Lost Reading from an Obvious Post-Election Outcome

Election Day beyond HD137 was a bit anti-climactic for me. Anyone who doesn’t rely on rightwing media knew that Obama was going to be re-elected. Locally, I think Adrian Garcia was a somewhat assumed winner before the votes were revealed. So forgive me if it’s taken me a while to catch up on all of my “How Obama Did It” reading.

» New Yorker: The Party Next Time

Quoting Senator-elect Ted Cruz …

“In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat,” …. “If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’ ”

Probably worth keeping Matt Yglesias’ tweet in mind before we get too far ahead of ourselves …

But there are some traditional problems with the analytics mentioned in the article. This from state GOP chair, Steve Munisteri …

“The state is fifty-five per cent traditional minority. Thirty-eight per cent is Hispanic, eleven per cent is African-American, and the rest is Asian-American, and two-thirds of all births are in a traditional minority family. And if I was to tell you that, nationwide, last time, Republicans got only roughly four per cent of the African-American vote and about a third of the Hispanic vote, would you say that state is Democrat or Republican? Well, that’s Texas. We are the only majority-minority state in the union that people consider Republican.”

Those numbers are from Total Population. By the time you work it down to Citizen, Voting Age Population (CVAP), Texas is actually 59% Anglo. Like it or not, that’s the operative metric that most shapes Texas’ electoral outcome. Factor in turnout differentials among geography where different demographies dominate, and you get an even uglier picture. Citizenship among Hispanics should continue to go rise, with or without the GOP’s newfangled minor interest in immigration reform. But that’s a much more gradual process than a magazine article is likely able to pitch on a reader with less than 5 minutes to spare for reading time.

» TechPresident: With The Help of Digital Infrastructure, Obama Wins Re-election
» The Atlantic: When the Nerds Go Marching In
» LA Times: Obama’s data geeks have made Karl Rove and Dick Morris obsolete
» Washington Post: Obama’s ‘Moneyball’ campaign (Marc Thiessen)
» National Journal: Republicans Flame Romney’s Digital Team
» The Atlantic: The GOP Talent Gap (Patrick Ruffini)
» Politico: Romney poll watching app reportedly glitchy
Articles like these are an inevitable side-effect of politics – when you win, you sell whatever it was you did as a gamechanging artform that necessitates the subject of the story being hired by future campaigns at higher rates for over-sold effects. See the file for “Trippi, Joe” and all of the post-Howard Dean pitches for instant riches of online fundraising totals. And if you lose, the competitor project to the previously mentioned gamechanger is an instant goat. Or, in this case … Orca.

All that said, I find the articles above more informative for what they say about human psychology than they do about campaign technology. You can expect to see a slew of campaign press releases announcing their hires for CTO in 2014 and 2016. You can expect some pre-spin on how some of these folks will change the way we do politics (see “Perry, Rick” and the individual chapters of “paperless campaigning“; “creative uses of felons to get votes“; and “how to turn all of that into a winning Presidential campaign two years later” [link forthcoming … maybe]). But I wouldn’t expect it to matter any more than the candidate him- or herself. There’s no substitute for a quality candidate. Too bad that doesn’t seem to come across in these resume attachments passing as post-election news.

» Talking Points Memo: Forget Nate Silver: Meet The Guy Who Called 2012 In 2002
This, of course, isn’t entirely distinct from the articles above. But Ruy Teixeira and John Judis do have the distinction of not being campaign hacks in search of their next gig. I’ve had some quarrels with the writeup of the Emerging Democratic Majority concept. But the authors did properly identify some key demographics that help Democratic candidates. The book is definitely easier reading after 2012 than it was after 2004. But the biggest hangup still seems to be that it was a thesis written by think tankers promoting an idea moreso than social scientists researching it in more detail.

» NY Times: Is the Voting Rights Act Doomed? (Nathaniel Persily)

In a coarse and obvious sense, the re-election of a black president serves as a strong reminder that the historic obstacles to minority voting rights like literacy tests and poll taxes have been eliminated. The much discussed rise in the minority share of the electorate testifies to the decisive electoral power that previously disenfranchised communities now possess. Even if the president received only 15 percent of the white vote in Alabama and 11 percent in Mississippi, according to exit polls, he was able to assemble a diverse winning coalition elsewhere.

Professor Persily’s amicus briefs and academic writings are quality reading for my taste. But this reads more like blasé answer to a Times’ editor asking what an Obama win might mean for the VRA. As such, it neglects the reality that the VRA isn’t in place as an answer to a Presidential election as much as it is to more localized elections within an individual state or county. Of course, that’s not to say that the opinions of Scalia and Thomas will be aware of any of that.

» Washington Post: Kirk said to be leaving job as U.S. Trade Rep
I’d be a little shocked if Ron Kirk still sees an elected official in the mirror these days. But he’s still a Texas name worth keeping an eye on. First things first … wait and see if he’s headed over to Commerce.

Voting, circa 2012

People still write letters to the Chronicle editors

Regarding “Time to cast a ballot” (Page B7, Monday), law enforcement should be competent, never partisan. To protect the safety of our community, please vote for Democrat Adrian Garcia for Harris County sheriff and Republican Mike Anderson for district attorney.

Both are respected professionals who can manage others to a high standard. I respect parties, but crime is a basic violation of civil rights and criminals do not discriminate based on party affiliation. When you call 911 you want a qualified responder; victims and jurors want an effective and fair prosecutor.

Democrats, join me in voting for Mike Anderson for DA. Republicans, keep our strong and honest sheriff, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, in office.

Bill White, former mayor of Houston

I can’t say that I disagree with him on this score. I held my nose and voted for Anderson. I left a handful of judicial ballots blank. Oh, and I voted for this guy earlier in the AM …

The line at Bayland Park was wrapped around the front of the building 10 minutes prior to opening and I was done with my random act of democracy by 8:15. Pick your own spot to vote early if you feel similarly inclined.

Among the tougher choices on the ballot for me was one that’s usually pretty easy: President. Yes, I voted for Obama again. But there was a temptation to leave the spot blank this time around. Obama wasn’t my choice and I can’t say I’m won over by his style of leadership. It’d be a cheap and easy free shot to make some minor form of a statement by doing such a thing. Texas, after all, is not in play. But one over-riding issue convinces me that it’s worth sticking with my own traditions and principles by voting for him regardless. And that’s the fact that I fully support Obama to be the one appointing judges for the next four years as opposed to just about any Republican.

As far as bonds and referendums go, I voted for the city charter fixes, the parks bond, and the library bond. For everything else, I’m willing to consider second offers.

State of the Race: 18 Days Out

This should be fully reflective of the Romney surge after the first debate and precedes any possible recovery on Obama’s part after the second debate between the two. Optimistically, this is as bad as it gets for Obama …

Eastern Time Zone            OCTOBER 17                 SEPTEMBER 28
Pennsylvania    [-3.5]  51.8 - 47.1 (Obama +4.7)   53.5 - 45.3 (Obama +8.2)  
Virginia        [-3.4]  49.5 - 49.7 (Obama -0.2)   51.1 - 47.9 (Obama +3.2)  
North Carolina  [-3.0]  47.7 - 51.6 (Obama -3.9)   49.2 - 50.1 (Obama -0.9)  
New Hampshire   [-3.3]  50.8 - 48.4 (Obama +2.4)   52.4 - 46.7 (Obama +5.7)  
Florida         [-4.0]  48.9 - 50.5 (Obama -1.6)   50.9 - 48.5 (Obama +2.4)  
Ohio            [-2.8]  50.3 - 48.4 (Obama +1.9)   51.7 - 47.0 (Obama +4.7)  

Central Time Zone            OCTOBER 17                 SEPTEMBER 28
Wisconsin       [-3.4]  51.1 - 48.3 (Obama +2.8)   52.7 - 46.5 (Obama +6.2)  
Iowa            [-2.3]  50.2 - 48.8 (Obama +1.4)   51.2 - 47.5 (Obama +3.7)  

Mountain Time Zone           OCTOBER 17                 SEPTEMBER 28
Colorado        [-3.3]  49.5 - 49.4 (Obama +0.1)   51.2 - 47.8 (Obama +3.4)  
Nevada          [-2.7]  50.3 - 48.5 (Obama +1.8)   51.6 - 47.1 (Obama +4.5)  

And if I throw in an extra dose of pessimism about Iowa and Colorado, here’s what the map would look like:

That’s a Nevada flip away from being a tie, I should point out. If Obama can recover in Virginia and keep IA & CO above water, then there’s some breathing room for him. I guess since we’re down to the final days, the state-level polling should be quite a bit more entertaining.

I still think we could see this go either way – elections in shaky economies are generally tough and it’s harder to see voters breaking Obama’s way if they’ve been undecided. The hope is that there are just more Obama-likely or Obama-previously voters who are open to coming home in the final days.

About Last Night

An election season lament, caught from a re-tweet by my pastor …

I managed to catch the debate last night and my only takeaways are as follows:

1. To everyone who expected a better debate scorecard out of Barack Obama … name one great debate as a Presidential candidate that he had at any point in the past. I sure don’t recall any that were memorable.

2. Political dialogue in this country has fallen greatly from the 80s and 90s when I spent way too much time watching C-SPAN. And I recall how many of the Presidential debates in those years were accused of being vapid and meaningless (in several cases, deservingly). Flags and Kitty Dukakis being raped compared to balancing the budget by firing Big Bird … tough call. But still. Is this any way to pick a President?

3. I’ve always felt that Mitt Romney’s comparative advantage is his willingness and ability to lie. And as much as I don’t particularly care to get into the whole demonization of political candidates, I’m not sure how else to qualify it when someone says they’ll cut tax rates by 20% on the campaign trail and on the campaign website, deny it in a debate, and then say he wants to cut tax rates. This has been on display ever since Mitt started to realize that his record as Governor of Massachusetts didn’t quite mesh with current Republican thought in the other 49 states. The debate put that advantage on full display to the five people in the world who have followed Mitt since then. For a decent read on the matter of Romney’s tax cut plan without the spectacle of Jim Lehrer being bullied into submission for more talk time, here’s a decent primer by the Wall Street Journal.

4. Barack Obama still fails to give me any reason to be enthusiastic about his Presidency. That’s as true today as the prospect of his Presidency was in 2007 or 2008. His lone benefit with regard to my vote is that “garden variety Democrat” trumps “far right economic policy” any day. Of course, there’s also the matter of what 4-8 years of a GOP President would mean for the federal judiciary.

Detente in the Bias Wars?

» NY Times: Tired Cries of Bias Don’t Help Romney (David Carr)

Always interesting to see how the GOP manages their paranoia of a monolithic Democratic media controlling their lives. Carr notes a recent softening by Team Romney …

Many Republicans see bias lurking in every live shot, but the growing hegemony of conservative voices makes manufacturing a partisan conspiracy a practical impossibility.

Let’s be fair. It’s not as if everyone who believes there is a liberal bias needs to be fitted for a tinfoil helmet. But the trope is losing traction, partly because there are many robust champions of the right, which gives conservatives the means to project their message far beyond the choir.

It’s hard to picture conservatives as disenfranchised in the fight for attention from the news media, not after a campaign season in which the audition for the Republican nomination seemed to include some combination of hosting and making guest appearances on Fox News. Another thing about the media blame game? It doesn’t work. Newt Gingrich ran hard against the news media and that didn’t turn out so great.

Mr. Romney seems to have realized that. After weeks of complaints from his surrogates that his campaign missteps were being invented and/or amplified by the news media, he is no longer regularly shooting the messenger.

Color me skeptical on this. Check that: perpetually skeptical. I think it’s a ruse for the debates. Go easier on the media, annoy the people covering your flailing campaign in case anything good (or, at least, spin-worthy) comes from the debates. Once the debates are done, Team Romney will be going full-tilt Bozell on the media.

As a minor datapoint to prove this is only a mere Presidential contest, here’s Houston’s own Republican blogger, Darrell Hancock

True reform would start with hiring at least one robust right-leaning columnist and editorial writer, someone who understands and likes folks who go to church, serve as scout leaders, sympathize with the Tea Party, rightly detest Obamism, and are not ashamed of Houston, Texas, or the United States.

It’s not enough that you have people who hold a conservative view, in other words. You have to hire someone who holds the furthest right (or, if you prefer, “robust”). Otherwise, it doesn’t count. Sorry Bill King. Amazing that the only form of affirmative action Republicans seem to believe in is for major daily newspaper columnists and editorial writers. Just as amazing … the word “Obamism”. And just for good measure, remind me who the Democratic representative is among Chronicle columnists.

State of the Race: 38 Days Out

Since I posted this summary at the conclusion of the Democratic convention, I thought I’d update it to see how the battleground states have changed, if any. Judge for yourself …

Eastern Time Zone          SEPTEMBER 28                  SEPTEMBER 7
Pennsylvania    [↑1.1]  53.5 - 45.3 (Obama +8.2)    52.9 - 45.8 (Obama +7.1)
Virginia        [↑0.2]  51.1 - 47.9 (Obama +3.2)    51.5 - 48.5 (Obama +3.0)
North Carolina  [↑0.3]  49.2 - 50.1 (Obama -0.9)    48.9 - 50.1 (Obama -1.2)
New Hampshire   [↓0.7]  52.4 - 46.7 (Obama +5.7)    53.2 - 46.8 (Obama +6.4)
Florida         [↑0.6]  50.9 - 48.5 (Obama +2.4)    50.5 - 48.7 (Obama +1.8)
Ohio            [↑1.6]  51.7 - 47.0 (Obama +4.7)    50.8 - 47.7 (Obama +3.1)

Central Time Zone          SEPTEMBER 28                  SEPTEMBER 7
Wisconsin       [↑1.3]  52.7 - 46.5 (Obama +6.2)    52.0 - 47.1 (Obama +4.9)
Iowa            [↑0.1]  51.2 - 47.5 (Obama +3.7)    51.8 - 48.2 (Obama +3.6)

Mountain Time Zone         SEPTEMBER 28                  SEPTEMBER 7
Colorado        [→0.0]  51.2 - 47.8 (Obama +3.4)    51.1 - 47.7 (Obama +3.4)
Nevada          [↓0.7]  51.6 - 47.1 (Obama +4.5)    52.0 - 46.8 (Obama +5.2)

Nate Silver doesn’t categorize Pennsylvania as a competitive state and I think the logic is understandable. For my part, I throw it in just to see what movement exists there and also to make it easier to have those datapoints handy if we see any negative impact from the state’s new Voter ID law.

I’m more doubtful of New Hampshire holding firm as an Obama state due to it’s status as a border state with workers who have some recollection of Romney’s time as Governor of Massachusetts. While I definitely think North Carolina is the toughest hold of the East Coast states and Florida & Ohio being perpetually purple in their swing status (stati?), I think NH ranks right behind those in terms of defensive zones for Team Obama. Maybe it moves more in the coming weeks, maybe it doesn’t. But I think it should be among the more volatile. Same goes for Nevada in the other time zones. And I’m not one to rule out Iowa as a possibility for more movement south for Obama.

All things considered, here’s where Nate scores the current state of the race

And just for good humor, the other side has now done what I think could only be expected: invented new numbers. This enthuses Rick Perry, of course. Guess he can forgo any plans to run in 2016 now. Amazing how a worldview so predicated on Randian objectivism can become so post-modern in their subjective interpretation of truth.

For my part, this is my speculative guess at what the map would look like if the election were held this week.

ADD-ON: Former Vermont Governor and 1988 Presidential aspirant, Pete DuPont, serves up the latest of many GOP talking-point fests proclaiming how the polls can’t be believed. I’m sure they all concluded this point on their own. Independently.

Or not.

The Conservatism of Pimply Adolescents

» Washington Post: An ideology without promise

Time’s been a bit too scarce to pontificate on Romney’s foot-in-mouth moment (aka “47%-gate”). But Gerson’s take seems like a fairly strong one to second …

A few libertarians have wanted this fight ever since they read “Atlas Shrugged” as pimply adolescents. Given Romney’s background, record and faith, I don’t believe that he holds this view. I do believe that Republicans often parrot it, because they lack familiarity with other forms of conservatism that include a conception of the common good.

But there really is no excuse. Republican politicians could turn to Burkean conservatism, with its emphasis on the “little platoons” of civil society. They could reflect on the Catholic tradition of subsidiarity, and solidarity with the poor. They could draw inspiration from Tory evangelical social reformers such as William Wilberforce or Lord Shaftesbury. Or they could just read Abraham Lincoln, who stood for “an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

Instead they mouth libertarian nonsense, unable to even describe some of the largest challenges of our time.

Also, interesting usage of the term “parrot”. I seem to recall other GOP-nicks taking umbrage to the notion that they weren’t all original thinkers who came to their political conclusions independently.

The Party of Free Trade … Minus the Cheaters

“It’s time to stand up to the cheaters …”

Aside from the obviously laughable point about creating jobs in China, it’s always entertaining to see how “flexible” the GOP position on free trade is.

Washington Post does the fact-checking on the ad … for whatever value anyone puts into that. Personally, I prefer it when a reporter is allowed to just say someone is lying rather than exiling “facts” to a separate function.

DNC12: Day Three

They shoulda closed shop after Clinton …

On the whole: not bad, but not great either. Hard to imagine >70k listening to this on the edge of their seats had this been held outdoors.

I think the speech probably read better than it was delivered. And that’s a sin I’d say has plagued Obama’s speeches since some point in the 2008 campaign. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Obama make more of the “Got a cold/tax cut” riff between now and November. Same goes for the notion that firing teachers and reducing access to college loan will make for a better educated society. All fine and well as far as policy diagnosis goes.

The next 59 days, however, are likelier to be spent debating policy prescriptions. Or maybe lapel pins. Who knows. My gut instinct says to maybe shave off between 10-15 points from the odds Nate Silver is seeing on a likely Obama win.

… and a narrower reading of the electorate’s divide leaves a lot of wiggle room in swing states if there’s late movement to the challenger, which I expect to see.

Here’s Silver’s reading on swing states, in particular:

Eastern Time Zone
Pennsylvania     52.9 - 45.8 (Obama +7.1)
Virginia         51.5 - 48.5 (Obama +3.0)
North Carolina   48.9 - 50.1 (Obama -1.2)
New Hampshire    53.2 - 46.8 (Obama +6.4)
Florida          50.5 - 48.7 (Obama +1.8)
Ohio             50.8 - 47.7 (Obama +3.1)

Central Time Zone
Wisconsin         52.0 - 47.1 (Obama +4.9) 
Iowa             51.8 - 48.2 (Obama +3.6)

Mountain Time Zone
Colorado         51.1 - 47.7 (Obama +3.4)
Nevada           52.0 - 46.8 (Obama +5.2)

Writing off Indiana, this places two Obama states in Romney’s camp – or, Obama at 332 EVs if you also cede any chance of a repeat win in Nebraska’s new 2rd Congressional District. Take away Florida (the narrowest Obama lead on this chart) and he’s down to 303. That pretty much leaves Romney to play for any two of three among OH, PA, and VA and play for one of three among IA, CO, NV (and maybe NM).

The state of politics may not be quite to my taste these days. The contrast to Bubba’s showing on Wednesday doesn’t help me forget that. But I’m not about to suggest that it’ll be boring between now and November.

ADD-ON: Matt Miller echoes my sentiments.

Called to Order

» Kurt Eichenwald: The Five Reasons Why Romney/Ryan Must Be Defeated In 2012 – And Why Conservatives Should Hope They Are

In the spirit of opening the DNC Convention in Charlotte today, here’s a pretty hefty litany of apologetics for Team Obama. There are certainly a few points where Eichenwald takes intellectual shortcuts rather than turn a 7670-word tirade into something approaching a book. But it definitely sets the mood.

I’m more looking forward to Bill Clinton’s speech than anything else at the convention. And that’s not hoping for much. Bubba’s been out of the game a while and it shows. His ideas and prescriptions aren’t as sharp as they were in 1992. Which is a shame since I’m not counting on anything better from the guy who’s supposed to be on top of his game.