to be considered more than just a poseur trying to buy an election.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Imagining a World Without Hillary

No, this isn't a cheap shot at perhaps the nation's first woman president. Nor is it a cheesy post-holiday attempt at "It's a Wonderful Life" humor.

But I do wonder what role Bill Clinton would be playing in this election cycle if his wife wasn't running for president. And what he has in mind for the future.

Bill loves to be known as the country's first black president. This is a tribute to his sincerity towards a voting block he doesn't treat like a voting block which turns out in disproportionately-large numbers for Democrats. This warmth is, I reckon, especially savored by a white child of the segregated south; when it came time for the post-presidential potentate to chose a base of operations Clinton landed in Harlem, a brother from another planet.

Hillary has many plates she must keep spinning. Some are up there of her own doing, and some are not -- including the gender dish, where her passions are served up as evidence of imbalance in a way they never would coming from a man.

So, she has it tough already. Add to that now this: how do you bash your black opponent with talk that this scholarly, street-toughened son of a Kenyan and a Kansan isn't sufficiently experienced in the ways of the world to be president -- without it sounding like you're telling him not to be uppity, to wait his turn?

How can you do this when your opponent brings to mind so many of the positive traits that your rock star husband put to such effective use when he was reaching for his impossible dream: youth, a fresh outlook, room-silencing oratory, visceral passion and that certain, transcendent something we cheapen by describing as mere charisma?

She'll figure it out, for as long as she needs to. But what about Bill? What happens if Hillary is not the nominee, especially if she bows to Obama many months before the convention? He could not afford to stay on the sidelines in that waiting period, even if he wanted to. She would have to make the first move, of course.

But even now, late at night, as he swirls that imaginary bourbon and thinks of what might have been, Bill must know that his heir is not Hillary, but Barack.

Is this why he has been less direct with Obama than she, even when it is usually a proxy's role to get tough? Much was made of Bill's "roll the dice" remark on Charlie Rose -- but isn't it closer to a pulled punch than a coup de grace when you say that to people who want to roll the dice?

Bill is a master at hand-to-hand political combat -- a draft dodger who vanquished wounded combat veterans Bush 41 and Bob Dole, for goodness sake. Surely if Bill wasn't keeping his sword sheathed there would be much more blood on the ground.

Is it half-heartedness that prompts Bill to sometimes talk about more about himself than the candidate? To flub the message? Or can even the great change agent himself make no sense of the change vs. experience argument? Does he even want to?

Witness this, spoken by Bill at a New Hampshire Town Meeting yesterday:
"This is not about experience versus change. This is about whether you want a proven record of action. This is what it's about. If you've got the vision and you've got the plans, can you deliver?"
I think Bill is conflicted by two things. He cherishes his standing in the black community and will do nothing to jeopardize it or to see it jeopardized. This is partly a political calculation -- life goes on, tomorrow is another day, I live here, etc. -- but mostly it seems to be genuine affection.

Then there is his gut appreciation that in a different world he'd be on the Obama bandwagon. If there was no Hillary, then Bill would have Barack's back. He would be making all the arguments that leap off the page anyway and drawing attention to all the parallels between the brother scholars, philosophers and political game-changers.

Obama, in what I think was a turning point, joked in a debate that'd he even be seeking advice from Hillary as president. It's easier to imagine that the Clinton he'd want as a counselor is Bill.

And while Bill has ideas of his own on how to spend post-presidential life he also seems keen to be on retainer for the next Democratic occupant of the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

I just think he won't be too torn up if the call from the White House switchboard is placed on behalf of President Obama.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Revolution is Being Televised

David Brooks once again distinguishes himself in the New York Times with a brilliant assessment of both the Republican and Democratic presidential races, making note of how rare it is for an "earthquake" to hit both parties at once as expressed by the Iowa victories of Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama.
I’ve been through election nights that brought a political earthquake to the country. I’ve never been through an election night that brought two.
Both victors are the youngest in their respective fields (Barack, 46; Mike, 52). Both are the most outsiderly of the viable candidates (with apologies to Kucinich, Paul and Gravel). It is a clear repudiation of the establishment, period. It may not be the final word, only a warning shot to be heeded by the wisely humbled -- witness Hillary's team-player, I-get-it concession speech -- but for now it is a shot heard round the world.

Brooks makes great sense in handicapping both races. Huckabee, he says, is likely not the GOP standard bearer of '08 but the agent of "Republican Reformation." It is in his assessment of Obama, however, that this conservative says what needs to be said (emphasis added):
He’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that “corporate greed is killing your children’s future,” seem old-fashioned.
It will be painful to watch Hillary -- who, under virtually every other imaginable circumstance could have been this year's breath of fresh air -- portray 35 years of political accomplishments as 35 years of "change." Reformers become machine politicians all the time, but seldom does the process begin the other way, or reverse itself. Her candidacy required impermeability, and her weakness has been exposed in the very first test. She might not get it at all, or may have gotten it too late, or she may be seen as having the sincerity of a deathbed convert.

Still, as a Slate blogger Christopher Beam points out, a butterfly effect could have dramatically changed at least the Iowa sub-headline on the Democratic side. Speaking anecdotally of only the caucus he attended, Beam argues:
One more campaign stop → 30 more caucus-goers → six more delegates → tie for second in the Iowa caucuses. And this was just one caucus. Similar stories could have played out in any of the state’s 1,784 precincts.
On the Republican side much will depend on the stomach rank-and-filers have for the insipid slickness of the deep-pocketed Romney -- reminiscent of the worst of Bill Clinton and President Bush -- and the staying power of Thompson, who still acts like he really, really wants to be liked and does hold the cards movement conservatives value most.

Thompson's closeness with McCain is an intriguing aspect of the race; Thompson endorsed McCain in 2000 and neither would be expected to be particularly strident against one another on the stump. Contrast that with Romney, who never saw a sloppily-landed low blow he didn't like. In a three-way race, Slick Mitt will not look good against the genuine drawl and gunslinger's stare of Thompson and the worldly-wise incredulous look of McCain. For a good time, watch Fred & John tag-team their party's perfectly-coiffed elitist on the debate stage while Mike shrugs and still delivers the best punchline.

Where does Giuliani start to win, and who will finally challenge his record not as a security expert (quite the contrary, having putting an emergency command center in a high-profile building at what became Ground Zero) but as a decent grief counselor? Talk tough he may but in the end there won't be enough votes for a social-worker-in-chief.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa Caucus, Early Results

How much power does it suggest when a black man wins a lilly-white state whose coronating power has been criticized because it is so
unrepresentative of the country as a whole?

Has it occured to institutional Republicans yet that seducing and then abandoning evangelicals might have created their worst nightmare: a populist they have already demonized but may have to back as the lesser of two evils -- first in their primaries and (heaven forbid) perhaps even beyond?

Has either party establishment correctly identified that sound as repudiation, and do they know the color of new blood?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Iowa Predictions, 2008

Obama wins with a materially significant number over Clinton. It is not a blowout; Clinton will frame her second-place as a victory of sorts and battle on indefinitely. Edwards is third and will be the first of the top tier to drop out, shortly after New Hampshire.

Huckabee wins handily; it is seen as a rebuff to the Republican field in general and Robotman Romney in particular. But his victory is, in the long run, meaningless. The story becomes a very difficult set of numbers from which to extrapolate hope for any GOP candidate beyond New Hampshire.

As the smoke clears, the Republican with the most reason to be optimisic, through only slightly, is McCain. That might be fleeting, since Granite State Independents seem to be breaking for Obama -- perhaps a precursor to the "Big Story" of the general election.

Full disclosure: I was a McGovern volunteer and was shocked that he lost, and I also predicted a comfortable victory for Kerry. Maybe I'm due ...