August 2010, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Too Bad He's Ineligible: Because, right now, Ohio voters would rather have George W. Bush in the White House.
We'll start rolling out our Ohio poll results tomorrow but there's one finding on the poll that pretty much sums it up: by a 50-42 margin voters there say they'd rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama.I think I can hear the gnashing of teeth in local newsrooms, even from here.
George W. isn't eligible, but I have heard that he has a sibling or two who might be.
(FWIW, George H. W. Bush, having served only one term, is eligible for another — and, in my opinion, would do even better in a head-to head poll. But I suspect that Bush 41 thinks that he has has more important things to do — like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane one more time.)
- 2:42 PM, 31 August 2010 [link]
The Ground Zero Mosque Developer Has An Unusual Background For A Religious Leader: But you do have to give him credit for having convictions.
Perhaps Sharif El-Gamal has reformed since the 1990s.
Cynical types will suspect that he is simply a front man for one or more people who would prefer to avoid publicity.
(I am pretty sure that alcohol is a no-no for devout Muslims.)
- 10:13 AM, 31 August 2010 [link]
Dick Morris Says The Republicans Can Win The Senate, Too: Here's his brief summary.
The most likely results are that Republicans win the eight seats in which they now lead and also take Illinois and Nevada for a gain of ten seats and control. They also have a good shot in California and possible upsets in New York and Connecticut.That would be an amazing gain, were it to happen.
Bettors at InTrade and the Iowa election markets disagree, though both show the odds improving for a Republican takeover.
As of now, I agree with the bettors, though the latest Washington state poll does make me feel more optimistic.
- 8:27 AM, 31 August 2010
West Virginia, too? Morris thinks the Republican candidate has a good chance to win there.
- 8:57 AM, 3 September 2010 [link]
Some Thoughts On That 10 Point Generic Poll Lead: Yesterday, Gallup announced this surprising result.
Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.If the Republicans have a 10 point lead in registered voters, then they probably have a 12 point lead in likely voters.
Nate Silver makes two arguments about the poll, that it is probably an outlier, and that, taken with other recent polls, it shows that House Democrats are in great danger of losing their majority.
Still, even if the poll is an outlier, that doesn't mean it should simply be dismissed. Instead, the question is: an outlier relative to what? If the Democrats' true deficit on the generic ballot were 5 points, it would not be all that unusual to have a poll now and then that showed them trailing by 10-points instead, nor would it be so strange for a couple polls to show the race about tied. Indeed, that seems to be about where the generic ballot sits now. No non-Internet survey has shown the Democrats with a lead larger than 1 point on the generic ballot for over a month now, whereas their worst results of late seem to put them in the range of 10-11 points behind.I had come to the same tentative conclusions independently and would add this for perspective: In 1994, Republicans beat Democrats in the popular vote, 47.8 to 44.0 percent; in 2002. Republicans beat Democrats in the popular vote 49.6 to 45.0 percent. If Republicans are really leading by 5 percent in the generic vote, then they have good reason to expect to win as many seats as they did in 1994 and 2002.
(Gallup does less "massaging" of its data than some other polling firms, and so may be more likely to have "outliers". If you look at that Gallup graph, you can see the results bouncing up and down. Looking at those bounces in the graph makes me willing to predict that the next Gallup poll will not show nearly as large a Republican lead).
- 7:03 AM, 31 August 2010 [link]
HHS Secretary Sebelius Thinks We Need "Reeducation" On the effects of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid anti-reform insurance bill, commonly known as ObamaCare.
With a number of polls showing a sustained level of opposition to the Democrats' health care reform efforts more than five months after passage, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Obama administration has "a lot of reeducation to do" heading into the midterms.Reeducation may not be the best word for her purposes, since many Americans, especially older Americans, associate "reeducation" with nasty camps in communist countries. (And a few of us wonder whether that word choice shows something about Secretary Sebelius's thinking.)
(Her predecessor, Mike Leavitt, may be one of those she thinks in need of reeducation.)
- 5:52 AM, 31 August 2010 [link]
Bush Versus Obama In Louisiana: According to Public Policy Polling, Bush is winning.
Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush's leadership on Katrina was better than Obama's on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.(Emphasis added.)
FWIW, I recall seeing, soon after Katrina, a poll that showed that Louisianans rated Bush's performance higher than Governor Blanco's or Mayor Nagin's. It didn't get much national publicity, since it didn't fit the "mainstream" media narrative. I thought the poll deserved more attention, since the people of Louisiana had far more direct experience with Katrina than most of the country did.
- 4:09 PM, 30 August 2010 [link]
Bedbugs And Mosquitoes, Clinton And Obama: The great Chinese writer Lu Xun once explained why he preferred bedbugs to mosquitoes.
Although bedbugs are quite unpleasant when they suck your blood, at least they bite you without a word, which is quite straightforward and frank. Mosquitoes are different. Of course, their method of piercing the skin may be considered fairly thoroughgoing; but before biting, they insist on making a long speech, which is irritating. If they are expounding all the reasons that make it right for them to feed on human blood, that is even more irritating. I am glad I do not know their language. (p. 109)When I re-read that selection recently, I was, instantly, reminded of our last two Democratic presidents; Clinton may have backed any number of bad policies (especially before the Republicans took control of Congress), but at least he didn't whine incessantly about how we deserved those bad policies.
Is that comparison unfair to Obama? I suppose so, but I don't think it is completely unfair.
(Not familiar with Lu Xun? (I wasn't before I read about him in Simon Leys' books.) Then you might want to begin with his famous story, "The True Story of Ah Q", which you can find here, or, for a better bargain, in this collection. Warning: It is not the kind of feel-good story that Oprah would like; in fact, I am pretty sure she would hate it.
Incidentally, Simon Leys uses that passage to make an argument about the Maoists then ruling China, calling them the "Great Mosquitoes".)
- 1:11 PM, 30 August 2010 [link]
For Those Who Would Like To Coo over a pretty baby girl, some pictures of Florence Rose Endellion Cameron.
For those who would like to chuckle over some political snark, Iain Hollingshead imagines how David Cameron (and his political advisor) might have come up with that third name, "Endellion".
(I liked both the pictures and the snark.)
- 9:52 AM, 30 August 2010 [link]
How Chairman Livingston Cut Spending: With the odds now in favor of Republican control of the House of Representatives, it is time, perhaps past time, to ask how much difference that control could make. The best way to examine that question is to look at what happened in a roughly comparable situation, after the 1994 election. And so I plan a series of posts describing what Republicans did after that election.
Since Republican and independent voters are most concerned with the Pelosi-Reid-Obama spending spree, I will begin with what Robert L. Livingston, who became chairman of the House Appropriations Committee after the election, was able to do to control spending.
The Wikipedia article tells some of the basics of his career— and much about the personal scandal that drove him from office — but nothing about his achievements as chairman. Fortunately, I have a 1998 Almanac of American Politics that includes a brief description of his achievements:
(FY = fiscal year.)
Those who understand how most government budgeting is done — in increments or, very seldom, decrements, from last year's budget — will understand that saving $50 billion once is likely to set a baseline so that nearly the same amount can be saved in succeeding years.
Those who have studied budgeting in other industrial democracies will be especially impressed by Livingston's achievements. It is extraordinarily difficult to control spending when so many legislators, from Tokyo to Canberra to Oslo to Ottawa to London to Washington, D. C., believe they can buy votes with the right appropriations. (And they are often right to think so.)
A 2011 Republican Appropriations chairman would find it easier to duplicate Livingston's achievements in some ways, harder in other ways. The spending spree under Pelosi-Reid-Obama has been so wasteful, so political, that the chairman would find many easy targets. On the other hand, it is still unlikely that the Republicans will control the Senate, so the chairman would not have the help that Bob Dole and other Republican leaders gave Livingston.
Even so, I would guess that a Republican House Appropriations chairman could reduce spending by at least $100 billion from what it would be under a Democratic chairman — and that, as long as the party control doesn't shift back, could keep those savings year after year.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Newt Gingrich deserves some share of the credit for Livingston's budget achievements. Gingrich was able to make Livingston chairman, even though Livingston was only 5th in seniority, and then backed Livingston in the budget fights. Since Gingrich is Gingrich, he lost some of the credit he should have gotten for this achievement by poor politicking. But Gingrich wasn't the first to get snookered by Bill Clinton, who is, as we all know, one of the cleverest politicians to come along in many years.)
- 9:16 AM, 30 August 2010 [link]
Drudge Juxtaposes: As he often does, this morning Matt Drudge juxtaposes two things to make a point, indirectly. Sometimes, Drudge puts two headlines next to each other; sometimes he puts a picture next to a headline. This time, he has pictures of Obama and Putin on their vacations, Obama riding what will look like a girl's bike to many Americans and Putin getting ready to shoot a whale with a crossbow. (In order to get a sample from the whale.)
When Drudge juxtaposes, he is usually using one headline or picture to comment on another. This morning Drudge is telling us that the leader of Russia is manly man — unlike the leader of the United States. That comparison may draw laughs and sneers from Western journalists and academics, but not from the rest of the world, where strength in a leader is almost universally admired.
(For the record, Obama is riding a "comfort" bicycle like the Giant Sedona I bought earlier this year.)
- 6:10 AM, 30 August 2010 [link]
Another Day, Two More Estimates Of Republican House Gains: Political scientists Bafumi, Erickson, and Wlezien use a straightforward model to come to this conclusion.
Our preliminary 2010 forecast will appear (with other forecasts by political scientists) in the October issue of PS: Political Science. By our reckoning, the most likely scenario is a Republican majority in the neighborhood of 229 seats versus 206 for the Democrats for a 50 seat loss for the Democrats. Taking into account the uncertainty in our model, the Republicans have a 79% chance of winning the House.The model, as described, sounds plausible to me, since there are strong reasons for treating open seats and seats defended by incumbents differently. (And their model results were very close to the actual results in the last off-year election, in 2006.)
Political scientist James E. Campbell uses, as far as I can tell from this article, a more complex model, and comes up with an almost identical answer.
The presiding Democrats stand to lose about 51 seats in November, says James E. Campbell, professor of political science at UB. His prediction stems from a crystal ball filled with scientific equations based on polling and current events, all pointing to a stunning reversal of fortune for Democrats, who took over the House in 2006.According to the article, he has a "sterling record of prognosticating presidential elections".
(Caveat: I haven't seen the details on either model. And it is not unusual for a model to work well for an election or two and then fail.)
- 2:43 PM, 29 August 2010
To put this in historical perspective, note that a net gain of 50 or 51 seats would bring the Republicans back to the numbers they held after the 1994 and 2002 elections. Note also that the Republicans were able to win 230 seats in 1994 and 229 seats in 2002 with just 47.8 percent and 49.6 percent of the popular vote, respectively. (They did win majorities of the two-party vote in both years.)
- 7:34 AM, 30 August 2010 [link]
Private Obama: The New York Times says that he is learning on the job.
He is the first president in four decades with a shooting war already raging the day he took office — two, in fact, plus subsidiaries — and his education as a commander in chief with no experience in uniform has been a steep learning curve. He has learned how to salute. He has surfed the Internet at night to look into the toll on troops. He has faced young soldiers maimed after carrying out his orders. And he is trying to manage a tense relationship with the military.(Emphasis added.)
I believe privates learn how to salute on their first day in the army. It would be a rare private who did not know how to use the Internet to find information on casualties before joining the army. Obama has more learning to do; if we are lucky, by the end of his first term he will know as much as the average sergeant.
If he applies himself intelligently. The article says two things general things about Obama, that he looks for information on his own and that he really isn't all that interested in military problems. The first tells me that he does not know how to use his staff — an essential skill for a top commander. The second tells me that he may not know even as much as the average corporal by January 2013.
Perhaps the Times should have told its readers about Obama's ignorance of military matters during the 2008 presidential campaign. (His ignorance isn't a surprise to me and probably isn't a surprise to you, but I am still impressed by how many people chose, deliberately, not to think about it.)
(Obama's ignorance may explain why Defense Secretary Gates agreed to stay on. Gates may have believed that the nation needed someone to help Private Obama, and so he stayed on out of patriotism.)
- 12:09 PM, 29 August 2010 [link]
Locavores In Berlin: Though I don't think this bunch will be quite as fashionable as most locavores.
A website advertising a new restaurant in Germany has called for humans to donate body parts for the menu causing outrage.Done correctly, this initiative could help with population control, as well as providing a source of locally-produced food. But I don't think even that will save the concept.
- 2:13 PM, 28 August 2010 [link]
David Brooks Discovers That A Perfectly Creased Pant Is Not Necessarily A Sign Of Economic Policy Competence: Early in Obama's campaign for the presidency, the New York Times columnist set himself up for almost permanent ridicule:
In the spring of 2005, New York Times columnist David Brooks arrived at then-Senator Barack Obama's office for a chat. Brooks, a conservative writer who joined the Times in 2003 from The Weekly Standard, had never met Obama before. But, as they chewed over the finer points of Edmund Burke, it didn't take long for the two men to click. "I don't want to sound like I'm bragging," Brooks recently told me, "but usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don't know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me."(Everyone has been laughing at that "perfectly creased pant" line ever since. Some, including me, suspect that Obama conned Brooks in that encounter by pretending a knowledge of Burke that he does not have.)
Today, without specifically blaming Obama, Brooks concludes, tentatively, that the man with the "perfectly creased pant" has chosen a poor set of economic policies. Brooks comes to this conclusion in a traditionally conservative way; he looks at which policies have succeeded, and which policies have, so far, failed.
During the first half of this year, German and American political leaders engaged in an epic debate. American leaders argued that the economic crisis was so bad, governments should borrow billions to stimulate growth. German leaders argued that a little short-term stimulus was sensible, but anything more was near-sighted. What was needed was not more debt, but measures to balance budgets and restore confidence.So Brooks has taken a first step in his escape from that fascination with that "perfectly pressed pant" leg. But he still has far to go. He compares the two nations over the the "last decade", which ignores the sharp break in policy after the 2006 election, a break that can be seen in any chart of spending or deficits. (And ignores the solid productivity gains during most of Bush's presidency.)
Still, a first step is better than none, and we can hope that Brooks takes a few more, soon. (And even if he doesn't we can take a little pleasure in knowing that this column will infuriate Brooks' companion on the editorial pages, Paul Krugman.)
(It may seem odd to praise, however faintly, a journalist for learning from experience. But that happens less often than I would like, and so I don't mind praising one for doing what all of them ought to do, routinely.)
- 8:12 AM, 27 August 2010 [link]
Two Stories, One Unimportant, One Important: First, the unimportant story, which you have probably read or heard, already..
Ken Mehlman, President George W. Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has revealed that he is gay and is working to advance the cause of same-sex marriage.(For many people, including Ann Althouse, this was not news. As I recall, I had heard the rumors years ago but paid no attention to them, because they didn't seem to matter much, one way or another.)
Next, the important story, which is new to me, though I can't say that I follow that community closely.
Meth use among gay men has been a pervasive problem for decades, particularly in the western United States. Here in King County, about 10 percent of gay and bisexual men used crystal meth in a given year, according to data from Public Health — Seattle & King County. These rates are twice as high in men under the age of 30.If those figures are right, and they are likely, if anything, to be underestimates, then our AIDS problem is likely to get worse, not better. And meth itself is so destructive that this level of use would be worrisome even if it didn't lead to AIDS.
(Caveat: The reporter, Cassandra Brooks, doesn't give links to the studies, so I haven't taken an independent look at them.
And since she works for the Seattle Times, she makes her victim out to be an angel and tells us nothing about the man who gave this victim AIDS. We don't even know if the public health officials have made an attempt to trace the man.
When reporters leave out such essentials, I wonder what else they may be leaving out.)
- 2:59 PM, 26 August 2010 [link]
Dietitians Generally Agree: You shouldn't follow Michelle Obama's example.
In an interview in September's Ladies' Home Journal, first lady Michelle Obama mentions that she occasionally takes part in a cleanse. She meant, according to her press office, that she eats as much fruit and vegetables as possible and cuts out fats and oils, dairy, meat, caffeine, sugar and starch for a short period of time.But if you must follow her example, they give some advice on how to do it safely.
What interests me about this small story is that Michelle Obama does not appear to know about the many scientific studies of such diets, or if she does know, she doesn't care, thinking that her feelings are more important than any dry old studies.
Despite her ignorance, she is completely willing to tell the rest of us how to eat. (Incidentally, the federal government has tons of experts on nutrition, most of whom would be delighted to take a call from the First Lady.)
- 9:33 AM, 26 August 2010 [link]
Run For President? That was my immediate answer to Megan McArdle's question: "What Did Barack Obama Do Wrong?"
During the campaign, and afterwards, I made what I think is an obvious point: Obama is unqualified to be president. Not legally unqualified, of course, since he meets the constitutional requirements, but unqualified by education, experience, and, most of all, accomplishments. Obama had written two books about himself (possibly with the help of a ghost writer) before becoming president — and that's about it.
That intelligent, though not necessarily very well-informed, people like McCardle did not, and do not, see this obvious point is puzzling. Perhaps if you make your living with words, like McArdle, you are inclined to overestimate the achievements of an Obama. Perhaps you see his exotic background as an enormous advantage, rather than just something interesting about the man.
Whatever the reason, a great many people who should know better are still refusing to face that obvious point.
(McArdle was wondering whether Obama could have "improved the party's electoral fortunes" with a different set of policies or different rhetoric. In fact, elementary political theory tells us that he could have, and tells us how. Put simply, Obama steered too far to the left and alienated the swing voters in the middle. I predicted that he would do that, and described the likely political consequences, before he was elected.
And almost any salesman could have told Obama that putting down a customer, or voter, as Obama so often does, is not a good way to make a sale, or win a vote.)
- 7:06 AM, 26 August 2010 [link]
Congratulations To The Camerons: On the birth of their baby girl.
David and Samantha Cameron have named their new daughter Florence Rose Endellion Cameron.I thought at least one American should congratulate them, since President Obama hasn't gotten around to it, so far.
(Many Americans may not know that the Camerons lost a seriously disabled son, Ivan, after caring for him night and day for six years. I think what they did for those six years, and the way they went ahead with their lives after Ivan's death, says something good about their character.)
- 1:39 PM, 25 August 2010 [link]
Which House Seats Will Republicans Win In November? Real Clear Politics has a clever graphic showing where Republican chances are best, and where they might lose one or two seats. In Washington state, for example, they judge that Washington's 3rd district, now held by Democrat Brian Baird, is "leaning" Republican. Two other Democratic seats, the 2nd (Rick Larsen) and the 9th (Adam Smith) are classified as "likely" Democratic. (I would disagree on the 2nd, given how close John Koster came to Larsen in the blanket primary. Instead, I would say that the 2nd "leans" Democratic. I would not put it in the toss-up category because the three Democratic candidates did out-poll the two Republican candidates.)
If whoever put the graphic together is correct in those classifications, the Republicans have a very good chance to take control of the House. They would need to win all of their 164 "safe" districts, the 12 "likely" Republican districts, the 30 "lean" Republican districts, and just 12 of the 33 "toss ups". (Unfortunately for those who would like to make a quick probability estimate, you can't assume that the results in those districts are independent.)
(For the record: I think that Republican chances are better in two ordinarily Democratic seats, Louisiana 2nd and Hawaii 1st, than the expert at Real Clear Politics does. They rate Joseph Cao's seat in Louisiana as "likely" Democratic and Charles Djou's seat in Hawaii as "leans" Democratic. But the only poll I know of — an internal poll, granted — had him ahead of his opponent. Similarly, an internal poll shows a solid lead for Djou. For now, I would rate Cao's seat as "leans" Democratic, and Djou's seat as a "toss up", or maybe even "leans" Republican.)
- 9:24 AM, 25 August 2010 [link]
Ruth Marcus Wants A Responsible Opposition Party: So she attacks Minority Leader John Boehner for what she considers his irresponsible behavior. Boehner, you see, thinks that a vast increase in regulations and the coming increases in taxes may discouraging job creation. If pointing out what Marcus should have learned in Economics 101 is irresponsible, then I am not sure what Marcus would consider responsible behavior. (Writing poems of praise to Barack Obama, perhaps?)
But what puzzles me is that Marcus doesn't seem to see the same need for a responsible governing party. If she thinks that heavy-handed partisans like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are damaging the nation, she doesn't bother to say so in her column.
As you almost certainly know, one of the few benefits of being in the opposition party is that you don't have to be responsible. Most of us hope that those in the opposition will be responsible, but the nation is not much damaged if, for example, Minority Leader Boehner makes an irresponsible speech. The nation can be damaged, terribly, if Speaker Nancy Pelosi jams through an irresponsible anti-reform health insurance bill — as she did.
(It's time, I suppose, to ask for a picture of Marcus in her cheerleader uniform. It would be interesting to know whether it has the Obama "O" on the front, or just a big "D".)
- 8:19 AM, 25 August 2010 [link]
Former Congressman J. D. Hayworth Had A Theory About Arizona Polls: They weren't capturing intensity; his voters, Hayworth claimed, were far more likely to go to the polls than John McCain's voters.
So much for that theory, at least in Hayworth's case.
I never took Hayworth's candidacy seriously, figuring that a man who can't hold what should be a safe Republican district (Arizona 5th) probably wouldn't be a strong candidate in a Republican primary, much less a general election. The district gave Bush 54 percent of the vote in 2000 and 2004. Hayworth had held the district since the 1994 election; a moderately good campaigner would have been able to keep it, even in a Democratic year like 2006.
(Incidentally, Hayworth's defeat also shows that an extreme anti-illegal immigrant position is not necessarily a winning strategy. His Democratic opponent, Harry Mitchell, took a more moderate position and, just as important, a softer tone, and won, 50-46.)
All that said, Hayworth is not entirely wrong about polls, as Mark Blumenthal explains.
But whatever the outcome, Hayworth does have a point about one thing: Pollsters often have a hard time identifying true likely voters in low turnout primary elections. That's one reason why primary polls tend to produce bigger errors compared to the actual results than general election polls.So you should expect a surprise from time to time in primaries, but not very often from candidates as weak as Hayworth.
- 6:16 AM, 25 August 2010 [link]